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painted monsters

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!

chris-sanders-halloween

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…

Today kicks off the beginning of Word Horde‘s big Summer Solstice Giveaway over on Goodreads, where they’re giving you the chance to snag a handful of the latest Word Horde titles, including Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts. If you’ve already got your copy of Painted Monsters, though, there are also giveaways for Mike Griffin‘s debut collection The Lure of Devouring Light, Livia Llewellyn‘s critically-acclaimed second collection Furnace, and even Ross Lockhart‘s Lovecraftian anthology Cthulhu Fhtagn!, which includes my story “The Insectivore.”

It’s not a part of Word Horde’s Summer Solstice Giveaway, but there’s also a Goodreads giveaway still running for Monsters from the Vault through June 17. Want to be sure you secure your copy? You can always pre-order it direct from the publisher at less-than-cover-price until June 3!

Speaking of pre-orders, they also just opened for Swords v Cthulhu, coming in July from Stone Skin Press and editors Molly Tanzer and Jesse Bullington, featuring my choose-your-own-adventure story “A Circle That Ever Returneth In.” That’s it for now, but stay tuned for more news on whatever is coming next! Otherwise, turn to page 217.

Well, so far this December I’ve posted all of one time, though, y’know, that was a write-up of Krampus, so at least I’ve got my priorities on straight. (Speaking of Krampus, the latest episode of the great Werewolf Ambulance podcast not only covers that very film, but also gives a great shout out to my own review!)

December has been pretty busy, with a variety of deadlines crowding around me like cats at feeding time, so I’ve been at least kind of keeping my head down and working on those, while also, y’know, distracting myself by getting vaguely addicted to buying those Funko blind box horror mystery figures again. This means that I haven’t done much else, including that I haven’t yet seen Star Wars Episode 37: Chewbacca’s Delight, though everyone’s enthusiasm for it has finally been infectious enough to convince me to try seeing it in theatres sometime after Christmas. (And after I see Hateful Eight in 70mm. Because priorities.)

do have several year-end write-ups in the works, including my annual Year in Creatures report, but those are going to have to wait until a little closer to the actual end of the year. I’ll be out of town for Christmas, so I may be a bit scarce online for a few days, though you’ll probably still see me on social media posting random observations or pictures of weird things I see along the side of the road.

In the meantime, I figured I should drop by here and mention that Painted Monsters continues to receive very kind reviews, including probably its most glowing review to date (and, honestly, if that is the most glowing review it ever receives, I couldn’t complain). And I got a pretty amazing Christmas present in the form of a Painted Monsters ornament, courtesy of my fantastic publisher Ross Lockhart at Word Horde.

Ornament

That’s it from me until after the holiday. In the meantime, stay warm, enjoy the lights, and have a pleasant time, whatever you may celebrate, if anything.

Well, Painted Monsters has been out in the world for a little over a month now, give or take, and a lot has been going on. It’s gotten a few reviews at Goodreads and Amazon, and so far the word of mouth has been almost universally positive and humbling. And while Publisher’s Weekly thought I maybe went a little heavy on the movie references, they still felt that Painted Monsterswould be a good fit for anyone who wants a modern take on venerable horror fiction and film.”

Add to that some other very kind reviews, including one at TeleRead and one that includes the first-ever piece of Painted Monsters fan art, and I’m pretty happy with the reception that my little book has been getting so far.

(It’s the first piece, but apparently not the last.)

I recently got to share some column space with the great Adam Cesare over at Cemetery Dance Online, where we discussed and debated the greatest movie monsters of each decade. It was probably the most fun I ever had being “interviewed.” And I was honored to be a guest on Scott Nicolay‘s The Outer Dark podcast, where we talked for a really, really long time about… lord, all sorts of stuff. (Look at all those tags!)

There’s more big news to come, and I’ve been keeping very busy. If you’ve picked up a copy of Painted Monsters, then I thank you from the bottom of whatever it is that skeletons have in place of a heart. (Bats?) And if you enjoyed it (or didn’t) and would like to leave a review–on Amazon, on Goodreads, or on your own blog–then I would appreciate that even more!

For the month of October, as part of the Countdown to Halloween, I’ll be revisiting each of the thirteen stories in Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts and suggesting movies that pair well with them, for your viewing pleasure!

Of all the stories in Painted Monsters, the title novella was the most difficult to pair with an appropriate movie. Not because there weren’t plenty of options to choose from, but rather because there were too many! While the other stories in the collection may touch upon or are inspired by particular movies or periods in horror cinema, “Painted Monsters” is itself the collection in microcosm, a whirlwind tour of horror’s cinematic landscape, drawing inspiration from–and making overt reference to–dozens of movies from different eras.

For any number of reasons, any of the great Roger Corman/Vincent Price Poe pictures would fit the tone and aesthetic of “Painted Monsters” perfectly. I’m personally fond of Pit and the Pendulum and The Haunted Palace (actually the first Lovecraft adaptation, with a Poe title tacked on to help it sell). Those hit the story’s Gothic flavor, certainly, but for its self-referential qualities, we may need to go to more modern fare. In the book’s afterword, I mention the 1988 Anthony Hickox film Waxwork, which not only has the “crash course of horror history” aspect down, but also brings in the wax museum setting.

To find the perfect cinematic pairing for “Painted Monsters,” though, I had to look to an unlikely source. Produced by Roger Corman himself–who has more than a little of his DNA in Kirby Marsh III’s grandfather–and directed by Jim Wynorski (Chopping Mall), the 1989 horror spoof Transylvania Twist is my oddball pick to pair with the heart and soul of my collection. Just hear me out.

While Transylvania Twist is, at first glance, just another horror parody, with jokes at the expense of everything from Hellraiser and A Nightmare on Elm Street to Hammer’s Gothic horrors, a closer examination finds some much weirder stuff going on here. Around Fourth Wall-breaking gags, music videos, and faux commercials, the movie makes direct references to Lovecraft through everything from its protagonist Dexter Ward to the ancient, evil tome that he’s trying to collect (The Book of Ulthar) to, ultimately, the apperance of a giant Lovecraftian monster (“The Evil One”), as played by the creature from previous Corman cheapie It Conquered the World. Not only that, but Transylvania Twist takes its title from the same song that provides “Painted Monsters” with its epigraph, while also paying homage to Targets with a character named for Boris Karloff’s Byron Orlok.

From its knowing tone to its “scavenger hunt through the old castle” plot to its references to movie monsters past and (at the time) present, Transylvania Twist is the perfect–albeit unorthodox–movie to close out our countdown, and the best double-feature I can think of for “Painted Monsters.”

For the month of October, as part of the Countdown to Halloween, I’ll be revisiting each of the thirteen stories in Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts and suggesting movies that pair well with them, for your viewing pleasure!

While “The Murders on Morgue Street” was original to this collection, I had already written it before I started putting Painted Monsters together, it just hadn’t been published anywhere. “Strange Beast” is the first of a pair of stories I wrote explicitly to finish out this book. Its title is a reference to the actual definition of the word kaiju, a term that for most of us has long been synonymous with giant monsters.

The most obvious movie to pair with “Strange Beast” would be Pulgasari, the Korean giant monster flick whose real-life making of backstory inspired my tale. But I’ve never actually seen Pulgasari–somehow it seems like watching it could never live up to that behind the scenes drama–so I guess we’ll have to cast our nets further afield. The next most obvious place to look seems to be someplace like Cloverfield. After all, my “notes toward a book about a documentary crew making a movie about the tragic events behind the making of a movie” approach to “Strange Beast” obviously owes a lot to the found footage format that’s become popular in recent years, and there aren’t a lot of found footage kaiju movies. (This is probably a good thing.) But I also don’t much like Cloverfield, so instead I’d be more likely to suggest Troll Hunter, a movie whose monsters are somewhat more modestly-sized, but whose documentary conceit is much more credible. And just a much better movie, all around.

The biggest cinematic influence on “Strange Beast,” though, has nothing to do with found footage and nothing to do with kaiju. It’s an episode of the 1976 Nigel Kneale-scripted British horror anthology series Beasts called “The Dummy.” In it, a suit actor who plays a monster in a series of successful movies has a nervous breakdown in which he begins to identify with the monster that he’s playing. Take that episode, put it in a blender with the strange true events that led to the creation of Pulgasari, and you’ve got the genesis of “Strange Beast.”