Tags: horror


The Unquiet Stars have turned right!

My latest collection of dark verse, Unquiet Stars, is in stock now & shipping from Weird House Press.

This one features a new sonnet sequence -- "Faces From the House of Pain" -- along with plenty of cosmic horror, dark archaeology, and grim SF themes.

Signed copies are available -- & better yet, it's on sale!

81 pp., perfect-bound, with color cover art by Skinny Gaviar.

For more information, or to order:


My Goodreads review: Wylding Hall

Wylding HallWylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a right-sized, gorgeous, slow-burn Gothic fantasy, set in the 1970s during the folk music renaissance in the UK. Throw in prehistoric barrows & a liberal dose of very dark English folk tales, & you have something special for a long winter's evening.

The narrative is made up of interview bits from all the participants in a weird event during a summer's stay at an extremely historic ( & haunted) country house. There is, thank heavens, a list of these folks -- you may find yourself needing it, as I did. Other than the minor distraction of flipping or e-flipping back to check said list, it's a nearly perfect modern Gothic gem.

I hadn't read any Elizabeth Hand in quite some time when I encountered this. I don't intend to make that mistake again, once the chill of this novella's ending wears off. Highly recommended for readers of quiet horror, Gothic fiction fans, or dark-minded Anglophiles in general.

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My Goodreads review: A Spectral Hue

A Spectral HueA Spectral Hue by Craig Laurance Gidney

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What's it like to have a muse? What's it like to be one, & how does one wind up becoming one? Is muse-driven creativity a blessing, a curse, or both? These are a few of the many related questions that are worked out -- but never quite answered -- in Gidney's beautifully strange, dark novel of artistic obsession.

On the surface, the plot is simple enough: an African-American grad student becomes fascinated by the Shimmer Artists, a loosely-defined group of "Outsider Artists" working in varied media, all inspired by the Shimmer Marsh in Maryland & the nearly indescribable color of a flower that grows there. Said student goes to the town of Shimmer, investigates the mystery of these artists, & eventually discovers way more than he expected to. There are possibly ghosts involved. There is possibly possession, or something akin to it.

The plot, however, is only a small part of this novel. Although it's nearly impossible to describe without committing spoiler, A Spectral Hue is a poetic examination of intertwined lives & creative drives stronger even than slavery. It is character-focused, though deeply supernatural. It is one of the odder & lovelier things I've read this year, though I did dock one star for my sheer confusion. Readers more tolerant of ambiguity & loose ends will likely find this a five-star experience. Recommended for fans of dark poetic writing, cultural exploration, & subtle chills.

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Recent poetry publications

Just in time for the Sequestered Spooky Season, I'm very happy to announce that I have poems in the latest issues of both Spectral Realm (dark & weird verse, mainly formal, plus reviews) & Weirdbook
(dark / weird poetry & prose)! These are both nice thick trade paperback journals, suitable for accompanying all that Halloween candy you bought anyway this year . . .

Spectral Realms #13 (Ed. S.T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press)

I've got two poems in this one, "Among the Petroglyphs" & "Red Land, Black Pharaoh"

For ToC, or to order:


Weirdbook #43 (Ed. Doug Draa, Wildside Press LLC)

I have one poem in this one, "Dark Rift"

For partial ToC, or to order:


My Goodreads review: The Bad Seed

The Bad Seed: A Vintage Movie ClassicThe Bad Seed: A Vintage Movie Classic by William March

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This tightly written, if slightly dated, psychological horror novel delivers more subtle chills in its 200+ pages than many more bloated modern efforts.

Although the general plotline may seem familiar to today's readers, the "evil child" theme -- with appropriate "scientific" support -- was still fresh when this first came out. Since human nature hasn't changed, the reluctance of various characters to see that evil in a too-perfect-to-be-true little girl is still pretty believable, & the social strictures of the 1950s complete the picture.

Recommended for those who appreciate elegant structure with their scares, or anyone craving one more late-summer chiller. Would probably make a perfect weekend read.

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My Goodreads review: Mexican Gothic

Mexican GothicMexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one really is pretty much what it says on the cover: a Mexican Gothic. Gothic as in the dark, addictive (to the adolescent me, anyway) somewhat romantic novels of the 1960s & 1970s. Mexican as in del Toro movies, hallucinatory & imaginatively nightmarish.

The combination makes for an excellent late-summer page-turner (clicker?), though there's a bit of intellectual weight as well. Set in the 1950s, the novel includes multiple references to eugenics theories still current at the time. There is also the requisite creepy isolated house & grounds -- here inspired by an actual English mining area within Mexico -- scraps of anthropology from the heroine's reading, & more than anyone ought to know about fungi.

Most of this is discussed in a Goodreads interview with the author, which can be found here


I found it added to my post-reading enjoyment, without being too spoiler-y for pre-readers.

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My (not yet Goodreads) Review: Carpe Noctem by Robert Borski

Robert Borski's second collection of dark poems, Carpe Noctem (Weird House), is a generous and mind-bending helping of pop culture (mostly) horror infused with wit and intelligence.

Borksi has a deep familiarity with both standard literary monsters (vampires, Frankenstein's creation, Dorian Gray, Cthulhu), and newer media additions to the canon of fear (Mothra, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Blob). He doesn't leave it at that, though. Instead, he frequently uses these tropes to tell larger stories about relationships, illness, sacrifice, and the nature of fear itself.

Of course, there is also a mile-wide streak of black humor here. Zombies are a favorite topic, and these poems are almost invariably amusing on some level -- even if that level comes right before (or after) the shudder level. Borski is also a master of the twisted punch line, particularly in his shorter poems.

These well-crafted pieces of free verse are strongly narrative and accessible, though I found myself craving a little more music in some of the lines. Borski's imagination can't be faulted, however. When it comes to morbid implications, he's always three steps ahead . . . and that last one is a doozy.

With nothing but freshly excavated dirt at the bottom.

For more information, or to order:


Note: This one isn't up on Goodreads yet, because the collection is very newly out. For me, it was a solid 4 star read -- but I'm a formalist. Those who prefer dark free verse will probably find it a 5 star experience.

My Goodreads review: Ninth House

Ninth House (Alex Stern, #1)Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really wish half stars were allowed for Goodreads reviews, because (for me) this one was a five-star read with a less than five-star ending. Can't explain why without committing spoiler, but suffice it to say that failed to fulfill reader expectations. And in the very last chapter, too.

The story itself is a great mix of occult murder mystery & urban fantasy worldbuilding, with a bit of a literary edge. Alex (Galaxy) Stern is a tough, streetwise (& street-damaged) California feminist heroine who finds herself way out of her element when she's recruited for an "enforcement" secret society at Yale. This "ninth house" is meant to keep the other eight secret societies in line -- no easy task, since each is working a different form of ritual magic for the material benefit of alumni & other patrons. And some of them want Alex (who can see ghosts, & would rather not) out of the way.

This whole concept makes way more sense than it ought to, & involves academic nastiness like "funding years," tenure, & town vs. gown conflict. Bardugo did a wonderful job of making me care about Alex, believe in the ritual magic, & keep clicking Kindle pages way past my bedtime. I just wish I'd known when I started that she'd be leaving loose ends. I'll definitely be reading the sequel (I'm assuming there is one), but a tighter conclusion would have been welcome.

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My Goodreads review: The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories

The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost StoriesThe Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories by Tara Moore

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a holiday group read for Literary Darkness, the Goodreads group I'm most active in. Though it made for some great discussions, my experience with this anthology was more "literary" than "darkness."

Editor Tara Moore does an excellent job of providing notes for each of these tales -- all quite authentically Victorian, mostly from holiday gift publications of the period. She also offers a fine introduction to the tradition of ghost stories at Christmas in England, which helped my understanding of this very mixed bag of fiction. The stories themselves range from a few truly unsettling supernatural ones to some which can best be described as Scooby-Doos (i.e., mundane & somewhat fake phenomena masquerading as hauntings). Some, intended for younger readers, almost came with morals attached

I enjoyed the traditional holiday flavor of this anthology, but was very glad I'd taken time with the introduction first. This one is recommended primarily to Dickens fans & other Anglophiles who crave that full-on holly & ivy experience, or perhaps for those interested in the Victorian society that spawned a taste for these tales.

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