Saturday, April 30, 2022

Old Dude Featured at Stephen H. Provost’s "The Open Book"

This week, author Stephen H. Provost was kind enough to feature an interview with me on his The Open Bookblog, primarily about Fugue Devil: Resurgence (which releases today on Kindle, tomorrow in paperback; the hardback will apparently still be a little ways out). Mr. Provost conducts a fun interview, so please give it a look!

The Open Book — Stephen Mark Rainey
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It’s been a big time for interviews, I can tell you. A couple of weeks back, author Richard Dansky interviewed me for his “Five for Writing” blog. The Martinsville Bulletin interviewed Samaire Wynne (proprietor of Black Raven Booksand me last week, and the article should appear in tomorrow’s edition of the newspaper. Today, local author Ian McDowell interviewed me for YES, Weekly!, our local free newspaper. I hope all this drumming up of publicity about ye Fugue Devil will result in some honest-to-god sales. If not, take it from me, that old critter will be impossible to deal with, and ain’t nobody got time for that.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

A Graveside Chat with Jeffrey Thomas

Back in 1990, a young writer named Jeffrey Thomas submitted a short story to Deathrealm — a disturbing and thought-provoking tale called "Foreign Bodies" — which made me an instant fan. The story ran in the Spring 1991 issue of Deathrealm, to no little acclaim. In the intervening years, Jeffrey Thomas’s distinctive and powerful voice has become pervasive in the dark lit field. He may be best known for Punktown, his brilliant and original horrific/humorous/bizarro/ultra-dark/SF universe, but his catalog of standalone novels and short stories is extensive and impressive. Here, Mr. Thomas tells all, or something damn near.

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GC: I first became acquainted with your work when I was editing Deathrealm magazine back in the 1980s and 1990s. Since those early, formative days, how do you feel your work has evolved, both creatively and professionally? Have the processes of doing business as a writer impacted your drive as a creator?

JT: It was an exhilarating feeling back in those small press days, when a short story sale to Deathrealm, After Hours, 2 AM, etc. might thrill me even more than I feel now with the sale of certain full-blown books. One becomes a bit jaded, but of course writing and publishing remain rewarding. The business side of things can be a hassle, even a distraction, especially when a publisher doesn’t do a lot to promote your book and you’re expected to be proactive and take care of much of that yourself. As I’m not good at that stuff, and fairly reclusive, I’d prefer to focus only on the creative side of things.

Craft-wise, I think I’ve evolved quite a lot over the past several decades, in that I write more slowly, more carefully. I’ll no longer jump into writing a short story just built around some quick idea, unless I feel a real commitment to it, and it will be a worthy representation of how I want my work perceived. I’ll be sure that story is polished thoroughly before letting it go into the world. Honestly, in the early days I’d bang out a short story, not even give it a once-over proofread, then shoot it off to a publisher all in a breathless rush. Because of that reckless approach, my earliest published stories are, to my mind now, something of a mixed bag. Some are quite good, others very slight.

GC: Around 1980 or so, you created Punktown. And since the Year of our Lord 2000, there or about, with the Ministry of Whimsy Press release of Punktown, it’s a property that has enjoyed not only popularity among both readers and authors but true staying power. A) Can you describe what drove you to this singular territory? B) My impression from your history is that this place represents something of a passion for you. Is it one you think you’ll continue revisit regularly?

JT: That’s right — in 1980, while my father was driving me home from work one afternoon, the concept of Punktown just bloomed in my head as if it had been under construction in my subconscious until that moment of revelation. That brainstorm wasn’t like what I described earlier, some quick idea or single image to build a story around; this was a whole, expansive concept — the same concept I work with today. And that is: what if I created this nightmarish science fiction-style setting, that is not so much a prediction of the far future as a grotesque, funhouse mirror distortion of now? A setting in which I could address all manner of social commentary, but in a darkly satirical mode, the way there was political and/or religious commentary worked into the phantasmagorical paintings of Hieronymus Bosch or the Inferno of Dante. Punktown is also a setting that can support, and blend, many types of genres and literary approaches, from SF to horror, from noir to dark comedy, with more than a few nods to the Lovecraftian.

Because Punktown offers so many flavors, there’s been a lot for readers to find entertaining in the stories (and I think of my readers as tourists to Punktown). Likewise, because I can do so much in that world, it makes it easy for me to keep going back. I have freedom there. Though I like to write outside of Punktown, too — including work that involves certain other fantastical settings I’ve developed — I’m sure I’ll always keep returning to Punktown. I certainly haven’t grown tired of it yet. My earliest Punktown stories, a series of novels written in the 80s, remain handwritten and unpublished, but I started publishing Punktown short stories in the small press in the early 90s, until Jeff VanderMeer released my first collection of them, Punktown, through the Ministry of Whimsy Press in 2000. Several decades and numerous novels and collections later, in 2021 Centipede Press released a gorgeous three-volume set of most of my Punktown short fiction. I say most, because there can never be a definitive collection as long as I’m extant. Even as we speak, a few new Punktown stories are close to publication in anthology appearances, both in the US and in foreign translation.

GC: I love your three-story chapbook series, such as THE COMING OF THE OLD ONES, THE SUMMONING OF THE OLD ONES, DARKER WORLDS, et. al. The packaging is ingenious. It’s clear that H. P. Lovecraft has inspired you — and in a world of purveyors of pastiche, your work stands out as unique and powerful. Do you still enjoy working in the HPL mythos? What about it has driven you — and, if applicable, still drives you— to contribute to it?

JT: I took my inspiration for those chapbooks directly from a series of chapbooks I saw fellow Lovecraftian writer William Meikle self-publishing. Rather than gather previously published stories into a book-length collection to submit to a publisher, as I had always done before, I decided to release them in three-story chapbooks under my own imprint, instead. They’ve done fairly well for me. I’ve also republished some novels and collections for which the rights had reverted to me, so as to keep them in print. And yes, I have produced quite a lot of Lovecraftian work by now, either directly linked to the Cthulhu Mythos or at least inspired by cosmic horror of that sort. I fell in love with it from reading my first Lovecraft stories in 1985. I was drawn to their horrifying sense of awe, the hugeness of their threats, the use of science fiction elements (alien entities) in place of the supernatural (demons and ghosts). But I don’t want to be lost in the shadow of other creators — I want to maintain my own distinct literary identity, explore my own imagination — so in recent years I’ve tried to refrain from writing overtly Lovecraftian horror. Still, like Michael Corleone, just when I think I’m out they pull me back in, and I’ll get invited to some cool Lovecraftian anthology or other.

GC: You are adept at both novels and short fiction — an enviable talent! Do you have a preference for one over the other?

 JT: I can’t really say I have a preference... though I do write a lot more short fiction than novel-length work, despite the fact that novels have wider appeal. (This largely has to do with frequent anthology invitations.) Right now, I’m enamored with the novella length. I’m currently at work on a novella that takes place in my setting of the Unnamed Country, which is a fictitious Southeast Asian country (inspired by my thirteen visits to Viet Nam), where the supernatural is extra prevalent. This novella will be included in a new Unnamed Country collection called Gods of a Nameless Country, to be released by JournalStone in 2023. Lately I’ve spent more time in the Unnamed Country than in Punktown. Maybe it’s just for a change of pace, but it may also be that I miss Viet Nam so much. Hopefully with COVID-19 on the wane I can get back there again. My daughter, who is half-Vietnamese, is eager to return, as well.

GC: What are you working on now? And what lies ahead for you and your writing?

JT: My most recent novel was The American, published by JournalStone in 2020, a hyper-dark crime thriller laced with the supernatural, which takes place over a span of fifty years in Viet Nam. My most recent collection, aside from the Centipede Press Punktown omnibus, was Carrion Men, from Plutonian Press, 2020, which gathers a bunch of my horror stories that don’t take place in any of my fantastical settings such as Punktown, the Unnamed Country, Boneland, Hades, or Gosston. Speaking of Hades, Dark Regions Press will be publishing a standalone novella called The Half-Damned Girl, which takes place in my vision of the netherworld. And speaking of Gosston, a collection of all my fiction set in that creepy little town — which exists in an alternate world abutting our own — is set to appear soon from Weird House Press. That one’s titled Entering Gosston. I also have an Unnamed Country standalone novella coming soon from a cool publisher of beautiful collectors’ editions, which I can’t announce just yet. And again, regarding the Unnamed Country, 2021 saw the release of a lovely little printed chapbook (mini collection?) called Scenes From a Village, from Oddness, the publisher of Forbidden Futures magazine. Though I often feel like I’m slowing down a lot in my old age (it’s okay to say it!), it sure doesn’t sound like that’s the case, does it?

GC: Thanks a bazillion, Jeff. This has been great, and all the best to you and your future endeavors. And thanks to y’all who have stopped by to check out “A Graveside Chat.” We’ll be back with more in another week or so.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

A Graveside Chat with Ronald Kelly

For some time, I have been considering posting regular author interviews here on ye old blog, and I finally decided to jump in and just do it. To kick things off, the very sporting Ronald Kelly has agreed to play guinea pig. I published several of Ron’s stories in Deathrealm back in the day, starting with his wonderful “The Web of La Sanguinaire” in Deathrealm #6 (1988), which I loved at the time and still do. Since those long ago days, he has gone from establishing himself in the field of dark lit to taking a decade-long hiatus to returning and retooling himself and his work. He has cultivated and retained a receptive audience with an impressive body of work spanning several decades now.

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GC: During the mid-to-late 1980s and early 1990s, your short fiction was a mainstay in just about every publication in the dark lit field. By way of Zebra, you also published a fair number of horror novels. Do you have a preference for the short form over the long form — or vice-versa — from the perspective of both reader and writer? You do both quite adeptly. Do you find the disciplines for writing short fiction significantly different from writing novels?

RK: By nature, I’ve always been a short story writer. The compact form seems to suit my storytelling style extremely well. There’s not a lot of fluff and filler involved; a scaled down plot, flesh and blood characters that are real, but not with every mole, freckle, and scar described, and preferably a twist end, sometimes ambiguously so. When I grew up as a child, and well into early adulthood, I would listen to my Grandmama Spicer spin tales of family history, Civil War lore, and horrifying stories of local ghosts and cryptids. They were always very short and compact, but told in a way that conveyed an encompassing sense of place and time. Maybe subconsciously, I’ve emulated that in my prose. I do enjoy doing novel length fiction, and the disciplines are very different. Writing a novel is like taking a two week road trip from the east coast to the west. A short story is more like a fast and fun day trip. Personally, I find a short story much more pleasurable and rewarding.


GC: After Zebra crashed and burned in the mid-1990s, you retired from writing, or at least publishing, for several years. During that period, did you produce any fiction? Or did life carry you in a wholly different direction? I know many — including me — were happy to see you blaze back into action a few years ago. After the hiatus, did the writing/publishing world seem a much different animal to you?

RK: When the Zebra horror line shut down in 1996, I found myself in limbo. Writing mass market novels had been my job for six years and suddenly I was unemployed. Since the “H-word” was pure poison and no publishing houses were reading or accepting that genre of fiction at that point in time, my agent suggested that I write anything but horror. So, I tried my hand at several other genres, including detective and romance, even children’s books, but nothing panned out. So, I got bitter and discouraged. I flat-out stopped writing for ten years. And, even worse, I stopped reading horror as well. I laced up my steel-toed boots and punched the clock… went back to the factories. I pretty much figured that I’d had my shot at a writing career and blew it. So, I worked blue collar jobs and raised a family. It wasn’t until 2006 that I decided to come back to the horror genre and give it another try. As for how the publishing world differed from before, it was pretty much completely different. The sheer mechanics of the writing process had progressed far beyond where I had left it. Where you had to type and submit multiple copies and send them off via snail mail before, everything was submitted digitally through email and where it once took weeks or months to receive a reply, you could be accepted or rejected in a matter of minutes. Also, social media made it easier to promote your work and communicate with readers, fellow writers, and potential publishers. Sure, there are pros and cons to Twitter and Facebook — sometimes more negativity than positivity— but for the most part it’s a useful tool to get folks interested in your work and build an audience of readers.

GC: Your influences have ranged from the classic horror and science fiction movies that so many of our (increasingly ancient) generation grew up with to the works of Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, Richard Matheson, Stephen King, and many others (not that I’m saying you’re old or anything — no, no, not at all!). Your recent collection, The Haunt of Southern-Fried Fear, carries a strong EC Comics vibe (and to me, especially with the art you’ve provided for the book, something of a Hugh B. Cave/Lee Brown Coye feel, such as with Murgunstrumm & Others). So, it seems you still have an affinity for the “old” treasures. Once you returned to the writing fold, so to speak, did you find yourself moved by any new and different dark influences? Do you have any recent favorite books and movies?

RK: When I was debating on whether or not I actually wanted to write horror again, there were two authors — both totally unfamiliar to me — that pretty much made my mind up for me. After I read Brian Keene’s The Rising and James Newman’s Midnight Rain, they really ignited a creative fire in me and I thought “Hey, I think I can do this again!” And I found that I actually wanted to. So I attribute my desire to come back into the fold to Brian and James. As for recent books I’ve enjoyed, there are almost too many to mention. I really enjoyed Rich Chizmar’s Chasing the Boogeyman and the Gwendy series he did with Stephen King. Also, about anything by Keene, Jonathan Janz, Wesley Southard, Hailey Piper, Laurel Hightower, and Eric Larocca. There are dozens of others, too. The horror genre is so full of creativity and energy these days, the selection of different styles and voices is hard to keep up with. As for movies, I don’t watch many theatrical horror flicks these days, but some of the streaming services like Netflix are putting out some good horror, like Malerman’s Bird Box and Lebbon’s The Silence.

GC: I purchased The Haunt of Southern-Fried Fear literally a day or two before Silver Shamrock blew up. After your experience with Zebra, did you by chance get a nasty sense of of deja-vu? (I expect I would have.) Am I right in thinking you’ve come to an arrangement with Crossroad Press (with whom I’ve had consistently excellent experiences) for your work that would have otherwise come out via Silver Shamrock? Anything you can tell us about your upcoming stories and books?

RK: The fiasco with Silver Shamrock wasn’t as heartbreaking and chaotic for me as it might have been for other authors. I’ve gone through these sudden, unexpected publisher shutdowns seven times during my writing career, so I reckon I’ve kind of grown accustomed to the chance of it happening at any given moment. Nothing is guaranteed from day to day in indie publishing. Sometimes it’s financial woes or low sales due to disinterest from potential readers. In this recent case, it was an extremely negative reaction to a social media promotion. Luckily, the Davids at Crossroad Press contacted me shortly after SS announced their demise and the transition of The Essential Sick Stuff, The Saga of Dead-Eye, and the Southern-Fried collection series from one publisher to another was relatively smooth and painless. Crossroad is in the process of making all three available in ebook and paperback, and eventually audiobook… something that Silver Shamrock never seemed to have a genuine interest in pursuing. As for upcoming books, Dead-Eye, Book Two: Werewolves, Swamp Critters, & Hellacious Haints should be released sometime this summer, along with a new edition of my extreme horror collection, After the Burn, illustrated by Zach McCain. Plus, Stygian Sky is releasing my memoir/writer’s guide, Southern-Fried & Horrified, in September.

GC: Most of today’s horror authors are finding career success in their twenties and thirties. Your recent surge in popularity seems to be taking place during your early sixties. Do you think there is a reason for that? And, where do you see yourself and your career in ten or twenty years?

RK: You know, there was a long stretch of several years after I returned in 2006 where very few readers were familiar with me or my work. It was discouraging. At one point, I seriously considered hanging it up because of lack interest. Then folks started discovering Fear and reading The Essential Sick Stuff and The Halloween Store, and they began to get a hankering for old fashioned storytelling. I don’t know… maybe they grew a little weary of all the gloomy, angst-ridden fiction that was prevalent and craved a bit of fun and nostalgia in their horror. Maybe it just took thirty-six years for me to reach a point where I had the confidence to write what I truly wanted to write; traditional tales that serve as comfort food for those who have a true love for old-school horror. Yes, true, I’m nearing retirement age, and that’s when many writers tend to slow down and take it easy. It seems to be the opposite for me. I have more story and novel ideas in my head, more projects in the works, than I ever did during my younger days. If I can hang in there, I’m planning on serving heaping helpings of Southern-Fried horror for another decade or two. If the readers keep hankering for what I have to offer, I’m more than happy to oblige them.

GC: Thanks, Ron — it has been a pleasure!

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In the next Graveside Chat, look for celebrated author Jeffrey Thomas to offer his unique insights into thrills, chills, and mind-numbing terror!

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Old Dude Featured at Richard Dansky's "Five for Writing"


Durham, NC, author Richard Dansky was recently kind enough to ply me with five questions for his celebrated "Five for Writing" interview blog. There's talk of Elizabeth Massie's Ameri-Scares series for young readers, Dark Shadows, Fugue Devil: Resurgence, geocaching... all that kind of good stuff. I quite enjoyed giving the interview, and I hope you'll give it a look!

Five for Writing — Stephen Mark Rainey

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On top of that slice of niceness, I received my contributor copy of Jim Beard’s Running Home To the Shadows, a collection of memories of Dark Shadows from a host of pro writers, including the old dude, who grew up with the show, back in those dim, distant Dark Ages.

Running Home to the Shadows — edited by Jim Beard with Charles R. Rutledge; cover illustration by Mark Maddox with logo design and formatting by Maggie Ryel; foreword by Kathryn Leigh Scott

Essays by Greg Cox, Kathleen O’Shea David, Mark Dawidziak, Dave Dykema, Bob Freeman, Ed Gross, Nancy Holder, Tina Hunt, Katherine Kerestman, Mark Maddox (with Ed Catto), Elizabeth Massie, Kimberly Oswald, Martin Powell, Dana Pride, Stephen Mark Rainey, Michael Rogers, Charles R. Rutledge, Chris Ryan, Frank Schildiner, Duane Spurlock, and Jeff Thompson

Afterword by Rich Handley

Running Home to the Shadows at Amazon.com.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Friday, April 15, 2022

Spring Springs on Good Friday

Early this past week, I finished up my latest Ameri-Scares novel, Georgia: The Haunting of Tate's Mill, and it’s currently getting the editorial once-over. Next step is plotting my not-for-little-people novel tentatively titled Ca' Dolore, which is set in Italy. There will be monsters, murders, and mayhem. And yes, of course, there will be updates as things happen along the way.

Ahhhh, but what an evening. As per the norm, earlier in the day, I ventured forth to Pleasant Hill — happily, picking up a geocache en route. Once here, I visited the local market to acquire vittles and other staples; feasted on some very lovely dead bird; and then set out on a moderate hike to perform maintenance on one of my caches, out on the Dick & Willie Trail (yes, yes, I know). Then I settled myself on the porch to further plot the novel. I made some progress, which pleased me. But the truest pleasure at the time was the serenity of being at the old homeplace, on a truly beautiful evening, with thrushes, mourning doves, and barred owls singing their way into the twilight; bumblebees buzzing around the azaleas; and a couple of bunnies scampering about in the yard. Scarcely a hint of human racket for the better part of two hours (apart from one useless jackass blasting hip-hop from here to the coast). To accentuate the mellow, I made a couple of lovely martinis and a platter of blackened scallops for dinner.

Following, I spent a pleasant hour or so on the Lovecraft eZine Patreon Podcast gathering, which usually happens on Thursday nights, but this week's was moved to tonight. I don't think it'll become a regular Friday thing, but tonight, it was certainly convenient.

This just in: the signed/numbered edition of Fugue Devil: Resurgence is now available for pre-order — here.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Now Playing: Running Home to the Shadows!


It’s here: Running Home to the Shadows, from editor Jim Beard and publisher Becky Books. This volume, which features plenty of recollections about Dark Shadows from a host of writing professionals — including yours truly — plus a foreword by Dark Shadows own Kathryn L Scott (Maggie Evans, Josette DuPres, Rachel Drummond, and others).

From the editor: 

School is out, and Barnabas is IN!

They were a generation all their own, the army of children who ran home from school to watch Dark Shadows, TV’s very first supernatural soap. A breed apart, they set aside the worship of mundane pop stars to follow vampires, witches, and werewolves. From 1966 to 1971, they were daytime Monster Kids… and today they have stories to tell.

Writer-editor Jim Beard has gathered these grown-up kids together in this tome to tell those tales. Their experiences are sometimes tragic and terrifying, yet also uplifting and inspirational, but above all, Dark Shadows touched them so deeply as to leave an indelible impression on their lives that lasts to this day.

Return to Collinwood to brave the stormy nights and rainswept days of yore to listen to this coven of writers spin yarns of childhood encounters with Barnabas, Angelique, Quentin, Vicky, Maggie, and their compatriots. Cross the threshold of the Old House, take a seat by the crackling fire, and make yourself comfortable to the strains of maudlin music issuing forth from the gramophone — the ghosts of the past are about to arise in Running Home to Shadows. Won’t you join us?

Edited by Jim Beard with Charles R. Rutledge

Cover illustration by Mark Maddox with logo design and formatting by Maggie Ryel

Foreword by Kathryn Leigh Scott

Featuring essays by Greg Cox, Kathleen O’Shea David, Mark Dawidziak, Dave Dykema, Bob Freeman, Ed Gross, Nancy Holder, Tina Hunt, Katherine Kerestman, Mark Maddox (with Ed Catto), Elizabeth Massie, Kimberly Oswald, Martin Powell, Dana Pride, Stephen Mark Rainey, Michael Rogers, Charles R. Rutledge, Chris Ryan, Frank Schildiner, Duane Spurlock, and Jeff Thompson

Afterword by Rich Handley

Order Running Home to the Shadows here.

Monday, April 4, 2022

Anthony Horowitz’s Forever and a Day


I grew up reading Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, and even the least of them — The Man with the Golden Gun, I’d say — still retained a crucial bit of 007 magic. The myriad reboots of the literary Bond — all of varying quality, few of them very satisfying — boggle the mind, so I recently decided to try the relatively recent entries that ostensibly follow the Fleming canon. Having been disappointed by William Boyd’s Solo and Sebastian Faulks’s Devil May Care, I approached Horowitz’s Forever and a Day with some trepidation. Happily, however, as soon as I started reading, I felt a real connection with Fleming’s character and atmosphere. As the novel progressed, the portrayals of the primary villains and our requisite female character, Sixtine, felt well-drawn and engaging. Plot-wise, Forever and a Day is several steps above Solo and Devil May Care; it still seems to lose its way — or feel too derivative — on a few occasions, but for the most part, it hits the right notes. If nothing else, this one left me with a sense of enjoyment rather than disappointment, and I will definitely give Horowitz’s Trigger Mortis a look-see.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Black Raven Books Presents FUGUE DEVIL: RESURGENCE!


If you know about the Fugue Devil, it knows about you. If you see the Fugue Devil, it will come for you.

Many decades ago, summoned by the power of music, The Fugue Devil   — a dreadful, malevolent entity from another place — entered our world. Every seventeen years, it reappears to satiate its hunger for unsuspecting souls.

Author Stephen Mark Rainey’s terrifying novelette, “Fugue Devil,” originally appeared in his first fiction collection, Fugue Devil & Other Weird Horrors in 1992. Now, thiry years later, Black Raven Books brings you Fugue Devil: Resurgence, which features the original novelette; its sequel, “The Devil’s Eye”; and ten more tales of horror and mind-bending terror.

This incredible volume includes stories originally presented by such superlative publishers as Borderlands PressDark Regions, and others, as well as several new stories appearing in print for the first time. Available in ebook, paperback, and signed/limited edition hardback. Release date is May 1, 2022.

Preorder the Kindle edition here:
   Fugue Devil: Resurgence for your Kindle

Preorder the hardback edition here:
Fugue Devil: Resurgence, signed/numbered hardback

Fugue Devil: Resurgence in the spotlight at Buttonholed Book Reviews