Ellen Datlow Offers Honorable Mention for “The Company Town”

Grimscribe's Puppets

Ellen Datlow recently listed her honorable mentions for Best Horror of the Year #6 and my story “The Company Town” (from the Thomas Ligotti tribute anthology The Grimscribe’s Puppets) made the cut.

I’m delighted Ellen dug the story.  These sorts of honors put wind in my sails when I’m feeling down (which I have been, lately).

Several other contributors to the anthology were also given honorable mentions.  Kudos to Joe Pulver for putting this project together with the help of Miskatonic River Press publisher Tom Lynch.  And of course, thanks to “the other Tom” , who has given horror fiction so much over the last few decades.  Obviously, without the Grimscribe, himself, there would have been no Grimscribe’s Puppets.

A Flood of Anthology News

Everything happens at once.  By some weird alignment of events (no doubt triggered by strange goings on among the stars) I have previously-unpublished work coming out simultaneously in three new anthologies.  You’re busy, I’m busy, so let’s cut to the chase and briefly talk about each.

FINAL_Cover_600_DARKE__75890.1405382115.1280.1280Editor Jason V Brock has been supportive of my work for awhile now, and I’m grateful for that and proud to have five or ten pages in this huge (over 700 page) anthology. The book includes a previously-unpublished foreword by Ray Bradbury and all new stories from an eclectic mix of authors from just about every branch of dark speculative fiction.  I mean, seriously folks…Lucy A. Snyder, Greg Bear, Joe Lansdale, Dennis Etchison, Steve Rasnic Tem, Weston Ochse, S.T. Joshi and…um…me.

(My contribution is a new, 3,000ish word story called “The Squatters”.  It’s weird and dark and sexual and surreal).

The t.o.c. for this one looks like the guest list for a wild party (or maybe just a particularly rambunctious cookout).  Oh, and speaking of wild — or merely rambunctious — social gatherings…

There will be a signing event for this anthology tomorrow (Thursday, November 6) at 6:00 p.m. in Glendale, California at the Mystery & Imagination Bookstore (238 N. Brand Boulevard ).  I won’t be there because Glendale, California is a bit of hike from southern Indiana.  But if you’re out that way, please do drop by.  They’ll be opening the doors at 5:30.  William F. Nolan, Joe Lansdale, Dennis Etchison, Jason and Sunni Brock, Cody Goodfellow, J.C. Koch, E.E. King, and Misty Dahl are all scheduled to be in attendance.

Oh, and, clicky-click on the linky-link for more information about the book.

SFG Christmas antho picThe next anthology I want to talk about is a special charity fundraising effort called Gifts of the Magi:  A Speculative Holiday Collection.  All proceeds from this one will benefit the literacy charity Indy Reads.  Here’s more about Indy Reads, from their website:

Indy Reads is a not-for-profit organization that relies on volunteers to provide basic literacy tutoring to illiterate and semi-literate adults. Our mission is to promote and improve the literacy of adults and families in Central Indiana. We believe that everyone should have an opportunity to learn to read, and our goal is to make Indianapolis 100% literate. Our programs include one-on-one tutoring, small group sessions, English as a Second Language instruction, and “Literacy Labs” at neighborhood centers.

That all sounds good to me.  Literacy is a cause I feel especially moved to support, as I feel strongly that (in addition to offering many practical, day-to-day benefits), it plays an essential role in facilitating the exercise of one’s civil liberties.

A lot of fellow-Hoosiers are in this one, and it’s edited by John F. Allen, E. Chris Garrison, and R.J. Sullivan.

I donated a short humor piece to this one (called “Lumps of Coal”).  It discusses two TV shows (and one movie) which try to  graft a cheery holiday message onto genre entertainment (and fail miserably in the process).  Folks who enjoy my short fiction may find this essay to be a bit of an odd duck, as it has more to do with my appreciation of so-bad-it’s-good pieces of pop culture and absolutely nothing to do with serious literary endeavors, but sometimes a girl’s allowed to let her hair down, eh?

women writing the weird ii dreadful daughtersNext up?  Women Writing the Weird II: Dreadful DaughtersI was invited to submit a short story to this anthology and ended up contributing a novelette called “Non Evidens”.  It’s a previously-unpublished piece. This one has moments of dark satire and moments of strangeness, but — as it’s my take on mother-daughter relationships — there are some serious aspects to it, too.

Here’s the list of contributors (besides me):  Merrie Haskell, J.S. Breukelaar, Sandra McDonald, Janett L. Grady, Victoria Hooper, Tantra Bensko, Rachel Kendall, Roberta Chloe Verdant, Amelia Mangan, Alex Dally MacFarlane, Michele Lee, Deb Hoag, Janis Butler Holm, Nancy Collins, Sarah A.D. Shaw, Lorraine H McGuire, Nikki Guerlain, Peggy A. Wheeler, Aliya Whiteley and Charie D. La Marr.

It’s especially good to see my friend Michele Lee and weird fic acquaintance Nikki Guerlain in this one.

Please consider purchasing one (or all) of these publications, y’all.

Pack Me Away in Mothballs Until May…

This past weekend I taught a writing workshop at the Speculative Fiction Guild’s retreat (at a lovely cabin in the woods not far from Indianapolis).  A few weeks before that, I attended (and did some freelance journalism) at the Fright Night Horror and Halloween convention; a few weeks before that, I attended (and taught) at Context; a few weekends before that I coordinated the HWA booth at ScareFest.

And so on, and so on.

I’ve traveled a lot this year.  Boston for ReaderCon, Portland for World Horror.  Three events in the Midwest and East Coast for my April book tour.  All these other things recently.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it…but I’m also looking forward to some down time.  I’m especially looking forward to sitting on my front porch with a mug of hot apple cider and handing out candy to the 100+ trick-or-treaters I typically get at my house.  I look forward to making more progress on my next novel.  I look forward to recharging my batteries, so I can go out and do it all again next year.

But yeah, at least for a few months, my suitcase gets some rest.  And that’s a good thing.

An Addition to My Context 27 Schedule…

I’ve been asked to fill in on one additional Context panel, The Well-Rounded Creative (Saturday at 5:00 p.m.)

So, my revised Context schedule looks like this:

Panel:  Writing NonFiction (For Fiction Lovers) 10am Saturday  / Morrison Room

Panel:  The Well-Rounded Creative 5:00 p.m. Saturday  / Morrison Room

Signing: 11am Sunday  / Dealer’s Room, Context signing area

Teaching:   Discovery Writing Workshop:   1pm Sunday  / Stansbury

My Context 27 Schedule…

There are few conventions I love more than Context (a con focused exclusively on books, based in Columbus, Ohio).  Without a doubt, it’s my favorite con in the Midwest.  There are enough familiar faces there to make it a sort of family reunion, but also enough structure (writing classes, panels, etc.) to tickle one’s neurons.

Six years ago, when I first started writing again after a lengthy hiatus, I attended a short story critique group Gary Braunbeck offered at Context.  All the participants sent in stories ahead of time, to each other and to Gary.  We read all the stories before the con.  Then, during the workshop, Gary — and all the other students — provided critiques.  As we went around the table and discussed each story, we really dove into the nuts and bolts.  I recall it as being an intense three-hour experience on the Friday night of the con.  It was probably the most important night of my writing career.  I went into the workshop with an (undeserved) ego.  I left with an appreciation of how little I really knew.  Humbled, in a good way.  Rendered teachable.

It set the foundation for everything that followed.

And here, six years (and many stories) later, I am now a teacher of a writing workshop at Context.  (Specifically, I’ll be teaching a class that will provide tools for the discovery writer — aka, “pantser”).  There are still a few spaces available, by the way.

What a journey it’s been.  I’m proud to be a part of Context and look forward to teaching there.

In addition to teaching, I’ll be on one panel and I’ll have an assigned time to sign books.

Here’s the full schedule:

Panel:  Writing NonFiction (For Fiction Lovers) 10am Saturday

Signing: 11am Sunday

Teaching Discovery Writing Class:   1pm Sunday

If you’re at the con, please do say hello.  I’d love to meet you.

Announcing Mr. Suicide

Word-Horde2-big-blkbgI’m overjoyed to announce that Ross E. Lockhart has acquired my first novel, Mr. Suicide, as a July, 2015 Word Horde release. I’ve worked with several great editors during my career and Ross is no exception. His suggestions for Mr. Suicide helped me take the book to the next level. I can’t wait to share it with all of you.

Thanks to everyone who has helped me as I’ve climbed this mountain — all the readers, mentors, teachers, supporters and friends.I’m glad to join Ross, Justin Steele , J.M. McDermott, Molly Tanzer, and the rest of the Horde (can I be the one in the back with the battle ax?).

Look for more information about Mr. Suicide (and many other topics) in an extensive forthcoming interview with Sean Moreland over at Postscripts to Darkness.

Back from ScareFest

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Kenneth Whitfield (left) and Geoffrey Girard at the HWA table at ScareFest  (Photo by Cissi Whitfield).

This past weekend, I organized the Horror Writers Association‘s presence at ScareFest 7 in Lexington, Kentucky.  Authors Kenneth Whitfield, Geoffrey Girard and L. Andrew Cooper joined me as we spread the good news about HWA and sold some books, too (with twenty percent of the book sale revenue going to the HWA hardship fund for writers in need).

It was a hectic weekend. We spoke to many newer writers about HWA and the upcoming World Horror Convention (by 1:30 p.m. on Saturday we’d exhausted our supply of HWA brochures; our WHC flyers lasted a little longer but we gave a lot of those out, too).  Great networking opportunities abounded and there were some truly remarkable costumes making the rounds of the exhibit hall.  It felt good to hang out at a media con, after having spent a long time focusing on publishing cons.  I’ll be doing a little more of this sort of thing in the future

I’m only posting a couple of still photos here today, but more are en route. We shot some video footage at the event which will be posted here soon, too.  Also, our group was interviewed (one at a time) by a podcast, and I’ll be posting links to those interviews as they become available.

Overall, an enjoyable and successful weekend.

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Kenneth Whitfield (left) and I staff the HWA table at ScareFest 7 on Friday night. ( Photo by Cissi Whitfield.)

Small Town Horror: Not Just King & Bradbury

I want to make one thing clear at the start: I know Lisa Morton.  My face-to-face interactions with her have been positive, and I’ve found her to be nothing but the most polished professional when we’ve worked together on projects for the Horror Writers Association.  In fact, last year around this time I defended her when some big names in the business ridiculed a  blog post she’d written that I thought (and still think) was actually pretty spot-on.

But nobody’s perfect.  To err is human.  To err on the Internet is to be forever reminded one is human.  And so now (over a year after its initial appearance), a troubling column Morton wrote for Nightmare magazine has come to the forefront of  (exasperated) discussion on Brady Allen’s Facebook page.

Refer to the links above to read the article and Allen’s critique.

My own critique will focus on one central point:  this article is, at best, confused (and confusing).

Morton starts off by noting the enduring prevalence of the world-weary-author-going-home-to-face-monsters-in-a-small-town trope.  She says this:

Over the past twenty years, I’ve seen it pop up everywhere from small press catalogs to bestseller lists and award announcements…Upon recently perusing a long list of free Kindle horror books, that plot occupied a whopping half of the offerings…In fact, I think this storyline is second only to “group of survivors must band together to make it through the zombie apocalypse” as horror’s biggest plot champion.

 

So, Morton is tired of that specific trope.  Well, she’ll get no argument from me on that one.  I was never that fond of it to start with.  This thesis seems entirely defensible.  But then her discussion starts to drift, expand, generalize, get — well, there’s no other way to say it — bizarre

Gone are the Bradbury-esque small American towns where Main Street was a collection of quaint diners and everyone knew your name. Mom and Pop stores have been replaced by Walmarts; towns have died as jobs have moved to urban centers…Anyone born in the past twenty years probably thinks that all small towns look like big cities–they all have the same gas stations and the same big box stores and the same fast food joints.

Ummm, really?  That’s funny, because — as someone who lives in southern Indiana and often goes back home to visit her small town in rural Maryland– I’m a frequent patron of “quaint diners”  and “Mom and Pop” places.  Yes, the larger of the small towns will often have a Walmart, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have local joints, too.  And there are towns out there too small for even Walmart’s reach.  I’ve worked in towns in southeastern Indiana that are so small that no well-known chain restaurants or retailers existed in them.  (The closest you’ll find to a chain in some of these places is an I.G.A. ; which, if you read their website, is actually a sort of anti-chain.)  The other businesses (general stores, restaurants, you name it) are often eccentrically advertised with homemade signs created with spray paint and stencils.

Perhaps the strangest comment Morton makes is that “towns have died as jobs have moved to urban centers”.  It’s truly mind-boggling to think anyone could write such a sweeping generalization.  Morton is wrong.  Exceedingly wrong.  Manufacturers know that they can pay small town workers less than city workers (especially in red states unfriendly to organized labor), so they sometimes outsource manufacturing (and other) jobs to small towns.  In that sense (as a destination for outsourcing), small towns are America’s internal Mexico (or, perhaps more accurately, America’s internal China).  That’s not to say that small towns don’t struggle, or that manufacturing isn’t a shadow of what it used to be, but this sort of thing is happening. And there are other employers besides factories.  Hospitals.  Small colleges. Military bases.  Power plants.

And Morton doubles-down with this gem:

A lot of younger Americans–the readers who grew up on Harry Potter and who are hungry for something new now that they’ve reached adulthood–probably know the classic image of small town America only from a trip to Disneyland’s Main Street.

Morton now sounds like she’s pitching the plot for a dystopia: small towns (and only small towns) have lost the ability to reproduce.  There are no children in these towns.  Surely, no cub scout or girl scout troops.  No little league teams.  You think you see kids going to buy candy and sodas on the main drag?  Better go to a shrink because you’re hallucinating!

But maybe Morton knows something I don’t know.  I mean, sure I’ve lived the vast majority of my life in small towns.  But maybe she has some vital insight or overlooked statistic that overcomes my merely anecdotal experience.

Oops.  She doesn’t.

….many of us, including me…were born and raised in cities. My experience of small towns is pretty much confined to movies like Blue Velvet, which paint them as places so seething with violence and perversity that I have to wonder why anyone would wax nostalgic for them.

I once saw L.A. Confidential, Lisa.  But I don’t feel that viewing experience equips me to make sweeping generalizations about L.A. as a whole.

Morton then goes on to make what sounds, superficially, like a valid point about the lack of fully-realized people of color in King-style small town stories.

Thirdly, the characters in these books are almost solely WASPs. Now granted, the typical small town wasn’t known for a wide distribution of different ethnicities…but a new generation of readers have grown up with names like Gutierrez and Nguyen and Obama, and it’s time to start recognizing them in the pages of horror fiction.

First, note the past tense (“wasn’t”) applied to small towns.  Morton’s still operating under the assumption that they’re “dead”.  Next note the ignorance (sorry, can’t call it anything else) on display.  Increasingly, people of color live in small towns, too, Lisa.  In my own corner of Indiana, the area has become more multicultural largely as a result of immigration.  The reasonable living expenses of small towns are helpful to many immigrants (although, granted, racism is still a problem).  Of course, racism is a problem for all of the United States, not just small towns.  Just ask the L.A.P.D.

Yes, there are people of color in fly over country.  And LGBT people, too.  And Muslim people and atheists and pagans and…

Well, you get the point.

But no, seriously, Lisa.  There are.  No foolin’.

Morton concludes with this:

Maybe it’s time to drive a stake through the heart of the small town trope in horror, and scatter those ashes far and wide. The world is changing, and horror needs to keep changing with it.

Sheesh…is she saying what I think she’s saying?  Again, if Morton is suggesting the King-style writer-returning-home-to-a-small-town trope get staked, then I’ll be the first in line to do the staking.  But her thesis has drifted (and wildly expanded) over the course of this short essay.  It is, apparently, not just the King trope, but the small town setting itself which is unwelcome.  For Morton, small town horror = King and Bradbury (or King and Bradbury pastiches).  She seems to be entering this conversation with complete ignorance of the work of a genre heavyweight like seven-time Bram Stoker Award® winner Gary Braunbeck (whose take on small town Midwestern life, at its best, achieves a beautiful bitterness that neither King nor Bradbury would dare explore, given their optimism).  She doesn’t appear to be familiar with other writers of small town horror with devoted followings  (like the late Richard Laymon or Brian Keene).  She doesn’t appear to be familiar with the  anxieties of small town life scattered throughout the work of Shirley Jackson.  She doesn’t seem to be aware of what newer rural authors bring to the table — sometimes setting surrealistic stories in small town settings.  And, on the basis of that limited perspective, she’s essentially asking for the silencing of rural voices.  She’s asking that stories not be told, simply on the basis of their zip code.

But horror doesn’t need fewer voices than it has.  It needs more.  All sorts of voices.  Rural authors, small town authors, city authors, suburban authors; authors of every color and ethnicity; of every religion and no religion.  Authors from all over the gender spectrum.  Authors of all sexual orientations.  Authors of every economic class and authors with disabilities.

To paraphrase Eddie Poe, terror is not of the city.  It’s of the soul.  It’s of all souls.  No exceptions.  I think (or, at least, hope) that,  in her heart, Lisa Morton knows this.  But  her keyboard generated something that makes it seem like she doesn’t.

 

 

 

 

 

Tools for the Discovery Writer (Aka, “Pantser”)

This morning I worked some more on the class I’ll be teaching Sunday afternoon at Context 27 (a speculative fiction con in Columbus, Ohio, coming up in about a month). I’ll be providing specific tools for the so-called discovery writer  (aka, the fly by the seat of your pants writer, aka, pantser, aka she or he who does not do a plot outline before starting a project.).

Preparing to teach this class is turning out to be a lot of fun, as it has provided an opportunity for my ideas on the topic — which have been percolating for a few years now — to coalesce into a meaningful whole.  Unless my memory fails me, everything I’ve written has been pantsed rather than plot outlined.  So I’ve had a lot of ups and downs with this way of going about things, and look forward to sharing what I’ve learned.

As I put my class materials together I’ll be posting one or two brief excerpts here on this blog.  You know, free samples.  Teasers.  Here’s a piece I worked on this morning.  Take a gander at it by clicking on the linky-link : Discovery writing workshop PDF

And, for more information about the workshop at Context 27, check out this link.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frantic Post-ReaderCon Entry….

Thinphoto(39)gs have been crazy busy, and I honestly don’t have time for a full blog entry, so here are some brief highlights of the last few weeks.

ReaderCon was a blast.  I had a chance to meet so many interesting folks in the weird fiction scene (if I list everyone, I’ll be here forever…and I’ll forget someone.  But, yeah, a lot of folks).  My novella Children of No One didn’t win the Shirley Jackson Award, but I enjoyed attending the ceremony.  Also, as a finalist for the award I was gifted the lovely, polished skipping stone pictured to the left.  Shirley Jackson…stone…get it?  (If you’re like the vast majority of my friends back home, you don’t.  But the crowd reading this blog is no doubt more refined).

Anyway, congratulations to all of the winners (especially Veronica Schanoes, whose novella Burning Girls won and Joe Pulver, who won in the anthology category for The Grimscribe’s Puppets).

In other news, I’m hopeful to have at least one new project to announce in the near future.  I can’t say much more than that and I’m almost afraid of jinxing it by even saying this much.  But I’m quite enthusiastic about the possibility of this working out.  Things are looking good.

And, last (but not least), this morning I enjoyed a brief Twitter discussion with Hugh Howey on his unbridled enthusiasm for Amazon.  I’m not anti-Amazon, but think Hugh’s enthusiasm could use some bridling.  Hugh (not surprisingly) disagrees.

Amazon isn’t the Evil Empire, but it isn’t the messiah either.  The truth is always more complicated than a bumper sticker.  It’s best to be a critical consumer of corporate press releases.  The Amazon vs. Hachette debate needs nuance and moderation (such as that offered by John Scalzi  and Walter Jon Williams), not cheer leading and talking points.  If you want to see the blow-by-blow Twitter recap, check it out on Storify.

And with that, I’m off.  Stay hip, cats!

 

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