A double-shot of Whelan

There seemed to be a lot of activity in and around the book world last week, but nothing made me happier than seeing updates from a couple of my favorite publishers that included new work by one of my favorite artists: Michael Whelan.

WhelanDTAlthough Whelan only provided art for two books in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, it’s his look and characterizations that I see when I read those books. Maybe it’s because he did the art for the two most important (arguably) books in the series, the first and the last, but for whatever reason his interpretation of the characters hit just the right note for me. In my mind, that makes him a natural fit to provide the cover and (I hope) some interior artwork for Cemetery Dance’s upcoming special edition of the revised and expanded version of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: The Complete Concordance by Robin Furth. Furth has updated her exhaustive reference work to include information from King’s recent addition to the series, The Wind Through the Keyhole. Whelan’s cover artwork really captures the essence and epic feel of the series, and it’s good to see him back at work in King’s twisted universe.

WhelanTravelThe second bit of Whelan goodness comes from Subterranean Press, which unveiled his cover for Robert McCammon’s upcoming horror novel I Travel by Night. You can read an excerpt from the book (described as a melding of McCammon’s Southern gothic and paranormal history work) and see a larger version of the cover right here. McCammon has been doing some amazing work since his return to publishing several years ago, and this is being billed as his return to full-out horror. That’s welcome news for anyone who has read his early classics.

It’s early yet, but 2013 is already stacked with some exciting releases. My bank account is going to be lighter than usual as the year goes on.

Literary Stocking Stuffers

Everybody in my family knows what a bookhound I am, so it’s inevitable that a book or three comes my way each Christmas. This year was no exception. One of the perks of running your own blog is that you can occasionally make self-indulgent posts like this one, where you brag about the great gifts you got. So, here’s a rundown of the books I found under my tree this year – I hope you’ll share your own holiday haul in the comments!


Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
I fell in love with Chabon’s work with Wonder Boys, and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay sealed the deal. I can’t wait to dive into this novel about friends, family, music, and whatever else Chabon can layer in. Also, my vocabulary increases an average of 10-15% every time I read a Chabon book, which is just a bonus.

LifeAfterDeathLife After Death by Damien Echols
Like many, I began following the story of the “West Memphis Three” after catching HBO’s documentary, Paradise Lost. The events surrounding the case are horrific for everyone involved, especially the three young boys who were murdered and the three young men who lost a significant portion of their lives to prison for a crime that they didn’t commit. This will be the first glimpse inside the head of one of the accused killers, the supposed ringleader of the group, Damien Echols, and I can already tell it’s going to be a heartbreaking piece of work.

The Flame Alphabet
by Ben Marcus
FlameAlphabetIn a truly unique premise for a horror novel, Marcus reveals what happens when the speech of children becomes lethal. How do the adults handle it when their most precious creations turn on them? How do kids handle these new abilities? I had the pleasure of interviewing Marcus about this book earlier this year, and it’s clear he’s tackling some big ideas in the book. I can’t wait to dig in.

‘Why Poe Matters to Me’ – a guest post by WJ Rosser

OC Note: The following post is provided by WJ Rosser of Landmark Literary Press. Landmark is in the process of releasing an anthology called The Spirit of Poe, the proceeds from which they plan to donate to The Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum in Baltimore. The Poe House is in danger of being shut down after the city of Baltimore completely cut the $80,000 funding it has provided to annually to keep the museum open to the public. Rosser is spearheading this project to keep the Poe House afloat, and this is why:

Edgar Allan Poe

We’re working to keep the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum in Baltimore open to the public.  Funds from the City of Baltimore aren’t available anymore, and this piece of our literary heritage is going to be nothing more than a building available to just a few.  We’ve got a great many wonderful stories that will be included as well as an introduction by a renowned Poe expert; but let me tell you why Poe is important to me, and why I undertook to do this with my coeditor Karen Rigley.

Two or three times per year while I was in elementary school I walked into the classroom and found that a little tri-fold catalog from Scholastic Books lay on my desk.  It was an exciting time for me because I knew that the answer was always “yes.”  If I wanted a new Star Wars action figure, the answer was “we’ll see.”  If I wanted to go to the movies, it was “maybe.”  In my childhood, there were a whole lot of negative or noncommittal answers from my parents.  Scholastic was the big exception.   I always got four or five books without any trouble.  I could usually push for seven or eight.  It was through the little checkboxes and careful , wide-eyed choices that I ended up reading The Yearling and Marty and, in the beginning of my sixth grade year, a collection of short stories called Tales of Terror and Mystery by Edgar Allan Poe.

Maybe it’s some kind of cloudy, romantic fancy to look back more than thirty years and think about a book or about any everyday event only to attach significance now I probably didn’t feel then, but I don’t think I’m overstating things to say that that little paperback book did more to influence my literary ambitions than anything else.  First of all, well look, IF I could even find an R rated movie on that new channel HBO, there wasn’t a chance in Hell my parents were going to let me watch it.  But right there in front of me, I was reading about murders, violence, and men going crazy.  All of the sudden, scary wasn’t just a dark, dark room at the end of a dark, dark staircase in a dark, dark house in a dark, dark woods.  Poe was the first writer who actually reached me on a visceral level.  For the first time, I saw that words on a page could actually do more for me than pictures on a screen.

Why Poe?  What was so different about him?  Far more educated writers have provided far more educated reasons, but for me it all boils down to one word, “humanity.”  Poe wrote about horrible events, horrible places, and even horrible people; but he did so in a way that gave humanity even to the most revolting of them.  Do you think for a second there could have been a Freddy Krueger without a Hop Frog?  Do you think there ever would have been a Hannibal Lecter without a Roderick Usher?  Poe was blurring sympathies for the reader years before anyone else got to that point in literature.

Further, Poe made it seem effortless.  We know it wasn’t.  He wrote treatises on the structure and form of fiction and poetry.  We know he slaved over each word choice in The Tell Tale Heart, that he carefully considered how to present each disguise that covered the faces in the Masque of the Red Death.  He did it so remarkably though, that a reader sees the finished work as though it flowed directly from his mind onto the page without any interruption.  There aren’t any awkward moments in his work.  We might scream, “don’t go in there!” but none of us think it’s unbelievable that the doomed character will.  When Fortunato screams “For the love of God!” we scream with the victim, and when Montressor cries out “Fortunato” in a sudden panic and sickness over his crime, we cry right along with the murderer.

This is Poe.  He was the first, and the best.  His house in Baltimore was the beginning of his literary career, and an argument can be made that it was the beginning of H.P. Lovecraft’s, Ambrose Bierce’s. Ray Bradbury’s, Stephen King’s, Robert McCammon’s, Clive Barker’s, Wes Craven’s, William Peter Blattys, and I could probably list a thousand more.  The question really isn’t “Why should we preserve access to this museum?”  The real question is “How could we not?”

To preorder the anthology (and we’re working frantically to get it out in time for Halloween) go to literarylandmarkpress.blogspot.com.

Random Link Roundup: Tim Lebbon joins with Hammer, Abarat excerpt, and more

I’ve got another assortment of links and tidbits for you today, so let’s jump right into it.

Tim Lebbon is one of those authors that’s an automatic buy for me. He’s published in a variety of genres, from horror to fantasy to YA/adventure, but all of his works showcase a rich imagination and great character building. He’s just announced on his blog that he’s returning to his horror roots with Coldbrook, a new apocalyptic zombie novel that promises “the end of this world…and others.” It’s being releaseded by the new Hammer Films  publishing imprint, and I can’t imagine a better place for it. The book is set for a March 2012 release.

Much closer to release is Clive Barker’s Abarat: Absolute Midnight, the third volume in the series I’ve been discussing quite a bit around here lately. HarperCollins has made a massive new excerpt of the book available online – as in 150 pages massive. If you can’t wait for September 27, you can check out the excerpt to tide you over.

Finally, I’ve got a new article up at FEARnet about author Tom Piccirilli – if that name doesn’t ring a bell, check out the article and find out why it should. You should also check out the new blog of Brian James Freeman, author of The Painted Darkness and Blue November Storms and editor/marketing guru over at Cemetery Dance, has started a new blog. He’s promising lots of behind-the-scenes peeks at his own writing process, publishing projects at CD and his own imprint Lonely Road Books, so it should be well worth frequent visits.

Random Link Roundup

I’ve been collecting little bits here and there all week, but nothing I could really do a whole post around. It’s all stuff I want to share, so I’m just going to throw it all in one post and invite you to dig in. I’ll try not to do this too often, as I generally like my posts to, you know, have a point.

Random Bit #1 comes from Mulholland Books, the suspense/crime fiction imprint of Little, Brown and Company. Mulholland has racked up an impressive roster since its debut earlier this year (and they’re publishing a new Joe R. Lansdale book, Edge of Dark Water, next year, so you know they’re good people). They use their website for a lot more than running press releases about their upcoming books, and this week they’ve got a particularly cool feature called “How to Get Hooked on Crime Comics.” Writer David Pepose offers up a short but dead-on list of suggestions that demonstrate the comics medium is a powerful showcase for more than just the capes-and-tights crowd.

Moving on, Cemetery Dance announced the latest title in their Signature Series this week: Four Legs in the Morning by Norman Prentiss. It’s a collection of three linked stories, and you can download the title story for free direct from Cemetery Dance.

I’ve talked at length about Clive Barker’s Abarat series a couple of times, including earlier this week, and today I’m going to talk about it again. There are a couple of trailers out now for the book, both of which celebrate just how weird and wonderful the series is. Abarat: Absolute Midnight is out on September 27, and yes, there will eventually be a review.

Lastly, I wanted to point you in the direction of a couple of things I’ve written for other places. I’ve got a longish interview with author Scott Sigler over at Horror World, where we talk about his popular “Infected” trilogy and his views on digital publishing. At FEARnet this week I’m starting a new semi-regular feature called “Small Press Spotlight,” and I kick it off with a look at one of my favorite publishers, Creeping Hemlock Press.

There. That should be enough to keep you busy for a while. I’ve got lots of irons in the fire for the rest of this month and a probably-impossible-but-I’m-going-to-try-anyway slate in mind for October, so keep checking back. And seriously, thanks to everyone who takes the time to read, “Like”, and/or comment on the stuff I do here. It’s much appreciated.

One Nation

When the Towers fell ten years ago, the dividing lines that separated us fell with them. For a while, it wasn’t about Republican or Democrat, Yankee or Southerner, black or white. No matter what we were, we were all Americans. As the years passed, those lines slowly crept back into place. My hope is that one day, when my two girls are grown and making their own way in this world, those lines will have been erased again – not because of a tragedy, but because we have decided on our own to stand together as “one nation under God.”

“There are other worlds than these.”

"You said there were other worlds than these," Roland said, "and there are. New York in all its multiple whens is only one of many. That we are drawn there again and again has to do with the rose. I have no doubt of that, nor do I doubt that in some way I do not understand the rose is the Dark Tower." - Stephen King, 'The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla'

See the full-size photo, a shot from the Hubble telescope, at this blog. See, kids – science can be cool.