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.Ā 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.




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!


P.S. Photo courtesy of Gef Fox. Because of course it is. šŸ˜‰

In which I’m interviewed by The Attic Ghost…

Thereā€™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.


#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. Ā 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!


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,


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.


My Sunday Soundtrack: “Shelf in the Room” by Days of the New

I’ve had this one on repeat a lot lately, especially while working on the early scenes of Devil’s Creek (nearly 12k words now). I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the acoustic sound? The song (and the band) have a “rock meets folk” sort of sound, which complimentsĀ the tone I’m going for in the book. I remember when these guys hit the scene back in the late 90s, but I didn’t pay attention to them at the time.

There was this substitute teacher at my high school–her name escapes me at the moment–who claimed to have babysat the lead singer for this band when he was a kid. I have no idea if there was any truth to that, or if she was just trying to relate to disaffected youth.


Anyway, I find myself going back to this song over and over, especially this last week while I revisit old memories of my hometown. The town in Devil’s Creek is almost identical to Corbin, Kentucky, in just about every way except for the name (Stauford, KY). I guess if I had to relate it to anything, it would be my version of King’s Derry or ‘Salem’s Lot, or maybe Kevin Lucia’s Clifton Heights. I spent half an hour the other day looking at the old town on Google Maps just to get a look at how much has changed. I haven’t been home since 2012 when TLM was published, and while some things have changed, the old back roads of my teenage years haven’t changed. Then again, I suppose they never do.

Enjoy your Sunday, folks. I have more words to write.


You Should Be Reading This: Jon Padgett’s THE SECRET OF VENTRILOQUISM

I read this book a while ago, and more recently, listened to the audio book edition (which is read by the author). I’ve been meaning to post something about it, but things with my own work have kept me preoccupied lately. Allow me a moment to make up for lost time.

You should be reading Jon Padgett’s The Secret of Ventriloquism. Right now. Stop reading this. Go to Amazon. Click “purchase.” And read. There, you’ll thank me later.

This book is unsettling. It’s pure atmosphere, existential dread, and quiet horror. As I said to a friend in recent weeks, the sort of horror you find in this book is like coming home to discover someone has broken in, except they haven’t stolen anything–instead they’ve left something for you to find. You don’t know what it is, but the feeling, the dread, is there. That something doesn’t belong. Something is out of place. And it can see you.

A few things you should know: It’s a collection. Some reviewers on Amazon seemed to miss that part. That said, the stories are loosely connected, in that they appear to take place in the same world. Multiple stories reference certain events, often in subtle ways.Ā Ā It’s one of the things I love so much about it.

This also isn’t for every horror fan. You will not find in-your-face gore. There isn’t blood running down every page. The horror to be found here is mostly in the understated language, the pauses between breaths, often between the lines in what isn’t said. You’ll find that Padgett is a master of his craft, in more ways than you think–he’s also a ventriloquist, perhaps a practitioner of Greater Ventriloquism, and by the end of the book, you’ll realize he’s been controlling you from the beginning. Every story is delightfully weird and dark, but I think my personal favorites are “20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism,” “The Infusorium,” and “Escape to Thin Mountain.”

I truly hope we see more work from Jon soon. In the meantime, stop being a trifle and check out this collection. Listen to the audio version if you can. I can’t recommend it enough.


P.S. You can listen to “20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism” right now over at Pseudopod!