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Slow Boat to Fast CityStarting tomorrow, I’ll be joining Sean Demory and the rest of the Pine Float Press crowd to celebrate the launch of Slow Boat to Fast City at ConQuest in KC. I’ll be doing a handful of panels, and a reading on Saturday. Here’s a link to my full schedule, which I’ll also reproduce below. Slow Boat to Fast City is a shared-world “raygun Gothic pulp sci-fi” anthology of stories about Mars, and features my Edgar Rice Burroughs by way of L.A. Confidential story “The House of Mars,” which you can also pick up as a standalone (with amazing cover art by the extremely talented Bernie Gonzalez) in either electronic or chapbook formats. If you want the full experience, though, Slow Boat to Fast City will be available in person at ConQuest, or you can order it in one of three affordable formats: electronic, Lulu-edition pocketbook, or paperback.

Besides launching Slow Boat, I’ll be talking about Gothic stuff, body horror, and reading scary stories. Here’s my full schedule:

Friday, May 22
5pm – Is it REALLY Gothic?
10pm – Body Horror: The Last Ewwww

Saturday, May 23
12:30pm – Reading
2pm – Anatomy of an Anthology (along with all my Pine Float partners in crime)
10pm – Late Night Scary Stories

Whenever I’m not at one of those things, I’ll probably be hanging out at the traveling Pine Float Press floating VIP lounge, where you’ll pretty much always be able to find me. It shouldn’t be too hard to spot, as we’ll probably be pretty loud, and at least two of us are really tall.

This year, ConQuest is being held at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown, which is just across from where Spectrum will be happening at the same time. I’ve heard rumors that there might be West Side Story-style dance battles between the two cons, but even if there’s not, if you’re going to be downtown for one, feel free to stop on over to the other and say hello. In the immortal words of Sean Demory: “You’ll pay for your whole seat, but you’ll only use the edge!

Some time back, my friend Mike Corley approached me with an idea: He was drawing spooky houses, and he suggested that I should write descriptions of them and we’d put them together into a fake real estate pamphlet. I’d been a fan of Mike’s work since way before I ever got to know him online, and had been wanting to do a project with him forever, and as anyone who knows me knows there’s very few things I love more than writing about spooky houses, so I jumped at the chance. Thus, about a year later, Gardinel’s Real Estate was born!

Mike drew the houses and sent them to me, and I came up with a suitably haunted history for each ominous domicile, all narrated by our estate agent, Cedric Gardinel. We printed it up ourselves (with Mike handling the lion’s share of that end) and the result is a sharp-looking 32 page ‘zine that we’ll be offering in a limited print run of 100 signed, hand-numbered copies, 50 of which just showed up on my doorstep today. Thirteen houses, beautifully illustrated by Mike, with words by me, including stories of witchcraft, hidden fortunes, accusations of vampirism, demonic portraits, a haunted chair, and several experiments of a “most unusual nature.”

Gardinel’s Real Estate will go on sale from both Mike and myself on October 1, just in time for Halloween. More details will be forthcoming then.

[UPDATE: On sale now, here’s the link!]

 

Recently, I was invited by the extraordinarily talented and awesome Mike Bukowski to be one of a handful of authors participating in a special Nyarlathotep project at his website, Yog-Blogsoth. If you’ve never checked out Mike’s work before, you’re in for a treat, though I must warn you, much of it is not exactly safe for work. For some time now, he’s been drawing pretty much every creature that Lovecraft ever mentioned (over 400 of them now, I believe) and recently he went on a kick drawing various avatars of Nyarlathotep. To crown the project, he came up with the idea of inviting several contemporary authors to contribute their own original Nyarlathotep avatars, yours truly included. You can read a little more about the project here.

As you can see from that lineup, I’m in the company of some absolutely incredible authors here, and I’m honored to be included. I’m especially proud of my involvement in this project because I was able to help facilitate the inclusion of a few of the other authors, and getting cool people together to work on fantastic projects is maybe the best part about doing what I do.

For my contribution, which Mike dubbed the “most ridiculous,” a badge I will wear with great pride, I tried to design something that I thought Mike would enjoy drawing, and something that I’d love to see done in his inimitable style, and also something different than any of the other monsters I’d described in any of my stories. The result is probably the closest I’ve ever come to designing a Castlevania boss fight, so I’m pretty happy.

The excerpt describing the creature is from a story that hasn’t been written yet. Before Mike asked me to contribute to this, it wasn’t even an idea in my notebook, though now it certainly is. Inspired in part by The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake, which I wrote about in my Vault of Secrets column recently, “The Cult of Headless Men” is definitely a story that you’ll see from me one of these days, it’s just a matter of getting the time to actually write it. (And yes, for readers familiar with “The Barghest” from Never Bet the Devil, I do just steal all my ideas from questionable old B movies.)

The first week of the Nyarlathotep project wrapped up today with a contribution from Molly Tanzer, and also featured Nyarlathoteps by Laird Barron, John Langan, and Victoria Dalpe. Keep an eye on the ‘blog, though, because next week will feature another batch, with Nyarlathoteps by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Phil Gelatt, Livia Llewellyn, Wilum Pugmire, and Gemma Files!

Forgive my penmanship, my hand shakes as I write these words. It has been more than a week since my return from the lands beyond those cyclopean peaks, and yet I still struggle to record my thoughts. Upon my return, haggard and half-mad, the doctors told me I should seek a rest-cure for at least a week, or else risk complete nervous collapse. Even now, they frown upon my writing of what transpired during my journey, but I feel that I must put it down, lest it consume me completely. If nothing else, perhaps my account can be a warning to others of the fearful things that lurk beyond those mountains of madness…

I left Kansas City on April 7 and didn’t get back until late in the evening on April 17. At around 11 days on the road, it was the longest I’d been away from home, and it really did take me about a week to recover (to the extent that I’ve recovered, I’ll let you know how that goes in a couple of days, when it’s no longer the month of April).

For the first leg of the journey I drove out to Boulder and spent a day with Jesse Bullington, Molly Tanzer, and co., hiking, chatting, dining, playing whist Guillotine, and watching Jeffrey Combs in The Evil Clergyman. Then Jesse joined me for the next leg of my journey, a mostly gorgeous two-day drive out to Portland, with a layover in La Grande to stay in a seedy motel (though not as seedy as the one we were hoping to stay in, which appeared to be called the Mr. Sandman, but which was also under renovation, with paintings stacked out in the parking lot). That night produced the most infamous photo of the trip, documenting the “cocktails” bar at the back of a Denny’s. All else is shrouded in secrecy. What happens in La Grande, and so on.

Once we reached Portland and the dubious safety of the Banfield, the HPLFF began in full swing and was, as always, a blast. As was the case last year, I spent way more time carousing with folks than I did in movie theatres, though I managed to catch the Muppet puppet “Pickman’s Model” that was my chief moviegoing goal, as well as The Sunderland Experiment.

I won’t bother attempting to tag all the amazing people who, as always, made the festival so fantastic. You all know who you are. I will, however, say thanks again to Brian and Gwen for putting the whole shindig together, and for having me out as a guest for a second year. Here’s to hoping for a third!

After the festival was over, Jesse (being a wiser man than I) flew back to Boulder, while I drove up to Seattle for the night, where I crashed with my buddy Simon and watched The Lurking Fear (not for the first time) and Virgin Witch (for the first time). So yes, for those keeping count, I saw roughly the same number of Lovecraftian films while not at the HPLFF on this trip as I did during the festival proper. So it goes. The next day, I met with some of my editors at Privateer Press, and then hit the road back toward Kansas, a trip that wound up necessitating two hotel stays, one at a Holiday Inn in Butte, where I was treated to a suite at a regular room rate, and found a channel showing old episodes of Night Gallery and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour to lull me to sleep.

I could cover a lot of ground recounting various exploits from the trip, but I’m still getting caught up on work that I missed while I was gone, so I’ll leave it at this and say that I’m already looking forward to the next HPLFF I attend, though next time, I won’t be driving.

While the big talk around these parts lately has been me quitting my day job for the life of the full-time writer, there’s also been some other major news that I’ve had to keep under wraps until just now:

I’ve been approached to write some fiction for Skull Island eXpeditions, the fiction arm of Privateer Press. Those who know me know that this is a big deal for me, because I’ve been a fan of Privateer Press, their games and settings, since about forever. So writing licensed fiction in that world is a dream come true. Aside from Mike Mignola’s Hellboy universe, I can’t really imagine a setting that I’d rather be writing licensed stories in, frankly.

The first piece I’ve written for them is going to be out soon in Called to Battle: Volume OneIt’s a 10k story about General Gerlak Slaughterborn, and I had a hell of a good time writing it. But it’s also just the beginning. There’s already been wheels set into motion for bigger and even more exciting things to come from me and the folks at Skull Island, so keep a weather eye on the horizon and I’ll let you know more as soon as I know it!

Also, over the weekend we had a little get-together in part to celebrate the beginning of my new life as a freelancer, and as part of the festivities my wife presented me with a present she’d gotten me. As part of the recent Kickstarter for the Fantastic Fiction reading series at KGB Bar, one of the rewards was the incomparable John Langan doing a story about a monster of your choice. Of course I wanted that, but I didn’t get it snapped up in time. It turns out that the reason I didn’t is because my lovely and amazing wife had beaten me to it, and at the party this weekend she presented me the award in the form of this video, which John was kind enough to put together for the occasion:

Thanks to Grace and John and everyone who’s supported me already. Only two days in to this freelancing thing, and already I feel like, whatever else happens, at least I’ll have my friends along for the ride.

How to sum up Crypticon KC? I split a table with the inestimable Sean Demory, who is a gentleman and a scholar. I sold a few books. I got to participate in a guerilla reading, thanks to the generosity of author guests Brett Williams and Alan Ryker. I saw a guy on stilts dressed as Pyramid Head, a giant decaying clown, Tiny Freddy Krueger, and Stargate Wolverine. My compatriot Lydia got to make out with the Predator. I got interviewed by a zombie ballerina. Our table was right across from Richard Kiel, and Bai Ling asked me to break a twenty. I gave Doug Jones a copy of Never Bet the Devil, signed “Thanks for all the monsters,” and this is what I got in return:

doug jonesAs this was my first Crypticon, I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but I ended up having a really good time, in spite of it falling right in the middle of the most stressful of a string of really stressful recent months. The con was varied, dynamic, and a lot of fun, and I’ll definitely be back next year in some capacity. Thanks to everyone who put the con together, to all the vendors and guests, to everyone who came by our booth and said hello, and special thanks to everyone who bought a book or two! If you didn’t make it by, I recommend checking out something by my table-mate Sean Demory. His Ballad of the Wayfaring Stranger and the Dead Man’s Whore recently snagged an honorable mention in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year, and Zobop Bebop is a Voodoo gangster novel. What more do you need?

I’m sure there are scads of things that I’m forgetting to mention, and I know there are some incriminating photos floating around on social media, so chances are you haven’t heard the last of this, though you have for now!

What? Crypticon KC
Where? Ramada Conference Center, 1601 N Universal Ave, KC MO
When? Next weekend, August 16-18
Who? Myself and Sean Demory, with able assists from Lydia Ash

That’s right, this time next week I’ll be getting ready to try running a table at a convention for the first time, along with fellow author and all around bad dude Sean Demory and resident booth girl Lydia, who will be cosplaying as a couple of Sean’s characters. He’ll be selling copies of his books Zobop Bebop and The Ballad of the Wayfaring Stranger and the Dead Man’s Whore, and I’ll have copies of my (comparatively prosaically titled) collection Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings as well as hot-off-the-presses copies of Tales of Jack the Ripper , not to mention bookmarks, stickers, and other party favors. So if you’re going to be at Crypticon KC, stop by and see us! We’ll be somewhere in the ballroom, and you’ll be able to distinguish our table from the piles of books bearing the above-mentioned titles. (If anyone else has piles of those same books, well, that’ll be awesome. Feel free to buy them from them, too.)

Like I said, this is going to be my first time tabling a convention (did I verb that right?) and it’s also my first Crypticon (which I almost misspelled ‘Krypticon,’ a very different but equally geeky convention, I’m sure). I’m looking forward to it, and it sounds like they’re expecting a pretty big crowd. So we’ll see how long it takes me to get completely overwhelmed and end up hiding under the table.

I’m not doing any programming or anything, though Sean has promised Thunderdome-style reading battles of some sort! I don’t know what that means, but I know that you don’t want to miss it!