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 will be released by Darkfuse Publishing on March 17th, 2015. Readers can pre-order the book directly 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.

Advance 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!

If I Say “No”: 5 Questions To Ask Before Condemning Islam

In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris last week, I’ve read a fair amount of comments from people on social media, and even some journalists and politicians, condemning not just the attack itself and those who support or justify it, but also the religion of Islam itself for promoting intolerance and violence toward non-believers. So I decided to consider that claim in relation to these five questions:

1)    Do I support the equal status and rights of all people, including gay people being guaranteed the same legal privileges and protections as heterosexuals?

2)    Do I support the equal status and rights of historically oppressed people such as women and racial/ethnic minorities, including the right to be free from harassment, discrimination, intimidation, and physical harm?

3)    Do I support the separation of church and state, government and religion, so as not to assume and propose that my religious beliefs be the basis of law and public policy for everyone else, including people who don’t practice the same religion that I do?

4)    Do I refrain from trying to convert others to my religion in the belief that salvation will only be granted to followers of my particular faith?

5)    When innocent Muslims are killed in warfare, do I resist the temptation to tell myself “They had it coming” or “That’s the cost of war” and instead allow myself to feel sorrow and compassion for my fellow human beings?

If I say “No” to any of those questions, then I need to examine my own belief system before rushing to condemn another.

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.

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  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!

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.

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

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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.