You Should Be Reading This: BEHOLD! ODDITIES, CURIOSITIES, & UNDEFINABLE WONDERS

I was provided a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.

I’m going to be honest: I rarely finish reading anthologies. Sometimes, the work just doesn’t resonate with me; other times, I simply don’t have enough time to read through it before the Next Big Thing on my reading list is released. So, when I accepted an ARC of Behold! Oddities, Curiosities, and Undefinable Wonders, I did so with the explanation that I’d try to have a review ready for launch day, but would make no promises.

But then something happened that almost never happens for me: I read the whole thing, and here I am, writing a review on launch day.

Every story in Behold! is excellent. With a lineup like this, you can’t really go wrong. Check this out: Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Ramsey Campbell, Lisa Morton, Brian Kirk, Hal Bodner, Stephanie M. Wytovich, John Langan, Erinn L. Kemper, John F.D. Taff, Patrick Freivald, Lucy A. Snyder, Brian Hodge, Kristi DeMeester, Christopher Coake, Sarah Read, and Richard Thomas.

I won’t recap all the stories here—I’ll leave those for you to discover—but I do want to give mention to several stand-out favorites in the collection:

  • Brian Kirk’s “Wildflower, Cactus, Rose.”
  • Hal Bodner’s “The Baker of Millepoix.”
  • John Langan’s “Madame Painte: For Sale.”
  • Erinn L. Kemper’s “Amelia’s Wake.”
  • Patrick Freivald’s “Ed Pruitt’s Smoker.”
  • Sarah Read’s “Through Gravel.”
  • Stephanie Wyotivich’s “An Exhibition of Mother and Monsters.”

Each story will take you through a gauntlet of emotions, and I feel like these pieces best exemplify what Doug was going for in this collection: the bizarre, the unsettling, the fantastic, the magical, and the heartbreaking.

Doug Murano has done a wonderful job curating this collection. From the cover art by John Coulthart, to the interior design by Lori Michelle and illustrations by Luke Spooner, to the content itself, this book is a full package of speculative tales that lives up to its promise, a carnival sideshow of prose and poetry that will spark your imagination and break your heart.

Buy it!

TK

NECON: A Hug in Conference Form

Erica and I have returned from NECON 37. We had a wonderful time, met lots of wonderful people, and reconnected with old friends. Like last year, I’ve returned with a renewed sense of purpose and drive. I’m energized, ready to work, ready to produce something that represents the best of my abilities. And I have the folks at NECON to thank for that. During the long drive home yesterday, I had a lot of time to think about why that is. What is it about being around my friends and peers that replenishes the well, so to speak? Is it a collective energy? Is it knowing that I’m not alone on this weird path toward…well, whatever I’m working toward?

Maybe that’s it. I used to believe that writing is a lonely gig, and the act of doing it usually is, but in the greater scheme, writing is communal. There are many of us. We’re all dealing with the same issues, the same ailments, the same struggles. Whether it’s how to progress in your WIP, or which agent to query, or which publisher to work with, we’re all there together in some way. When one of us succeeds, we all cheer; and when one of us falls, we all mourn. Last year, I told my wife I felt like a real author for the first time after attending. I felt accepted.

This year, I still feel that way. Perhaps even more so now, after further experiences at NECON. My only regret is that I didn’t get to meet or make connections with everyone.

NECON is a big hug. It’s a hug from your peers, saying “Hey, you’re normal here.” They’re saying, “You’re part of our family.” And I am. I’m honored to be a part of it.

So, before I wrap this up, and before I get even more emotional about this, allow me to recap some personal highlights:

  • Having a late lunch with Brian Kirk, Jonathan Lees, Martel Sardina, Lynne Hansen, and Jeff Strand at Flo’s Oyster Shack.
  • Embarrassing myself in front of Brian and Jonathan by trying to demonstrate (poorly) how to open a beer bottle on a door jamb (spoiler: I ended up covered in beer).
  • Spending my evenings drinking with Nikki Nelson-Hicks and her husband, Brian, whom I met for the first time this weekend.
  • Discussing WIPs, graphic design, and a mutual love for all things Evil Dead with Catherine Scully.
  • Chatting with Brian Kirk about publishing, his next novel, and his vision for its marketing plan (which will be incredible when executed).
  • My novella, The Final Reconciliation, receiving a mention during Friday’s panel about the best books of the year (thanks, Frank!).
  • Chatting with Barry Lee Desaju about his artwork and photography.
  • Drinking scotch with Catherine Grant.
  • Discussing podcasts and writing multiple projects with Gemma Files.
  • Meeting and having dinner with Laird Barron and John Langan. The conversation here was probably the highlight of the weekend for me, affirming that I was on the right track, and inspiring me to do more with my work. I won’t share details–that’s something I’m going to keep for myself.
  • Meeting and chatting with Tom Deady, who is probably one of the nicest guys in the world.
  • Attending the many panels, which were all insightful and encouraging. Special mention goes to the Weird Fiction panel, the Guests of Honor panel, and the Collections panel which was interrupted by a fire alarm. I wish the latter had concluded, as it was a rather great discussion.
  • Imbibing Nate Kenyon’s bottle of viscous, licorice-flavored poison. The drink worked its magic so well that I questioned if any of it had really happened. True story.
  • Meeting Ed Kurtz. The guy’s voice is pure noir, and he spelled my name with three Fs.
  • Finally meeting Pete Kahle, after somehow missing him at least year’s conference.
  • Hugs from Linda Addison, Bracken MacLeod, and James Moore.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten others (and if so, my dearest apologies), but it’s late and my mind is racing. Thank you, NECON. It’s the warm hug I needed. This time last year, I started working on the story that became The Final Reconciliation. This year, I’m going back to finish a draft of Devil’s Creek. I’ll see you all on the other side.

TK

 

NECON 37!


I’m in the middle of packing, so this one’s going to be super short. I’ll be attending NECON 37 this weekend in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. If you’re attending, or if you just plan on dropping in for one day, be sure to tweet or tag me on social media and let me know so I can say hello in person! I may or may not look like the Babadook.

Okay, that’s all. See you at the con!

TK

P.S. Photo courtesy of Gef Fox. Because of course it is. 😉

In which I’m interviewed by The Attic Ghost…

There’s nothing like a well-written horror novel that can connect with your most basic fears by presenting something so familiar and then turning it on its head, even just a few degrees sideways. That presentation of familiar things in a different light can really unsettle you, keep you rooted to your seat, make your heart race, make your stomach churn, and make you hold your breath. Authors who can do that are like dark magicians, and I aspire to achieve the same effect with my work.

You can read the full interview here. And you can pre-order Ugly Little Things right here.

More soon.

TK

#ULT Interior Illustrations 1-3

I’ve been lax on posting these as they’re revealed on social media, but I’ll try and address that now. Here are the first three illustrations by Luke Spooner. He did an amazing job with these, and in an extremely short amount of time.  We’re revealing these every week or so leading up to the big release, so keep checking back!

“Show Me Where the Waters Fill Your Grave”
“The Harbinger”
“Saving Granny from the Devil”

 

You can now pre-order UGLY LITTLE THINGS!

UGLY LITTLE THINGS: COLLECTED HORRORS

Yes, that’s right. The pre-order page on Amazon went live this morning. At the moment you can only pre-order the Kindle edition, but I will update here as soon as the paperback edition is available. It feels weird, finally reaching this point in the process, but we’re not quite there yet. The book releases on 9/15/17. I hope you’re as excited as I am.

See you soon,

TK

Cosmic Horror: A Definition (Sort Of).

Back in December, I put together an unofficial galley of The Final Reconciliation as a gift for some friends and family. One of the recipients was my father, a person who is not someone I’d classify as a “reader,” per se. For years now, whenever I work on something, I have him in mind as part of my intended audience. The idea is that if I get can get him to read and enjoy something I’ve written, then that particular story will be successful in reaching other non-readers. You might say he’s my variable reader, as opposed to a constant, in this grand experiment of mine. Anyway, I sent him the story, not really expecting him to read it.

To my surprise, he did read it. And he liked it. A lot. That’s kind of a huge deal for me, because like I said before, he isn’t a reader. He asked me, “What would you call this?”

“Probably cosmic horror,” I said. Which was true. I’ve made no secret about the inspiration behind it–namely, the work of Chambers, Lovecraft, Barron, and Langan. My dad, however, isn’t familiar with those names. He doesn’t have a background in horror. Until I started writing horror, I think the last horror novel he read was King’s Pet Sematary back in the 80s. So, when I said “cosmic horror,” he hit me with a question that made me stumble: “What’s that?”

And, seriously, what is that? Cosmic horror. I don’t recall even hearing that phrase used as a definition until recent years. Before that, it was always weird horror, literary horror, speculative horror, existential horror–all adjectives I’d use to describe cosmic horror, but which don’t move us any closer to truly defining what it is.

I gave my old man a definition I’d heard before: Imagine God is a child with a magnifying glass, focusing the sunlight to burn ants on the sidewalk. Except we’re the ants, and there are many children above us with different magnifying glasses.

I wish I could credit the person who said that, but I can’t remember who did (and if you know, please say so in the comments so I can give them proper attribution).

Thing is, that explanation still doesn’t come close to really defining it–and I suppose that’s the point. Cosmic horror is undefinable. It is, by nature, the Great Unknown. It’s something greater than we are, far beyond our scope of understanding, and we are so minuscule by comparison that what we have, what we do, what we are is insignificant in the greater scheme of things. It’s the chaos of the universe, made manifest and labeled in simpler terms that we can understand, but in our limited capacity (or at least in mine), such terms fall short and can only describe the feeling, the madness, and our inability to make sense of something so far beyond (and removed from) ourselves.

Cosmic horror is facing that unknown factor of the universe with open eyes and attempting to comprehend what you see, but failing horribly–and at great cost. It’s something we can only label with platitudes and labels we relate to, because it is by its nature the unknown factor in our lives–and it’s fucking terrifying because it forces us to confront the fact that we’re insignificant in the greater scheme.

We’re the ants. And to the gods, the Universe, the Great Big Unknown, we are nothing. Cosmic horror is us looking up, confronting the reality of the child and the magnifying glass, and screaming.

On a side note: I’m a real hit at parties.

TK