MVHBF 2018, or, A Glimpse into the (Nearer) Future

This coming October, I’m pleased once again to be returning to the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival.  It’ll be held on Saturday, October 13th, 2018, from 10am to 4:30pm at the Haverhill Public Library, which is in Haverhill, MA.

Here’s the official description:  Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival 2018 will feature more than SIXTY authors, artists, and filmmakers. Panel discussions. Brand new book debuts. And, of course, Trick or Treat candy. Authors include…

(*Asterisk denotes FIRST TIME attendees…and look at that list!)
Owen King*
Jennifer McMahon*
Laird Barron*
Kelly Braffet*
Grady Hendrix*
Jeff Strand*
Lynne Hansen*
Nadia Bulkin*
KL Pereira*
ML Brennan*
Stephanie M. Wytovich*
Charles R Rutledge*
Gene Doucette*
Gregory Bastianelli
Matt Bechtel
Stephen R. Bissette
Lisa Bunker
William Carl
Glenn Chadbourne
Jason Ciaramella
Joseph A. Citro
Tom Deady
Kristin Dearborn
Rachel Autumn Deering
Barry Lee Dejasu
JG Faherty*
Amber Fallon
Dan Foley
Doungjai Gam Bepko
Craig Shaw Gardner
Larissa Glasser
Christopher Golden
Scott Goudsward
Catherine Grant
Mary Hart
Laura J. Hickman
Kat Howard
Christopher Irvin
Kameryn James*
Pete Kahle*
Nicholas Kaufmann
Brian Keene
Toni L.P. Kelner
Ed Kurtz
John Langan
Izzy Lee
Bracken MacLeod
John M. McIlveen
Hillary Monahan
James A. Moore
Lindsay Moore*
Errick Nunnally
Jason Parent
Philip Perron
Leigh Perry
David Price
Mary SanGiovanni
Cat Scully
Rob Smales
Sarah Smith
Thomas Sniegoski
Laurie Faria Stolarz
Morgan Sylvia*
Tony Tremblay
Trisha Wooldridge
Douglas Wynne
Rio Youers

 

It’s some pretty heady company in which to find yourself.  Thanks to Chris Golden for inviting me once again to be part of the event.

 

Advertisements

Summer 2018 Part 5: NYC

And now, a brief glance into the future:  this coming Wednesday, July 25th, the Honey Badger and I will be traveling down to NYC to take part in two horror-related reading events.  Both will feature writers Nadia Bulkin, Livia Llewellyn, and Paul Tremblay.  The first takes place at Bryant Park, and goes from 12:30 to 1:45pm.  The second takes place in the new McNally Jackson Bookstore in Williamsburg, and goes from 7:00pm to who knows when?  If you’re around, please stop by and say hello.

Snazzy poster!

 

 

 

 

 

Summer 2018 Part 3: Quincy

The weekend of July 12-15 brought me back to Quincy, MA for Readercon 29.  With Boskone, Readercon is one of the conventions I try my darnedest not to miss, and it was great fun to re-connect with friends from Readercons past, as well as to meet new ones.  Probably the weirdest thing about the convention for me was the absence of several of my usual co-conspirators:  Laird Barron, Jack Haringa, and Paul Tremblay in particular.  But this was made up for by the chance to meet and spend time with a number of newer writers, from Nadia Bulkin to Teri Clarke to Mike Griffin to Gwendolyn Kiste to Farah Rose Smith to Justin Steele to Marcus Tsong to Brookelynne Warra.  Not to mention, more time with the terrific Alexa Antopol, Matt Bartlett, Brett Cox, JoAnn Cox, Ellen Datlow, Gemma Files, Karen Heuler, Nick Kaufmann, Veronica Schanoes, and Chandler Klang Smith and Eric, her pet halibut.  Oh, and who could forget Michael Cisco literally stepping out of an angle, cup of coffee in hand?  (Not me, no matter how hard I might try.)

Highlights of the convention included my Thursday night reading, which was smack-dab in the middle of a sequence beginning with Karen Heuler, continuing to me, then moving on to Brett Cox and finishing with Scott Edelman.

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting and indoor

(photo courtesy of Michael Griffin)

Despite the opening-night-scheduling, there was a substantial audience in attendance, as there was for my coffee-klatch the next day.  I had the great good fortune there to sit at a table with a number of up-and-comers, from Teri Clarke to Stephen Mazur to Marcus Tsong, and to engage in conversation that I found fascinating and rewarding.  Also on Friday, I participated in two scheduled panels, one each on Seabury Quinn and E.S. Nesbit.  (On Sunday, I also took part in a panel to which I was added later-than-last-minute, on endings in horror fiction, and  managed to try the collective patience of my fellow-panelists by complaining at length about the idea that horror narratives are supposed to impart some kind of lesson or moral to their audience.  Oy:  sorry about that, folks.)  Saturday took me to Tony’s Clam Shop, there to be interviewed by Scott Edelman for his Eating the Fantastic podcast.  (Which, I have to admit, was a bucket-list item of mine.)  The only other scheduled event I took part in was Sunday’s Shirley Jackson awards, where my introductory duties included the sad task of briefly memorializing both Kit Reed and Jack Ketchum, friends to the award and fine writers both.  Possibly the highlight of the award ceremony was Michael Kelly’s emotional win in the anthology category.

A good part of the weekend consisted of meals and conversations with various groups of people, a couple of them held at the Royal Hot Pot restaurant, which I highly recommend.  Chandler Klang Smith is frighteningly smart, and we had a brief but appreciative discussion of Dan Chaon’s Ill Will.  I also had the opportunity to listen to Nadia Bulkin discussing Michael Cisco’s theory of weird fiction with him, while I nodded sagely and acted as if I was keeping up with them.  Phil Gelatt and Vicki Dalpe attended their first Readercon, and solidified my judgement that Vicki is one of the funniest people, ever; but I also got to listen to Vicki discussing Experimental Film with Gemma Files, particularly its treatment of motherhood, and to hear Gemma talk about what she’s working on for her follow-up novel.

Image may contain: 9 people, including Brett Cox and Matthew M. Bartlett, people smiling, people sitting, table and indoor

Royal Hotpot!

(photo courtesy of Nick Kaufmann)

Once the con was done, I drove Michael Cisco and Farah Rose Smith to the train station in Beacon, enjoying the usual blend of intelligence and sheer ridiculousness I’ve come to expect from him on these yearly jaunts.  Cisco also came up with a story that I am not at liberty to speak about, but that I expect will be appearing soon.  Indeed, I would bet my ass on it.

 

Summer 2018 Part 2: North Bennington

The afternoon of June 30th, I drove up to North Bennington, Vermont to take part in this year’s Shirley Jackson Day festivities.  It’s been about a quarter of a century since I’ve visited the Green Mountain state, and I forgot how lovely  a place it is, and immediately regretted that I would be there for only a few hours.  Somewhat ominously, when I tried to call home to let my wife know I’d arrived at my destination safely, my cell didn’t have service.  Not at all like the beginning of a Shirley Jackson story…

The event was held at the Left Bank, a lovely open space hung with art by local artists done mostly in a weird vein.  Before the reading, Brett Cox, Sam Miller, Sam’s husband Juancy, and I had a nice meal across the street, and then we joined Matt Bartlett in reading from Jackson’s and our own work to a packed house.  In a pleasant surprise, local author John Goodrich came to the event, and we had a fine time chatting afterward.  Many thanks to the fabulous Jennifer Rozycki, director of the John G. McCullough Free Library, for making all of this happen.

 

Brett Cox, Sam Miller, Matt Bartlett, and myself under the watchful gaze of Brown Thomas, the Goat with a Thousand Siblings.

(photo courtesy of Matt’s long-suffering wife, Katie)

Image may contain: one or more people and people standing

Summer 2018 Part 1: Providence

It’s been a busy summer.  At the end of June, the Honey Badger and I drove up to Providence to take part in a reading sponsored by the Lovecraft Arts & Sciences bookstore alongside the crepuscular Michael Cisco.  On the way, we stopped in to visit Phil Gelatt and Vicki Dalpe, with whom we had such a good time that we were almost late for a quick dinner at the Red Fez restaurant with Cisco, Farah Rose Smith, Matt Bartlett, and Ritchie Tenorio.  (By the way, the Red Fez’s take on poutine is amazing.)  The reading was standing room only, and hosted by the redoubtable S.J. Bagley, whose questions to Laird, myself, and Cisco were typically insightful.  (He’s the first person to have asked me about the significance of time in my fiction, which I greatly appreciated.)  Sadly, Laird and I had to head back to New York not long after the reading finished, but there was still time for conversation with some of the splendid people who came to see us, including NeCon Matt and Laura (which is how I think of them), Cat Grant, Ed Kurtz and Gam Bepko, and Michael Sherman (who very generously gifted me with the first volume of Alan Moore’s Providence).  And Errick Nunnally’s family very graciously tolerated him popping in for a visit.

(photo courtesy of Catherine Grant) Image may contain: 1 person, beard

New Year’s

Man, what a year 2017 was.  Talk about a mix of the good and bad (or the wonderful and the dreadful):  while my personal and family life featured a number of highlights, the national political scene swung into something so bad it’s become a parody of itself–which in no way mitigates the harm it’s doing and has done.  In the past, I’ve tried to use social media as a way to keep in touch with friends and family and to share news relevant to my writing life; this year, however, I found myself speaking out more than I ever have about socio-political conditions in the country.  I expect that will continue in 2018.  Oh, and the whole finding-out-I’m-diabetic thing was less than a thrill.

Yet there were good things this past year, and I don’t want to overlook them.  My wife is the joy of my life, as are my sons and grandchildren.  We took a ridiculous fifth dog into our household.  I had the pleasure of being room-Dad for David’s AC/DC rehearsals at The Rock Academy, and then watching him and his fellow cast members dazzle their audiences.  I continued to study Tang Soo Do, and went a good part of the way towards learning the new forms necessary for me to advance to my next rank.  I also taught a good deal at the school’s Saugerties studio, which I found both rewarding and challenging.  As the year came to an end, I was reminded how much I love my friends Laird Barron and Paul Tremblay–seriously, these guys are the best.  I attended my first Necon with Laird and had one of the best conventions I’ve ever had.  The Fisherman won an astonishing two awards, a Bram Stoker Award and a This is Horror award.  House of Windows was re-released in a snazzy new edition by Diversion Press.  I wrote and had accepted for publication a number of stories, and am on the verge on completing my egregiously overdue third collection, Sefira and Other Betrayals.  I finally read Peter Straub’s brilliant The Skylark (not to mention, his astonishing novella, The Process [is a Process of its Own]).  David and I saw a lot of the movies you’d expect (Wonder Woman, Justice League, Spider-man, Star Wars) and went to a number of the Rock Academy’s other shows (including their fabulous punk and metal shows).

As the New Year wheels forward, I’m back writing, because that’s what I do.  I hope the months to come bring you and yours something good.

Here’s a picture of a happy dog, because why not?

Image may contain: dog and indoor

His Never Ending Fury: Stephen King at 70

It was Christine, Stephen King’s 1983 novel about a 1958 Plymouth Fury possessed by its dead owner, that made me a writer.  I read it during the fall of 1983, my freshman year in high school.  It wasn’t the first of King’s works I’d read; the previous summer, I’d checked Cujo out of the local library; before that, some time in seventh grade, I think, the little Scholastic literary magazine we received every month had reprinted King’s story, “Battleground” (edited, as you can imagine, for language [though not, as I recall, for violence]).  I had read Cujo in part because Patty Taylor, with whom I’d gone to St. Columba elementary school for a number of years, possibly as early as first grade, had been a die-hard King fan for at least a couple of years, possibly longer, and her devotion had made an impression on me, made me think I should have a look at one of King’s books.  There was also the sense that King was a more grown-up writer than I had been used to; I wasn’t sure in what way, but my parents, who hadn’t read him, expressed concern that he might be too mature for me (which, with the benefit of hindsight, I realize meant they were worried there might be a lot of bad language in his fiction).

Christine

What a cover, eh?

I’m not sure why I slipped Cujo from the library shelves; maybe it sounded less out and out intimidating than some of the other books?  Whatever the reason, I didn’t connect with the book.  I didn’t hate it; I just found the portrayal of its protagonists’ troubled marriage foreign emotional territory.  It wasn’t enough to put me off King altogether, though, which was why, later in the fall, when the paperback edition of Christine was released, I picked up a copy at the local Book & Record.  And man, what a difference.  I’ve talked in previous interviews about the way the book spoke to my bleeding adolescent heart, my sense of myself as an outsider, self-consciously smart, a nerd, a comic book fan, a teacher’s pet, as far from athletic as it seemed possible to be, as well as the manner in which the book’s villains embodied my caricatured sense of the kids who mocked and picked on me, the jocks and the more affluent students.  Don’t get me wrong:  even at the time, I understood that both the novel’s heroes and its villains were more exaggerated than both myself and my high school nemeses actually were.  But the book cut to the emotional core of my nascent high school experience with astonishing power.  Not to mention, the supernatural elements, which were as over the top and extravagant as anything I’d read in Robert E. Howard or Lloyd Alexander, and which culminated in a battle against the evil car that deliberately invoked the clash between a mounted knight and a monster, a dragon.  I read that book, and I loved it, and I would read it again and then a third time; before I was done with that first reading, however, I knew that this, writing, writing like this, was what I had to do.

That experience, of feeling yourself selected, picked out by a work of art to make similar art, is one that fascinates me.  You don’t find it in every writer’s biography; although Lovecraft talked about it in relation to Poe, and Ramsey Campbell in relation to Lovecraft, and King himself has spoken of it in relation both to Lovecraft and Richard Matheson.  It’s a sensation I’ve continued to experience over the years, every time I sit down with King’s latest novel or collection of stories, a combination of engagement and inspiration, a re-connection to what feels like one of the wellsprings of my own creativity.  It’s funny:  for reasons I can’t quite remember now, I was thinking the other day about the books I’ve continued to re-read over the years.  It’s a strange list:  The Good Soldier, The Great Gatsby, My Mortal Enemy, Great Expectations, The Portrait of a Lady, The Turn of the Screw, Heart of Darkness, Ghost Story,  and Koko are some of the titles on it, as are Pet Sematary, The Shining, Night Shift, Skeleton Crew, and Danse Macabre (I quote that last one all the time).  It says something profound to me about King’s work that it’s capable of sustaining that kind of repeated attention.

At the end of Christine, there’s the suggestion that the evil car has not been truly defeated, that it’s on its way for the novel’s protagonist.  It’s meant to be an unsettling image, and it is, but it’s the one I want to close this short birthday appreciation with, a figure for King’s ongoing importance to me and to so many other writers.  If it’s a little sinister, I’m sure he’d be fine with that.