Horror for Good: A Charitable Anthology

Horror For Good: A Charitable Anthology

Late last year I got a call from Boyd E. Harris at Cutting Block Press, asking if I’d be willing to contribute a story for an upcoming charitable anthology they were doing.  Now Boyd is a good friend of mine, and Cutting Block Press is one of the finest Indie publishers out there, so he pretty much had me at hello.  “Sounds great,” I said.  “What’s the charity?”

He explained that all revenues, less direct costs for production, marketing and distribution will be donated to amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research.

I was intrigued.  Won over is actually a better way to describe my reaction.  An anthology put together by one of my favorite publishers to benefit a great cause (you can learn more about amfAR here), it’s a win-win.

I agreed and sent him my story “Sky of Brass, Land of Iron.”  South Texas, where I make my home, is crowded with old Spanish ruins from the 1700s and early 1800s, theAlamobeing the most famous example.  I’ve always had a deep fascination with these ruins, and they’ve figured prominently in several of my stories.  But I’ve always suspected that there are ruins out there in the empty landscape ofSouth Texasthat haven’t been discovered.

Texas, with its vast, and sometimes inhospitable territory, was colonized slowly with lots of dead ends and false starts.  My story imagines one such dead end, and picks up the thread when two good friends fromSan Antoniouncover some old ruins on the land they are trying to develop.  What they find beneath the ruins of an abandoned church represents one of my rare forays into Lovecraftian horror.

Boyd then introduced me to three outstanding folks: Mark Scioneaux, Robert Shane Wilson and R.J. Cavender.  These gentlemen were the editors and visionaries behind the anthology, and unbeknownst to me, had managed to assemble an amazing list of contributors.  When I finally saw the table of contents, I was simply bowled over.  Check out this list of talent:

A Message from the HWA President ~ Rocky Wood 
The Journey of Horror For Good ~ Mark C. Scioneaux
Autumn as Metaphor ~ G.N. Braun
On a Dark October ~ Joe R. Lansdale
Mouth ~ Nate Southard 
Blood for the American People Reception ~ Ray Garton 
The Long Hunt ~ Ian Harding 
The Apocalypse Ain’t so Bad ~ Jeff Strand
The Gift ~ Monica O’Rourke
The Silent Ones ~ Taylor Grant 
Sky of Brass, Land of Iron ~ Joe McKinney
Consanguinity ~ Lorne Dixon 
Dead Letters ~ Ramsey Campbell 
The Monster in the Drawer ~ Wrath James White
Baptism ~ Tracie McBride 
Atlantis Purging ~ Boyd E. Harris
Returns ~ Jack Ketchum 
The Other Patrick ~ Brad C. Hodson 
A Question of Morality ~ Shaun Hutson
The Meat Man ~ Jonathan Templar
A Man in Shape Alone ~ Lee Thomas
Solution ~ Benjamin Kane Ethridge 
To and Fro ~ Richard Salter 
Please Don’t Hurt Me ~ F. Paul Wilson 
The Depravity of Inanimate Things ~ John F.D. Taff 
The Lift ~ G.R. Yeates 
The Eyes Have It ~ Rena Mason 
Road Flowers ~ Gary McMahon 
The Widows Laveau ~ Steven W. Booth & Norman L. Rubenstein 
This Thing That Clawed Itself Inside Me ~ John Mantooth 
Somewhere on Sebastian Street ~ Stephen Bacon 
June Decay ~ Danica Green 
Shiva, Open Your Eye ~ Laird Barron

 

I am incredibly excited about this project.  Pick up a copy of this book, please.  Not only is it a great collection of stories, but it’s for a good cause, a just cause, a necessary cause.

You can purchase the print edition here, and the Kindle version here

Hope you enjoy it!

Classic Tales of Horror Volume 2

classic-tales-2Go to the bargain bin section of any major book barn and you’ll more than likely see something with a title very similar to this one. These books tend to be clunkers, huge tomes with microscopic print on poor quality paper, with a Table of Contents page that could easily be torn from one book and pasted into the next and no one would ever know the difference. Without even opening the book, you know you’re going to find the same two of three stories by Poe, the same tried but true Arthur Conan Doyle stories, and, just maybe, if you’re lucky, an occasional tongue-in-cheek ghost story from Oscar Wilde or Saki. The publishers might get a wild hair and throw in a surprise or two, such as “The Rocking Horse Winner” by D.H. Lawrence, or something by Arthur Machen, but don’t count on it. And therein lurks the really big problem with doing an anthology of this sort. After all, how do you manage to bring together a selection that doesn’t look exactly like a dozen other books already on the market?

Despite the fact that writers have produced a huge volume of horror stories over the past few centuries, let’s face it, not all of them have stood the test of time. Bram Stoker is a good example. Dracula is, by all rights, one of the finest pieces of horror fiction ever put to paper. However, out of the vast body of short fiction that Stoker produced, few stories, with the possible exception of “Dracula’s Guest” and “The Judge’s House” still pack a punch today. One could make similar points about writers such as Robert W. Chambers and Oliver Onion and a dozen or so others. So the question becomes, how do you give us our money’s worth without boring us with the same old stuff?

To that end, the folks at Bloody Books have succeeded with their second volume of Classic Tales of Horror. They put themselves to a hard challenge; namely, giving us something new while at the same time giving us something of high quality, and all in all, they did a very respectable job of it. When I first picked up the book I was a little doubtful, I have to admit. It was smaller than I expected a book of this sort to be, and the cover art a little sparse. Then I turned to the Table of Contents page and saw the lead off hitter, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Schalken the Painter.” Le Fanu is no stranger to anthologies of this sort, with stories such as “Green Tea” and “Sir Dominick’s Bargain” being the usual selections. “Schalken” was a good choice, I thought. Not totally unique, but still a solid story that doesn’t get as much airplay as it deserves. And then I started to scan down the page. I saw a bunch of familiar names, such as M. R. James, who is arguably the finest ghost story writer EVER, and H. P. Lovecraft, and Ambrose Bierce, and Edgar Allan Poe, and I thought, Hmm, not too shabby. Good names, certainly. But here’s the kicker. I started looking at the selections, and I was amazed. When was the last time I had seen Poe’s “William Wilson” anthologized outside of Poe’s Collected Stories? And Ambrose Bierce…everybody’s read “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” and “The Damned Thing,” but “The Moonlit Road?” What a pleasantly unexpected find. I reread it, and was reminded of the feeling you get when you hear an old song that you had forgotten you liked so much. It was that kind of pleasant surprise. I was equally thrilled to see “Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook” from M. R. James and “The Picture in the House” from Lovecraft. “Canon Alberic” is one of James’ non-ghost story stories, and one of his best. Likewise, when you mention Lovecraft, you expect to get “The Rats in the Walls” or “The Call of Cthulhu” or “The Horror at Red Hook,” so one of his lesser known short pieces such as this was a good choice.

But the real thrill, for me anyway, was seeing the three Biggies listed here, George Eliot, Henry James, and Edith Wharton. Anybody who remembers Dorothea’s description of the cottages in Middlemarch knows that George Eliot can write some scary stuff when she feels like it, but when have you ever seen one of her short stories make an appearance in a horror anthology? What a wonderful surprise that was! And the same is true of Edith Wharton’s story “Afterward.” Henry James is, of course, no stranger to the scary story. His masterpiece, The Turn of the Screw, is after all, one of the best pieces of psychological terror you’re likely to encounter. His story included here, “The Friends of the Friends,” is not quite on that order, but still a wonderfully quirky selection that adds to the distinctiveness of this volume.

“The Body Snatcher” by Robert Louis Stevenson and “The Monkey’s Paw” by W. W. Jacobs, round out the book. Neither is an especially unusual choice and can usually be found in most other books of this sort, but they still work well here. “The Body Snatcher” is an eerie tale of grave robbing, and “The Monkey’s Paw,” if you discount Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dried bones in the Old Testament, is probably the first true zombie story–so even if it does get overplayed, it’s still worth a reread.

Perhaps the only stumble Jonathan Wooding made in putting this book together was the inclusion of Mary Shelley’s “The Mortal Immortal.” Like Stoker, Shelley succeeded in giving modern horror one of its finest novels. Frankenstein (or the Modern Prometheus) is one of those books that gets better every time you read it. (I’m talking about the 1818 version, mind you. The later version, the 1832 version–at least I think that was the year–is a classic example of the old adage, If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.) Unfortunately, Shelley didn’t produce a whole lot of merit beyond Frankenstein, and after reading “The Mortal Immortal,” you’ll probably see what I mean. But then again, that may just be a matter of personal taste. You be the judge. What you’ll get when you pick up Classic Tales of Horror, Volume 2, is a compact anthology of unique selections printed on high quality paper in an easy-to-read print. I can only hope for more volumes in this series, because what I’ve seen so far is outstanding. And on a personal note…Jonathan Wooding, if you’re reading this, see if you can stick Coleridge’s narrative poem “Christabel” in Volume 3. Just a thought.

What I’m reading now

It’s official.  My “To Be Read…” pile of books has grown so large that I’ve had to move it from the bedside table to its own bedroom.  I sometimes look at the stack and think to myself, Let’s see, at the pace of a book every other day, I could finish this stack in about a hundred and twenty years…

So why is it, with that much new reading to do, that I find myself rereading Jack Ketchum’s collection of stories Peaceable Kingdom?  Well, it could be that the stories in there are absolutely amazing.  Yeah, that has to be it.  Last night, I opened my worn and well-loved copy and glanced at the first line of the lead off story “The Rifle.”

I read:

“She found the rifle standing on its stock in the back of his cluttered closet.

“Unexpected as a snake in there.”

and I was hooked.  Ketchum will do that to you.  His prose is so smooth, so straightforward and immediate, that you find yourself unable to look away from the page.  One hour, and five stories later, I found myself unaware of where the time had gone, my skin damp with sweat.

And then I remembered…that’s why I read Jack Ketchum.

Publishing News: Winter Frights Anthology

Winter Frights
edited by David G. Montoya and Joseph McGee
Coming in Winter 2008
ISBN-13: 978-0-9797000-4-0
Available for pre-order soon.

“Scraper” by Michael A. Arnzen
“They Know” by Kealan Patrick Burke
“Goners” by Eric Christ
“I’m Dreaming Of…” by James S. Dorr
“Feral” by JG Faherty
“In Heavenly Peace” by Darren O. Godfrey
“Diseaseater” by Michael McBride
“The Little Church of Safe Crossing” by Joe McKinney
“Chillers” by Lisa Morton
“Miriam” by Kim Paffenroth
“Sarcophagus” by Stephen Mark Rainey
“The Illusion” by Bev Vincent

I’m excited to be a part of this anthology.  There is a lot of good talent in this one.

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