Patronage has fluctuated a bit since starting up, but we seem to be at a happy spot.
My goal was to get up to 25 patrons, but we haven’t gotten there yet. And that’s okay. I like the gang we do have.
I wanted to supply some strong content for you guys. I hope I have. I wanted to produce a new short story each month. Out of 10 months, I managed 8 stories. Not too bad considering I had to write and finish a new novel for my new publisher within a 3 month window (Until Summer Comes Around will land on your bookshelves this May!).
I started a serial novel (Bring Me to Life) for my $5 patrons, and I managed three chapters. We have plenty more on the way!
And I tried to give you some insight into the way I do my thing. I hope some of that writing advice helped you out in some way.
A number of patrons received signed print copies of the pre-Poltergeist Press edition of Blood and Rain, and those of you that have stuck it out with me for the majority of this thing will be receiving what I hope is an annual thing, my short fiction collection Nocturnal Pursuits. This collection is just for you guys (although some people managed to nab a copy while I had it up on Amazon for a quick minute). The book features all 8 of the stories from the Get Rolfed Patreon Short Story Series (“Hollowed”, “What’s My Again”, “Molly”, “Something in the Water”, “Orson’s Gas n ‘ Go”, “Bag Lunch”, “Everett”, “Gone Away” ) Plus, I tossed in some extras (“Master of Beyond”, “In the Basement of the Amazing Alex Cucumber”, “You Can Have it All Back”, and “Out of Range”). The book came out pretty well. I finally learned how to properly format a print book, so that was good! And using he Amazon cover creator was a really nice experience, as well.
For those of you NOT subscribing to my Patreon page, I am planning a wide release of the official (and bigger/better edited) edition of Nocturnal Pursuits probably sometime late 2020 or early 2021.
Overall, I feel like it was a successful first year.
For $5 a month, most of my patrons received at least one free signed paperback (Blood and Rain) and will be adding this exclusive signed paperback copy of Nocturnal Pursuits. They also receive the free short stories in eBook form with exclusive covers that I’ve created. 🙂
O yeah! and we did a giveaway for Patrons only. One of you won a copy of the Thunderstorm Books hardcover Exclusive of The Window !!!
The goals for 2020 remain the same: one new story per month. No less than one new chapter of the serial novel. A new piece on writing at least every other month, and more behind the scenes (early cover reveals, early rough draft chapters of works in progress-that sort of thing). I’d love to do a live q and A session sometime this year, but well see.
What’s on the horizon for $5 patrons in 2020:
Signed print edition of my next novel, Until Summer Comes Around
Signed print edition of the novel after that, Ascension Agenda (hopefully we get this one finished for a fall release)
Plus, we’ll be doing at least 2 giveaways for 1) a hardcover edition of Until Summer Comes Around and 2) another special edition hardcover I haven’t announced yet.
Signed EXCLUSIVE print edition of short fiction collection #2
For those of you considering joining, here are the tiers and what they entail
$1 or more per month
Access to bi-monthly personal essays offering writing advice
Behind the scenes looks at works in progress
Early cover reveals
Join $1 Tier
$2 or more per month
One free short story per month
Access to bi-monthly personal essays offering writing advice
Behind the scenes looks at works in progress
Early cover reveals
Join $2 Tier
$5 or more per month
For as long as you are a current Patron, you will receive free ebook copies of all new releases.
A free signed copy of all new paperbacks (US & CA only and excluding re-releases)
Something’s happening to the girls on Denton Street.
It’s the summer of 1980 in Cleveland, Ohio, and Phoebe Shaw and her best friend Jacqueline have just graduated high school, only to confront an ugly, uncertain future. Across the city, abandoned factories populate the skyline; meanwhile at the shore, one strong spark, and the Cuyahoga River might catch fire. But none of that compares to what’s happening in their own west side neighborhood. The girls Phoebe and Jacqueline have grown up with are changing. It starts with footprints of dark water on the sidewalk. Then, one by one, the girls’ bodies wither away, their fingernails turning to broken glass, and their bones exposed like corroded metal beneath their flesh.
As rumors spread about the grotesque transformations, soon everyone from nosy tourists to clinic doctors and government men start arriving on Denton Street, eager to catch sight of “the Rust Maidens” in metamorphosis. But even with all the onlookers, nobody can explain what’s happening or why–except perhaps the Rust Maidens themselves. Whispering in secret, they know more than they’re telling, and Phoebe realizes her former friends are quietly preparing for something that will tear their neighborhood apart.
Alternating between past and present, Phoebe struggles to unravel the mystery of the Rust Maidens–and her own unwitting role in the transformations–before she loses everything she’s held dear: her home, her best friend, and even perhaps her own body.
Gwendolyn Kiste isn’t new to the horror scene, but she is new to me. I’d been hearing about this book that was coming out soon, about this writer and how this was her first novel. Kiste has collections and a novella out there (which I will be hunting down), but this –THE RUST MAIDENS-is her first full-length novel. I managed to get a hold of a pre-release copy, and I must say, I was not disappointed.
Kiste’s novel is not just a good story (It’s a great story), it’s a statement to the literary world: Kiste is here and now, one of the best young writers in the fiction world. I couldn’t understand for the life of me how THE RUST MAIDENS isn’t with one of the big publishers. This book is fantastic.
The story centers around a young woman named, Phoebe, and five of the girls from her graduating class. When the girls, including Phoebe’s cousin and best friend, Jacqueline, begin to change amidst the strike at the mill, and the mothers of the block’s disparate clutch on perceptions, the street, the town, and those families involved are turned upside down. What exactly is happening to these girls? Why would they do this now of all times? When will it all return to normal?
“The flame of the mill burned bright overhead, but its warmth might as well have been a thousand miles away.”
Phoebe finds herself in a battle against loneliness, and an uncertain future. She should be riding out of town with her best friend ,ready for college and a life outside of Cleveland, but instead, she winds up on a quest for answers she may never receive in a place that just wishes she would leave things be.
“I’m a woman with half a century of life experience, who still can’t do a convincing impression of a human being.”
It does feature Phoebe now, decades later returning to the town and problems she eventually runs away from. But most of the story is of that summer of 1980.
Kiste does a wonderful job ingraining us through Phoebe to this place in time, this dying city in 1980. You feel the desperation. The need to get out. To get out before the dead end town claims you next. You feel the squeeze of lean and mean times as her father’s job at the mill is in jeopardy. You feel the fear of being stuck in a place, doomed to give away the world you received in a never ending cycle, and how even though you know this, there’s still no way to change it. The same way Phoebe knows, the girls have a fate that she cannot stand in the way of no matter how hard she tries.
Still, she tries. She refuses to accept that all hope is gone. And Kiste transfers that hope to the reader.
I took my time reading this book because I wanted to stay there and hang with these characters, to take Phoebe’s hand and stand with her against her world. And that’s the best compliment I can offer to the author. I loved this book.
Another thing I loved was the soundtrack. Kiste’s use of a few select artists does wonders in pulling the reader deeper into the experience. You get Tom Petty’s jangly guitars lifting you up and giving you just enough hope that things will be all right. You get The Carpenter’s fraudulent, soothing lullabies that everything is normal, and then you get the all too real, working class it is what it is-our lot in life- of Bob Seger. On the east Coast, we tend to tune into Springsteen for this, but Kiste being from Ohio, uses the Mid-West equivalent and it fits perfectly. Confession time: I went to bed a number of nights after reading a few chapters listening to Bob Seger’s Stranger in Town record.
Not an outright horror novel, but THE RUST MAIDENS is a book I will not soon forget.
I give THE RUST MAIDENS 5 stars! Easily the best first novel I’ve read in a long time.
THE RUST MAIDENS will be released Friday November 16th. You should definitely grab a copy.
Gwendolyn Kiste is a speculative fiction writer based in Pennsylvania. Her work has appeared in Nightmare, Shimmer, Interzone, Daily Science Fiction, and LampLight among others. Her debut collection, AND HER SMILE WILL UNTETHER THE UNIVERSE, was released through JournalStone in April 2017. She currently resides on an abandoned horse farm with her husband, two cats, and not nearly enough ghosts.
The boys crept to the window and watched as Miss Maggie carried the long bundle into the barn, the weight of it stooping her aging back. Rafter lights spilled from the barn doors, and Davey saw an arm fall from the canvas-wrapped parcel. He smiled.
“She got someone!”
Both children grinned and settled in their beds, eyes fixed to the ceiling.
This was family growth.
I recently caught up with authors Chad Lutzke and John Boden to talk about their excellent new book, OUT BEHIND THE BARN (See my review here). It’s equal parts horror and dark fairy tail, and well worth your time.
First off, let’s talk about your starts. How did each of you get into writing and when did you sell your first piece?
Chad Lutzke: I only read like one book (THE HOUSE WITH THE CLOCK IN ITS WALLS) until I was in my early 20s. I hated reading and stayed clear of it unless it was Fangoria, Famous Monster of Filmland, some metal magazines or Maximum Rock & Roll––stuff with pictures and articles. Then in my mid 20s I went to college to be a teacher, sucked at writing and decided to finally start reading. This was in the mid-to-early 90s. Everything I learned about writing was just from reading. Not any class. I read a ton for a few years and tried my hand at writing a handful of stories that turned out pretty good, but then never wrote again (other than song lyrics) for another 2 decades. I wish I would have stuck with it. Finally, I found out about people self publishing and indie publishers and all that and decided I was going be writer. That was in 2014. I had some stories published through some “exposure only” markets and that same year I sold my first piece as well as won 1st place in a small short story contest with a cash prize. It kept me from stopping for another 20 years.
John Boden: I wrote throughout my high school days and off and on after, but I sort of gave it up completely during my twenties. I only went back to it after Ken Wood asked me on board with SHOCK TOTEM. Reading all that slush was inspiring, as much as was meeting other writers, including some I had read as a teen. The first piece I ever sold was a story called “Peter Peter” and it went to Sideshow Press for the BLACK INK HORROR #7. It’s not a great story but I was thrilled to get it in there. Before that there were a few non-paying markets that put out stuff of mine.
What’s your personal favorite piece you’ve written?
Lutzke: As far as books, probably SKULLFACE BOY.
Boden: That’s always a tough one, I personally think SPUNGUNION. It was out briefly last year and will be seeing new life next year from John Skipp’s Fungasm imprint. Maybe folks will check it out and let me know if I’m correct in thinking it’s kinda cool.
What books by your co-author other really stands out?
Lutzke: John’s JEDI SUMMER is wonderful…loved every bit of it, but he wrote a weird western called WALK THE DARKNESS DOWN that is my favorite. He found a home for it but I think that’s still a secret so I can’t say anything more.
Boden: I’ve been reading Chad for the last, what? Almost 3 years…We read almost everything the other writes. We’re beta buddies. He’s written a lot of great stuff and he’s only getting better. So far my fave would be SKULLFACE BOY. It scratches all the itches: the coming-of-age itch, the weird characters itch. The sad/melancholy itch. It’s wonderful!
I know we talked privately about this. Your styles blend really, really well together. I was not shocked in the least that OUT BEHIND THE BARN is so good. Will we be seeing more collaborations between you two? And if so, is there one already in the works?
Lutzke: Thanks! We had started something a few years ago that I don’t know if we’ll ever revisit, but we have talked about writing together again…maybe even a yearly novella. The thing we did came together easily enough to entertain that idea.
Boden: I wouldn’t say one is in the works, but I’d definitely say you’ll see one or more in the future. Chad wants us to commit to doing a collaborative novella every year. I can’t or have trouble doing that. I’m always worried about making those kind of pacts, life, day job and things always have a way of derailing the best laid plans and I absolutely hate disappointing people. I’m pretty sure we’ll cross the streams again one day though.
Let’s talk about the new book. This story came from one of John’s short stories. Chad when did you decide the story had more to it and when did you step in and start working on the project?
Lutzke: As soon as I read it I thought it needed more and I tried talking John into expanding it. He said he tried but felt he was ruining it. The story kept getting rejected so finally he’d kinda had it and handed it to me to toy with. I wrote some, tossed out some ideas about creating some new characters and scenes, but I wanted to keep the very end pretty much the way he had it.
John, how did you feel about Chad’s thoughts and ideas for this thing?
Boden: If I’m honest, and I am, I was a bit uptight about it. Probably more so a dick. I kinda of pissed and moaned about his ideas and really didn’t want anyone meddling with my story. But Chad is nothing if not stubborn and he kept at me, and when he sent me his first portion, with his changes, I began to warm. I never really stopped being nervous until we neared the finish line though. Chad and I share a very unique bond. We get one another in an almost spousal way, it made for a very tight collaboration and a gel in voices that was amazing. I’m a good mimic, I’ve written with folks before and they’ve all gone this way, but with Chad it went a slice deeper.
Was it easy to work together in this? I don’t think I could ever write a book with someone else, it’s such a personal private thing. Did that ever make it hard for either of you? Did either of you hold back or feel at any time that the other was holding back?
Lutzke: It was easy, though at first we both had different ideas on how Maggie should be. That character was all John’s and it was important to him that she not be this evil villain but wanted the reader to have some empathy for her. Once I was able to see that character through his eyes then the rest flowed really well. The hardest part, honestly, was trying to come up with an attractive synopsis that didn’t give anything away. We kind of hit a wall for a while on that. As far as writing this together, John was worried at first because some parts of the original story were very personal to him and here he was handing it to me “Here, you feed this baby.” It’s one thing to enjoy another writer’s work, but it’s another thing to have them touch something you’ve created that has sentimental value. I respected that the whole way through, to the point that I even emulated John’s style in some scenes, so much so that even he had a hard time remembering if he’d written it or not. It’d be difficult for anyone reading it who is familiar with both our work to be able to tell who wrote what. And by the time we were done, John was really proud of it. We both were.
Boden: I touched on this in the answer above but I’ll state again. It was difficult for me, not because I had little faith in Chad. I knew he knew what we needed to do. But I was all “Dammit, I wrote this story, these are my characters, I can’t let the leash into another’s hand that easy. I know I pissed Chad off on more than a few occasions.
The story is fantastic. You have the two “brothers” who love to read or be read to, and the books they love are mostly darker Poe and Lovecraft type books. I’m guessing the love for these books and authors mentioned are favorites of yours. Reading along, I just thought it was another neat way to slip in another layer of the dark side into what reads like an almost fairy tale type story. That’s something I really love and appreciate from each of your works that I’m familiar with, they almost transcend horror yet you manage to tether them to our genre with these neat little add -ins. Is that intentional at all?Or do these dark things just bleed out into the story naturally?
Lutzke: Good question. For me, I love the horror genre, but I’ve grown tired of old tropes decades ago so I shoot for original concepts. But it’s not forced. It just comes. I think it’d be harder for me to write something completely traditional than it would be to come up with something like a kid who leaves his rotting mom at home while he attends a spelling bee. Though, coming up with those types of concepts sometimes raises an eyebrow before they get to reading. When I told my wife the idea I had for OF FOSTER HOMES & FLIES she looked at me like I was nuts, and rightly so. The elevator pitch for that book feels like it shouldn’t work, but people seem to like it. Same goes for SKULLFACE BOY and even STIRRING THE SHEETS. But in every one of them, the darkness does dwell and I suppose that’s because it has bled out. I never really set out to write something that is “borderline” horror and then feel like I need to add some horror element just to make it horror. My thing is when I started writing I wanted to be Joe Lansdale and Robert McCammon, authors who are adored by the horror community but who write a ton of non-horror stuff. I mean, who else can get you to read a western or a period piece more than those guys? You can’t put them in a box and I didn’t want to be put in one either. I will add this. John and I joke with each other about how often our stuff is full of heartache. That’s never on purpose. It just happens. But it happens so much it’s almost comical. I think we’re both empathetic people who have experienced some things that maybe we’re continually feeding on when we write and it’s therapeutic. But you could probably say that about most writers. I hope that answered your question in some roundabout way.
Boden: I grew up adoring books and horror. In almost anything I write, if there’s a kid in it, it’s little Johnny. And in this one Maggie was a helluva a lot my Mom. I write very personal and I think the book love, especially in this was important to show that. It somehow makes them real and gives an instant connection…if you’re reading this in the first place, chances are you’re familiar with and at least appreciate Bradbury, Poe and the others we lace in there. So when you read that, you’re inner giddy fan gets to fidgeting. It’s kind of like cheating for a little extra bump of love.
What are some of your favorite pieces to this story that your co-author brought in? Can you give us a specific scene or subtle touch?
Lutzke: The very end, which for the most part is the same end as the original short. It hit me pretty hard when I read it and I think I kind of choked up a little. I eventually read it out loud to my wife and when I got to the end I had to keep my cool or my voice would have gotten a little shaky and she probably would have laughed. She knows I’m a softy. Also, there’s a paragraph in there that’s sandwiched by the line “Summer was sliding away, like carrion from bone.” I love that.
Boden: I wanna be careful not to spill any beans, I think Chad’s addition of the character Rose was a smart one, and a great move…and also one that I initially pitched a hissy over. Sometimes it’s good to be wrong.
I won’t ask about the ending because I don’t want to spoil that for anyone. Is it something you guys intentionally did. Did you want the reader to fill in any of the blanks there? Or is that just the way it felt best to close the door for you guys?
Lutzke: Personally, I hate being spoon-fed, and I love stories and films that leave me wondering, and giving me just enough to maybe come up with my own conclusion, yet still wonder if I’m right. I felt the very last line in the story was like a shovel to the face and to add anything after such a powerful line I thought would take away a moment that held such emotion. Here you finally find out exactly what is going on, and there is resolve for characters you really care about, and anything that kind of leaves you on a note like that can have a very powerful sustain, where you’re just thinking about it long after you’re done reading it. That’s what we were going for.
Boden: The ending is exactly as the short story ended, final draft that is. I had an earlier version that ended on a different beat but I cut it. I’d love to expound more but I don’t want to spoil things for any who’ve not read it but ending it that way, was important. It put the focus where I/we wanted it to be.
Anyways, the story and characters are terrific. You guys are amazing writers. Is there anything you want to say to people considering picking up a copy of OUT BEHIND THE BARN?
Lutzke: Thanks for considering it. We had a lot of fun writing it. And if you’re already familiar with our stuff then I don’t think you’ll be surprised at the contents. Also, I really appreciate these questions you created, Glenn. I’m sure you know as well as we that the best interviews are the ones that didn’t come from a template but are personalized, so thank you!
Boden: I think the simplest and most honest thing I could say to those folks is: I hope you’ll take a chance on it and I hope you’ll like it. We’re very proud of this little book and the world we built within it.
Praise for OUT BEHIND THE BARN:
“Boden and Lutzke weave heartache and a backwoods tale as easily as telling a story around a campfire, delivered in an incredible voice.” ~Robert Ford, author of BORDERTOWN
“Poetic, unnerving, and heartbreaking. The partnership between Boden and Lutzke yields the kind of story that leaves you aching and unsettled. Long after finishing, I couldn’t stop thinking about Maggie, her boys, and what happens out behind the barn.” ~ Kristi DeMeester, Author of BENEATH
“Lawdy mercy. This story was amazing. There’s something magical and sad about it. I dig it a lot.”~ Michelle Garza (half of the Sisters of Slaughter) authors of MAYAN BLUE & THOSE WHO FOLLOW
OUT BEHIND THE BARN is available now! Grab a copy HERE
John Boden lives a stones throw from Three Mile Island with his wonderful wife and sons.
A baker by day, he spends his off time writing, working on Shock Totem or watching M*A*S*H re-runs.
He likes Diet Pepsi, cheeseburgers, heavy metal and sports ferocious sideburns.
He is the author of JEDI SUMMER with the MAGNIFICENT KID, SPUNGUNION, and DOMINOES, and more
PRAISE FOR JEDI SUMMER
“Jedi Summer drops the floor right out from under you, leaves you standing in a childhood that’s been roiling around inside your chest for too long. But you’d trade anything to stay there just one more day.” – Stephen Graham Jones, author of Mongrels
“[I] could not put it down. It moved me more than any novel in recent memory. Highly, highly, highly recommended, and I’m almost certain it will be one of the ten best books I’ll read this year.” – Brian Keene, award winning author of the The Rising
Chad Lutzke lives in Michigan with his wife and children. For over two decades, he has been a contributor to several different outlets in the independent music and film scene, offering articles, reviews, and artwork. He has written for Famous Monsters of Filmland, Rue Morgue, Cemetery Dance, and Scream magazine. He’s had a few dozen stories published, and some of his books include: OF FOSTER HOMES & FLIES, WALLFLOWER, STIRRING THE SHEETS, SKULLFACE BOY, and OUT BEHIND THE BARN co-written with John Boden. Lutzke’s work as been praised by authors Jack Ketchum, James Newman, Stephen Graham Jones and his own mother. He can be found lurking the internet at www.chadlutzke.com.
PRAISE for SKULLFACE BOY
“I was captivated by the first sentence…The pages fly by. I was utterly absorbed into the world of this transient teenager and his endearing, poignant and often hilarious take on every situation.”
“I’ll summarize with this: Chad Lutzke is an author to watch. With SKULLFACE BOY, he’s moving up on my favorite author’s list!”
“Glenn Rolfe delivers a chilling tale of demonic possession that keeps you
turning pages all night long.” -Russell James, author of Q Island
“Never gonna look in a mirror or out a window again! The Window is deep and rich…(and) will surely scare your socks off!” – The Haunted Reading Room
My new novel is out tomorrow! I can’t believe it’s already here.
What kind of demons await you tonight?
For Richie, life’s constant cheap shots are adding up. When he finds something is watching him, he never dreamed that it would show him everything he ever wanted.
When his son, James, comes to stay for the last month of summer, the changes in his father’s behavior come to the forefront. What is his father doing staring into the window in the middle of the night?
Was the fiery spark in the dark real? Or is Jame’s imagination getting the best of him?
Summer’s almost over.
And life is about to change.
Will James be able to save his father? Or is it already too late?
Dawn Cano has done a fantastic job raising money for animal charities with her two VS. anthologies. I took part in both editions. I was more than happy to write a new story for the X and I was delighted to share the roster with Jack Ketchum and Wrath James White among many others. My contribution: “To Be Alive”
Jack Bantry and Kit Power put together a great roster with SPLATTERPUNK FIGHTING BACK, as well. The proceeds to this charity anthology are ALL going to help fight cancer. My brother passed away from his battle with this monster with no cure back in 2010. I was honored to be invited. I also dedicated my piece to Matt Molgaard (Horror Novel Reviews). Matt was one of my earliest supporters and offered up my first review ever. He passed away last year, leaving a major hole in the horror community. My contribution: “Molly”
Daniel Marc Chant approached me for a story for this one. THE BLACK ROOM MANUSCRIPTS always delivers a star-powered cast. I didn’t hesitate in jumping aboard. This one contains stories from Paul Tremblay, David Moody, Adam Nevill, and more. My contribution: “Orson’s Gas N’ Go”
I’ve been trying to find the time to work with Kevin Kennedy on one of his anthologies for quite a while. I’m glad we were finally able to make it happen. His horror drabbles (stories in exactly 100 words) anthology, 100 WORD HORRORS, is full of short goodies from Lisa Morton, Richard Chizmar, Gord Rollo, and many, many, many more. My contribution: “The Came for Me”
How much did I get paid for these stories? $0 Why do it? Because I love working with this great group of editors and writers, and the ones for charities are causes I believe in and support.
Two of the covers (VS: X and 100 WORD STORIES) were created by the multi-talented Michael Bray. Check out his website here: MichaelBray.com
My FIGHTING BACK compatriots and I were all blown away and honored to be nominated in a couple categories for the inaugural SPLATTERPUNK AWARDS taking place at this year’s KILLERCON in Texas. We’re up for Best Anthology, plus Matt Shaw, Bracken MacLeod, and myself, were each nominated in the Best Short Story category for our FIGHTING BACK contributions.
VS: X US vs. UK EXTREME HORROR is also nominated for Best Anthology. Congrats to Dawn and everyone else involved.
You know this place. Seems normal enough. But you know better, don’t you? You’ve heard rumors of strange histories. You’ve seen hints of dark deeds. Turns out you can go home again, and the shadows will be waiting for you.
Bram Stoker Award® nominated editors Doug Murano and D. Alexander Ward bring you the next installment of their best selling, critically acclaimed small-town Lovecraftian anthology series: Shadows Over Main Street, Volume 2. Within these pages, you’ll discover: * America’s pastime awakening dark secrets buried deep within the earth. * Vietnam War heroes who glimpse something worse than war and return home to discover a new kind of hell waiting for them. * The music of a generation—of many generations—revealed as something older, hungrier and more insidious than a bad acid trip. * A war-widow who rediscovers love and passion… only to cultivate the world’s end.
Featuring stories by: Joyce Carol Oates, Joe R. Lansdale, Gary A. Braunbeck, John F.D. Taff, Lucy A. Snyder, William Meikle, Ronald Malfi, Damien Angelica Walters, and others. With a foreword by Laird Barron and stunning illustrations by Luke Spooner.
Every turn you take leads back to Main Street. We’ve been waiting. Welcome home.
Sometimes an anthology has that lure, that pull, that innate ability to sink hooks beneath your flesh without you realizing it. While there are plenty of good horror anthologies out there, it takes a lot for one to grab hold of me like SHADOWS OVER MAIN STREET (VOLUME 2). It can seriously take me all year to make my way through an entire anthology, especially ones with a specific theme. I get to the point that I no longer care about the theme and give up, even if I admire the authors. So I was pleasantly surprised by this one.
I’m a sucker for small-town tales. I’m growing an appreciation for the Lovecraftian realm in which these stories breathe and move, slithering tentacles across the brain, and welcoming you home with that gentle song from another world.
These are the ones that stood out for me:
“Shug”by John Taff – This one felt like a mix of Bradbury ‘s The Martian Chronicles and Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. I wasn’t sure I liked it a few pages in, but it ended up being my favorite. Just a really well-told story that made its home beneath my skin.
“Something in the Water” by Douglas Wynn – This is the story that made me grab this anthology. I read a bit of Wynn’s behind-the-story post via Twitter and knew I had to read it. Watch your tongue when you come to Wynn’s little town. Loved it.
“Disintegration is Quite Painless” by Max Booth III – I’ve read a lot of Max’s larger works. For the most part, they haven’t been my cup of tea. They’ve been a bit too weird for my taste, but very well-written, and Booth’s talent has never been in question. I knew it was only a matter of time when he wrote something that would blow me away. This one is a traditional/straight-forward horror tale. If you love Stranger Things, you’re gonna enjoy the hell out of this one. The beginning was amazing, and even though the story went in a bunch of different directions, I loved each and every one. I can’t wait to get this version of MB3 in novel form.
“1570 KhZ” by Damien Walters – No surprise that the Queen of Short Stories delivers another gem. This one features a young girl that wants to help her father. He sits in a garage listening to a strange frequency that is shifting his moods. This one is great.
“Sunset on Mott Island”by Lucy Snyder – the opening story, Snyder’s piece subtly lures you in on the waves, while bringing on the impending doom. Charmingly cryptic to the end.
“Duck Hunt” by Joe Lansdale – A few of these have a rites-of-passage theme to them. I just enjoyed Lansdale’s take the best. Thought I knew where it was going, but I was wrong. Fantastic.
There were really only two or three stories I didn’t care for in here, but even those were well-written.
This is a very impressive collection for fans of Lovecraft and/or small-town horror.
Even with the couple of so-so stories,
“The wolf is at the door. I don’t know why you can’t hear it. But I hear it. And I know how hungry it is.”
Am I glad that I’ve started using the library? Heck yes. Browsing the “New Arrivals” shelf introduces me to works I might otherwise never come across. Such as John Feffers’ SPLINTERLANDS.
Is it horror? Not genre-wise, but it is scary as Hell.
“Water boils fiercely just before it disappears. And so it is, evidently with human affairs.”
Its a short dystopian novel that is eerily tied in with far too many things actually happening right before our eyes in 2017. Hurricane Donald (very apropos), the result of our ignoring climate-change, wipes out Washington DC. The world is in flux under the ever-growing number of countries splintering into separate, self-governed states (see Brexit, or the increasingly popular idea of Cal-Exit), geo-paleontologist and author of “Splinterlands”, Dr. West, sets out to write his follow-up report, and also, to reconnect with his splintered family.
The journey is fantastic. I couldn’t put the book down.
This short novel is freaky with how close we are to following in its “fictitious” future’s footsteps.
I won’t give away any spoilers, but I would suggest anyone out there who loves good fiction, horror or otherwise, to track SPLINTERLANDS down. Hell, I honestly wouldn’t mind seeing this book become “mandatory reading” for high school kids and adults alike.
“Empires, like children, think they’ll live forever.”
I fear the future, especially these past few months of “Hurricane” Donald Drumpf with a too-large number of our country’s citizens eyeing immigrants as enemies. SPLINTERLANDS is scary, and it should be. Anything with an honest message of what-could-be, should be taken seriously and carefully considered. We the people should take a lot more things in our country seriously before they land us in this future.
“I don’t doubt that we still have convictions. We just don’t seem to have the requisite courage to follow them.”
This was my most anticipated release of 2017, so my expectations were extremely high. EXORCIST FALLS did not fail to entertain.
This book starts with the original novella, EXORCIST ROAD, one of my favorite pieces by Janz. It was great to re-read it here and love it just as much.
That brings us to the follow-up, the short novel, EXORCIST FALLS.
This story was pretty great, overall.
I loved not knowing what was going to happen. Every time I thought (or hoped) I knew where Janz was going, he took my someplace else. He really did an amazing job of keeping you off guard throughout.
Father Crowder is definitely the star of the show, and you’ll be praying for Danny Hartman to get his. There’s a lot of great gore and wildly imaginative action going on that is also well balanced with the internal struggle between Crowder and his curse. Janz’s writing is on point.
There were a few characters that fell flat (Liz) or seemed to be a little inconsistent from start to finish (Father Patterson, for instance). That said, neither character ruined the experience for me.
The ending….I won’t give it away, but it was both REALLY awesome and somewhat disappointing. Sound confusing? Yeah, it’s a frustrating thing. I LOVE where Janz goes here, but I think he should have written about three more chapters and brought the story to an even more amazing conclusion. Oh well. Not everything works the way we, the reader, want it to.
I still give EXORCIST FALLS 4 stars! Entertaining as hell.
I look forward to seeing it on many, many year end lists.
Halloween is just around the corner. One of the things I like to do is find creepy little short stories to swallow down between watching horror flicks and catching up on great horror books like John Everson’s THE PUMPKIN MAN or Bryan Smith’s ALL HALLOW’S DEAD
I was looking through my collections by various writers and picked four stories that I wanted to pass along to you. Each one will sneak under your flesh in their own loving, squirming way. From an author who goes somewhere he never should have, to a boy and his parent’s special house guest, to a reporter who finds out the truth about the Dalton Doll Company, and then to some kids who want to lose the weirdo their parents are making them bring trick or treating.
I love these stories so much.
Feel free to comment on these ones or make you own suggestions.
“Best New Horror” by Joe Hill (From 20th Century Ghosts)
“The Man Upstairs” by Ray Bradbury (From The October Country)
“The Harbinger” by Todd Keisling (From Ugly Little Things Vol. One)
“The House on Cottage Lane” by Ronald Malfi (Available for 99 cents from Amazon)
I also figured I’d share one of my own Halloween stories with you. A couple years ago, I put out my collection, SLUSH. “Halloween Worm” is one of the last stories that made its way in. I’m glad it did. This is a fun little number. I hope you like it.
“Eat shit, Keith!” I picked up my little sister’s Barney pillowcase and scavenged as much candy as I could see in the darkened dirt lot beneath my feet. Franky had insisted on not cutting through the field, but I knew it would get us back to my house in time to catch AMC’s annual showing of Halloween. The field skirted Paul’s Pick-A-Part, a sort of vehicular organ donor center two roads over from mine. Franky had warned me about it being too close to Holt Street and its number one bad boy, Keith Dennis, but I let my love for Michael Myers override the undercurrent of dread that flowed at the dumb ox’s name, and now, here we all are.
Keith Dennis was a bully in the purest sense. Ugly as a dog gone mad from rabies. His face, with its too wide nose, fat lips that clung like leeches to his mouth, and a bad acne scar that flared on his left cheek like some horrible explosion in the cosmos, looked pure mean. The guy had a natural born instinct to single out kids half his size, throw some dumb insults about how their friends are their butt-buddies, and a rotten gift that allowed him to take and break the amazing glow sword that you busted your butt making from pure ingenuity (something guys like Keith Dennis couldn’t spell, let alone appreciate) just because he’s an asshole.
“What’d you say to me you little shit?” Keith said. He held the broken handle of my sword, dropped his own bag of candy, and stepped forward.
My guts turned, my voice of reason whimpered I told you so, but as my eyes landed upon the now non-glowing plastic blade lying in the dirt behind this jerk, the part of my genetic make-up that got me in trouble with guys like Keith Dennis did the unthinkable. Next to one of the bite-sized Snickers bars that had escaped my candy sack, there was a smooth, oval rock the size of my fist. Before I had time to consider the consequences, I snatched the mini-boulder, jumped to my feet, and cracked Keith across the temple with it. He stumbled backward, dropped the handle of my broken sword, and held his head. A thin trickle of dark liquid seeped through his fingers.
I looked over at Franky whose eyes were as big and bright as the full moon over our heads, and said, “Run!”
The blood gushing from Keith’s head as he pulled his giant mitt away from the wound birthed an outright sense of oh shit-panic, and spurred my need to escape. The fluorescent light I’d carefully placed inside the plastic blade of my sword crunched beneath my sneakers. I grabbed Franky by his ten dollar Dracula cape, and made for the dull lights of Holt Street.
“Dan, Dan, shouldn’t we tell somebody to…I don’t know help him?” Franky’s voice never sounded so whiny.
We hit the pavement, our sneakers slapping as we moved toward the first house, Mrs. Bean’s. “Just shut up, Franky,” I said. “You want me to get in trouble?”
Headlights cut the darkness as blue lights swirled to life.
Oh shit, oh shit!
“Is that Dan Trask and Franky Taylor?”
Officer Gilchrist. Grade A hard ass, and all around fuck-hole.
He stepped out of the car, lights still whirling through the night, and walked our way as we stopped and tried to catch our breath.
“Where you boys coming from, tonight?”
Think, think, think…
“They were with me. I fell back there by the lot, and they were running to get help.”
It was Keith, but he didn’t look…right.
“Ain’t that right, guys?” he said. Keith stepped up to my side, and placed one of his bear like arms around my shoulders.
Franky would have looked pale as the undead even without the make-up.
“Ah, yeah, we thought he was…hurt,” I managed. I felt Keith’s thick fingers press into my arm.
“Wanna tell me what you boys were doing down by Paul Meacham’s scrapyard?”
“Just kid’s stuff. Throwing rocks at the old beaters,” Keith said. “One bounced right back and hit me in the head. I got a little queasy when I saw the blood, but I’m okay.”
“I could bring you boys in tonight for throwin’ rocks down there,” Officer Gilchrist said.
He could, but he wouldn’t.
“I know Officer, but we didn’t break anything. Honest. We just wanna finish trick-or- treating and get home for some scary movies. Please don’t tell my dad,” I said. I knew I sounded like a little wussy boy, but Keith’s story was better than mine. Besides, there was shame in being driven home in a cop car, but dealing with Keith Dennis, well, that was just a matter of manning up and taking what you got coming.
“All right, but if I catch you boys back down here tonight, you’re all going in.”
“Yes sir,” Keith and I said in unison. I could see a grin, a just you wait grin, dance onto his ugly face.
The big lug kept me muckled to his side as we watched Officer Gilchrist drive away.
“Hey Franky,” Keith said.
Poor Franky looked over with eyes that begged not to be hurt. “Yeah?”
“Get the fuck outta here. Me and your boyfriend got some man-to-man business to deal with.”
Franky’s eyes met mine, and I nodded. He didn’t deserve the beatdown, I did. The empathy in his pleading eyes was good enough for me.
Keith and I stood like best buds, butt-buddies as he would say. I watched Franky skulk down the sidewalk, his small shadow bouncing along after him beneath the streetlamps. The lump in my throat threatened to choke me.
Before I had a chance to try and talk my way out of the maximum pain sentence Keith Dennis loved to dole out to his victims, his McGregor’s swept my feet from under me as he yanked the hood of my sweatshirt backward. I slammed onto the sidewalk, the wind from my lungs released faster than a rocket pass from Peyton Manning.
“I got something special for you, Trask,” he said. He dropped one fat knee atop my chest and fished around in his Halloween sack. He pulled out an orange prescription bottle. He uncapped it and wiggled something into his hand.
My eyes landed on the thing that squirmed between his fingers. A worm.
“This was in my Candy Apple from Mr. Danson’s house. You know that crazy old fuck on Emerson Road? He denies it, but my Uncle Jerry told me that fucker’s a sex offender, a child rapist. I ain’t scared of no pederast, so I knocked on his door last year. He gave me a candy apple. The sick bastard grinned like he wanted to suck my stump right then and there.”
I didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, and I never prayed so hard to see Officer Gilchrist in my whole life.
“I took that candy apple, opened it as I was walking down his shitty cat infested porch steps, and ate it on my way to the next house. I never looked back, but I could feel his creepy boy-fucking eyes on the back of my head.”
Keith looked like he was in the middle of a dream. I could see his eyes glisten in the street lights as he looked at the trees behind us.
“You see this fucking hole in my cheek?” he said. A more natural hatred fixed his eyes.
I did see the mark on his face. The one I thought was a bad acne scar.
“My ma took me to the emergency room that night.” He paused, a tear slipped from the corner of his right eye. He sucked in two quick breaths through his wide nose, trying to hide a hitch. “I could feel something tearing at the inside of my mouth all night. I was trying to enjoy Terror Train, but this, this thing, kept chewing at me. I thought it was some kind of bad canker. I tried to lie down and go to sleep, and I dozed right off with the screams coming from the TV. I opened my eyes an hour later, reached for my face and felt the blood…and then the hole. I didn’t bother looking at it. I just ran to my ma’s room and pulled her outta bed. She got us down to the ER where they got me right in.” He stopped, and stared at the thing between his fingers. It wiggled hello.
“This is what the Doc pulled outta my mouth that night, except, it wasn’t moving. He told me it was dead. I asked him if I could have it. I was gonna torture it, dead or not. But after they patched up my face, and I got home, it began to move. I wanted to crush it, spill its guts, but I had a thought. I was gonna get that fucking pervert. I knew it was him.”
Captivated by his story, I couldn’t remember my own fear. His cheek was still discolored, but you couldn’t tell it had ever had a hole in it.
He grabbed me by the front of my sweatshirt with his free hand. My fear returned in spades.
Oh God, don’t let him make me eat that thing…
“Stop acting like a queer,” he said. He dropped the worm back into the little orange pill bottle and capped it. “That old man’s getting his payback, and you’re gonna help me.”
“What? Why me?”
He let go of my sweatshirt and stood back up. “Cuz I ain’t got anybody else. I got no real friends. And you owe me for hitting me with that goddam rock.”
He had me there.
“So, we doing this now?” I said.
“Fucking right we are.”
We set out. Neither of us said another word until we reached Emerson Road.
Mr. Danson’s house and its cat littered porch, sat in complete darkness. By way of bad omen, the street lamp next to his pervert shack went out.
We both looked up.
“Fuck it,” Keith said. “Come on. He’s getting his little friend back whether he wants it or not.”
I followed. Our candy sacks had been left behind. Keith carried the little prescription bottle with the odd cheek-eating worm in his hand as he led the way around the abandoned house next to Danson’s and into the old man’s backyard.
The night seemed dead: no cars, no children, and no wind. The hairs stiffened on the back of my neck. I wondered if Mr. Danson was waiting for us.
“Hold this,” Keith said. He handed me the bottle with the awful Halloween worm.
I tried to protest, but he grunted and glared at me. I took the little orange bottle with the white label.
“I’m going to walk around front and knock on his door.”
“What?” I said, louder than I meant to.
“Shhh. He’s gonna open up just like last year, and I’m gonna slam his ass to the ground. Once I rough him up a little, I’m gonna let you in the back. Then we’ll give him what’s his.”
It was a shit plan–a damn, shitty plan–but he was up and off before I could say so. I listened, hearing his footsteps around the house, crunching leaves the old man hadn’t cared to rake from under the tree hanging over the corner of his house like some sort of giant spider. After a few seconds, I heard Keith knock.
This is stupid. This is really, really stupid. I should just drop this creepy thing and go home.
“You son of bitch,” I heard Mr. Danson’s high-pitch voice yell.
There was a scuffle. I could hear feet shuffling, a door banging, and various grunts and curse words from both of them. And then, the door slammed shut.
Run. The good voice of reason screamed at me.
Instead, I waited. This silence wasn’t golden, but it was more like pure hell on a stick, dripping red with the blood of innocence gone wrong. Still, I, we waited… just me and the evil Halloween worm. What a pair!
The latch on the back door rattled and intruded on my thoughts. My body hair reached for the radio airwaves above. I held my breath.
The back door swung open.
“C’mon, man,” Keith said. He was breathing heavy.
A small burst of fireworks set off over my elated fears. A small victory.
“I knocked that geriatric pervert out with his own cane,” he said as I slipped into the dark hallway behind him. “He managed to whack me in the same spot you did, but all it did was piss me off. I jumped him, pinned him to the ground, and threw a couple solid punches into his old man face. Once I beat the fight out of him, I took his cane and whacked him good over the head with it.”
Jesus, I thought. Lucky if he didn’t kill him. I prayed that the guy–pervert or not–was still alive. Sure enough, there he lay sprawled out on a matted, forest green rug. He had a giant red mark on his forehead. Two of his dozen cats–one white, one black–sat mewling by his head as if to stir him to awake.
The living room of his home smelled like cat piss and shit, mixed with cigarettes and hamburger grease. At least six other cats strutted around and licked themselves, indifferent to the two newcomers standing in the room. The little brown couch against the wall opposite the front door was torn to shit. Stuffing spilled out of it like the guts of Braveheart. I looked around and saw a wooden baseball bat leaning against a metal rack between the door and small TV stand. Atop the metal rack was a fish tank. It was filled with dirt instead of water. Ant farm? More likely a worm farm. An evil cheek-eating worm farm.
“Okay, give me the worm,” Keith said.
“All right you fucking pederast bastard, time to take your medicine,” he said. Keith popped off the white cap, squeezed the old man’s cheek, and opened his toothless mouth. Mr. Danson looked like a dying fish. Keith jiggled the orange bottle directly over the open 0.
I watched the worm drop in and disappear. Mr. Danson jerked and gagged. Keith clamped his hands over the old man’s maw.
“What are you doing?” I said. Mr. Danson’s eyes shot open. He squirmed and writhed behind Keith’s hand, gagging all the while.
“Shut up, Trask,” Keith barked. He turned back to Mr. Danson. “How do you like it you fucking perv?”
Mr. Danson’s eyes were wild. He brought his right hand up to Keith’s face. I couldn’t do anything but watch as the old man drove his thumb through Keith’s left eye.
Keith’s scream devoured the silence. He flailed at Mr. Danson. Keith’s arms looked like one of those crazy daisy lawn toys that shook every which way.
Mr. Danson’s thumb jabbed over and over into Keith’s ruined eye. The sick man’s gaze sparkled with madness. He was delirious with a wicked joy. I should stop this. I should kick him in the head, or smash him in the face with something…I stumbled backward plopping down on the gut spewing couch, playing witness to this horror. Keith, reaching for his eye, fell off the crazy old man.
Mr. Danson stood. My eyes caught the tenting in the front of his sweatpants. Keith rolled back and forth on the carpet and held both hands over the latest damage inflicted by this strange man.
“You boys should have stayed home tonight,” Mr. Danson said. “Hold still, you cry baby faggot,” he said. He placed his boot on Keith’s ankle and leaned forward. “I said, hold still, faggot!”
“Arrrgggh!” Keith’s pain cut deep into my heart.
Mr. Danson moved up to Keith’s head, stepping on various parts of the bully on the floor along the way. He turned his devil eyes to me. “This the kind of company you keep, boy?”
I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breathe.
He stood over Keith, and looked down upon him with disgust. “I should pull out your dirty little thingy and give it a good tug. Would you like that? Huh?” he said, pushing the toe of his boot down on Keith’s hand-covered eye. There was blood all over Keith’s face and hands. “Yeah, I bet you would.” Mr. Danson’s leer returned to me. “How about you? You a faggot, boy? You want a little sweet tug from an old pro?”
“You sick son of a bitch,” I cried out.
His smile dropped, but my balls on the other hand flew north for the winter, never to be seen again.
“Well,” he said. He took a step back, and looked down at Keith. “Looks like I got another date tonight, boy. Sorry. Say hello to heaven for me.” With that Mr. Danson raised one booted foot and crashed it down like a flash of lightening, striking once, twice, three times before he dropped to his knees, and hunched over Keith’s broken face. Keith wasn’t moving. Mr. Danson bent down to Keith’s lips. I thought he was going to kiss him. Instead, Mr. Danson spat the worm directly into the Keith’s bloody mouth.
His head turned to me, like a wolf spotting fresh prey.
I gasped, and scrambled to my feet. Mr. Danson didn’t bother to get up, he just came crawling on all fours.
Out of pure reflex I stepped forward like this was kickball, and caught him square in the face.
He sat up and cried out.
Instinct screamed at me to keep on him, not to let up.
Before I had time to act, Mr. Danson sprung at me. His fingers climbed into my mouth like a creepy-crawly in the night, and yanked in opposite directions. My lips felt like they could split at any second; his calloused fingers tasted as bad as the bottom of our garbage can smelled. The rank image of squirming maggots and slimy leftovers shuddered through me. I screamed and pushed back against my perverted attacker with all of my strength.
“Oooh, a fighter, heh?”
The bastard stood. I continued to drive us backwards. His fingers slid from my mouth and journeyed down my chest to my waist.
We hit something on the floor and tumbled down together. I heard a loud, thick crack. Mr. Danson groaned and fell silent. I landed atop of him. I could feel the hard stick in his pants go limp beneath my ass. Then the dirt began to fall.
“…ohh…huh?” he moaned.
The dirt–more like a damp soil–piled up on my shoulders, my thighs, and my forearms. The earthly smell was welcomed compared to the rest of the piss-soaked house.
At first, I wasn’t sure what the hell he was talking about. I figured he’d hit his head too hard and was having some kind of dizzy vision. Then I remembered the cracked glass, the dirt, the ant farm…the worm farm.
I bolted upright and swiped at the dark clumps of soil attached to me. I saw the creatures hidden within the dirt begin to squiggle just before I felt the first bite. I jerked my forearm and barked out a sharp cry. I swatted the filth and its hungry inhabitant from my skin. A flap of flesh where the thing had bitten me drooled blood and a snot-like residue. Another pinch sunk into my thigh, followed by another and another. Behind me, Mr. Danson began yelping. I turned and saw more of the worms dig into his wrinkled flesh. One was burrowing into the side of his neck, while another turned up toward his eye. Even as one sank its strangely-fanged maw into my shoulder, my gaze locked on Mr. Danson’s right eye and one of his “babies” with the evil intentions.
The splultch sound of the worm latching its fangs into his eyeball was followed by Mr. Danson’s high-pitched shriek.
Eye for an eye.
I shot up to my feet and swatted at every inch of my body I could reach. In my mind’s eye, I saw millions of the tiny beasts trying to devour me. I managed to clear the one from my shoulder, and the ones that were still on my arms and thighs. I tap-danced away from the rug at my feet and the thirty to forty gross, pale worms writhing around on the floor. Mr. Danson flailed and flopped like a giant fish pulled from the sea.
Keith was silent. His body still.
Two of the pale worms were trying to bite through Keith’s jeans. I knelt down and whacked them from his pant leg. His chest did not rise or fall.
“Keith?” I took his head in my hands and slapped him hard across the face. “Keith!”
I jumped at the dirty, yellowed fingernails that dug into the side of my neck. I shrugged him off.
“You did this! You did this!” Mr. Danson’s closed and tattered eye leaked the odd mix of blood and slime down his cheek. His clawed hands reached out for me. I stood, and spotted the baseball bat by the door.
I stepped over Keith and gripped the bat.
Mr. Danson gave out one last ear-piercing squawk before I planted the bat down upon the center of his forehead. He dropped to the floor and lay across Keith’s legs. The worms went to work on his exposed flesh.
I stood still, the bat gripped in my hands and held out toward the perverted worm meal like a ninja warrior from one of the games Franky always liked to play on his Xbox. I looked at Keith. I was pretty sure he was dead.
After a moment’s hesitation, I bolted out the door, the murder weapon (I was certain that my strike had killed the old man) in hand, and ran out into the cold, dark night. Halfway home, I tossed the bat into a thicket of woods near the end of my street. My lungs, my gums, my throat, all burned. Still, I ran. I pumped and pumped my legs, and propelled my body onward, away.
I stumbled into my backyard. The site of our back porch and my dad’s trusty grill welcomed me. I dropped to my knees and flopped down on my butt. Keith Dennis may have been a jerk, but he deserved a better end than the one he got. Mr. Danson, however, earned every last nibble that he had coming from his Halloween worms.
I spat down at the yellowed grass between my legs. Try as I might, I could not rid my mouth of the taste left behind from the nasty pervert’s grimy fingers. I brought my knees up, and reached around and locked my fingers together. I stared toward the woods down the street. Would Officer Gilchrist know I had been there, too? When he found Mr. Danson and Keith Dennis, would he know that a third person had been involved? Would he find the bat?
I felt the urge to seek out the weapon and toss it into the Kennebec River. My gaze dropped to the wet wound on my forearm where one of the worms had bit me. How much could one worm eat? How much of Mr. Danson could thirty or forty of them eat? Would there be anything left?
Would they finish Keith, as well?
My face refused to show it, but inside, I smiled when I thought about the conviction of the school bully. It may have killed him, but like a great warrior, Keith Dennis got his revenge.
“Kristopher Rufty is the demented reincarnation of Richard Laymon!” –Jeff Strand, author of Pressure and Dweller
If you’ve been following the literary world of horror for the past few years, you no doubt know his name. With about one billion books published since 2011 (I might be exaggerating there, slightly), Kristopher Rufty has carved out an impressive and loyal fan base. The Rufty Army includes readers, editors,reviewers, and publishers alike.
2015 alone saw the release of 4 major titles — The Lurking Season, Jagger, Bigfoot Beach, and The Vampire of Plainfield. All well received and all full-on Rufty.
He’s been compared to (and rightfully so) the great and dearly departed Richard Laymon. His no-holds-barred style mirrors that of Laymon without feeling like a cheap clone. With his 2013 novella, A Dark Autumn, he also proved, like Laymon, that he could bring in real thought and emotion and dance effortlessly through a complex story and character with the best of them.
In this interview, we touch on his prolific catalog, where he finds the time, what family life of a writer is like, and of course, dip into a number of his works including his next offering, Desolation.
Glenn Rolfe: First off, looking at your bibliography…. holy crap. I mean, you put out Angel Board in October of 2011 with Samhain, you were one of the originals. Now going into your fifth year of being a published author you have a lot of titles.
I have to ask, do you still have a day job, write full-time or what? How do you pump out so many works?
Kristopher Rufty: Thanks, man. It was an honor to be part of the original launch of the Samhain Horror line. I still can’t believe it happened, even after a few years have gone by.
I still have a regular job, but I’m self-employed, so that helps and hurts me. Because I drive a lot for my work, I don’t get to pump out the words quite like I used to. Now we have a baby, and my writing time has become very limited. There are days that my wife will take our three kids with her somewhere, so I can I have the house to myself to play catch-up. On those days, I start writing the moment they leave and don’t stop until they get back.
I think why I was able to write so many books for that stretch was because I used to do I.T. for a hospital. I had a small office, a computer, and Microsoft Word. In between work orders, I would write. I ate lunch at my desk a lot, and would write. When I ate in the cafeteria, I took my notebook with me and wrote longhand at the lunch table. I cranked out a lot of words during the day, then would still write at night before bedtime. I think back then I was doing anywhere from 4,000-6,000 words a day.
GR: Out of all of your published works, do you have a couple that are really special to you and if so, what make them standout to you?
KR: Well, I love them all, but I do have a couple that just seem to linger with me, or make me smile when I think back to them. ANGEL BOARD and THE LURKERS were the first two novels I wrote, so they hold a special place in my heart. THE SKIN SHOW and PROUD PARENTS were written while I was in bed due to medical issues. They helped me through a lot of pain and worry, so I feel I owe them a lot.
I wrote JAGGER in six, fun-filled weeks. That book poured out of me, and I worked on it before dawn most of the time, while the kids were out of school. I really liked doing that.
OAK HOLLOW will always stay with me because I wrote it multiple times in a six-month period. One version was turned into Don at Samhain and he said he wanted to publish it, but he just had one request: “Rewrite it in your voice.” I had experimented with the King style of writing the book like an outside observer. I loved it, but Don thought that I would turn off my core readers by switching to such a diverse voice like that. I think he was probably right.
So I sat down to rewrite it…from scratch. This time, I was sick with pneumonia during a huge chunk of it and I dreamed up some of the scenes during a fever-induced sleep, then wrote them the next day. Some of the wilder crap that happens in that book was written while I felt like I was dying.
Recently I wrapped up a novel for DarkFuse called SOMETHING VIOLENT. That one was a lot of fun to write because it was so different, and I experimented with rotating first-person POVs.
GR: I loved A Dark Autumn. Can you talk about that one a bit?
KR: Thank you! I’m glad you liked it. Well, it’s a novella about Ricky—a writer—who has rented a cabin to work on his new book. Life has been overly hard for him; he’s recovering from alcohol abuse and a rocky relationship the only way he knows how: by writing. At the same time, a group of women have also decided to go to the mountains for a reunion of sorts and are staying across the lake from Ricky. When their paths cross, a lot of bad things happen to Ricky, and the reunited friends will suffer for what they’ve done.
A DARK AUTUMN is a novella I’m very proud of. I felt it was the first time I nailed what I was going for. I wrote it in less than two weeks and my editor changed nothing. He said it was perfect as far as tone and emotion. But it’s also a novella that took me to places I’d rather not go again, if I can help it.
Because of the subject matter, I feared I’d lose all of my female readers. But I didn’t. I even received more positive letters about this one than anything I’ve ever written. Some women even said it was “hot”. That was not my intention. I guess each person takes something different from it.
GR: I think novellas are really fun. They’ve sort of replaced short stories for me. I used to read short stories between novels, now I try to seek out novellas for that quick breath. What are your feelings toward them?
KR: I enjoy them, and I enjoy writing them as well. Probably more so now than ever before. Don D’Auria encouraged me to right more novellas. So long as they’re written well and don’t seem cramped, I think they can be perfect. I hope to write even more novellas over the next year or so.
GR: Between you, David Bernstein, and Hunter Shea, there’s this pressure on us newer writers to try and keep up. Do you feel any pressure to keep at your current pace?
KR: It’s hard to keep up with Dave and Hunter. Another very prolific author is Heather Graham. She puts out a new book every month sometimes. I used to obsess with the idea of keeping up, but I’ve already accepted that this year it’s just not going to happen. Maybe even the next few years. We have a baby now at home and I just won’t be able to produce words like I have the last two years. But I am already scheduled for two-to-three books a year for the next three years, so I’ve got plenty coming up.
At one time, my goal was to be like the pulp guys, putting out a book every couple months. I managed to do that in 2015, but it kind of hurt me, doing it like that. Not only did it wear me out, but some of the books were neglected because there were just so many out at once. I think a few months between each title is better than excessively putting a new novel out every two months or less.
GR: You’ve self-published a number of stories, too. Are these stories that have been passed on, or are you just compelled to get these ones out there?
KR: Well, that began as an experiment. I had this idea for a novel called PILLOWFACE. It featured characters from a low-budget horror movie I wrote/directed. My idea was to put it out with the distribution company’s help right around the release of the movie. We were going to work on it together. They changed their mind and I had this novel I’d been promoting for several months. So I didn’t know what to do. After a conversation with Blake Crouch and I decided to put it out myself.
Nobody bought it. I think I sold four eBooks in the first month of its release. Then Thunderstorm Books came along and signed me to a book deal. PILLOWFACE was one of the titles they wanted to do a limited edition hardcover of. When that deal was announced, PILLOWFACE saw a nice rise in sales.
LAST ONE ALIVE had a very similar story. It was supposed to be the novelization of a low-budget movie that I wrote the script for. The movie was never made and I had this book that I had planned to self-pub to help promote the movie. I put the book out there and to my surprise, it sold like fire. If every book I wrote sold like that one did, I could write full-time and never look back.
Since then, I’ve held onto some eBook rights of my titles that have been released in limited hardcover editions. Those have all done very well.
PRANK NIGHT had offers from a couple different publishers, but it would have been almost two years before it could be released and none of the publishers could have had it out around the Halloween season because of scheduling issues. Since the story took place on Halloween night, I opted not to sign it over and decided to put it out on my own and see what happened. It did really well for almost a year. It was something different for me in style, tone, and pacing, so it was a good book to experiment with a full-fledged self-publishing venture.
GR: Just this year, you dropped Jagger, Bigfoot Beach, and The Vampire of Plainfield. They’ve all been well received.
KR: THE LURKING SEASON was also released between those others. As I mentioned earlier, some books became overlooked when so many were released so close together. TLS was that book. It was the sequel to one of my bestselling books and it hardly made a ripple in the publishing ocean.
GR: I just finished The Vampire of Plainfield. I loved it. Such an interesting take on Ed Gein. Where the hell did that one come from?
KR: I wish I knew. I’ve had that idea for years. I was suffering a bout of insomnia a few years ago. One night while lying in bed and staring at the ceiling a scene popped in my head of somebody digging up a grave. Then my mind started wandering toward Ed Gein and how he robbed graves, then the concept popped in my head.
GR: The descriptive style of it reminded me a lot of an author we both admire-Ronald Malfi. I’m sensing his work is a big influence on you. Would that be accurate?
KR: For sure. Malfi is my best friend in the world and I’ve always tried to avoid emulating his style in any way, just because of that reason. But as I sat down to write VAMPIRE, I knew I had to approach it differently than my other books. I’d tried to write this thing many times since 2009 and it just wasn’t working. This time, I kept in mind what Malfi had done with THE NARROWS. How he’d written about an entire town through the eyes of only a few crucial I liked how Malfi handled those situations and tried to treat my story in a similar way. It really helped. I was finally able to finish the book after many years of failed attempts.
GR: Can you give me a few books that influenced you at different stages of your writing career. Maybe early you on, when you started, and now?
KR: Early on I was heavily influenced by King and Koontz, as were many of us. But two other authors really influenced my writing back then—Saul and Little. I read books by all of these all through my teenage years, plus picking up random paperbacks from TOR and Zebra well into my 20s.
Then a friend suggested I check out Jack Ketchum.
I had surgery and was going to be down for a long time, so I bought a stack of paperbacks to read, one of them was OFF SEASON. I couldn’t believe I was reading a book that was similar to the kind of stuff I secretly wrote. When I told my friend that, he said he knew I’d like Ketchum for that reason. Then he told me a list of others to check out that included Edward Lee.
He was with me in a bookstore one day and grabbed Richard Laymon’s THE CELLAR off the shelf and put it in my hand. He told me I’d like Laymon because we have similar tastes and both use the word “rump” when describing a female’s backside. He was right. Reading Laymon put me on the path that led me to here.
Recently, I’ve been very influenced by a lot of old paperbacks I’ve been picking up at used bookstores. King’s MISERY heavily influenced my writing with my new book DESOLATION. And I’ve read a lot of pulpy crime fiction this year that has played into my writing lately.
Newer stuff? GOBLINS by David Bernstein was a great read. TORTURES OF THE DAMNED by Hunter Shea. LITTLE GIRLS by Ronald Malfi. THE NIGHTMARE GIRL by Jonathan Janz. So many good ones.
GR: I met you and your wife at Horror Hound in Cincinnati this past March. You were both super cool. You guys were expecting baby # 3. Boy or girl? How has that third addition been? Any change in dynamics or writing schedule?
KR: Yeah, that was a good time. It was great to finally meet you after knowing you online for a little while.
Our third child, second boy, has been a blessing. A lot of adjusting, but a blessing all the way. My writing schedule has completely changed. Now I write when I can. My wife will handle things so I can take the computer into the bedroom and write on the bed, and I’ve also gotten back into doing longhand while lying in bed at night. I might actually write my next novel longhand. I’ve already written quite a few chapters with my pencil.
GR: Desolation is your next piece with Samhain. Can you tell us a bit about that one?
KR: It might be the darkest thing I’ve ever written. Probably because there are no supernatural elements that exist in the story. The only demons in this one are human.
Grant, a husband and father, tricks his crumbling family into going to their cabin in the mountains for Christmas, in hopes of rekindling things he’d ruined with his alcoholism. A demon from his past shows up, invades the vacation home, and forces Grant to take responsibility for his actions while also unleashing what he views to be “similar punishment”. This book was hard to write. Many scenes left me feeling drained and depressed when I was finished. I don’t look forward to traveling down a similar road anytime soon.
GR: Will it be your last for Samhain?
KR: Hmmm…hard to tell. As of this interview, I don’t have anything slated with Samhain. After the ruckus back in early November cleared, I expected to hear from them, but I haven’t. Maybe they’ll reach out, maybe not. I have enjoyed my time with Samhain, though. I have nothing but kind things to say about the company. When our baby was born, the Samhain staff sent a card to congratulate us. That meant a lot to my wife and me.
I guess we’ll have to see how things play out in the future for all of us.
GR: What’s the rest of 2016 hold for the Rufty Universe?
KR: DESOLATION releases on January 5th.
I have a sequel to one of my reader-favorite novels coming out this year. It’s a surprise that I haven’t announced yet.
SOMETHING VIOLENT releases in September through DarkFuse.
JAGGER will release in Germany, and I have a short story in an anthology in Germany that’s being edited by a very popular Extreme Horror writer. I can’t wait to announce it.
Plus, I might have something through Thunderstorm Books.
I also have deadlines to meet that I can’t talk about yet.
GR: Thanks for taking the time, man. I think I’ll see you at a con or two this year. Good luck with everything and have a great holiday.
KR: Thank you, Glenn. I really appreciate it. I hope we bump into each other many times this year. I hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas and brought in the new year with smiles and laughs.
Can’t wait to read your next book.
You guys and gals can follow the rest of Rufty’s Publicity Tour by clicking on the banner below:
Hook of a Book Media and Publicity—Erin Al-Mehairi Contact: email@example.com
There’s no escaping your past. Especially when it wants revenge.
Grant Marlowe hoped taking his family to their mountain cabin for Christmas would reunite them after his alcoholic past had torn them apart, but it only puts them into a life and death struggle. On Christmas Eve, a stranger from Grant’s past invades the vacation home and takes his wife and children hostage. His agenda is simple—make Grant suffer the same torment that Grant’s drunken antics have caused him. Now Grant must confront his demons head on and fight for his family’s lives. Because this man has nothing left to lose. The only thing keeping him alive is misery—Grant’s misery.
Biography, Kristopher Rufty
Kristopher Rufty lives in North Carolina with his wife, three children, and the zoo they call their pets. He’s written various books, including The Vampire of Plainfield, Jagger, The Lurkers, The Lurking Season, The Skin Show, Pillowface, Proud Parents, and more, plus a slew of horror screenplays. He has also written and directed the independent horror films Psycho Holocaust, Rags, and Wicked Wood. If he goes more than two days without writing, he becomes very irritable and hard to be around, which is why he’s sent to his desk without supper often.
Praise for Kristopher Rufty
“Kristopher Rufty is the demented reincarnation of Richard Laymon!” –Jeff Strand
“A DarkAutumn is a wild gender role reversal of ‘I Spit On Your Grave,’ with gonzo nods to Norman Bates and ‘Friday The 13th’ thrown in for good measure. Kristopher Rufty delivers the goods yet again.” –Bryan Smith, author of Kayla Undead and The Late Night Horror Show
“A creepy, gripping tale of horror. And it’s got one of the best death scenes I’ve read in a long time!” –Jeff Strand, author of Pressure and Dweller
“A powerhouse debut novel. Rufty’s prose will suck you in and hold you prisoner!” –Ronald Malfi, author of Floating Staircase and Snow
“An occult thriller with a new twist. Rufty juggles captivating characters, breakneck suspense, and insidious horror in a macabre story that will leave you feeling possessed by the end of it. Next time you think about taking that old Ouija board out…forget it!” –Edward Lee, author of Lucifer’s Lottery and City Infernal
We have a lot of books to giveaway from Krist! We have two audio books, Oak Hollow and Pillowface in one link. In the second link we have a signed print copy of The Lurking Season and two e-books, Vampire of Plainfield and Bigfoot Beach. Winners are chosen random via rafflecopter and are given choice of prize of order pulled. Any questions on raffle, please e-mail Erin Al-Mehairi, publicist, at firstname.lastname@example.org