Archive for September 25, 2015

Shadow Out of the Sky: Not Afraid to be Scary



Brick Marlin’s Shadow Out of the Sky—a horror novel with enough ingredients from science fiction, fairy tales, and other sources to feed a troop of hungry new readers as well as more world-weary horror aficianados—wants to bring a little extra darkness into your life.


Now that autumn is upon us, and the march to Halloween has begun, so has the parade of scares, so Marlin’s book isn’t alone. The Horror Writers’ Association is about to begin its Halloween Haunts, and we horror writers are moving into high gear. How do you know whether to include this read among your seasonal macabre missions? (Keep in mind that the season doesn’t end with the pumpkins—the early Gothic novels, and many that followed, weren’t for Halloween… the first was published Dec. 24, 1764).


The first answer is, as it should be, fun. Marlin’s book is slender, fast-paced, and idea-packed (read the synopsis, as well as an interview with the author, here). Instead of following cues from the mystery genre, teasing with the premise and deferring explanations of odd events until after they unfold, the book takes an omniscient perspective and offers “history lessons” that allow readers to pity characters who remain unaware of how totally screwed they are. We know early on, then, while characters fumble to grasp that their town’s children have started to change for the worse and take up sharp things that hew flesh, that an ancient evil is rising.

“In all her life she had never imagined a child could be so horrifying.”

– (loc. 621, Kindle version)

The dramatic irony creates pity, dread, and inevitability rather than surprise—emotions more critical to horror. Acknowledging predecessors such as Stephen King (whom he mentions, and whom he echoes, particularly creepy-kid tale Pet Sematary, which moves with similar horrific inevitability), Marlin still goes his own way. Although his story contains twists that will shock, particularly as character arcs develop, Marlin moves through his material with a confidence in his ideas that says he does not need the components of his premise to be surprising for his story’s emotional core to be effective. This confidence, at least for me, translates directly into success at creating true horror.


And what would horror be without some true grue? The second answer to my question about whether to choose this book for your horror-pleasure is just that: it’s not afraid to show you exactly how and where the blades, spikes, and other nastiness hurt.

 “Martha’s face and hair caught a crimson spray and brain debris. Her stomach soured.”

– (loc. 1666)


Not for the squeamish, the book isn’t as NC-17 as some horror (the language is more PG-13… the kids don’t swear nearly as much as Gage in Pet Sematary… the sexuality is an R), but those looking for splatter will not be disappointed.


Blood and gore, draws for many horror readers, aren’t the only imagistic attractions for Shadow Out of the Sky. Among Marlin’s most impressive accomplishments are his uses of light and dark—almost required by the title, but he uses them in compelling, even challenging ways. For some characters, the shadows, darkness, and light represent what you might expect, Light and Dark, Good and Evil, a Manichean world view that would cast the book’s conflicts as a manifestation of the eternal struggle between God and demons or the Devil. For others, particularly since darkness wears the face of innocence (children), light and dark blend more quickly into grey (see the interview for Marlin’s views on good and evil in this work). Further—and this point confused me at first—forces both “materialize” out of AND into darkness. “Out of” made sense to me, but I had to figure out how something could merge materially into darkness. Ultimately, darkness becomes substantial in Marlin’s tale, making his language, and his images, unusual and compelling. Light and darkness are tangible in this book, and that’s a feat worth reading.


I’m not being paid or otherwise bribed for this review, and though I recommend the book, I’d be remiss if I didn’t pick a few nits. The biggest potential drawbacks for readers aren’t drawbacks for me—which is to say, if you don’t like reading fiction with horrific violence and such, the book probably isn’t for you. Likewise, if you’re offended by the idea of kids on killing sprees, look elsewhere. My only slow-downs reading occurred because I think the book could’ve used another round or two of edits (keep in mind that I taught writing for many years and am very sensitive). So if occasional typographical problems bother you, or a redundant phrase or two (“malodorous smell” pops up a couple of times), be prepared, but also, try to relax a bit more.


After all, as Marlin shows us, we have plenty more to be afraid of. Look through the peep hole if someone knocks on your door this Halloween. The cuter they are, the harder they bite.

Ladder Day Storytelling (Never Too Early To Scare Yourself Silly)

It’s the story of a man who wakes up stripped to his underwear inside a giant aquarium. He learns that some things should have bones, and some things shouldn’t, but which is which becomes confusing.

It’s the story of a very special sandwich.


It’s called “DNA,” and the collection Missing Pieces VI, which pulls together authors from the 2014 Gen Con (and debuted at Gen Con 2015), was kind enough to include it among diverse tales of fantasy, science fiction, adventure, suspense, mystery, and more.

I go further into both sci-fi and dark comedy than I usually do, but my contribution is horror, with a heavy helping of splatter. Tentacles do make an appearance, but readers familiar with my other fiction will recognize signatures from my Fincherverse despite the quasi-Lovecraftian red herring. The story is part of a larger sequencethus it really fits with the anthology title, at least for now…

(From an earlier post… the Peritoneum cover is a placeholder, as the book does not yet exist.)


Sorry. Busy century or so.

The Imaginarium and Dr. Cooper; or, Magic Movies and Myself

This weekend! Louisville, the Crowne Plaza!! Enter the Imaginarium!


Imaginarium has a magic formula unlike any convention where I’ve appeared… and though I’ve only worked the circuit since 2011, I’ve already lost count of the cons. Many blur together, but not this one, because the baseline assumption is that if you’re there, you’re an artist, or you might as well be.

Last year, about half the attendees seemed to be practicing (publishing writers, producing filmmakers, exhibiting painters and photographers, etc.) in some form or other, and everyone else was either wondering how to start practicing or just interested in learning more about where the arts to which they felt personal connections started. Fans were and are welcome, of course, but the convention takes attendees and their interests seriously: if you’re there, you’re a participant, not a window shopper.

In other words–and I know this is saccharine, but it’s also kinda true, so cut the sweetness with a gangster double entendre–if you’re there, you’re either family or you will be.

In addition to working behind the scenes on the film festival and lurking in the vendor hall trying to scare people with my books, I’ll be sharing horrific reflections during panels. Here’s my schedule:

Friday, 9pm (Perry): Good Reviews
Our authors and Reviewers speak out about book reviews and the proper way to execute one so readers and authors alike can use them constructively.

Saturday, 3pm (Oldham): The Art of Mystery

Mystery is a pretty predictable genre – major conflict, plot twists, good guys turned bad… but sometimes the tropes can be a little too trope-ish. Join the discussion on the best way to write a good mystery without being silly.

Saturday, 7pm (Madison): Publishing Nightmares

From editorial mishaps to publisher scams, the literary world isn’t always a bed of roses. Our panelists share some cautionary tales of the dark underbelly of publishing.

Saturday, 9pm (Oldham): Subgenre Spotlight: Horror

A roundtable discussion of definitive horror elements, best practices for guts and gore, and how to make and market old tropes in new and interesting ways.

I’m way more excited about these other artists than I am about me:

Guest of Honor: Lori Wilde

Imaginators: Michael Knost, Tim Waggoner

Toastmaster: Tony Acree

A. Christopher Drown

AD Roland

Adrienne Wilder

Alexander S. Brown

Alexx Momcat

Alicia Justice

Amanda Hard

Amy McCorkle

Angelia Sparrow

Anthony Antonino Jr.

Armand Rosamilia

Atty Eve

Barbara Ehrentreu

Becky Kelley

Bethlynne Prellwitz

Bobbye Terry

Bradley ‘Corpse’ Walker

Brent Abell

Brick Marlin

Bryan Baker

Bryan Brown

C.E. Martin

C.M Michaels

C.S. Marks

Carol Preflatish

Charlie Kenmore

Cyrus Keith

Dave Creek

Chris Garrison

Elizabeth Bevarly

Elizabeth Donald

Ellen C. Maze

Eric Beebe

Eric F. James

Eric Jude

Gabriel Belthir

Georgia Jones

Gina Danna

Glenn Porzig

David Blalock

Herika R. Raymer

J L Mulvihill

J.H. Glaze

J.M. Madden

JC Wardon

Jack Wallen

James O. Barnes

Jamie Lee Scott

Jan Scarbrough

Janie Franz

Jason Sizemore

Jay Wilburn

Jennifer Anderson

Jeremy Hanke

Jerry Benns

Jesse V. Coffey

Jessica McHugh

Jettie Necole

Jill Ranney-Campbell

John F. Allen

Jonathan Linton

JP Chapleau

Julie Anne Lindsey

Julie Flanders

K. F. Ridley

Kate Chaplin

Katherine Wynter

Katheryn Ragle

Kathryn Sullivan

Katina French

Kenneth Daniels

Kim Jacobs

Kim Smith

Kirk Dougal

Linda Goin

Linda Rettstatt

Lisa Jackson

Magdalena Scott

Margaret L. Colton

Margie Colton

Marian Allen

Melissa Goodman

Michael D’Ambrosio

Michael West

Mysti Parker

Nicole Kurtz

P. Anastasia

Pamela Turner

Peter Prellwitz

Peter Welmerink

R. J. Sullivan

Rebekah McAuliffe

Rob E. Boley

Rochelle Weber

Rose Streif

S.A. Price

S.C. Houff

S.E. Lucas

Sara Marian

Sarah Hans

Scott M. Sandridge

Sean Jackson

Selah Janel

Seraphina Donovan

Sharon Stogner

Stacey Turner

Steven Saus

Stuart Thaman

T. Lee Harris

TammyJo Eckhart

Tara Tyler

Teresa Reasor

Terri-Lynne Smiles

Thomas Lamkin Jr

Tim McWhorter

Todd Houff

Tommy B. Smith

Tony Acree

Violet Patterson

Sharpening Teeth in the Dragon (Con) Mouth: My 2015 Schedule



Title: Autograph Session
Time: Fri 02:30 pm Location: International Hall South – Marriott

This is early in the convention, and I’m not exactly a bestseller (yet), so don’t expect lines. Or perhaps much company. But I will sign things! I prefer to sign things I’ve written or otherwise been involved with… which means probably not your body parts… probably







Title: Exploitation!
Time: Fri 10:00 pm Location: Peachtree 1-2 – Westin
Description: A discussion about the wild world of exploitation, cult, and midnight movies!


Title: Haunted Ground: Ghosts and Other Traumas
Time: Sat 05:30 pm Location: Peachtree 1-2 – Westin
Description: The importance of setting in horror fiction



Title: Squeamish Folks Need Not Apply
Time: Sat 10:00 pm Location: Embassy D-F – Hyatt (Length: 1)
Description: Panelists on writing horror, dark fantasy, & scary, horrible, gory, putrid stuff. BYO airsick bag!

Illustration from "Worm Would," in my collection LEAPING AT THORNS

Illustration from “Worm Would,” in my collection LEAPING AT THORNS


Title: Historical Horror
Time: Sun 11:30 am Location: Peachtree 1-2 – Westin
Description: The usage of history in horror fiction


Title: Reading: L. Andrew Cooper
Time: Sun 04:00 pm Location: University – Hyatt

I’ll read something new (one of stories in my forthcoming 2016 horror collection PERITONEUM, most likely, and perhaps a nip from my mainstream thriller THE BLUE JACKET CONSPIRACY). Do come.


The event is spread across 5 hotels and the AmericasMart.

The Marriott Marquis 404.521.0000
265 Peachtree Center Ave.
Atlanta, GA 30303
Hyatt Regency Hotel 404.577.1234
265 Peachtree Street NE
Atlanta, GA 30303
Hilton Atlanta – Downtown 404.659.2000
255 Courtland Street NE
Atlanta, GA 30303
Sheraton Atlanta Hotel 404.659.6500
165 Courtland Street
Atlanta, GA 30303
Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel 404.659.1400
210 Peachtree St.
Atlanta, GA 30303
AmericasMart Atlanta
Building 2
230 Ted Turner Drive
Atlanta, GA 30303