Singing Alexander’s Song: Part Three

As I mentioned in part one, I began writing Alexander’s Song in good spirits, with high hopes. In those early days I dared to think some fairly audacious thoughts: that this book could be a breakthrough book of sorts, big enough, different enough, ambitious enough to lift me out of the midlist and carry me to … well, to some higher place. Back in those days, that generally meant things like hardcover publication with a modest advertising budget, to be followed, of course, by a nice little paperback deal, some foreign sales, and possibly even the holy grail — a three-book deal for the next contract.  I didn’t think about those things much when actually writing the novel. I was too caught up in the struggle, in finding the story and bringing it to life. But when I had finished, I allowed myself to entertain the fantasies again. 

One of my friends was an author much more successful than I. He will remain nameless here, but trust me, you know him. He was a household name then and still is now, a talented and accomplished novelist who has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list more than once. Interestingly, despite the vast and obvious differences in our careers, he was going through some of the very same things I was, and we talked about it often. Both of us still dearly loved the horror genre but had grown wary of the horror field — the publishing, marketing, and bookselling end of the business, which had changed dramatically from just a few years earlier. Both of us were restless, looking to stretch our wings and stake out new ground somewhere beyond the borders of horror, which seemed to be shrinking and becoming more inflexible every day. Both of us had written books that moved us toward that new territory, and both of us were now getting pushback. Remember my agent, who told me I’d have to choose between artistic satisfaction and having a career? We had since parted company, but her words still haunted me. Because the stakes were so much higher for him, my bestselling friend was having an even more difficult time.

I sent him the manuscript of Alexander’s Song, and he liked it – liked it enough to share it with his agent. Needless to say, I was over the moon, sure that this was it. A famous writer had embraced my work and was recommending it to a big-time agent. My moment had arrived. My breakthrough was nigh. 

Unfortunately, it was not to be. 

The agent responded with some kind words. She liked the book. She thought it was well-written. But ultimately, she said, she didn’t know how to sell it. 

I’d like to say I was undaunted by the rejection, but that would be a lie. I was daunted, all right, big-time daunted. The more air you pump into a balloon, the bigger the bang when it pops, and I had pumped a lot of air into that particular balloon. But it was still early days, so I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and got back to work. I spent the next year and a half or so sending Alexander’s Song off to agents and editors, each time sure that this time would be the charm. 

It wasn’t. 

Time after time, again and again, it wasn’t.

The verdict of my friend’s agent – it’s good, but I don’t know how to sell it – echoed back to me over and over from the corridors of publishing.  I never heard a bad word about the novel itself, not from anyone. The story was described as “interesting” or “intriguing.” It was deemed to be “well-written,” my writing itself called “strong” and even “powerful.” But every agent, every editor, declared the book to be unsellable, unmarketable. 

Part of the problem, I gathered, was that I was still mostly an unknown. That’s a hard thing to accept when you’ve been toiling for a decade to build a small name for yourself, but in the wider world beyond the horror genre, I was, quite frankly, nobody. Also, Alexander’s Song was a long book. A very long book. That meant it would be expensive to publish, difficult to pitch to booksellers, and hard to convince readers to buy, since the price tag would have to be at the far upper end of the acceptable range.

Reading between the lines, I also gleaned another problem, perhaps a bigger problem. Alexander’s Song was a book without a genre. That was a serious handicap back in the days when every book had the category printed right on the spine, telling booksellers where to shelve it and letting fans of the various genres know it was safe to purchase. What one-word description could go on the spine of Alexander’s Song? It had the feel of a horror novel, but was most definitely not horror. It involved a mystery, but didn’t follow most of the conventions of the mystery genre. It had elements of suspense and thriller, but again, few of the things that readers of those sorts of books looked for when they went shopping for something new to read. It even flirted a bit at the edges of mainstream or literary fiction, but didn’t come close to earning either of those labels. It was, in short, an in-between sort of book. It resisted categorization. It was perhaps the kind of book that a popular, well-established genre writer might be able to get away with, slipping it into their usual yearly output. The publisher would talk about a “bold new direction,” the critics would declare it a “brave departure,” and the fans would gobble it up, since they gobbled up everything the author wrote. But a complete unknown? Putting out a long book – a long, expensive book – that didn’t fit into any of the usual genre niches? Sorry. Unmarketable. 

I would love to tell you that this is one of those inspirational tales about persistence in the face of adversity, that I was one of those authors who accumulated eighty rejections and was at the end of the line, homeless and starving and about to jump off a bridge, when suddenly, like a mystical stroke of fate or divine providence, the eighty-first publisher bought the book. But alas, that was not the case. 

What actually happened was that a whole lot of time went by, as it has a nasty habit of doing. The rejections mounted, I felt myself running out of options, and I finally just surrendered and put the tired old manuscript aside. It was time for me to face the truth and deal with more important things, namely, that I was the father of two-year-old twins who liked to eat and needed things like clothes and toys and medicine for their ear infections. I went out and, for the first time in quite a while, got a day job, then another one. That second one became more like a day career and eventually turned into a huge, insatiable monster that swallowed me whole and didn’t disgorge me again for nearly two decades. Alexander’s Song went into that fabled writer’s trunk, where the pages curled and started to turn yellow. I thought about it a lot at first, then less and less as the years went by, and finally hardly at all. When I did think about it, I told myself that the entire publishing industry couldn’t be wrong. They’d told me the book was unmarketable, and obviously they were right. And if it was unmarketable, then clearly it had never been any good to begin with. From time to time I was tempted to drag it out and read it again, but I never quite had the courage. I was afraid of what I might discover. 

One day around 2010, I was finally brave enough to retrieve the manuscript from the trunk (actually, just an old cardboard box at the back of the closet) and give it a quick look. An odd thing happened. The book surprised me. I had expected to read it with a sort of permanent cringe, thoroughly embarrassed by what I had written and tried so hard to sell all those years ago. But, wonder of wonders, it didn’t make me cringe at all. Well, maybe once or twice, but they were mostly small cringes, and I only blushed and rolled my eyes once that I recall. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised. I had expected to find a disheartening relic from the past, something weak and shallow that would confirm once and for all that the novel truly belonged in the box I’d consigned it to, not out in the world where readers could accidentally stumble across it and discover what I fraud I really was. Instead I found a novel that had held up quite well, that was better than I had expected, that was, in fact, almost as good as I’d thought it was while writing it. It was a novel that was sturdy and strong, the characters still interesting and believable, the story still relevant, and best of all, still entertaining.  

Things had changed a lot since the early nineties, and I now had options for publishing Alexander’s Song myself. It took two more years, but eventually I was able to sit down and write another draft of the book – polishing it, mostly, fixing things here and there. I did consider updating the whole thing, bringing the story into the 21st century, but that never felt like a viable option. Alexander Bassett would have been a much different writer if rather than being a literary star of the forties and fifties he was writing in the era of Vietnam and Watergate. Andy Gillespie would have been a much different character, too, and the town he arrives in at the start of the novel would have been vastly changed if everything was happening in 2012 instead of 1991 or ’92. Ultimately, I simply felt the book would lose too much if I forced it to fit into the era of smart phones and social media. It needed to remain where it was, where it had always been, safely ensconced in its pre-internet world.

I released Alexander’s Song as a self-published eBook in the spring of 2012, and in the decade since it has been a slow but steady seller. It’s never cracked any top rankings. It certainly hasn’t made me rich. But it sells a few copies most months, and that’s always nice. Even nicer, most of the readers I’ve heard from seem to really love the book. A few years ago, the talented Scott MacDonald recorded the audio version of the novel, and that’s sold some copies too. It’s not what I once envisioned for my so-called breakthrough book, but it’s good – and, to my great surprise, there was still one more chapter yet to come.

One of the people who read Alexander’s Song in its self-published form was an immensely talented writer named Kevin Lucia. He became a fan and went on to be a true champion of the book, saying lovely things about it whenever he had the chance. Flash forward a few years and Kevin became the new paperback/eBook editor at Cemetery Dance Publications. Flash forward a bit farther and we arrive at the winter of 2022, when Kevin got in touch and said he’d like to add Alexander’s Song to CD’s paperback/eBook line. I thought about it for, oh, thirty seconds or so before I said yes. Seriously, the decision was not hard. I love and admire Kevin, and I’d been published by CD twice before – they did the limited edition of my short story collection Whispered Echoes, and I teamed up with Brian James Freeman and CD founder Rich Chizmar to edit the anthology Better Weird – so I was pleased to join their fold again. 

One more draft of the book followed – are we up to six now? Seven? I’ve kind of lost count – and that brings us to where we are today. Alexander’s Song will hit the streets on Sept. 30, 2022, in a brand new eBook edition and, best of all for me, its first ever print edition, a beautiful trade paperback with stunning cover art by my favorite artist of all time, Jill Bauman. 

It didn’t happen the way I imagined back in that dingy basement office where it all began. The book never turned out to be my breakout novel, the one that forever changed my career. Instead, it was the book that almost ended my career, that sent me off onto other pathways for much longer than I care to think about. But it’s still the novel that I was dreaming about as I tentatively tapped out the first few sentences and started figuring out what came next. It’s still a book that I feel strongly about, that I love, that I’m really quite proud of. And yes, it’s still exactly the kind of book that I like to read. 

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Singing Alexander’s Song: Part Two

On September 30, 2022, Cemetery Dance Publications will release a brand new edition of my dark suspense novel, Alexander’s Song, in e-book and, for the first time ever, in trade paperback. In preparation, I’m writing a three-part blog post about the book. This is part two.

NOTE: I finished writing this installment on Tuesday, Sept. 6. Not more than an hour later, I learned that Peter Straub had died. I briefly considered rewriting the piece, or even putting it aside and not publishing it at all. I soon realized that was both unnecessary and ridiculous. I’ve respected and admired Straub’s work for decades, and his passing has only heightened those feelings. I hope a little bit of that comes through here.   -PFO

The new Cemetery Dance edition of Alexander’s Song is dedicated to five writers whose work has inspired, informed, and enriched my own. In the months before I began writing the novel, I happened to read books by two of those writers. Peter Straub’s brilliant Mystery was one of those books. The other was Charles Palliser’s ingenious The QuincunxAlexander’s Song bears little resemblance to either one, but I felt their influence, still strong inside me, with every word I typed.

Mystery and The Quincunx couldn’t be more different. Straub’s novel is a dark, subversive dream of a book. It’s deceptive and tricksy. It appears to be one thing on the surface, stating its genre right in the title. But then, as with the author’s Ghost Story a decade earlier, it goes on to play with, distort, twist, upend, and otherwise challenge nearly every convention of that genre. The Quincunx is a sprawling epic – the greatest Dickensian novel that Dickens never wrote. It has an intricate structure, with five parts, each part divided into five books, each book divided into five chapters – and that’s just the beginning of the carefully-crafted puzzles within. Its mysteries are old and impenetrable, its plot harrowing and bleak. Straub’s dark secrets lie just below the surface, almost but never quite visible in the harsh sunlit glare of a Caribbean island and a blue-green Wisconsin summer. Palliser’s are buried deep beneath layers of fog and duplicity in 19th century England. 

What both books share, what appealed to me when I read them and kept whispering to me for months afterward, was their sheer audacity. I loved the way that Straub and Palliser fearlessly built their intricate, complex plots and then trusted their readers to follow along. There’s no authorial handholding in these books, no “let me explain that a little more” or “let’s go over that again” or “hey, maybe you missed this bit, so I’ll repeat it here.” The authors believe you’re an intelligent human being and will be able to do the work yourself. After that? Well,  you either keep up or you don’t. And keeping up with these novels isn’t easy. You don’t escape into the worlds of Mystery and The Quincunx. You are engulfed by them.  

I tried my best to bring that same spirit to Alexander’s Song, which maybe wasn’t as hard as it sounds because, somewhat like the future readers of the book, I was flying blind as the plot unfolded. The terms “plotter” and “pantser” hadn’t been invented yet, but the types were certainly familiar. There were writers who assiduously planned and outlined their books before typing a single word and writers who just jumped in and flew by the seat of their pants. You can probably guess which kind of writer I was.

As I worked my way through the first draft, I had only the faintest notions of where I was going to end up. From time to time, I could glimpse the destination in the distance, but I was seeing through a glass darkly. Clarifying that vision became a compulsion. My desk and walls were covered in dozens of hastily-scribbled notes: names, dates, places. I had a family tree taped above my computer and a fictional bibliography next to the keyboard. I had a map. No, two maps. And still I floundered. I was really not much different than my protagonist, good old Andy Gillespie, who only wanted to solve the mysteries that lurked in the past of his favorite writer, Alexander Bassett. Like Andy, I was lost in a world of deepening enigma and darkening menace, and like Andy, I thought I had everything figured out a number of times, only to have the rug yanked out from under my feet. Even at the best of times, I was only twenty or thirty pages ahead of the poor guy, and I had to scramble to keep my lead; I could literally hear him huffing and puffing behind me, hurrying to catch up. 

I eventually got to the point where that hazy vision of the ending came into focus, and from there it was a downhill sprint to the finish. When I got there, pleased as punch that most of the pieces had fallen into place, I took a couple of days to consider what I had. I had a manuscript of nearly seven hundred pages. I had a beginning, a middle, and an end. I had lots of nifty scenes in between. That much I was sure of. But I wasn’t sure I had an actual novel. 

I knew the second draft was going to need trimming. Seven hundred pages is a lot of book, even for me, who’s always had a serious wordiness problem. So I’d have to cut – little nips and tucks, a few bigger slices, and some big walloping whacks. But first there were things to fix. I had to take my ragged storyline and all those scenes I was so proud of and turn them into an honest-to-god narrative. That meant I had to connect the dots. Lots and lots of dots. Then I had to impose order on the chaos, bring structure to what was essentially just an amorphous blob.

Normally, I don’t much like second drafts, but doing this one was a treat, and most of the fun came from getting that structure just right. It was important to me that the reader and the characters in the book be in the same place as often as possible. This was no cozy whodunnit, where the sharp-eyed reader would pick up all the little clues I sprinkled throughout the story and figure the whole thing out before they were halfway through. I wanted just the opposite. When Andy was lost and baffled, I wanted the reader to be lost and baffled. When he began to sort things out, then readers would too. Emboldened by books like The Quincunx and Mystery, and sticking with the idea of writing the sort of book you like to read, I wanted the reader to almost become part of the story, to be swallowed up by it and ultimately work as hard as the protagonist to find their way back out — and if that led to a bit of obsession, if the book made them miss a meal or a little sleep, if they felt they had to go back and reread something or jot down their own notes to keep track of all the whos, whens, and whats, all the better. 

To help bring about the total immersion I sought, I tried to utilize a structure that mirrors Andy’s own struggles. In the first half of the book, when the mysteries are many and deep, I did everything possible to keep the reader off-balance – playing with the timeline, presenting information out of order and in unusual ways, casting a dreamlike uncertainty or even unreality over the proceedings. Later, as things begin to fall into place for Andy, the structure gradually becomes more traditional, the narrative more linear, until the final third of the novel when I stopped playing games and allowed the story to move swiftly and mostly straight ahead to the conclusion. It’s the kind of storytelling trick most people won’t even notice, but I like to think that doesn’t matter. Whether they notice it or not, the trick is there, quietly doing the work I needed it to do. 

Depending on how you count such things, I did either three-and-a-half or four drafts of Alexander’s Song, and when I was done I had a five hundred page novel I was quite happy with. I hadn’t succeeded in doing everything I’d set out to do, but I’d managed to pull off quite a bit of it. I had wanted to try something different, to challenge myself,  to be ambitious, to forget about genre, to disregard rules, and to accomplish something bigger and better than I’d ever done before. To my surprise, I found I had done almost all of those things. To use another term that hadn’t been invented yet, I had leveled-up. It felt good. 

Now all I had to do was sell it.  

Next time: Reality check 

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Singing Alexander’s Song: Part 1

On September 30, 2022, Cemetery Dance Publications will release a brand new edition of my dark suspense novel, Alexander’s Song, in e-book and, for the first time ever, in trade paperback. In preparation, I’m writing a three-part blog post about the book. This is part one.  -PFO

Writers get a lot of advice. Most of it — all those dusty old rules beginning with “always” or “never” — should be listened to politely, acknowledged with a smile, and then promptly thrown out the nearest window. But some bits of writing advice are actually worthwhile. Here’s one of my favorites: “Write the kind of story you want to read.” My dark suspense novel Alexander’s Song, about to be published by Cemetery Dance, is a good example of that rule.

“Write the kind of story you want to read” sounds like a fairly straightforward edict, the kind of advice so obvious it scarcely needs to be uttered. But of course all sorts of writers choose not to follow it, for all sorts of reasons. Perhaps they’ve been writing one type of thing for many years and simply continue to write it due to inertia, comfort, or commercial necessity, even as they yearn to move on and try something new. Maybe they’re ghostwriting or doing some other type of work for hire. Or maybe they’re just tired of scrounging for loose nickels in the couch cushions and make the entirely rational decision that it’s time to write to the market — in other words, write the kind of book that’s currently popular — and earn some real money for a change.

These sorts of things were on my mind a lot way back at the dawn of the 1990s when I sat down and wrote the first draft of Alexander’s Song. It was an odd time for me. I was feeling restless, edgy. On the surface, that was ridiculous. After all, I’d been riding a rising professional wave for the previous five years or so, with a satisfying string of short story sales, a successful stint as a magazine publisher, the sale of my first novel, and the publication of two well-received anthologies. I was doing what I’d always wanted to do. I was making money at it. Why in the world would I be feeling so uneasy?

Well, for starters, after publishing my first novel, a vampire tale called The Night Prophets, New American Library had recently rejected my next submission. Looking back, I can honestly say they made the right choice. The book, Eagleton Point, wasn’t very good — a garden variety alien invasion story that I wrote hastily in an attempt to strike while the publishing iron was hot. It lacked several key ingredients, not least of which was the emotional investment of the author, and NAL did all of us a favor by politely turning it down. But I wasn’t quite so calmly philosophical at the time.  In fact, I saw the rejection as a troubling omen, indicative of my larger fear that the horror field was changing around me, evolving in a direction that was going to quickly leave me behind, no longer hospitable to the sort of traditional quiet horror that I preferred to read and write.

I was also undergoing a bit of evolution myself. It probably began back when I was whipping up my alien invasion, but I didn’t recognize it at the time. In fact, I didn’t realize what was happening until I took note one day of the kinds of books I was reading. More and more often, you see, I was opting for novels that were large and dense and … let’s say ambitiously complex. I’d always enjoyed that sort of book, the kind of book you can get lost in for long stretches of time, for days or even weeks on end. But on that long-ago day, I suddenly realized that I was no longer just grabbing those books when I happened across them but actively seeking them out, choosing them to the exclusion of other works. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got nothing against rip-roaring yarns, those books that take off like a rocket with the first line and drag you helplessly along through a few hundred pages of breathless action. I’ve read literally hundreds of them. Some of my favorite authors are masters of the form. But what I was drawn to back then was something else altogether. I found myself craving novels rich with depth and detail, background and color, plots that were long and involved, usually complicated, often circuitous, sometimes convoluted, books where you might have to come up for air once in a while to remind yourself that the real world still existed, where you might struggle to keep up with the author, where you might even be tempted to jot down some notes from time to time, just to be sure you were really following what was going on. And something else, too. The books I was reading seemed to have a total disregard for genre. They were, for want of a better term, genre-fluid, ignoring the standard conventions and moving deftly back and forth between mainstream, adventure, suspense, horror, mystery, and often a few other things to boot.  

That’s when it dawned on me, with all the subtlety of a piano falling from a tenth-story window and landing on my head. This was what I wanted to do. This was the kind of book I wanted to write. No. Needed to write. And in that spirit I went down to the dingy basement office of our tiny house in Wheaton, Illinois, fired up my computer, and typed “On a warm, windy Friday in late April, a thirty-year-old schoolteacher named Andy Gillespie looked down on Rock Creek, Michigan,” launching myself headlong into the story that would become Alexander’s Song. I wasn’t thinking of that weary old truism “Write the kind of story you want to read,” but of course that was exactly what I was doing.

Once I started, I never looked back. If part of the problem with the rejected Eagleton Point was that I never gave my entire heart and soul to the project, I was fixing that problem this time around in bold, dramatic fashion. A few months later, I was several hundred pages into the novel, happily lost in a plot that seemed to grow darker and more complicated with every passing paragraph. I still didn’t know the entire story. I had a famous author with a mysterious past and a number of ominous developments, but also lots of unanswered questions, missing links, loose threads, and black holes. Nevertheless, I had that weird, adrenaline-fueled overconfidence that is the hallmark of an author on a roll. I was sure that everything would come together in the end, and in the meantime, I was sure as hell enjoying the ride.  

That’s when my agent called. 

She was going to be passing through the Midwest and wanted to meet. We ended up having a lovely Sunday brunch at Chicago’s iconic Drake Hotel, where we talked business and gossiped for several hours. Then she asked what I was working on. I told her about Alexander’s Song, enthusiastically describing what I knew of the plot so far and where I thought it might be going. I was about to add that I thought the novel might just end up being my breakthrough book, the one that catapulted me beyond the horror midlist into the wider, brighter world of mainstream notice and commercial success. But as I opened my mouth to say those things, I saw the expression on her face and stopped. Was she looking at me with profound disappointment? That’s certainly the way I interpreted it. And I realized that we were going to be having a completely different sort of conversation than the one I’d envisioned. 

She talked for a bit about the realities of publishing, about my first two novels, about expectations for the next one, and about the need to stay focused if I was going to build a career as a horror writer. And then she said something I’ve never forgotten.

“You’re at the point where you have to make a decision,” she told me. “You have to decide if you’re going to write for artistic satisfaction or if you want to make money and have a career.”

We finished the brunch and parted amicably, but I sensed that something fundamental had changed between us. Perhaps it had changed inside me as well. On the drive back to Wheaton, I thought about what she had said. I decided she was right. I decided she was wrong. I decided that I cared a great deal. I decided that I didn’t care at all. 

When I got home, I went to the basement and jumped with great relief back into the world of Alexander’s Song. The mysteries were still waiting to be solved, and that task happily absorbed me for the next six months or so. I’m sure there were times I fretted about that phrase — artistic satisfaction — just as there were times I thought I might be better off writing another vampire book or trying to fix the problems with my rejected alien novel or putting my efforts into joining the burgeoning splatterpunk revolution. But mostly I was happy right where I was. I was writing the kind of story I wanted to read, and for the moment, that was more than enough.

Next time: Solving the mysteries, finishing the book

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Whispered Echoes Now Available in Audio

For the first time ever, my short story collection Whispered Echoes is now available as an audiobook. Read by the incomparable Scott MacDonald, it features all of the stories included in the Cemetery Dance limited edition hardcover and Crystal Lake Publishing paperback and e-book, including the World Fantasy Award-nominated novella “Bloodybones.” Also featured are Chet Williamson’s wonderful foreword, read by Chet himself, and my introduction to the volume read by … well, me. 

Available at iTunes, Amazon, and!

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A blog is (re)born

For a long time now, I’ve been thinking that I need to resurrect the blog/journal portion of this website. It’s been years since I blogged on a regular basis, or kept up with what other bloggers have been doing. In fact, this particular version of has never included a blog at all, just this general catch-all sort of place called “News and Musings” where I post the rare bit of information about my career — if, that is, I remember to post anything at all. That’s a far cry from the way things were when this whole website thing began.

My first home on the Internet wasn’t a website at all. It was a page hosted on the community site for the old Opera web browser (the original Opera, not its current incarnation). Back in those days, the early 2000s, I was heavily involved with Opera as a user, volunteer tester, and a member of the official ambassador group that was tasked with increasing usage of the browser in the United States. I used my page on the Opera Community site to post pictures and blog about topics ranging from tech to writing to regular old day-to-day life here in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

My first actual website was shared with my late friend and writing/editing partner David B. Silva, and it was called, appropriately enough, We launched the site in 2005 as a way to promote our joint and individual projects. It was also intended to be a personal blog for both of us. Dave, always shy and intensely private, was never much of a blogger. Getting him to post anything at all was a herculean task. But I happily took up the slack and blogged almost every day for the first few months, then several times a week after that.

Eventually, I launched my own site — the first incarnation of — and for a long time continued the blogging tradition I had established at olsonandsilva. I wasn’t doing much writing about tech anymore, but I continued to post about most of my other regular topics, which at that time included horror and writing in general, creativity, good books I had read and was eager to recommend, fountain pens and ink, or whatever else happened to be on my mind. As time went by, however, my blogging efforts tapered off. Life had gotten crazy and I had grown a bit weary of the website. I also felt I had nothing much left for post fodder, having said just about everything I cared to say about every subject I cared to write about. In addition, the social media scene had exploded by that time and it felt as if no one paid attention to personal websites or blogs anymore. I noticed fewer and fewer blogs being updated. Some of the feeds in my RSS reader began to return error messages instead of new posts. I even stumbled across a few discussions on Facebook where authors were debating the wisdom of having a personal website at all. More and more it seemed that most of the communication tools I had always relied on — specifically, websites, blog posts, and e-mail — had become, or were well on their way to becoming, obsolete. The pundits said that no one had the attention span to read lengthy content on the Internet anymore. It was the era of emojis. It was the age of tl;dr. I was advised to spend more time on Facebook and Twitter instead. I was advised to jump aboard Instagram and Snapchat. I was advised to start a podcast.

For a while, I was relieved not to have to blog anymore, but like so many things in life, absence made the heart grow fonder. After three or four years of no blogging, I realized that I actually missed it. There’s a beauty and a sense of satisfaction to this freeform, longform type of communication that I’ve never felt on Facebook, where it always feels like the content is controlling me rather than the other way around. Plus here I never have to worry about data-mining, fake news, trolls, Russian bots, rigged elections, fights and feuds and meltdowns, or any of the other things that make social media the digital equivalent of a skull-splitting migraine.

So I’m ready to try this again. It’s going to be slow and tentative at first. New posts won’t be appearing daily. They may not even be appearing weekly. But they will appear. I’ve been told that my timing is good, that author blogs are making a comeback. I’ve also been told that blogs are pointless and that no one will ever read anything I post here. The truth, I suspect, lies somewhere in between. I’m ready to find out, and if you feel like joining me, I’d be happy to have you along for the ride.

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Remembering Horrorstruck

It’s been thirty years since I published Horrorstruck: The World of Dark Fantasy, but scarcely a month goes by that I don’t hear from someone about the magazine — questions, comments, reminiscences. Because of this interest (and my own nostalgia), I’ve added a small section about Horrorstruck to this website. It’s bare-bones now, with some basic information about the magazine and its contributors, along with a brief summary of what was contained in each issue. I hope to add more as time goes by. For example, the story of how each issue was painstakingly put together in those dark ages just before the advent of WYSIWYG desktop publishing would make a fascinating entry all on its own. Perhaps I’ll write that soon. Stay tuned … and in the meantime, I hope you enjoy what’s there so far.

You can find the new section on the menu above or by clicking here.

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Bloodybones nominated

A little more than twenty-four hours ago, I learned that my novella “Bloodybones,” from the Whispered Echoes collection, has been nominated for a 2017 World Fantasy Award in the Best Long Fiction category. To say that I am delighted, grateful, surprised, and humbled just scratches the surface of the emotions I’ve been feeling over the course of this past day.

The World Fantasy Convention was the first convention I ever attended (Providence, 1979), and I’ve been a little in awe of the World Fantasy Awards ever since. I was nominated once before, way back in 1989, when I was up for a “Special Award Non-Professional” for editing my magazine Horrorstruck. But this is the first time I’ve picked up a nomination for something I’ve written, and to get the nod for “Bloodybones,” a tale that holds such a special place in my heart, makes the honor all the more special.

I am especially pleased to be sharing the Long Fiction slate with Kij Johnson, Victor LaValle, Seanan McGuire, and Kai Ashante Wilson, authors I truly admire and whose work provides shining examples of the best our genre has to offer.

Here is the complete list of 2017 nominees, courtesy of Locus Online.

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A New Interview

Whispered Echoes front coverHere is an interview I did with Joe Mynhardt of Crystal Lake Publishing shortly before they released the paperback and e-book of my Whispered Echoes short story collection. We talk about the book, of course, but many other things too. Like everything else about dealing with Joe and his wonderful company, doing the interview was a privilege and a joy.

Click here to read the interview!

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Free Short Story

On March 13, 2013, David B. Silva died at the age of 62. To commemorate the fourth anniversary of his death, I’m posting my short story “When the Heart Sings” here on my website. The story originally appeared in the anthology Better Weird: A Tribune to David B. Silva, which I was proud to co-edit with Rich Chizmar and Brian James Freeman for Cemetery Dance Publications. I hope you enjoy it.

To read the story, click here:



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Diving into Crystal Lake

I’m excited to announce that I have officially joined the family at Crystal Lake Publishing. 

While a firm date has not been finalized, the i’s have been dotted and the t’s have been crossed on an agreement to release Whispered Echoes in paperback and e-book.

For those who don’t know, Whispered Echoes is my recent short story collection (vintage tales from the eighties and nineties and a brand new 36,000-word novella), which was released a few months ago in a stunning limited edition by Cemetery Dance Publications (get it now, before it’s out of print — hint, hint). The opportunity to work with Rich, Brian, and the CD gang was an incredible honor, and the beautiful signed and numbered book that resulted will remain a career high point for me for the rest of my days. (Did I mention you should buy it now, before it’s out of print? Seriously, do it. Get over to the CD website right now. Trust me.)

crystal-lakeNow I get to look ahead to an exciting new collaboration with Joe Mynhardt and the Crystal Lake folks, and the opportunity to bring my collection to even more readers through e-book distribution and bookstore sales. I have deep respect for Joe and his organization, the outstanding lineup of authors at Crystal Lake, and the company’s track record in the field. It’s gratifying to be welcomed as the newest member of such an impressive team. I am a truly fortunate writer.

Stay tuned for more details as things develop. (But right now, go check out that limited edition before … etc., etc.)

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