In true Splatterpunk style, John McNee’s Hail Santa combines relevant social commentary with all the red mayhem and over the top violence you can shake a razor-sharp candy cane at. While the grueling gore is kept front row center this holiday season, it walks a fine line with a fully fleshed out story that’s as engaging as it is daring. Every page keeps our eyes glued to its frenzied pace even while the author leans in on gruesome details that are certain to leave even the naughtiest of elves blushing at the sheer insanity of it all.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Cemetery Dance published Thomas Smith’s Something Stirs on October 13, 2022. In this special guest essay, Smith shares his journey back to the world of horror fiction. (See his previous essay, “Don’t Panic, I’m Not Gonna Preach.”)
Kevin Lucia asked me to say a word or three about my odd road back to writing horror since it has been somewhat “interesting,” so, let’s jump right in.
John Denver once asked the musical question, “Ain’t it good to be back home again?” And I have to answer with a resounding Yes it is.
I got my start writing horror, way back in the Dark Ages when computers ran on kerosene and if you typed too fast, the pilot light went out. Back in the day when you mailed every manuscript in a manila envelope and included a similar envelope with enough postage to bring the manuscript back to you (lovingly called an SASE: Stamped Self Addressed Envelope). Or at the very least, a regular business sized SASE that would hold the first page of your manuscript on which you had typed Disposable Manuscript, all the while, hoping it would actually contain a contract and a check.
Ah, those were the days.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Cemetery Dance is proud to publish Paul F. Olson’s novel Alexander’s Song in September 2022. We’ve invited the author to give us all a peek at the inspiration and work that went into the book. Catch up on Part One and Part Two.
Now, here’s Paul!
As I mentioned in part one, I began writing Alexander’s Song in good spirits, with high hopes. In those early days I dared to think some fairly audacious thoughts: that this book could be a breakthrough book of sorts, big enough, different enough, ambitious enough to lift me out of the midlist and carry me to … well, to some higher place. Back in those days, that generally meant things like hardcover publication with a modest advertising budget, to be followed, of course, by a nice little paperback deal, some foreign sales, and possibly even the holy grail — a three-book deal for the next contract. I didn’t think about those things much when actually writing the novel. I was too caught up in the struggle, in finding the story and bringing it to life. But when I had finished, I allowed myself to entertain the fantasies again.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Cemetery Dance is proud to publish Paul F. Olson’s novel Alexander’s Song in September 2022. We’ve invited the author to give us all a peek at the inspiration and work that went into the book. Catch up on Part One before you dive in.
Now, here’s Paul!
The new Cemetery Dance edition of Alexander’s Song is dedicated to five writers whose work has inspired, informed, and enriched my own. In the months before I began writing the novel, I happened to read books by two of those writers. Peter Straub’s brilliant Mystery was one of those books. The other was Charles Palliser’s ingenious The Quincunx. Alexander’s Song bears little resemblance to either one, but I felt their influence, still strong inside me, with every word I typed.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Cemetery Dance is proud to publish Paul F. Olson’s novel Alexander’s Song in September 2022. We’ve invited the author to give us all a peek at the inspiration and work that went into the book. We’re proud to bring you Part One today. Turning it over to you, Paul!
Writers get a lot of advice. Most of it — all those dusty old rules beginning with “always” or “never”— should be listened to politely, acknowledged with a smile, and then promptly thrown out the nearest window. But some bits of writing advice are actually worthwhile. Here’s one of my favorites: “Write the kind of story you want to read.” My dark suspense novel Alexander’s Song, about to be published by Cemetery Dance, is a good example of that rule.
“Coming-of-age” is generally perceived as taking place over the period when an adolescent makes the mental and emotional leap to adulthood. But very often that is not the case, especially in certain genres, such as horror, when the emotionally stunted individual can just as easily be an adult. In literature, like a summer’s end, youth is over after one great adventure that comes too quickly, and the adults that emerge from that traumatic season are many times filled with their own emotional trauma that will never go away. That’s good for the reader but bad for the character. If handled incorrectly Coming-of-Age can be soapy and boring. But in the hands of a skilled ink slinger, it is an exciting and breathtaking journey filled with emotional intensity. Even a misspent youth has a learning curve, and these stories take you through it. I’m going to mention a few of my favorites that I hope you will read if you haven’t already.
2020 was a rough year for the world. A pandemic, lockdowns, police violence, and the protests in response. A year of division and societal cracks highlighted by an election that ended with a coup attempt and supporters chanting to hang the Vice President from their own party. Regardless of your social or political leanings, most people will not remember 2020 fondly.
The entertainment industry was not immune, reeling with theaters unable to open after tentpole horror movies like Last Night in Soho and Halloween Kills were put on the shelves. Thankfully for fans of horror, one corner of the genre thrived.
Back in 2003, I was a new writer with only a few published short stories to my credit. There was a popular message board at the time called Shocklines. Shocklines was an online bookseller catering to fans of horror. In the early aughts, if you wanted to find the best horror fiction novels, novellas, magazines, and anthologies, you didn’t search Amazon and hope its taste algorithm pointed you in the right direction. You went to Shocklines.
February is Women in Horror Month. Officially. But unofficially, genre buffs read horror fiction all year. It’s not even something to consider or be super intentional about, but of course the focused, extra attention women get during WiHM is important.
Eventually, the Women in Horror Month movement will take off in a more expansive direction allowing people to promote WiHM whenever and however they desire. But for now, it’s important to join together and amplify women who write horror loudly and proudly with a unified voice this month.
If Books Could Kill: Jason Voorhees in Print
Somewhere along the way, Friday the 13th got a new mascot. Instead of an unlucky black cat — back arched, fur standing on end, claws bared, hissing — the official symbol of this unofficial holiday became a mute serial killer in a hockey mask.
His name is Jason, and today is HIS day. Today, you won’t be able to look at social media without seeing his masked mug on every other post. There will be lists about his best kills, and debates about who is the best “Final Girl” (it’s Ginny, from Part 2), and arguments over which is his best movie (it’s The Final Chapter).
Here at Cemetery Dance, we love movies, but we live for books. So on this, the last Friday the 13th of 2018, I thought it would be appropriate to take a look at the Jason Voorhees story as it has played out in print. As you’ll see, the authors who have tackled the character of Jason Voorhees over the years have taken him on a ride as wild — and wildly uneven — as the film franchise itself.
A few days after Jack Ketchum passed away, his close friend—or, as he calls himself, his “Idiot Bastard Son”—Turner Mojica reached out to Cemetery Dance with the following tribute. It perfectly sums up the sentiment we’ve seen in the days since we lost Ketchum: that, while he’ll long be remembered for his writing, his writing isn’t the only thing that made him special. He forged special relationships with the people around him. This is a glimpse into one of those relationships.
Ka Like a Wheel, Time Like a Circle
by Kevin Quigley
The notion of circular time is ancient. Hebrew interpretation of the Bible forwards the concept of “cycles,” of time moving in a loop like the orbits of the planets or the sweep of the hands of a clock. The Rolling Stones mention the concept in their song “Sway,” from the album Sticky Fingers: “Did you ever wake up to find / A day that broke up your mind / Destroyed your notion of circular time / It’s just that demon life has got you in its sway.”
The Women I Have Known
by Mary SanGiovanni
As a horror writer coming up in the first decade of the new millennium, I’ve had the opportunity to see the dual perspectives of women’s place in the horror genre, the former reflecting where we used to be, and the latter reflecting how much progress we’ve made.
Under My Skin
by Seanan McGuire
When I was a little girl, I wanted nothing more in this world than to grow up to be Marilyn Munster.
An Interview with Ania Ahlborn
Ania Ahlborn is the bestselling author of the horror thrillers Brother, Within These Walls, The Bird Eater, The Shuddering, The Neighbors, and Seed, and the novella The Pretty Ones. Her latest release is The Devil Crept In, out now from Gallery Books. Recently, Ania was kind enough to take time out from exploring the dark corners of her imagination to share a few words with us.