The audience in Morgantown, West Virginia was small—easily the smallest since Albuquerque—but the dozen or so people who showed up were enthusiastic and engaged. One guy, Jarod Barbee, had traveled all the way from Texas. It is December as I write this, recounting events that occurred at the end of July, and I’ve been going back through these columns, collecting them into manuscript format so Cemetery Dance can eventually publish them as a book. Many recurring things jump out at me as I re-read them. Continue Reading
“The allegorical nature of A Christmas Carol leads to relatively simplistic symbolism and a linear plot. The latter is divided into five Staves, each containing a distinct episode in Scrooge’s spiritual re-education. The first Stave centers on the visitation from Marley’s ghost, the middle three present the tales of the three Christmas spirits, and the last concludes the story, showing how Scrooge has changed. The Ghost of Christmas Past represents memory. The Ghost of Christmas Present serves as the central symbol of the Christmas ideal—generosity, goodwill, and celebration. Appearing on a throne made of food, the spirit evokes thoughts of prosperity, satiety, and merriment. Within the allegory, the silent, reaper-like figure of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come represents the fear of death, which refracts Scrooge’s lessons about memory, empathy, and generosity, insuring his reversion to an open, loving human being.” – Spark Notes
You ever heard of a crowd being described as “an ocean of people”? That’s what the third annual Scares That Care Weekend Charity Event was like—an ocean of horror movie and television celebrities and their fans, filmmakers and their fans, authors and their fans, publishers and their customers, haunt professionals and enthusiasts, comic book creators and their fans, paranormal investigators and their fans, make-up and special effects artists and their fans, cosplayers, and everyone else—all descending upon the convention hotel in Williamsburg, Virginia, to raise money for burn victims and children and women with cancer.
I was exhausted, but I had no choice but to cast myself into that ocean, to dive into that sea of humanity and hope I wouldn’t drown. Continue Reading
Scares That Care is an IRS approved 501 (c)(3) horror-themed charity that I donate my time and name to. We fight real monsters of childhood illness, cancer, and more by financially helping families experiencing these overwhelming hardships. Each case is unique. We provide money, toys, utilities, and other items to help sick children and their families. We do the same for women fighting breast cancer. And we also partner with actor Kane Hodder (the Friday the 13th series) to aid children who have suffered serious, life-altering burn injuries.Continue Reading
And thus began the most grueling part of the book signing tour since Tod Clark and I had driven across the American West—John Urbancik and I spent five days in mid-July crisscrossing Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. That no doubt sounds romantic and adventurous to some of you. Hell, up until a few years ago, it would have sounded romantic and adventurous to me, as well. It would have been my idea of fun. Sadly, it’s not so fun when you’re approaching fifty. Continue Reading
“So,” author John Urbancik said as we drove across Florida from Tallahassee to Land O’ Lakes, “let me see if I understand this correctly.” (That’s how John talks. If you’re writing dialogue for John Urbancik, he would never say something like, “Let me get this straight” or “You’ve gotta be shitting me.” He would say, “Let me see if I understand this correctly.”)
“You’re on the second leg,” John continued, “of a book signing tour for The Complex and Pressure. In the first week of this second leg, you’ve been orphaned by the publisher of one of those books, and you’re waiting to hear the outcome of that. You have also seen three previously scheduled signings unceremoniously cancelled by the venues. A bookstore and a vehicle caught on fire, the radiator in your Jeep blew up, and you are running low on money, hope, and gas—and running even lower on fucks to give.”Continue Reading
To get to New Orleans, you’re pretty much going to have to drive across a bridge. That’s what I was doing the morning of July 16, on my way to sign at Tubby & Coo’s Mid-City Book Shop. I was still thinking about warnings from dead friends, and about balance and patterns and nice fans and fires and the theory of Eternal Return. Continue Reading
Welcome to End of the Road, a nine-month weekly column in which I talk about my ongoing cross-country promotional tour for my new novels Pressure and The Complex. If you’re just joining us, a quick recap—everything was going swimmingly and our hero was triumphant until he received a dire warning from what is either a) the spirit of his deceased best friend, or b) his subconscious tricking him into thinking it is the spirit of his deceased best friend. Since that warning, things have gone from swimmingly to terribly awry. Our hero—having consumed two bottles of bourbon after learning that a) a major signing has been cancelled, and b) he is now orphaned at his mainstream publisher (who published one of the books he is currently out on the road promoting)—is currently passed out in a hotel room in Chattanooga. We now rejoin the column, already in progress…Continue Reading
The fog burned off with the sunrise, the new radiator worked fine, doing what radiators are supposed to do, and the storm was now yesterday’s memory. I reached Chattanooga in record time, arriving at noon. I was due to sign at a wonderful independent store called Star Line Books at three that afternoon. With time to kill, I checked into my hotel, and then met up with Eddie Coulter and Gavin Dillinger for drinks and a quick bite. Continue Reading
The storm reached its peak somewhere near the border of Virginia and North Carolina. The rain seemed to fall almost horizontally, and the wind rammed into vehicles, pushing cars and tractor trailers alike across entire traffic lanes. I gripped the wheel until my knuckles turned white, and chomped my cigar—a Drew Estate Tabak Especial—a little harder between my teeth. My coffee, long since cooled, sat perched against my crotch. Eyes on the road, I switched off my radio, and Clyde Lewis’s Ground Zero podcast vanished. I risked a glance in the back of the Jeep, making sure my cargo was safe and dry. Everything seemed fine. My duffel bag and laptop case were still there, as were the dozen boxes of Joe R. Lansdale’s books, which I was transporting to a convention for him. Continue Reading
Sunlight reflected off Three Mile Island’s nuclear cooling towers as my plane landed. After three weeks of traversing California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, I was home for seven days. The first thing I did (after getting my Jeep out of long-term parking) was drive to my ex-wife’s house. She and my son had been babysitting my cat while I was away. I hugged all three of them and then sat down on their couch and accidentally fell asleep for fourteen hours.Continue Reading
For the last few months, this weekly column has focused on my current book signing tour for Pressure and The Complex. If I’ve done my job correctly so far, then you’ve gotten a good look at what such an undertaking is like for me at my age and at this point in our genre and industry’s history.
You’ve also probably seen the ghosts of Tom Piccirilli and J.F. Gonzalez flitting around between the sentences—sometimes subtly, and sometimes with hammer-force blows. They’re going to start making their presences known more fully in the weeks to come. But before I begin recounting the second leg of the book tour, and telling you about what went down in July and August, I thought perhaps we should travel back in time to the year 2008. Continue Reading
If you’re just joining us, this is End of the Road—a weekly column in which I detail my nine-month promotional tour for my new novels Pressure and The Complex. I write about what I’ve learned out here on the road, and how the horror genre, our industry, our country, and myself have changed over the last twenty years. Last week’s column wrapped up the first leg of the tour. This week’s column will be short—just a few notes and addendums and bits of housekeeping that apply to those first seventeen installments of this weekly feature. What’s that? Yes, seventeen installments. There have been seventeen of these columns. If you missed one of them, you can find them all here. Continue Reading
Last week, I mentioned that I’ve visited San Francisco’s Mission District well over a dozen times. One of those times was back in 2006, when Christopher Golden and I led a group of writers on what was supposed to be a trip to James Simes’s legendary Isotope Comics, but—due to the fact that none of our phones had GPS technology back in the ancient days of 2006—turned into a walking tour of the Mission District instead. Nate Southard refers to this fondly as “the sixty-block death walk.”
People (mostly out-of-towners who had heard sordid tales of how the Mission District was home to roving bands of homeless, drug addicts, and mentally ill people) admonished us to be careful. They didn’t think such a pilgrimage was a good idea. We explained to them that, if San Francisco’s Alan Beatts was a bookselling demigod, then James Simes was his comic book counterpart, and we had to go pay homage. “Stay in a big group,” people then advised us. “Stay together or you’ll get stabbed!”Continue Reading
Alan Beatts and Jude Feldman are badasses. Alan is a former private investigator, bodyguard, firearms instructor, and motorcycle repairman. Jude is a former welder and computer micro-assembly technician. They also run Borderlands Books in San Francisco, a name inspired in part by William Hope Hodgson’s horror-fantasy-science fiction classic House on the Borderland.
I was introduced to them by Richard Laymon back in 1999. I first visited Borderlands Books in 2001, right after they’d moved to San Francisco’s Mission District. Indeed, when I visited, they were still remodeling the place. I signed there later on that year with Gene O’Neill, Mike Oliveri, Michael T. Huyck, Geoff Cooper, and Gak. And I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve signed there—or shopped there—since. At least twice with J.F. Gonzalez, once with a large group from the World Horror Convention, once with my ex-wife, once with Nick Mamatas, once with Mary SanGiovanni, and so on. Basically, anytime I’m in San Francisco, I stop at Borderlands.Continue Reading