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.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Unhallowed Ground


Anyone who has read my work knows I harbor a longstanding fondness for the traditional Victorian/Edwardian ghost story, such as those written by JS Le Fanu or MR James. For me, there has always been something essentially autumnal about the classic ghost story I suspect the collusion of my late October birthday and the Halloween season as well as my childhood love for all things Schwartz & Gammell) and for this reason I'm just terrifically pleased to announce the release of my new novella Unhallowed Ground as an e-book by DarkFuse just in time for All Hallows.

During the past few years, I've penned a number of Victorian pastiches, including "The Photographer's Tale," which will soon be republished in The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 23. At novella-length, Unhallowed Ground is easily the most comprehensive pastiche I have attempted as well as a noticeable departure for me in terms of its thematic concerns as well as its (relative) accessibility.

In short, I am very proud of it.

The events of the novella unfold at Bittersweet Lodge, a house haunted by the memory of its former self. Once a grand Georgian edifice, it is now nearly deserted. The walls lean and buckle. The brickwork is pitted and crumbling, fastened into place by the creeping vines that give the house its name. A young woman is buried nearby, a suicide. Her name was Lily Stark.

Henry Feathering arrives at Bittersweet Lodge as a guest of his uncle Edward, a recluse and a widower of many years. Though still bereaved by the death of his wife, Edward is seemingly content to live out his final years in the company of his books and manuscripts, having come to peace with the ghosts, real or imagined, that walk the house’s dusty corridors.

At Bittersweet Lodge, Henry woos and wins the hand of the enigmatic Clemency St. James, confessing his love to her beside the grave of Lily Stark. When his uncle dies, Henry inherits the lodge, and the newly-married couple set out to restore and beautify the house and grounds.

This decision throws wide the doors into the Lodge's tragic past, a history of madness and violence, which will, in turn, alter both Henry and Clemency in ways they cannot anticipate or understand.

Unhallowed Ground is available as an e-book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and all the usual suspects. A full list can be found here.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Autumn Days


Lord: it is time. The huge summer has gone by.
Now overlap the sundials with your shadows,
and on the meadows let the wind go free.  

-- Rainer Maria Rilke, "Autumn Day" (trans. Stephen Mitchell)


September 2nd. Three weeks remain before the autumn equinox, but the winds are soft and dry and faintly scented. Across the river from Bellows Falls, the trees on Fall Mountain are beginning to blanch and yellow, turning sere as the nights cool and lengthen. 

This past summer has been as “huge” as any I can remember, a span of months characterized by near-suffocating levels of heat and humidity. Work has kept us busy at the Inn, but we’ve also found time to make short trips to Burlington and Maine. Last month, my wife and I took a full three days and drove down to the old port of Marblehead, Massachusetts—or “Kingsport, Rhode Island,” as Lovecraft christened it—where we stayed at a B&B in the heart of the historic district.

I’ve wanted to visit Marblehead since I was a teenager. When I was fourteen and fifteen, I used to stay up late reading Lovecraft’s work in those old Ballantine paperbacks—which for all of their garishness, I can’t help but remember fondly. At that early age, stories like “The Festival” and “The Strange High House in the Mist” instilled in me an almost palpable longing for Lovecraft's New England. 

And Marblehead itself did not disappoint. While we there, we spent the best part of two days walking the narrow streets of the Old Town and seaport. Old Burial Hill—established in 1638 and famous for its elaborate gravestone art—proved a definite highlight of the trip, and I found myself stunned into silence again and again by the beauty and strangeness of the old gravestones.

Last week, Jason Rolfe was kind enough to interview me for his (excellent) Bibliomancy blog. Here you can read some of my thoughts on landscape, repression, ghost stories, and the role of the sublime in the literature of the weird. While you’re there, be sure and check out Jason’s recent interview with Daniel Corrick, the proprietor of newcomer Hieroglyphic Press.

Hieroglyphic recently released the first issue of its Sacrum Regnum journal, which eschews “the dregs of the 21st Century” literature in favor of “the High and the Holy, the Sacred, the Rare.” Sacrum Regnum I contains work by some of the genre’s finest writers, and I’m honored to have two of my poems included therein alongside fiction and poetry by Mark Samuels & Brendan Connell, among others. My poem “The Minister’s Last Sermon” provides a fairly concise summary of my views on Calvinism. 

Likewise I was just terrifically pleased to hear that my short story “The Wayside Voices” will appear this fall in the UK’s Black Static magazine. Around this same time, I was thrilled to learn that my tale “The Other Boy” had been accepted to Shadows & Tall Trees. Black Static, of course, requires no introduction, but if you’re not reading Shadows & Tall Trees, then you’re missing out on some of the very best horror fiction being written today. 

Speaking of which: A Season in Carcosa, an anthology of original fiction inspired by RW Chambers’ The King in Yellow is due to be released imminently by Miskatonic River Press. It can be pre-ordered here. With Joe Pulver at the helm—and a list of contributors that includes Richard Gavin, Simon Strantzas, John Langan, and Laird Barron, among many others—this is sure to be one of the finest releases of the year. My short story “MS Found in a Chicago Hotel Room” appears inside.

Finally: be sure and watch for Mighty in Sorrow, an anthology in tribute to the music of Current 93 edited by Jordan Krall. The anthology is due out next year and will include my story “Whistler’s Gore,” a brief story-in-epitaphs that derives its primary thematic inspiration from Current 93’s masterful “Patripassian.”

There are a couple of other projects on the horizon, but I think I'll leave this for now. I can hear the cries of the geese and imagine the wind in distant corn fields. As Rilke writes: "Lord: it is time."