Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Speaking of Edgar Allan...

Josh Ritter channels Poe on his new album, So Runs the World Away. Check out "Another New World." Adjectives like haunting and brilliant come quickly to mind (i.e. how often do you hear a song about polar exploration... and a hidden world beneath the ice... and a Hollow Earth theorist... and a ship called the Annabelle Lee?). It will be along time before I get this one out of my head, or off "replay" in my car.

So grab Ritter's album. And while you're at it don't miss the video for "The Curse," an equally haunting piece about a love affair between a mummy and the woman who discovers him. Amazing work on that one by musician/puppeteer Liam Hurley.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Demons of the Amazon

Thanks to those of you who've emailed and told me how much you enjoyed the new short story collection. A few of you have also asked about the out-of-print status of the Lesser Demons trade hardcover at the publisher. To answer the main question: Nope, this doesn't mean the book isn't available. This means that Subterranean has shipped all orders to individual customers and distributors. Though the trade edition is no longer available through SubPress, you can still order copies through other sources: Amazon, Cemetery Dance, even your favorite local independent bookseller (who'll get a copy from one of the major distributors). How long those copies will last depends on the volume of orders coming in now.

Of course, this means that my post of last week still holds -- if you want to help push Lesser Demons, fill up a bucket of brimstone and light a fire. Review it on Amazon. Talk about it on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, or your favorite message board. Like I said: It's all good... and I appreciate it!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Lansdale Observes...

I've been catching up with my old buddy Joe Lansdale this week. As usual, Joe's got a full bucketload of projects on the go, including a trio of articles he's done over at The Texas Observer.

Now, Joe Lansdale is a great suspense and horror writer. We all know that. You'll get a taste of his creative genesis in Dark Inspiration, a piece on his visit to an Edgar Allan Poe exhibit last year. From where I'm sitting, this is one of the very best pieces of nonfiction I've read from Joe (and I've read many). Fact is, it rekindles a wish that he'll put ass to chair one of these days and get to work on a full-blown memoir of his Texas boyhood. I've been saving a slot on my bookshelf for that one for a long, long time.

Of course, Joe's wit shows through even when writing about Poe. He fires up that component good and proper in a couple of other pieces at the Observer: Blood Sport and Walmart, I Can't Quit You. Check 'em out. This is a guy who knows his Mark Twain and Will Rogers as well as he knows his Poe, and he'll toss your sensibilities (and expectations) on a hot mesquite grill and cook 'em up more than a little bit, believe you me.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

And Then, As It Grew Later...

A little addendum to last night's story: So, I posted the previous blog entry, packed up my stuff, and headed for the back door of the library. As I'm walking through the workroom, my cell phone rings (which almost never happens -- maybe a handful of people have that number).

It's Tia. She says she's been trying to call me for a half hour, but both of the library numbers she uses to catch me after closing came up with "out of service" messages. "That's weird," I say. "I think I heard the main line ring a couple times since we closed. Let me check it out."

I hang up. I dial my office number on my cell. Bingo. Behind me in the darkness, the phone starts to ring.

Of course, around this place that's just a little blip on the shudder meter. Not like the night a few years ago when I was sitting at the Circ Desk long after we'd closed, talking to Tia on the phone. Building empty. Lights out. All alone... and the elevator started to run.

I heard it coming down from the third floor. I told Tia I was going to check it out. I set down the receiver. Started walking over to the elevator door. Realized just as I got there that I was doing exactly the kind of stupid thing I always complain about when characters do them in horror movies.

But, hell, I guess (like those characters) I'm just a bucket of Spam waiting to happen -- I hit the elevator button anyway.

The doors slid open.

The elevator was empty. No one was there.

Of course, no one ever is.

Like the nights when we're closing and one of my student workers tells me there's one last person upstairs. We lock the doors. Wait for that person to come down. Finally, we go upstairs looking for that last person. We walk the empty stacks. We check the study carrels. But somehow they're gone... if they were ever there at all.

Or the nights when I'm setting the alarm as I get ready to exit, and the motion detectors tell me there's movement in an empty building.

Or the nights when I'm alone after closing and hear doors slamming upstairs, or metal drawers in the old microfilm cabinets on the third floor opening and closing, or --

Okay. The shudder meter just notched into the red. I think it's time to go home now. Good night.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Night Shift

When I was a kid, I had a book called Ghosts Go Haunting by Scorche Nic Leodhas. It was a collection of Scottish ghost tales, and it scared me to death. A very sixties kids book, complete with creepy woodcuts that were just this side of unsettling, along with the kind of stories that were the great-grandads of the tales my father told on summer nights in our backyard. One story in particular, "The Wild Ride in the Tilt Cart," would set me on edge every time. It was a vanishing hitchhiker tale in reverse, about a kid who's picked up at a train station one rainy night by a ghostly driver. I can still see the illo of the cart's shaggy owner in my mind's eye, his black eyes on paper gone slightly tan, the heavy beard below that hid all expression and (I was sure) dammed up a whisper you'd never want to hear.

Both my parents worked. Once school cut me lose, I spent most afternoons at home alone from the fourth or fifth grade on. And when rainy afternoons came my way, I'd walk home and snatch up a horror comic book... or maybe Ghosts Go Haunting. I'd read one story. Then I'd read another. Then I'd tell myself: You'd better not read the next one, Norm. But even though I knew it would be a mistake to turn the page and start the tale, I'd inevitably do the job. My eye would follow that typeface road and nudge me across the threshold, and before long I'd slap covers closed on the book, and I'd turn on all the lights in the house, and I'd turn on the TV or the radio, too. I'd shove Ghosts Go Haunting deep into a drawer, and I wouldn't breathe easy until my parents came home.

And, you know, some nights that still happens. I'm a night supervisor at a college library. Summertime, it gets quiet around here. Sometimes, a book comes across the desk at just the wrong moment. Tonight it was one called The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales. I grabbed it. Checked it out. Closed the library, turned off the lights on all three floors, and finished up my shift.

It's quiet now. Really quiet. I've been reading for the last hour and a half. William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily." Ray Russell's "Sardonicus." "Secret Observations on the Goat Girl" by Joyce Carol Oates. I'm wondering if I should top off the night with just one more before I head home.

I think I just heard something up on the third floor.

I did mention that this place is haunted, didn't I?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Speed Demons

It looks like the new short story collection officially caught fire. Three weeks after publication, the trade edition of Lesser Demons is out of print from Subterranean Press. At present, there are no plans for a second printing. If you haven't picked up a copy yet, you can still grab one at Amazon, Cemetery Dance, or other selected booksellers... but I'd do that sooner rather than later.

Also, we're down to less than fifty copies of the signed, limited edition of Lesser Demons. This version includes a bonus chapbook story, "Red Rover, Red Rover." If you're a fan of extra-crunchiness, grab your copy now.

And once again, for those of you who've already yanked your plastic and put it to work, a full bucket of gracias is yours for the asking. Thanks for buying Lesser Demons, and I hope you enjoy the book.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Bird and The Big Dog

That's me and Joe Lansdale at a signing at Cobblestone Books in Sacramento, 'round about 1999. I was signing The Ten-Ounce Siesta, and Joe had Waltz of Shadows out from Subterranean.

But forget the books: Man, do those guys know how to dress, or what?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Stoking the Fires

Just wanted to put the brakes on the blog machine here for a minute and thank those of you who've purchased a copy of Lesser Demons. I certainly appreciate it, and hope you'll enjoy the collection. So far we've had some great reviews from Booklist, Famous Monsters, and Rue Morgue, plus fantastic buzz thanks to the comments of talented folks like Jeff Ford, Duane Swierczynski, Joe Schreiber, and Ellen Datlow. Preorders have shipped from Subterranean, and it looks like Cemetery Dance is sending out copies as well. Just today, I heard from several readers who said they received Amazon notifications that copies are shipping, so that's good news, too.

I'll be interested to hear your view of Lesser Demons once you give the collection a read. Feel free to drop me an email. And if you'd like to help me spread the word about the book -- even better. There's plenty you can do. Talk about Lesser Demons on your favorite social network. Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, message boards -- they're all good. If you blog, post a review of the collection. Let folks know it's out there. Post reviews on Amazon, too -- those reviews really do make a difference when it comes to selling copies, and selling copies is what it's all about.

The truth is that most books live or die in the first few weeks of release. That's when they have a chance to catch fire. Of course, I'd love to see that happen with Lesser Demons. If you've been on the fence about ordering a copy, now's your chance to help kick things into gear. If you already have a copy in hand, let folks know what you think of it -- word of mouth is one of the best ways to get a short story collection moving.

All right. That's my equivalent of a bucket of gasoline and a tossed match... but it's really up to you guys to light this particular fire. As someone once said: Flame on, Johnny Storm!... and thanks in advance.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Eighteen Years Ago Today...

...I was in Colorado for the release of Mr. Fox and Other Feral Tales at the legendary Little Bookshop of Horrors, home of Doug and Tomi Lewis' Roadkill Press. Above is the original poster for the event (click on the image for a larger view).

Man, how time flies. Mr. Fox was my first short story collection, and Lesser Demons is my fifth. A whole lot of water has passed under the bridge between those two books.

And nope, that's not my car (unfortunately) in the photo on the poster. That shot was taken at The Stanley Hotel is Estes Park, Colorado. The Stanley was Stephen King's inspiration for the Overlook in The Shining, and there must have been a big King fan working there (or visiting) at the time. Anyway, I crept up on Christine in the parking lot, grabbed a hunk of her tail-fin as I had my picture taken, and lived to tell the tale.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

With a Lot of Salt and Pepper

This is a good review of Lesser Demons. Really. The reviewer calls "Carrion" a "breathtaking action thriller." He says that "Road Dogs" is one of the best werewolf tales he has ever read. Hey, I'll take a double-helping of comments like that any day of the week (and twice on Sunday).

But some mornings, when you're a new dad and you haven't gotten enough sleep because your baby daughter was up too many times in the night, you're tempted to reach for the ol' pull-quote scissors and excise something that would terrify prospective readers and make publishers grab their chests as their built-in coronary thrombosis machines threaten to erupt. Something like:

"[Lesser Demons features] unsettling portraits of weirdos... unspeakable horrors... definitely not for the squeamish... exuding gore and violence... with murderous creatures originated from that nowhere land set between earth and Hell. From those who like their horror dishes served with a lot of salt and pepper, this book is a must."

Okay. I got that out of my system. My work here is done.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Bradbury Shelf, Part 3

Wow. The calendar has flipped a couple pages since I posted the first two parts of this feature about a shelf in my office that's crammed with little bits of writerly inspiration. If you need a refresher, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of The Bradbury Shelf, where you can read about my love of both Ray Bradbury and Universal Monsters -- two staple ingredients found in the Frankensteinian lab that cooked up most of us Boomer-era monsterkids.

Moving over to the right side of the shelf (seen above), you'll find a couple more tips o' the hat to the Universal monsters, namely the Wolf Man. Lon Chaney, Jr.'s Larry Talbot was my absolute favorite monster as a kid, and that early fascination with a cursed character who's looking for a final exit probably goes a long way toward explaining why I still favor anti-heroes to this day. (And, yep, the box over there on the right is a Wolf Man model kit. Though this one's a reissue, I had all the original Aurora monster models as a kid, even those rarer ones like The Witch and The Bride of Frankenstein. Unfortunately, my collection came to a sad end one year when I got a Daisy BB gun for a birthday present -- and more's the pity. After the big gundown, I felt like I'd lined my best friends up against a wall and played executioner; which may sound melodramatic, but, hey, that's the way I felt.)

Besides ol' Lon, this section of the Bradbury shelf also has some writing-related items. Smack dab in the middle is my first Bram Stoker award, presented for my short story collection Mr. Fox and Other Feral Tales in 1993. I've received two other Stokers from the Horror Writers Association, and each one of them is a little different, depending on the year they were awarded. The mold is the same (I believe it's a Gahan Wilson design), but the coloring varies quite a bit depending on the year of issue. Anyway, it's my goal to get five of these little houses. Then I want to enforce the Monopoly board-game rule and turn 'em in to the HWA in exchange for the Bates Motel. I don't know if it'll work, but I intend to try.

Next to the Stoker is (most likely) the last bottle of Night Shade Imperial Stout in existence. This particular brew was produced in conjunction with the last World Fantasy Con, and I liberated it from an ice-filled bathtub during a daring security breach at the Night Shade publishing party. That's my buddy Jeremy Lassen on the label looking particularly Imperial (if you ask me). I'm sure it's a superior brew -- the pale ale (or maybe it was a pilsner) certainly was.

The other stuff on the shelf is Halloween memorabilia. That black cat with the day-glo outline dates from the sixties and used to go up for annual display in the front window of our house when I was a kid -- it's got a kind of retro rockabilly vibe going on that I love . The Jack o' Lantern and skull are actually little battery-operated lanterns my mom passed on to me some years ago -- I'm pretty sure they date from the forties or fifties. Slot batteries in these suckers, and (believe it or not) they still work. I do that once a year, during the week leading up to Halloween.

The last little bit of 10/31 on the shelf is a metal paddle with a black cat design (it's over on the left). This was something Tia found, and it's got a couple little orange plastic balls attached to wires mounted in the handle. If you shake the thing back and forth, those balls set up a hellacious racket against the metal plate. I'm not sure exactly why you'd ever want to do this, but I am pretty certain that if you put this device to work at midnight in a cemetery on Halloween you might actually be able to wake the dead.

Not that I've ever tried doing that myself. Hey, I'm a horror writer. I don't go around messing with the supernatural, especially on Halloween night. I'm kind of superstitious that way.

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Free Bucketful of Bad Business

Got the word from SubPress honcho Bill Schafer that copies of Lesser Demons are now shipping. If you ordered direct, you shouldn't have long to wait. If you haven't ordered yet and want to give one of the aforementioned demons a test-drive, Bill has posted my story "Durston" over on the order page at Subpress. Just scroll down and you'll find it.

So click on over, take a look around, and kick the tires. But warning: this tale's a mean one (i.e. if you kick it, pardner, it's liable to kick you back).

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Demons on My Doorstep

Two boxes of Lesser Demons hit my doorstep this morning. I've gotta say, opening them up was a treat -- especially the moment when I pulled off the top slab of packing foam and stared down at Vincent Chong's cover image x 4. Which kind of froze me up for a second, because it's a sharp piece of work. I love the colors, especially, and the texture of the image.

More than that, I love sunsets... especially desert sunsets. I love writing about them, and I've always wanted a cover that focused on that particular interest (I'll stop just short of calling it an obsession). Read most of my desert stories and you'll find a sunset in there somewhere. In Lesser Demons, you'll find a few, including a menacing sunset in "Carrion" and a melancholy one at the climax of "And What Did You See in the World?" Probably my personal favorite resides in my crime novel Saguaro Riptide, in the scene where hitman Woodrow Saad Muhammad sorts things out in Nevada's Valley of Fire before he goes gunning for Jack Baddalach. It's probably no surprise that that happens to be one of my favorite scenes in the book.

Of course, painting a sunset with words is quite different than doing it Mr. Chong's way, but hey... that's why I keep at it. Nothing I like better than working to get an image out of my head and down on paper, trying to craft those words in just the right way to conjure that image for someone else.

I'll admit that when it comes to sunsets, I can stare at the monitor for a long, long time trying to do that.

Of course, I can stare at a sunset for a long, long time, too.