No Country for Old Muggles: an excerpt.

•28/09/2017 • Leave a Comment
I don’t know said Harry quietly as he struggled with the pain of knowing all his life was a lie though now faced with great things being expected of him that he couldn’t comprehend despite the evidence of even greater things happening all around and everything going his way while he staggered across the imagined border between muggle and wizard. Quiddich came as naturally to him as sitting a broom and if he’d been born into a world without it one imagined Nimbus Two Thousands might have willed themselves into being just to suit him. But the game was only that and had no bearing on his struggle to be the chosen one the wizarding world expected to rise above a challenge that never took form except as a suspicion in the back of his mind that there was someone who could not be named that left him with a scar and no direction other than the one that swept him away like an reluctant martyr carried along by a throng of ecstatics overwhelmed by the song of the sorting hat and its incontenstable revelations –HUFFLEPUFF –GRIFFINDOR. A prophecy of determinism that reduced each student to an idea before they ever realized who they were themselves and wouldn’t have the chance to free themselves from, not if the world had its way and the world always had its say louder than a simple boy who grew up living under a flight of rickety old stairs wanting a better life and having it thrust on him the same way deprivation had been. It was all meaningless and sorrowful and Harry wrapped himself in his invisibility cloak and thought this might be the truest way he’d ever appeared and was guaranteed to be the future of him throughout eternity once the sun set on Hogwarts like it set on the whole world.
–What are you looking for boy?
–Nothing said Harry.
Five minutes later Ron and Hermione joined him suddenly shaking their heads and they quickly went off to dinner where Harry had never in all his life had so much. The wizarding world in which you seek to undo the miscast spell you make is different from the world where the spell was made.
–You’re now at the crossing said Snape. And you want to sort yourself, but there is no sorting. There’s only accepting. The sorting was done a long time ago.


•27/07/2017 • Leave a Comment

Author Christopher Golden says,

I founded this event in 2015. Last year, the turnout was huge and I promised that this year would be even bigger and better. I intend to deliver on that promise. Last year, a number of authors debuted new books and chapbooks at the event, and I know the same will be true this year. I anticipate a great many debuts and exclusives—including something of mine, but that’s for later.

The MERRIMACK VALLEY HALLOWEEN BOOK FESTIVAL 2017 will be held on Saturday, October 21st, 2017, from 10am till 4:30pm. Once again, the event will be held at the Haverhill Public Library (Haverhill, MA) and is FREE and open to the public. Sponsored by River City Writers, Andover Bookstore, Haverhill House Publishing, and–of course–Haverhill Public Library.

So…who’s going to be there? We’re expanding a bit this year, adding a number of writers primarily known for their mystery and thriller novels, and our total number of attending authors and artists has passed FIFTY. Among them, we’re thrilled to welcome back Joe Hill. Joe’s new book, Strange Weather, debuts around the country on October 24th…but we’ve made special arrangements with Joe’s publisher and our friends at Andover Bookstore to have Strange Weather make its official debut three days early, at the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival. Joe will be on hand to sign them, of course.

We’re also thrilled to welcome Alice Hoffman, who will join us as part of her tour for her own October release, The Rules of Magic. One of our panels during the festival will be “Joe Hill & Alice Hoffman: In Conversation.”(Please note…the Joe & Alice: In Conversation event WILL require registration. The event is free, but due to space concerns, you will have to register in advance for that event. More information to come.)

But I know you want the full list of attendees, so here you go, first for newsletter subscribers, as promised!

Joe Hill
Hank Phillippi Ryan
Sarah Smith
Gregory Bastianelli
Matt Bechtel
Stephen Bissette
Daniel Braum
Dana Cameron
Glenn Chadbourne
Jason Ciaramella
Joseph Citro
Kristin Dearborn
Rachel Autumn Deering
Barry Lee Dejasu
Amber Fallon
Dan Foley
Craig Shaw Gardner
Christopher Golden
Scott Goudsward
Catherine Grant
Kat Howard
Christopher Irvin
Nicholas Kaufmann
Brian Keene
Toni L.P. Kelner
John Langan
Fred Van Lente
Livia Llewellyn
Bracken MacLeod
John M. McIlveen
Hillary Monahan
James A. Moore
Holly Newstein
Errick Nunnally
Jason Parent
Philip Perron
Charles R Rutledge
Mary SanGiovanni
Rob Smales
Thomas Sniegoski
Paul Tremblay
Tony Tremblay
Kenneth Vaughn
Trisha Wooldridge
Douglas Wynne
Rio Youers

I hope to see you all there!
Saturday, October 21st, 2017!


Memories of ReaderCon Past

•18/07/2017 • Leave a Comment

This past weekend was ReaderCon 28 in Quincy, Massachusetts. While I didn’t attend the con, at the invitation of my publisher, ChiZine Publications, I was a part of a “salon reading” in their personal hotel room, and did hang out in the lobby for a while after hours to chat with some friends. The following article appeared in my Facebook memories today, and I thought it was worth sharing again, remembering a time when I did officially attend and had a wonderful time.

NOTE: I’ve made a couple of changes and clarifications here and there. Those are indicated [like this]. Otherwise, the post remains as it was originally published elsewhere.

This past weekend in Burlington, Massachusetts I attended Readercon [23], a conference as they describe it, devoted to “imaginative literature” — literary science fiction, fantasy, horror, and the unclassifiable works often called “slipstream.”

This is one of my favorite speculative cons as it is devoted (like my other favorites, Necon and Anthocon [the latter of which has lamentably ceased to be]) to literature–no cosplay, no gaming, and almost no media (there’s plenty of talk about movies in panels because movies can inform prose story-telling, but no movie panels). Although the conference is usually weighted a little more toward Sci-Fi and Fantasy than horror and slipstream, there are excellent horror writers in attendance like Gemma Files, Laird Barron, Nick Mamatas, to name only a few, and the guests of honor this year were dark fiction legends, Peter Straub and Caitlin Kiernan. Sadly, I will have to defer to other NEHW contributors for a recap of Mr. Straub’s contributions to the con as his panels and readings were concurrent with other panels I attended.1 Instead, let me give you a short recap of what were the high points from the panels I attended.

me and lucien soulban

Me (with a more rakish beard) and Lucien Soulban.

The dystopian fiction panel led by […] Jack Haringa, “Through a Glass Dystopianly,” was an excellent deconstruction of the recent trend in YA literature to make everything The Hunger Games. I’m not being fair. There’s a lot of good YA (and adult) dystopian fiction out there. But there’s a lot of drek too. […] When pressed on the issue of dystopia versus utopia versus post-apocalyptic setting, Haringa threw out my third favorite bon mot of the conference: “All science fiction is optimistic because it all assumes we have a future.”

Next on the list of favorites was the panel titled “Wet Dreams and Nightmares” about weird and transgressive erotica. This panel stayed blissfully distant from paranormal romance and actually addressed real erotica and transgressive sex in a mature and unflinching way. Would you expect anything different from a panel featuring Caitlin R. Kiernan? The give and take between Gemma Files and Kiernan regarding their distinct approaches to erotic body transformations and what they individually find sexy made this panel pure gold.

The panel on horror and the social compact (another one featuring Dear Leader Haringa) presented some interesting viewpoints on the scope of horror versus science fiction, wherein it was posited that it is actually very difficult to discuss horror in the context of a Hobbesian social contract. With a few exceptions (e.g., Soylent Green—which I’d say is both sci-fi and horror), most horror is about violation of trust and/or autonomy on a personal scale as opposed to a societal one.

This panel shared an interesting deconstructive quality with one on Sunday titled “Uncanny Taxonomies,” where the conclusion was also reached that taxonomies of speculative fiction (i.e., genres) weren’t all that helpful for anyone other than book marketers and possibly consumers. [One wonders how that panel would have been handled recently in light of the Guardian’s Post-Horror fooferaw. ] It was during this panel that Kiernan gave my second favorite line of the convention: “All [novels], by definition, are fantasy; they did not happen.”2

My second favorite session of the weekend was Dr. Laura Knight’s slideshow titled “Autopsy and Postmortem Primer for Writers,” which gave the audience a basic rundown of the process of a typical autopsy and human decomposition. The con organizers grossly underestimated the appeal of a dead body slideshow to fantasy and sci-fi (and a few horror) fans and about a quarter of the attendees to the session were left sitting on the floor or standing when all the seats filled up. One poor woman who was standing in the back of the hot room (possibly with her knees locked) fainted when Dr. Knight put up the slide of decompositional bloat and a little body degloving (I am sure the heat and having to stand were also contributing factors). Sadly, that attendee missed the next slide of the two people whose little yappy dogs had partially eaten their faces. (Cat lovers take note: Dr. Knight commented that in over 2,000 autopsies, she had yet to see a feline case of filiaphagia–but those nasty little dogs… they’ll turn on you in a minute.)

Finally, at the top of my list of favorite events at Readercon (unrelated to standing in a blacked out hotel bathroom staring at disintegrating atoms in a spinthariscope—look it up—and drunken yoga in the hotel lobby) was “A Story from Scratch.”

The basic conceit of the session (in several parts over three days) was that using models from the audience and props provided by celebrity guests, Hugo-winning writers Michael Swanwick and Elizabeth Bear will crowd source a story outline and write a short story to be professionally brought to life by photographer Kyle Cassidy and illustrator Lee Moyer. On Sunday, the story would be read aloud by Swanwick and Bear accompanied by a slide show of the work that Cassidy and Moyer produced. Bear provided a very condensed version of her course on effective fiction writing and the small crowd of participants began throwing out ideas for the story. What eventually took shape was the sad tale of a Chinese restaurant owner whose wife has been taken hostage by the Yakuza (I know), and must find the ransom before her wife (it is Massachusetts after all) loses all of her fingers and her entire memory (somehow stolen with each successive finger chop).

When the call was made for volunteers to be photographed by the amazing Mr. Cassidy, of course I volunteered. Given my cuddly and welcoming appearance, I was immediately cast as one of the Yakuza gangsters. The short version of the rest of the story is that, as one could predict, this became another instance of “and then Bracken took his shirt off” at a con. Fortunately, this bout of semi-nudity led to Cassidy and Moyer making me look like the coolest fucking American Yakuza since Viggo Mortensen and Bear and Swanwick crafting a Philip K. Dick style story containing my single favorite line of the entire Con: “Tom and Bracken were evil men, but not brutal.” (As soon as the story, titled “Dismemberance,” and photos are posted online I’ll be sure to link to them.)

[Once upon a time, it was online, but I can’t seem to find it now. My apologies.]


1 I know. I know. Revoke my horror fan card if you must.
2  Other excellent lines came from Michael Swanwick: “Wincing equals good fiction,” and Elizabeth Bear, “The worst reaction a reader can have to your story is ‘Fuck you!’”

Space Monkeys and Book Sales

•15/06/2017 • Leave a Comment

Have you been wanting to pick up the short story collection that the New York Times Book Review called “superb” (pron. soo-POIB) and compared to the work of Flannery O’Connor, Ambrose Bierce, and Cornell Woolrich, but money is tight? Well now, here’s your chance to see what the hub-bub is about, bub. Follow the instructions below from my publisher, ChiZine Publications, to get an e-copy of 13 VIEWS OF THE SUICIDE WOODS for $1.99! Nosir, you can’t beat that.

While you’re there, you might as well give up coffee for the rest of the week and splurge on some more books. They’re all great. But buy mine first. 😉


Okay, people at the party, here we go!

In honour of Albert II’s sacrifice back in 1949 as the first monkey in space, CZP is dropping its eBook prices to $1.99 ACROSS THE BOARD! (Don’t ask what the connection is; that’s a secret!) Simply go to this link:

scroll down, and send the titles of the book(s) you want in an email to (anything that has a “Buy the eBook” link at the bottom of its page—which is nearly everything—is fair game!). You’ll then receive a PayPal invoice for the total amount. Pay it, then we send you your books. Easy-peasy! If you’d prefer to pay by eTransfer, we can absolutely do that, too—I would just send you a PDF invoice instead.

This sale will last for one week only (starting immediately, and ending June 21st at midnight EST), so please spread the word to your friends, family, fans, and foes.

We won’t be doing this again anytime soon, so don’t delay!

I Know What You’ll Read This Summer – The New York Times

•01/06/2017 • Leave a Comment

Oh, Dark Lord! I can’t even begin to tell how you cosmically happy I feel at this exact moment. I feel like I could eat black holes and shit stars!



•09/05/2017 • Leave a Comment

It’s (temporarily) out of print in English, but if you read German, and soon ITALIAN, my first novel, MOUNTAIN HOME is out there! For Italian audiences it’s titled “Siege,” but most importantly, between the covers it’s the version of the book I want readers to have. Coming soon from Good Kill Edizioni.

In the meantime, check out this cool cover by Giampaolo Frizzi!


Good Kill


•07/04/2017 • 1 Comment

Look at this beautiful cover for my friend, Hank Early’s debut novel, HEAVEN’S CROOKED FINGER.


I am more excited about this book release than I am about anything else I can think of this year! (Well, anything else that I didn’t write, natch.) Hank Early is the pseudonym of one of my favorite writers, John Mantooth. This guy’s work is astounding, and not only should you pre-order this book NOW, I’d encourage you to go back and get his work under his other name. You will not be disappointed.

But don’t take my word for it!

“Hank Early’s Heaven’s Crooked Finger is a twisty, page-turning, modern Southern Gothic that packs an emotional wallop. His everyday and down-and-out characters are authentically rendered. Fans of Daniel Woodrell and Donald Ray Pollock take notice, Heaven’s Crooked Finger is the real deal.”

-Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and Disappearance at Devil’s Rock

A short excerpt:

I was sweating when the door to the inner sanctuary swung open, and I saw the throng already swaying to the sporadic thunking of Aunt Mary Lee’s arthritic fingers on the tuneless piano. Daddy held two snakes, a large rattler he’d been using for years and a smaller cottonmouth found a few days earlier in some brush down near Ghost Creek. Stepping into the sanctuary, I believed I felt it. The wind. Daddy said it was a breath, and when it took a hold of you, you might feel your feet lifted off the ground, your lungs expanding with the fresh air of heaven. I waited, closing my eyes, willing it to come in.  

I had always wanted to believe in something. I still do.

– From Heaven’s Crooked Finger (available 11/7/17)