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Hallowen: Magic, Mystery & the Macabre Trick or Treating with Friends

September 8th, 2013

HalloweenMagicMysMacabre-500Halloween comes early this year, with the September release of Halloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre – another terrific anthology from award-winning editor Paula Guran and the good people at Prime Books.

The book is a follow up to Paula’s 2011 anthology Halloween, which featured 33 classic reprints by the likes of Ray Bradbury, H. P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, and F. Paul Wilson. It also featured a thoughtful essay about the origins and traditions of Halloween, which you can read here.

Unlike its predecessor, the new book features all-new Halloween-themed stories. I’ve just finished reading my copy, and it’s a terrific book – perfect material for a cool autumn night.

scent-of-magicAmong the standouts is “The Halloween Men,” a horror story by my good friend Maria V. Snyder, a writer more often associated with romantic fantasy than horror fiction. She and I currently serve as residency writers in the Writing Popular Fiction program at Seton Hill University, and at this summer’s residency she attributed her foray into the macabre to hanging out with Michael A. Arnzen and me. She was being generous, of course. But regardless of how the story came to be, it’s a terrific read. Set in a strange world where the wearing of masks is enforced by mysterious men in black robes, “The Halloween Men” displays the kind of spare yet fully-realized fantasy that has made Maria one of the best fantasy writers working today. If you haven’t discovered her yet, consider checking out her books Scent of Magic, Poison Study, Touch of Power, and all the other titles that you can read about at MariaVSnyder.com. Good reading awaits.

TimeAnother standout story is “All Souls Day” by Barbara Roden, who in recent years has established herself as one of the contemporary masters of short fiction. Publishers Weekly, in a review of her collection Northwest Passages, refers to her work as “deftly executed tales of subtle horror,” and her story in this collection continues that tradition. Barbara is also a multi-award winning editor who, along with her husband Christopher Roden, has been running critically acclaimed Ash-Tree Press since its inception in 1994. I first met Barbara and Christopher at World Fantasy 2007, and we’ve been good friends ever since, getting together at the major conventions at least once or twice a year. In 2010 they edited and published This Way to Egress, the definitive collection of my horror stories.

Jack Pumpkinhead by William Wallace DenslowHalloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre also features terrific new stories by Laird Barron, Laura Bickle, Jay Caselberg, Brenda Cooper, Brian Hodge, Stephen Graham Jones, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Nancy Kilpatrick, Jonathan Maberry, Norman Partridge, John Shirley, Steve Rasnic Tem & Melanie Tem, Carrie Vaughn, A.C. Wise, and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro – some of the modern masters of magic, mystery, and the macabre.

Oh yes, it also contains one of my stories – a new tale of physiological horror titled “Pumpkin Head Escapes.” And since the book releases this week, my friends and I get to do some early trick-or-treating.

Care to join us?

Image Credits:

Halloween: Magic, Mystery, and the Macabre,  Prime Books 2013. Scent of Magic, Harlequin 2013. Northwest Passages, Prime Books 2010. Jack Pumpkin Head, illustration detail by William Wallace Dinslow from L. Frank Baum’s The Road to Oz (1909).

From World Fantasy to Riley’s Pour House

November 17th, 2012

Still decompressing from World Fantasy in Toronto, I’ll be resurfacing at Riley’s Pour House this Saturday (November 17) for a marathon performance – four hours, four sets, 60+ songs. A real aerobic workout, and I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday night.

I’d like to tell you about that show, but first a few words about the music sessions that took place at World Fantasy.

What a blast!

Organized by Christopher and Barbara Roden, the sessions were a late addition to the program, announced by word of mouth a few hours before the first one went live at 10:00 p.m. Friday, November 2.

Joining me were MaryAnn Harris, Charles de Lint, and Patrick Nielsen Hayden. We took turns calling the songs, sometimes playing solo, but generally jamming together on Celtic, country, and folk-rock standards. We did originals too, with Charles performing “A Dog Named Johnny Cash” and “Cherokee Girl” —  both featuring wonderfully catchy hooks that I haven’t been able to shake yet.

Along the way we were joined by Howard Fox, an artist from Israel whose remarkable paintings generated considerable buzz at the art reception (with one painting going on to win the convention’s Member’s Choice Award.) Playing harmonica, Howard accompanied me on a rendition of  Lennon and McCartney’s “For You Blue.” Then he asked me to lay down some improvised progressions. “Keep it going,” he said, and as I did he made up a song that he called “Fantasy Fair” — completely improvised — proving that he is as skilled at lyrics as he is with painting. This was Howard’s first World Fantasy Con. Let’s hope it’s the first of many.

The crowd grew as the night progressed. A lot of folks sang along, some danced, and when we called it quits around midnight, we were all committed to doing it again.

On Saturday we were joined by Martin Springett, who introduced his original tunes with stories about some of his past performances. Introducing his instrumental “The Dragon,” he spoke about playing for a group of children, all of whom listened with eyes scrunched tight, picturing dragons taking flight while he played.

And then came another improvised performance, this time from Ellen Klages, who asked the audience to call out a song topic. “Manual typewriters!” someone shouted, and she was off – nine minutes of improvised blues about platens, carbon paper, writer’s block, and Nebula Awards. No summary can do it justice. Fortunately, you can catch the whole thing on YouTube.

Click on the link at the end of this post . . . and enjoy!

Also joining us on that second night was singer Angela Keeley, who provided an eclectic mix of songs ranging from the bawdy “Scotsman” to the teen-angst standard “Last Kiss.” Great stuff!

I understand there was a third session on Sunday, but by then I was on the road, heading back to Pittsburgh with all those earworms stuck in my head. I didn’t bother with the radio. The memories were enough.

I’ll be playing some of those same songs again tomorrow night when I perform at Riley’s – the Pub that was recently honored by Irish Echo as one of the best Irish Pubs in the States. For good reason too. Food, drink, ambience, friendly people, music – Riley’s has it all.

I usually open the night with ballads and ramp up from there, but this time I’m planning to start with some rocking sea shanties. Lauren Connolly-Moore will also be on hand, lending her sweet harmonies to some contemporary tunes. I’ll hope to see you there.

So . . . were you at World Fantasy? Did you attend our jam sessions? Do you have anything to add, amend, or comment on?

Are you a fan of the Pour House? Do you have any requests for tomorrow night?

As always, the comment section is open . . . as are my email box and Facebook page. Use the comment option below or the little email and FB icons above. I’d love to hear from you.

Now fasten your seatbelts. Here’s Ellen Klages with her nine-minute blues improvisation “Manual Return.”

Twilight Zone Magazine Remembered: Then & Now @ WFC 2012

November 9th, 2012

Last Thursday I returned to the Twilight Zone.

But I didn’t go alone.

Also along for the journey were Scott Edelman, Nancy Baker, Darrell Schweitzer, and Elizabeth Hand – fellow contributors to Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Magazine, the legendary publication that dominated the fantasy landscape in the 1980s

Christopher Roden of Ash-Tree Press introduced our panel at World Fantasy 2012 (November 1 @ 9:00 p.m.), treating the audience to a PowerPoint presentation that featured a string of youthful photos of the panelists, all taken from the pages of the magazine. It was great seeing those kids again, looking back from the high ground of 2012.

After the introductions, Chris let the PowerPoint run on its own, displaying a string of vintage Twilight Zone covers. Thus, while the panelists reminisced, the screen became a window to the past: a simple but effective touch.

Afterward, we got together for a couple of photo ops, one in which we all lined up with issues containing our stories, and a second that featured each of us standing beside photographs from the magazine’s contributor pages — making for some interesting then-and-now comparisons.

For me, that second op made for a real Twilight Zone moment, standing beside the image of a kid who at the time had sold barely a half-dozen stories. It’s nice to be still in the game.

The same can certainly be said for Elizabeth Hand, this year’s WFC author guest of honor, who has gone on to win three World Fantasy Awards, two Nebula Awards, two International Horror Guild Awards, and others. Recently, Publishers Weekly named her novel Available Dark one of the Top 10 Mystery/Thrillers of the season.

Nancy Baker’s first sale to the magazine was “The Party Over There,” which appeared in the June 1988 issue. (In my previous post, “Remembering The Twilight Zone @ World Fantasy 2012,” I erroneously identified that story as “Exodus 22:18,” which was her second TZ story, appearing in June 1989.) Nancy has gone on to write three well-receive vampire novels: The Night InsideBlood and Chrysanthemums, and A Terrible Beauty.  She is currently working on a fourth book, which she tells us has nothing to do with vampires.

Scott Edelman was already active in fantasy publishing by the time he made his first TZ sale in 1983. In the 70s he wrote for both Marvel and DC Comics, creating The Scarecrow (a.k.a. Straw Man) for the Marvel universe. He has edited Science Fiction Weekly (the online magazine of the Sci Fi Channel) since 2000.

During our panel, Scott reminisced about the lobby of the Twilight Zone offices, which TZ shared with Gallery (a magazine that catered to a decidedly different kind of fantasy).

One side of the lobby displayed Gallery covers featuring scantily-clad women, while the other side was dominated by the much more sublime and surreal covers of Twilight Zone. Teasy vs. TZ? Ah, gotta love the 80s!

Our fifth panelist was writer, editor, and critic Derrell Schweitzer, who spoke insightfully about the role that Publishers Clearing House played in the magazine’s demise. According to Derrell, PCH oversold underpriced subscriptions, resulting in cash-flow problems.

And so today we are left with fond memories, not to mention careers that began with Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Magazine.

What do you think? Do you remember the magazine? Thoughts, comments, and corrections are always welcome. Use the comment box below or the Facebook tab at the top of the page.

Rock on!