The Philosopher’s Way

Rumpelstiltskin Illustration by Edward Gorey

Rumpelstiltskin Illustration by Edward Gorey

“One evening a tap-tap-tapping and the faint smell of wintergreen candy drifted into the study from the hallway. When the unmistakable cat’s head cane and black bowler hat appeared in the doorway, Stephen didn’t bother to ask how Stilts had gotten into the locked house. He didn’t bother to wonder why, despite the decades that had turned Stephen into a wrinkled, gray old man, Stilts looked exactly the same. Stephen had known even in that long-ago library that this was no ordinary man. And he hadn’t reappeared now for any ordinary purpose.”

Teacher, master, treacherous madman… after a young scholar sacrifices everything for knowledge, he becomes a charismatic teacher whose students are willing to sacrifice everything for him. And yet as the teacher’s own strange, long-ago mentor once warned, those who wander too far along the philosopher’s way may find themselves going straight over a cliff…

My short story “The Philosopher’s Way,” which appears in the new anthology Hauntings from the publisher Hic Dragones, was inspired by both classic fairy tales and an article in the New Yorker magazine about a real life scholar and teacher in New York City who used his brilliance and enigmatic personality to weave his students into a web of seduction, betrayal, and control. After finishing the article, I imagined the story recast among the supernatural settings and uncanny occurrences found in classic Brothers Grimm fairy tales such as Rumpelstiltskin–what if, as our scholar weaves a treacherous web for his students, an even more brilliant, more seductive master is weaving a web for him–or perhaps the scholar will end up caught in his own web, a fly for some bigger spider?

“The real-deal question is: are you willing to sacrifice everything—everything!—for knowledge?”

 

hauntings

A memory, a spectre, a feeling of regret, a sense of déjà vu, ghosts, machines, something you can’t quite put your finger on, a dark double, the long shadow of illness, your past, a nation’s past, your doppelgänger, a place, a song, a half-remembered rhyme, guilt, trauma, doubt, a shape at the corner of your eye, the future, the dead, the undead, the living, a grey cat, a black dog, a ticking clock, someone you used to know, someone you used to be.

We are all haunted.

Twenty-one new tales of the uncanny, by:

Rachel Halsall, Brandy Schillace, Allen Ashley, Hannah Kate, Audrey Williams, James Everington, David Webb, Sarah Peploe, Michael Hitchins, Patrick Lacey, Tracy Fahey, Rue Karney, Keris McDonald, Guy Burtenshaw, B.E. Scully, Mark Forshaw, Stewart Pringle, Daisy Black, Mere Joyce, Jeanette Greaves, and Elisabeth Brander.

Click HERE to purchase Hauntings: An Anthology in Kindle/e-book form!

Click HERE to purchase Hauntings: An Anthology in paperback!

Click HERE to purchase Hauntings: An Anthology directly from the publisher

as well as to check out the many other fantastic titles available from Hic Dragones!

 

Nothing but Skin and Bones

Today started off the same as any other, with the taste of burned ash in my mouth. I got the woodstove going and cooked up a pot of cornmeal that tasted almost as foul as the air. But as Uncle Clovis used to say, don’t ever get too good for the things that keep you alive. I’ve been following that advice for years now, ever since the last of us left Rogue’s Valley. It’s been just me and Diggs since then—or just me and Diggs and the bones, that is. That old hound dog sure has the perfect name, and today he proved it. Today old Diggs finally turned up Mama Jarred’s head…

Right in the middle of the lush, blue-green mountains of West Virginia, you’ll suddenly come across flattened, barren stretches of landthe dead moon-surface remains of mountaintop removal.

It sometimes happens with mountaintop removal that old family cemeteries get wiped off the mountain along with everything else. But what happens to those displaced bones in earth that deep and dark? And when the mountains start coming back to life, what else might come back to life along with them?

Find out in my short story “Nothing but Skin and Bones,” available now in Firbolg Publishing’s latest anthology Enter at Your Own Risk: The End is the Beginning along with stories by Norman Partridge; Die Booth; Joshua Skye; Nathaniel Hawthorne; Gene O’Neill; John Grover; Edgar Allan Poe; Blaze McRob; H.P. Lovecraft; Gary Braunbeck; Rose Blackthorn; Gertrude Atherton; Julianne Snow; Lawrence Santoro; H.F. Arnold; Michael Meeske; Mark Patrick Lynch; Gregory L. Norris; Tais Teng; Sydney Leigh; Kenneth W. Cain; M.R. James; Eric J. Guignard; T. Fox Dunham; Mary Shelley; K. Trap Jones; and Kevin Wetmore.

home sweet home2

Artwork by Malcolm McClinton

endisbeginningHuman beings—the undisputed top of the food chain, the long-standing masters of planet earth. Or are we? What may be crawling out of the sludge to take our place? What monsters have we created in our labs, factories, and our very own genetic code? In the fourth installment of Firbolg Publishing’s Enter at Your Own Risk series, which pairs Gothic masters such as Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley, and H.P. Lovecraft with modern authors of the dark and macabre, the theme is environmental horror. As mankind’s tsunami wave of progress, industrialization, and technology reaches spectacular new heights, sinister things are churning beneath the surface. An unfamiliar stench on the wind. Waters a bit too murky. Soil a bit too red with blood. Progress at a price. A terrible, terrible price. Will we survive? What strange new worlds will emerge from the chaos? With an introduction from Holly Newstein, Enter at Your Own Risk: The End is the Beginning explores both the horror of the end and the hope of new beginnings for our planet and ourselves.

Click here to purchase Enter at Your Own Risk: The End is the Beginning in e-book format

Click here to purchase the paperback

Read more about the inspiration behind the tales in Firbolg Publishing’s series of interviews with Enter at Your Own Risk: The End is the Beginning authors:

Part I: Gene O’Neill, Gregory Norris, and Michael Meeske

Part II: B.E. Scully and Lawrence Santoro

Part III: Kenneth W. Cain and Mark Patrick Lynch

Part IV: Eric Guignard and Die Booth

Part V: Rose Blackthorn; Sydney Leigh; K. Trap Jones; and John Grover

World Horror Convention 2014

This year’s World Horror Convention was held in my own (almost) backyard in Portland, Oregon. I met so many fantastic people and had so many great experiences that including all of them would require a seven-part blog post, but here’s a little sampler. Already looking forward to next year’s convention in Atlanta!

Scully_PartridgeWith Norman Partridge, whose prolific career includes horror, suspense, and the fantastic—“sometimes all in one story,” according to his friend Joe Lansdale. His compact, thrill-a-minute style has been praised by Stephen King and Peter Straub, and his fiction has received three Bram Stokers and two IHG awards.

 

Firbolg_Table              Alex Scully at Firbolg Publishing’s table in the Dealer’s Room.

ChrisRice_BEScully

 

 

With Christopher Rice, New York Times bestselling author whose latest novel is The Heavens Rise.

Cushing_Jonez_Scully

 

 

 

 

With Nicole Cushing, author of the novella Children of No One and the recently released novella I Am the New God; and Kate Jonez, author of the novel Candy House and Ceremony of Flies, forthcoming from Dark Fuse in July 2014. I look forward to joining Cushing, Jonez, and so many other great authors at Dark Fuse with my novella The Eye That Blinds, scheduled for release in March, 2015.

Reading2Author reading for Firbolg Publishing‘s latest anthology, Enter at Your Own Risk: The End is the Beginning. With editor Alex Scully; author Eric J. Guignard; artist Malcolm McClinton, who illustrated the special hardcover edition of the anthology; author Norman Partridge; me; author Rose Blackthorn; and author Sydney Leigh

Scully_Reading2

 

At the panel “How To Suck The Best: Writing Vampire Fiction,” with editor and author Nancy Kilpatrick and short story writer and poet James Dorr.

 

Nolan_Scully

 

 

With legendary author William Nolan (and his Stoker award), who has written hundreds of stories in the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres.

 

 

BEScully_JKelley

 

With Jon Michael Kelley, author of numerous short stories and the dark thriller novel Seraphim.

 

Scully_ketchWith the man Stephen King called “the scariest guy in America”–Jack Ketchum, author of numerous short stories and over twenty novels and novellas, the latest of which are The Woman and I’m Not Sam.

Vampires Are Us

Max Schreck on movie set of Nosferatu, 1922

Max Schreck on movie set of Nosferatu, 1922

“Vampires let us play with death and the issue of mortality. They let us ponder what it would mean to be truly long lived. Would the long view allow us to see the world differently, imagine social structures differently? Would it increase or decrease our reverence for the planet? Vampires allow us to ask questions we usually bury.” –Margot Adler

Author and NPR correspondent Margot Adler has a new book out, Vampires Are Us: Understanding Our Love Affair with the Immortal Dark Side, in which she explores our long-enduring fascination with the vampire myth. Adler became drawn to vampires as she sat vigil at her dying husband’s bedside, and her book is an exploration of what scholar J. Gordon Melton describes as “the ever-morphing vampire, powerful and at the same time significantly flawed, [which] invites us to reflect on our own life as we seek control, community, and some sense of self-worth.”

Over four years, Adler read over 270 vampire novels, which she then divides into themed chapters with brief reviews of a representational selection of the novels she read. I was thrilled to learn that my 2011 Gothic vampire thriller Verland: The Transformation was among them. In a section titled “Novels in the Classic Tradition,” Adler gives a short review of my book along with vampire novels by Fred Saberhagen, Tim Powers, Elizabeth Kostova, Carlos Fuentes, and Lucius Shepard.

51U76VNQQvLIn her review, Adler calls Verland “compelling” and “deeper than it first appear,” and hits upon what was my most fundamental goal in writing the book: “What starts out as a simple true crime investigation ends up asking large questions about the value of human life.”

Indeed, I think the vampire myth continue to endure in part because of what these Other Selves tell us about ourselves. It’s fascinating to go through the categories in Adler’s book and see how, from humorous novels to young adult, from supernatural fantasy to adult/erotic, something powerfully essential about the vampire myth remains even as it undergoes countless, continuous transformations. As with any review, Adler’s choices are subjective, particularly as her journey through vampire literature was inspired by, and is thherefore meant to be, a highly personal response to her husband’s death. In addition, Adler’s interest in and involvement with Wicca and Paganism is evident in a predilection toward certain themes and plots, such as those in which witches join the supernatural list of characters. Her choices and opinions will, of course, inspire debate (Anne Rice’s The Vampire Lestat on “The Best” list instead of Interview with the Vampire? Be still my not-beating undead heart!). But debate and discussion is a part of what makes the vampire legacy so rich and vital. With Vampires Are Us, Adler has contributed both a moving personal exploration to that legacy, and a truly impressive bibliography of vampire literature that will be an invaluable resource for vamp lovers of all preferences.

Verlandcover

 

I’m very proud that Verland is included.

 

Treasures in the Attic

House of the Past by Clarence John Laughlin; 1948

House of the Past by Clarence John Laughlin; 1948

The thrill of blowing the dust away from a long-forgotten trunk or exploring the hidden treasures of shadowy attic corners–there is something voyeuristically fascinating about the debris and detritus of other peoples’ livesTake care before cracking that lock and opening the lid, though. You never know what–or who–has been waiting patiently among the cobwebs of time…

True crime meets its equally bizarre match when dark fiction authors pair up with original illustrations from the Victorian tabloid The Illustrated Police News in Firbolg Publishing’s latest release, The Rogues Gallery: The Illustrated Police News, which includes my flash fiction piece “No Hard Feelings.

In the ninth and final section, a man discovers that his deceased uncle’s seemingly random collection of things might not be so random after all in “The Collector,” by Miriam H. Harrison; an art connoisseur becomes the grisly inspiration for his own collection in “Another Picture for The Wall,” by Patrick O’Neill; a woman with nothing left but timelessness awaits her bizarre fate in “Mission Box,” by Cheryl Anne Gardner; and discover William Makepeace Thackeray’s  deliciously devilish take on the secrets we keep in “On Being Found Out,” originally published in the Roundabout Papers in 1863.

The Illustrated Police News

The Illustrated Police News

RoguesGallery

Click here to read these stories and many more in The Rogues Gallery: The Illustrated Police News!

Click here to find out how to get one of Firbolg Publishing’s anthologies FREE!

 

What Lies Beneath

The Premature Burial by Antoine Wiertz; 1854

The Premature Burial by Antoine Wiertz; 1854

What could be worse than a violent death in a dark alleyway? Or dead bodies that aren’t actually dead yet—but soon will be? Fiends like Jack the Ripper and the persistent terror of premature burial both haunted the imagination of Victorian society. Only sometimes, such terrors proved anything but imaginary…

True crime meets its equally bizarre match when dark fiction authors pair up with original illustrations from the Victorian tabloid The Illustrated Police News in Firbolg Publishing’s latest release, The Rogues Gallery: The Illustrated Police News, which includes my flash fiction piece “No Hard Feelings.

The Illustrated Police News

The Illustrated Police News

In Part VII of the collection, shadows in the night meet up with other quite unexpected—and deadly–shadows in J.B. Mulligan’s “Wolves in the Alley;” in “The Triple Event,” by Miriam H. Harrison, sins of the past so terrible they defy time and space collide with equally horrific sins of the present.

The Illustrated Police News

The Illustrated Police News

In Part VIII, a wild and passionate woman turns out to be much more—or perhaps much less—than she seems in “The Second Mrs. Chapman,” by Brittany Warman; a seemingly grief-stricken widower unearths more than sentiment from his dead wife’s grave in “Only,” by Miriam H. Harrison; find out what’s been happening to the residents of a strangely empty cemetery in “His Guilt Exhumed,” by Donna Cuttress; and lastly, discover the master of the macabre’s own fittingly bizarre take on going to sleep with the worms a little too early in “The Premature Burial” by Edgar Allan Poe, originally published in The Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper in 1844.

Movie poster for one of the many screen adaptations of Poe's The Premature Burial

1962 movie poster for one of the many screen adaptations of Poe’s The Premature Burial

Click here to read these stories and many more in The Rogues Gallery: The Illustrated Police News!
More featured stories coming next week…

Click here to find out how to get one of Firbolg Publishing’s anthologies FREE!

RoguesGallery

premature_burial_title_page1To read more about Poe and the phenomenon of premature burial in the 19th century, click here for a post from Bronteheroine, a blog about Victorian literature and culture.

Secrets of Flesh and Bones

8b870804d2f848dea14f242936b51450It’s truly amazing what kinds of things people get up to behind closed doors…

True crime meets its equally bizarre match when dark fiction authors pair up with original illustrations from the Victorian tabloid The Illustrated Police News in Firbolg Publishing’s latest release, The Rogues Gallery: The Illustrated Police News, which includes my flash fiction piece “No Hard Feelings.

Part V and Part VI explore the inexplicable—the long-dead popping up where they don’t belong, and the still-living doing things they most certainly shouldn’t be doing.

The Illustrated Police News

The Illustrated Police News

In “That Sweetest Urge,” by Miriam H. Harrison, one woman’s long-denied desire defies even the grave to find fulfillment in whatever form it can; far from hiding skeletons in the closet, a woman has entirely different plans for hers in Joshua Skye’s “In The Closet.”

When the owner’s away, the cat will play the most diabolical games unimaginable in “Because I Was Bored,” by Vince Liberato; in “Ominous Atonement,” by Blaze McRob, a man’s sacrifice may not be for what—or to whom—he initially intended; one man’s torment is another’s salvation in “The Hunting,” by Miriam H. Harrison—but only if those nails hold fast…

The Illustrated Police News

The Illustrated Police News

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here to read these stories and many more in The Rogues Gallery: The Illustrated Police News!
More featured stories coming next week…

Click here to find out how to get one of Firbolg Publishing’s anthologies FREE!

RoguesGallery

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Deadest of Them All?

corset-vintage1“Beauty’s a doubtful good, a glass, a flower,

Lost, faded, broken, dead within an hour;

And beauty, blemish’d once, for ever’s lost,

In spite of physic, painting, pain, and cost”
–William Shakespeare

Ah, the power of beauty to bewitch and beguile, to captivate–and to kill. What price would you be willing to pay for beauty? Your honor, your integrity…your very life?

True crime meets its equally bizarre match when dark fiction authors pair up with original illustrations from the Victorian tabloid The Illustrated Police News in Firbolg Publishing’s latest release, The Rogues Gallery: The Illustrated Police News, which includes my flash fiction piece “No Hard Feelings.

The Illustrated Police News

The Illustrated Police News

The fourth section in the collection concerns the corset, that contraption of laces and lashes that promises wearers the tiniest of waists–that is, if they survive long enough to show it off. Stand up straight, breathe deeply–now PULL!

A devoted husband gives new meaning to the warning “be careful what you wish for” in “A New Beginning,” by Michael Seese; in R.J. Murray’s “The Duchess of Mount Zirra,” a vain duchess who enshrines herself in a chamber of mirrors learns that the glass may not reflect back who–or what–she wishes to see; in “Felicity Cinch,” by Eric Nash, a reluctant burlesque dancer thinks she gets the better of her audience—that is, until it’s time for the encore; gaze upon the horrifying face of truly ultimate beauty in “The Beauty Within,” by Miriam H. Harrison; in “Death in the Lady’s Dressing Room,” by Charie D. La Marr, a woman discovers that beauty is indeed skin deep—very, very deep; a young girl learns the secret—and the deadly price–of eternal youth in “Forever Young,” by Crystal Leflar; in “A Mother’s Touch,” by Shenoa Carroll-Bradd, the phrase “like mother, like daughter” takes on an entirely deadly new meaning; and learn how a father’s devotion becomes literally all-consuming in “Dear Dead,” by Joshua Skye.

Click here to read these stories and many more in The Rogues Gallery: The Illustrated Police News!
More featured stories coming next week…

Click here to find out how to get one of Firbolg Publishing’s anthologies FREE!

RoguesGallery

Secrets Beneath the Sacred

The Illustrated Police News

The Illustrated Police News

 

Light a candle and place it in the shadowy corners of an ancient cathedral. Now sit back and wait for the awe-inspiring silence of the ages to flood the soul and inspire the spirit. But wait…beneath that silence—far, far beneath, in the hidden catacombs and secret corridors below—lurk secrets and skeletons of a decidedly unholy kind…

 

 

True crime meets its equally bizarre match when dark fiction authors pair up with original illustrations from the Victorian tabloid The Illustrated Police News in Firbolg Publishing’s latest release, The Rogues Gallery: The Illustrated Police News, which includes my flash fiction piece “No Hard Feelings.

The monks of St. Benedict's Abbey, Atchison, Kansas in October, 1955

The monks of St. Benedict’s Abbey, Atchison, Kansas in October, 1955

Devil worship illustration from the book The Freemason, 1932

Devil worship illustration from the book The Freemason, 1932

The third section in the collection is about a set of unexpected bones that turn up where they most definitely don’t belong. In “The Nun’s Corpse,” by Debbie Powers, a priest comes face-to-skeletal-face with the long-hidden sins of the past; discover the diabolically double-edged sword of lust and temptation in “The Woman,” by Joshua Skye; find out what happens when an exorcism goes horribly wrong inBones,” by Carole Gill; in “The Writing on the Wall,” by Christopher Bleakley, a man’s obsessive quest for the Grail seems to have finally come to an end—but not quite the end he’d been expecting; a most unexpected witness bears testimony to a most unspeakable crime in “Consecratio Virginum,” by Miriam H. Harrison; and bear witness to an evil act of jealous revenge in “The Death of Sister Dorothea,” by D.C. Copeland.

Click here to read these stories and many more in The Rogues Gallery: The Illustrated Police News!
More featured stories coming next week…

Click here to find out how to get one of Firbolg Publishing’s anthologies FREE!

RoguesGallery

I Think We Might Have a Tiny Problem… or Two

halloween5Rats.

There’s just something about those creepy kinds of critters that slowly but surely chew their way through walls and settle down to stay. Chances are there’s one in your house right now, sniffling at the wallpaper or scratching beneath the floorboards. In fact, there may even be more than one… and they might have more on their minds for dinner than the chip crumbs under the couch.

True crime meets its equally bizarre match when dark fiction authors pair up with original illustrations from the Victorian tabloid The Illustrated Police News in Firbolg Publishing’s latest release, The Rogues Gallery: The Illustrated Police News, which includes my flash fiction piece “No Hard Feelings.

The second section in the collection is all about rats. But it’s what those rats get up to in the middle of the night that will keep you up along with them, listening for those tell-tale squeaks and scratches.

The Illustrated Police News

The Illustrated Police News

In “Rest,” Miriam H. Harrison presents a frightful twist on the concept of making new friends wherever one finds them; in “Dead Girl Found in Cellar!”, M. von Schüssler weaves a horrifying account of madness, murder, and mayhem in a family that gives new meaning to the phrase “skeletons in the closet”; find out how the course of true love–or was that “corpse” of true love?–can go very, very wrong in Alex James’ macabre tale “The Best Laid Plans of Rats and Women”; discover a most bizarre troop of rats given even more bizarre “marching orders” in “The Blackened Cadence or Squeak,” by J.D. Isip; in Troy Serverance’s “Simply Dreadful,” a woman learns that the hierarchy of “man above beast” can be turned horribly upside down; in “While the Cat’s Away,” by Canto Clarke, a town’s attempt to purge itself of sin backfires in the most diabolically ironic fashion; A. Carina Barry’s “Sweet Enough” presents the unthinkable consequences of being literally too sweet for one’s own good; and prepare for heartbreak with “Unrest,” by Joshua Skye, an account of the fine line between life and death, and the ravenous, pitiless creatures all too willing to cross it.

LovecraftRats

March 1924 issue of Weird Tales

In addition to the modern authors, The Rogues Gallery includes H.P. Lovecraft’s short story “The Rats in the Walls,” originally published in Weird Tales magazine in 1924—once you read this unforgettable tale from the master of monsters, you will never look at rascally rodents in quite the same way.

Click here to read these stories and many more in The Rogues Gallery: The Illustrated Police News!
More featured stories coming next week…

Click here to find out how to get one of Firbolg Publishing’s anthologies FREE!

RoguesGallery