The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories


I’m not a fan of summer. I live in Central Texas and, let me tell you, it’s HOT here! As we slip into August- the month where I imagine hell isn’t much hotter than it is in Austin- I’m dreaming of October. All of my favorite things happen in October. Halloween, of course. Horror movie marathons. My birthday. It’s also when it will finally cool off a little here at the gates of Hades. Since it’s impossible to be outside for more than ten seconds at a time, I thought it might be nice to get a start on my Fall horror reading.

When I’m writing as steadily as I have been lately, I don’t immerse myself into novels as I do when I’m not working. It’s the perfect time for some quality short stories. Deciding it was about time to re-read Robert Bloch’s ‘The Hungry House’, I went in search of an anthology that included this 7200 word gem. That’s how I found ‘The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories’, compiled and edited by Jeff and Ann VanderMeer.

Let me begin by saying I discovered my most treasured horror/sci-fi/fantasy authors in the anthologies from the great Marvin Kaye back in the late ’80s early ’90s as a teenager. H.P. Lovecraft, Tanith Lee, Ray Russell, Ray Bradbury, the aforementioned Robert Bloch, and too many others to name here. This is the first anthology I’ve bought since then that I think is as great as the ones I read growing up.

Arranged in chronological order from 1908 until 2010, this is a veritable feast of the strange tale. You’ll find Algernon Blackwood, Lord Dunsany, Franz Kafka, H.P. Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, Ramsey Campbell, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Tanith Lee, and even George R.R. Martin. You can’t miss with a line up like that. Altogether, around 750K words of creepy goodness. The best part, though? I picked this excellent beast up on my Kindle for $14. The hardcovers are already collectible (with a price to match), but the paperback is still available if you prefer print books. I just couldn’t imagine reading- or lugging around- an eleven hundred page paperback, which led me to chose to get it on Kindle. Also, I needed to read ‘The Hungry House’ RIGHT NOW! Instant gratification is a weakness of mine.

So, if you’re in the mood for some Halloween in August, I highly recommend ‘The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories’. I know I’m not the only one who carries Halloween in my heart all year long! Check it out. You won’t be sorry.



Walk Out on the Edge of the Earth



I’ve fought a battle with my ego over writing a post like this.

I’m one of those people who if asked how I’m doing always says, “Fine!”, no matter how I actually feel, or what is going on in my life. I like to keep my problems to myself.

Writing is an insular practice. Isolation is a key component of the creative process for most of us who are creating characters, stories, and worlds. If we live too much in the mundane it’s easy to lose focus. I wasn’t just living too much in the mundane, I was living too much on the internet. Instead of writing I was on twitter, and facebook. I completely lost my focus, and my work suffered.

On top of all the distractions of social media, and trying to track down the latest post to get likes and retweets, I was going through a difficult family time. My son quit high school, and left my home to move back in with his father a thousand miles away from me. My heart was broken, and I felt like I was clinging onto a precipice above the grand canyon by my fingernails. As if all of this stuff wasn’t enough, my computer blew up.

I suffered withdrawals from my social media addiction. I felt cut off, cast adrift, and alone. I was thankful I hadn’t lost my work, having the foresight to send it to my email, but I had no way to keep up with twitter. I worried everyone would think I was a jerk. I imagined everyone was offended I hadn’t participated in  Terror Tuesday, or Follow Friday, or given shout outs to all of my wonderful followers. I was sad and depressed, and I wasn’t working. I wallowed in self-pity for weeks.

Finally fed up with myself, I woke up one morning thinking about what I did before I had a computer. I’ve been writing since I was ten years old- way before the advent of personal computers- and I wrote with an ink pen in spiral bound notebooks. These tools are basic, available for a couple of dollars. Armed with a determination I hadn’t felt in ages to put the stories in my brain into solid form, I picked up some college ruled notebooks, a package of my favorite pens, and got back to the business of writing. I’m nearly half finished with one novel, which will be the first in the series which includes my vampire novel, and I have less than 20K words left on the final draft on that. I’ve given myself until the end of 2016 to finish both of these novels, and shop them around beginning in January of 2017. I feel as if I’m where I need to be for the first time in a couple of years.

In the end, I want to say thank you to each and every one of you who haven’t discarded me because I haven’t been able to play the twitter game for so many months. I’m not going to say I’ll ever be on social media as I once was, I have a lot of work to do over the next eight months if I’m going to reach my goals as a writer aspiring to be an author. Also, my daughter recently got married, and I’ll have an empty nest for the first time. I’m going to go back to working full time in 2017. The risk of rattling around the house like Edie from Grey Gardens is too horrible to contemplate! Just know that I love you all, and I appreciate that you’re still here. I’ll keep everyone posted, and I’ll have more exciting things to tweet about very soon. Thank you all again!


The Original Ghost Hunters


People have been interested in tales about ghosts, haunted houses, and demonic possession since before the beginning of recorded history. The Witch of Endor raised the ghost of the prophet Samuel for King Saul in the First Book of Samuel in the Bible, and Pliny the Younger wrote about a chain rattling ghost haunting his home in Athens, Greece in the first century AD.

Do you believe in ghosts? A poll from Huffington Post dated February 2013 informs us that roughly 45% of Americans do.

How about demons? Another poll, conducted on Halloween 2012, states that roughly 57% of Americans believe in at least the possibility of demons/demonic possession.

There are currently more than twenty-five television series dealing with paranormal subject matter. That number doesn’t even include shows like ‘Supernatural’, ‘American Horror Story’, or ‘The Walking Dead’. There are several new paranormal series currently in development, and there are dozens that have been cancelled over the past thirty years. To what, or more aptly, to whom, do we owe our modern obsession for this type of entertainment? In my opinion, Ed and Lorraine Warren.

Founders of the New England Society for Psychic Research in 1952, the Warrens- Ed a demonologist, and Lorraine a clairvoyant and medium- rose to prominence during their involvement with the infamous Amityville Horror house in 1976. The beautiful Dutch Colonial house, located at 112 Ocean Avenue on Long Island, was purchased by the Lutz family in December 1975. The Lutzs knew the house was the site of a brutal murder a short time before. (Ronald DeFeo, Jr shot and killed both of his parents and his four younger siblings in a drug induced frenzy in November 1974.) The Lutz family lived in the house for only twenty-eight days after they moved in, dramatically leaving all of their possessions behind.  Stories abound over how despite the house being investigated by several paranormal agencies, no-one could conclusively prove it was haunted. Marvin Scott- a reporter with New York’s Channel 5- contacted the Warrens, inviting them to join him during the filming of a Halloween special inside the allegedly haunted house. Lorraine conducted a seance in the sewing room, the site George Lutz claimed was the most actively haunted. Law suites, and acrimonious statements followed. Marvin Scott professed to have been unaffected by the house, while Lorraine Warren claimed he’d told her he never wanted to get any closer to hell than he’d been on that Halloween night, a quote she later claimed she’s responsible for after Marvin Scott said he never spoke those words. It doesn’t really matter whose side of the story you believe, the results are the same; ‘The Amityville Horror’ became a best selling book, and a hit movie. Here is a link to a fairly balanced documentary based on the haunting.

Other than the aforementioned Amityville, the Warren’s investigations are also responsible for the films ‘The Haunting in Connecticut’, ‘The Conjuring’, ‘Annabelle’, and the made for television movie ‘The Haunting’.

‘The Haunting in Connecticut’ is based on the experiences of the Snedeker family. In 1986,  Allen and Carmen Snedeker rented a house in Southington, Connecticut while their eldest son was going through cancer treatments. Unbeknownst to the family, the house was a former funeral parlor. Implements of the mortuary trade were still inside the home, including a morgue in the basement. The entire family, beginning with their son, began experiencing terrible visions and seeing ghosts. The horror escalated, culminating in rape and sodomy by a spirit the Warrens claimed was an old fashioned incubus. Horror novelist, Ray Garton, was hired by the Warrens to work with the Snedekers- to write the ‘true story’ account of what happened to them. Garton claimed their story changed from one telling to the next, and that he was told by Ed Warren to take what he could from the Snedekers account, and make up the rest as he went along. There is an hysterical episode of Sally Jesse Rafael on YouTube that is worth watching. Several members of the family are there, along with the Warrens, and one of their principle detractors, the prominent skeptic Joe Nickell. Here’s a link.

‘The Conjuring’ was based on a haunting the Warrens investigated in Harrisville, Rhode Island in 1971. The Perron family bought what they thought was an idyllic country home for their large family in 1970. With plenty of land surrounding the house for their five daughters to play on, and a ten room farmhouse built in 1736, it had everything they were looking for. Happy to have found such a wonderful home, they didn’t take the former owners instructions to leave the lights on at night seriously. Unexplained phenomena began to occur on the very first day they moved into the house. Research into the history of the property revealed multiple suicides by hanging and poison, the unsolved rape and murder of an eleven year old girl, two drownings in the creek behind the house, and four instances where men froze to death on the land. While the initial spectral entities seemed benign, the haunting escalated. The family refuses to speak of one of the ghosts other than to say it was a male spirit that didn’t belong in a home with five little girls. The worst spirit in the house was believed to be the ghost of Bathsheba, rumored to be a witch and a satanist while alive. This evil ghost targeted Carolyn Perron specifically, doing everything in it’s power to drive Mrs. Perron out of the house because she coveted Mr. Perron. The family began to believe Mrs. Perron was possessed by the spirit of Bathsheba, and called in the Warrens for their help. Unlike the film, the haunting was not resolved. Despite the Warren’s best efforts, they were unable to exorcise the spirits from the house, and Mr. Perron asked them to leave his home. The Perrons couldn’t leave the home until 1980 due to financial constraints.

Personally, I found the ‘Annabelle’ film disappointing. Although billed as a prequel to ‘The Conjuring’, I think the ‘true story’, as portrayed in the opening of ‘The Conjuring’ was more compelling. The real Annabelle is a Raggedy Ann doll. I always knew there was something creepy about Raggedy Ann’s smug little face! Here is a short clip about the real Annabelle featuring Tony Spera, who is married to Ed and Lorraine’s daughter.

The upcoming sequel to ‘The Conjuring’ will be based on ‘The Enfield Poltergeist’, a case of poltergeist activity in England commonly believed to have been perpetrated by the two girls at the center of the activity- a thirteen year old named Margaret and her younger sister, eleven year old Janet. The problems began in 1977, lasting until 1979. Margaret and Janet’s mother, Peggy Hodgson, first spoke to her neighbors about the furniture moving, and knocking sounds in their home. When their neighbors couldn’t help, Ms. Hodgson called the police. The poltergeist grew more violent. Furniture was thrown, there were disembodied voices, and episodes of levitation. The Warrens investigated the poltergeist activity in Enfield in 1978, corroborating the claims of the Hodgson family. A&E will air the excellent BBC mini-series based on the haunting in October. Until then, here is a documentary exploring the question of the validity of the claims made by the Hodgson family.

I cannot claim to know whether Ed and Lorraine Warren were being truthful about the phenomena they claimed to have witnessed, but I will say this; every paranormal reality show owes a debt of gratitude to the couple.

Robert Bloch- Forgotten Horror Author

Robert Block

I bet you’ve read the quote, ‘Despite my ghoulish reputation, I really have the heart of a small boy. I keep it in a jar on my desk.’ I bet you’ve also seen this quote attributed to Stephen King, right? This hilariously gruesome quote, borrowed by King, was written by Robert Bloch.  Best known as the author of the novel ‘Psycho’, the prolific Bloch wrote hundreds of short stories, and more than twenty-five novels, before his death on September 25th, 1994.

Bloch first became interested in horror after watching Lon Chaney in ‘Phantom of the Opera’ when he was ten. He soon after began reading ‘Weird Tales’ magazine, quickly developing a love for H.P. Lovecraft- a frequent contributor to the magazine at the time. Bloch eventually wrote Lovecraft a letter, seeking guidance on his own fantastical fiction, which Lovecraft answered with encouragement and advice. The culmination of their back and forth correspondence led to Bloch asking if he could create, and kill off, a character based on Lovecraft for a story called ‘The Shambler From the Stars’. Lovecraft not only agreed, he authorized Bloch to “portray, murder, annihilate, disintegrate, transfigure, metamorphose or otherwise manhandle the undersigned.”  Lovecraft then returned the favor a year later by creating the character ‘Robert Blake’, and killing him, in the story ‘The Haunter of the Dark’. Lovecraft dedicated the story to Bloch, but went so far as to include the then current street address of Bloch in the narrative! The 1979 Bloch novel, ‘Strange Eons’, is an homage, and tribute to the style of Lovecraft.

Although he began his writing career writing fiction similar to Lovecraft’s ‘cosmic horror’, he began to develop his own voice after switching to crime thrillers, horror, and sci-fi. He encouraged and befriended other authors, including Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Harlan Ellison, and Richard Matheson, as he was encouraged and befriended by Lovecraft.

If you’ve never read any of Robert Bloch’s work yourself, I can suggest a few stories to begin with.

‘The Hungry House’- By far my favorite Bloch short story. I love the way he builds the drama and terror bit by bit.

‘The Cloak’- An unexpected take on vampire transformation.               

‘The Beasts of Barsac’- An ‘Island of Dr. Moreau’ type of tale.                    

‘The Devil’s Ticket’- A story about a starving artist who pawns his last valuable.

The links above are cool! They are from direct scans from the original publications the stories appeared in, including art and vintage ads. ‘The Hungry House’ is still under copyright, but it’s included in the fabulous Marvin Kaye edited collection ‘Masterpieces of Terror and the Supernatural’, which can be purchased used from Amazon for a couple of dollars. I highly recommend all of Marvin Kaye’s curated compilations. He gives info on each author included, and his appendices are informative and well written. I received a copy of ‘Masterpieces of Terror and the Supernatural’ when I was a preteen, and discovered many of the horror authors I hold in esteem to this day. Here’s a link to the book-

Robert Bloch also wrote dozens of screenplays, including episodes of ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’, ‘Star Trek’, ‘Tales From the Darkside’, and ‘Monsters’, as well as several Hammer Films, and William Castle productions. His work has appeared in comic books, and in audio productions.

The Greatest Author You’ve Probably Never Read

I’ve often wondered what makes something popular. Why does one author’s work sail to the top of the New York Time’s Bestseller List, while another author- who is just as good, if not better- continually publishes in a vacuum?

I’m not talking about E. L. James, or Stephanie Meyer, or any of those types of authors when I say bestseller. I think they’re the literary equivalent of One Direction, or Justin Beiber. They’re popular for a time, everyone jumps on the bandwagon and rushes out to buy the product everyone else is buying, and then it’s over. I’m talking about authors who consistently put out quality work, but ultimately no one knows who they are.

One such author is Tanith Lee. Maybe you’ve heard of ‘The Silver Metal Lover’, or ‘The Black Unicorn’? That’s Tanith Lee.

I discovered Ms. Lee the way I did so many authors as a preteen, through the short story collections edited by Marvin Kaye. The first collection I owned was ‘Masterpieces of Terror and the Supernatural’, and the Tanith Lee story was ‘When the Clock Strikes’.

Originally published in ‘Red as Blood- or Tales of the Sister’s Grimmer’, ‘When the Clock Strikes’ is a retelling of ‘Cinderella’ that owes more to the bloody Grim version than to Walt Disney. The step-sisters aren’t really wicked, just vapid and dull witted, the step-mother isn’t evil, she’s just ordinary, but that’s only the beginning of how this tale differs from the one we’re familiar with. Witchcraft, revenge, and a gorgeous clock that may be cursed, are all wound together to create a tale full of textures you can practically feel, and colors so violent and rich you can almost see them.

About the clock,

“I thought you might care to examine the clock. It was considered exceptional in its day. The pedestal is ebony and the face fine porcelain. And the figures, which are of silver, would pass slowly about the circlet of the face. Each figure represents, you understand, an hour. And as the appropriate hours came level with this golden bell, they would strike it the correct number of times. All the figures are unique, you see. Beginning at the first hour, they are, in this order, a girl-child, a dwarf, a maiden, a youth, a lady and a knight. And here, notice, the figures grow older as the day declines: a queen and king for the seventh and eighth hours, and after these, and abbess and magician and next to last, a hag. But the very last is the strangest all. The twelfth figure: do you recognize him? It is Death. Yes, a most curious clock. It was reckoned a marvelous thing then. But it has not struck for two hundred years. Possibly you have heard the story? No? Oh, but I am certain that you have heard it, in another form, perhaps.”   ‘When the Clock Strikes’ by Tanith Lee

Tanith Lee was one of the first authors to take the fairy tales we all know and love and twist them into dark fantasy. Taking her cues from Angela Carter, who rewrote ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ as ‘The Company of Wolves’, she made the genre her own.

Even more than ‘Red as Blood’, I love her ‘Tales from the Flat Earth’ series.

In ‘Night’s Master’, the first book of the series, the central character is Azhrarn, the Prince of Demons. He roams the nighttime world wreaking havoc, causing chaos, and destroying the lives of humans too self centered or greedy to see his machinations. His demon nature makes wickedness a game, a game he is all too pleased to play until he is asked a fateful question: What is the Prince of Demons afraid of? The answer is surprising, and what Azhrarn is prepared to do in the face of his greatest fear raises his character up from a mere genius of wickedness to a savior.

The second book in the series, ‘Death’s Master’ won Ms. Lee the British Fantasy award. She was the first of only four women to ever win this prestigious award, and she definitely deserved it.

It is still possible to find the omnibus editions of ‘Tales from the Flat Earth’ collected in two volumes on Amazon or ebay. There were reissues of several of the books from Ms. Lee’s own imprint TaLeKa, but these have been discontinued and further editions cancelled, making the ones available ridiculously expensive.

Before her death, the continuation of ‘Tales from the Flat Earth’ was promised with a full length novel, ‘Earth’s Master’, and a short story collection, ‘The Earth is Flat’. I sincerely hope these books are published, but as with so much of Ms. Lee’s work, only time will tell.

It’s been almost two months since we lost the brilliant Tanith Lee. Maybe you’re like me, and you know how tragic her loss is to the worlds of Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and Horror. If you’ve never read her work, I have posted some links below to sample a bite of her delicious prose. She was truly one of the greats, and she will be missed by those of us who love her.

‘When the Clock Strikes’-

‘The Parable of the Cat’ from ‘Delusion’s Master’-

‘The Origin of Snow’, an independent short story featuring Azharn-


H.P. Lovecraft


Anyone who knows me, or has followed me on Twitter for any length of time, knows I am a great admirer of Howard Phillips Lovecraft. With all of the news about the New Horizons spacecraft doing the first flyby of Pluto, and with one of the areas of the dwarf planet being named after Cthulhu, I decided to do this week’s blog about my dearest Mr. Lovecraft.

It’s appropriate that the name of Cthulhu has been informally assigned to the feature on Pluto formally known as ‘The Whale’, since in a roundabout way H.P. Lovecraft predicted the planet existed at the outermost point of our solar system.

In ‘The Whisperer in Darkness’, Lovecraft wrote,

“Their  (the Mi-Go’s) main immediate abode is a still undiscovered and almost lightless planet at the very edge of our solar system – beyond Neptune, and the ninth in distance from the sun… And it will soon be the scene of a strange focusing of thought upon our world in an effort to facilitate mental rapport.  I would not be surprised if astronomers become sufficiently sensitive to these thought currents to discover Yuggoth when the Outer Ones wish them to do so.”

How cool is that?

I’m a bit of a Lovecraft snob. If you tell me you love horror and you don’t know the work of Lovecraft, I cannot credit your claim. When I worked as a bookseller for Barnes & Noble, every employee needed an item to ‘hand-sell’. What this means is at the beginning of each shift you place a copy of a book you want to sell in front of your register, and then you talk it up to every customer you can get to stand still for more than two seconds. I chose ‘The Complete Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft’ in the dark purple, leather bound B&N Collections you can buy for like twenty bucks. I was constantly surprised by how few people actually knew his work. I believe his short stories and novellas are as important to the horror genre’s development in it’s modern form as anything Poe ever wrote. Just read ‘The Rats in the Walls’, or ‘The Dreams in the Witch House’, and tell me you don’t forever after have a moment of terror when an errant tree branch scrapes against your house. I mean, it might be Brown Jenkin coming through the wall to take you away on a journey into the mysteries of a higher dimension of non-Euclidean space . He could still exist after all these years in a hidden curve of the fourth dimension we know is there, but we can’t see.

In my opinion, the greatness of Lovecraft’s work is in what he leaves unsaid. While his dialogue isn’t the best, his ability to set a mood of apprehension and prolong it throughout a tale is masterful. In the novella ‘At the Mountains of Madness’, the tension increases until the climactic ending, an ending which leaves the reader with ultimately more questions than answers-  a perfect ending for a piece of horror that crosses over into sci-fi. In fact, every story you may have read about ancient aliens owes a debt of gratitude to ‘At the Mountains of Madness’.

There is a fair sampling of Lovecraft’s writings in the public domain, making it easy to have a taste of his work without spending a penny. I’ve posted some links below to the four tales I mentioned, all of which are available from If you’ve never read Lovecraft, it’s a great place to start. Let me know what you think!

‘The Whisperer in Darkness’

‘The Rats in the Walls’

‘The Dreams in the Witch House’

‘At the Mountains of Madness’

Ray Russell

Okay, horror peeps, how many of you have read Ray Russell?

Maybe you’ve seen the William Castle directed/produced film ‘Mr Sardonicus’? Ray Russell wrote the screenplay for the 1961 film based on his short story ‘Sardonicus’. He also wrote the screenplays for Roger Corman’s films ‘X’, based on his short story ‘X- The Man with the X-Ray Eyes’, and ‘The Premature Burial’ based on the tale by Edgar Allan Poe.

That’s Ray Russell, one of those great horror writers a lot of people have never heard of, or have forgotten.

I discovered his ‘S Trilogy’- ‘Sardonicus’, ‘Sagittarius’, and ‘Sanguinarius’- as a preteen in the fabulous Marvin Kaye horror anthologies (where I also fell in love with H.P. Lovecraft, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Bloch, and Ray Bradbury, to name but a few). My favorite of the three tales is ‘Sanguinarius’. Based in part on the true story of the Hungarian noblewoman Elizabeth Bathory, who is best known for bathing in the blood of virgins, it’s a gory good read full of sex, sadism, and buckets of blood. ‘Sardonicus’ is about a man whose hideous lockjaw grin betrays the true nature of the man within. ‘Sagittarius’ takes Jack the Ripper, Bluebeard, and the Grand Guignol, and shakes them all up with the question “What if Mr. Hyde had a son while Dr. Jekyll wasn’t looking?”.

Russell’s style is richly Gothic, sexy, graphic, a little grotesque, and always satisfying. It’s little wonder he was chosen to be the fiction editor for ‘Playboy’ shortly after the magazine began publication. Russell shared a love of twisted tales with Hugh Hefner, who grew up reading ‘Weird Tales’. Russell curated several ‘Playboy’ fiction anthologies in the late 1960’s, pulling together the best of the short stories he had chosen for the magazine in genre specific volumes. He promoted the work of Richard Matheson, Frederik Pohl, and Arthur C. Clark as well as the aforementioned Bradbury, Sturgeon, and Bloch.

I bet you didn’t know ‘Playboy’ was responsible for putting the names of some of the greatest Horror and Sci-Fi/Fantasy authors before the masses, huh? Maybe all of those jokes about the magazine being read for the articles has a basis in truth.

His stories were out of print for years until ‘Haunted Castles’, a collection of his short stories with a forward by director Guillermo Del Toro, was published by Penguin’s Horror Series. It’s available now in hardcover and e-book. Do yourself a favor, and pick up a copy, You won’t be disappointed.

Table of Contents for ‘Haunted Castles’:




‘Comet Wine’

‘The Runaway Lovers’

‘The Vendetta’

‘The Cage’