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Over the last few weeks, I’ve acquired a lot of new Facebook friends and Twitter followers, thanks, I imagine, in no small part, to the recent Kickstarter to launch a deluxe second edition of my debut collection Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings through my friends at Strix Publishing. Whatever it is that brought you here, though, I figure all these new faces are as good an excuse as any to stop, take a step back, and sort of remind everyone of who I am and what I do.

As my bio says, I’m a skeleton who likes monsters. I’m also a writer, editor, amateur film scholar, and monster expert who was born on the night before Halloween. (Before you ask, yes, skeletons are born, where else would we come from? We hatch out of coffins, just like everyone else.) I’m a full time freelance writer, and when I’m not doing content marketing work or writing licensed stuff for Privateer Press or penning articles about true crimes and other weirdness for The Lineup, I write stories about monsters, ghosts, and sometimes the ghosts of monsters.

My stories have appeared in dozens of anthologies, including Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year, and been collected into two collections, with a third on the horizon probably sometime in early 2018. Right now you can pick up Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts, my second fiction collection, from Word Horde, and that aforementioned deluxe edition of Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings should be available to those who missed out on the Kickstarter very soon.

I have had stories recently published or forthcoming directly in Children of Lovecraft, which managed to cross two items off my bucket list (be in an original Ellen Datlow antho, and have something of mine appear behind a Mike Mignola cover), as well as Eternal Frankenstein, which you can pre-order now from Word Horde, The Children of Gla’aki which is nearing the end of a pre-order campaign at Dark Regions Press, and The Madness of Dr. Caligari, which you can pre-order from Fedogan & Bremer, to name just a few. I’ve also got a new novelette, The Cult of Headless Men, which is being released as a chapbook by Dunhams Manor, with an incredible cover by Michael Bukowski.

For a relatively succinct summary of my philosophy regarding my own work and my relationship with the genre of horror in general, check out my essay for Nightmare Magazine’s The H Word, “But Is It Scary?

I also spend an inordinate amount of time writing about horror movies, which you can find right here on my blog, as well as at my Patreon and occasionally other places, like the forthcoming October issue of Unwinnable, where I will be nattering on once again about Monster Squad, while all of my literary betters show me up by discussing more intellectual things, I have no doubt.

And if you can’t get enough of reading my rambling opinions on especially creaky old monster movies of yesteryear, all five-or-so years of my column on vintage horror cinema for Innsmouth Free Press have recently been collected into an affordable volume that you can buy right now, Monsters from the Vault.

So, for newcomers or those who just have a tough time keeping up, I think that’s a decent crash course in who I am and what I’ve been up to. There’s a lot more announcements in the works, so keep your radio tuned to this dial until long after you hear the static. That’s where the good stuff lurks…

So. August.

Recently, I picked up a temporary part-time job helping out at a local college bookstore for a few weeks. I did this for a variety of reasons, partly because money has been a little tight, partly to see how a part-time job would impact my freelancing schedule without a lot of commitment. What was supposed to be a 12-hour-a-week job when I applied for it is shaping up to be more like 25-30 hours a week, so how it’s impacting my schedule is: a lot. That said, and as is inevitably the case, work has also picked up, and August is already looking to be a very busy month for a handful of different reasons. These two things together are putting a strain on my free time, to put it mildly.

Something more is going on, though. 2015 has been a rough year. Not exactly bad, necessarily, at least not all the way through, but rough. Lots of exceptionally good things mixed in with lots of exceptionally bad or difficult ones. I think I’m just now starting to really get the distance that I need from the things I learned and experienced at the beginning of the year in order to really understand the damage that it all did, and that’s taking some adjustment to get used to. Which I guess is all a long-ish way of saying that, if you don’t hear from me much this month, don’t worry too much about it. If August does manage to kill me somehow, I’ve already left instructions on social media for my corpse to be propped up in front of the computer so it can try to finish my deadlines, Weekend at Bernie’s-style. More likely, I’ll emerge from the other side of this month as I have emerged from most everything else up to this point: Battered, perhaps, but ready for another round.

About a month ago, at the urging of several different people, I finally took the plunge and started a Patreon account. I’m far from alone in this, as many of the authors and artists I know have them, and many others have strong opinions about why they’re a good idea or a bad one, depending on who you ask. I’ll admit that I’m still not completely sold on their practicality, but I like the concept. The patronage model has always appealed to me; the notion that people who like someone’s work will choose to pay a little bit in order to make certain that work continues to happen. It is, to some extent, an idea that everyone who sets out to write fiction, make music, or create art probably holds to at least a little. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t bother.

Anyway, after a “soft opening” and a trial run through the end of June, my Patreon is now up and running for realsies, and you can head over there anytime you like and throw some money into my hat in exchange for exclusive, behind-the-scenes access into my creative process, such as it is. You can expect mostly snippets of works-in-progress that you’ll get to see well in advance of the general public, as well as the occasional original piece exclusive to Patreon backers, and insights into whatever oddball movies I’ve been watching lately. As my number of patrons continues to grow, so too will the amount of involvement that I have in the site, and the amount of patron-only content that shows up.

I’m still learning my way around the whole Patreon concept, and so the endeavor is still something of a work in progress. I’m working on Milestone Goals that will hopefully go up soon, and I’m very open to any input that anyone might have as to good options for those, or even alternate pledge tiers and so on. I want this to be a pretty flexible and fun undertaking, both for me, and for my patrons, so feel free to leave comments here or there or wherever. And, of course, the more patrons I get, the happier I am, so please share this post or the link to my Patreon far and wide.

Daniel Mills​ tagged me to name “seven things about my writing that you may not already know,” which is the sort of thing I would normally agonize over for several days before unceremoniously dumping it onto the Internet in the middle of the night. However, I don’t really have time for agonizing right now, so I’ll just skip straight to unceremonious dumping. Here are the first seven things that came to mind that might possibly qualify:

  1. While I don’t really have a process–it changes pretty drastically from story to story–I try, whenever deadlines permit, to write everything out completely at least twice. I find that in the course of writing it the second time, I catch things that I wouldn’t have noticed if I had simply been revising.
  2. I used to write to music compulsively, but these days I find that I can’t do it. Just about any kind of music seems to kill the rhythm of writing, with the recent notable exception of John Carpenter’s Lost Themes.
  3. Nathan Ballingrud once lamented that he couldn’t decide if he wanted to be William Faulkner or Robert E. Howard. (I believe I got those names right, Nathan?) I told him that I was pretty sure I just wanted to be Robert E. Howard (though Mike Mignola or E.F. Benson would probably have been better examples), and he basically told me to go out and do the best job of that I could. I’ve been trying to live by that advice ever since.
  4. I’ve known that I wanted to write pretty much forever, but probably the biggest turning point in my development as a writer came when I was introduced to Roger Zelazny through his Chronicles of Amber books. Something about Zelazny’s prose transformed me from someone who wanted to write, into someone who wanted to write better.
  5. Though it is, I think, somewhat unfashionable to admit such a thing right now, my writing is heavily influenced by film, though less, I hope, in the form of “here’s a thinly-veiled fanfic of my favorite TV show” or “here’s a story that I really wanted to be a screenplay but I figured I could sell it quicker this way” and more simply that years of watching and digesting movies has left an indelible stamp on my imagination. In his own version of this meme, Daniel mentioned that he was “critical of the influence of film on contemporary fiction,” and went on to enumerate a number of reasons, all of which made good sense. One of those was that “the first-person tense is eliminated.” A look over my stories shows that I am, at least, not in any danger of that, since I dearly love writing in both first- and the much more oft-maligned second-persons.
  6. I currently write for a living, but the majority of my income doesn’t come from fiction–licensed or otherwise–but from content work for various corporate websites and blogs. Which is not as much fun as writing about wax museums, lost films, and unlikely ghosts, but it does pay better, at least for now.
  7. If I were ever to print out some sort of motivational saying and have it framed above my desk to inspire me when I’m writing, it might well be a quote from Alan Moore’s introduction to the second Hellboy collection, Wake the Devil: “The trick, the skill entailed in this delightful necromantic conjuring of things gone by is not, as might be thought, in crafting work as good as the work that inspired it really was, but in the much more demanding task of crafting work as good as everyone remembers the original as being.”

So, I’m jumping the gun a bit on this, as we’ve still got a couple weeks of 2014 left, but there’s pretty good odds that I won’t see any movies or read any books or publish anything that I don’t already know about or anything else of note between now and then, and if I do, I’ll put up an addendum to this entry. So, looking back at 2014, what’s the biggest thing on my mind, besides how amazingly fast it went? Well, the main thing is that this means one full calendar year of me running my own business as a full-time writer, and it’s been pretty great. There have been periods that were financially lean–we’re actually in the midst of one right now–and ones that have been fairly flush, but all in all, it’s been a ride, and even if everything goes pear-shaped from here, I’ll at least have known what it was like for a while.

It turns out that having nothing else to do all day–and having your mortgage depend on your doing it–does wonders for your productivity, and I’ve sold and published quite a lot of fiction in the past year, even while it wasn’t my main source of writing income. I published seven stories in 2014 and one reprint, as well as selling several others that have yet to see print, and writing a decent body of licensed work for Privateer Press, some of which has seen print and some of which remains to be announced. I got to see my name in an actual core rulebook for Hordes, which was a pretty fantastic feeling. All told, I sold or published around two dozen pieces of fiction, including licensed work, over the course of the year. That’s a pretty big jump, especially considering that in 2013 I only published two stories, three if you count licensed work.

I also put out Gardinel’s Real Estate with my friend M.S. Corley, which sold out in only a couple of weeks, though you can still get a digital version via Gumroad. I participated in the online Deltorocon convention, attended the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival as a guest for the second year in a row, and wrote my first introduction for a collection by a contemporary writer, The Nickronomicon. Along with a host of other stuff that either hasn’t been announced yet, or that I’m forgetting to mention.

My goals for next year are mostly more of the same. I want to diversify the revenue streams for my business, so that slow months don’t hit as hard, and I want to keep on keeping my head above water, which, only a little over a year in, still feels doable, but like a big enough goal, thanks. The one really big piece of news on the horizon that I already know about is that 2015 will see the publication of my second fiction collection, this time through Ross Lockhart’s Word Horde imprint, where you can expect some really big things in the coming year. The collection is tentatively titled Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts, and you’ll have to wait a bit longer to learn too much more, but I can tell you that I just recently wrapped the first draft of a brand new novella for the book, and I think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Another goal for 2015 is to read more. I’ve actually seen a big dent in my reading time since I quit my day job. Previously, I spent the couple of hours a day that were otherwise consigned to the limbo of the city bus reading, and without that bracket of pre-loaded time, I’ve found it harder to put away the books at the pace I once could. I only read about 20 books in 2014, and as usual for me, most of those were graphic novels. Of the non-Hellboy stuff I did read, some of the standouts include the first collection from Daniel Mills (The Lord Came at Twilight), the latest collection from Slivia Moreno-Garcia (Love & Other Poisons), a couple from Adam Cesare (Video NightAll-Night Terror), and The Children of Old Leech, which also contained my story “Walpurgisnacht,” but hopefully that doesn’t make me too biased.

Movies, on the other hand, I had no trouble watching in 2014, though I still only managed to catch 21 that were released this year. My top ten list is currently live at Downright Creepy, but there are literally piles and piles of almost certainly great stuff that didn’t make the cut simply by virtue of my not catching it yet. Of the ones I did see, though, that’s a pretty accurate representation, and I didn’t have to leave anything on the cutting room floor due to DRC’s rubric of only allowing horror, thriller, sci-fi, and comic book flicks. (It was, as you can see, a great year for comic book flicks!) I may do some kind of total movie watching metric once the year is actually closed out, but we’ll see.

At this rate, I may have to wait until we’re a ways into 2015 before I do a Year In Creatures roundup, because while there were plenty of creatures in at least some of the movies I watched in 2014, very few of them really stood out. It seems that, whatever the best creature of the year was, it must have been somewhere outside of my experience so far.

The end of my first full year as a full-time writer is a big milestone, and I’m hopeful–if also a little anxious, as is usual and customary for me–for more good things to come in 2015. As I finish out the last few days of December, I’m thankful for all the opportunities that I’ve had, and for all the friends and family who’ve stood by me. One of the best things about doing what I do is that I get to meet and work with some of the best, coolest, and most exciting people I can think of, and I couldn’t have done it without the lot of you. Thanks to all of my friends both online and off, particularly to my dear friend Jay, who this year honored me immeasurably by asking me to be his best man at his wedding. Perhaps most of all, though, I couldn’t have done it without my loving and supportive wife, Grace, who has always believed in me, even and most especially when I myself did not.

Here’s to the end of 2014, and the beginning of bigger and better things for all of us in 2015! Soupy twist!

Once again, I’m participating in this year’s Countdown to Halloween. As usual, I’m not sure of the precise form it’ll take, but I imagine that there’ll be a stronger-than-usual haunted house bent, in honor of the October 1 launch of Gardinel’s Real Estate. So prepare yourself for some rambling about spooky houses, the haunted house genre, and Manly Wade Wellman’s gardinels, all in the month of October.

The Countdown site itself is honoring the 60th anniversary of The Creature from the Black Lagoon, which is why all of the Cryptkeeper badges feature the likeness of the gillman, still maybe the greatest monster suit in movie history. I chose the 3D version, because having a 3D gillman head on my sidebar seemed like exactly what I wanted from life.

Creature is pretty far removed from haunted houses, alas, but maybe I’ll watch some of the Black Lagoon movies as part of this Halloween season, and if not, there’s always my annual viewing of Monster Squad to tide us all over.

As you’ve probably already seen if you follow me on any kind of social media, they’re hosting a Peter Cushing Centennial Blogathon over at the great Frankenstein ‘blog Frankensteinia. A few years ago I participated in their Boris Karloff Blogathon and head a really good time. Those entries, unfortunately, are lost to the whims of a website hiccup, but they’re still available on my LiveJournal under the Boris Karloff Blogathon tag. Since Peter Cushing is one of two actors (the other being Vincent Price) who regularly compete for my affections as my favorite actor of all time, it wouldn’t have seemed right not to participate in this year’s Peter Cushing Blogathon.

As fate would have it, the month of May has been an extraordinarily busy one for me, and that means that I’ll probably be posting to the blogathon less than I would like, but I do have at least one big post in the works. In the mean time you can click over to Frankensteinia and check out all the other great posts on the blogathon, and in order to tide you over I’ve composed a quick roundup of links to other places that I can remember talking about Peter Cushing movies in the not-too-distant past, specifically as culled from my regular vintage horror column at Innsmouth Free Press, the Vault of Secrets:

Island of Terror (1966)
Night Creatures (1962)
The Gorgon (1964)
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)

Conspicuously absent from that list are any of the Hammer Frankenstein movies, which star Peter Cushing in my favorite of all his roles, that of Baron Frankenstein himself. That’s okay, though, because in honor of the Peter Cushing Centennial Blogathon and Frankensteinia, I plan to revisit (in whatever brevity is required) all six of the Peter Cushing-starring Hammer Frankenstein films, in order, and render unto you a verdict as to, not only which one is my favorite, but which one has my favorite portrayal of the Baron, my favorite version of the creature, my favorite lab, and my favorite assistant, among anything else I may think of. So expect that sometime in the next few days, before the culmination of the blogathon.

And don’t forget that the Feast of the Long Shadows is coming up tomorrow night, which is the perfect time to celebrate Peter Cushing’s Centennial!