Category Archives: horror

News roundup

51DrIim07hL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The Curiosity Killers was released on May 5, and broke Amazon’s top 100 in the Steampunk category. Many thanks to those who pre-ordered! If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, it’s now also available not only in paperback but in ebook format. You can find it from the publisher or at your favorite online book retailer. You can also purchase a copy at Blue Jacket Books on May 28th, when I’ll be signing copies and reading excerpts alongside my fellow Dog Star Books authors Matt Betts and J.L. Gribble.

indexSpeaking of other fellow DSB authors, Heidi Ruby Miller has some news about The Curiosity Killers on her blog, and she’ll be appearing at Copyleft Gallery in Pittsburgh tomorrow, along with six other fabulous authors and an editor from Parsec Ink Books. If you’re in that area, you should absolutely attend! Miller’s novel Starrie was released in March.

From now until May 26, you can enter to win a Goodreads Giveaway for The Curiosity Killers, and even if you’ve already secured your own copy, you should still enter! This book makes a great gift, after all! Just hit “Enter Giveaway” from the Goodreads page.

wraiths51Rj58GG+lL._SX341_BO1,204,203,200_Finally, some big news for Raw Dog Screaming Press: S. Craig Zahler’s Wraiths of the Broken Land will be adapted for film, helmed by Ridley Scott and Drew Goddard, the team behind The Martian. Zahler is also the co-author of the Dog Star title Corpus Chrome and several other titles. I feel very honored to have The Curiosity Killers in the same company as such shiny, successful works! Wraiths of the Broken Land has subsequently zoomed up to the top of the Kindle charts as a result! Way to go!


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Kindle edition of Grinning Cracks is now available!

The definitive second edition of my short story collection Grinning Cracks is now out in both paperback and Kindle editions. The Kindle edition is $3.99 if you don’t already have the paperback, but is offered at a deep discount if you do, and it’s FREE if you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber! How cool is that?

If you like old-fashioned paper things, though, totally do check out the hard copy. At $9.99, yet filled with thirty-three stories and two poems, it is less than 30 cents per piece! It’s less than 7 cents a page! And it’s got horror, fairytale, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, bleakness, romance, despair, and comedy. So, really, I’m not sure what you’re waiting for.

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New (re)release day!

Big news! For several months now, I’ve been working on a second, definitive edition of my short story collection, Grinning Cracks, and I’m delighted to say it’s now available in print (with a delightfully gritty new cover, to boot)! Kindle edition is forthcoming next week.

This new edition collects thirty-five pieces, primarily flash and short fiction, as well as a couple of poems. Some of these pieces have never before been published, though some have appeared elsewhere and gone out of print.

From the back cover blurb:

Thirty-five short works filled with the upsetting and uncanny, from the author of the urban fantasy Sam Brody series (Alliteration Ink) and the horror novella We Shadows Have Offended (Etopia Press). This newly revised and updated second edition includes eight pieces not found in the first release, featuring the never before published stories “The Apple Box,” “Colleagues,” and the poems “Floater” and “Il Necromantiosmo.” Taylor reimagines both classic, familiar fairytales and superstitions (“Abaddon,” “The Apple Box,” “Rabbit Rabbit,” “Trichotomy”) and a sequence of Breton folk stories (“The Ankou,” “Bugul Noz,” “Dahut and the Destruction of Ys,” “Gradlon,” “Iannic-ann-ôd,” “The Korrigan,” “Les Lavandières,” “The Lovers,” “The Morgen,” and “Yan-Gant-Y-Tan”). She experiments with surrealist science fiction (“Alter Ego,” “Arcus Senilis,” “Encounter,” “Eden”) as well as gruesome body horror (“Ornithology,” “Pseudanor”), crime noir (the multi-chapter “Christmas Wrapping”), and a literary fiction cycle based on the concept of the four humors of Hipprocratic medicine (“Choleric,” “Melancholic,” “Phlegmatic,” and “Sanguine”). Every story deals with the gray zone between wonder and disaster and people on the fringe of society, magic, or their own damaged psyches.

If you like liminal, cross-genre fiction that’s hard to define; if you like surrealism; if you like horror that’s more of the psychological sort, then you will likely enjoy this collection. It also makes a great gift for the speculative fiction fan in your life, if you’d like to start your holiday shopping a little early!

News on the Kindle edition when it’s available. Ordering directly from Createspace earns me a little extra royalty, but it should show up on B&N in the next 3-5 business days and is now also available from Amazon, should you prefer to use a loyalty/Prime membership or need gift wrapping.

Some other perks of this collection:

  • Several stories feature cats, either magical ones or completely normal and adorable ones, and nothing bad happens to any of them, even in the scary stories.
  • If you like “The Three Little Pigs” but think to yourself with any frequency, “I wish instead of pigs these were Brat Pack-style yuppy triplets who commit fraud and encounter werewolves,” then you will definitely enjoy the story “Trichotomy.”
  • If you wonder what I Love Lucy would be like if it starred Lana del Rey and was set in the Twin Peaks universe, you’ll enjoy “The Apple Box.”
  • The expanded second edition now features 23% more noir crime stories with dark fantasy undercurrents!*

So what are you waiting for? Snap this puppy up! Even if you have the first edition, you’ll want this for its bonus material, and you can now revel in the fact that your first edition is a collectors’ item.

Want to see (or rather, hear) this title in audiobook format? Let me know. I’m planning out my release schedule for 2016 and would love to know if there’s demand.

*Disclaimer: I have not actually counted the amount of noir crime stories with dark fantasy undercurrents in either edition. But, indeed, there is plenty of it here, guaranteed!

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Audiobook giveaways for the holidays!

To celebrate the release of the Kindle and audiobook editions of my horror story, “Method Writing,” I’ll be doing a Twitter giveaway of a few select audiobooks over the next two months. There are quite a few holidays and gift-giving opportunities these next two months, not the least of which (for horror fans) is FRIDAY THE 13TH!

Take that as a strong hint to follow my Twitter feed, @kwtaylorwriter, if you’re not already, and be on the lookout for opportunities to like, reply, and retweet posts for a chance to win a fabulous audio project!

See? Friday the 13th doesn’t have to be bad luck, but it should still be filled with scary stories.

Watch my Twitter feed for more chances to win later in November and December, too!

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Dog Con IV, October 2015, Philadelphia

Recently, I attended Dog Con IV in Philadelphia. This event, celebrating releases from Raw Dog Screaming Press and its imprints, included a group tour of the Eastern State Penitentiary, readings from thirteen RDSP and Dog Star Books authors, and the transfer of the Readers’ Choice Award from last year’s winner Matt Betts to this year’s, Stephanie Wytovich. More fun-filled adventures took place on Sunday, but sadly I had to depart early that morning and missed more readings and signings. Pictures from the event are trickling out slowly over at my Instagram account, @kwtk, and Twitter, @kwtaylorwriter.

In addition to fangirling all over the authors I already knew and adored, I got to meet lots of new folks and heard some amazing bizarre fiction that made my brain hurt (in a good way). As always, Dog Star SF/F authors K. Ceres Wright (Cog), J.L. Gribble (Steel Victory and the just-announced sequel Steel Magic), Albert Wendland (The Man Who Loved Alien Landscapes), and Matt Betts (Odd Men Out and Indelible Ink) brought their A game. I was delighted to also get to hear readings by new-to-me DS author Drew Conry-Murray (co-author of Wasteland Blues, with Scott Christian Carr) and was massively impressed by poet impresario B.E. Burkhead (The Underside of the Rainbow). Stephanie Wytovich is doing the amazing feat of turning one of her poetry collections (Hysteria) into a novel, and her reading featured both poetry and prose versions of the same scene; the effect of this was pretty fabulous and even gives me ideas for my creative writing pedagogy. Leland Pitts-Gonzalez (The Blood Poetry), D. Harlan Wilson (premiering his newest release, Battle without Honor or Humanity Volume 1), and Michael Arnzen (The Gorelets Omnibus among others) left the audience questioning the nature of reality, and horror authors Andy Deane (All the Darkness in the World) and Donna Lynch (Driving through the Desert among others) showed us the far pendulum swings of their subgenres from the darkly funny to the deeply affecting.

Prior to Saturday night’s readings was the aforementioned prison tour. Eastern State Penitentiary is a fascinating historical site, tragedy-filled not only for what went on there during its years of operation but for what it attempted to do yet couldn’t—rehabilitate inmates through solitary confinement. Our tour guide was a wellspring of both history and sociology about the prison system at the turn of the twentieth century as well as incarceration trends up to the present day. So while it was very cool on one hand to see decaying post-Victorian quasi-ruins and apply our observations to horror work or period pieces as fiction writers, it was also fascinating to think about the implications and relevancy to issues we still face in the US today regarding crime, race, and gender, and the oftentimes too dichotomous purposes of imprisonment (rehabilitation versus punishment). I’ve already discussed this tour with my women’s studies students, in fact, during a class session on women giving birth in prison.

Between the prison and the evening’s main event, attendees scattered to different museum sites around the city. K. Ceres Wright and I chose to stroll through the Rodin Museum, which proved a nice reprieve from considering heavy social issues. We spent a leisurely afternoon appreciating Auguste Rodin’s skills with the sculpture medium, primarily of faces and figures. This is the largest collection of Rodin pieces outside of Paris, and includes both originals and castings. Several versions of the iconic Thinker adorn the grounds, as does a copy of The Kiss. I was particularly taken with a portrait bust of playwright George Bernard Shaw, author of Pygmalian.

This whole weekend was well-attended, and it was amazing to connect with so many folks I’d never met, see old friends, and talk more deeply with people who have only heretofore been acquaintances. So much thanks to Jennifer Barnes and John Edward Lawson for making such a great weekend possible. I couldn’t be more excited that my first science fiction novel, The Curiosity Killers, will join such great company when it’s released by Dog Star next spring.

And fish store comrades: let’s get to work on those 55 fiction pieces recounting our harrowing brush with death.

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Exciting audiobook news!

The audio version of my Kindle short story, “Method Writing,” is finally available just in time for Halloween! And the best part is Audible subscribers can get the title for FREE!

If you don’t already use Audible, you can grab it for just $3.46 over on Amazon (or search for it on iTunes). I’m delighted with the work of actor Mark McClain Wilson, who did a fabulous job making my grim, creepy story come to life.

This is the perfect story to listen to while driving down a dark country road late at night. Happy Halloween!

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New Kindle exclusive horror short story, just 99 cents!

New release day today! “Method Writing” is a short story exclusively on Amazon for Kindle. Only 99 cents, or free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers!

Method actors inhabit their characters. Method writers do, too. John goes to elaborate lengths to study the habits, physiology, and needs of a vampire. From the mundane to the emotional, he wants to lend a sense of realism to his horror writing that goes beyond the pale. But is the undead life all it’s cracked up to be? Can he last a month inside this experiment?

This story is dark fantasy/horror, with a surreal edge to it. Perfect for folks who like their horror a little more on the psychological, experimental side, and makes a great Halloween read. At 17 pages and 3,325 words, it makes a great quick read late at night right before you go to sleep. I’m sure it’ll give you interesting dreams.

I’m also using this story as a springboard for a workshop I’m designing on the very concept of “Method writing,” or writing as performance, and how to use acting techniques to enliven your fiction writing. That’s not to say you should use my protagonist’s process in your own work…

…or should you?

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Women in Horror Month

February is Women in Horror Month. Even though I don’t only write horror, it is one of the genres I read widely and write frequently. I always consider myself a “speculative fiction generalist,” but to many folks that primarily means science fiction. Horror was the first genre I was widely published in, however, and horror novels were the first pieces of adult contemporary fiction I read without a school assignment involved.

As part of WIHM, Mocha Memoirs Press has released a collection of women in horror, entitled The Grotesquerie, edited by Eden Royce. My short story “Dharma” appears in this anthology, alongside pieces by Michele Garber, Chantal Boudreau, M. Von Schussler, Kris Freestone, Marianne Halbert, Nicole DeGennaro, Rie Sheridan Rose, Lisamarie Lamb, M.J. Pack, Marcia Colette, Nicky Peabody, Caryn Studham Sartorus, Violet Tempest, Jessica Housand-Weaver, Selah Janel, Evelyn Deshane, Kierce Sevren, Carrie Martin, Lilliana Rose, Ekaterina Tikhoniouk, and Vivian Caethe. I’m honored to be a part of this collection, which is available in both paperback and ebook.

There are more women writing horror than you think, but in this post-Anne Rice/Stephenie Meyer world we think more of paranormal romance or quasi-literary horror, or they’ve been mostly writing for the YA market. But I think there’s a need for more women writing adult horror, and doing so in particular ways that perhaps speak to either a feminist mindset or at least a mindset that acknowledges that gender itself can be fodder for some reason interesting discussions of identity and terror. Some of the most disturbing stories I’ve ever read are by women.

My own horror mostly involves themes of transmogrification. Not shape-shifting usually, not often a voluntary or magical transformation, but the sheer body horror of physical nature altered in terrifying, painful, and often permanent ways. While certainly male horror authors deal with similar subjects, I see this theme less frequently in their work, and when I do there isn’t quite as much focus on the sensations associated with such changes. Is this because women are uniquely suited to writing about this concept, due to a deeper connection to the body? Obviously everyone’s body goes through transformations over time due to normal things like puberty and aging, but only women’s bodies also go through monthly changes and the potential change of pregnancy. Women’s bodies, too, are judged more harshly in the broader cultural landscape for undergoing changes, as our bodies are co-opted as being more an object than an identity or functional container/conveyer owned by individual women. Do we own ourselves, or do governments and photographs and media outlets own us? Are we the sum of how we choose to present ourselves to the world or are we merely things? The idea of no longer being in control of our physicality is terrifying, and it’s something that I think is a uniquely female experience.

As the month goes on, I’ll be discussing a few female horror authors’ work and talking more about The Grotesquerie collection.

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Reflections on Horror Literature: Snow

The first snow of the season was falling as I began reading Ronald Malfi’s Snow. As local radio stations started transitioning to their holiday playlists, Todd Curry strove to get to his son in time for Christmas. Blizzards, zombies, explosions, and shootings followed, not to mention the novel’s most upsetting element:

Children with no faces.

Can we let that sink in for a moment? Malfi crafted a really action-packed and entertaining narrative, and the concept of semi-sentient zombies created by snow-bodied aliens invading human bodies is, by itself, pretty rad. But the added side element of faceless children really sent this into terror territory for me.

I’m a nervous winter driver. I hate snow-slick streets, black ice, blowing snow, all of it. I’ve had a few scary slide-offs over the years living in a midwestern city that gets just enough snow to be annoying but not enough that we’ve ever quite learned to cope with it properly. The scariest winter driving situation I ever had was getting a tire blow-out during a snowstorm that left me stranded on the side of a highway at night for several hours, freezing and stressed, waiting for the cavalry. I’ve written several stories of my own where characters die in winter-driving accidents. And so pretty much everything about Todd’s harrowing trip–particularly early on, as he and the strangers with whom he rents a car get into an accident and encounter the first of the quasi-zombies–made me flash back to sitting in the cold watching the snow fall around me. I was so terribly vulnerable, which is something interesting and terrifying about winter. Unlike the dangers associated with other seasons, winter conditions can turn a normal moment into a deadly one with just one tire skid, one foot put in the wrong place. Malfi has done wonderfully at expanding upon this idea and making the threat even more tangible.

It’s no mistake that the towns affected by the phenomenon are scattered throughout the midwest and are somewhat isolated. Blizzards–even ones without zombifying aliens swirling around amidst the normal snowflakes–cut people off. While I was barely too young to quite remember the epic blizzard of 1978, I’ve heard plenty of stories of its effects and seen the pictures of snow packed up to the tops of front doors and the tunnels people dug just to walk to the store. A blizzard combined with a zombie apocalypse is pretty much the craziest combination of fear and isolation that it absolutely worked for me on every page.

The monsters themselves–going through every stage of traditional and non-traditional zombieness–are pretty scary. But as I hinted earlier, the real horror for me were the kids. As many characters theorize throughout the book, the snow alien things can’t quite get a good hold on children when they attempt to take them over, and thus they come out “wrong,” with the tangible evidence of this wrongness erasing their facial features. Late in the book, Todd’s traveling companion Kate Jansen goes to the sheriff station garage to find Cody and Charlie, a young brother and sister hiding out with them. The kids turn to her, kids she has mere minutes and hours ago been tending to and playing board games with…and their faces are gone, turned into masks of smooth, featureless flesh. She tries to shoot them but can’t, instead deadbolting the garage up and leaving them to some other fate, which we never learn.

The idea of these children, faceless, wandering around without sight or breath in this dark and freezing garage made me both afraid and sad, and I think that’s Malfi’s strength as a writer. He makes us care about characters over and over again over the course of just a few pages, then breaks our hearts as circumstances unravel and they die–or at least suffer–horribly. Good monster fiction, as I’ve learned in the readings and films for this class, destabilize our expectations of normalcy and leave quivering, damaged people to make a new life out of ruins. A monster’s job in horror is to be the chaotic element that brings forth such emotion that we see what people are really made of in a crisis situation. I loved that in this book we saw the full range of reaction to crisis, from the relatively capable and strong (Todd, Kate, Shawna, and others) to the nobly sacrificial (Bruce), to the crazy and spiteful (Molly and others). But what also struck me is how much most people really tried to help each other rather than exploit the situation and how even strangers can come together to solve a problem when necessary.

But somebody please invent a flying car so I never have to drive in the snow again.

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Reflections on Horror Literature: The Wolfman

The Wolfman, by Jonathan Maberry, is not your typical horror novel. It’s actually a novelization of the 2010 remake of the 1941 Lon Chaney, Jr. vehicle The Wolf Man. Having seen neither film (yes, yes, I know), I was interested in taking this novelization on its own merits. However, the cinematic source material is fairly obvious in the novel’s focus on describing things very visually, as well as having occasionally-awkward scene and chapter breaks, which I believe is the result of needing to shift a point of view or do a dissolve between locations. Still, even with this small amount of clunkiness, the novel does work on its own as a decent example of the werewolf genre in horror fiction.

Werewolves have never been as iconic as vampires, perhaps because their “curse” seems fairly easy to circumvent—lock yourself in an impenetrable cell once a month and you should be able to avoid eating the villagers. However, the titular wolfman here—Lawrence Talbot, a prodigal son returning to his family’s English estate from a tenure as a traveling actor—is prevented from exercising this option. Unbeknownst to him until late in the story, Talbot’s own father is the werewolf who bestows the curse upon his son, after killing Talbot’s mother and brother while in his furry form. It is Sir John Talbot’s belief that the beast within is a benefit, not a curse, a kind of letting loose one’s id, in a way. Talbot the Elder thwarts Lawrence’s attempts to lock himself up, cure himself, or even kill himself to end the rampages he commits while wolfed out, which I suppose is the only way to make a werewolf story really compelling.

The werewolf-as-sexual-metaphor is fairly common, but The Wolfman really seems bent on hitting this point home, equating Lawrence’s lycanthropy with his burgeoning desire for his dead brother’s fiancée Gwen Conliffe. Even while still human, Lawrence’s senses are heightened due to the curse, and he begins to experience his desire for Gwen in terms of hunger and animalistic need:

He saw her pupils dilate, the blush on her cheeks fade; he could hear each of her breaths as if her mouth were an inch from his ear. He could hear and separate the rustle of every bit of cloth that covered her body. It came at him in a rush, maddening, overwhelming […] Her eyes met his and the moment slammed to a stop, frozen in an impossibility of sensory inrush. He looked into her eyes and for a moment he felt as if he was falling forward and she toward him. Colliding with her, engulfing her, devouring her… (333-334)

This desire, described as hunger and a prevailing set of “appetites” (334) is a motif Maberry returns to again and again, and Lawrence is shown to be as equally repulsed by his murderous hungers (and his more overt sexual hungers) as John is fulfilled by them. The conflict, then, is not only between man-versus-himself but arguably man-versus-man or man-versus-nature, if we take John as fully animal.

And yet there are more psychological symbols at work here, too. The moon, which causes the change to wolf, is constantly referred to as feminine, specifically as “the Goddess of the Hunt” (15 and throughout), and that it is this Goddess who manifests the lupine desires:

[S]he comes again, bright, shining and newly hungry, to hunt among [the stars].

Eternally hungry.

Eternally hunting. (15)

In mythology, the goddess of hunting was alternately Diana or Artemis (Roman and Greek respectively), and this equating of the moon and therefore feminine desire thus eliciting lust, passion, and bestial nature in men continues the theme of sexuality. In the psychology of Carl Jung, the inner desires of men are described as the “anima,” or the inner feminine-oriented or desiring self, whereas the inner desires of women are described as the “animus,” or the inner masculine-oriented or desiring self. Linguistically, the terms originate from the classical Latin term for “soul” (OED), but the word’s root came to also generate the word “animal” (OED). That the soul, desire, and animals are conflated here is more evidence for the werewolf-as-expression-of-sexuality concept, and I contend that Maberry runs with this metaphor further in his prose than was likely explicit in either film. In the text, we get much of Lawrence’s feelings of guilt and shame over his desire for Gwen, which would be difficult to specifically translate to a purely visual medium. I believe this is a careful choice on the novelist’s part, and it helps entrench the notion of human feelings as being monstrous as the novel’s ultimate theme.

Maberry, Jonathan. The Wolfman. New York: TOR, 2010.

anima, n.”. OED Online. September 2013. Oxford University Press. 25 October 2013.

animal, n.”. OED Online. September 2013. Oxford University Press. 25 October 2013.


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