99 Cents Sale for The Serpent’s Shadow

Posted in Uncategorized on March 18, 2020 by bloodandstardust

The Serpent’s Shadow my novella from Cemetery Dance eBooks is on temporarily on sale for 99 cents.

March 18th Reading at Fantastic Fiction at KGB moved to You Tube Live Stream

Posted in Uncategorized on March 18, 2020 by bloodandstardust

I will be reading along with Robert Levy at the first live stream of Fantastic Fiction at KGB hosted by Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel.

From Host Matthew Kressel…

“For the first time in our history, Fantastic Fiction at KGB will live-stream our readings on YouTube. Next week’s guests are Daniel Braum & Robert Levy (The in-person event at the bar has been cancelled). Anyone with YouTube access can watch the readings at the link below. We hope you will join us for this unique event. Plop down in your favorite chair, pour yourself a drink, and listen to some great fiction. Please spread the word. Thank you.”

“How to Stay Afloat When Drowning” selected for The Best Horror of the Year Volume 12.

Posted in Uncategorized on March 18, 2020 by bloodandstardust

Editor Ellen Datlow has selected my short story “How to Stay Afloat When Drowning” to appear in The Year’s Best Horror #12. The book will be out in the fall.

I highly recommend each of the volumes of Year’s Best Horror, not only for the selection of excellent fiction contained within but also for the comprehensive year in review summation and list of honorable mentions. A ton of work is put into those sections which serve as a snapshot of what is going on in that year and a reading guide to choose from at any time. All of Ellen Datlow’s books are both excellent gateways into the genre for new readers and masterful reads for long time readers.

Congratulations to all the contributors. So pleased to be sharing a table of contents with Sarah Langan and Gordon White.

I believe there are 11 first time contributors to this volume and I am one of them. Thank you again to Ellen Datlow for including the story in this volume !

Pareidolia stories conversation with author Sarah Read

Posted in Uncategorized on February 8, 2020 by bloodandstardust

I had the opportunity to converse with author Sarah Read about her work and our short stories from the Pareidolia anthology edited by James Everington and Dan Howarth published by UK publisher Steve Shaw’s Black Shuck Books.

Here are my questions and Sarah’s answers about her short story “Into the Wood”

DB: Could you tell someone who might be new to your work a bit about your stories? (Is there one story, other than “Into the Wood” that you feel serves as a nice entry point into your writing?

SR: I tend to write stories that skew slightly Gothic, and a little bit weird. Often, there is an element of the supernatural that is ambiguous or metaphorical (or both). I like to write about families, and often from a child’s point of view. If I had to pick just one story for people to start with, it would probably be “The Hope Chest” which appeared in Black Static in November. I write a lot about people looking for home, for families, for a place of belonging. There are quite a few of them in my collection OUT OF WATER, and it’s certainly the main theme of my novel, THE BONE WEAVER’S ORCHARD.

 

DB: Pareidolia is the tendency to interpret a vague stimulus as something known to the observer, such as seeing shapes in clouds, seeing faces in inanimate objects or abstract patterns, or hearing hidden messages in music. In “Into the Wood” we have a woman who sees faces in the whirls of wood paneling. As I mention in one of the answers to your questions, this is the closest I have come to experiencing the phenomenon. In the story I felt you expand the phenomenon to a psychological and emotional aspect. Not merely a sensory perception level. I found this incredibly effective. The lines “Desperation, I guess looks a lot like compassion. Resignation looks like patience.” These are absolutely wonderful lines and to me were the keys to or lens through which I saw the story. How did you approach the Pareidolia theme of the anthology and what inspired you to present not only a definitional presentation of the phenomenon but a skillful extrapolation?

SR: One of the reasons I was so excited when James approached me about the project is that I experience Pareidolia almost constantly. In fact, I was experiencing the auditory version of the phenomenon even as I read his email. I used to invent stories about all the images I saw in the plaster of my bedroom ceiling as a child. I would not take a bath in the downstairs bathroom because of the sinister faces in the grain of the door, especially when paired with the deep voice and dark music I could hear in the overhead fan. To complicate matters, I’m also quite face blind–likely because I have always had severe vision issues that went unnoticed until I was ten, when I first saw an eye doctor. I didn’t know, as a wee kid, that I was essentially blind. I recognized people by the patterns of light on their bodies, their overall shape, or their voices. I’ve never gotten very good at recognizing faces outside of their contexts. I have an easier time seeing faces that aren’t there than faces that are, in other words. I thought about how much easier it might be for me to identify people if they didn’t have actual faces, but shapes approximating faces–like the ones in the wood grain of panels. There’s a loneliness in that, I think, that is the seed from which the horror of the story grew.

 

DB: The title “Into the Wood” evokes a Fairy Tale. The main character is a woman who works in the adult services industry via phone who cannot remember / recognize faces who is looking for a “home”. She sees the world as nests and a series of bird metaphors. Writers such as Angela Carter and Tanith Lee present “updated” Fairy Tales where the worst dangers to women are not only the supernatural but the men and perils of their Patriarchal worlds. How do the Fairy Tales of any time period inform the story and choice of title?

SR: I deliberately left the “s” off the title, so it would be “Into the Wood”, because I wanted to play with the different meanings of the title. I did want it to evoke fairy tales. Because of course, it is always dangerous to go into the woods. And that’s certainly not where you’re going to go looking for home! Unless you’re a cuckoo, overtaking a home that isn’t your own at all. The wood paneling in the cabin is like the twigs of a nest. And she sees more humanity in that wood than she does in the other people in the house. Her job in the adult services industry, performing phone sex, ties into her pattern for seeking intimacy in every way except face-to-face. She builds her relationships though voice, until she finds the faces in the wood.

 

DB: I found so many of the psychological aspects of the story to be fascinating. From the father who she would never see for his face to faces and voices from the wood panels. What is the appeal to you as a writer in presenting a tension between the psychological or supernatural in a story?

SR: I’ve always felt like the supernatural and the psychological are kind of the same thing. I like to toy with both sides of that coin–whether the paranormal is a delusion, or if it’s a real thing that presents itself only to an attuned consciousness. I like to write things where both stay equally possible, however you want to read it. I like that tension so much, I think, because I don’t know which side of the argument I fall on, myself. I can’t pick a side, so I write both.

 

DB: What is the appeal of the tension between a psychological explanation or a supernatural explanation for you as a reader? Does this differ from what you get from it as a writer? How did you intend or if you do not want to give that away, how might one interpret what is going on in the story, real or in Cass’s mind?

SR: I like to read those sorts of stories as much as I like to write them, yes! I think one of my favorite examples is Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts. Really, any exorcism story relies on that tension. I like being able to read the story in two ways, in parallel. It’s like getting two stories for one! And then finding the places where, somehow, impossibly, those parallels cross–it’s like a fun puzzle game, too. The ambiguity and lack of sure answer never bothers me. And there’s no clear answer in my story, either. I don’t even know, myself. It’s definitely both. 🙂

 

# # #

 

Here are Sarah’s Questions and my answers about “How to Stay Afloat When Drowning

 

SR: You describe setting beautifully. Is this a place that is special to you? Have you traveled there often? What inspired you to set “How to Stay Afloat When Drowning” there?

 

DB: Thank you. Working with setting is an important part of my creative process. Often it is the inspiration or what I decide on first. The settings here are generalized version of a small town on the East End of Long Island, a remote part of Costa Rica, and a sea-side town in California. While they are all based on real places I have visited they were chosen for their sea-side aspect and not for any special personal connection. In the pre-writing, decision making stage of my process I wanted places that were sea-side that would be a natural place for fisherman to be and a place where one could encounter sharks.

When I was asked to contribute to the anthology, I had the short story “Because Their Skins Are Finer” by Tanith Lee on my mind. It is one of my favorite short stories. It features a repentant hunter and I was thinking about writing a story inspired by it. I wound up making many departures from this original inspiration and while the two stories are vastly different and occupy different places Tanith’s story or what it means to me was certainly an inspiration.

 

SR: In the story, the sea is both life and death—a comfort and a trauma. We see it start to heal your character just as it tears another down. Have you ever lost anything to the sea? Gained anything from it?

 

DB: What an excellent, thoughtful question, thank you. I had not thought of the story in that way and I appreciate the opportunity to think about it through that lens.

 

I do love the ocean. I have both a sense of awe from its vastness and beauty and a real sense of fear from its power and elemental nature that is much greater than and uncaring or even unknowing of the humans who venture in it. Maybe this is why I tend to write about it or set stories in or near it so much.

 

Once I did see a shark brutalized as was done in the story. I’m not sure if I “lost” something tangible to the sea but upon reflection I think that was one of the first times I witnessed human cruelty and human domination over an animal up close and personal. The emotional realization that this happens was a loss of at least some part of youthful optimism and sense of invulnerability.

 

As far as gaining something, I think back to a moment when I was scuba diving at the Palankar Reef. The reef is near by a continental shelf where one can see light reaching the end of its journey from the sun and is no longer able to travel further into an unfathomable blackness. The time I spent floating there, is something that stays with me. Looking back I realized it changed me somehow. It imbued me with some sort of perspective though I am unable to pinpoint exactly what. It is something I’ve noticed I come back to one way or another in my writing. I’ve written a short story titled “Palankar” which will be appearing in my third short story collection UNDERWORLD DREAMS which is coming in 2020 from Lethe Press.

 

The notion of finding something, like something lost or a message in a bottle is very appealing to think about and good fodder for a story idea.

 

SR: How much research did you have to do about fishing and sharks for this piece?

 

DB: Not much. I drew upon my own experiences so I didn’t have to do any additional research. The majority of the work on the story was the process of visualizing everything and getting it onto the page in a dramatic structure. I’m not a fisherman and rarely, if ever fish. I do love sharks and am fascinated by them, so I feel like I am always researching sharks.

 

SR: How does this story tie into the theme for the Pareidolia anthology? What about that theme inspired you to write this piece?

 

DB: Pareidolia is defined as the tendency to interpret a vague stimulus as something known to the observer, such as seeing shapes in clouds, seeing faces in inanimate objects or abstract patterns, or hearing hidden messages in music. The first image that came into my mind when creating this story was the part where the main character sees the sister’s face and sees it as a “shark” face. Is he seeing things? Seeing Things was a working title of the book. Or is he observing something factual and real? I intentionally drafted the story to be one where the “explanation” for what was happening could be either psychology or supernatural, without definitively landing on one way or the other. So in addition to that instance of pareidolia in the story I wanted the entire story to operate as a kind of pareidolia where the reader is not certain if what they are observing is a psychological or supernatural phenomenon. It is a bit out of bounds but hopefully one close enough to be satisfying as part of the project.

 

SR: Do you often experience Pareidolia? What are a few recent instances for you?

 

DB: The only time I can recall experiencing the phenomenon is with wood paneling much like you describe in your short story “Into the Wood.” There is something about the patterns and grain in natural wood that my eye forms into faces.

 

In my short story “The Green Man of Punta Cabre” in my first short story collection THE NIGHT MARCHERS AND OTHER STRANGE TALES from Cemetery Dance Publication a character sees the face of Jesus in a stalk of corn. I did not know that there was a name for this kind of phenomena when I was writing that story. In that story the phenomena is revealed to be supernatural very early on in the tale unlike “How to Stay Afloat When Drowning.”

 

Thank you, Sarah, for your questions and answers. It was great conversing with you about the stories!

 

# # #

 

Sarah Read is a dark fiction writer in the frozen north of Wisconsin. Her short stories can be found in GamutBlack Static, and other places, and in various anthologies including  The Best Horror of the Year vol 10. Her novel The Bone Weaver’s Orchard is now out from Trepidatio Publishing, and her debut collection Out of Water released in late 2019. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Pantheon Magazine and of their associated anthologies, including Gorgon: Stories of Emergence. When she’s not staring into the abyss, she knits.

 

Daniel Braum is the author of the short story collection The Night Marchers and Other Strange Tales (Cemetery Dance), The Wish Mechanics: Stories of the Strange and Fantastic (Independent Legions) and the Dim Shores Press Chapbook Yeti, Tiger, Dragon. His third collection Underworld Dreams is forthcoming from Lethe Press in 2020. The Serpent’s Shadow, his first novel, was released from Cemetery Dance eBooks in 2019. He is the editor of the Spirits Unwrapped anthology from Lethe Press and the host of the Night Time Logic series in New York City.

 

Pareidolia is available direct from the publisher Black Shuck Books and from your favorite booksellers.

Spotlight on author Casilda Ferrante and her short story “The Hand of Annie Jones” from Spirits Unwrapped

Posted in Uncategorized on February 8, 2020 by bloodandstardust

Spotlight on Australian author Casilda Ferrante and her short story “The Hand of Annie Jones” from the Spirits Unwrapped anthology.

 

Casilda Ferrante is an author of exceptional talent that I had the good fortune of working with as my role as the editor of the Spirits Unwrapped anthology from Steve Berman’s Lethe Press. Casilda has recently started publishing her own unique brand of speculative fiction with her short stories appearing in several notable publications in 2019. It is my prediction that these fine works are only the wondrous start and you will be hearing much more from her. When I invited Casilda to contribute to the mummy themed anthology Spirits Unwrapped I asked her if she could deliver a story definitively set in Australia a story that could only be set in Australia. I hoped to receive a take with the same hallmark “magic” and power that I had read in some of her at the time unpublished works that I had read. She exceeded my expectations by turning in “The Hand of Annie Jones”. The story is a not only a tale centering on the lore of the Hand of Glory, it is a tale of the women of the “female factories” of Australia. At the end of last year I had the opportunity to ask Casilda a few questions.

 

DB:  Your story “The Hand of Annie Jones” features as the supernatural element a hand of glory. What research went into this and how did you decide to use this in the story?

 

CF: I spent a lot of time researching Hand of Glory folk lore. It’s an object I was generally familiar with, I wanted to know much more detail about it before incorporating it into a story. A Hand of Glory can take many different forms and was believed to have a variety of powers and influences. It appears in folklore, fairy tales and grimoires from the 16thto early 19thCentury, mainly from Scotland, England, France and Germany. It is a gruesome object to procure, one legend calls for the toes or fingers of unborn children, torn from the belly of a female thief and murderer. Once obtained the hand had to be prepared and transformed into a magical object according to specific rituals.

 

Severing the hands of criminals was a form of punishment in medieval Europe and the amputated hands were displayed in public to dissuade criminal behaviour. The Hand of Glory folk magic inverts this practice by using a felonious hand to create a tool of destructive power.
Based on my research, I wanted to create my own version of a Hand of Glory and wrote charms and spells to accompany it. The Hand in my story is nefarious and vindictive and develops a consciousness of its own, becoming a central character and driving force. This is a common trait in the portrayal of mummies – they reanimate with a certain personality and awareness intact.

 

DB: How has living near the bush in Australia informed your fiction? What are some things that you might encounter on a daily basis that we who live elsewhere might not think of?

 

CF: The Australian landscape is dramatic and beautiful with a gothic sublime quality, it’s an ideal setting for folk horror and dark fiction. More of my stories are being inspired by the land as I personally engage with it more. Living close to the bush I am acutely aware of being an immigrant and visitor to this country. It is very different to the countryside of Southern Italy where I was born and recall in early childhood memories. Even though I have grown up in Australia it will always feel like a new home, a strange home. I sense the magic and mystery and sacred stories that dwell in the land that I am yet to access and understand. There is a well of deep grief, rage and violence, a result of the genocide committed here in recent history.

 

What I love about living in bushland is that the experience of nature is immediate and sometimes extreme – I’ve experienced bush fires, floods, tropical storms. I love encountering wildlife as part of the every day – snakes, wallabies, toads, bats. Nature works both ways, wild creatures also begin to observe you as a permanent fixture in their world, they slowly accept you and allow closer access to them.

 

DB: Can you tell us about the Female Factories of Australia and how you wrote about them in the “Hand of Annie Jones”

 

CF: I had to conceive of a way to tie European folklore of the Hand of Glory with an Australian setting, so I started reading about early colonial life. I wasn’t aware of the female factories previously, it was shocking to learn about them. My story mentions the factories to provide historical context, I haven’t elaborated on them very much. I wanted to give some detail of the factories as they epitomise the desperate and desolate reality convict women were faced with when arriving in Australia. The factories were prison and work houses where women were housed while waiting for “assignment” which meant being bought as a wife, mistress or housemaid. Conditions were extremely poor, overcrowded and violent. Women were divided into ‘classes’ depending on behaviour and crimes committed. Good behaviour permitted them to be eligible for marriage which was the easiest way out of the factory and convict system, enabling them to become free settlers after they had worked their sentence.
The commonly held view of convict women is that they were all prostitutes but in fact prostitution was not a transportable offence. As women were unable to afford food and lodging, sexual services were often their only means of barter. Many who were transported to Australia had committed menial and petty crimes, the main reason for their transportation was to populate the new colony.
Convict women had few options available to them in the brutality of colonial life. In “The Hand of Annie Jones”, Sarah and Annie break the conventions imposed on them, using sorcerous means to forge a fate of their own.

 

DB: What, if anything, do you find dis-likable about portrayals of mummies in popular culture and fiction? 

 

CF: I’d never given mummies much thought before writing for Spirits Unwrapped but I’ve since become fascinated with mummy trivia! The most boring thing about mummies in popular media is that they are always Egyptian, the Egyptians were not the first or only to embalm their dead. Mummification appears in many religions and cultures including Incan, Aztec, Australian Aboriginal, African and European.

 

There are many interesting aspects to popular mummy narratives. Mummies are based on a type of relic as opposed to other monsters such as vampires, zombies and werewolves. The “legend of the mummy’s curse” was a Hollywood film fabrication, wrapped up in stories of eternal love affairs and revenge. It’s a strange idea that a corpse can regenerate due to an act of betrayal and dispense punishment. Obviously, there was some collective guilt about robbing ancient graves, looting treasures and stealing the bodies of kings and queens.

 

DB: What is it about mummies that captures the general public’s imagination and causes them to be so popular in Museums?

 

CF: Mummies epitomise the romance western culture has with ancient Egypt, the ideas about royalty, immortality, mysterious gods and the meaning and purpose of the pyramids. One of the points of fascination during the early 20thCentury Egyptian craze and tomb raiding was that Egyptians had very sophisticated methods of embalming and organ removal, preventing the desiccation of the corpse. In some pop culture portrayals the mummy reverses death, becoming youthful again when it is awoken. It hints at our fantasies of eternal life and eternal beauty. It is a morbid vanity to admire mummies from another culture, especially in a museum and particularly when those mummies are identified as historical figures.

 

DB: Do you have a favorite short story? If so what about it has made it your favorite?
CF: I try to read as much short fiction as I can, I can’t come up with one favourite. Recently I enjoyed All The Fabulous Beasts by Priya Sharma, it was heart warming and moving, both down to earth and magical. I’m currently reading Sing your Sadness Deep by Laura Mauro, I’m enjoying the diversity, finesse and surreal quality of the stories.

 

DB: Thank you, Casilda ! I look forward to reading what is next from you and for the opportunity to speak with you again soon !

 

Spirits Unwrapped can be ordered directly from Lethe Press or at your favorite online bookseller.

Night Time Logic with Peter Straub. Audio recording at Ink Heist

Posted in Uncategorized on November 23, 2019 by bloodandstardust

The audio recording of the my Night Time Logic interview with special guest Peter Straub is up now over at Ink Heist.

Thank you again to Peter Straub for being a special guest of the series.

More of the recordings from my Night Time Logic interviews are coming to Ink Heist thanks to Shane Douglas Keene and Rich Duncan !

 

 

nighttimelogic

 

Night Time Logic Featuring Peter Straub

The SPIRITS UNWRAPPED author interviews

Posted in Uncategorized on November 5, 2019 by bloodandstardust

I had the opportunity to interview many of the authors of the Spirits Unwrapped anthology I edited for Lethe Press.

Several of them appear on the Spirits Unwrapped Facebook page and many of them appear on the Ink Heist website.

Here are the links. (This page will be updated with all of the links. Meanwhile each link leads to the page where all of the interviews can be easily reached.)

UNWRAPPED #7 – An Interview with David Wellington