Year-end review, part 3: publications

We finally saw the Doctor Who Christmas special last night. [mild spoilers ahead]

The story hearkens back to the beginning with the appearance of the first Doctor and it is the swan song for the twelfth, as well as the end of the Steven Moffat era. New things are in the offing with the appearance of the first female Doctor, although we’ll have to wait until the fall to see how it all plays out. It was nice that, for once, the alien incursion was not hostile, and it was good to see the Doctor a little befuddled by that discovery. It had a few good cameos, although at times it felt overly drawn out, like the parody of how an actor stretches out his death scene in an old Western. I liked the interplay between the two Doctors, especially the way #1 made fun of some of the things that had evolved with his character and “ship” in the intervening 1500 years. (It’s also funny to consider what an utter bastard David Bradley played in Game of Thrones.) I absolutely did not recognize Mark Gattis as the soldier until I saw he after-show scene with the table read for the episode. And the scene of the legendary World War I Armistice was terrific. And I loved the 13th Doctor’s first word, her reaction to the revelation. Brilliant!

2017 was a pretty good year for publications. This collage above contains the covers of all the physical venues where my work appeared this year. I had six new short stories come out this year: “Truth or Dare?” in Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, “Aeliana” in СИЯНИЕ В МРАКА, the Bulgarian translation of Shining in the Dark and my first publication in that language, “The Halloween Tree” in Halloween Carnival: Volume Four, “Sticky Business” in Snowbound: The Best New England Crime Stories 2017, “The Illusion” in The Shadow Over Deathlehem and “Pain-Man” in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, a market I’ve been trying to crack for many years.

I wrote the introduction to a new edition of The Godsend by Bernard Taylor from Centipede Press and my interview with Richard Chizmar and Stephen King has appeared in multiple venues, including Where Nightmares Come From. My essay on King’s crime fiction appears in Reading Stephen King from Cemetery Dance Publications. I contributed several items to Horror Literature through History: An Encyclopedia of the Stories that Speak to Our Deepest Fears. Hank Wagner and I discussed Stranger Things in Dead Reckonings #21 and I reviewed Sleeping Beauties in DR #22.

At Cemetery Dance Online (aka News from the Dead Zone), I reviewed The Dark Tower, It, Gerald’s Game, 1922 and Sleeping Beauties. I got to attend my first movie premiere (The Dark Tower, in Bangor) and my first press screening of a film (It, in Houston, a week after Hurricane Harvey). I also made my first appearance on Sirius XM satellite radio when Robin Furth and I spent the better part of an hour talking about all things King with Anthony Brenzican of Entertainment Weekly.

All in all, as I said, a pretty good year, and I already have a number of things cued up for 2018, including one huge project about which I’m terribly excited but can say absolutely nothing about. If the stars align, my novella project with Brian Keene might see the light of day next year, too. Here’s hoping.

In some aspects, this was a dismal year, though. Let’s hope for better in the New Year.

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Year-end review, part 2: movies and TV

Within a few minutes of each other I received what I assume will be the last acceptance and rejection letters of 2017. The rejection was for a story that I really like that’s been out for a long time, so I look forward to taking another pass through it and finding it another home. The acceptance is for an anthology that won’t be out until 2019, so at least I have something queued up for the year after next!

My short story “The Illusion” is included in the new charity anthology Shadows over Deathleham. This is book four in the popular holiday anthology series to benefit the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. It is available as a print edition or for Kindle.

Issue #76 of Cemetery Dance magazine is shipping soon. I have four articles in this one: my usual News from the Dead Zone column, a book review (Sleeping Beauties), an interview with Mike Flanagan (director of Gerald’s Game) and a reprint of my interview with Richard Chizmar and Stephen King about “Gwendy’s Button Box.”

I watched a series on Amazon called Tin Star. It stars Tim Roth as a British law enforcement type who becomes sheriff of a small town in Alberta, Canada. The town is becoming home to a plant extracting oil from the tar sands, which is bringing money and trouble. Christina Hendricks plays the PR wonk who tries to get the town to swallow the bitter pill. It has a number of recognizable Canadian actor, including the old sheriff from Haven. The series reminds me of a blend of Banshee, Justified, Ozark and Sons of Anarchy. The sheriff is a recovering alcoholic and something happens at the very beginning of the first episode to push him into a dark place. The tall Quebecois who is head of security for the oil company is a dangerous force. Plus the sheriff has a teenage daughter. And someone’s trying to kill him. In one of my favorite scenes, he stirs up trouble with a biker gang. They catch up with him and he knows he’s in for a beating. They tell him he’s in for a beating. So he voluntarily lies down on the sidewalk, gets into a tight crouch and lets them kick the crap out of him. It stars with a bang and ends with a bang. Stay tuned for season 2.

Last night I started Department Q, a Danish series of three noir movies, adapted from novels. The scripts are by Nicolaj Arcel, who adapted The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (the original version) and directed The Dark Tower. The main character is a former homicide cop who makes a bad call and gets busted down to a newly formed division, located in the basement, where he is expected to read cold case files and file closure reports at the rate of three a week. Of course, he finds a case that intrigues him and he goes well beyond his mandate, dragging his unwilling but affable Muslim partner along with him. This guy is about as emotion-free as they come, but he’s a good cop. The first one is called The Keeper of Lost Causes. One way it differs from the usual cold case show is that the viewer is supplied with more information than the cops, via flashbacks to the scenes of the crime, as it were.

OK, yesterday it was my top books of the year. Today, let’s move on to top films and TV series. I watched a goodly number of both in 2017, and the full list is here, if you’re interested. Boy, it sure seems a long time ago when I saw Manchester By the Sea in the theater.

Again, in viewing order, my top 15 films of 2017

Manchester by the Sea La La Land Hidden Figures
Hush Moonlight Fences
Miss Sloane Wonder Woman Beatriz at Dinner
Baby Driver Atomic Blonde It (Chapter 1)
Gerald’s Game 1922 Murder on the Orient Express

TV series is much harder list, so I’m going to go with 20:

Fortitude Hotel Beau Séjour Hap and Leonard
Better Call Saul The Leftovers S3 Fargo S3
Anne with an ‘E’ Twin Peaks: The Return Game of Thrones S7
Ozark Mr. Mercedes Narcos S3
Mindhunter Top of the Lake: China Girl Chance
Stranger Things 2 Alias Grace Dark
Tin Star The Crown S2

 

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Year-end review, part 1: books

My buddy Glenn Chadbourne pinged me on Facebook earlier this month to verify the name of the device used in King’s novel End of Watch. He was working on the Christmas card design for King’s office. Yesterday, I was rewarded with the fruits of his labors: a card from that very office with Glenn’s creepy characters enjoying their equally creepy presents. I do believe I see Gwendy’s button box, as well as a Pennywise ornament and an eerie recumbent figure, in addition to other familiar gift items.

We watched the Christmas special last night. No, not that one. Call the Midwives, which featured a story from the end of 1962 and early 1963, a time during which London endured the Big Freeze, one of the coldest on record in the United Kingdom. This meteorological event had numerous consequences (people dying, waterworks freezing, travel impeded) that are used to good measure in this story. It’s not without tragedy and heartbreak, but it’s the Christmas special, so everything’s all right in the end. Except for the dead people. I have yet to see Doctor Who. Maybe tomorrow night.

We watched Victoria and Abdul the other evening. It’s the fictionalized story of the real-life relationship between Queen Victoria and a Muslim from Agra, India who became part of her inner household for the last fifteen years of her life. Judi Dench reprises her role from Mrs. Brown with panache, although I saw some presumably valid critiques of the story in the way it whitewashes and minimizes the effect of England on India at the time. Still, we enjoyed it in the same way we enjoyed The Crown: recognizing that it is, for the most part, a work of fiction with historical characters.


Tomorrow, I look more in depth at the movies and TV series  I watched in 2017. Today is about books. By my tally, I read over 60 novels and novellas this year. The number is a little imprecise because I read some books more than once, for purposes of review, and I read some things I can’t yet talk about. If you’re interested, the full list (with aforementioned caveats) is here.

I’m rubbish when it comes to top-X lists. I would spend too much time quibbling with myself over whether this is #7 or #8. So I present here my top fifteen books from 2017 in no particular order. Or, rather, in the order in which I read them, which is about as random an ordering as I could come up with:

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough Final Girls by Riley Sager
Ill Will by Dan Chaon Our Short History by Lauren Grodstein
Sourdough by Robin Sloan The Forgotten Girl by Rio Youers
The Force by Don Winslow Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King
If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? by Alan Alda Strange Weather by Joe Hill
Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker The Ghosts of Galway by Ken Bruen
IQ by Joe Ide A Legacy of Spies by John le Carré
Into the Black Nowhere by Meg Gardiner

I posted 21 reviews at my book review blog, Onyx Reviews. The list of reviews with links to them can be found here.

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It’s beginning to look a lot like…

Reports of snow in Texas started coming in yesterday evening. I saw comments on social media from Laredo, Austin and San Antonio. The forecasters said we might get flurries in the Greater Houston area, and when I went to bed the precipitation was decidedly thick. Sleet, at the very least, but it wasn’t accumulating.

So imagine my surprise when I looked out the back window at 5:00 am and saw: a very confused and irate possum. Oh, yeah, and snow all over the ground and trees.


For perspective, the fence behind it is six feet tall and that big black thing to the right, with the snow all over it, is our gas barbecue. This possum was big! At least as large as a cat.

I took a few pictures then went up to my office to work for a couple of hours. I looked out the window later, after the sun was up, and realized how beautiful it looked outside, so I went out and snapped some pictures.


The ground was warm enough to melt the snow, but it was still 32° out, so the snow stayed on the trees and bushes. The grandson of our neighbor across the street built a little snowman. Overpasses and bridges froze, so there were plenty of accidents in the area. No one around here knows how to drive in the winter. School openings were delayed to give the roads a chance to clear. Surprisingly, by mid-morning, there was still snow on the trees and car rooftops. No doubt it will all be gone soon enough, but it was a pleasant surprise. Alas, there’s no way to hold onto it for Christmas, when family arrives for vacation.


My binge viewing this week was the new German series on Netflix, Dark. Some people are referring to it as Darker Things, and there are a few comparisons to be drawn to Stranger Things, but it is very much its own thing. As much as I liked the Duffer Brothers’ series (and I liked it a lot), I think I liked this one even more. I never knew what was coming next (although I did guess one of the major mysteries early on). Other comparisons have been made to Twin Peaks, but it’s not quite that weird, and to Lost, which I think has merit. I see a strong connection to 11/22/63. It takes place in 2019 in a small German village that benefited from the building of the first nuclear power plant in Germany in 1960. That plant is about to be decommissioned. A boy has been missing for nearly two weeks and by the end of the first episode another one will disappear. There are ties to events from 33 years earlier (and, ultimately, to 33 years before that). It’s a creepy mystery with dead sheep and mutilated bodies and plummeting birds.

The default play mode on Netflix is to overdub the audio with English voices, but that is terrible, in my opinion. Play around with your settings and switch to German audio (not German descriptions, which is also an option) and English subtitles for a far better viewing experience. My biggest problem with the series was the fact that there’s a very large cast of completely unfamiliar actors, and some characters appear as younger versions of themselves played by different actors. The director takes some steps to help viewers link up who is who, but it can still get somewhat confusing. I feel like I need to watch it all over again, now that I’m more familiar with the characters.

That past influences the future, but the future also influences the past. It’s cleverly constructed and they obviously knew the ending when they started or else none of it would hold together. I have no doubt it will get picked up for a second season, and I cannot wait.

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Lady Bird

I don’t often have a hard time naming short stories, but the one I just finished is giving me fits. Often I have the title before I start writing, but something usually comes to me during the writing process. Not with this one. I wrote it longhand, dictated it into the computer this morning and made one complete proofing pass on it and so far, nada. The story is due on Thursday, so I’m hoping inspiration will strike. I do have something to fall back on, but I don’t like it very much.

The weather was really nice here in Southeast Texas for the four-day weekend. Unseasonably warm. We were able to dine outside a couple of times and hang out in a driveway with a glass of wine a couple of others. On Sunday we went over to Market Street (I got the show time wrong, so we had the better part of an hour to kill) and stroll around the park, watching all the families with little kids enjoying the warm weather, too. We saw Lady Bird, starring Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf as daughter and mother. The story takes place during Ronan’s character’s senior year in Sacramento, California. She attends a Catholic school and is determined to go somewhere interesting on the east coast for university, although her grades and the family finances limit her possibilities. She’s a bit of a wild child, and has a lot of conflict with her mother, while her father is a calm, stabilizing influence, despite his own issues. It’s warm and witty and pretty funny at times. My favorite bit was when the school coach is enlisted to take over directing The Tempest and he uses a blackboard and football strategy to block out the play. The movie has the feel of a letter from the screenwriter to her own mother. It currently has the best Rotten Tomatoes score of all time: 100% from over 160 reviews.

We saw a rather bizarre movie on Saturday evening. Capturing Mary stars Maggie Smith and Ruth Wilson (Luther, The Affair), who plays the younger version of Smith’s character. Smith stumbles into an old mansion in NY, maintained by a young caretaker, and proceeds to tell him about her misadventures there as a young woman. She met up with a mysterious man played by David Walliams who, to me, was an avatar of doubt. He liked to go around to famous people at parties and say things to them that seemed complimentary at first but ended up coming off as back-handed. He unsettles Wilson’s character’s by telling her some terrible secrets about people he’s learned over the years, and the phrase “living rent free in her head” comes to mind. He manages to destroy all of her confidence and her promising career as a writer fizzles. Apparently part of a loose trilogy of films. We weren’t quite sure what to make of it when it was over.

We’re almost to the end of Longmire. Just one episode left to go in the final season. There was one monumental surprise involving a semi-major character about halfway through the season, and one character from Season 4 is getting a chance to redeem himself. We’ll be sorry to see it come to an end.

On a whim I decided to reread Murder on the Orient Express last weekend. I couldn’t tell you when I last read it. Maybe as much as 30 years ago. It holds up remarkably well. It’s a fast read, but it’s fun to see how Christie lays out the clues and the red herrings so deftly. It’s an amazingly well plotted story despite how convoluted and unlikely it is.

I also read A Legacy of Spies, the most recent by John le Carré, which takes an aging, retired spy back to some of Smiley’s most infamous cases. Also recently IQ by Joe Ide, which has a strong Walter Mosely vibe. Winner of the Edgar for Best Debut Novel.  And Damaged by Pamela Callow, which is set in my old stomping grounds of Halifax, Nova Scotia, which added a layer of interest for me.

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Weekends are for Murder

Сияние в мрака, the Bulgarian translation of the anthology Shining in the Dark, containing my story “Aeliana,” was published today. This is the first time one of my stories has debuted in a foreign language. The English edition is forthcoming, as is an Italian translation, and perhaps more, too.

The first grown-up movie I ever saw in a theatre was the 1974 version of Murder on the Orient Express, starring Albert Finney as Poirot. This was at the Capitol Theatre in Dalhousie, New Brunswick. I was 13. After cutting my teeth on the Hardy boys, I was in the midst of an Agatha Christie binge when the film came out. I don’t think I’ve seen it again since then, but my memory of it was that Finney disappointed me as Poirot. I far preferred David Suchet, from the BBC TV series.

I saw the new version, directed by Kenneth Branagh, this weekend, and I was impressed by it. Branagh manages to disappear into the role to the point where I seldom marveled that it was Branagh playing Poirot. His mustaches were legendary and his peculiar mannerisms handled in earnest. I thought the film was a tad over-directed, with stunt-angled camera shots that didn’t lend much to the picture, and there were a couple of times when the score seemed at conflict with what was happening on the screen at the moment, but on the whole I thought it was very well done. I wonder how many people who went to see it had no idea of the mystery’s solution. The cast was terrific—I was especially impressed by Daisy Ridley—and, all in all, a fine film. The teaser for Death on the Nile at the end was encouraging, too.

In keeping with the weekend’s theme, I embarked on a journey through The Midsomer Murders on Netflix. I’ve never seen an episode before, so I didn’t know exactly what to expect. Because they’re based on a series of novels, the characters are fully realized from the first scene. They’re serious who/how-dunnits, but they have a light touch, too. The DCI’s wife can’t cook, although she thinks she can and regularly attempts recipes from Delia Smith and other gourmands. That’s a running joke. The episode where the DCI has a couple of edible marijuana cakes without realizing it is pretty funny, too. Colin Firth shows up in the final episode of the first season, but is dead almost before the opening credits. I also recognized Sonia Walger, who played Penny on Lost, who has a 30-second scene as a local journalist in one episode. I’m quite enjoying them: I watched six over the course of two days, and they’re about 100 minutes each.

I did try The Punisher, but I guess I wasn’t in the right mood for that show. I only lasted fifteen minutes into the first episode. A lot of my friends are raving about it, so I’ll probably give it a second chance at some point. I’m also enjoying The Orville, although I have no idea how on earth this show is being made without being sued for plagiarism. It’s not nearly as funny as I expected it to be (I thought it would be more in the vein of Galaxy Quest, but it’s not in that league at all), and what little humor there is mostly falls flat for me. My favorite character so far is Lieutenant Alara Kitan, who plays it virtually straight. The most recent episode, which showcased her character, was really quite good.

I met Alexander McCall Smith at Murder by the Book the weekend before last. I’ve been reading his books to my wife ever since we first saw The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency miniseries on HBO. He was only scheduled to sign at the store, but he decided at the last minute to talk and he entertained us for nearly 30 minutes, followed by a Q&A session. He’s quite a storyteller. He spun out a shaggy dog story about being forced to rent a bulldozer in Italy when his original reservation was canceled and all cars were hired out due to it being a holiday weekend. It was almost a credible tale, but during the Q&A someone asked how fast a bulldozer could go and Smith grinned, saying, “That’s the sort of detail that I would probably know, if the story were true!”

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Mr. Blue Sky

How long does it take to find a market for a short story? As long as it takes. Most short stories don’t have a shelf life. If you don’t find a market for it after X months or years, it doesn’t go bad. I’ve published any number of stories that were submitted many, many (many) times.

A story I wrote shortly after the massive blackout in the northwest United States in 2003 has finally found a home. My submission list on it reveals probably a dozen outings, maybe more. It’s a bit of an oddity in that it’s only a little over 1000 words, so a tad short for most markets. Glad to discover this morning that it will see the light of day. More news to follow.

I also found out this morning that I won a Limited Edition Stephen Gervais Christine print on Twitter, thanks to the folks at @ChristineMovieCar. Pretty cool. It’s one of my favorite limited edition covers. The project of reproducing the cover art to King’s books was initiated by Suntup Editions.

I turned in the essay I was commissioned to do recently. It wasn’t due until the end of the year, but I got it finished over the weekend and am awaiting the editor’s feedback. It was a fun one to write, and the pay is terrific!

ELO is high up the list of bands I never thought I’d get a chance to see in concert, but that’s about to change. Their North American tour was announced last week and I was able to get tickets during the pre-order period this morning. The concert isn’t until next August—I think that’s the farthest in advance I’ve ever purchased tickets.

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Anniversary

This is my 22nd wedding anniversary. As it happens, this year has the same calendar as 1995—it was a Friday afternoon when we went over to the courthouse and joined the queue of people who were there primarily to pay traffic tickets and other fines. “You guys got the best deal,” one young man told us when we announced we were there to get married. The Justice of the Peace put on her robe over her civilian clothes and conducted the wedding in her chambers. She also took the wedding photo on one of those disposable cardboard cameras that were so prevalent back then. No iPhones! We learned just this week that the J.P. will be retiring next year after 32 years on the bench.

I won’t be making it to New England Crime Bake this weekend. The only time I went to the mystery writers’ conference was in 2010, when I was the recipient of the Al Blanchard Award. I couldn’t tell anyone why I was there, though, until the banquet, because the identity of the winner was to be a surprise. So I had to make up excuses for why I’d flown all the way from Texas for a New England-centric conference. This year, as always, Level Best Books will be launching the latest in a long line of annual anthologies: Snowbound: Best New England Crime Stories, which contains my new story “Sticky Business,” featuring the same gang of ne’er-do-wells that were in my 2010 story “The Bank Job.” The physical book is available for pre-order now, and it will debut tomorrow, I believe, or Sunday at the convention. Not sure about eBooks yet.

My story “Aeliana,” included in Shining in the Dark from Cemetery Dance Publications, will be translated into Italian for a version of the anthology from Independent Legions. A Bulgarian translation was previously announced and will likely be the first version of the anthology published.

I installed an SSL security certificate on my website last week, so you may notice a switch over from http to https: and (hopefully) a little secure lock. I had to clean up some pages to satisfy the security—some of my older blog entries probably have some insecure internal links, but all the pages should pass muster.

I was sorry to hear about the death of Paul Buckmaster, whose orchestrations have appeared on numerous albums, including those from Elton John and David Bowie. I had been introducing his work to my wife just a few weeks ago and we listened to some of those very early EJ albums, where lush strings virtually defined so many of those songs.

Last weekend, I watched all six episodes of Alias Grace, based on the Margaret Atwood novel. It stars Sarah Gadon (from 11/22/63) as well as Paul Gross (Due South, Men with Brooms) and Anna Paquin, as well as featuring the occasional appearance of David Cronenberg. The story was adapted by Sarah Polley, well-known to Canadians from Road to Avonlea. The miniseries has an Anne of Green Gables aura about it, but it also made me think of Mindhunters in that it deals with a psychiatrist interviewing a convicted killer. In a sense, the story is about the stories people tell—different ones in different circumstances, depending upon to whom the story is being told. Stories we tell ourselves to make us feel better about incidents, or to serve the needs of others. It’s inspired by a historical incident in which two servants were convicted of murder.

A funny vignette from last weekend. It was mild out, so I had a mid-afternoon lunch/dinner at a nearby restaurant while I read. The table next to me had four young women who I learned through their conversation were teenage lifeguards. At one point they discussed how they wanted to be disposed of upon death (burial, cremation, etc.) and one of them suggested that she’d like to be preserved by taxidermy. “They can stuff bears, and they’re bigger than a person, so why not?” she asked. Funny people.

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Are you Shpongled?

We didn’t expect to have (m)any trick or treaters last night because it was raining so hard from about 4 pm on, but a number of intrepid, costumed souls did make it. We probably had to go to the door six or seven times, and we gave out candy by the handfuls when we did. Little kids taking one or two pieces…we’re like, no…take all of this! Take it all! We closed up shop at around 8:00.

Last weekend, my wife was working two long shifts in Galveston (up and away by 4:30 am, back at 9 pm), so I binged my way through Stranger Things 2 in a single day. I liked the evolution of the series, although I did find episode 7, the standalone Kali episode, something of a mis-step. It felt like it would have been more at home in Orphan Black. Hank Wagner and I are going to do one of our tag-team reviews of the second season for Dead Reckonings, once Hank catches up. I was describing the series to my wife and she seemed intrigued, so we watched the first three episodes of Season 1 last night. I thought it was neat the way Nancy slams a door in Dustin’s face near the beginning of S01E01 and then what happens between them near the end of S02E09. I also watched Beyond Stranger Things, the 7-part after show, which you shouldn’t begin until after finishing Season 2. The kids are hilarious.

I’m also into Season 2 of Chance, starring Hugh Laurie, on Hulu. Now that he doesn’t have Jackie to deal with any more, the plot revolves around a cop who is coercing him into going after a bad guy, and the aforementioned bad guy. I really like the character known as D. He’s awesome.

Though I thoroughly enjoy writing fiction, it’s hard to beat non-fiction in terms of payment. I was approached this week to write a 2500-word essay and offered an amount that would require me to write six-to-eight short stories to match it, and the stories would probably be longer and would take more time, each. So of course I said yes.

My other super-secret project is coming together faster than expected. It’s really cool.

The new album from Shpongle, Codex VI, is now out. They’re one of my favorite groups to listen to while I write. It’s trippy, psychedelic techno. Check it out.

Over the weekend, I also posted a couple of book reviews: Violent Mind: The 1976 Psychological Assessment of Ted Bundy by Al Carlisle and Seventh Decimate (The Great God’s War) by Stephen R. Donaldson. The former is interesting in that Dr. Carlisle was part of a team performing a 90-day psychological evaluation on Bundy at a time when he’d been convicted of aggravated kidnapping but no one knew the extent of his crimes or his psychosis. The serial killers in Mindhuter were known, confessed killers, but here was a guy who was trying to hide his true nature from psychiatrists and psychologists. Not so successfully, as it turns out. The latter was the somewhat disappointing first novel in a trilogy from the author of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. Donaldson specializes in unlikable protagonists.

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The Halloween Tree is in full bloom today

My new short story “The Halloween Tree,” inspired by the Halloweens of my youth and a scary tree that lurked over the roadside near where I grew up, is available today in Volume Four of Halloween Carnival, the anthology of stories edited by Brian Freeman that is being released throughout October. You can see the other contributors on the cover. Eventually the five parts will be assembled into a single book.

Also out today is my review of the Netflix original movie 1922, which premiered on Friday.

Whenever we send a package to our daughter and son-in-law in Japan, we like to add things we know they’d enjoy. Cereals, spice packets, clothing items for our grand-daughter, etc. Turns out maybe that’s not a great idea. We sent our son-in-law a birthday present along with some of the aforementioned. The parcel weighed 19 lbs when it was delivered to the UPS Store via USPS and 12 lbs when it arrived in Okinawa. Two items were missing from the still-sealed box: the electronic game components intended for his birthday. I figure if we had shipped them without the other material, it would have been harder for someone to steal them, because a 7 lb box that suddenly weighed 0 lbs would have been more conspicuous. Lessons learned.

I watched Season 2 of Top of the Lake this weekend. Directed by Jane Campion and starring Elizabeth Moss, along with Nicole Kidman (in probably her least sympathetic role ever) and Gwendoline Christie (more familiar to many as Brianne of Tarth from Game of Thrones) as a statuesque Sydney police officer. It also features a guy who looks eerily like a young Charles Manson, with many of the same attributes. Moss is the only returning character from Season 1, and she’s still having to deal with some of the events from four years earlier. The story features a sex worker stuffed into a suitcase and the daughter Moss’s character gave up for adoption seventeen years ago.

This morning I started Chance on Hulu, the series starring Hugh Laurie as a consulting neuropsychiatrist in the middle of a divorce. He meets a beefy, strong silent type (called “D”) who doesn’t mind a bit of violence to set things in the world a-right, and Gretchen Mol as the abused wife of an SFPD police officer who claims to have a dual personality. When Chance learns how D resolved a robbery at their store and says later that “shit like that makes my day,” Chance muses that he knows a lot of people who could use that kind of treatment, which piques D’s interest. He is tempted to take a walk on the dark side. I like what I’ve seen so far.

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