The Child in the Cradle-Grave; or, If Hans Christian Andersen Had Been a Twisted Type Like Me


“The woman’s grief had almost become perverse determination by now—not to have a child to raise and love, so much, but simply to have one that did not either destroy her or die.”

Ah, children, the joy of one’s life.

And yet.

One old woman, alone for many years in the forest of her own self, has quite a different take on her many strange children and their crow-filled fate.

Check out the tale in NonBinary Review #14: The Tales of Hans Christian Andersen, a collection of stories, art, and poetry that fractures and fragments the totem truths of those traditionally told tales into something nascent yet no less primal. The tales are based on original stories by Hans Christian Andersen; I chose to rework The Child in the Grave.

“Darest thou to follow me? I am Death.”


by Various
Edited by Carina Bissett and Lise Quintana

They’re the stuff of bedtime stories, children’s movies, and some of our most beloved memories, but like all fairy tales, the stories of Hans Christian Andersen are much darker than we might remember them. In this issue, 53 artists and authors have mined this rich seam of narrative with compelling stories, fascinating poetry, and rich illustrations from all over the world.

Look at the Dog, Dog at the Look

6a00d8341d6c1953ef013485a42f0d970c“Look at the dog, dog at the look,” she said, pressing her right pointer finger straight into the widest, deepest center of the crack…

Three-legged dogs.

Reverse Mirror Symmetrical/Symmetrical Mirror Reverse

Purple beetles riding on top of purple beetles, all the way down.

1197148248111461768srd_green_beetle_2-svg-hiSan Fransisco, a Shadow City with hidden crouch ends…

And then, tying it all together, a crack in the wall.

A crack that makes you reach out and give it a try…










Find out what comes out when the crack opens up in one of my stranger stories, “Dog at the Look,” available in this fully illustrated, epic-level new anthology from Dark Regions Press:

What does it mean to be alive? What does it mean to be real? What does it mean to exist? And most importantly, what does it mean to be human? Twenty-four mind-bending works by some of the best in the business explore humanism through science fiction’s various sub-genres, split into three sections by poetic law.


Bram Stoker Award winning editor Michael Bailey brings sci-fi back to Dark Regions Press with heart in this genre-bending anthology of dark science fiction and poetry: You, Human. With fiction illustrated beautifully throughout by world-renowned artist L.A. Spooner, with poetry and spot illustrations supplied by the always-impressive Orion Zangara, and with an incredible introduction on humanism by New York Times bestselling author F. Paul Wilson, You, Human is a triumphant return to science fiction for Dark Regions Press, initiating the new Dark Regions Sci-Fi imprint as book #1.

you-human-front-500px-heightAvailable in either e-book or paperback

HERE directly from Dark Regions–support the publisher direct if you can!

Also available HERE from Amazon

The First and (Maybe) Last Ride of Dan’s Death-Defying Death Car


Wanna get a ride in my Cat-a-lac–you gotta be fast enough for that…

“Some of the corpses were out in the open and some were hidden where only the locals could find them. But every town had one, at least every town between the stretch of Highway 26 that started at Hillsdale in the south and ended at Crescent in the north. Broken skeletons bleaching in the sun, twisted limbs silhouetting the hazy sky, gutted innards rotting in the rain. It was a graveyard, all right, this funereal ribbon of road that threw off killing waves of heat in summer and then disappeared beneath a miasma of fog in winter. Fifty-three miles of asphalt, and a corpse for each one of them. At least, that’s what Dan Sherman hoped. He’d already found twenty-three. One more—the right one, with the right part—and he’d be finished.”

An ordinary guy in an extraordinary situation makes a decision—the wrong one. The deadly one. The one that can’t be taken back, can’t be undone.

That one decision that changed everything—but what if you got another chance at making it?

On the mist-snaked highways of Lost, Oregon (a place not found on any map or satellite image), Dan Sherman discovers a place the ancient natives called the Bridge of the Gods. A real place; a real phenomenon. Whatever “real” means in Lostville.


Around five hundred give-or-take years ago, a landslide occurred, sending massive piles of debris sliding into the Columbia Gorge, close to modern-day Cascade Locks, Oregon, and creating an enormous natural dam along the Columbia River. The impounded river formed a lake and created a forest of drowned trees, whose water-worn limbs reach out to remind passerby that they once lived here, too. And still do.

Native Americans may have been able to cross the river on the dam or, as their oral histories say, a bridge.

But a bridge from where, leading to where?

One day Dan Sherman happens upon a fatally wrecked heap of a car in a junk yard and decides to find out.

Drive along the Black Highway with him in my short story “The First and (Maybe) Last Ride of Dan’s Death-Defying Death Car,” out now in this fuel-and-engine inspired anthology:

In Dark Passages II, author M.J. Preston brings together writers from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Colorado, Oregon and Western Canada to spin their tales of THE BLACK HIGHWAY. We open with a biker’s murderous road trip in THE HOLLOW MEN followed by tales from B.E. SCULLY, PATRICK LACEY, JON MICHAEL KELLEY, TONY TREMBLAY, KRISTI PETERSEN SCHOONOVER and many more. On the Black highway you’ll never know what you might find. Child eating amusements, woman possessed, ghosts, even man eating plants. In 8X10 format in the spirit of the now defunct Rod Serling’s Night Cry Magazine, this is the collection ready made for the collector. With exterior and interior artwork by M.J. Preston, this anthology is made to curl up with, but leave an extra light on for things from the black highway are lurking in the shadows. Additional authors include: Gregory L. Norris, Philip C. Perron, Kyle Rader and introducing Cody J. Spagrud. Bonus material: This collection also includes a chapter excerpt from M.J. Preston’s forthcoming novel: Highwayman.

Bonus: A “Riders on the Storm” inspired intro by Firbolg Publishing’s very own Alex Scully.

“Give me fuel, give me fire, give me that which I desire…!”

Click the cover below to get it:


My Big, Messy Election Year Novel: Devils in Dark Houses


There is not one among us in whom a devil does not dwell; at some time, on some point, that devil masters each of us… It is not having been in the Dark House, but having left it, that counts.
―Theodore Roosevelt

2015 to 2016…

What a stretch. And with the November U.S. presidential election less than four months away, things are set to get even stranger. Immigration, terrorism, vigilante justice, police/community violence, the Internet, identity politics, gun control/rights, racial tension, free speech, men and women and kids and family and everything in between.

Life. Right now it’s getting messy, and interesting, and exciting, and frightening.

I took this brewing pot and added in a pinch of fear, a pound of hope, lots of thinking and reading, and pure blind terror-fueled gut instinct…

And out came Devils In Dark Houses, my novella collection from Darkfuse Publishing.

The collection was difficult to write, and difficult to get published. But here it finally is.

The above quote is from one of America’s most iconic, iconoclastic figures–a rebel, a madman, a leader, a shaker–up of things. Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th and youngest President in our nation’s history (1901-1909).

So in the paraphrased words of another timeless icon:

“Welcome to my Dark Houses! Enter freely. Go safely, and leave something of the happiness–and Devils–you bring.”

Devils in Dark Houses

The new millennium is getting downright bizarre. From high tech games of sabotage to vigilante murder and ghosts who may or may not have their own dark agendas, Detectives Shirdon and Martinez must put their 20th century street smarts to work on four 21st century cases in which nothing is what it seems, and every answer reveals more questions.

Case 1: The Eye That Blinds

When three college friends graduate with plans to conquer the world, they find out that the world has its own plans. As their supposed “real” lives spiral further out of control, they retreat into the one place they still reign—the online kingdom of fantasy and masquerade. After a seemingly random accident puts Shirdon and Martinez on their trail, the trio’s tangled web of lies threatens to unravel into consequences more real than any of them could have imagined.

Case 2: Each Castle Its King

When Cal and Rachel Goodman flee their high-volume life in Los Angeles for the peace and quiet of rural Oregon, they sink both their savings and their hopes in a fixer-upper the locals call “Blood House.” But their dream turns into a nightmare as they discover that their marriage is as cracked and crumbling as Blood House—and hiding just as many sinister secrets. Just when they think things can’t get any worse, they meet their next-door-neighbor…

Case 3: Nostri

For sixteen-year-old Emma Kaster, summer vacation is turning out to be as boring and lonely as the school year—until she meets a charismatic street kid named Senz with an obsession for the Roman philosopher Seneca and an itch to put his theories to the test in modern times. What starts out as a series of pranks soon turns deadly as Emma and Senz confront the ultimate revolutionary question—are you willing to die for your beliefs? And just as important, are you willing to kill for them?

Case 4: Devils in Dark Houses

Shirdon and Martinez are on the case of a charismatic, controversial homicide detective whose mysterious disappearance eleven years ago comes back to life in the form of a mentally ill man calling himself the Hound. Not only does the Hound know astonishing secrets, he learned some of them from the long-dead figures of Oregon’s colorful frontier past. As the two detectives try to unravel fact from fantasy and truth from lies, the past and present collide in an explosive show-down that will test the detectives’ deepest beliefs not just about the world in which they live, but about themselves, as well.

Available now from the publisher:


 DarkFuse Shop



And from Amazon on Kindle or Paperback format:



Kindle Edition

Paperback Edition


The Honor of Armadillos


The armadillo had wandered into the middle of the road and stopped. It was either too stupid or too scared to move, even with the truck headed straight towards it. Gilman stared at the animal. Then he stared at the telephone pole twenty-five feet off the right side of the road from where the armadillo was standing…

Armadillos becoming roadkill on the burning asphalt of desert highways. The tangled lines connecting a father’s past in the jungles of Vietnam to his son’s future in the desert sands of the Middle East. The colliding forces of patriotism and self-preservation, duty and decency, honor and honesty. A young soldier with a decision to make—or not.

All of these things swirling in the dust storms of a scorching Texas summer in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq helped create my short story “The Honor of Armadillos,” available now in the summer 2015 issue of VoiceCatcher along with poems, artwork, and prose from some of the Pacific Northwest’s most original and exciting writers and artists.

Detail from "World Quilt, Panel 1," by artist Beth Yazhari, featured along with more work in the Summer 2015 issue of VoiceCatcher

Detail from “World Quilt, Panel 1,” by artist Beth Yazhari, featured along with more work in the Summer 2015 issue of VoiceCatcher

Click here to go directly to my short story, “The Honor of Armadillos,” from which you can also access the rest of the issue  for free along with past issues and an engaging community site; or click here to go directly to the first page of the Summer 2015 issue, with an introduction by managing editor Tiah Lindner Raphael.


The Tower of Together

flooded-city-31547-1920x1200Water is epic.

Born in water, made of water, dependent upon it yet unable to live freely in it, drawn toward it, mesmerized, yet wary, even terrified, powerlessness in power.

Water is primal, essential…epic.

In its own way, so is adolescence, that tsunami stage of life where one is pulled out to sea, pulled under, tossed by the waves, only to emerge on the shores, battered yet full of life and energy, reborn of water into a newly washed world.

when women were birds

About one year ago, water filled my mind. I had been reading Terry Tempest Williams’ remarkable book When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations On Voice, a lyrical tour de force through myth and legend, personal reflection and global history, poetry and song and so much more. I also saw Robert Redford’s equally remarkable performance in director J. C. Chandor’s film All Is Lost, a mesmerizing tale about a man lost in a seemingly unforgiving sea a seemingly uncaring world.


misc-underwater_00214965All of this water and air and hope and hopelessness seemed a perfect setting for a young girl, trapped in a “Tower” both real and symbolic, who must make her way through an underwater world to eventually emerge into the light. And so my first Young Adult novel, The Tower of Together, was born. Many thanks to my publisher, Michael Randolph at Eldritch Press, and to my editor, Sydney Leigh, for helping me to get the manuscript in top-notch shape. Also many thanks to Mikio Murakami of Silent Q Design for working with me to produce such a stunning cover.

Click here to purchase The Tower of Together in print or ebook format!

11295827_881303621941061_2018005442054162578_nWhen a series of environmental disasters leave a small coastal town completely underwater, fourteen-year-old Greenleigh ends up stranded with a group of teenagers in a building known only as the Tower. Cut off from civilization, they must learn how to survive in a world without any of the conveniences they once took for granted. When a power struggle develops between Leo, a charismatic but potentially dangerous outcast, and Greenleigh’s older brother Ilkka, the group’s reluctant leader, everyone must choose their alliances carefully.

Prickly but fragile, independent yet insecure, Greenleigh is caught between her loyalty to her brother and her growing attraction toward Leo. When the group decides to leave the Tower on a dangerous journey to the only house left in town, the mysterious Lloyd mansion on top of the High Grounds, they must face not only the aftermath of the flood, but fellow survivors who prove even more dangerous than the disaster itself. With the group’s immediate survival and hope for rescue at stake, Greenleigh must make choices that will determine not only whether or not she survives, but what kind of person she will be if she does.

Click here to read the first chapter of Tower of Together

The Son Who Shattered His Father’s Dream

Scully1“Maybe I dreamed too much,” was all that Mohanlal could say.

“No, dad. Maybe you just dreamed the wrong dream,” was all that his son could reply.

Parents always want the best for their children. But what if “the best” ends up being the absolute worst thing any parent could imagine?

My short story “The Son Who Shattered His Father’s Dream” was inspired by an article in The New Yorker magazine titled “The Empire of Edge,” by Patrick Radden Keefe. It chronicled the rise and fall of a young trader who got caught participating in a huge financial scandal, and focused especially on the trader’s childhood–both the unconditional support and the crushing expectations of the man’s formative years. In fact, I took the title of my story and the anecdote behind it directly from an actual incident in this family’s life. The story was fascinating and, even though the trader certainly did have his fall coming, it was heart-breaking, too, particularly for his family. It got me thinking about the tricky territory parents navigate between pushing their children and perhaps pushing them too hard and way too far–sometimes even straight off of a cliff. So I took all of this and turned it into my own more dark, much more sinister tale.

Read it here along with stories from Nathaniel Lee; J. Sheridan Le Fanu; Rob Smales; JG Faherty; Frank R. Stockton; David G. Robertson; Saki; Jonathan Maberry; A.M. Burrage; Nancy Hayden; Holly Newstein; Patrick Lacey; J.D. Beresford; Joe Powers; K. Trap Jones; D.H. Lawrence; Gregory L. Norris; Aaron Gudmunson; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Lawrence Buentello; Mary Shelley; Bo Balder; Roxanne Dent; Joe Sherry; H.P. Lovecraft; Kurt Fawver; and with an introductory poem by Tanya Jarvik and an introduction by Daniel Knauf.

Passions become obsessions. Obsessions become manias. And sometimes, manias turn into nightmares. What happens when one wants so badly that all else, including sanity and self, isEnterAtYourOwnRisk_Dreamscapes consumed by the bonfires of desire? What happens when one achieves the dream, only to discover the nightmares lurking behind the illusions? Firbolg Publishing’s fifth anthology, Enter at Your Own Risk: Dreamscapes into Darkness, explores the old adage of “Be Careful What You Wish For.” Journey down wishful thinking’s twisted pathways and discover what dark ends and detours await-with an introduction from Daniel Knauf, and featuring stories from D.H. Lawrence, Mary Shelley, A.M. Burrage, H.P. Lovecraft, and more Gothic masters from yesteryear and today… enter at your own risk, and be careful not to make a wish!

Click here to purchase Dreamscapes Into Darkness in paperback or ebook format

OR click here to purchase a special book package AND pick your price to help out the charity of your choice!

The Eye That Blinds

coverFive years ago, I was a social media virgin. I’d fooled around with message boards and had a brief, unconsummated fling with MySpace for a few months, but for the most part, my already full-blown love/hate relationship with the Internet was limited to binge-surfing true crime sites and late-night impulse shopping. And then my first novel came out.

I quickly learned that savvy authors today are not just authors but marketers, too, and that meant Facebook, blogs, Twitter, and the seemingly never-ending slew of sites that trail in their wake. I dove right into the churning social media waters, and also quickly learned that in addition to the more benign and even helpful forms of virtual sea life, those waters are filled with sharks in “Anonymous” clothing, schools of conniving barracudas and clownfish, and what is perhaps the Internet’s most relentless and elusive predator of all: the Catfish.

Catfish: someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities (Urban Dictionary)

I learned that it’s a weird, wild place to live these days, the Internet with its shadowy real/not-real denizens. And so I mixed all of the craziness up into a dark, deadly cocktail and called it The Eye That Blinds:

The Internet— it’s everywhere and nowhere, full of everybody and nobody. And sometimes, it’s downright deadly. When three college friends graduate with plans to conquer the world, they find out that the world has its own plans to conquer them. As their supposed “real” lives spiral farther out of control, they retreat into the one place where they still reign—the online kingdom of fantasy and masquerade. After a seemingly random accident puts a pair of old-school detectives on their trail, the trio’s tangled web of lies and deception threatens to unravel into consequences more real than any of them could have imagined.

My novella The Eye That Blinds is available from Darkfuse Publishing and can be purchased from Darkfuse or from Amazon, but be warned–you may never think the same way about that nice lady from your message board group again.

Reader Responses to The Eye That Blinds:

  • “Three more psychologically flawed characters you’re unlikely to meet again and it’s intriguing to see this love triangle play out, amidst the madness, murder and delusions.”
  •  “If you’re a bit of a stalker then there’s plenty of tips here on how to take it to the next level, although that’s not an endorsement you should take to heart.” (That one always cracks me up!)
  • “In today’s world where everything is available online for anyone to see, this novella had me guessing almost to the very end.”
  • “A seemingly straightforward story that you think you’ll have figured out. But, this twisted story was was anything but straightforward. It’s best to go into this story blind – pun intended.” (Also love a reviewer who works a PUN into things!)


Supernatural Swine and George, the Haunted Grasshopper

1grasshopper002My father and I both had an interest in—some might even call it an obsession with—death and the great mystery of what comes next. We spent many an hour theorizing and speculating about the possibilities, and we promised each other that whoever went first would send some sign from “behind the veil,” just to give a bit of a “heads up” to those yet to make the journey. When dad died, unexpectedly and far too early, I didn’t think about that promise in the grief and chaos of death’s aftermath. But dad never was one to go back on his word, and soon enough, he found a way not only to give me that “heads up” from the other side, but to play one last prank while he was at it.

Find out how dad pulled it off in my short story “The Hand Game,” included in The Book of the Dead, the latest release from Firbolg Publishing’s ebook series. The collection of true-life ghost stories features historical photos, first-person accounts, and newspaper articles about the strange and supernatural, along with original tales from authors past and present, including Rebecca Walsh; John Mead; Morgan Griffith; Pliny, the Younger; Victoria Pinder; Trishia Peskanov; Jarrod Brown; Joseph Glanvil; Carmen Parsells; Jenean McBrearty; Ted Lonegran; Kevin Wetmore; Jane Marshall; and MORE!

The House of the Past by Clarence John Laughlin; 1947

The House of the Past by Clarence John Laughlin; 1947

Turn the pages of The Book of the Dead to discover a disturbing picture with an even more disturbing secret to tell; an apartment with a dark past and a mysterious, once-a-year visitor; haunted houses, possessed ruins, and unwelcome things that creep into your bed at night; a very sad woman and the far side of the moon; pens that write macabre tales of—and on!–flesh and blood; messages and warnings from the dead (sometimes from the dead themselves); an icy hand on the shoulder and the smell of cigar smoke when no one is smoking a cigar; and curiously determined members of the animal kingdom, including a supernatural swine and George, the haunted grasshopper.


FirbolgBookofDead  A shimmer at the end of a corridor. Lights in a graveyard long after the witching hour. Is that the wind, or something calling out to the living from secret, unseen places? The mysteries of the supernatural have captivated the human imagination for centuries. Tales of specters, hauntings, and unexplained phenomena can be found in every culture across the globe. In addition to modern true tales of terror, The Book of the Dead features true life hauntings from the actual pages of history. Truth can indeed be stranger—and far more terrifying!—than fiction.

Click here to purchase The Book of the Dead!

Bugs R’ Us: Spitting Grasshoppers, Human Beetles, and the Insect Revolution

0e0f1-the_metamorphosis_by_jezabel7Entomophobia (also known as insectophobia):  a specific phobia  of one or more classes of insect.

One of the hazards of growing up in rural Pennsylvania was the grasshoppers. Huge and green, and in full possession of that potent insect combination of equal parts relentless energy and mindless dedication to all things survival, these chirping, leaping, leaf-eating machines terrorized our summer afternoons.

They would sit there and stare at you, these bugs, and I could never figure out whether they were simply trying to figure us out or–the far more likely scenario–they were planning ways to eat us and take over the earth. When I learned that the grasshoppers could not only happily deliver painful bites with their huge, leaf-chomping jaws but also spit on people, that decided it: they were definitely here to take over the earth. Add in a story about how some prankster had once put a biting, spitting grasshopper into the  mouth of a sleeping person, and I was fully convinced the insect-led revolution was fully under way.

In fact, it has been underway since 1915.

Jamie Keenan’s design for a new edition of Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” (W. W. Norton & Company)

Jamie Keenan’s design for a new edition of Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” (W. W. Norton & Company)

That’s when The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka’s bizarre tale about Gregor Samsa, a man who wakes up one day to find himself transformed into a huge, beetle-like creature, first shocked the world with its surreal collision of insect and human. The cause of Samsa’s transformation is never revealed, and Kafka himself never gave an explanation. Is the transformation symbolic? Metaphoric? Magical realism with a pinch of satire thrown in on the side?

Perhaps all of those things, as attested by the story’s secure place as one of the 20th century’s seminal works of fiction, studied in colleges and universities across the world.

But Mr. Kafka never had me fooled.

I knew from those ominous Pennsylvania grasshoppers that the story was actually a warning: a glimpse of the future to come, when we either join with our planet’s most resilient inhabitants–the kind with compound eyes, sectional bodies, and chitinous exoskeletons—or perish.

“The First Science Officer bent to inspect the glass container. The brown bodies were scuttling back and forth, bumping into each other and the walls in a mad search for an exit that did not exist. He felt almost sorry for the poor creatures, and sorrier yet for putting them in their current predicament. But of course, his pity was misplaced. A human being could only last for mere seconds without a head, whereas these decapitated cockroaches had been going strong for almost two weeks…”

Find out whether or not a pair of science officers will finally succeed in assimilating humans with Earth’s new masters after a series of, shall we say,  most unfortunate false-starts and failures in my short story “Metamorphosis, Not Metaphors.” The tale is included in Great Old Ones Publishing‘s latest anthology, Bugs: Tales that Slither, Creep, and Crawl:

“Thirty-four of today’s top voices of terror take on the undulating hoards of a life form that knows no mercy, only the primitive urges to kill, destroy, and feed. They skitter through remote swamps and pine barrens; slither up from the earth and creep through human civilization, determined to conquer our world and others; crawl under and across our flesh, hungry, so very hungry…”

Edited by Gregory Norris, with a foreword by Simon Rumley, cover art by M.J. Preston, and stories and/or poems from thirty-four of today’s top voices of terror.


  Click here to purchase Bugs: Tales That Slither, Creep, and Crawl in paperback!

Click here to purchase the Kindle/e-book!

Click here to check out more great titles from Great Old Ones Publishing!