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halloween

Another Halloween is behind us. We’ve put out the jack-o-lanterns, taken down the plastic skeletons and rubber bats, and brushed aside the cobwebs. But Halloween isn’t the end of the spooky season, it is the beginning. As the fallen leaves slowly decay and the trees become skeletal hands clawing up at a slate gray sky, we are reminded that the darkest, coldest nights are ghost story weather.

The year that we are leaving behind has been a tough one, both within the forbidding manor of the Grey household and likely for you as well, dear reader. As I’ve said before, I had to more-or-less miss last Halloween due to health reasons, so this year I celebrated hard. I watched a seasonally-appropriate thing every day for the month of October, and several days I watched more than one, clocking in a total of 39 movies, all but one horror-themed. That number would have been slightly higher, but a couple of those days were TV episode marathons rather than movies. I ended the season watching Nightbreed with Jay and Veronica, who had never seen it before.

That’s a tie for second place for the most movies I’ve ever watched in a month. (I am unlikely to ever beat my record, which was 47 movies in the month of October two years ago, when I had my tonsils out.) While I was doing all of that, along with carving pumpkins, seeing friends and family, launching a book, and so on, other things were happening, which I didn’t always report in a timely fashion. Let’s see if we can’t recap:

  • Test Patterns: Creature Features is out from Planet X Publishing, featuring my story “The Pepys Lake Monster” among some exalted company. For those who are unfamiliar with their previous volume, the Test Patterns anthology series is preoccupied with those weird old TV shows that used to dominate the airwaves, like Outer Limits or Night Gallery. As you can probably gather from the title, the theme of this latest installment is, well, Creature Features.
  • My story “Goblins,” which originally appeared as an original tale in the deluxe edition of Never Bet the Devil from Strix Publishing, went live on Pseudopod just in time for Halloween, read by no less a personage than H.P.L. himself, Leeman Kessler!
  • I don’t have a story in it, or, indeed, anything to do with it, but Jonathan Raab’s Camp Ghoul Mountain Part VI: The Official Novelization is now up for pre-order and it is going to be really good, so I think you should buy it.
  • Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales made it onto Barnes & Noble’s list of “15 Harrowing Halloween Books,” so I have obviously hit the big time now, and I’m just gonna sit back and wait for the royalty checks to start rolling in.

Tonight, I’m getting paid to go see the new Suspiria, which feels like a pretty good way to transition from Halloween to November. The world can be hard and scary (not creepy monster scary, either), but sometimes life is pretty good. Whatever you’re doing for yourself today, don’t forget to keep Halloween in your hearts, and stay spooky out there. I’ll be reporting back in soon.

Family Fun Night

 

Sunday, we went to our adopted mom’s house where we ate Halloween-themed cookies and carved jack-o-lanterns. Everybody else carved real ones, but I carved a couple of those carvable fake ones that you can get at the store, which, let me tell you, are the way to go.

I modeled mine on a little ceramic pumpkin that I got years back because it looked like Chris Sanders had carved it and then, when that one worked out much better than I had expected, I carved a second one inspired by the one that Stitch carves with a plasma gun in the closing montage of Lilo & Stitch which, honestly, turned out even better.

Pumpkin

I’ve never been a very crafty sort of person. I’m clumsy, as a rule, and not great at most stuff, so I’m really proud of these two jack-o-lanterns, and looking forward to putting them out on my front steps tomorrow night, even if I’m going to have to fill them with rocks or something because, while those carvable pumpkins from the store are great for carving, they are also light. They prompted me to change my user icon on Facebook and Twitter for I think the first time ever, if that tells you how excited I am about them.

Monday night I went to the Screenland Armour to watch the Are You Afraid of the Dark? marathon. Having never seen even a single episode of the show, and mostly only being familiar with its great title graphic, I was really excited, and I had a lot of fun, even if the show is Extremely ’90s in often not great ways.

Today is my birthday and, well, I guess you all know what tomorrow is. I kind of had to miss last October because of health issues, and the intervening year has not been easy or kind. As such, I tried to really enjoy myself this October, going to as many of the local horror movie events as I could, launching a brand new short story collection, and managing to watch at least one seasonally appropriate thing every single day for the entire month!

I had a good time. This has been a good October, this is a good birthday, and hopefully it marks a bookend to what has been a pretty tough year, kinda for everyone, if we’re honest with ourselves at all. No matter what tomorrow or the day after or the day after that may bring, here’s to a new world of gods and monsters!

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So, as you may have noticed by now, it’s October, albeit not for much longer. I kind of had to miss this season last year for health reasons, so this year I’m trying my best to celebrate accordingly. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve got a new book out this month.

One thing I do every year is attend the Nerdoween Triple Feature hosted by the guys from the Nerds of Nostalgia podcast. It’s a themed mystery-movie threefer that is always one of the highlights of my year. This is the fourth year they’ve put it on, and I’ve never missed it. Plus, every time I’ve seen at least one new-to-me film.

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The first year the theme was demons and, accordingly, I caught Demons and Night of the Demons for the first time. The second year was sequels and introduced me to both 28 Weeks Later and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. The third year may have had the best lineup. It was anthology films, which anyone who knows me knows that I love, and I finally caught Tales from the Hood. This year’s theme was sci-fi sleaze. They opened the gates with TerrorVision, followed that up with From Beyond, and closed out the night with the batshit fever dream that is Xtro, which I saw for the first time.

As a way to help keep myself in the holiday spirit, I’ve also been trying to watch at least one seasonally-appropriate thing per day, and counting down on the #31DaysOfHalloween hashtag on Twitter. So far the new-to-me highlights of the month include Island Claws (1980), Horror Island (1941), Forever Evil (1987), Apostle (2018), The World of Vampires (1961), and hands-down the best movie I’ve seen all month: The Company of Wolves (1984).

The end of the month is growing a little packed as freelance deadlines loom and various seasonal festivities approach. My birthday is still a few days away, though the celebration will probably take place on the weekend instead of the day itself, and I’ve got some cool stuff coming in the mail between now and then.

You can bet that you’ll hear from me on here at least once more before the Halloween season draws to a close, but in the meantime, stay spooky out there!

So, of course, the big news is that my latest collection, Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales is less than a month away! It’s currently available for pre-order from Word Horde, not to mention on all your favorite electronic devices! I’ll be talking a lot more about it as we get closer to release, but in the mean time, other things continue to happen, too…

My story “No Exit” appeared in Lost Highways: Dark Fictions from the Road from Crystal Lake Publishing not too long ago. “No Exit” is another in my very loose story-cycle of tales that take place in the same world–or, perhaps more accurately, the same version of this world–along with “Hollow Earths” in Chthonic: Weird Tales of Inner Earth from Martian Migraine Press and a few others that haven’t actually seen print yet and some that have before I knew that I was writing a story cycle. More on that as it develops.

Speaking of stories, I have a very short one called “Masks” in the latest issue of Forbidden Futures, a magazine inspired by (and featuring) the art of Mike Dubisch. “Masks” tells the tale of what waits in the cluttered townhouse of an old makeup artist who has passed on, but left a few things behind.

Aside from writing stories, I spend most of my time on various freelance content jobs. Not too long ago, one of my freelance clients put me on retainer to write original mysteries for a sort of monthly murder mystery box called The Murder Chronicles. The contents will include “found documents” like newspaper articles, journal entries, notes, photographs, and more, all painting the story of a new mystery every month in the fictional Kansas town of Baker City. So far I’ve written a few months worth, and the first one should be shipping as I write this!

Murder Chronicles

Because they’re work-for-hire you won’t find my name on them anywhere, and because they’re written to order, the results are much more your typical “cozy mystery” than the weird horror stuff that you’re used to from me. But if a monthly murder mystery sounds like your cup of poison, it would probably help keep me gainfully employed if you were to subscribe and see how you like it.

A few months ago I was also a guest on the Lit KC podcast with my friend and former co-worker Jason Preu. The episode went live today as the show’s season finale, and in spite of the fact that I recorded it in the midst of the various stresses that have been my last year or so, I actually seem relatively coherent throughout, though my facts about Guignol & Other Sardonic Tales are necessarily somewhat dated. For one thing, it is actually going to have no less than four (4) original stories, though it’s still only 14 stories long. (Ah, the mysteries of publishing!)

That’s about it for now, but the Halloween season has officially begun, with stores starting to stock suitably spooky doodads, so there’ll be lots of seasonal content coming from me, not to mention lots more about Guignol in the coming days and weeks. Stay tuned!

 

I know that we’re not even quite to the halfway point on our trip back around to Halloween just yet, but if you’re already jonesing for a taste of the spooky season, Jason McKittrick recently turned me on to the existence of a little show called The Witching Season, which is streaming on Amazon Prime or available to watch on YouTube.

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While the show’s humble origins and limited budget are apparent everywhere in its production, that doesn’t stop it from evoking the season better than most more expensive movies ever manage. The episodes themselves range from 9 minutes at their shortest to around 30 at their longest, and you could easily watch all five episodes in the time it would take to watch a regular film.

The end result is a series of short subjects that would feel right at home in the shorts block at any given horror film festival, connected together by a nostalgic yearning for Halloween and a shared style and tone, even as their subject matter ranges from high strange horror to masked killers, possessed toys, and haunted houses.

None of the episodes are necessarily any great shakes in the story department, though most feature a “twist in the tale” that is probably easy enough to predict going in, but satisfying for what it is. Where the show more than makes up for any ground that it loses in production value or originality, however, is in its Halloween atmosphere, which is effortlessly captured in lingering shots of decorations, pumpkin patches, and dead leaves.

There are some nice touches of local color, as well, as certain episodes bleed into each other, often through radio shows or late-night TV vaguely reminiscent of the WNUF Halloween Special or the wraparound segment of Ti West’s The Roost. Honestly, The Witching Season is worth your time for the opening titles alone, which summarize the season beautifully, in a series of shots vaguely (and, based on the rest of the series, probably intentionally) reminiscent of the great opening titles of Halloween 4.

Never Bet the Devil CoverAs you have no doubt gathered by now, the brand-new deluxe edition of Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings from Strix Publishing is a real, physical object that has actually happened and is currently sitting on my shelf. What you may not yet know is that it can also be sitting on your shelf, even if you missed out on the Kickstarter and/or didn’t see us at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival. Through the magic of something called “the internet,” you can now order your very own copy of Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings, featuring two (2) new stories not published in the previous edition, all new illustrations and header images for every story by the phenomenal M.S. Corley (who is also responsible for that amazing cover), and a new (and very kind) introduction by Nathan Ballingrud!

(And hey, if you’re going to pick up a copy, now’s the time to do it, because you can get it at 15% off thanks to Strix’s Halloween sale!)

Speaking of Halloween, I recently wrote up a recommendation list of five vintage vampiric movies for you to watch on Halloween, which you can read over at Innsmouth Free Press? Why would I do that, you ask? The better question might be, Why wouldn’t I? But in this case it’s actually all part of an elaborate scheme meant to help promote Monsters from the Vault, my collection of essays on vintage horror cinema, collected from across more than five years of writing columns for Innsmouth Free Press. Why vampires, though? Well, that just kind of happened. But you’re certainly not limited to vampires. Pick up a copy of the book and you can find plenty of mad scientists, alien invaders, werewolves, mummies, murderers, unusually large insects and rodents, blobs, apes, skeletons, cults, and just about anything else you might want for your seasonal viewing pleasure.

The list also serves double duty by making me feel a little less bad about not being a very good contributor to the Countdown to Halloween. This October has been a little rough. It got off to a good start with the HPLFF, but there have been a variety of other setbacks that have kept me from celebrating the season with the same vigor that I might have on previous occasions. Fortunately, I have at least gotten Halloween decorations up, and tomorrow night I’m heading out to the Tapcade for a horror anthology triple feature courtesy of the Nerds of Nostalgia. I attended the first of these “Nerdoween” triple-features a couple of years ago, and they’ve since become an annual tradition. Thanks to them, I’ve discovered both Demons and Night of the Demons and, to a somewhat lesser extent, both 28 Weeks Later and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Since this year’s entertainment is anthology film-themed, the odds of me not having already seen all of them decrease sharply, but we’ll see what they can dig up!

Well, the last few days have been extraordinarily busy and draining for me, to the surprise of probably no one. On Saturday night, I stayed out way too late watching mystery horror movies with the fine folks from the Nerds of Nostalgia podcast, thanks to whom I can now say that Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is a thing that I have experienced. Then Sunday I was supposed to introduce a screening of the Vincent Price/Roger Corman/Richard Matheson adaptation of The Pit and the Pendulum at the Screenland, but I got caught in a horrible traffic snarl, and so I ended up talking afterward. (Extroducing it?) I had a book giveaway and did a reading of my story “Guignol.”

Yesterday was my birthday, though I didn’t do a lot more to celebrate than what I’ve already mentioned here, having kind of partied out the night before with the movie marathon. Today I’m not doing a lot either besides catching up from all the aforementioned, but that doesn’t mean that a lot isn’t going on. Since it’s Halloween, we’ve got some special Halloween treats for all of you, including a free story! Head on over to the Word Horde website to read my story “Strange Beast,” about ghosts and kaiju and maybe the ghosts of kaiju absolutely free! “Strange Beast” was one of the original stories I wrote exclusively for Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts, and this is the first time it’s ever been available anywhere else!

Meanwhile, Simon Berman of Strix Publishing has fast-tracked a little Halloween treat for all those who’re waiting patiently for your copies of the new deluxe edition of  Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings. The book contains an all-new story that happens to be Halloween themed, and Mike Corley has been kind enough to show off the excellent illustration that he’s done to accompany it.

Meanwhile, Brian Lillie has assembled a whole passel of authors to make suggestions for suitably spooky Halloween reading. My humble contribution includes tales by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Jon Padgett, and Daniel Mills, all of which have been podcast by Pseudopod. That wasn’t an accident, and one of the reasons I chose to do it was because Pseudopod is currently running a Kickstarter. As part of that Kickstarter, they’re also putting together their first-ever anthology, which includes classic reprints along with all-new stories by yours truly, Damien Angelica Walters, A.C. Wise, and more! Here’s the newly-revealed table of contents, and we promise you, it’s true.

That’s just scratching the surface of what’s been going on lately, but I think for tonight it’s all I’ve got in me. Keep your jack-o-lanterns lit, have a happy Halloween, and always remember to check your candy…

I’ll leave you with what remains one of my all-time favorite Halloween illustrations by none other than the great Chris Sanders, and (unrelatedly) if you’re looking for something seasonal to do this evening,  you could do a lot worse than to plug a few hours into Halloween Forever!

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