Giveaway – The Seven Deadliest

Giveaway for The Seven Deadliest, which includes my novelette, “Ring of Fire.” I got lust. One of the hardest stories I’ve ever written, but some of my best work, too.

Ink Heist

Ink Heist is hosting a giveaway over on Twitter that you’re going to want to get in on. In partnership with the Cutting Block Books imprint from Farolight Publishing, we’re happy to offer you the chance to win one of two copies of the new anthology, The Seven Deadliest, coming May 7th and featuring sins from John C. Foster, Bracken MacLeod, Kasey Lansdale, Brian Kirk, Rena Mason, Richard Thomas, and John F.D. Taff. These fantastic authors were tasked with writing stories to the prompts of the biblical 7 Deadly Sins and they came through in spades.

Head on over to the Ink Heist Twitter feed to enter now, and tell all your friends about it too!

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Righteous Anger

I love hearing Bracken’s thoughts here. Mine will be up at some point, soon.

Ink Heist

We’re excited to continue our ongoing coverage of The Seven Deadliest by welcoming Bracken MacLeod to Ink Heist! Bracken is one of our favorite authors and chances are if you’re a fan of dark fiction, you’re already well acquainted with his work as well. His work is atmospheric and character-driven, which makes for potent stories that are likely to stick with you long after you reach the end. Bracken has written stories dealing with anger before and just so happened to be given wrath as his sin. In his article, he talks about the creation of his story, how he became involved in The Seven Deadliest project, and how he decided to put his own unique stamp on dealing with a familiar theme. Be sure to keep coming back to Ink Heist in the coming weeks as we plan to feature guest articles from the authors involved with The Seven Deadliest

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Shallow Creek Anthology Out—With My Latest Story

Shallow Creek (STORGY) is a shared world anthology that is going to blow you away. I was lucky enough to get Krinkles the Clown, which ended up being a pretty weird story told in four acts—with some shifting POVs. It’s part It part Twilight Zone with a smattering of Black Mirror. “The Caged Bird Sings in a Darkness of Its Own Creation” is one of eight stories I have coming out this year and I think it’s some of my best work to date. Ross Jeffery is doing some great work over at STORGY, so be sure to pick this one up.

Full list list of stories and authors:

DAVE DANVERS’ LAST FORAY INTO ALL THINGS WOO WOO
by J. Stuart Croskell

BEHIND THESE EYES
by Alice Noel

ARROWHEAD
by Daniel Carpenter

THE SOIL OF STONIER HEARTS
by Erik Bergstrom

JANET’S VISION OF LOVE
by Tom Heaton

ANCHOR
by Marion Coleman

BACKWARDS
by Adrian J Walker

SECRET INGREDIENT
by Heather Cuthbertson

DISTRACTION
by Brian Wilson 

AND THE WORLD FADES TO BLACK
by Adam Lock

THE LURID TRANCE
by Gregg Williard

WE LIVE IN DIRT
by Ian Steadman

KNOCK, KNOCK, KNUCKLE BONE
by Allyson Kersel

PENTAMETER
by David Hartley

BLOOD MOON BOB
by Simon Billinton

THE EYES HAVE IT
by Sarah Lotz

THE ALTERATION
by Aliya Whiteley

TIDE
by Nick Adams

THE FULMAR’S CRY
by Andrea Hardaker

STRANGE BREW
by Eleanor Hickey

THE CAGED BIRD SINGS IN A DARKNESS OF ITS OWN CREATION
by Richard Thomas

With accompanying artwork by Michael To.

 

Seven Deadly Delights

This is going to be something special. “Ring of Fire” is some of my best work to date. Really excited about this project.

Ink Heist

Cover Reveal for The Seven Deadliest

To Be Released on May 7, 2019 From Cutting Block Books

Edited by Patrick Beltran and D. Alexander Ward

I’ve known most of the authors in this anthology for five years or longer and have come to develop a deep appreciation and love of all of their work. There isn’t a single one of them I haven’t read and written about over all that time, many of them on multiple occasions and I’ve never had a bad word to say about one of them. That’s because they’re all fucking great authors, immediately recognizable indie giants that most of you will have read and–I’m confident–loved. So, my familiarity with them, coupled with my adoration of their various published works, was enough to send my heart leaping over the moon when I learned of this new anthology coming May 7 from Cutting Block Books. Edited by…

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Cover Reveal for The Seven Deadliest Anthology

Here is the cover reveal for The Seven Deadliest, edited by Patrick Beltran and D. Alexander Ward, for Cutting Block Books. It features seven novelettes from an amazing group of authors—John F.D. Taff, Bracken MacLeod, Rena Mason, Brian Kirk, Kasey Lansdale, John Foster, and myself.

Yes, of course I GOT LUST! It’s titled “Ring of Fire” and was inspired by projects like Moon, Brian Evenson’s The Warren, Annihilation, and others.

It also has an amazing introduction by Mercedes Yardley, who said it is, “The most compelling exploration of [the seven deadly sins] that I’ve ever read.” And cover art by Francois Vaillancourt.

It’s out May 7th and I think this is some of my best work to date. You’re going to want to pick this up for sure.

I’m in The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Eleven!

So, wow, this is a dream come true. For the past eleven years, one of my white whales, those elusive goals, has been to make it into The Best Horror of the Year, and it’s finally happened. (I’ve been long-listed seven times.) I’ll be in Volume Eleven, out in September of this year. It’s for a shared narrative that I wrote with Kristi DeMeester, Damien Angelica Walters, and Michael Wehunt, entitled “Golden Sun.” This novelette, which was in Chiral Mad 4 (edited by Michael Bailey and Lucy A. Snyder, and published by Written Backwards) was quite a challenge. We talked about how we should not only link our stories, but do something fresh and different. I mentioned the idea of us writing a “Rashomon” (based on the 1950 movie directed by Akira Kurosawa)—four perspectives on a singular event, each with their own truth on what happened. We each got a member of a family—mother, father, daughter, and son. The missing piece was the daughter in the middle—literally missing. We talked about setting—forests, houses, asylums—this was about chirality after all, but pushed hard to set it somewhere that wasn’t expected—the beach, in the daytime. It was not easy, but I knew that by working with three very talented authors, three of my favorite writers working today, we had a chance to do something special. So to see the recognition from Ellen Datlow, for us to make it into this anthology—well, it’s thrilling, an honor.

Full TOC below:

  • I Remember Nothing by Anne Billson
  • Monkeys on the Beach by Ralph Robert Moore
  • Painted Wolves by Ray Cluley
  • Shit Happens by Michael Marshall Smith
  • You Know How the Story Goes by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
  • Back Along the Old Track by Sam Hicks
  • Masks by Peter Sutton
  • The Donner Party by Dale Bailey
  • Milkteeth by Kristi DeMeester
  • Haak by John Langan
  • Thin Cold Hands by Gemma Files
  • A Tiny Mirror by Eloise C. C. Shepherd
  • I Love You Mary-Grace by Amelia Mangan
  • The Jaws of Ouroboros by Steve Toase
  • A Brief Moment of Rage by Bill Davidson
  • Golden Sun by Kristi DeMeester, Richard Thomas, Damien Angelica Walters, and Michael Wehunt
  • White Mare by Thana Niveau
  • Girls Without Their Faces On by Laird Barron
  • Thumbsucker by Robert Shearman
  • You Are Released by Joe Hill
  • Red Rain by Adam-Troy Castro
  • Split Chain Stitch by Steve Toase
  • No Exit by Orrin Grey
  • Haunt by Siobhan Carroll
  • Sleep by Carly Holmes

Interview with Brian Hodge (Part Two): It’s All the Same Road in the End

Part Two of my group interview with Brian Hodge continues, with his second story in The Best Horror of the Year—quite the accomplishment. Read on!

“It’s All the Same Road in the End”

(Originally in The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu, edited by Paula Guran, and reprinted in The Best Horror of the Year, edited by Ellen Datlow.)

QUESTION ONE: You begin with a cool, mysterious opening, then you proceed with a lot of backstory about the grandfather. Often, we are advised to not go too far into backstory, but in this case it really worked. Why did you decide to include so much, in a sense risking taking us out of the story? (And presume an editor/teacher would urge us to cut. So feel free to include any decisions you thought might be “breaking the rules.”) I’m wondering how you felt confident that it worked, and why you thought that as well.

ANSWER ONE: I don’t think you risk taking the reader out of the story when the past is so vital to the present that, without it, there wouldn’t be a present at all. It’s all the same story in the end, too. With this one, everything hinges on the events of fifty-odd years ago, so it’s imperative to understand what happened, or as much as the modern characters know of it. The reader has to know what drives them, what haunts them, what pulls at them and repels them. Without that, they’re just going through a set of prescribed motions that aren’t fully motivated. And even though Old Will, the grandfather, isn’t an active character, it felt important that he still be a presence and, ultimately, his voice be heard. History is repeating itself, generationally speaking … it’s just that nobody realizes that until it happens.

So the key is marbling the past throughout the active present, and optimally at the point at which its influence becomes most relevant, rather than front-loading things too heavily. Or trying to show things strictly chronologically. The onion metaphor is good here. You keep peeling those layers back. The past and the present continue to unfold together, and you see the membranes of connective tissue.

QUESTION TWO: How do you manage to make all that backstory interesting and “in the moment” even though it’s all memory? Are there techniques you suggest we try to avoid info-dumps but still feel vital to the story?

ANSWER TWO: I’ve addressed some ways of handling backstory in earlier questions, but another thing that occurs to me is that I try to render it in such a way that, instead of being dry, inert data, it’s more interactive for the characters. Like, it’s provoking some sort of emotional reaction or an intellectual conundrum, or it sets up a conflict in values. Anything like that. Ideally, you make it clear that this past stuff is something that strongly impacts the characters’ lives here and now. When it’s clear that what happened then matters to what happens now, or what happens next, it’s going to be more compelling.

QUESTION THREE: If you don’t mind, how long did this take you to write and edit? Do you plan it all out ahead of time, or pants through? Some writers might dance with a short story for months or more, how did this one unfold for you?

ANSWER THREE: I don’t remember how long it took, exactly. Somewhere between two and three weeks sounds about right. I didn’t plan everything out in advance, but I did have a decent idea of the general arc. With just about everything I tend to fall somewhere between plotting and pantsing. Like, I’ll have a sense of story or character arcs, and have in mind certain milestones, but there’s still room to figure other stuff out and surprise myself along the way, as most everything else develops more organically.

QUESTION FOUR: How much pre-planning and sketching do you do for characters in short stories? Do you give them more, or less, or different treatments than in a novel? For example, one brother starts out kind of a mama’s boy talking to her all the time, and the other seems more independent, yet their roles seem to invert at the end. Did you fully “know” these brothers, or did they evolve as you wrote?

ANSWER FOUR: It varies, but I give them a few paragraphs in my notes, at least, and more for characters in novels than in shorter works. I like to feel I know them well enough to get rolling, and then, as with any relationship, get to know them better as we spend more time together. That way, they have their own autonomy. They’re open to surprising me instead of being puppets that always have to do what I say. Like, with Young Will, the younger brother, I had no idea he was going to stay behind until right before he did.

The ideal place to reach—and it happens more with novels than with shorter stuff, because of the duration and investment of time—is where the characters start meeting you halfway and doing some of the work. I can usually count on it happening around 60 or 80 or 100 pages in. Sit down at the desk in the morning and it’s like calling a team meeting: “What’s everybody up to today? Really, you’re sure? Okay, I can get on board with that.” And off we go. That’s a great place to get to. Everything feels so warm and alive then.

QUESTION FIVE: Regarding planning out a story…do you know you want to leave clues like the photo of the woman, the cattle call of the song as you wrote this, or did you pepper those in later, after a draft or two? We thought those types of clues were the primary reason we found the backstory interesting, little compelling bursts of weird and unsettling clues. Really, really well done.

ANSWER FIVE: None of those were later drop-ins. All of that I knew about before I ever started writing anything. That’s not to say I never go back and weave elements in later. But in general, I like to do as much of the heavy lifting upfront as possible, so that the revision process is more about refinement and pruning and fine-tuning things to as high a degree as I can manage. That’s just the way I work, what works best for me.

QUESTION SIX: Where did the idea of this story come from? And the woman, the hag, or alien, or Baba Yaga, or whatever she was—is that based on a story you heard, legend, myth? Ditto for the calling/culling song.

ANSWER SIX: It came from what turned out to be a Photoshop manipulation of an old picture I found online, tarted up with a caption that it was the last photo taken by some folklorist who went missing. But it was really evocative, and totally sparked my imagination, so I kept it around on my hard drive for a few years until I felt ready to use it as the springboard for something that could go way beyond what the caption suggested.

The cattle call? That’s a real thing…an ancient thing, actually. The Swedish word is kulning. You can find examples of it on YouTube. I first encountered it at the beginning of a compilation CD of Nordic folk music called Wizard Women of the North. And other places since then…like black metal artist Amalie Bruun, who records as Myrkur, did it at the beginning of her 2017 album, Mareridt. It’s a lovely sound, and I would imagine it’s quite haunting at a distance, lilting over the fields and through the trees. I thought it would be an obvious reference point for the descendants of Swedish settlers in the area—they’re hearing something that’s sort of like it, but not really, and they can tell something’s wrong with the woman doing it, because the intensity of it is absolutely terrifying.

QUESTION SEVEN: There were some haunting moments in here that really were dependent on setting and sensory details. This is always important in my work. I’m thinking of how you show Daisy, the meteorite, and how they change after touching it. Is this a conscious choice, and do you consider yourself a maximalist? A choice of genre? Just your style? Or do you pick the moments to unpack and slow down, to immerse your readers? (Or all of the above! LOL). I’d love to hear your thoughts on the role of setting and sensory detail, especially in horror.

ANSWER SEVEN: A few years ago I began regarding the dichotomy of minimalist and maximalist as personally irrelevant, and started thinking of myself as a muscularist. Yeah, it’s a made-up word. I guess it was in a review, although I don’t remember of what, or where I saw it, and someone used the phrase “tight, muscular prose” to describe whichever work of mine they were covering. And I really liked that. I liked the metaphor of words as muscle tissue. It was also appealing because I’m avid about working out, with an emphasis on things like functional fitness and strength and movement.

If you think about a well-toned body, you recognize that muscle density isn’t the same everywhere. In some places it may be very lean; in other places it may be bigger and bulkier. It’s what it needs to be according to its function within the whole system, and ideally, going from one area to another, it’s all nicely contoured. There’s a visual flow.

So if you apply that metaphor to prose, then you start thinking about the functional fitness of lines and paragraphs. If you have something that’s necessary but easily conveyed, or transitional, you keep it streamlined. But if you need to, say, take the reader inside an intense emotional state, or weave various setting and sensory details that work together to create a mood or atmosphere, which in turn affects the psychological state of the reader, you go heavier, and build up a passage that flexes harder, so it can hit harder.

Ideally, too, whatever the word volume is, it’s tight and compact, not flabby. Even before the muscularist term occurred to me, I was already thinking of the later revision process, looking for more words to cut, as sweating off ounces. My ultimate goal is that, however many words there are, they all survived, and are there, for a reason.


Visit Brian at his WEBSITE or TWITTER or AMAZON.