Monday, May 16, 2022

Hey! A nice review of Fugue Devil: Resurgence at Uncomfortably Dark / Red Rose Reviews (from the link, scroll down to the April 30 review).

“The pacing of these stories is damn near perfect – not too slow and not too fast, the author takes a good amount of time setting up his characters and their environments before bringing in the supernatural.... It works to connect the reader to both the story and the main character.”—Dark Rose Reviews


Fugue Devil Resurgence at

Sunday, May 15, 2022

A Graveside Chat with Glynn Owen Barrass

Glynn Owen Barrass is a hugely prolific writer and editor, particularly in the field of Lovecraftian literature and gaming. He graciously agreed to share some of his wit, wisdom, experience, and news with A Graveside Chat. Buckle up!


GC: You have an impressive body of work and have worn numerous hats — from writer of short stories to editor/co-editor of anthologies, to author of role-playing games. Do you enjoy any of these particular disciplines more than the other? Have you written any novels? Is novel writing an endeavor that appeals to you?

GOB: Why thank you! Many people don’t know that I’ve also written poetry. This was early in my career, and I found short story writing more enjoyable. In answer to your question, short story writing will always be my greatest love. The satisfaction of putting word to page, the completion of a story and seeing it published, it’s second to none. Not that I don’t love the other two mediums. Working on role-playing games is similar to story writing, but is a different kind of challenge. When writing gaming material, you have to consider what your protagonists will do, unlike with fiction where they have a clear path. And as they’re given life to by your players, they quite often do the unexpected! It’s great fun creating a world that players will experience, interact with, and quite possibly get killed by!

With the editorial side of things, there’s the excitement of seeing what the authors create from the anthology theme, the pleasure of reading their story, and in the case of an open call anthology (rather than closed), getting to choose the stories that fit the theme best, which stories complement one-another in the anthology as a whole. I’ve written some novellas, but nothing nearing novel length (yet). I guess one day a short story or novella will keep on going till I have to accept it’s going to become a novel!

GC: Much of your work either ties into or is inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s work. What draws you to this particular sub-genre, if we should call it that? Do you tend to write tales that fit into specific Lovecraftian lore — i.e., the myriad conventions of the Cthulhu Mythos — or are you more inclined to draw on the concepts that inspired those conventions and veer off into your own territory? (Or both, perhaps?)

GOB: When I discovered Lovecraft’s fiction in my early teens, it was a style of writing and imaginative fiction the likes of which I’d never encountered. His fiction stuck with me as a reader, and years later, as a writer. I guess what really attracts me to the Cthulhu Mythos is the pantheon of strange and dreadful entities, the intricate, hidden web they created throughout the history of humanity and the aeons before that. I write a mixture of traditional lore and my own writing conventions, with primarily modern day Cthulhu Mythos tales, and some set in the Cyberpunk sub-genre. One creation I should mention is my female Occult Detective Cassandra Bane. Her tales are certainly a hybrid of the traditional and my own fictional territory. Noir-style adventures in contemporary, crime-infested cities, including of course, the eldritch horrors from beyond.

GC: You have collaborated with author/editor Brian Sammons on numerous occasions. Do you have a favorite project that you both worked on? What drew you into this collaborative relationship? Do you have more projects on the drawing board together?

GOB: Yes, Brian and I have done a lot together! We’ve co-edited anthologies, co-written short stories, and also worked together on the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game. As for a favourite project, that may be the most difficult question so far! We’ve co-edited nine anthologies together, soon to be ten, and written two large campaigns for Call of Cthulhu. My favourite anthology is either Steampunk Cthulhu or Eldritch Chrome. It’s difficult to choose! Both books were entirely unique at the time of release, the subgenres of Cthulhu Mythos/Steampunk, and Cyberpunk Cthulhu, untouched as anthologies. We put a lot of love into both, as did our amazing and talented authors.

Another project we worked on, for Call of Cthulhu, is A Time to Harvest. Brian created this huge campaign with in-depth information regarding one of the Cthulhu Mythos’s most sinister races, (the Mi-go) and asked me to help complete it. The publisher liked the campaign so much, they used it as an organized play campaign for Call of Cthulhu.

We met on social media, me being a fan of his gaming and anthology work. We began talking about themed anthologies we’d like to see, and our first book, Eldritch Chrome, was born. We are currently working on a Murder Mystery/Cthulhu Mythos anthology for PS Publishing, and also a new book, the details of which we’re keeping quiet, for now!

GC: Do you enjoy role-playing games yourself? Any particular favorite games?

GOB: I played a lot more games when I was younger, such as Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Runequest, and Traveller. My favourite back then, and now, and this may come as no surprise, is Call of Cthulhu. When Call of Cthulhu first appeared in the game shops it was something else, so different from the fantasy and sci-fi games we were playing. Gangsters, molls, professors, and dilettantes battling alien god and monsters. It was amazing.

GC: Insert your own question here. Whatever topic, have your say. Anything you want — or have wanted — to share, go for it!

GOB: The Cthulhu Mythos has brought so many writers together, and we’ve formed grand friendships as a result. Cthulhu is everywhere now, in books and games, toys and TV and movies... I couldn’t be happier. In some ways, I guess Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Cult managed to take over the world just as he envisioned, with just a little less howling and madness!

GC: Thanks so much for sharing your time and news. Most appreciated!

Saturday, May 14, 2022

2021 HWA Bram Stoker Award Winners

Congarters to the 2021 HWA Bram Stoker Award winners!

  • SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN A FIRST NOVEL: Piper, HaileyQueen of Teeth (Strangehouse Books)
  • SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN A GRAPHIC NOVEL: Manzetti, Alessandro (author) and Cardoselli, Stefano (artist) – The Inhabitant of the Lake (Independent Legions Publishing)
  • SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN A YOUNG ADULT NOVEL: Waters, EricaThe River Has Teeth (HarperTeen)
  • SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN LONG FICTION: Strand, Jeff – “Twentieth Anniversary Screening” (Slice and Dice) (Independently published)
  • SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN SHORT FICTION: Murray, Lee – “Permanent Damage” (Attack From the ’80s) (Raw Dog Screaming Press)
  • SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN A FICTION COLLECTION: Files, GemmaIn That Endlessness, Our End (Grimscribe Press)
  • SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN A SCREENPLAY: Flanagan, Mike; Flanagan, James; and Howard, JeffMidnight Mass, Season 1, Episode 6: “Book VI: Acts of the Apostles” (Intrepid Pictures)
  • SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN A POETRY COLLECTION: Sng, Christina; Yuriko Smith, Angela; Murray, Lee; and Flynn, GeneveTortured Willows: Bent. Bowed. Unbroken. (Yuriko Publishing)
  • SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN AN ANTHOLOGY: Datlow, EllenWhen Things Get Dark: Stories Inspired by Shirley Jackson (Titan Books)
  • SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN NON-FICTION: Knost, MichaelWriters Workshop of Horror 2 (Hydra Publications)
  • SUPERIOR ACHIEVEMENT IN SHORT NON-FICTION: Yuriko Smith, Angela – “Horror Writers: Architects of Hope” (The Sirens Call, Halloween 2021, Issue 55) (Sirens Call Publications)
  • LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: Fletcher, Jo; Holder, Nancy; Suzuki, Koji
  • SPECIALTY PRESS: Valancourt Books
  • THE SILVER HAMMER AWARD: Wetmore, Kevin J.
  • MENTOR OF THE YEAR: Knost, Michael

Friday, May 13, 2022

Fugue Devil: Resurgence Book Release Party:
June 4, 2022, 4:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m.

Folks in GREENSBORO, NC, & Surrounding Areas...

For my latest scary offering — Fugue Devil: Resurgence — there will be a book release party at Rioja! A Wine Bar (1603 Battleground, Greensboro, NC), on Saturday, June 4, 2022, from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Rioja! has a fine selection of both wine and beer, and a small but excellent food menu. I’ll be doing a short reading from the book about 4:30 p.m. Copies of the paperback — and possibly the hardback — will be available, and I’ll happily autograph them (if you don’t mind your books being devalued).

This is not necessarily a full two-hour sit-on-your-ass-and-drink event (unless you want it to be). Jake, the owner, is making this a private event, and just hopes for folks to stop in to enjoy a friendly gathering and some lovely refreshments.

I'd be honored if y’all can make it. Mark your calendars!

Monday, May 9, 2022

The Lost Reviews

I understand Amazon’s desire to prevent false, agenda-driven reviews from dominating their product pages, but their policy of removing reviews just because someone is connected in some way, such as via Facebook, is extreme and unpractical — especially since so many writers and readers are connected on social media, as well as in person. Amazon has removed three out four of the reviews so far posted for Fugue Devil: Resurgence, simply because the writer is “connected” with me in some fashion. And those are just the ones I am aware of. Who knows if others I’m not aware of have been axed as well. Anyway, with writer Stephen H. Provost’s approval, here is his review, which Amazon removed:

If you read it, it will hook you.

“I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of tales that provide just the right mix of horror with suspense, interspersed with elements of science fiction and even whimsy. These stories have the feel of having been written by someone who grew up watching The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, which is just the kind of alternate-reality fiction I enjoy. These works aren’t just frightening in the moment; they’re thoughtful and well-crafted. They stick with you.

The first two entries and the final story are all connected, creating a tidy bookend feel to the collection — a notable and welcome distinction from most such compilations. They’re also among my favorites. The underlying premise that one’s fate is sealed if one chances to see the titular demon-monster, the Fugue Devil, is a powerful one that's been echoed to some degree in more recent sensory-based thrillers such as “Bird Box” (another favorite of mine) and “A Quiet Place.” But you’d be hard-pressed to find it more skillfully executed than it is here. And Rainey did it first.

Other highlights for me included:
  • “Somewhere, My Love,” which is more wistful fantasy than horror, and deftly done.
  • The disquieting “When Jarly Calls” (I may not go wine tasting again anytime soon).
  • The surreal “Escalation,” with its killer (literally) twist.
  • “Pons Devana,” which is set in Roman Britain and offers a troubling brew of sorcery, dark science fiction, and psychological horror.
  • “Messages From a Dark Deity,” which contained a particular scene that shocked the hell out of me.
Having lived in southern Virginia, I recognized the strong sense of place the author has created: The setting runs through many of these stories. At times, the fictional setting Aiken Mill itself conjures up the a sense of dread and foreboding that sets the stage for what’s to come. I highly recommend Fugue Devil: Resurgence for any fan of Rainey’s work and of suspense, horror, and psychological thrillers in general. You won’t go wrong with this one.

Stephen H. Provost

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Ghosts Appear and Fade Away

For years, I’ve been wanting to make my way back to Chicago for a visit, primarily to reunite with the Japanese Giants Guys — the right dishonorable Bill Gudmundson and Ed Godziszewski — both of whom were among my closest friends when I lived in the Windy City in the 1980s, as well as several other wonderful folks in the area. As far back as 2018, Ms. B. and I had tried to plan a trip northward, but finding the time off from work, particularly with other obligations we had, never allowed for it. Finally, in early 2020, we had things squared away and were all set to go in the spring. And then... WHAM! Here comes COVID-19. And in 2021, our long-planned trip to Europe took priority over everything else. Thus, we had to postpone Chicago yet again.

But now... at long last... we’re on our way. Chicago... by way of Nashville, TN.

Some months ago, Ms. B. discovered that Colin Hay, of Men at Work fame, was scheduled to play at City Winery in Nashville in early May, and since both our birthdays are in early May — and both of us love his music — taking in his show struck us both as a mighty fine mutual birthday experience. And thus did the plan come together.

Sunday, May 1, 2022 — GSO to CLT to BNA
Long before the ass-crack of dawn, we were up and at ’em for a 7:15 a.m. flight out of Greensboro. We connected in Charlotte after the briefest of layovers — one of those run-through-the-airport-at-top-speed-or-miss-your-fucking-flight kind of layovers. I feel almost bad for plowing into at least one person as we made haste from one end of the airport to the other; I might even feel some honest-to-goodness bad if the person in question hadn't been one of a row of slow-creeping numpties taking up the entire width of the corridor. We made it onto the aircraft with moments to spare — we were literally the last passengers to board the plane. We were worried our luggage wouldn’t make it on board, but once we arrived in Nashville... happily... our bags showed up on the baggage claim carousel. Literally, the last bags unloaded from the plane.

From BNA, we took a cab to the city center and checked our bags into a luggage drop, since we couldn’t check into our lodgings until 4:00 p.m. We'd had no food — or coffee! — on either of our flights, so we immediately sought breakfast, which we found at a lovely place called Frothy Monkey. Our vittles proved delicious: eggs over medium, taters, bacon, toast, a Bloody Mary, and most of a pot of delicious coffee (as black as midnight on a moonless night). Happily, in downtown Nashville, there are geocaches aplenty, and so, after breaking the fast, we wandered and geocached. As afternoon approached, we walked up to the big farmer’s market near the Capitol grounds, just north of city center, where some of us cached and some of us shopped. One guess as to who did what. 

At last, after a brief stop at the nearby Publix to snag a few staples, we wandered back into the city center, grabbed our bags, and checked into our AirBnB, an industrial-style, reasonably comfortable place called Sonder-Dovetail on Church Street. After freshening up and relaxing for a time, we decided to seek dinner, which we found at an establishment called Puckett’s. I killed some better-than-tolerable beef brisket and Ms. B. demolished a pulled pork sandwich. This might have been followed by bit more geocaching. According to our phones' health apps, we walked just over nine miles today.

I had come to Nashville a couple of times for World Horror Con — way back in 1991 and 1992, I believe — but my memories of the city are hazy, at best. It is safe to say the first day of this travel venture proved pleasant.
"It's wine... wrapped in plastic!"
Monday, May 2, 2022 — Who Can It Be Now?
Window washers viewed from our window.
Not a job for which I'd be well-suited

Whose birthday is it? Surely, not mine. But wait....

Ms. B. and I slept in for a bit this morning because we could. We had picked up some light breakfast fixins at Publix, so we braced ourselves on coffee and yogurt before hitting the streets (which, given our heavier-than-usual diets since leaving home, was just the ticket). More geocaches (yep!) and shopping (yep!) awaited us in the very touristy Broadway area, so we added some additional mileage to the soles of our feet (which eventually began to bother Ms. B., for she is old and frail). There's a big-ass place called Assembly Food Hall with tons of restaurants and bars, so we stopped a little spot called Smokin' Chikin for lunch. Relatively light fare (except for the french fries) and reasonably satisfying. Then... wine time! There's a large wine bar/restaurant on the upper floor of the Assembly building called Sixty Vines, and between Ms. B. and I, we checked out a good half dozen of said vines. Our sommelier was knowledgeable, attentive, and a great conversationalist, so we give Sixty Vines high marks.

We returned to Sonder-Dovetail for a while to mellow a bit before heading to City Winery, about a mile south, for dinner and the Colin Hay show. We hung out on their terrace for a while, where I tried a couple of Jalapeno margaritas, the peppers in which turned out to be hotter than your average jalapeno, so I was happy.

City Winery is a lovely venue, with dinner tables set up in a relatively small auditorium. Once inside, we ordered big honking burgers for dinner, and these were delicious. Again with the french fries! (I am now thoroughly potatoed out.) Our table was the closest possible to the stage, so our seats were fantastic. We got to watch Colin Hay go at it from a distance of fifteen feet, with lovely lighting and an excellent, very clear sound system. Hay is 68 years old and still in fuckin' top form — his vocals sounded better than ever, he told many engaging anecdotes, and he played a few Men at Work favorites as well as many newer compositions. The show went nearly a full two hours, and the experience was a joy. The crowd clearly loved every minute of it.

Adding an unexpected and very enjoyable twist to the experience was my running into a familiar face in the crowd — a fellow geocacher who goes by the moniker MonkeyBrad. Brad is a Facebook friend, and for quite some time, his mug was literally the face of His image was ubiquitous on the Geocaching site and in advertisements. Some time ago, he had purchased a copy of West Virginia: Lair of the Mothman — which I had autographed — for his son. I knew he lived in the Nashville area, but I had absolutely no expectation of running into him, especially at a non-geocaching-related event. We did get to have a couple of brief but pleasant conversations. So, Day Two in Nashville ended on an altogether satisfying note. Which, I suppose, is proper for a birthday I'm not really claiming.

By the time we hoofed it back to Sonder-Dovetail, we had put another seven-plus miles on our achy-breaky feetz.
View of downtown Nashville from pedestrian bridge over the Cumberland River
Old dude and Ms. B. sampling the fare at Sixty Vines in Assembly Food Hall
A delicious if junior-size jalapeno martini at City Winery
Tuesday, May 3, 2022 — Hurry Up and Wait
Our flight to Chicago was scheduled to leave at 10:45 a.m., and since we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to get to the airport (during the morning rush hour), Ms. B. and I rose with the dawn. We had scheduled an Uber ride for 7:45 a.m., and our driver arrived right on time. Morning traffic did slow the ride, but we made it to BNA without undue delay. Naturally, about the time we arrived, a text notified me that our flight was delayed by 45 minutes. Well, at least we'd have plenty of time to get through security, have a leisurely breakfast, go pee, and such. About midway through breakfast at some airport restaurant, I received a text that the flight was now moved up to 11:00 a.m. Still plenty of time, so we didn’t rush to the gate. Once we did wander over that way, we discovered the incoming flight hadn’t even arrived yet. It didn't pull into the gate until after our “updated” departure time. So, not only was the altered flight time wrong, take-off was well over an hour late.

From there, our flight took a little over an hour to reach ORD. Lots of turbulence, but that’s not at all unusual for Chicagoland. The worst of it was being forced to listen to a boisterous know-it-all run his useless mouth at top volume for the entire flight, never once pausing to take a breath. He, I suspect, might have been responsible for the turbulence. We had reserved a car, and getting to the rental area required a long walk and a train ride. And once we got there... lord a’mighty... the place was almost empty except for our check-in counter, where a passel of very angry-looking people were gathered. It took a while to get things squared away at the desk, and we were told it would be twenty minutes or so before a car was ready for us. One livid, elderly woman demanded to talk to a manager because she’d been told twenty minutes but had been waiting for over an hour. This did not bode well. However, sure enough, twenty minutes later, the nice folks at the desk called us over, and... what do you know... they had a car for us. Getting to it required another fairly hefty trek, but at least things went more smoothly for us than they clearly had for most of those other folks there (I suspect they had not reserved their cars in advance).

We headed out of O’Hare into the afternoon traffic jam on I-90... wow, just like old times! Half an hour later, we arrived at our AirBnB, about three miles from the airport. It was the upper floor of a typical Chicago bungalow, with two comfortable bedrooms, a bath, and small kitchen. The only thing missing was a living room or other common area, but for the price we paid, one could scarcely complain. Once settled in, Ms. B. and I headed over to friend Bill’s place, just over a mile away. What a joy to see him again — and old friend Bob Scism was also here! After hanging out for a bit, we set out for Morton Grove, a few miles up the road, to have dinner at Pequod’s Pizza, which had been one of our favorite pizza restaurants way back in the old days. Here, we met friends Ed; his wife, Mariko; and Mike Paul. Another joyful reunion! And the pizza at Pequod’s was still as delicious as ever — unique even for Chicago, and certainly beyond compare of anything we have back home.

And there was a geocache on premises. Hell, yeah! Fortunately, for me, I snagged it quickly while we were waiting on the pizza.

Mike presented me with a copy of an old drawing (on a restaurant placemat!) of King Ghidorah that Bill and I had collaborated on sometime back in the 1980s. He had kept it on hand for all these years, and seeing that again brought back a flood of great memories. All in all, we had a wonderful little reunion in one of our favorite places ever. There are still more gatherings yet to come this week.

After another brief hangout at Bill’s place, Ms. B. and I made a supply run at the nearest supermarket and returned to our place. It was a long... LONG day, much of it spent in transit (or waiting for transit), but what a payoff at the end. A long-awaited homecoming, such as it was.
Pequods — the best anywhere
King Ghidorah, drawn on a placemat at Nancy's Pizza, by Bill Gudmundson and me, circa 1984
A ravenous bunch: Ms B, old dude, Bob Scism, Mike Paul, Ed Godziszewski, Mariko Godziszewski
Wednesday, May 4, 2022 — Our Shadowed Past
Hiding in the corner at Café Touché...

Ms. B. and I had a fairly early lunch date, out in Elk Grove Village, with old friend Bob Issel and somewhat newer friend Jeff Kenny. Our Shadowed Past — a collection of Dark Shadows memories — was Bob’s original project, but he, Jeff, and I became the creative team that put it all together back in the fall of 2021. We met at Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ, enjoyed tasty lunches, and hung out yakking for a long while. Bob and I have a considerable shared history in our respective Dark Shadows–related creative journeys. As with all my Chicago friends, it’s been too long since our paths have crossed. Jeff brings in new talent and perspective to the table, so it was a treat to meet him for the first time.

After we parted ways, I headed after a few nearby geocaches. Then Ms. B. and I hit the road toward the city proper, figuring we could partake of a drink or two prior to heading back to our lodgings. We found a lovely little neighborhood bar called Café Touché, which fit the bill nicely. Wine for Ms. B., a gin martini for me. After that, we returned to our home away from home to refresh ourselves and make Ms. B. more presentable. Then it was back over to friend Bill’s abode, where we met his lovely and charming wife Gari for the first time. Bill hauled us to dinner at Kalbi Korean Restaurant, where we met old friend Alex Wald, another good friend I probably last saw before the turn of the century. Dinner was fantastic — our courses were brought to the table, where we roasted them over a flaming hot grill in the center of the table. I’ve had plenty of Korean food, but never in this presumably authentic fashion.
The creative team behind Our Shadowed Past: Old Dude, Bob Issel, Jeff Kenny
Dinner at Chicago Kalbi Korean Restaurant
Thursday, May 5, 2022 — Chicago de Mayo
In front of the apartment building where
Bill & I lived, many years ago

Ms. B. and I didn’t avail ourselves to any Mexican treats today, but treats aplenty we did find. This morning, we met Bill at his abode and then had a delicious brunch at his favorite coffee shop — Perkolator, on Irving Park. From there, Ms. B. and I drove down to Logan Square, where Bill and I lived back in the 1980s. There was a cache just down the street — or should have been — but after a thorough search, I am confident it’s missing. Sad!

After roaming Logan Square for a little while, we headed downtown, for what turned out to be a consistently drizzly day of walking around the northern end of the Loop. Ms. B. wanted to check out a paper store to pick up some of the papers she uses for her arts and crafts, so while she did that, I hunted a nearby cache — again, sadly, unsuccessfully. Apparently, many Chicagoland caches have gone missing and aren’t being maintained, which is pretty disappointing. But I did find a handful of particularly nice hides as well, so that made me smile real big.

Eventually, we wandered into Harry Caray’s Bar on Kinzie Street, which, in all the time I’ve spent in Chicago, I had never visited. A most pleasant experience indeed. Martinis for me, vino for the lady. I never realized the building was once owned by Frank Nitti, Al Capone’s number one man back in the bad old days. From the bar area, there’s a “secret” stairway down to his old vault room, which has been turned into a mini-museum. Kinda fun, I will say.

Again, out into the rain for a handful of caches, and another wine bar stop — a happy little place called Good Funk, but where we actually found some bad funk (wine, that is). Happily, our top-notch server gave us a couple of tastes for us to see what we liked because, in her words, “some of this stuff smells like it came from the barnyard.” No exaggeration. We did end up with some really good wine, though.

From Good Funk, a walk along the river to an establishment called The Smith, which we sort of randomly selected for dinner. Not even a little bit inexpensive, but the food was incredible. I had spicy roasted duck wings, and Ms. B. went with Spaghetti Bolognese, which was red-wine braised chicken ragu, parmesan, and basil. I sampled some of hers and was literally stunned by how delicious it was. I hate to say it, but it rivaled or surpassed most of the Bolognese that we had while in Italy. Yeah, it was that good.

By the time were were finished, it was getting late, so we made our way back to the car and headed to our home away from home. This little venture into the Loop was, to me, invigorating, certainly among of the most satisfying times we’ve had on this trip. The crowd downtown was actually the smallest I’ve probably ever encountered there. Traffic wasn’t bad, we had no delays getting in and out of any place we visited, and parking was quick, easy, and not all that expensive. Once back at our AirBnB, we decided to watch a movie, so we went with U.S. Marshalls, which neither Brugger nor I had seen for many a year. It was, as I recalled, quite entertaining.

And now... one more full day in Chicago before heading back home.
A mighty drizzly day in the city
At Harry Caray's Bar
Down by the lazy river
There was supposed to be a cache at the Homeless Jesus bench, but he wouldn't give it up.
Friday, May 6, 2022 — Sushi Station, Mitsuwa, and More
Old dude, Old Mr. Bill in The Library

I’m glad our day of hoofing it around the Loop was yesterday and not today because today it rained real water. Not that phony stuff that came down yesterday. Happily, for the most part today, we had roofs over our heads.

Once up and going, Ms. B. and I drove out for a couple of caches and then over to Bill’s place. We piled into Bill’s car, picked up Gari, and headed out to the suburbs, to Sushi Station, a lovely little Japanese restaurant in Arlington Heights. After a most enjoyable lunch, we trucked the short distance over to Mitsuwa, a large Asian market (back when I lived here, it was called Yaohan). Here, we browsed the bookstore and shopped for groceries — mostly for our evening dinner at Bill’s Kitchen. Once done, we hit the road for our return to Bill’s, only to be stopped by a parked train blocking the road. So... alternate route! Anyway, once back, we hung out, drank some wine, and made googly eyes at Bill’s impressive library. Sometime prior to dinner, longtime friends Jeff Osier and his wife, Cathy Van Patten, arrived, and — again — coming to Chicago brings us to yet another happy reunion.

Mr. Bill and Gari set up the fixings for okono miyaki, savory Japanese pancakes, which we prepared as we desired and grilled at the table. I haven't had okono miyaki since visiting Bill on some previous trip — probably in 2007, when I was here for a G-Fest (the last one I ever attended, I do believe).

Afterward, Ms. B. and I returned to our AirBnB and started getting things together for our departure on Saturday. This trip to Chicago meant a lot to me; it’s been in the works for many years now, and I hope there won’t be so many years before our next visit here. Truly, I still have more good friends here than anywhere else in the world, and even after such a long time, when we’re back together, all those years just kind of melt away.
Okono miyaki in the works
Bill and Gari preparing to attack

Thursday, May 5, 2022

A Graveside Chat with Bridgett Nelson

Bridgett Nelson is a name that, in relatively recent days, has become synonymous with gripping, vivid, gut-wrenching horror. Her recent collection, A Bouquet of Viscera has drawn ever-increasing numbers of readers deep into its fang-filled maw, chewed them up, and turned them into rabid fans. Her fiction gleefully calls to you and then wallops you in the brain — right there, in that sensitive spot just behind the temporal lobe. In this edition of A Graveside Chat, Ms. Nelson shares her thoughts on writing, convention-going, her influences, and the dark lit field in general. I was hoping she might share some of her favorite recipes, but she declined on the grounds that they might incriminate her.


GC: You have an engaging social media presence, with lots of friends & followers, fun writing news, and photos aplenty. You also tell dynamite stories. How big a role do you think social media plays in keeping interest in your work high? Do you ever find that maintaining your presence on Facebook, Twitter, etc., distracts you to any significant degree from your fiction writing?

BN: Thank you, Mark! Coming from you, that means a lot. My goal is to keep it light. I like having a good time and sharing a few laughs with my author friends and fellow bookworms. In case it isn't clear via my posts, I don't take myself too seriously. I'm just enjoying the hell out of my horror-writing career and the instant family/community it gifted me.

For Indie writers, it's safe to say that social media plays a huge role in how well their books sell. Horror groups on Facebook are incredibly active, with thousands upon thousands of hardcore horror-loving members... and if they get behind you, it makes a huge difference. It's difficult for me though. I hate promoting my own work. I do it because I have to, but ask anyone — I'm more likely to give you a copy of my collection than to make you pay. (A very bad habit I really need to break.) I'm just so grateful to get copies into people's hands. At this point in my career, it's not about the money. I simply want to get my stories in front of readers. 

I'll be honest, I was genuinely shocked when people wanted to buy my book at AuthorCon. A few times, I remember looking these poor people in the eye and asking, "Really?" (I'm sure they thought I was a fruit loop.) When they'd verify they wanted a copy, I'd light up like the frickin' sun. That was a seriously great weekend — I am so loving this whole writing gig!

So, yes. Social media can be distracting, but without it, not a single person who purchased a book from me at the convention (or those I've mailed signed copies to), would have any idea A Bouquet of Viscera even existed. I consider it a very pleasant part of my job. At the end of the day, being an author involves way more than just writing the stories.

GC: Your medical experience shines through in many of your stories. Are you still employed as a registered nurse? At the risk of getting you in trouble, have any of your work experiences directly influenced your horror fiction? (Don't worry — there are still plenty of jobs out there. Haha.) Or do you use your medical expertise more to provide authentic backdrops for the events in your tales? (Or some of both?)

BN: I am still a registered nurse, but I no longer work in the medical field. I'm a full-time writer these days. Well, I also proof audiobook narrations. That pays all my convention expenses.  

Thus far, not a single medical element in any of my stories has been based on actual experiences. That's not to say they'll never show up, but I definitely use my medical knowledge more to provide authenticity in my stories. 

I loved being a nurse. I loved taking care of those very sick people and helping put smiles on their faces despite the, oftentimes, life-threatening health issues they were going through. I loved the relationships I formed with some of the chronic patients we saw frequently. One patient even invited me to his wedding. 

I've held patients' hands as they've taken their final breaths. I've assisted in open heart surgeries and day-long brain surgeries. I've spent an entire night shift sitting and listening to the memories of a young man who was dying from end-stage AIDS. He passed away just before my shift ended. The last words he ever uttered were to me. I've run codes as a charge nurse. I've been held at knife point by a patient suffering from dementia. There are things I've seen which will haunt me for the rest of my life. So, yeah... frankly, it would be weird if that part of my life didn't influence my writing in a very significant way. 

GC: You have established yourself at a few conventions already, and I understand you've got plenty more to attend in the coming days. Do you find any aspects of con-going daunting — such as public speaking or doing book signings? Or do you just dive right in and enjoy the hell out of the whole business?

BN: Conventions are like family reunions... only enjoyable!

I'll be heading to StokerCon in just a couple weeks. I can't wait! I was invited to be on three panels: one regarding impostor syndrome, one about common medical mistakes in books and movies, and an extreme horror/splatterpunk panel, which I'm really looking forward to. They'll be my first-ever panels at my very first in-person StokerCon. I'll also be doing a reading with two amazing writers, Sara Tantlinger and Kathleen Scheiner. I'll be honest... readings are the bane of my existence. So many eyes staring at me while I read a story I put my heart and soul into. It's tough... for me, anyway. I don't enjoy public speaking but, like social media, I feel it's yet another part of the job. And I will say this... each time I push myself into doing something I really don't want to do, it gets a little easier. Not once have I regretted it afterward.

Mostly, I totally enjoy the hell out of the whole business! Conventions, to me, feel like coming home. 

This summer, I'll also be at Imaginarium, Necon, Scares That Care, KillerCon, and Multiverse, to name a few.

GC: Your recent collection, A Bouquet of Viscera, has drawn considerable attention, with lots of positive reviews. What's next for you? Where do you see yourself five years from now? A decade from now? Is there anyone you want to give a shout out to for providing inspiration — creatively, motivationally, etc.?

BN: I'm so very proud of A Bouquet of Viscera, yet this is my truth — being a no-name author, I had very, very low expectations about how this collection would do. The horror genre is saturated with talented, creative, energetic writers, and I simply wasn't sure Bouquet could make even a tiny splash in such a big pond.

But then, suddenly, I had this really cool title, thanks to one of my best friends, author Richard Dansky. Upon hearing the title, the uber-talented artist, Lynne Hansen, wanted to design the cover. Splatterpunk and extreme horror author, Christine Morgan, offered to help me with the editing. The ever-amazing Todd Keisling agreed to do the interior design and formatting. Ronald Kelly, who is one of my favorite people in the entire world, enthusiastically agreed to do the foreword (and what he wrote had me happily sobbing into my pillow). And then... my all-time favorite author, Jeff Strand, offered to blurb this little collection of mine. And while his blurb was phenomenal, he later stated during a podcast that my story, "Jinx," was a "Jack Ketchum–level punch to the gut." Which... wow. Everything sort of blew up in the best possible way, and I'm so incredibly grateful to all these people for helping me make this book a beautiful reality.

Thankfully, readers seem to be loving the stories too. Not going to lie, after the cover reveal went viral on Twitter, I was a little worried the stories wouldn't live up to the exterior of my collection! I'm especially happy that in so many of the reviews, the readers are naming different stories as their favorites. No one story is getting all the love. "Jinx" is definitely getting the most attention, for obvious reasons, but it's been fun reading everyone's stand-outs.

As for what comes next for me, I've begun work on my first novel. I'll still be writing and submitting short stories to anthologies. And yes, I did sign a contract this weekend... a really, really good one. But I'm not sure I'm allowed to talk about it yet, so that will have to remain a secret for now.

Ten years from now, I hope I'm an active member of the Horror Writers Association (because not being able to vote for the Stoker nominees stinks), I'm hoping the Bridgett library includes many well-received novels and collections, I hope I'm getting anthology invites and pro-rates for my stories, I hope I'm still attending conventions and that I'm a winner of the Gross-Out contest at KillerCon — but mostly — mostly, I hope to still be as happy as I am at this very moment. Or happier! Happier works.

GC: Insert your own question here. Whatever topic, have your say. Anything you want — or have wanted — to share, go for it!

Oooh! Fun! (FYI... I'm going off the wall here.) 

My granddad was a farmer, and I used to help him castrate his hogs (poor piggy dudes). I went to Woodstock '94. My great-uncle traced our ancestry and discovered we're related to William Shakespeare, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and... Marilyn Monroe (Voila! With that DNA combination, Bridgett, the schmexy writer, is born. Also, that's a joke.) I have four doggies: three elderly pugs and a St. Bernard. And I cannot stand people feet! Keep your toes to yourself!

Mostly, though, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all the readers for their overwhelming support. You guys have purchased my book, written reviews, shared pictures, included me in interviews and podcasts, ordered signed copies, and made A Bouquiet of Viscera an unexpected success. Clearly, we now need to have a huge party and celebrate. Who's with me?