The aim of this column is to spotlight authors who have been instrumental in my development as a writer. Some of the writers I’ve covered have been legends in the field who are no longer with us; others more contemporary writers who are still very active and influential. I’m revealing them along a semi-chronological path of when I discovered them, not necessarily their publication dates. Today’s installment features a contemporary writer whose first novel had a huge impact on me, as does her continuing work: Mary SanGiovanni.Continue Reading
First period, 10th Grade Honors English. Roughly 9 a.m.
That’s when I heard the news.
Even today, as I write this, I feel a chill. Looking back, it was not only a surreal and an unbelievable experience…it also offered a moment of affirmation for me as a teacher that hasn’t been rivaled, since.Continue Reading
When I first decided the horror genre was for me, (about twelve years ago now, believe it or not), I wrote some stories which were “okay” but were very bound by genre clichés (many of these are featured in my first short story collection, Things Slip Through). Monsters, werewolves, wendigos, women in white, haunted houses, evil doctors, Mothman knock-offs, a few campy vampire stories which thankfully never saw the light of day (one of them, embarrassingly enough, titled “Blood Diner”), serial killers, people who go mad and do terrible things, and some “okay” Lovecraftian pastiches. Continue Reading
At one time, T. M. Wright was like Alan Peter Ryan, Charles L. Grant and so many others—just another name I’d heard here and there, most often in a quote from Ramsey Campbell (also, at that point, just another name), which said: “T. M. Wright is a one-man definition of quiet horror.”Continue Reading
For the most part, this column travels in semi-chronological order, chronicling the writers I’ve discovered the last few years who’ve had an impact on me as a writer. I will, however, occasionally stray from this chronological path, simply because, well, I feel like it. This is one of those cases, as we discuss writer Paul F. Olson.Continue Reading
I see the sentiment expressed in horror circles often: “I read and write horror, but I don’t often read anything which actually scaresme.” Of course, the word to consider here is “scare.” I have this discussion with my English classes every year when we read The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. They always ask, as I’m handing out Jackson’s seminal haunted house novel, “Will this be scary?” I always answer, “Let’s talk about that word and what it means.” We discuss the differences between the adrenaline-based reaction they refer to as “scary”—what they experience while watching a horror movie in the theaters—and the nature of “horror” and being “horrified.”Continue Reading
I can’t remember where I read it—one of his blog posts, or in one of his now out-of-print blog collections—but Brian Keene once recounted the story of how he and some fellow writers, early in their career, visited a used bookstore while at a convention (maybe World Horror; I can’t remember). Excited at their own writing futures, while browsing the stacks, looking for their favorite classic authors, they discovered, with a rising sense of unease, a number of authors they had never heard of before. Writers who had at least ascended to paperback fame (of a kind) only to descend once again beneath the waters of obscurity, with barely a ripple. Continue Reading
I first encountered Al Sarrantonio the same way others most likely did; in his Orangefield Cycle, which regales the tale of the strange Pumpkin Capitol of Orangefield, New York, through the novels Halloweenland, Hallows Eve, Horrorween and the novellas The Pumpkin Boy and Hornets. In Orangefield, strange things happen around Halloween. People die mysteriously, create suicide pacts, conduct pagan rituals, and see strange things from other worlds. Like the mythical Pumpkin Boy, a robot with a pumpkin for a head. Or Samhain himself, trying to take advantage of Halloween’s thin dimensional walls in his repeated attempts to sneak into our world as the advance scout of an unholy army lead by something far worse. Continue Reading
This sentiment haunts me. It has since I first heard it quoted by Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society. The quote in its entirety, by Henry David Thoreau, is even more chilling:
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation, and go to the grave with the song still in them.
The implications make me shiver. Most men lead lives of quiet desperation. Most of us are gripped by worry, anxiety, fear, and a crippling helplessness. But it’s repressed deeply inside; quiet, restrained, shackled, bringing us to the brink of madness without ever quite plunging us over the edge. And in the end, we go to the grave with the song still in us, never able to express what we wanted to—needed to—while shuffling through this numbing thing called “life.”Continue Reading
It was his Oxrun Station quartets which first drew me in.
It was March, 2011. We were spending Spring Break with family in Michigan. We’d visited the year before, and I’d wanted to visit a used bookstore there but hadn’t gotten the chance to because of our schedule. Fresh off my experience with Paul Wilson, Tom Monteleone and Stuart David Schiff, hitting Jellybean’s Used Books was a high priority on our next trip, to be sure. When I had some free time in our schedule, I scooted over to Jelly Bean’s, clutching cash in my grubby little fingers. To my delight, I found a sprawling bookcase full of horror. Wasn’t long before I was sitting on the floor next to a teetering stack of books.Continue Reading
Over the span of my thus far short writing career, I’ve been fortunate to experience several moments of clarity; moments which have changed me as a writer and a person. One of them came in the form of my first actual critique from an editor, regarding the first short story I ever submitted. The critique stung with its stark, unflinching truthfulness, but it forced me to face my writing weaknesses head on, and showed me the immeasurable value of honest feedback. It set the tone for how I approach editorial critique, to this day.Continue Reading