Yeti Tiger Dragon from Dim Shores launches Oct 5th at Brooklyn’s Museum of Morbid Anatomy

Posted in Uncategorized on September 7, 2016 by bloodandstardust

Yeti Tiger Dragon from Dim Shores Press is launching on October 5, 2016 at Brooklyn’s Museum of Morbid Anatomy.

Please join us for the launch party

Wednesday October 5, 2016


I’ll be signing books along with illustrator Emily Mintz, giving a fun lecture about cryptids, and reading from Yeti Tiger Dragon

Books will be available for sale.

The Facebook event page is here:

If you are not local the presale from Dim Shores goes on sale soon. Check back here for the link.

Black-Eyed Susan by Mike Lester from The Beauty of Death

Posted in Uncategorized on September 7, 2016 by bloodandstardust

The Beauty of Death. And the Flamingo at Night. A discussion of Mike Lester’s Black-Eyed Susan.

Whoever said throwing a party in Las Vegas was a good idea?

This past May I had a book to launch. My first collection. An eBook of quiet, literary stories out on the far fringes of horror to promote.

My task. To somehow connect these strange, quiet stories with readers. I always begin (and often end) with the concept of Night Time Logic. A niche, within a niche, within a niche. No problem! What better juxtaposition than the bright lights and flash of the Las Vegas strip?

Vegas always struck me as a place that is all style and no substance. A flashy, trashy, misguided and perhaps even doomed place to build a city. The allure of illusions and dreams. Tacit agreements with ourselves and others to accept the gild and replicas as something real and authentic. The fluorescent illuminated shadow of California artificially irrigated where there should only be desert.

This is what I’m thinking as I’m trying to entertain the good people around me, authors, artists, filmmakers, editors, readers, and book makers have found their way to our shadowy little gathering. The midnight hour had long since come and gone and there is a knock on the door, much like something out of one of our stories. In enters Jodi Lester and her husband Mike. They’re here for the fiction. They’re here to hear what it’s all about. When the conversation turns to Robert Aickman and Night Time Logic they light up. We talk about magic and books and realize we are not only kindred spirits who love dark fiction but are all involved in the Beauty of Death project. Jodi is the English language editor and Mike has a story with me in the table of contents.

Mike and I planned on doing something to talk about our stories in the Beauty of Death. So,

spoiler warning here. Stop now. Turn back. Go get yourself a copy of the Beauty of Death, read Mike’s story and come back.

Mike did a great job of capturing something about my story without spoilers. I fear I’m not deft enough to remain completely spoiler free.


Are you back? What did you think?

The first thing that struck me about Mike’s story Black-Eyed Susan is its structure. The story is “shaped” like what I might call a traditional or a “familiar” horror story. The first paragraphs conclude with the narrator telling us this is going to be a story about the worst thing he’d ever done. This is a familiar start. The narrator survives the story and is now going to tell us something terrible. I’ve seen this shape plenty of times before. Lester however delightfully and skillfully defies expectations. He uses the shape and the trope of a familiar story but delivers a tale that is neither familiar nor expected. This story goes somewhere else. Quietly. And confidently.

The narrator of the story works at a grocery store. The object of his affections is a clerk who lives in a nearby trailer park. She is his companion, who is not a companion in the endless cycle of sleep, work, and smoke breaks that is their lives. Lester infuses the story with verisimilitude and believable characters which is no easy feat.

I think for sure the story is the setting up of something monstrous and terrible. What this could be is foreshadowed in every dark corner. Or is Lester intentionally misdirecting us? Leading us down a garden path of his choosing. Surely this story ends in doom, I think. Surely this story ends with blood. Or at the point of a knife. Or with the firing of a gun. After all we were promised the worst thing that this man ever did in the opening of the tale.

Lester delivers a story much more haunting than one that ends in violence. Black-Eyed Susan, to me, is a story about decisions. The story leaves me painfully aware that all our decisions matter. Bells cannot be un-rung, no matter how small. Or insignificant they might seem. In life, there are no take-backs. There are no second chances. Black-Eyed Susan is a story about dignity. And respect. And consequences. Lester delivers this message quietly. Confidently. In that way the impact is louder than bombs.

Perhaps I am projecting on this story? Does it matter? I don’t think so. Mike and I haven’t spoken about our stories. I get the sense he would be pleased if indeed I am projecting onto the story and if you project something similar or even something completely different. Was he certain what the reader would see? Was he certain what I would see or if every reader would even see the same? Pondering these questions make me even more enthusiastic about this story.

This story haunts the shadows of Beauty of Death. The quiet places between the grander more familiar places in this tome. I’m so glad to see it there and its inclusion in the table of contents alongside others like it. These choices and inclusions have me interested in just what editor Alessandro Manzetti has in store for the future and what he will do next. But before then I’ll be searching out more stories from Mike Lester and I get to ask him a few questions.

My questions for Mike.


DB:Do you like to talk about what your stories mean to you? If so, what does this story mean to you? And how did it come about. If you are like Aickman and don’t talk about such things perhaps tell me why.

ML: I don’t mind talking about what my stories mean to me, however, I do subscribe to the viewpoint that a writer should never state with absolute certainty “my story means this” or “my story is about that.” Doing this is akin to a magician revealing how a trick is done, it seems to me. As for how the story came about, well, we’d have to go way back. Even as a little boy, as young as five, I was always aware of my mortality and that of my loved ones. I used to feel the way Jiminy Cricket did when he said, “I’m no fool, no siree, I’m gonna live to be a hundred and three!” As I’ve gotten older, my opinion on this has changed a bit. The body, as well as the soul, begins to ache. Around the age of eight, this would be 1978, I saw my first dead body. I was out riding my bike on our street, the only kid out that day, which was unusual. I remember passing by a neighbor’s house, when the front door was suddenly kicked open. The boy who lived in this house was older, around thirteen or fourteen, and his father came stumbling out of the doorway and onto the lawn, a strange smile on his face, carrying his son in his arms, kinda like the way the Creature from the Black Lagoon carried off the girl. I stopped and stared, I was mesmerized and didn’t know why. The boy who lived there was Persian, and the powder-blue tint to his face contrasted horribly with the rest of his olive-colored skin. Then I noticed the noose around his neck. The father wasn’t smiling. It was a mixture grief, shock, and horror. We were the only ones on the street, and I watched him stumble on the lawn for a minute or two. I remember birds chirping. I internalized all this and never told anyone what I’d seen. Therein lies the origin of “Black-Eyed Susan.” Not the meaning of the story, mind you, simply its origin.

DB:  Does a story you’ve written succeed or fail for you if a reader comes away with something you did not intend?

ML: I’m perfectly fine with a reader finding their own meaning to my work. If they come away with any meaning at all, then it’s a success. What bothers me is when someone reads my work expecting vampires or some such thing and comes away with a “So what?” attitude. Funnily enough, it’s usually those that profess to enjoy quiet horror or subtlety that have this reaction.

DB:  What is your favorite or some of your favorite stories that operate like Black-Eyed Susan where the reader is given space to react, project and experience the story?

ML:  That’s a good question, and the list would be long, but here are a few I enjoy:

“The Hand-Puppet” by Joyce Carol Oates

“Blue Rose” by Peter Straub

“Ravissante” by Robert Aickman

“The Shadow at the Bottom of the World” by Thomas Ligotti

Each of these authors has written many stories in this vein, and all are quite good in my opinion. Glen Hirshberg is another writer who comes to mind.

DB: Let’s talk about horror. As a mode. Or emotion. There is no overt supernatural element in the story. Yet there is emotion. Atmosphere. Stakes and consequence. Some might call this quiet horror, literary horror, or any number of terms. Without having to reduce it to any category what is it about this “kind” of story wherever it might fall in some arbitrary or non-arbitrary classification that appeals to you. In both reading and in writing them?

ML: I suppose the appeal lies in the fact that ambiguity is the heart of the mysterious and the uncanny. Things half-glimpsed or experienced are always much more powerful or frightening than things clearly seen, wouldn’t you say? So much of our human experience is subjective, and this type of writing just feels more authentic to me. When my novel An Occasional Dream was published, it was met with a lot of confusion from readers—now this novel was marketed as a mystery novel, and readers of mysteries like their stories to have a crystal clear resolution, which always struck me as odd. Isn’t ambiguity the heart of mystery?

Posted in Uncategorized on August 15, 2016 by bloodandstardust

Author Mike Lester and I share a Table of Contents in the Independent Legions Anthology the Beauty of Death along with a ton of the most exciting writers including Peter Straub, John Skipp, John Claude Smith, Shane McKenzie, Poppy Z. Brite, Colleen Anderson, Nick Mamatas, and Maria Alexander to name but a few. I’m so pleased to welcome Mike to my blog to talk about Weird Fiction and our stories. This week Mike talks about my story How to Make Love and Not Turn to Stone. In the post to follow soon I will talk about his story Black-Eyed Susan and throw a few of my questions over to him.

Please welcome Mike Lester.



First Impressions: Meeting Daniel Braum

by Mike Lester

My favorite part of attending writers conferences and conventions is the parties. I’m not talking about the official receptions listed in the event program; no, I’m talking about the room parties where you’re likely to find thirty or forty people jammed into an average-sized hotel room along with ice-filled bathtubs loaded with beer.  There’s usually a bottle of harder stuff being passed around among the clusters of animated conversation as well.

This eternal scenario repeated itself in May 2016 when my wife Jodi and I attended StokerCon in Las Vegas. We’d had a good night meeting up with old friends followed by dinner with one of Jodi’s clients who was nominated for an award that year (which he ended up winning), and I’d done a reading to a not-so-empty-as-I’d-feared room. Somewhere between the reading and our room, someone mentioned a party to us. “It’s up on the eighth floor,” they said, “room such and such.” In truth, I don’t remember the floor or room number, but you get the drift. It was running late, after midnight, and for a moment I was certain it would be over by the time we made it up.

“Mike, don’t be an idiot,” Jodi said to me as the elevator doors closed in front of us. “This is Las Vegas, there’s no clock here, and besides, nobody knows how to party like neurotic horror writers.” She hit the button and we started up.

And, by God, she was right. The crowd had trimmed out, only ten or so people remained, but the positive energy in the room was immediately apparent. As we stepped in we were welcomed by a smiling fellow with close-cropped hair.

“Come on in! Welcome! Help yourself to a drink. There’s beer in the tub.”

He introduced himself as Daniel Braum. And then a wonderful thing happened. We cut right through the usual bullshit small talk and had one of those conversations that seem to get better and better with each utterance. The magic words were “Robert Aickman.”

Something happens when two devotees of Aickman meet; there is instant recognition and an unspoken respect is earned—as if one’s mental mediocrity filter says “Relax…this guy gets it.”

I remember mentioning how I was first drawn to Aickman because he stood between two worlds, more so than any other writer I’ve ever encountered, with one foot firmly planted in mundane reality, while the other seemed to precariously balance in a strange reality of its own. “Another place” had been the only way I’d ever been able to label Aickman’s unreal reality. Daniel’s eyes lit up at the mention of this.

“Night Time Logic,” he said.

Night Time Logic. The phrase was perfect. It captured everything I’d felt but couldn’t quite pin down. Different from the twisted reality of dreams, Night Time Logic, though a close cousin to dreaming, presents the strange and bizarre as a matter of fact, a given to be accepted as more real than reality. Stories like Aickman’s “Ravissante” or “Bind Your Hair” are perfect examples of this. It’s something I’d been trying to achieve with my own writing, and to find a living, breathing kindred spirit in Daniel was an immense relief. Nighttime wanderers can be a lonely bunch.

We talked, Daniel, Jodi, and I, for a long time on Aickman, the occult, writing. Ten people became six, then three. We finally had to break it off when somebody took the bottle opener with them.

“But hey,” Daniel said. “I’m doing a reading tomorrow at one in the Red Rock room.”

We’d be there, I promised.



I can be notoriously flaky sometimes, but I made sure to be at Red Rock by one. Just in time. I wanted to see if this guy could walk the walk as well as talk the talk. We made eye contact and gave each other the friendly nod of recognition before he took the podium. Game on.

The story he read was called “Music of the Spheres” (which is included in his new collection The Night Marchers and Other Strange Tales).

And, by God, he pulled it off. At readings I usually sit at the back of the room with my eyes closed. This helps me concentrate on the reader’s voice and to visualize the story being read as a series of images. Daniel’s voice was assured—here was a writer who wrote with emotional intent rather than just words and paragraphs strung together to advance a narrative. And the images he spoke were fantastic—a sort of melding between Lovecraft’s cosmicism and Ligotti’s bizarre, mad, occult underworld populated by mad geniuses and artists. Or Blackwood’s novel The Human Chord, which concerns itself with tonal alchemy. Daniel’s story was at home in these worlds, yet totally original. A close cousin to the masters.

By the time he finished, I was convinced. This guy definitely gets it. He’s the real deal. One of those writers whose work I will now read without question. Mental note taken.

We didn’t get to talk much for the remainder of the conference, just saying “hi” in passing, but it was a nice surprise to run into him again at the airport and learn we shared the same flight back to New York. We had another nice talk in the terminal, waiting for our plane, and I was delighted to learn we would both be included in Alessandro Manzetti’s new anthology The Beauty of Death. Always nice to know you’re sharing space between covers with quality.



When The Beauty of Death was finally released, I was excited to read several of the stories—I’d read Peter Straub’s Blue Rose previously, but that one is always worth re-reading, and Ramsey Campbell, another favorite of mine, never fails to impress. But it was Daniel’s story I was most curious about. Even the title, “How to Make Love and Not Turn to Stone,” was impressively evocative. Could he do it again, I wondered. Was his reading in Vegas just a fluke? Was I still hungover from the night before? (Yes, but that is beside the point.)

I need not have feared. “How to Make Love and Not Turn to Stone” solidified (pardon the pun) my first impression of the man and his work. Obviously, I couldn’t read this one with my eyes closed, but the images came fluidly nonetheless. And, once again, I’d entered the realm of Night Time Logic. “How to Make Love and Not Turn to Stone” is a brighter, less menacing story than “The Music of the Spheres,” but this does not decrease its strangeness. If anything this seaside brightness only enhances the very strangeness of the situation. The weird tail via John Updike, if you will. Is this world he’s writing about our reality? Yes, the basilisk is a real lizard, but it is also a creature of myth, able to immobilize with a glance, turning men into stone. And here the basilisks are capable of just that.

Early on in the story, when Francois and Michaela are sitting at the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean, there is this:

One of the creatures they call a bat, a thing more like a mad cross between a bird and a firefly, spirals from the seaside caves into the coming night. Foot-long, black wings extend to catch the wind and the “bat” bursts into golden flames. The bio-luminescent halo of light does not consume it as it glides leaving a glowing trail of its path through the sky that lingers.

“Why do they do it?” Michaela says.

“I don’t know. It must feel right. Small brains. Bad eyes. They don’t navigate by sight or reason.”

And here is the crux of the whole matter.

On my first reading, this passage immediately made me think of a series of etchings by Max Klinger, collectively titled Paraphrase on the Discovery of a Glove. The penultimate etching features a large, bat-like thing, a prehistoric amphibious-looking monstrosity flying through the shards of a broken window, a woman’s glove clenched in its jaws as a man’s arms can be seen desperately reaching after it. This particular etching in the series is titled Abduction (it is also alternatively referred to as Theft and also as Seizure). And that seems to be the heart of Francois’s problem as well.  He’s been blinded by a woman. He does not navigate by reason; it’s been abducted and his emotional free will petrified. Turned to stone.

Mikes Blog Phtoto.jpg


Interestingly, Klinger’s series of etchings begin in the mundane, real world wherein a man finds a discarded woman’s glove at a roller rink. The series progresses through ten plates, each increasingly bizarre and unreal.

Night Time Logic.

And yet this world is so very real, despite the eight-foot basilisks and bats with fiery tails. What Braum is writing about is that most real of subjects, emotional blindness and the power women have over men in this arena. Being taken for granted.  Being discarded like a glove at a roller rink—discarded so often one emotionally turns to stone.

Much like Jean Ray’s novel as well as Harry Kümel’s film Malpertuis, we find ourselves in a world where myth is reality—myth fused with the everyday, commonplace problems of real people.

Night Time Logic.


1. What do you consider to be the most successful story or novel, or even film, in the portrayal of Night Time Logic?

What a fun question to mull over. My first thought went right to Robert Aickman’s The Swords. Ask me again and I might hone in on something else. In the Swords the speculative element is not explained.  The rules of “what is happening” are not presented. Aickman could have told us were are seeing an alien. Or a robot. Or a vampire or other supernatural entity. He could have told us we are witnessing someone with a magic power. But he does not and yet the story satisfies. The story gives us the protagonist’s emotional experience and emotional shift in response to an unexplained phenomena. We the reader(s) experience it, believe in it, and are uneasy with it not for any reason we can concretely spell out. We feel the “night time” logic that is not governed by “known” rules or linear cause and effect logic.

I’m even more excited about how night time logic can be used in film. The film It Follows is one that divides many horror fans. I think this is because of the decision of the film makers to use night time logic in presenting their story. I love the film. An interesting observation is that those who love it and those who feel it doesn’t work often cite the same elements and same things as their reasons why. Which is why I often use the film as a “litmus” test of sorts to see if a person is familiar with or pleased by night time logic. I see please by because one of the joys, at least for me, is when you don’t see it coming, when you don’t expect it, and you just feel and experience it.


The “rules” of the supernatural element in It Follows are “mostly” unexplained. I say mostly because the film differs from The Swords in that the film misleads us by “giving us” rules. Early in the film one character purports to know what is going on and very dramatically tells another character and thus the viewers. Yet in later acts these “rules” are blatantly subverted. Part of the delight for me is seeing and experiencing that these rules are just wrong and not the rules at all. This aspect (not following its own “rules”) has been a frequent source of criticism of the film.  I believe that this structure is intentional and for me it operates to make me feel like I am in the same deep water as the characters. In many ways the movie looks like and is structured like a “typical” horror movie. Yet the method of the real scares and what is most disturbing to me about the movie is very different. And for these reasons, this use of Night Time Logic makes it one of the most successful horror movies for me.

I must point out that the first time I heard the phrase Night Time Logic was from my teacher the author Lee Battersby. I learned from Kelly Link who has written extensively on the topic that the term was coined by author Howard Waldrop.


2. Do you see any major shift in the weird tale subgenre, for better or worse? These may be stylistic, thematic, or simply concern the business end of the genre, such as markets or lack thereof.

I almost passed on this question. Although I’ve been writing for a decade and a half I am woefully behind and lacking in my knowledge of genre in general and of the sub-genre. It has been a delightful game of catch up as I learn, and read, and listen, and explore and find out and try to figure out what is a weird tale or a strange tale.

Although I’d heard the terms in passing I wasn’t paying attention to the term strange tale and the weird fiction sub genre until late in 2014. I attended a panel on Robert Aickman at the World Fantasy Convention in 2014 moderated by author Simon Strantzas. Simon’s work is strongly influenced by Aickman and he is the editor of the Shirely Jackson Award winning anthology Aickman’s Heirs published by Undertow Press who bring us the Year’s Best Weird Fiction series. The panelists, in particular Peter Straub and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, discussed Robert Aickman and his approach to writing. I rushed out and bought a copy of Cold Hand in Mine and read the Swords for the first time that night.

I did not grow up reading Lovecraft. Any “weird tale” that I read or might have read were without the benefit of knowing the context and lineage. So this was the beginning point when I realized that a certain portion of my work might actually fit in to a larger context and that I might actually have a viable term for my work and genre to “fit” into. I knew most of my work either crossed-genres or fell outside most opinions of what any given genre was or was supposed to be. I mention this in my answer because I haven’t been exposed to or thinking about the weird tale as a genre long enough to present myself as someone informed enough to comment on any major shifts.

That said, I can report on my limited experience.  The Weird as a genre from my vantage seems to be enjoying an upswing in visibility and popularity. Trends come and go of course.  I have no idea what this surge might mean in historical context or for the future. Many people more experienced than me have said this is a grand or even golden time for the genre. I’ve also heard that the small press publishers have a lot to do with this.

I’m particularly thankful for small press publisher Cemetery Dance for including me and my work in their definition of what “horror” is. Over the past decade my work and strange tales from other authors writing today have found homes for their stories at Cemetery Dance. Cemetery Dance has been around for over twenty five years and is a name people closely associate with horror having published so many influential authors over the years. To get back to your question about shifts, I think it speaks to a shift that my first collection a book of strange tales is published by Cemetery Dance eBooks. Credit and gratitude is due to my editor, author Norman Prentiss for conceiving the collection and green lighting its presentation as a collection of strange tales. Norman and the editors of Cemetery Dance are not only publishing traditional horror but are also publishing work on the edges and borderlands of the genre. This perhaps is a quiet shift that has been going on for some time now. I’m pleased to be able to drop a bit of a hint with a wink that Cemetery Dance has more Weird Fiction and Strange Tales en route.


California publisher Dim Shores press is also a leader in championing the Weird. They have been recently publishing limited small edition runs of the some of the best weird fiction out there. After by author Scott Nicolay is a wonderful that I think for many reasons is destined to become a classic. The Beauty of Death Publisher and Editor Alessandro Manzetti of Independent Legions included our stories and Jean Claude Smith’s story in their massive tome including our kind of work proudly alongside all the different kinds of horror being written and published today.  Mainstream media and publishing has also been embracing the strange. released Victor LaValle’s masterpiece novella The Ballad of Black Tom and Netflix produced the original series Strange Things to much fanfare.


3. Does your writing come from a personal place? Are these experiences in some way yours, or do you focus more on story as an exterior construct, removing yourself from the process as much as possible?

Robert Aickman had the best response to this. He refused to talk about his writing. Period. Even his close friends and associates stated that he said little to nothing to them over about where his writing came from.

On the one hand I think it can be fascinating to see the difference between an author’s intent and what makes it on the page and even what makes it into a readers mind. I recently did a reading that had the audience laughing. Which is great, only I did not intend the story to be funny. My intent was to unsettle and frighten. Talking to the audience after they did find it scary but also humorous and irreverent, go figure.I guess so long as a story works for a reader, no matter what the author’s intent then I think that story works.

Often writers do use personal experience to start the creative process. The phrase “kill your darlings” comes to my mind. Often authors find that the initial spark of truth that started the story going has to be jettisoned for the story to work. By “working” I mean for the story to “feel” real. Even if that attempted element “actually “is” real and true. To me it doesn’t matter if something is true or real if it doesn’t work. Feeling real and feeling right is so much more important. I plan on talking about this more in my next blog post about your story in Beauty of Death. For now, I will say “kill your darlings” is often sage advice

4.  And finally, an easy one: Who are your favorite authors and what are their best works

Very easy. Lucius Shepard is on the top of my list. His short story The Jaguar Hunters remains as my favorite work of fiction. I often go back to this story just to enjoy it. Lately I’ve been re-reading it to try and figure it out. I could talk a lot about this story and hope to do so in the future so for now I will enthusiastically recommend this story to anyone who has not read it.

z jaguar hunter


Kelly Link is also on the top of my list. Her short story Some Zombie Contingency Plans is one I come back to again and again. There are a lot of elements and techniques in play in the story and is an immensely effective and satisfying use of Night Time Logic to surprise and unsettle.

-END OF Q and A –

Thanks for stopping by with this blog post, Mike. In my post next week I’ll be sharing my reaction to your short story that appears in The Beauty of Death along with my questions for you. Until then I send you my gratitude and cheers.

You can find the Beauty of Death from Independent Legions Here:


Beauty of Death

The Night Marchers from Cemetery Dance eBooks can be found here:


Please check back next week when I will talk about Mike’s story Black-Eyed Susan and throw my interview questions over to him !


The Beauty of Death Guest Blog from John Claude Smith

Posted in Uncategorized on July 27, 2016 by bloodandstardust

Hi everyone.

My short story How to Make Love and Not Turn to Stone appears in the new anthology The Beauty of Death.

I’m pleased to have this story included in this ambitious project and to be alongside such esteemed writers. I’m particularly pleased to have a chance to read the stories of some writers whose work I have been very excited about as of late, such as John Skipp, Mike Lester, and John Claude Smith.

Speaking of John Claude Smith he has written a guest blog post about his story. So here he is welcome John Claude Smith !


“Rotten Apples”: The Seeds of Grief

By John Claude Smith

On September 30, 2014, my father passed away.

Is that any way to begin a blog about my story, “Rotten Apples,” in the new anthology, The Beauty of Death?

With honesty at the helm, there really is no other way for me to start this blog post.

On September 30, 2014, while I was in Rome, Italy, visiting my girlfriend for the summer, I received an email from my sister letting me know about my father’s passing after months of dealing with cancer. It kicked me hard in the head, the heart. Though it seemed possible he might not make it through my summer in Rome, I hoped for the best and looked forward to seeing him when I was back in the states in mid-October. He had made it this far, I thought he’d make it until I got back, perhaps much longer. Now, I had to adjust my thinking. Now…I would have to deal with grief and huddle with the family as we dealt with the loss.

Three days before I was scheduled to get back to California, my mother had a fall and got a concussion. All of a sudden, priorities shifted from the dead to the living in need of help.

Yet, I could not let it all go.

My first week back in the states, I knew I had to do something to hold on to certain memories and/or aspects of my father that time might whittle to dust. An idea came to me for a story about a family dealing with the aftermath of a father’s death a year after they had buried him in the backyard beneath an apple tree. Jet lag and the knowledge that I would be starting up with work again the following week had me up at 4 a.m. every morning, putting together this tale.

In fiction, I will often sprinkle autobiographical elements that I believe enhance a sense of the ‘real’ within the fiction. At least for me, because when I go back and read a story, perhaps that memory will be triggered in the reading, or taken over by the tale; it goes both ways. “Rotten Apples,” originally titled, “Strange Fruit,” took a lot of peripheral memories and sprinkled with abundance.

The tale is set in my parents’ house, including the sagging ceiling in the master bedroom that plays a key role in the story. The rollcall of details about the father are full of real incidents my father had discussed with me. Yes, he had worked on Nixon’s plane; yes, he had quit Stanford because he thought himself smarter than all of the professors. Yes, to many things. I added a few (very few, actually) fictional ones, because story demands what it demands. Even the mother has a few characteristics that might relate to my mother, but they’re less defined than what the story takes from my father. There’s even a sequence noting how the father in the tale was not the biological father of the narrator. This element was based on an actual lunch date I’d had with a cousin when I was twenty-five in which she revealed the man I had thought of as my father was not my biological father. In order to distance myself from the truths I’d threaded into the tale, I decided to make the narrator female. This move served to point me in the direction of the weird finale.

I thought of these additions about my father as bookmarking memories, in a way. I will always read this tale and know this or that is set in the real world, and this or that is something that might inspire a smile or at least a furrowed brow of curiosity, because my father—the man I knew as my father, at least—was a curious person.

Of course, being a writer of weird fiction and horror, all of this information does not lead to a pleasant place. Would my father expect anything else from me? Of course not.

Life plays a roll even in the fictional world here, in a tale close to my dark heart. I was ecstatic when “Rotten Apples” finally found a home, so others could share in my strange fictional excursion and join me along my path through grief in the only way I really could deal with it: with Words.

With a weird tale, the seeds of which sprout from loss…


The Moon and the Mesa on The Hour of the Wolf

Posted in Uncategorized on July 6, 2016 by bloodandstardust

On June 30th 2016 I appeared for the second time on host Jim Freund’s long running The Hour of the Wolf Radio Program.

Jim and I talked about strange fiction, the making of the Night Marchers and Other Strange Tales, and I read the story from the book titled the Moon and the Mesa. Here is the link where you can listen for free to the entire broadcast-



Author Jason Sileo and I went into New York City and worked on fiction late the night of June 30th. We met with our friends some of our favorite writers in New York City. We headed to a rendezvous point and shared excellent conversation with host Jim Fruend. Jim told us tales about some of our many favorite authors he’s had on the show in the decades it has been on the air. Jason snapped the great photo of me holding the Grey Matter Press trade edition of the Night Marchers and Other Strange Tales side by side with the Cemetery Dance eBook on my tablet. I read the short story The Moon and the Mesa. In that last photo you can see the watchful eyes of the host as I read ! Please tune into the link and give the show and the story a listen.

The eBook can be purchased here:

and the trade edition can be purchased here:

It was great being back on Hour of the Wolf. Hope to do it again soon !

Shotgun Logic and Night Time Logic

Posted in Uncategorized on June 28, 2016 by bloodandstardust

Shane D Keene of Shotgun logic invited me to write a guest post for his blog Shotgun Logic which recently celebrated it’s first anniversary. I wrote about pancakes, Kelly Link, Robert Aickman and Night Time Logic. Here is a link:

June 15th at KGB Fantastic Fiction with Marc Laidlaw ( link to Ellen Datlow’s photos )

Posted in Uncategorized on June 15, 2016 by bloodandstardust

On June 15, 2016 I read with Marc Laidlaw at the Fantastic Fiction reading series at New York’s KGB Bar.

Hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel made me feel at home. Thank you for having me. I am often an audience member at this series so it was wonderful to be on the other side of the podium.

I was fortunate enough to spend the afternoon with author Marc Laidlaw. Marc is not only a talented visionary author he is a hell of a great guy. Marc generously shared stories of his work, tales of some of our favorite authors, gave me sage advice, and shared his thoughts of the moment on his explorations of writing as we hunted down great pizza and coffee. We did find the treasure trove of slippery elm lozenges.

Marc and I both read new stories. Marc’s story can be found at Nightmare Magazine. I’m going to update this with several links and photos but for now enjoy the link to Ellen Datlow’s photos.

Daniel Braum and Marc Laidlaw