As I’ve written this series, I’ve found it necessary to achieve a tenuous balance in my recommendations and recountings of the horror which has impacted me as a reader and writer. I’ve bounced a lot between the descriptions “fun and fast-paced” and “literate and full of substance.” The truth of the matter (as I’ve come to discover it) is this: good fiction and, even more importantly, a good reading diet, shouldn’t ever cater to one end of the spectrum exclusively. Stories should move us emotionally, they should make us ponder the world around us, our existence, and life in general. They should say something about the human condition. Continue Reading
When I first conceived of this column, my intent was to focus on authors and how their body of work influenced me during a specific period in my development. After several columns, I realized that while maybe an author’s entire body of work didn’t necessarily impact me, one or two of their novels had—hence my previous column about Don’t Take Away the Light, by J. N. Williamson, and The Reach by Nate Kenyon and The Pines, by Robert Dunbar (subjects of future columns). Continue Reading
For the most part, the authors featured in these columns have impacted my development and growth as a writer primarily through their work. Ronald Malfi impacted me as a person, first, before I delved into his work. Looking at his career path, getting to know him as a person first has impacted me just as much as his work has.Continue Reading
Today marks the release of my second short story collection, Things You Need, from Crystal Lake Publishing, also the latest installment in the ongoing story of my fictional Adirondack town, Clifton Heights, which owes its existence in large part to not only Charles L. Grant’s fictional town, Oxrun Station, but even more so to the anthology series he edited, The Chronicles of Greystone Bay.Continue Reading
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
I’ll speak more at length about this when I discuss the influence Ray Bradbury has had on me in a future edition of my column Revelations, but suffice to say: I discovered his work late in life. I’m sure I was assigned several of his short stories in junior high and high school—probably the oft-assigned “All Summer in a Day,” “Soft Rains Will Come” or maybe even “The Fun They Had”—but I never had a teacher really bring me to Ray Bradbury. This is probably why—as most of my former and present students will attest—I’ve made it my personal mission to ensure that all my students experience the work of Ray Brabdury while they’re in my class. Whether they love his work, are ambivalent toward it, or don’t like it, they’ll never be able to say they don’t know who Ray Bradbury is, or what his place is in American Literature. 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
Reading Emily Cantaneo’s short fiction collection Speaking to Skull Kings is a wonderfully surreal trip into the fantastic unknown. The stories collected straddle all sorts of genres. Each take place in their own universes—realms far stranger than our own, or perhaps only slightly askew of our reality—with their own sets of rules, their own logic. There’s plenty of humanity here, however, and that’s what gives them their power.Continue Reading
And Her Smile With Untether the Universe is an amazing collection of speculative fiction by Gwendoyn Kiste which touches on surreal fantasy but never loses its grip on an all too tangible—sometimes painfully so—sense of reality. This is important for me, because I often find that happens with surreal stories of the fantastic. While I admire the world created and the surreal experience rendered, I sometimes feel distant from the characters and their experiences, and the stories fail to really impact me on an emotional level.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
In a documentary filmed many years ago, bestselling author Peter Straub lamented the fact that, ever tongue-in-cheek and self-deprecating, Stephen King once referred to his own work as the equivalent of a “Big Mac and fries.” Straub considered it an unfortunate comparison which didn’t do King justice, that his work was far more substantial than mere intellectual junk food. 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