Top Five Reads of 2014

It’s been a few years since I did this.  Sorry about that.  I’m constantly behind in my reading (and I’m not the lightning fast reader I used to be).  Because of this, the following list is a top five instead of a top ten, and it’s made up of books I read this year.  Very few, if any, were first published in 2014.

1. WILD FELL by Michael Rowe – One of the best parts of my ReaderCon trip this year was plunking down cash at the ChiZine table.  Those folks put out great books year after year. Among my many great buys, Michael Rowe’s WILD FELL stands at the top.  An ominous and unique take on the ghost story, Rowe starts with a kernal of dread and builds and builds.  The book accelerates as you read it, and I was finished with this one before I reached my first layover on the way home. Excellent read!

2. THE BEAUTIFUL THING THAT AWAITS US ALL by Laird Barron – This year brought us Laird Barron’s third collection, and it may be his best yet.  Dripping with atmosphere, the stories in this collection just burrow deep into the center of you.  “The Men From Porlock” was the stand out for me, with a look at Barron’s Old Leech, which is one of the best creations the genre’s seen in years.

3. SCALPED by Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera – This was the year I finally finished SCALPED, Aaron and Guera’s amazing comics tale of an undercover FBI agent infiltrating the reservation where he was raised.  One of the best noir comics I’ve ever read, full of intrigue, violence, heartbreak, and some of the most powerful characters you’ll find in comics.  I’ve linked to the first trade paperback collection.  Start there and work your way through the entire story.

4. THE WIDE, CARNIVOROUS SKY & OTHER MONSTROUS GEOGRAPHIES by John Langan – Langan is one of the best writers of short fiction working today, and this collection (only his second) almost feels like a victory lap, with Langan putting his unique spin on several of the genre’s better-known tropes.  There’s the zombie version of OUR TOWN, for instance.  With “Technicolor,” he twists Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death” into something even more terrifying.  The title story, might I add, is the second best vampire story I’ve read…ever.

5. NORTH AMERICAN LAKE MONSTERS by Nathan Ballingrud – What’s the best vampire story I’ve ever read? Why, it would be “Sunbleached” from this collection, which is a story that hits like a punch right to the heart.  I’d never read Ballingrud before this colelction, but I can now say he’s one of my favorite writers.  The stories collected in this book are outstanding from front to back.  Grab a copy and start reading.  You won’t be sorry.

Oklahoma Appearance, Pale Horses Hardback, more….

First up, on April 11th I’ll be reading and signing in Norman, Oklahoma for another round of Noir at the Bar.  This time, I’ll be appearing with fellow Austin authors Shane McKenzie, Ed Kurtz, and Gabino Iglesias, as well as Paul J. Garth, Troy James Weaver, Robert Spencer, and J. David Osborne.  Place is The Blue Bonnet at 321 E Main St, and the time is 8PM.  Be there!

Also, Pale Horses is now available in a limited edition collector’s hardcover from Thunderstorm Books.  The print run is limited to 66 copies, all of which are signed. Daniele Serra provided the amazing new cover.

Finally, my brother Mark’s postumously released novel One Summer is now available for purchase through Barnes and Noble.  Feel free to check it out.  I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I’ve been reading Mark’s writing since before I picked up a pen.  Guy’s good.

Mia Moja and One Summer

Happy Monday, folks.  I just wanted to take a second and bend your ear.  There are a couple of books I think might interest you.

The first is MIA MOJA, an anthology celebrating Thunderstorm Books’ 100th hardcover. Edited by myself and Michael McBride, this sucker contains novelettes from Brian Keene and Bryan Smith (reprints) and original novelettes by myself, Mike, J.F. Gonzalez, Mary SanGiovanni, Shane McKenzie, Gene O’Neill, and Ronald Kelly.  This one is a signed hardcover limited to 80 copies and should be considered by serious collectors.  Check it out.

The second book I want to tell you about is pretty personal.  I became a writer because of my older brother Mark.  He was one of the kindest, funniest spinners of stories I’ve ever known, and he could do great things with language.  For years, he wrote the satirical Mud Hollow News for our local paper.  He also wrote several novels, but none of them were ever published.  When my brother Mark died unexpectedly a few years ago, he left us as an unpublished writer.

Now, his sons have changed that.

ONE SUMMER is the book Mark considered his masterpiece.  Clocking in around 242k words (yeah, it’s a long one), ONE SUMMER of four friends who encounter a slew of trouble and terror while on a camping trip.  I never got to read the manuscript, so I’m very excited about getting a crack at the novel in its “closest to finished” state.  I hope you check it out.

IN THE DARK available for pre-order

IN THE DARK is available for pre-order through your local comic book shop. It features brand-new horror comics by myself, Rachel Deering, Scott Snyder, Justin Jordan, Cullen Bunn, Duane Swierczynski, Brian Keene, F. Paul Wilson, Tim Seeley, Marguerite Bennett, Matthew Dow Smith, James Tynion IV, Sean E. Williams, Mike Oliveri, Mike Henderson, Mack Chater, Alison Sampson, Valerie D’Orazio, and many more.

On a personal note, this sucker marks my return to comics after eight years away.  It’s great to be back.

To pre-order from your local comic shop, give them this code:  FEB140452 IDW


Kelli Owen tagged me a week back and guilted me into doing this.  Just kidding!  I had fun. There was no guilt involved.  If you’ve ever met Kelli, you know she’s far too mani to pull off a good guilt trip.  Poor girl…


1) What is the title of your next book?

Red Sky

 2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
Fun story, but I’m only going to tell you part of it.  I wrote the entire book for a single scene, and the idea for that scene came from a music video.  I’ve now given you twice as much information about Red Sky’s origins than I’ve given anybody else.
3) What genre does your book fall under?
It’s certainly a horror book, though a good portion over it is pretty firmly entrenched in the crime genre.
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Believe it or not, I’ve never considered this.  For Danny Black, the career criminal who serves as the closest thing we have to a hero, I want somebody both handsome and gritty.  I really want to say John Hamm.  Like, a  weathered John Hamm.  Or Josh Halloway.  Or Timothy Olyphant. For his best friend and partner in crime Nelson, I want somebody who can be a little more fun, a little more caring.  I’d say Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  At this point we’re just going through my man crushes.  For psycho lovebirds Gina and Dale, I’d go with Lizzy Caplan and maybe Ryan Hurst.  Twitchy driver Wallace? Either Aaron Paul or Dominic Monaghan.  For hostage Mel (short for Melanie), I’ll say Ellie Kemper, who I want to see in a dramatic role.  I’d also demand a Kelly Clarkson cameo, preferably with her wearing glasses. I’ve said to much…
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
When a bank robbery goes sour and a string of career criminals hides out in an abandoned factory, they find themselves hunted by both the military and a group of horrific creatures.
6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
The book will be published by Deadite Press.
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
The first draft took a little over two months to complete.  Another two years passed before the book wasx ready to be published, though.
8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I’d hope it would compare to some of the better siege and action works in the genre, like Jack Ketchum’s Ladies Night and David Wellington’s books.  If you like monsters, shooting, and a good car chase, this is a damn good book for you.
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Asking me question two again isn’t going to get you a new answer.
10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
I love the idea of horrible things happening under our noses, secret corners to the world and secrets that most people never have to face.  Somewhere between conspiracy theories and the edge of the galaxy, there’s this idea that everything is just a little weirder…a little grimier…than the one we see.  Red Sky is a peek into one of those corners.  And there’s a tie to my vampire novel Lights Out.  Also, Laird Barron said it reminded him of Predator.  That’s got to count for something.

Tom Piccirilli Fundraiser

In the last few days, genre fans have probably noticed the call to arms concerning Tom Piccirilli.  Last week, he was diagnosed with brain cancer, and on Monday he had a tennis ball-sized tumor removed from his brain.  He’s in a tough fight, and as many aspiring authors know, medical bills can be life-shattering for those who make their livings from prose.

In that light, Tom’s family has started a fundraiser to help offset his medical costs.  In just a few days, they’ve raised almost $15,000, but that will probably do little more than scratch the surface.  If you can, please go to the fundraiser website and give.  Tom is one of the most talented writers I’ve ever know, with his book Every Shallow Cut being particularly amazing.  Speaking of, publishers ChiZine have said 100% of all proceeds of the Every Shallow Cut ebook will go to Tom, so if you’d like to check out this amazing author, please do so.

Updates and Go-To Authors

Hello, out there.  Here I am, one day shy of going an entire month without an update.  Even if it is a tiny little month like February, that’s just unacceptable.  So, I’ll start by giving a few updates, and then I’ll move forward to something a little fun.  Okay?


First off, LIGHTS OUT is well apst halfway to being sold out.  If you’re interested in my brutal vampire novel, you might want to go grab one. Feedback has been very good so far.  A lot of folks are enjoying this one, so you might as well be one of them.

JUST LIKE HELL is now available in that wonderful Kindle format the kids all seem to love.

On January 1st, I turned in my next novel, DOWN.  There’s no concrete release schedule, so I’ll just tell you it’s coming this spring.

On April 1st, my novel THE SLABS is due to another publisher.  No release schedule on this one, either.  It’s coming, though!


So now I have a message board over at the Slaughterhouse Forums. On one of the boards, somebody asked who serves as everyone’s go-to authors.  Y’know, the folks you read whenever you want something you know will be fantastic.  I thought it was a fun little question, so I decided to flesh out my answer here, letting you know why these folks are my go-to authors.

Norman Partridge – Every now and again, I hear folks use the word pulp in a way that’s really code for “I like slasher movies and want my books to be the same.”  This never fails to piss me off, because there are some writers, like Norman Partridge, who do pulp in a way that I consider “right.” Norm takes the best facets of crime, creature features, comic books, and everything else you loved as a kid and turns it into something smart, action-packed, and terrifying. When you read something like DARK HARVEST or “Lesser Demons,” you can feel the grit on the page.  You can see the story in your head, playing like a grimy, scratched 16MM print.  Reading a Norman Partridge story is like grabbing a revolver and a bottle of bourbon, throwing them in the passenger seat, and shoving the gas to the floor as you aim for the horizon.  You don’t know what’s coming, but the ride is guaranteed to be amazing.

Sarah Langan – I first encountered Sarah when her debut novel THE KEEPER was filling bookstores in Austin.  I grabbed a copy and started reading.  A few days later, I had a new favorite author.  Langan creates characters who are flawed, possibly even shattered.  The horror in her stories comes not from something supernatural (thought there is plenty of that, and it’s always amazing), but from watching these people try, fail, and then try again, only to fail to an even greater degree.  You root for her characters, and every ounce of anguish they feel twists inside you.  Do yourself a favor and grab one of her novels.  You’ll thank me.

Laird Barron – If you’re a fan of weird, quiet horror that slowly wraps its fingers around you and then squeezes, you need to do yourself a favor and pick up one of Laird Barron’s collections.  Barron works wonders with prose, using the language in a way that just keeps ratcheting up the tension.  He writes about strange things, the hidden corners of the world and why they should remain hidden.  I want to say his stories are Lovecraftian, but I think that’s too narrow.  Besides Lovecraft never started a story with, “Then he bites off my shooting hand.”  Check out either THE IMAGO SEQUENCE or OCCULTATION.  Both are worth the read.

Gillian Flynn – The author of two novels, SHARP OBJECTS and DARK PLACES, that were marketed as mystery but could easily be classified as horror stories.  And what horrific stories they are!  While there are no supernatural entities in her works, Flynn’s novels start out as apparently simple whodunits before taking a sharp left turn deep into darker country.  The last few chapter of SHARP OBJECTS in particular floored me, leaving me staring in horror at the book in my hands long after I was done reading.  I can’t recall having such a visceral reaction to a book (other than one that was so awful I vowed to never give the author a second chance).  Seriously, start with SHARP OBJECTS and start reading.

Tom Piccirilli – I’d been aware of Tom Piccirilli for a while, had even picked up some of his older, strictly horror works.  When he released THE DEAD LETTERS, however, I really sat up and took notice.  Pic uses the English language like a knife, cutting away at the story with both long, elegant strokes and short, brutal jabs.  He writes crime novels that keep you guessing, that read like broken romances.  When I read his latest, EVERY SHALLOW CUT, I felt like he’d taken the mind of every writer, cut it to pieces, and put it out for display.  Pic doesn’t just shock or horrify you, he reaches inside and twists.  Of all the writers I’ve mentioned here, I’m looking forward to Piccirilli’s next book the most.

Announcement: Is There a Demon in You?


Camelot Books is proud to announcement a new anthology featuring all new novellas by myself, Brian Keene, Wrath James White, and Mary SanGiovanni! Is There a Demon in You? is limited to 500 signed and numbered hardback copies.  Ordering direct from Camelot gets you a free chappette, featuring an original short story by myself, Brian, Wrath, or Mary (assigned randomly).

And now, a little more info…

The Witching Tree by Brian Keene
Fan-favorite Levi Stoltzfus (the ex-Amish occult detective from Brian’s Ghost Walk and A Gathering of Crows) returns home to fact a very different sort of possession–one that will rock his faith to its core and challenge everything he believes.

Possessing Amy by Mary SanGiovanni
When police officer Liam McInnes answers a domestic disturbance call, he discovers a battered woman whose inner demons have given her a new kind of strength. But in order to free her of those demons, Liam will have to navigate the gray areas of evil, and face the desperation that comes with true possession of another.

Mr. Gray by Nate Southard
After years of terror and heartbreak, Ben Gregory confronts the demon that possessed him as a child, but how many innocents will suffer in order for him to get revenge?

Amber Alert by Wrath James White
All over Las Vegas, women are giving birth to monsters. While on a search for a missing child, Spencer Logan stumbles into a world of occult science, demonic pregnancies, and an angry young scientist intent on changing humanity’s genetic future.

Limited to 500 signed and numbered hardcover copies

While the above stories may one day appear in digital or paperback form, this will not happen for at least two years from date of publication of the limited.

Those ordering direct from us will also receive a free chapette as follows (1 chapette per 1 book ordered):

Fast Zombies Suck by Brian Keene
Baby Teeth by Mary SanGiovanni
The Devil Crashed In by Nate Southard
Tamara’s Last Exorcism by Wrath James White

Chapettes are limited to 125 signed and numbered softcover copies

Here’s how the chapettes work:

With each order of a book, we will include a chapette with the shipment or paid for copy, put in hold box. Please don’t ask for a particular chapette as they will be shipped one after the other as books are shipped or put in a hold box, while supplies last. What that means is, when I ship out a book, or put a paid for copy in your hold box, I’ll include “Fast Zombies Suck”, with the next book, I’ll include “Baby Teeth”, then “The Devil Crashed In” with the next book and “Tamara’s Last Exorcism” with the next, and then start the sequence over.

While we know that this may upset some of our customers, this was the only way we felt we could be fair with the allocation of the chapettes. Again, please don’t ask for a specific chapette as this is a free “thank you” for your support.

NOTE: Dealer copies will NOT include the chapette – the only way to get the chapette is to order direct from us.