Book Announcement:Diary of a SoundCloud Rapper (Writing as Young Stepdad

I’ve kept this under wraps for a bit but I think we could all use a bit of good news. I’ve looked at horror from many angles from writing pulp mummy smut as Henry Price to intense literary horror in Charcoal, I explored a world where right wing conspiracy was insane reality in Crisis Boy and spoke through the voice of a possessive and depraved haunted house in A God of Hungry Walls. But as the world started to really lose its shit, I wrote a book that captured the grasping fame hungry sociopathy of our time through the perspective of SoundCloud rapper Young Stepdad. While I am putting this out under a pseudonym, I decided, with the and guidance of thoe closest to me that I should still step up and own this shit. Enjoy Diary of a SoundCloud Rapper.

It was not easy to come forward as the author of this piece but I think this is worth getting excited about.

Interview and Reading

A couple weeks ago, podcaster Steve Becker put up the most thorough interview with me that’s ever been conducted on his podcast Horror Makes Us Happy. It was odd to explore my connections and roots in the genre so deeply and brought out what I feel were some very thoughtful responses. If you’re interested in such a deep dive into the origins of a horror and Bizarro author, check it out here. If you are a horror author and get the chance, you should do this podcast.

Horror Makes us Happy Interview

Also, this Friday at 4, I will be reading as part of this year’s Killercon Austin online. Come listen and get a peek into a world just on the periphery of our own, an excerpt from a book that never was that touches upon the realest of horrors.

Workshop slots and special editions of Charcoal remain so get ’em while you can!

Fall Workshops Open For Registration: Flash Fiction and Horror Tropes

Most of you who follow me on any social media know that I run various writing workshops. My years as an editor and mentor have given me a lot of insight and experience to pass on. I do not pretend to be a paragon of success but I have helped many careers begin and restart. I am more grateful for this than most any of my personal achievements. While I value the freedom to create my own art, the capacity to help others make theirs happen is so much bigger and broader.

I will be running workshops until November, when I take a one month break. Next week, my novella workshop begins, wherein a group of authors each develop a novella. I have seen many books finish during the duration of this workshop and even more that finish the book up within a month. I have three slots left in this one and each comes at the cost of 100 dollars. During early registration the price of novella workshops is discounted to 80. November’s novella workshop is open to early registration so you can enroll at that price. There are 9 slots available

A cheaper and more casual option comes in September with the flash fiction and drabble workshop. I was going to take the month off but a student asked if i could run this and it looks like there is some interest. I’m going to provide suggestions, prompts, moodscapes and exercises to create several pieces of flash fiction and drabble. There are seven slots available and the cost is 30 dollars. If this works out, I will be teaching another of these in January.

Lastly, I celebrate each October by teaching Horror Tropes. This workshop examines horror archetyoes and how to both utilize and break them down. This is one of my favorites and I always see the most unique and fun pieces out of this. There are 7 slots available for this one and the early registration cost is 40 dollars, available until September 8th when the price jumps to 50.

These months are going to be packed and I hope you join me for them. Remember that I match any donated workshop slots with an additional free one, so a single donation gets two LGBTQIA writers a slot.

Happy Birthday, Thomas R Clark!

Gratitude matters. We have highs, we have lows, we rise, we fall, we triumph, we suffer. So, it’s important every once in awhile to stop and show how grateful you are for someone and their work. Thomas Clark has been doing my workshops for a few years now and has been a font of knowledge, a beacon of enthusiasm and a constant champion of everything I do. He takes the more commercial end of horror fiction and adds a passion, imagination and intensity that we see in art house, extreme and indie horror, blending centuries of genre fiction into something new, fresh and cool. I have watched Tommy grow and flourish, producing a lot of work that I have been lucky to help shape in whatever small ways I have.

His new book The God Provides is coming soon from St Rooster Press and is available for preorders. If you like Keene, Wellman, The Wicker Man, The Howling or just folk horror and its pagan roots at large, The God Provides will…well, it will provide. Show your support for a student, a colleague, a journalist and a friend to us all below.

https://thomasrclark.com/2021/06/24/the-god-provides-pre-order-bundle/

Lewton’s Long Shadow: A Three Year Dare That Led to My New Book Charcoal

When iconic horror producer Val Lewton went to work for RKO Pictures, he was a mercenary, a pulpster. RKO wanted to compete with Universal and MGM, and, since it was their B unit, with companies like Monogram and Republic who were making White Zombie and movies about guys dressing up as gorillas to get away with murder. Lewton would have to come up with titles that could outsell “The Monster Walks!” and “Gorilla at Large!” to a filmgoing public that did not have thousands of Youtubers and professional critics alike to warn them about a bait and switch. Lewton gave movies titles like “Cat People” and “I Walked With a Zombie”. This was how you competed not just with the hucksters but with the big boys.

But there was something else that Lewton brought: substance. He got filmgoers to sit down to a movie about werecats but lured them into a world of sexual tension, fraught intimacy, obsession and poisonous culture baggage. He tempted audiences with zombies and gave them a Gothic romance full of family secrets, folk horror and a surprisingly thoughtful and well researched examination of Vodou and its role in communities. Years later, Roger Corman would use a similar method to bring out unusual and eccentric films in the vein of Poe stories but not necessarily following their plot. Subverting commercial expectations was both good business and a creative challenge for them.

The above film (which I had the pleasure of seeing Corman himself introduce at HP Lovecraft Film Festival) has the additional subversion of being not even a Poe story but a Lovecraft one, exposing viewers to an author who was at the time considered quite obscure.These artists not only kept the careers of classic horror actors alive, they kept the genre alive. Lewton preserved the embattled horror film and Corman, while far from a literal translator, did much to maintain the gothic tradition. While commercial pressure can often hamper the arts, these two producers excelled under it heroically. As a writer of strange fiction as well as an editor and advisor to many authors starting careers, I can’t help but respect that.

When Christoph Paul was first starting up CLASH books, he made me an offer. He had a premise that he wasn’t sure he could write well about magic charcoals made from evil bones and connected to ancient Sumerian demons. I wasn’t sure what I could do with it and I hate the overuse of Sumeria in supernatural horror but it sounded like a good deal, a chance to write a quick, easy pulp novel and another step along the road to becoming a master hack for hire. Turns out, it was going to become something else entirely.

This book about ancient Sumerian demons became a book about cruelty and sadism in artists, this quick and easy pulp story became an examination of justice, racism and victimhood with depths I had yet to plum. I was writing through the eyes of a protagonist who was nothing like me in the grips of a villain who was actually a lot like me in some ways. What was going to be commercial pulp challenged me like no other book ever has. I realized that this method followed in the footsteps of Lewton and I wanted to h9nor that with the best book I could write. There were days when I wrote ten words on this book and felt grear about it.

The emotional challenge of the huckster is walking around with your head up knowing that wherever you led the crowd, you gave them something worthwhile. A real showman puts on a real show. This book means the world to me now. I might not be their equal but I can stand before Lewton and Corman and say “I get it.” Never let the idea that you’ll need to get eyes on you stop them from having something to look at. Never let a love of pulp keep you from your love of the human spirit triumphant. Never let your demons get a free pass just because they’re yours.

Charcoal is now up for preorder. The quantities are limited but they might become less limited if the demand is there. The limited run is all you’ll get until October 2022. CLASH has grown and will keep growing and though 2022 feels like a long way away, there are opportunities there that matter.

https://www.clashbooks.com/new-products-2/garrett-cook-charcoal-preorder

If you’d like to join me for some help on your own creative journeys, I am opening up October’s horror tropes workshop to preregistration and there are still three slots for August’s novella writing workshop. Both are held completely online.

Thanks, everyone and good luck.

Walking the Walk

Sometimes when you get too deeply into other people’s work, you can forget your own or neglect it. My writing has been slower than I’d like. It’s not that I’m not immensely proud of the books that I have devoted years of my life to writing but I do wish I could be more attentive to my own writing career. I’ve been bad about updating this blog because of this neglect and a feeling that maybe I don’t have enough going on with my own stuff, even if since I last edited this, I had a new book come out and made some great progress in Spain with Hugo Camacho Cabeza’s excellent translation of my book A God of Hungry Walls. The exciting stuff I’m doing on gaming projects has been a substantive change as well.

But still, I can do more, faster and better. Setting an example to clients and students matters too. My workshops and lectures tell you how something is done but I’m not showing you. So, from now on, I’ve decided that I’m going to join my students on every exercise, milestone or project. In May, when my students do the novella workshop,.I’ll be doing it with them. There’s a prominent sub call, a shot that I need to take and some of my students could benefit from taking as well, so in May, I’m doing just that. I’m writing a novella for submission right alongside you, letting you see my process as I see yours.

There’s stlll room in April and May’s workshops and we can start changing our lives and careers together.

(P..S Swanky graphics are provided by the wonderful Bryan J McLean.)

A Second April Workshop

In addition to April’s novella writing workshop, I wanted to add a second class for those who want to spend some of their time on creative endeavors during these shelter in place orders. There will be room for twelve writers of stories and poems and the fee is only an optional donation. You can donate to me so I can keep myself going, to any of the GoFundMes I will be sharing on my Facebook or to charities supporting homeless LGBTQ  people or lost wages for workers in the service industry. If the crunch has hit you hard enough that you’ve nothing to give, you’re still welcome but when you’re on your feet, remember that we’re in this together. Comment on this post or hit me up on Facebook if you’re interested. Let’s put something good into the world this April.

What the Next Few Months Look Like

Happy 4th everyone, American and abroad. I’m here to give you a couple new and exciting updates. May saw the launch of this year’s third New Bizarro Author Series title Winnie by Katy Michelle Quinn. This beautiful  book captures our country’s love affair with guns and complicated relationship with femininity and transgender people perfectly. Proud to have selected this book and to have Eraserhead publishing it and the other five books in the series.

On July 15th, the next of these books, Eviscerator by Farah Rose Smith comes out. Farah is a wonderful new voice in both cosmic horror and Bizarro. Her prose is both elegant and intense, poetic and a cruel. Eviscerator is a story of elder gods, gut ghouls, talking parasites, Dark Wave superheroines and the tyranny of living in pain. This is a really cool way of capturing the experience of living with a disability and is a book you don’t want to miss. This year, I am fortunate to have so much awesome work to share with you, most of it not even my own.

In August, you get a chance to share some of your work with me in my next short story workshop. Conducted online, this workshop gives you four exercises to sharpen various aspects of your weird storytelling skills. I’ve had a lot of different authors take this class and come out with a lot of new and fun prose. The cost is 50 dollars and there are 8 slots left. Let’s see what you’ve got.

September, Eraserhead and I bring you Fell Beauties by Leigham Shardlow. Leigham is bleak, sardonic and unafraid of grotesquerie. His work is a bit Mighty Boosh, a bit Ren and Stimpy and a whole lot of stuff you’ve never seen before. In a madcap Bizarro and horror satire on body image, Fell Beauties deals with the last ugly town in the world and its fattest resident’s struggle to get away from a lethal rain of perfect bodies. If you like your Bizarro a little zanier and gorier than our prior offerings, this might be the book for you.

In October, Deadite Press brings you my book Crisis Boy, a Bizarro horror story about a bulletproof used as a pawn in a conspiracy so convoluted that it might not even understand itself. This is Bizarro horror for our fake news world. Proud to say it squicks out even Jeff Burk. If you too want to squick people out, then you can join me and take one of the eight spots in October’s horror workshop. At early registration price, you can join me for four exercises in horror writing for only 40 dollars. This will be fun.

Thanks for joining me to hear about all the cool Summer and fall Bizarro stuff coming up.

Reaching Peak Stupid: Crisis Boy is Coming

It is not 100 percent the truth when I call myself a Bostonian. I grew up a half hour north of Boston and most of the time, when I made it into the city, it was on account of a field trip from school.  I am not a native Bostonian but lived there a few years and learned to I love and hate the city in the same way most Bostonians do. Though I moved to Portland, I have a fierce pride in my identity as a New Englander and will always carry that with, much as I am wont to bitch about the Masshole life.

In 2013, some motherfuckers tried to blow up my town. They set a bomb at the starting line of the Boston Marathon and they blew several people to bits. They had weapons stockpiled and they weren’t going to stop there either. The general concern of terrorists is to take as many human lives with them on their way out.  Friends of friends were there at the starting line to bear witness to this, to see the dust and the rubble and the blood and the carnage.

Fate brought one of these maniacs a block away from a home inhabited a dear friend, a house I had lived at and would move back to again. Watertown, Massachusetts is where the police had a prolonged shootout with  Dzokar Tsarnaev before at last finding him hiding under a boat. I waited breathlessly for news of this, hoping he had not left behind any more explosives, hoping my friend was okay. My heart was still pumping a mile a minute when the police found him under that boat.

I’m not trying to play the victim here, I just want you to know I’m as angry as you are. One of the first gems the internet had to offer in the wake of the tragedy was that it was clearly staged and that it didn’t happen.  All our loss, all our terror and all our fear were fake and this was all just a false flag operation. Conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones have been there every time to swoop in and tell us that victims exist only to threaten the freedoms of hardworking American patriots

As recently as the Parkland shooting, we’ve had to listen as pundits and lunatics alike have decided that we don’t have a problem with gun violence in our society. I did what some people might say was the crassest, cruelest thing possible in response: I wrote a book about it. A book whose success can feed me and keep me living inside a house. A book I have a personal stake in selling. I’m mad enough that I’m not sorry.

Crisis Boy is the story of an invincible teenager living in a world as completely idiotic as Right Wing conspiracy theorists think it is. It’s a coming of age story about selfishness, madness and the death of a true, relatable narrative in our world. It’s horror, it’s satire and it’s mean as mean can be. I’m proud of this book and ashamed of the world that made it. Crisis Boy drops in October . If it makes you mad, good. This shit happened. I’m mad about it.

Preorder Crisis Boy

 

Winners of the 24 Hour Flash Fiction Contest

Yesterday, to get you all excited for July’s upcoming workshop and to do something fun for May 1st, I put up a 24 hour flash fiction contest. I got five submissions on my page and one via PM but even with four prizes to give out, I still had some tough choices. Here are your winners and their flash pieces:

3rd place Chad Lutzke

‘Chad has won an ebook of A God of Hungry Walls.

Watching Sanctuary by Chad Lutzke

There’s a good chance it’ll happen tonight. A better chance than most evenings, anyway. And if I were a betting house, I’d lay money on it. It’s spring, the eggs have long since hatched, and the brood has left the web above the bed, exploring every nook. Every cranny.

Any orifice in his face will do.

Shifting and creaking are tedious tasks. And with a homeowner like mine, observation is very much like watching paint dry. That isn’t cliche, trust me. I’ve done both, and they are equivalent.

With the man working nine to five, followed by hours spent in a chair surrounded by TV dinners and empty bottles, it’s his sleeping that breaks the monotony. Watching in great anticipation as night after night the arachnids get closer and farther from his gaping, drunken mouth. Much like watching the races, I suppose. I place imaginary bets and root for the little creatures as they dangle above his snore, teasing me–climbing the wrinkled mountains of his dirtied T-shirt, making their way toward an ear.

Tonight there are far too many about for them all to ignore the man’s enticing, dark, fleshy holes. While the bed is still made, the man sleeps deep, still reeking from the day’s work.

The spiders descend. The spiders crawl.

One hundred dollars on number thirty-two!

She rests on the fold of his face, closing in on his naris, peeking, touching the interior with her curious palps. This could be it. In a perfect world, she’d hop onto his tongue and skitter down his throat. But should her exploration take her through nasal passages only, it will be satisfactory to see the irritation in the man as the many legs tickle and tap.

Sweet dreams, drunken fool.

 

2nd place

Rob Glasgow

Rob has won an ebook of A God of Hungry Walls.

 

Inside these walls of mine resides a man. Inside this man resides a hatred he himself does not yet understand; but I do. It is the same hatred I feel as I stare at him, immobile due to his own free will choice, whilst I am relegated to stillness out of anothers. Is it apathy? Is it self-loathing? I have as much respect for him as he has for himself. To devour him would be delightful, but I have no mouth with which to feed. Thus, I must get satisfaction from watching him devour himself. Slowly, and methodically, his ego chips away, leaving a husk of a man who should not exist. With each passing day, he becomes weaker; and I stronger. It is only a matter of time before he fades. I, on the other hand, will stand solid on my foundation, waiting…for the next one.

 

1st place

Lynn McSweeney

Lynn has read A God of Hungry Walls so shall instead receive a digital copy of Archelon Ranch.

Like canopic jars that cherished their desiccated organs, her collection of never-used vases lounged on various shelves, their dark wide mouths ever parched for roses and peonies and lilies. We envied her the busy tasks she set, dusting and rearranging all the useless objects that made up her life’s museum. Tea-sets in every color: an art deco jade green from China, a dragon-encrusted black and cream one from occupied Japan, the turn-of-the-century Austrian demitasse in a tutti-frutti paisley pattern. The home’s heart she was, centered in a hoard of domestic clutter, given meaning by eras past that had also valued the display of bric-a-brac as proof of time’s passing and wealth’s accumulation. And then she thrilled us all by meandering to the dollhouse.

Ah! This miniature of our own bones! Beloved twin viewed through the wrong end of a spyglass. We shivered in delight when she took a sponge to the jewel-like windows and roof, twinkling beneath her clever, spidery fingers. All at once we felt our own eyes shine, our own pate massaged with longing. Even though she had never, in fact, taken vinegar and newspaper to our rain-spattered panes, or wire-brushed our shingles crusted with bird droppings. But how sweet to view the exact duplicate of our own sovereign self earning such attentions and glowing beneath her teasing, tickling feather duster. Our shutters shuddered in sympathy, we spasmed in delight as she touched each little dollhouse item that corresponded to our larger body in every alchemical detail.

She manipulated the five-inch plastic Poe with a raven on its shoulder, laying it lengthwise on top of the plaster girl broken off from an old Black Forest cuckoo clock. They tumbled from the delicate canopy bed made of carved toothpicks and ground their pelvises together on the silk printed carpet, a giveaway prize in tobacco packets from the nineteen-tens. We hummed together with her as the dollhouse couple spent themselves.

And we sighed with her afterglow sighs, and cried when she cried as she crawled into her own solitary bed with its velvet awnings, jealous of the dollhouse bed with its sheets of antique lace handkerchief, its tiny plaster Rhine maiden, its doomed romantic Poe guarding the front door. More company than she, or we, had ever entertained in the vast expanses of our own too-large and empty rooms.

How we longed for a new tenant, one who would invite the world in, throw frequent, frantic parties, lots of energy pouring into our walls, bequeathing us new memories. Alas, the mortgage was fully paid. She owned us outright. We’ll have to wait for her to die of old age… or we may have to plot.

Just HOW will we kill her?

 

And the winner of the July workshop slot is

Shawn Koch.

Congratulations, Shawn!

 

“Circles Go Round and Round”
Worm crawled in his burrow.
Worm thought he was a man. Worm thought he knew what a man was.
Worm couldn’t hear the voice that calling outside. His own screams and clawing against glass walls muffled everything else.
Long ago, Worm might have been something else, caked with serenity instead of filth. The cage acclimated. Worm had only his own offal effects to wade in.
Opening his eyes, Worm saw glass walls smeared in shit and scratches, a blinding glint reflection from lights unseen. If Worm just kept his eyes closed, dug around, worm could find solace in the warm of excrement.
There was happiness below the mess. Worm swore.
There was conformity in his tiny world. Worm smeared himself with refuse and called it identity. Confined in flesh and meat, Worm congested-sobbed and patted himself with filth, shaped the viscous hide into a mask that hid him from the glass screens and the strange sights there. To hide below, to wait.
Chains were not always made of metal.
Worm opened his eyes and hated everything he saw. When he was blind, the safety of the womb lulled him, it hung pregnant with false deceptions. There was no happiness when Worm opened his eyes.
The false hope in his sight lured him once again. Worm pushed his hands against the glass, smearing the view of his broken life. There was no real day or night, only patterns.
“Did you take out the trash?” the woman’s voice echoed from beyond barriers. Worm wouldn’t fall for the trick any more. It couldn’t be a real person. Just like the hazed images dancing on the other side of the glass every time Worm opened his eyes, this must be another deception.
Across the glass was a house. Worm was told it was his house. The dingy four walls encased him, bare, caked in a filth he could not clean off despite exhaustive scrubbing. When he directed himself around the house, Worm watched the room shift and move, as if his glass cage was travelling through it. And yet he knew the lie. The room didn’t exist, house neither, the woman who lived there, nor the job miles away his glass cage travelled to. The bills never ended, debts neither. His paycheck fed him enough to feel like starving. Food crossed the glass only by transforming the brown mud at his feet into the shape of food. It still tasted like shit.
No matter what occurred out there beyond the walls of his prison, Worm knew it was a lie. The greatest deception. He took out the trash, anyways, knowing it’d be full the moment he returned to the house. So he borrowed and hid again, closing his eyes. A thousand years he repeated this routine.
The devil had Worm and this was hell.
The images beyond the glass were only the false carrot of hope and Worm knew if he ever gave in, ever believed it for a second, he’d get the stick.

Thanks to everyone who participated! For all others, if you sign up for a slot in July or August’s workshop, you will get your choice of a free ebook from my catalogue! 10 slots remain in each and publishable work has come out of each, so hope to see you in July or August.