Out Now: The Modern Deity’s Guide to Surviving Humanity

ModernDeityCoverI’m thrilled my new story, “Charon Taxi & Limo Corp.,” about a New York City cabbie who transports lost souls, is included in The Modern Deity’s Guide to Surviving Humanity, out now from Zombies Need Brains in: a limited Kickstarter edition ($20), trade paperback ($17), eBook/epub/mobi/pdf ($7), and on Kindle ($7).

Working with editors Patricia Bray and Joshua Palmatier was a true joy and I’m so grateful this story landed in their hands and alongside all the truly excellent work in this collection.

Please check out all the ZNB anthologies, especially Modern Deity’s pub-day siblings, When Worlds Collide and Derelict. The Kickstarter for ZNB’s next three anthologies launches in August, so keep an eye on Twitter and/or Facebook for details.

A little about this story…

There are as many New York Cities as there are New Yorkers—every one of us has our own set of people, places, and memories that create our unique version of New York City. I fucking love this about New York.

Some days*, it is the only thing I love about New York.

“Charon Taxi & Limo Corps” is a tiny piece of my New York heart, a hug goodbye to versions of the city, and me, that only existed for a few years, or an evening, or a heartbeat. At any given moment, New York City (like most cities, I assume**) is changing. These changes happen slyly, over time, like that little crease that pops up now whenever you smile (but don’t worry, you have an amazing fucking smile!). These are often bite-size losses—your favorite pizza place becomes a cell phone store; that club where you danced your ass off becomes a dorm (or a gym!); that bar where you spent so many nights with your friends that they’ve blurred together into one infinite and untouchable evening…fucking condos. (Million dollar condos at that.)***

Other times, New York City changes abruptly—a hard reboot. Before COVID, I’d lived through two of these—9/11 and Sandy. (I could also make a case for the dotcom bust and the 2008 recession and Ghouliani’s disneyfication and Bloomberg’s billionaireapalooza, etc. but those shifts, while massive and destructive, lacked the abruptness of the hard reboot.) The hard reboot, as I see it, is real life time-travel, dimension warps, alternate realties—I got on the train for work in one New York City, and arrived in another. I went to bed in one New York, and woke in another.

With the pandemic though, the reboot happened in an instant and also over 16+ gutting months. During the early days of NYC’s lock-down phase, at home in Queens, I spent hours watching live-streams of Manhattan streets and parks, and even tourist spots, on YouTube, stricken by the pervasive emptiness and silence and feeling so cut-off from my life and my home. I missed being an active part of “my city;” I didn’t realize yet “my city” was already long gone and still disappearing by the minute. For weeks, my mind clung to this stubborn idea that once the curse was lifted, like a fairytale, or The NeverEnding Story, the city would be restored.

But of course, that was never going to be true. Grieving this, adjusting to it, will likely take far longer than most of us expect. Because in addition to all the lost businesses, restaurants, arts venues, resources, jobs, homes, infrastructure, etc.—all significant and terrible losses on their own—we’re also missing so much of the mesh that makes putting up with the more exhausting aspects of sharing space with 8.4 million other people worth it—the other people.

There are as many New York Cities as there are New Yorkers. When we lost 33,484 New Yorkers, we also lost 33,484 New York Cities.**** Even this is an entirely inadequate and inaccurate means of gauging everyone and everything that’s missing from the city right now. I know some people won’t will feel it, and that’s okay. There are lots of ways New York is still New Yorking, and I’m glad the energy is coming back, but I don’t know when New York City will feel whole for me again, or that it ever should. So, even though I wrote “Charon Taxi” long before the pandemic, I can’t think of a better time to share this tiny bit of hometown love, and grief, with you all.

Please get vaccinated.

P.S. I want to send so much love to the many people who kept the city alive, literally and figuratively, while the rest of us were home. “Thank you” is also woefully inadequate here, but it’s a start—so thank you.


The footnotes are the best part, right??? 

* Like, when one must leap over a squirming pile of maggots left behind by a garbage truck in order to cross the street; or when one must dodge the considerable output of a man pissing into the wind; or when one steps into a subway car that’s been painted with human feces; or when…(I limited myself to a single subway example, but I have hundreds people).

** I don’t want to speak for other cities, not having lived in any…(yet?).

*** But that newsstand, where you sobbed to your friend because the guy you loved didn’t love you back (a refrain), is somehow, impossibly, still a freaking newsstand in 2021, and maybe you think of that night every. single. time. you pass it, but now it’s only with gratitude for the friend who held your bruised heart so gently, rather than with regret for the dude who didn’t want it in the first place.

**** At the time of this post.

Part of the milky way from the Trouvelot astronomical drawings (1881-1882) by E. L. Trouvelot (1827-1895)

A Winter Update

The last few months sure have been SOMETHING, haven’t they? I don’t even know where to begin this post. I’ve never been great at small talk–a condition that’s only grown more pronounced this past year. How do you respond to, “How’s it going?” when the inside of your brain is just alarms, Swamps of Sadness, and one long, guttural scream that started sometime in the early 90s? You don’t. Thankfully, Zoom makes it easy for me to briefly embody my favorite emoji (😬) and move on. So let’s just pretend I did the same thing here, with a bonus, “I hope this finds you well…” (because I do).

Lacking any immediate solutions to offer for deadly global pandemics and/or deadly domestic terrorism, I can only (again) urge you to look for ways to help others in your community. Volunteer, donate, signal boost–whatever you can do with the time and resources you have. Small changes are all most of us can offer, but they do add up.

On to the update…

[Art by: Alexis Goble] Glowing golden sparkles and stars rising from an old, opened wooden treasure chest. Darkly lit on a planked surface with black chalkboard background.

[Art by: Alexis Goble]

Cast of Wonders surprised and delighted me earlier this year, by selecting my story, “The Half-Life of a Broken Heart,” as a 2020 Staff Pick. This story originally appeared in Factor Four Magazine (gone, but never forgotten) and then appeared on Episode 413 of Cast of Wonders in May 2020. You might recall that editor and host, Katherine Inskip, brought me to tears with her gorgeous commentary at that time. Well, Cast of Wonders is two for two now, because host Denise Sudell, the Cast of Wonders Community Manager, did it again with her moving commentary, specially recorded for this Staff Pick reissue. Denise’s analysis captured the heart (pun!) of this story as I originally imagined it and you can’t ask for a better feeling as a writer–or, as a person–than to have your heart be so clearly seen and understood. “The Half-Life of a Broken Heart” is one of my favorite stories and I’m so grateful it found such a wonderful second home…twice! Listen at the link below…

Cast of Wonders 446: The Half-Life of a Broken Heart (Staff Picks 2020)


In February, as part of the Women in Horror Month festivities, I was thrilled to join Nicole Givens Kurtz, Meghan Arcuri, and Kaaron Warren for HWA-NY’s Galactic Terrors reading series. Watch the recorded event here and subscribe to the Galactic Terrors newsletter for info on future readings.


In April and May, I’ll be leading a new slate of workshops for young writers (Spellcasters, Cryptozoolapalooza, and Super Spies & Top-Secret Tech) at The Center for Fiction–read all about it here!

Note: These online sessions sold-out last time, so if you have any young writers (ages 9-12) in your life who might be interested, please don’t wait to register! Also, please help spread the word on Twitter (and anywhere else)!


Finally, I have several exciting new short story publications coming up, but I don’t think I’m supposed to officially announce any of those sales yet. So I’ll just say this: these stories are three of my absolute favorites (which I know I say a lot, but I think I only try to publish the work I love the most), involving (respectively) haunted hotels, nature vengeance, and a taxi driver who transports the dead. More details coming soon!


[Image art by E. L. Trouvelot]

Upcoming Reading: Galactic Terrors, February 11th

Guess what? I’m reading tomorrow night (February 11th, 2021) with Nicole Givens Kurtz, Meghan Arcuri, and Kaaron Warren as part of HWA-NY’s recently launched Galactic Terrors reading series!

Watch on YouTube at 8 p.m. EST and if you’d like to keep up with Galactic Terrors,  subscribe to the Galactic Terrors newsletter!

Can’t make it tomorrow? Fear not! All episodes are archived on YouTube!

Click below to watch, subscribe, and/or set a reminder on YouTube!

Awards Eligible Stories 2020

Yay! A 2020 awards eligibility post! I had four new stories published in this hellfire year and I’d be thrilled if you’d read and consider them for your Bram Stoker/Nebula/World Fantasy/Hugo /Shirley Jackson Award nominations, recommendations, and reading lists, and/or for any Best of 2020 anthologies.


THE WORDS I STARVED FOR
Horror / Dark Fantasy
Fireside Magazine
January 2020 | ~2,300 words

“It’s powerful, and wrenching, and beautiful.”
Charles Payseur, Quick Sip Reviews

I can’t promote a story in Fireside Magazine without also talking about how it and its publisher, Pablo Defendini, recently treated Dr. Regina N. Bradley and her work, publishing a racist audio adaptation of her essay (described as an “audio version of blackface“) without her knowledge, input, or consent. The publisher issued a standard Dude in Publishing™ apology, but declined to comment for this Washington Post piece covering the lack of communication and oversight that contributed to this aggressive failure. Rather than allowing Dr. Bradley’s writing to be further overshadowed by the publisher’s behavior, please take a moment to read “Da Art of Speculatin’” and consider preordering her forthcoming book, Chronicling Stankonia: The Rise of the Hip Hop South, from your local bookstore on Small Business Saturday (or on any day of the week).


TAG, YOU’RE IT
Horror
Don’t Turn Out the Lights: A Tribute to Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
September 2020 | ~1,400 words
*Please reach out via my contact form if you are reading for awards and need access to a review copy.


LET IT STAND
Horror / Dark Fantasy
Lovecraft Mythos: New & Classic Collection
November 2020 | ~3,000 words
*Please reach out via my contact form if you are reading for awards and need access to a review copy.


DO NOT WRITE TO WRONG
Fantasy
Community of Magic Pens
May 2020 | ~2,800 words
*Please reach out via my contact form if you are reading for awards and need access to a review copy.


 

Out Now! Lovecraft Mythos

Lovecraft Mythos, from Flame Tree Press, is out now and includes my new story, “Let It Stand,” alongside stories from Ramsey Campbell (who also wrote the foreword), Caitlín R. Kiernan, Victor LaValle, Rachael K. Jones and many others. To celebrate, Flame Tree Press recently posted interviews with contributing authors about the inspirations for their stories as well as a series of Q&As. They’ve also got video interviews in the works, which will post on December 6th.

Usually I write a little about my story and its genesis here, but since I’ve already done that on the Flame Tree blog (hint: it includes dudes behaving badly on Twitter), I’ll cut right to the shopping info. As of this posting, there are many (many, many) Black Friday deals going on (and a huge Am@zon strike), so shop wherever works best for your budget. But I’d like to highlight that Flame Tree Press is offering free shipping over $19.97* and these gorgeous hardcovers (with foil FX!) make extra fancy and excellent gifts.

Lovecraft Mythos is available from:
Flame Tree Publishing
B&N
Kew & Willow
Astoria Bookshop
IndieBound
(Amazon Workers are Striking Today, But You Can Buy It There Too)


*and also a 3-for-2 sale on journals!!! Save me!

**[Reposting my take on “Lovecraftian” from an earlier entry] I’m a big fan of the movement within the horror community for using “cosmic horror” to describe this branch (tentacle?) of the genre. It feels increasingly unnecessary (and inaccurate) to tie it to a known racist and bigot when–with every new voice and story–cosmic horror continues to expand far beyond the constraints of its early foundations.
UPDATED (8/5/2020): Adding a link to this excellent piece on the subject from Tor Nightfire.

Coming Soon! Horror Writing Workshops for Kids at the Center for Fiction

Illustration of a castle at night background for HalloweenI’m thrilled to be leading a new series of horror workshops for young writers at The Center for Fiction next month, kicking off the Halloween season *AND* the CFF’s KidsWriting program!

We’re going to have a lot of fun exploring some of the genre’s most popular branches and playing around with its most infamous tropes. Halloween is my very favorite holiday and even though I know this year will be different, I’m still all-in for celebrating the spooky season, and, IMHO, this is a perfect way to do that safely and creatively.

We’ll be meeting via Zoom beginning on October 10th, with the first of three sessions (detailed below), which can be bundled or taken individually. Registration is open now, but attendance is limited, so please don’t wait.

Additional info from the CFF event page:

Designed for young writers, ages 9-12, these writing workshops will focus on fostering creativity in a fun, encouraging environment. Each session breaks down a different branch of horror and will include writing sprints, interactive discussions of story structure and common tropes, and opportunities to share and review our work. Parents are encouraged to register for individual sessions based on their child’s interests or for multiple sessions at a discount.

Saturday, October 10, 11:30am – 1pm ET
Haunted Places & Ghostly Faces
In this workshop, we’ll be writing ghost stories, urban legends, and crafting original “local lore” about hauntings, cursed places, and other spooky, unexplained phenomena. Poltergeists welcome!

Saturday, October 17, 11:30am – 1pm ET
Movie Monsters & Creepy Creatures
From vampires, werewolves, and zombies, to shape-shifters, ghouls, and mummies–and everything in between–in this workshop, we’ll be writing stories about the terrifying things that go bump in the night (or in your closet)!

Saturday, October 24, 11:30am – 1pm ET
Scary Science & Techie Terrors
Whether it’s extraterrestrial invasions or evil scientists, destructive blobs or sentient computers—in this workshop we’ll be writing Sci-Fi Horror about the places where science and technology meet the unknown and the unexpected.

 

Out Today! Don’t Turn Out the Lights

Don’t Turn Out the Lights is here! Edited by New York Times bestselling author, Jonathan Maberry, with illustrations by Iris Compiet and cover design by Laura Mock, Don’t Turn Out the Lights is a tribute to the middle grade horror classics, Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

I can’t overstate how influential the Scary Stories books were in developing my reading and writing tastes as a kid (or how influential Stephen Gammell’s original art was in developing my nightmares). So, if it’s not obvious, I’m beyond thrilled to be part of this tribute.

In Don’t Turn Out the Lights, Iris Compiet does an amazing job capturing the spirit (PUN!) of the original books, while creating a whole new canon of nightmare fodder with her illustrations, just as my fellow contributors do with their fantastically creepy stories.

Title page for "Tag, You're It" featuring black and whit illustration (by Iris Compiet) of a creepy baby doll.

Art by Iris Compiet; design by Laura Mock.

Speaking of the authors, it doesn’t get better than this line-up: Linda D. Addison, Courtney Alameda, Jonathan Auxier, Gary A. Braunbeck, Z Brewer, Aric Cushing, John Dixon, Tananarive Due, Jamie Ford, Kami Garcia, Christopher Golden, Tonya Hurley, Catherine Jordan, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Alethea Kontis, N.R. Lambert, Laurent Linn, Amy Lukavics, Barry Lyga, D.J. MacHale, Josh Malerman, James A. Moore, Michael Northrop, Micol Ostow, Joanna Parypinksi, Brendan Reichs, Madeleine Roux, R.L. Stine, Margaret Stohl, Gaby Triana, Luis Alberto Urrea, Rosario Urrea, Kim Ventrella, Sheri White, T.J. Wooldridge, and Brenna Yovanoff.

To celebrate the release of Don’t Turn Out the Lights, Jonathan Maberry has organized a series of panels with the authors featured in this anthology. I’ll be joining him today, September 1st, for an event hosted by Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego, register here! The full list of events is up on Jonathan Maberry’s site and the previous panels will be posted on his Facebook page.

[UPDATE: Our panel is up on YouTube!]

If you didn’t preorder your copy of Don’t Turn Out the Lights, not to fear! Mysterious Galaxy is selling copies signed* by Jonathan Maberry;  my local bookshops, Kew & Willow Books and Astoria Bookshop, will ship most places; and it’s also available at bookstores and online retailers everywhere, including:
HarperCollins
Books-A-Million
IndieBound
B&N
Amazon

UPDATE: I AM NOT GREAT AT THE “NEW” WP EDITOR AND SOMEHOW DELETED MY THANK YOU BOX:
Huge THANK YOU to the Draft Zero writing group (line-up at the time: Frances Rowat, Beth Tanner, Asha Bardon, David Bruns, and Shannon Fay–go read their stuff!), Allison Escoto, Lorraine Escoto, and Doug Peyton for their excellent feedback while I was working on this story. Also, shout outs to everyone at HarperCollins Children’s (especially Alyssa Miele), and the Horror Writers Association** for making this anthology happen. Biggest thank you of all to Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell for scaring the crap out of us.

UPDATE: HarperCollins Children’s talented marketing/PR team posted this awesome trailer gif on Twitter this morning:


*Mysterious Galaxy’s instructions on how to order a signed/personalized Don’t Turn Out the Lights (books will be signed by Jonathan Maberry only, not the other contributing authors): At checkout under “Order Comments” write if you would like a signed or personalized book and to whom it should be personalized. Personalization requests are due one week after the event.

 

Coming Soon! Events for Don’t Turn Out the Lights!

It’s heeeeeeeere…almost!

As you may have heard me mention, I’m EXTREMELY excited about Don’t Turn Out the Lights: A Tribute to Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, which includes stories from a staggering number of my horror writing heroes and–to my eternal glee–one of my stories. It releases on September 1 and we’re doing a bunch of stuff to celebrate that!

Edited by New York Times bestselling author, Jonathan Maberry, with illustrations by Iris Compiet, and cover design  by Laura Mock, Don’t Turn Out the Lights releases NEXT WEEK. But it’s not too late to preorder! If you want to be terrorized in a timely manner, I highly recommend reaching out to your local bookshop or library and requesting Don’t Turn Out the Lights, or preordering it from one of these bookstores:
HarperCollins
Books-A-Million
IndieBound
B&N
Amazon

To celebrate the release of Don’t Turn Out the Lights, Jonathan Maberry has organized a series of panels with the authors featured in this anthology. I’ll be joining him on September 1st for an event hosted by Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego! The full list of events is being updated as we speak, but keep an eye on Jonathan’s Facebook and Twitter pages for details up on Jonathan Maberry’s site!

Coming Soon! Lovecraft Mythos: New & Classic Collection

Exciting news! My story, “Let It Stand,” will be included in Flame Tree Publishing‘s upcoming cosmic horror* anthology, Lovecraft Mythos: New & Classic Collection, available in Fall 2020. The folks at Flame Tree recently announced the full TOC and…whoa! I’m seriously thrilled to be part of this roster. The details, from their release:

We’re delighted to announce the line-up of authors for our upcoming book Lovecraft Mythos: New & Classic Collection! Due for publication in October 2020 (November in the US/Canada), this anthology features a foreword by Ramsey Campbell and acts as a companion volume to our earlier collection: Lovecraft Short Stories.

Along with a few key Lovecraft tales and early influences, this latest anthology includes work from a number of authors who have emulated or expanded on the Mythos since Lovecraft, among his contemporaries and also our own. See below for the selection of tales by modern authors chosen for inclusion…

Lovecraft Mythos

Cthulhu-Seltzer by Hal Bodner

Offspring by Evey Brett

The Franklyn Paragraphs by Ramsey Campbell

Foxfire Future by Helen E. Davis

Grave Secrets by JG Faherty

He Opens a Window by Cody Goodfellow

The Innsmouth of the South by Rachael K. Jones

The Damage by Scott R. Jones

Black Ships Seen South of Heaven by Caitlín R. Kiernan

Always a Castle? by Nancy Kilpatrick

Let It Stand by N.R. Lambert

Up from Slavery by Victor LaValle

The Whisper of Stars by Thana Niveau

My First Abomination by John Possidente

By Any Other Name by John Llewellyn Probert

A Gentleman from Mexico by Mark Samuels

Usurped by William Browning Spencer

Entirely Surrounded by Water by R.S. Stefoff

Shed a Tear for Asenath by Jonathan Thomas

Cloaca Maxima by Donald Tyson

Tracking the Black Book by Douglas Wynne

New, recent and classic work by these authors will appear alongside stories by H.P. Lovecraft and the following: Ambrose Bierce, Robert Bloch, Robert W. Chambers, August W. Derleth, Lord Dunsany, Robert E. Howard, Henry Kuttner, Fritz Leiber, Frank Belknap Long, Zealia Bishop, Hazel Heald, Arthur Machen, Clark Ashton Smith.

Lovecraft Mythos: New & Classic Collection is scheduled for release in October 2020 (UK) and November 2020 (US & Canada) and is available for preorder now at:

Bookshop.org
B&N
Indiebound
Amazon


* I’m a big fan of the movement within the horror community for using “cosmic horror” to describe this branch (tentacle?) of the genre. It feels increasingly unnecessary (and inaccurate) to tie it to a known racist and bigot when–with every new voice and story–cosmic horror continues to expand far beyond the constraints of its early foundations.
UPDATED (8/5/2020): Adding a link to this excellent piece on the subject from Tor Nightfire.

Glowing golden sparkles and stars rising from an old, opened wooden treasure chest. Darkly lit on a planked surface with black chalkboard background.

Out Today! “The Half-Life of a Broken Heart” on Cast of Wonders

[Art by: Alexis Goble. Glowing golden sparkles and stars rising from an old, opened wooden treasure chest. Darkly lit on a planked surface with black chalkboard background.]

The year was Tuesday, May 5th, 2020. It might have been the same day that drinking bleach as a means of preventing illness was suggested by a sitting president of the United States…or maybe that happened on a different day. Linear time is more of a gesture in 2020.

ANYWAY. I’d written this post, then failed to publish it before being sucked into the next void and for that I am truly sorry, because this is one of the big highlights of my year. My story, The Half-Life of a Broken Heart appeared in this week’s edition of Cast of Wonders (alongside a gorgeous story by Kelly Sandoval), in an episode appropriately titled, Little Wonders: Hearts in Boxes.

When I wrote this story, I was utterly lost in grief. So it always felt like it held an extra little bit of my soul. I couldn’t have entrusted it to better hands. Narrator Caroline Reid perfectly captured the heart of this story, and Katherine Inskip, who hosted this episode, shared a piece of her heart, with a personal story that moved me beyond words. I encourage you all to take a listen and then subscribe for more. The Escape Artists family of podcasts have been doing incredible work for years and I don’t believe they’ve received even a tenth of the credit they deserve for their contributions to speculative fiction.

My deepest gratitude to Caroline and Katherine and everyone at Cast of Wonders who was involved in this episode’s production, especially audio producer, Jeremy Carter; co-narrator Nichole Goodnight; and artist, Alexis Goble. Also, a big thank you to editor Richard Flores IV, who first published this story in Factor Four Magazine.

Subscribe to Cast of Wonders:
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