Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Lord Came at Twilight - Recent Reviews

First off: I recently received word that that the trade paperback edition of The Lord Came at Twilight is now in stock and shipping from Dark Renaissance. An e-book is forthcoming and will be made available through Amazon shortly. In the meantime, you can find copies of the now-sold-out limited edition in a couple of places online, including Bad Moon Books and Ziesings.

New reviews of the collection currently appear in the most recent issues of Rue Morgue Magazine and Wormwood from Tartarus Press.

In Rue Morgue, Dejan Ognjanovic writes:

“The stories of Daniel Mills are old school in the best sense of the phrase – namely, they are atmospheric, nuanced and filled with a lurking fear that is rarely seen in modern horror fiction. The shadows of literary giants such as Nathaniel Hawthorne and H.P. Lovecraft are very much alive in the author’s clear sense of the haunting past and the beguilingly beautiful landscape of New England.”

In Wormwood, Reggie Oliver writes:

“Mills has a poetic and visionary style of his own, capable of uncovering the beauty in horror and the horror in beauty… The Lord Came at Twilight is a significant and sophisticated contribution to modern weird fiction.”

Oliver is the undisputed master of the modern Jamesian ghost story and one of my favorite writers, full-stop, the author of The Dracula Papers and a number of stunning short story collections. One such collection, 2011's Mrs Midnight, includes “The Brighton Redemption,” my favorite contemporary ghost story, which weaves elements of the real-life Constance Kent case into a densely layered and deeply sad tale of murder, guilt, and redemption.

Other recent reviews of the collection can be found online at Seven Days, The Ginger Nuts of Horror, the Chthonic Matter blog, Innsmouth Free Press, and The Arkham Digest.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Lord Came at Twilight

I am delighted to announce that my first collection of short fiction is now available for pre-order from Dark Renaissance Books. 

The Lord Came at Twilight will be released as a limited edition hardcover on March 10th to be followed by a trade paperback release in the spring. The hardcover edition will feature full-color boards by Daniele Serra, frontispiece and interior illustrations by M. Wayne Miller, and a stamped front cover in lieu of a book-jacket. The trade paperbacks will feature the cover by Daniele Serra pictured at right. 

In addition to the limited hardcover and trade paperback editions, there will be a deluxe hardcover edition of the collection (limited to 26 copies), which will include two additional short stories: “Silently, Without Cease” and “Lilacs in November.”

Some early reviews of the collection can be found online at Critical Mass, Innsmouth Free Press, and The Arkham Digest.  

From the back-cover:

I know them, these hills.

In the foothills of the Green Mountains, a child grows up in an abandoned village, haunted by memories of his absent parents. In a wayside tavern, a murderous innkeeper raises a young girl among the ghosts of his past victims. Elsewhere the village of Whistler’s Gore is swept up in the tumult of religious fervor, while in rural Falmouth, the souls of the buried dead fall prey to a fungal infestation.

This is New England as it was once envisioned by Hawthorne and Lovecraft, a twilit country of wild hills and barren farmland where madness and repression abound. The Lord Came at Twilight presents 14 stories of doubt and despair, haunter and haunted, the deranged and the devout.

Contents:

Introduction by Simon Strantzas
The Hollow
MS Found in a Chicago Hotel Room
Dust from a Dark Flower
The Photographer’s Tale
Whistler’s Gore
The Wayside Voices
John Blake
The Falling Dark
Louisa
The Tempest Glass
House of the Caryatids
Whisperers
The Naked Goddess
The Lord Came at Twilight

Advance Praise for The Lord Came at Twilight:

“Reading the stories in this wonderful debut collection from Daniel Mills is like waking into an older, haunted America. The God of the Puritans holds sway, with terrible power and terrible beauty. The night is wondrous with spirits. Though these stories bear the influence of Hawthorne, Lovecraft, and Palliser, the numinous dread that fills them is his alone. Mills recalls to us America’s own Dark Wood, and it is lovely to behold.”  

-- Nathan Ballingrud, author of North American Lake Monsters
 
“Daniel Mills is the Janus of supernatural fiction. His gaze is fixed on both the genre’s past masters and on realms never before explored. The tales in this book are haunting and are woven with a most eloquent darkness.”  

-- Richard Gavin, author of At Fear’s Altar

“The stories in Daniel Mills’s excellent collection have their roots in the grand tradition of the American Gothic that begins in Poe and Hawthorne and flows through such descendents as Chambers and Ligotti. Tales in the truest sense of the word, these narratives range through the styles and conventions of their predecessors, but in a way that is distinct from mere pastiche, however loving. Instead, these stories inhabit the modes of the past as a means to approaching a profound darkness, one physical and metaphysical. A pleasure to read, Daniel Mills’s fiction would draw approving nods from any of the austere presences in whose literary footsteps he is following.”  

-- John Langan, author of The Wide, Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies

“Elegant and subtle, Daniel Mills’ remarkable debut Revenants was a gift, and with The Lord Came at Twilight, he returns with a collection of graceful hauntings that bring the full range of his eerie and deeply unsettling literary powers to bear. You, lucky reader, are about to be taken on a journey with a true Lord of Twilight… I envy you.”  

-- Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., author of The Orphan Palace

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

2013: Five Books, Four Seasons


In 2013, I took a new job in Burlington, VT which required me to ride the bus into town each morning. This increased my reading time considerably -- as in 1-2 hours every day -- which allowed me the freedom to read more widely than in previous years. Anyway, here are some of the past year's highlights, paired with the season in which I read them.

Winter 2012-2013.
Richard Gavin - At Fear's Altar

Novella "The Eldritch Faith" closes out Richard Gavin's remarkable fourth collection. It's a deeply moving story of terror and yearning that creates within its 100-odd pages a new vocabulary of image and symbol by which to discuss the numinous, "the darkly splendid realm" of Gavin's imagination. Gavin's prose style reminds me a bit of Machen's The Hill of Dreams but reformulated for the Twenty-First Century, which is to say, it's gorgeous. And don't miss the other stories in the collection either. "Chapel in the Reeds" makes for one hell of an opener while "King Him" is one of the most disturbing stories I read this year (and yes, that is a compliment).



Spring 2013.
L.P. Hartley - The Go-Between

I read a total of six L.P. Hartley novels in 2013, all of which were concerned in large or small part with the vicissitudes of boyhood and adolescence. Of these The Go-Between is probably the best known, and even if you have not heard of it, you have certainly heard the opening lines: "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." Written when Hartley was in his late fifties, the novel is set in the summer of 1900 on the eve of a new century, one which seems to offer great promise. Similarly, our narrator is a boy on the cusp of young adulthood.  There is a clear parallel here -- i.e. our shared history vs our own private pasts -- and it's plain enough from the beginning how this story has to end. Nonetheless the novel retains a shattering power, while its exploration of boyhood, that foreign country, has not been equaled.


Summer 2013.
J.L. Carr - A Month in the Country

Carr was fifty-one when his first novel appeared in 1963 and nearly seventy by the time A Month in the Country propelled him to unexpected fame. Carr was always something of an eccentric -- a former headmaster turned mapmaker, publisher, amateur stone-carver, church preservationist, and stove-fancier -- and his fiction is likewise difficult to categorize. Some of his novels are grimly serious (such as A Season in Sinji) while others are purely comic (such as The Harpole Report) while still others land somewhere in between, like A Month in the Country, which is simultaneously a tribute to a single glorious summer and bittersweet meditation on nostalgia and art, what is lost and what remains.


Autumn 2013.
Isak Dinesen - Seven Gothic Tales

2013 was the year in which I finally committed myself to reading Dinesen's work, reading Out of Africa, Shadows on the Grass, and Seven Gothic Tales back to back this fall. The latter volume is one of the finest collections of short fiction I have come across: seven stories which in their subtlety, restraint, and sense of the mysterious surpass even the finest efforts of her contemporaries. All seven tales are equally strong, but "The Supper at Elisnore" is my favorite, a ghost story like no other with its bleakly comic tone and ruminations on loss, faith, and the lure of the forbidden.


Winter 2013-2014.
Charles Palliser - Rustication

It's no secret, I suppose, that Palliser is my favorite contemporary writer, and with Rustication he returns with his first novel in 13 years. In contrast with The Quincunx or The Unburied, Rustication is a slim and wonderfully readable novel of some 300 pages that nonetheless contains within it all of the mystery and complexity of Palliser's longer works. It is also unquestionably the darkest of his books, surpassing even The Sensationist in this respect: a maddeningly complex Gothic novel and murder mystery that repays multiple readings. Case in point: I read Rustication three times during the months of November and December and my understanding of the events it depicts changed dramatically with every reading.



Other Noteworthy Reads:

Hair Side, Flesh Side by Helen Marshall, Never Bet the Devil by Orrin Grey, Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain, The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macaulay, Eustace & Hilda by LP Hartley, Asta's Book by Barbara Vine, Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier, The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation by MT Anderson, The Battle of Pollocks Crossing by JL Carr 

Monday, February 4, 2013

New Interview at the Arkham Digest


I recently had the opportunity to speak with Justin Steele at The Arkham Digest concerning my interest in history and the weird as well as my own (entirely shameless) love of all things Lovecraftian. Many thanks to Mr. Steele for sending along such thoughtful questions.

Also be sure and check out the Arkham Digest's recent reviews of Molly Tanzer’s A Pretty Mouth, Orrin Grey’s Never Bet the Devil, Richard Gavin’s At Fear’s Altar, and my own novel Revenants.

Monday, December 31, 2012

2012


2011 was something of a big year for me: I married the love of my life, published my first novel, and attended my first convention. So you might say that 2012 had its work cut out for it. And even if it didn't quite manage to match some of the highs of 2011, it still proved a splendid year all around, characterized by much writing, various travels near and far, and by a  host of great, great books. 

Writing, first. 

In 2012, my short fiction appeared in a variety of venues, including Aklonomicon (Aklo Press), Dadaoism (Chomu Press), The First Book of Classical Horror Stories (Megazanthus Press), Phantasmagorium (Gorgon Press), Black Static (TTA Press), A Season in Carcosa (Miskatonic River Press), Fungi (Innsmouth Free Press), and The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror (Robinson). Furthermore my poetry was published for the first time, appearing in both The Poetry Box and Sacrum Regnum I from newcomer Hieroglyphic Press.

Finally, DarkFuse released my novella Unhallowed Ground as an e-book in October, capping off a fairly productive year, writing-wise, which also saw my first author interview, conducted by Jason Rolfe for the (wonderful) Bibliomancy blog. Likewise I was absolutely delighted to speak with Andrew Liptak at Geek Mountain State concerning my background, influences, and the significance of Vermont as a setting in my work.

Speaking of Vermont: this past spring, my wife and I moved across the state from the Champlain Valley to the Connecticut River Valley, just north of Bellows Falls, to take jobs as innkeepers. While this was certainly the biggest life-change of the past year, the two-hour drive south from Burlington was only one among many trips we took this year. During the summer, we visited Maine and Marblehead, MA (the model for Lovecraft's Kingsport), while Thanksgiving Day saw us leave for Italy on our first ever international trip—a trip made possible by the flexibility afforded by our new position.

There were other unanticipated rewards to being an innkeeper, chief among them being a dramatic increase in reading time. Needless to add, I suppose, but I took full advantage of the situation, reading a great many books during the past year, many of which I feel are worthy of mention below.

Probably the biggest "discovery" for me of the past year was the fiction of Connie Willis. After years of hearing good things about To Say Nothing of the Dog, I finally sought out a copy. And though TSNotD was easily the most entertaining novel I'd read in years, it was surpassed in nearly every way by my reading of its predecessor Doomsday Book. Willis occasionally draws criticism for the manic and sometimes circular pacing of her books but in Doomsday Book the frantic pace lends urgency to an otherwise sober exploration of suffering and helplessness. Utterly mesmerizing. My favorite read of the past year.

Similarly I was entranced by Elizabeth Speller's 2006 memoir The Sunlight on the Garden, a compressed and lyrical meditation on family and memory spanning much of the 20th Century. Speller is probably best known as the author of the equally worthy The Return of Captain John Emmett—probably my favorite mystery novel I read this year—but Sunlight is an outright masterpiece of the memoir form, a stunning work that remains far too little known.

Looking only at works released during the past year, it seems likely to me that 2012 will be remembered as a landmark year for the literature of the weird, with the release of Laird Barron's novel The Croning and Richard Gavin's collection At Fear’s Altar as well as debut collections from talented newcomers Orrin Grey, Ian Rogers, and Molly Tanzer—and that's to say nothing of the many superb anthologies released during the last twelve months, including A Season in Carcosa and Fungi, mentioned above.

Other notable reads included Quentin S Crisp's Morbid Tales (opening novella "The Mermaid" alone is worth the price of admission), Simon Kurt Unsworth’s Quiet Houses (a much welcome re-imagining of the portmanteau novel form), Reggie Oliver's Mrs Midnight ("The Brighton Redemption" was easily the most impressive short story I read last year), and Mike O'Driscoll's Eyepennies, a deftly imagined and haunting tribute to the late Mark Linkous. Finally, I'll take a moment to mention Simon Strantzas' third collection Nightingale Songs. Just read this one. Seriously.

So what's coming up, looking ahead to 2013?

At this point, my short fiction is slated to appear in a variety of venues, including Supernatural Tales, Shadows & Tall Trees, Mighty in Sorrow, Shadows Edge, and The Grimscribe's Puppets. What’s more, I've spent the best part of the last four months working on another project, one I hope to be able to talk about soon. 

In the meantime, here’s a little something to help ring in the New Year,  courtesy of the Dismemberment Plan.



 All the best for the year ahead --


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"The Next Big Thing"

Many of you may have encountered this already. If not, it's basically a round robin where every Wednesday a writer (in this case, me) provides his or her answers to the ten questions below and then tags five additional writers, each of whom answers the questions on the subsequent Wednesday, again tagging five writers, and so on.

The brilliant Richard Gavin was kind enough to tag me in his own post last week, meaning it’s my turn to sit down and answer some questions. If you’re not familiar with his work, Richard is the author, most recently, of At Fear’s Altar, released last month by Hippocampus Press and certain to end up on many year’s best lists, including my own.

1. What is the working title of your next book?

Since my “next book” is probably some time off at this point, I think I will use this as another excuse to talk about my novella Unhallowed Ground, which was recently released by DarkFuse as an e-book for Kindle/Nook/I-Pad, etc.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

I wrote the first drafts of the novella in the winter/spring of 2010 after reading JS Le Fanu’s Uncle Silas and The Wyvern Mystery in rapid succession. Looking back, it seems clear to me that the vivid imagery and suffocating atmosphere of Uncle Silas contributed in no small way to that of Unhallowed Ground’s Bittersweet Lodge, though the central premise of my novella—and the somewhat evasive nature of the ending—was likely inspired by my frequent readings/rereadings of Charles Palliser’s historical novels The Quincunx (1989) and The Unburied (2000).

3. What genre does your book fall under?

“Supernatural Fiction” seems to me to be as good a label as any. I will also admit a certain fondness for the terms “the ghost story” and “the supernatural tale,” all of which are usually grouped under the genre heading “horror.”

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Er. Pass?

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
 

In the summer of 1891, Henry Feathering visits his uncle's dilapidated country house and later inherits the property, thereby discovering a bracing and singular darkness binding the house to its history and the living to the dead.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It is now available as an e-book from DarkFuse. Get it here.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

As a novella, Unhallowed Ground tops out at around 23,000 words. The first draft was written over the course of 4-5 weeks with much of the final 12,000 words being written in a single weekend. Initial revision work occupied an additional 2-3 weeks of time, with further revision occurring periodically throughout the last two years.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
 

Putting LeFanu to the side for the moment, Unhallowed Ground has a certain amount in common, plot-wise, with other classic tales of ambiguous terror (or is that terrifying ambiguity?), including Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw and Oliver Onions’ The Beckoning Fair One, while the novella’s Turn-of-the-Century style undoubtedly owes something to my previously attested obsession with the ghost stories of MR James and the Benson brothers.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Around the time I started work on Unhallowed Ground, I noticed a peculiar trend in my own short fiction. In several stories, my narrator-protagonists, generally male, were brought into contact with a feminine embodiment of the strange/uncanny, echoing the narrator's own estrangement from the opposite sex and implying a fundamental inability for men and women to understand one another. Unhallowed Ground began, then, as a rebuttal of sorts -- and evolved into something quite different.

10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
 

I don’t have too much to add to what I have already written except to say that Unhallowed Ground marks a real departure for me in its emphasis on human relationships as well as its careful, intricate plotting. In other words: for all of its late-Victorian trappings, I do think that Unhallowed Ground makes an excellent introduction to my work in general, and I couldn’t be happier to know that it is out there now and being read.

So who’s up next? 


Well, first off, I’m going to go ahead and tag Kristin Dearborn, who just released her debut novel Trinity through DarkFuse, and then I want to mention a handful of new authors with little or no web presence but whose work merits the highest standards of attention and admiration: Sam Dawson, Colin Insole, Louis Marvick, and Philbampus.