Nerves

These are obvious lessons, but they’re ones I find myself continually learning as I continue on my writerly walk:

Haunted Mind

Haunted Mind

There is no finish line.

There is no such thing as “making it.”

There will always be challenges.

For me, there will always be fear. Fear of failure, fear of the unknown. Fear of trying something new (and failing). Fear of rejection.

The Gauntlet

The Gauntlet

I will always need to face my fears and overcome them.

I will always be a perfectionist.

I will always be more sensitive than most people and care more than I should.

I will always need to remind myself to relax, to smile, to laugh, to breathe.

Reach

Reach

The above statements are facts. I sometimes have trouble admitting or accepting them, but facts they remain.

It’s how I’m wired.

Carry on.

What Do Hunter Shea and Kristopher Rufty Have in Common?

So other than the fact that both Hunter Shea and Kristopher Rufty are my friends, what do they have in common?

They’re both fantastic writers?

Yep, that’s true.

They were part of the big Samhain Horror launch back in the fall of 2011 and have become two of the imprint’s most popular authors?

Okay, that’s also true.

They’re both fine Americans, fans of Neo-Dada art, and have never been in my kitchen?

*heaves sigh* Okay, those things are all true, too. At least I’m pretty sure they’ve never been in my kitchen. But I know for a FACT that Hunter and Kristopher are such fanatics for Neo-Dada that they made a pilgrimage to the Genpei Akasegawa exhibit in Brussels last spring.

Where Horror and Neo-Dada Collide

Where Horror and Neo-Dada Collide

But the OTHER thing they have in common—the thing I’m absolutely delighted about—is that they’re both big fans of my latest novella, the supernatural thriller EXORCIST ROAD. Hunter calls it “the best fiction book on possession since THE EXORCIST.” Kristopher said it was “the first book in years to give me genuine gooseflesh.”

A Demon and a Serial Killer

A Demon and a Serial Killer

And if that wasn’t cool enough, Kristopher was kind enough to interview me on his blog. You can find the whole gory affair right here. And Hunter included EXORCIST ROAD in his Horrortober reading list. He talks about my novella here.

That’s all for tonight. Talk to you soon, friends in art.

 

 

I Survived the Monster Men!

I’ve met a great many people since I started this writing gig, and Hunter Shea and Jack Campisi are two of the coolest ones. Hunter is an outstanding author you should already be reading, and Jack is a writer you’ll be reading in a few years. They host the show MONSTER MEN and were kind enough to invite me as a guest. The results, though terrifying, can be viewed right here.

monster men

In our interview we discuss my works, my struggles, my hopes and dreams. They got things out of me that have never been revealed before. So check it out, friends. You’ll never be same. Chances are, you’ll be emotionally scarred and irrevocably diminished in several fundamental ways. But you will be affected. That I guarantee.

And after you watch the carnage, why not check out my new novella EXORCIST ROAD? I’ve got a feeling you’ll enjoy it.

Or be scarred by it too.

A Demon and a Serial Killer

A Demon and a Serial Killer

It’s Time for…HORRORHOUND WEEKEND!!!

Where will Mads Mikkelson (HANNIBAL), Jon Bernthal and Scott Wilson (THE WALKING DEAD), and Linda Blair (THE EXORCIST) all be this weekend?

Hanging out with me!

Mads with His Game Face On

Mads with His Game Face On

If you’re within driving distance of Indianapolis, I’d love to see you at HorrorHound Indy this weekend. I’ll be signing books with some awesome Samhain Horror authors (like John Everson, Tim Waggoner, Mick Ridgewell, Adam Cesare, and David Searls), and I’d love to meet you (or see you again).

Talk to you soon, friends!

HHW-3-14-MAIN

On the Eve of EXORCIST ROAD’s Release, Pope Francis Approves Exorcisms

THE EXORCIST. LEGION. SON OF THE ENDLESS NIGHT.

Some of the best horror novels of the past half-century have examined demonic possession and the rites of exorcism. The topic itself is extremely complicated and even more controversial. Clearly, however, the concept of exorcism is a fascinating one that continues to enthrall readers and moviegoers everywhere.

demonic1

As the title of this post mentions, Pope Francis has just reinstituted exorcism, calling it “a form of charity that benefits the sufferer.” Whether demonic possession is real or not, and whether or not exorcism is “a form of charity” are fiercely debated questions.

In my very-soon-to-be-released novella EXORCIST ROAD, two priests attempt to exorcise a fearsome demon inhabiting a fourteen-year-old boy. If you enjoy a spine-tingling tale and have ever enjoyed a story about demonic possession or exorcism, I hope you check out EXORCIST ROAD. And even if you haven’t read or seen an exorcism story, now is a great time to pick one up.

A Demon...and a Serial Killer

A Demon…and a Serial Killer

I have to go now. I’m editing one novel and writing another. I’ll be telling you about both of them soon…

Classic

Classic

EXORCIST ROAD: The Serial Killer and the Possession

Have you heard about my new novella? Even though I’m primarily a novelist, there are readers who actually prefer my novellas to my novels. They’re crazy, of course, because I’m awesome in either length. But yeah, some folks dig the novellas more.

But seriously.

Wait a minute...There aren't any butter churns in this one?

Wait a minute…There aren’t any butter churns in this one?

There have been three novellas thus far: WITCHING HOUR THEATRE (which I’ll post some news about soonish), OLD ORDER (which you’ll enjoy unless you’re looking for an Amish romance, in which case you’ll leave me a one-star review on Amazon or Barnes & Noble and chastise me for not writing a wholesome story that features the Plain People doing, well, plain things, I guess), and THE CLEARING OF TRAVIS COBLE (which has an ending that once caused a co-worker to look at me like I was the lovechild of Ted Bundy and the Devil himself).

And now there’s a fourth. EXORCIST ROAD is the longest novella I’ve written, clocking in at well over a hundred pages. It’s also the first story I’ve written entirely from the first-person point-of-view. It’s also the first time I’ve dealt with demonic possession (in my fiction, not real life, though I sometimes wonder about my wife when she’s sleep-deprived—KIDDING, LOVEY! Don’t throw anything at me! You’re always sweet and loving and—*flees into another room*). Lastly, it’s my first Chicago story, which is sort of exciting. I love that place.

The Possessed Novella

The Possessed Novella

Here’s what it’s about:

Possessed by a demon…or by the urge to kill?

Chicago is gripped by terror. “The Sweet Sixteen Killer” is brutally murdering sixteen-year-old girls, and the authorities are baffled.

A seemingly normal fourteen-year-old boy has attacked his entire family and had to be chained to his bed. His uncle, police officer Danny Hartman, is convinced his nephew is possessed by a demon. Danny has sent his partner, Jack, to fetch the only priest in Chicago who has ever performed an exorcism.

But Jack has other plans tonight. He believes the boy isn’t possessed by a demon, but instead by an insatiable homicidal urge. Jack believes the boy is the Sweet Sixteen Killer. And he aims to end the reign of terror before another girl dies.

Cut!

That’s all for now. I really think you’ll enjoy this one. So check it out. And read about the Sweet Sixteen Killer, the Chicago cops, the conflicted priests, the pretty mother on whom one of the priests has a crush, and the boy who just might be possessed.

Peace, friends. And stay off those Ouija boards.

"And you're SURE you don't cut people into small pieces before eating them?"

“And you’re SURE you don’t cut people into small pieces before eating them?”

 

Scares That Care, Part Four: Jack Ketchum and Brian Keene

Okay, confession time. I’ve been putting off writing this post because these are the two guys whose work I knew the best going into the Scares That Care Weekend in Williamsburg, Virginia, and it’s really difficult for me to set aside Fan Jonathan from Professional Writer Jonathan.

Then again, maybe I don’t have to.

Yeah, I probably embarrassed Bryan Smith and Tom Monteleone with my last blog post, but I meant every word I said, and I’m not very good at pretending to be something I’m not. I tried to be cool when I sat there signing books with Bryan Smith, but I kept thinking to myself, “This guy is one of the best writers working today. You’re sharing a table with him. This is happening.” When I talked to Tom Monteleone, I felt a similar rush of excitement and disbelief.

Basically, I have a hard time pretending I’m unexcited by interacting with people who helped mold me as a writer and who’ve given me untold hours of reading pleasure. Which means I wasn’t sure how to act around Jack Ketchum and Brian Keene. I think I did okay. I mean, neither of them took out a restraining order against me, so there’s that. And neither threw a drink in my face or ran screaming from my presence. So…how did they act?

Ketchum and Keene from the Stalker-Cam

Ketchum and Keene from the Stalker-Cam

Let’s take Jack and Brian in turn.

(*I’ve decided to call Jack Ketchum/Dallas Mayr by his real name at certain points in this post because, well, that’s how I think of him. I mean, I think of him as both Jack Ketchum and Dallas Mayr, so I’ll be using both names. Just to confuse you.)

Jack Ketchum is one of my primary influences as a writer. Stephen King calls him “the scariest man in America,” and I can’t disagree. In my humble opinion, he has written four classic novels (The Girl Next Door, Off Season, Red, and The Woman) and a whole lot of other outstanding novels and short stories. I wrote this post about Ketchum’s fiction a couple years ago and mean to write another one about his work soon. The title of that long ago post was “The Ketchum Blade,” so named because of how deeply his fiction cuts. I dare you to read The Girl Next Door and not be emotionally moved. Whether that emotion is outrage or sorrow or despair or something else, you will feel something when you read that book. More likely, you’ll feel a number of emotions, which shows how astute and versatile Ketchum is.

But what of the man?

Dallas Mayr, I’m happy to report, is extremely kind, intelligent, and…well, classy. You ever hear someone say “(Insert name) has It“? Well, that applies to Dallas Mayr. Most people couldn’t live up to the legend of Jack Ketchum. Cary Grant, for instance, never could live up to people’s expectations of him off-screen. But Dallas Mayr/Jack Ketchum does. Yet there’s absolutely no affectation to worry about with him, no elitism. He treats everyone with warmth and wit, and though I was deeply afraid of meeting him (you know, a guy doesn’t want to make a fool of himself in front of one of his heroes), his personality soon put me at ease, and I got to spend several wonderful moments just talking to him.

Standing with a Legend (the one on the left)

Standing with a Legend (the one on the left)

Did you know, by the way, that he was once Henry Miller’s literary agent? Half of you are gasping in shock, while the other half are frowning at your monitors. To the former group I say, “Yes, he actually knew and learned from one of the literary giants of the twentieth century.” To the other half I say, stop reading this blog post and pick up Tropic of Cancer. Now.

Anyway, hanging out with Jack Ketchum/Dallas Mayr was one of the biggest thrills I’ve experienced since becoming a writer, and I can’t wait for the next opportunity to talk to him again.

So what about Brian Keene?

I’ll just be honest. Brian’s public persona—at least as I’ve always viewed him—is that of a rebel, a fiery and outspoken debunker of lies, and a fiercely talented author.

After meeting him, I can say it’s all true. He doesn’t suffer idiots, he doesn’t do things the way the system dictates one should do them, and he is indeed fiercely talented.

But one of the highlights of my summer was seeing another side of him. And by the way, if you want to cling to the above persona as his only persona, I suggest you stop reading now.

Photobombed by a Grand Master

Me and Kelli Owen Photobombed by a Grand Master

Here’s the thing you might not know about Brian Keene: He has a huge heart.

He might not like my saying that, and like Jack/Dallas, he’ll probably be embarrassed by this blog post, but I think it’s important for people to know the human beings behind the words. And the human being behind The Rising, behind Levi Stoltzfus, behind too many incredible books to mention in this meager space, is one for whom I have an incredible amount of respect.

Samuel Johnson once said, “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”

Let’s be honest here. My writing career (hopefully) is in its early stages. I’m proud of what I’ve done so far, but I am far from a household name, and there are a great many more readers who haven’t heard of me than those who have. I do what I can for my favorite authors—I recommend their work to anyone who will listen, and I blog about their stuff here—but really, it’s highly unlikely that I’ll be able to bring more wealth or fame to a guy like Brian Keene. He has written books that have sold more than half a million copies (!), and along with 28 Days Later and The Walking Dead comics, he was the guy who started the zombie phenomenon that continues to dominate popular culture. More importantly, his work continues to get better because he is devoted to his craft, he continues to read actively, and he has the discipline and the drive to always strive to improve himself.

So why would someone like this take the time to a) add me as a celebrity guest at an incredible charity convention, b) treat me like I’m someone special from the moment I walked into the Doubletree Hotel in Williamsburg to the moment we parted on Sunday afternoon, and c) invite me to every meal and allow me to spend time with him, his girlfriend, her son, and several other of his friends?

I’ll tell you why. It’s because Brian has a sincerely kind heart, and he remembers what it was like to know no one.

But I think what I appreciate most about Brian is how sincere and real he is. There isn’t one ounce of artifice with him. He did give me advice about writing, but mainly what he talked about was the importance of family. Speaking of family, one of my favorite memories of the convention was the moment when he dashed into the celebrity room mock-screaming because he was being chased by two newly-painted little girls who turned out to be my daughters.

The Girls Who Terrified Brian Keene

The Girls Who Terrified Brian Keene

And lest you think we spent the weekend in hushed conversation as he earnestly divulged the secrets of writing success, I should also mention he has a fantastic sense of humor and shared stories that made me laugh and gape, sometimes simultaneously.

So after writing nearly fourteen hundred words about two of my favorite writers, I’ll leave you with this thought: If ever I achieve a tenth of what these fine writers and men have achieved, I’ll remember my first Scares That Care convention. I’ll remember that everyone has to start somewhere, and that those who have the ability to make a newbie feel accepted and valued should do so in every way they can.

So thank you, Dallas and Brian. You made me feel like more than a fellow writer. You made me feel like I belonged.

I Wore This Grin for Most of the Weekend

I Wore This Grin for Most of the Weekend

 

Scares That Care, Part Three: Bryan Smith and Tom Monteleone

Yo. Comin’ atcha from da crib straight up gangsta—

I can’t do it.

What I can do is talk about two individuals I met at the recent Scares That Care convention in Williamsburg, Virginia: Bryan Smith and Tom Monteleone.

When I saw I’d be sharing a table with Bryan, I had two simultaneous reactions. My selfish one was, Yes! This means a bunch of people who know and love his stuff will be gravitating toward my table, and after they buy his stuff, maybe they’ll buy mine! My second reaction was something along the lines of the famous WAYNE’S WORLD mantra, “I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!”

Bryan Slash Smith

Bryan Slash Smith

See, Bryan is a well-known guy and for good reason. Plainly put, he’s a brilliant writer. And I don’t use that adjective lightly. I get the feeling folks think of him as a pulp writer, a guy whose pen squirts as much blood as it does ink, and yeah, it’s true that the stuff I’ve read so far from him does contain a good deal of violence. But man, what I don’t hear people talk enough about is how smart his writing is, how rhythmic. Bryan combines a razor-sharp intellect with an uncanny authorial ear. He’s like Guns ‘n’ Roses’s Slash with a keyboard rather than a guitar. I’m getting ready to finish KAYLA UNDEAD tonight, and I can tell you, it’s every bit as wild and wonderful as KAYLA AND THE DEVIL, a book I devoured recently and went gaga over last month.

KaylaUndead (1)

Bryan also happens to be a great guy. Thoughtful, soft-spoken, he really listens to what you say, and he treated me excellently all weekend, despite the fact that I probably annoyed the hell out of him with my constant chatter.

So buy his books. You’ll be supporting a great guy, but more importantly, you’ll be getting some of the best writing you’ve ever seen. Seriously, the guy is a virtuoso.

Which brings me to Tom Monteleone. I’d heard of Tom for years and had been aware of his importance to the field since, well…since my early-twenties. I’d read his short work and loved it, and I’d read books he’d edited and loved them too.

What I’d never done until fairly recently was read one of his novels.

Monteleone

Monteleone

See, I’ll be talking more about this in a bigger blog post soon, but I think the single biggest issue facing horror today is a disconnect between modern writers/readers and their heritage. Sure, there are writers my age and younger who know their stuff, who understand how important a guy like Tom Monteleone is and who regard him with the proper respect. But I also get the sense that many more writers and readers don’t know why Tom Monteleone matters, who don’t know how great a writer and editor he is, and who don’t understand that he’s a freaking legend that everyone needs to read and study.

Before I go too far down this path, let me just say, I’m not trying to eulogize the guy here. He’s only in his sixties, and I reckon he’s going to be kicking butt for decades to come. And if you don’t believe me, just sit at a dinner table with him the way I got to twice, or hang out with him at a convention. Then you’ll see that you’re the one—not Tom—who needs to get your butt in gear, who needs to up the ante on your zest for life, who needs to become more energized and excited about books and people. Tom is a walking, talking live wire.

My revelation about his writing came last year. My fourth novel SAVAGE SPECIES had just been released, and a very astute reader named Andrew Monge (who’s a regular at the best horror forum in the world, the Horror Drive-In) likened my novel to a book called NIGHT THINGS, which Tom had written several years ago. That comment served as a wake-up call for me, for despite the fact that I think I’m fairly well read in (and out) of the genre, I realized I’d never read a Monteleone novel.

Experience the Terror

Experience the Terror

Honestly, that fact was unforgivable.

How could I, a guy who’s ravenously hungry to become the best writer I can be, claim to know my roots when I’d never read a novel by Tom Monteleone, a man whose writing is legendary, a man whose editorial eye has helped shape the careers of too many writers to recount, a man who can, incidentally, tell a story better than just about anyone I’ve ever met (if you do meet him someday, be sure to ask him about Theodore Sturgeon—I promise your life will never be the same again).

So I read NIGHT THINGS. And realized that everything I’d heard about Tom was true. He’s a writer’s writer, a guy who understands and maximizes every square inch of a tale. The characterization. The plotting. The building of suspense. The carefully crafted backstory. The balletically choreographed pay-off. All of it was there in NIGHT THINGS. Once I’d finished, I realized what an incredible compliment Andrew Monge had paid me by uttering SAVAGE SPECIES in the same sentence with Tom’s novel, and I continue to be honored by those words.

Ferocious Thriller

Ferocious Thriller

I’ll be reading more Monteleone fiction soon. Both SUBMERGED and THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB are burning holes in my TBR pile, and I can’t wait to dive into them.

You should too. Monteleone is a guy every writer can learn from. And a writer who can thrill any reader brave enough to check out his work.

 

Scares That Care, Part Two: Kelli Owen, Wrath James White, and Mary SanGiovanni

*Before we get to the main blog post, I feel compelled to mention my new release CASTLE OF SORROWS, which came out earlier this week. More on that soon, but if you haven’t read my smash-hit debut novel THE SORROWS yet, you can buy it here. Then go read the sequel. I think you’ll find them worth your while.

Back to Scares That Care.

The three people in this blog post title have three things in common:

1. They have big hearts; I suspected that going into the Scares That Care convention, but spending time with them all weekend confirmed it.

2. They’re excellent writers. If you’ve been involved in the genre for any length of time, you’ll have heard of all three of them. If you haven’t, it’s time for you to check out their work.

3. I hadn’t met any of them prior to June 27th.

So after spending a weekend with them, here are my thoughts:

kelli

Kelli Owen

Kelli is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. She’s extremely bright, and her sense of humor can be very caustic (in a good way). She spent much of that first afternoon showing me exactly how much I didn’t know about marketing, about setting up for an event, as well as my cluelessness about a dozen other topics. On Saturday she nearly murdered me for paying to get my picture taken with Chris Sarandon (aka Prince Humperdinck and Jack Skellington). But Kelli has a way of threatening your life while still showing that she cares about you. That’s an impressive skill. But having survived Kelli’s boot camp, I’m proud to call her a friend.

Many Bothans Died to Get This Picture

Many Bothans Died to Get This Picture

Wrath is bigger than I am. Like, a good deal bigger. I run nearly six-four, and I work out pretty frequently, but Wrath made me look like a malnourished hobbit. However, the coolest thing about him was how easy he was to talk to. It also turns out that we have a strong bond: fatherhood. Talking to Wrath about how it was raising his son (who is now twenty and is becoming a writer himself) was very heartening for me since Wrath did many of the same things I’m doing now (like assigning extra reading and math each day, despite the fact that my son thinks I’m insane for doing so). Anyway, Wrath is as nice as his work is ferocious.

wrath

Wrath James White

Mary SanGiovanni is one of the coolest people I’ve met since getting into the industry. She brought her son (a great kid) and was incredibly kind all weekend. I was lucky enough to eat dinner and lunch with her, Brian Keene, and others, and I also got to participate in a panel discussion with Mary (and Kelli) on Friday night. I guess the word that best describes Mary is thoughtful. She’s thoughtful and considerate toward others, and she’s thoughtful in every thing she says. I learned a lot just from listening to her, but most of all, I learned she has a great heart and a sharp mind.

Mary SanGiovanni

Mary SanGiovanni

So if you were hoping I’d have some horror stories to tell from my time at Scares That Care, I’m sorry, but the experience only served to confirm what I’ve already learned about the horror community. Sure, it has its wing nuts, but it’s mainly populated by awesome human beings.

Count these three individuals among the awesome ones.