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Aug 28

LoneStarCon 3 and Rayguns Over Texas

Posted on Wednesday, August 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

For those of you attending LoneStarCon 3 (a.k.a. WorldCon) in San Antonio this week, here’s my schedule. Please drop by and give me a good ol’ Texas “howdy.”

I’m particularly excited to be participating in the launch events for Rayguns Over Texas, a new FACT-published anthology of Texas science fiction which includes my story “Pet Rock.” Be sure and check out my interview with the book’s editor, Rick Klaw, over at the Missions Unknown blog.

Texas Roadhouse Blues: Speculative Fiction and Rock and Roll
Thursday 3-4 p.m. w/ Bradley Denton, Peggy J. Hailey and Josh Rountree
Convention Center: 006A

Rayguns Over Texas launch event
Thursday 6:30-8:30 p.m. w/ Rick Klaw, Josh Rountree, Stina Leicht, Joe R. Lansdale, Scott Cupp, Rhonda Eudaly Simpson, etc.
San Antonio Public Library, Downtown

Music and Science Fiction
Friday 2-3 p.m. w/ Vincent Docherty, Catherine Asaro, Lauran Schiller and H.G. Stratmann
Convention Center: 102A

How SF Fandom Made the Sixties Happen: Origin of Rock Journalism
Friday 5-6 p.m. w/ Christopher J. Garcia, Jason Heller, Mike Ward and David G. Hartwell
Convention Center: 007B

Writing about Music and Art
Saturday Noon-1 p.m.
Diana G. Gallagher, Leslie Fish , Tanya Huff and Seanan McGuire
Rivercenter: Conference 12

Autographing session
Saturday 2-3 p.m.
Convention Center: Exhibit A

Rayguns Over Texas Group Reading & Signing
Saturday 5-7 p.m.
Convention Center: 007A
w/ Rick Klaw, Josh Rountree, Stina Leicht, Chris N. Brown, Don Webb, Derek Johnson, Jessica Reisman, Marshall Ryan Maresca, Rhonda Eudaly, Matthew Bey, Scott A. Cupp, Mark Finn, Nicky Drayden, Rocky Kelley, and possibly others.

Oct 10

Doubling Down with Joe McKinney

Posted on Wednesday, October 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

JournalStone's Double Down series will feature two novels packaged together like this old Ace Double.

I learned a new term yesterday: dos-à-dos.

Dos-à-dos, it turns out, is the fancy French term for two separate books bound together at the spine, kind of like those old Ace Double sf paperbacks.

I learned the term because JournalStone Publishing is bringing back the format through its new Double Down series — and I’m one of a dozen authors participating in the launch.

Each Double Down book will feature a short novel from an already established author paired with a separate short novel from an up-and-coming writer (that’s where I come in). Rather than focus on sf like the Ace books, this series’ emphasis is on horror.

I’m thrilled to be paired with Stoker Award-winning scribe Joe McKinney, who I’ve known for a few years through the Alamo City-based writing group Drafthouse. Joe’s got a brisk, action-focused style that keeps the pages turning — whether he’s writing about zombies, deadly fire ants or mutated meth-heads. His day job as a San Antonio cop brings an unmistakable grit and authenticity to his work.

Our book is scheduled to hit the shelves in summer 2013.

The rest of Double Down’s lineup includes Gene O’Neill with Chris Mars, Gord Rollo with Rena Mason, Lisa Morton with Eric Guignard, Harry Shannon with Brett Talley and Jonathan Maberry with a writer yet to be named.

I’m honored to be working with Joe, who I’m sure would have had plenty of other willing takers for this project, and I’m excited to publish in a series alongside such talented luminaries and up-and-comers.

Of couse, I’m also thankful for editor Christopher C. Payne’s JournalStone for resurrecting the old doubles concept… and teaching me a high-fallutin’ new term.

I feel smarter already.

Apr 5

Bram Stoker Award winners for 2011

Posted on Thursday, April 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

The Horror Writers Association announced the winners of the 2011 Bram Stoker Awards at its annual awards banquet last weekend. This year’s presentation was held in Salt Lake City, Utah, at the World Horror Convention, and marks the 25th anniversary of the Awards. (Look for my personal thoughts on the con and the award ceremony soon.)

The award is named for Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula. The trophy, which resembles a miniature haunted house, was designed by author Harlan Ellison and sculptor Steven Kirk.

Twelve new bronze haunted-house statuettes were handed over to the writers responsible for creating superior works of horror last year. This year’s winners are:

Superior Achievement in a NOVEL
Flesh Eaters by Joe McKinney (Pinnacle Books)

Superior Achievement in a FIRST NOVEL
Isis Unbound by Allyson Bird (Dark Regions Press)

Superior Achievement in a YOUNG ADULT NOVEL (tie)
The Screaming Season by Nancy Holder (Razorbill)
Dust and Decay by Jonathan Maberry (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

Superior Achievement in a GRAPHIC NOVEL
Neonomicon by Alan Moore (Avatar Press)

Superior Achievement in LONG FICTION
The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine” by Peter Straub (Conjunctions: 56)

Superior Achievement in SHORT FICTION
“Herman Wouk Is Still Alive” by Stephen King (The Atlantic Magazine, May 2011)

Superior Achievement in a SCREENPLAY
American Horror Story, episode #12: “Afterbirth” by Jessica Sharzer (20th Century Fox Television)

Superior Achievement in a FICTION COLLECTION
The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares by Joyce Carol Oates (Mysterious Press)

Superior Achievement in an ANTHOLOGY
Demons: Encounters with the Devil and his Minions, Fallen Angels and the Possessed edited by John Skipp (Black Dog and Leventhal)

Superior Achievement in NON-FICTION
Stephen King: A Literary Companion by Rocky Wood (McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers)

Superior Achievement in a POETRY COLLECTION
How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend by Linda Addison (Necon Ebooks)

Also awarded:

Vampire Novel of the Century Award to:
Richard Matheson for his modern classic I Am Legend

Lifetime Achievements:
Rick Hautala and Joe R. Lansdale

The Specialty Press Awards:
Derrick Hussey of Hippocampus Press and Roy Robbins of Bad Moon Books.

The President’s Richard Laymon Service Award:
HWA co-founder Karen Lansdale.

Source: HWA

Tags: 2011 Bram Stoker Award™ Winners, Allyson Bird, Derrick Hussey, horror, Horror Writers Association, HWA, Joe McKinney, Joe R. Lansdale, John Skipp, Jonathan Maberry, Joyce Carol Oates, Karen Lansdale, Linda Addison, Nancy Holder, Peter Straub, Richard Matheson, Rick Hautala, Roy Robbins, Stephen King, Stoker Awards, Vampire Novel of the Century, World Horror Convention

Nov 2

Recapping World Fantasy 2011: Blues, Bourbon and Blood Drives

Posted on Wednesday, November 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

Neil Gaiman talks craft. Photo courtesy of Folly Blaine,

I spent more money than I’d hoped, probably drank more booze than I should have, but the past weekend’s World Fantasy Convention 2011 in San Diego was a worthwhile trip.

This was my second World Fantasy, and more productive than the first, where I spent much of the time like a deer in the headlights. This time, I managed to make new friends while grabbing solid advice on pitching to editors and insight on what short story markets are getting attention. Yeah, I was still overwhelmed, but this time I seemed to be wandering with some direction.

One of the con highlights was a conversation between Connie Willis and Neil Gaiman about what it means to be a writer. The hour-long discussion — at times both inspiring and funny — touched on their own journeys as writers while offering insight into why all of us who put pen to paper stick should stick to it, even when everyone around us voices doubt. Definitely the kind of pep talk that made me want to get up the next morning and churn out 1,000 words. I only hit 400, but considering my hangover, that was an accomplishment.

I got to bask in the wisdom of the great Jeffrey Ford and talk about classic trash cinema including the Alamo City-lensed “Race with the Devil.” Jeff’s reading of “Blood Drive,” a short story that will appear in an upcoming anthology of YA dystopian fiction, was the best reading I attended. A funny and scathing critique of American gun culture and politics, it contained all the wit and grit characteristic of Jeff’s best work.

I enjoyed sharing some beers and talk about old-timey blues with John Hornor Jacobs, author of the thoroughly entertaining Southern Gods. If you haven’t grabbed the book — part Southern period novel, part cosmic terror and part hard-boiled detective yarn — you’re missing out on one of the year’s best horror reads.

Between the readings and panels, I found time to tip back bourbon (and probably too much of it) with old pals including John Picacio, Nancy Hightower, Joseph McCabe and Sophia Quach McCabe. Sorry for the hangovers, folks. I also got to know the Austin writer Katy Stauber — and her patient non-writer husband Chet — a little better. Fine folks.

As an added treat, my roommate Jeremy Zimmerman and I also caught up with fellow attendees of KU’s Center for the Study of Science Fiction writers workshops, Amy Treadwell and Judith Herman.

Although WFC 2011 was largely a good time, it was disturbing to learn that one attendee played grab-and-grope with several female guests. Thankfully, the organizers sent him packing, but as Stina Leicht points out in her blog, he’ll probably just end up trying it again at another con. It certainly raises questions about how prepared conventions in general are to deal with sexual harassment.

Oct 26

Just in time for Dia de los Muertos

Posted on Wednesday, October 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

Sugar skulls made by Susan Schwartz from the website

As someone long obsessed with Mexican sugar skulls (note the name of my blog), I was stoked to stumble across this site that shows you how to fricken make ‘em. We’re talking detailed recipes for the skulls and the icing plus a variety of handy-dandy tips and activities for classroom teachers.

Elsewhere on the site, you can buy a variety of molds for forming sugar skulls, decorating supplies and even some way-cool Dia de los Muertos socks. Definitely worth a look if you don’t mind dirtying up the kitchen.

Sugar skulls, or calaveras de azúcar, are traditional folk art from Southern Mexico used to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, which occurs Nov. 1 and 2. People use the skulls, along with marigolds, candles, incense and favorite foods to decorate home altars and honor their ancestors.

Aug 25

Zombies and reading lists: A weekend at Armadillocon

Posted on Thursday, August 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

I’ll be at the 33rd annual ArmadilloCon this weekend, participating in panels pontificating on everything from what sf books should be on college reading lists to why people still love those cuddly flesh-eating zombies.

Guests at the venerable Austin convention include Guest of Honor Paolo Bacigalupi, author of The Windup Girl, which has won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus and just about every other award you can think of; Artist Guest Vincent Villafranca, known for his vibrantly imaginative bronzes; Editor Guest Lou Anders, award-winning editorial director for Pyr Books; Fan Guest Fred Duarte Jr.; Toastmaster Mark Finn; and Special Guests Emma Bull and Will Shetterly.

I counted nearly 100 participants, including horror giant Joe R. Lansdale, off-the-wall short story writer Howard Waldrop and fellow Alamo City residents David Liss and Scott A. Cupp. (Cupp, I believe, has attended every Armadillocon since the con was established.)

The convention is being held Friday, Aug. 26, through Sunday, Aug. 28, at the Renaissance Hotel Austin, 9721 Arboretum Blvd. Three-day memberships are $50. Individual daily passes are available for $20 (Friday and Sunday) and $35 (Saturday).

I have enjoyed every Armadillocon I have attended, and I appreciate the organizers’ continued focus on sf, fantasy and horror literature. Yes, folks, good old-fashioned books. That’s not to say no one dresses up in costume, bitches that Firefly was cancelled or huddles in a corner playing GURPS while nibbling on Cheetos, just that media and gaming are not the sole reasons for the con’s existence. If you’re a reader, a writer or aspire to be either, it’s a con not to miss.

Here’s a list of my panels, if you’re inclined to catch some:

Friday, 6 p.m. in the Sabine Room: Texas is a Scary Place
Myself, Matt Cardin, Joe Lansdale, J.M. McDermott, Nate Southard and Frank Summers
Friday, 10 p.m. in the Trinity Room: Fantastical Feast: Food in SF/Fantasy
Myself, Cat Rambo, Linda Donahue, Kimberly Frost, Julia Mandala and Marshall Ryan Maresca
Saturday, 1 p.m. in the San Antonio Room: SF101: A Reading List for a College Course
Myself, Bill Crider, Scott Cupp, Jess Nevins, James Reasoner and Josh Rountree
Saturday, 9 p.m. in the San Antonio Room: The Rising Popularity of Zombies
Myself, Linda Donahue, Scott A. Johnson, Josh Rountree and Nate Southard
Saturday, 11 p.m. in the Trinity Room: Ghost Stories
Myself, Don Webb, William Browning Spencer, Nat Southard and Scott A. Johnson

For a full rundown, including a list of all the panels and participants, check out the Armadillocon website.

Jul 29

First Frights: From Sesame Street to The Shining

Posted on Friday, July 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

Howdy Doody prepares to tear open the jugular of an unsuspecting victim.

I’m a member of the author panel at, and every so often, we’re asked to weigh in on questions about horror, dark literature and the macabre.

Recently, the site compiled a list of First Frights, or the first movies, books or TV shows that terrified us when we were young. It was a fascinating sampling that ranged from the expected classics — “Jaws,” “The Shining” and “Dracula” — to some rather unconventional choices, including “Sesame Street,” “Howdy Doody” and “Harold and the Purple Crayon.”

I ended up coming down on the more expected side, listing Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” as my early scare. The realistic brutality, especially the Bernard Herrmann-charged shower scene, left a deep scar on a young psyche more accustomed to the gothic creepiness of the old Universal monster movies. Norman Bates wasn’t Dracula or the Creature from the Black Lagoon. He was a real-life monster, and his violence flashed across the screen in unrelenting detail.

While it was fun to nod in agreement with those who listed books and movies that also gave me an early jolt, I was ultimately more intrigued to read about the apparently mundane works others found completely horrifying. I hadn’t really thought about “Harold and the Purple Crayon” as a “solipsist hell” until Nancy Etchemendy pointed it out here. Or that, as Will Judy points out, some of the animated bits on “Sesame Street” were rather dark.

And John Shirley was right on target when he called out the nightmarish Howdy Doody: “The puppet was terrifying.”

May 26

Remembering artist Jeffrey Catherine Jones

Posted on Thursday, May 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

I’ve been busy lately, so forgive me for being a little late with this.

On May 19, 2011, the fantasy painter and illustrator Jeffrey Catherine Jones died, leaving the world a poorer place. Jones brought an etherial approach and fine-art techniques to book covers and comics, prompting Frank Frazetta to call her “the greatest living painter.”

Jones’ work graced numerous book and magazine covers in the ’70s and ’80s, including those by fantasy luminaries Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber. Indeed, it was her space-suited alien riding the back of a sea monster that convinced me to buy my first Leiber book (The Swords of Lankhmar) — and for that I’m forever grateful.

Not sure what else to say, so I’ll just let the power of Jones’ work speak for itself.

May 19

Who knew tofu, rice noodles and tamarind were so evil?

Posted on Thursday, May 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

This has to be the best piece of wacky YouTubery I’ve seen in quite a while: Vegan Black Metal Chef.

He wears chainmail and corpse paint, he talks as if possessed by Beelzebub himself, he cuts his food with a cruel blade… and he devours no animal products because, darn it, he’s just not down with cruelty.

It really is worth the 14-minute investment. And the recipe looks pretty good too.

May 13

They’re gonna put me in the movies

Posted on Friday, May 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

Morpheus Tales #11

My short story “Bramblevines” is heading from page to screen.

Filmmaker Jaime Chavez is making a short animated film based on my story of a sociopathic kid and his good buddy, a blood-drinking tree. Storyboards are supposed to be done early next year and the animation some time after.

Jaime, an old Texas friend now living in San Francisco, wants to enter the animation in a variety of festivals, and I’d certainly like to see that happen as well. He’s already shared a script, a shot planner and composition studies — all of which look great.

I’ll keep you posted here as the project unfolds.

Incidentally, “Bramblevines” first appeared in Morpheus Tales #11 with wonderful art by Ian Welsh.