Archive for September, 2016

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

7-9pm

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:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1064116977003177/

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

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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?