The Book of Pangloss

A Darkness Visible

The premiere anthology from Onotology Books, A Darkness Visible, has hit virtual shelves just in time for Halloween.

The anthology is a collection of postmodern horror. Sounds heavy, you say. What is “postmodern horror?”

Put simply, the fiction of A Darkness Visible plays with or overturns the conventions of both fiction itself — how it’s presented or by using nontraditional methods to communicate the narrative — as well as those of the horror genre.

A Darkness Visible includes my contribution, “The Book of Pangloss,” which is a piece of interactive fiction — what’s otherwise known as a choose-your-own-adventure story, complete with numbered passages that end in a decision to be made by the reader.

In the story, YOU are the defense attorney for an accused murderer. But is your client actually guilty? And what do the murders of three women have to do with a mysterious occult volume known as the Book of Pangloss?

Writing “Pangloss” checked off a box that’s long sat on my to-do list. Like other Gen Xers, I grew up on a heavy diet of CYOA paperbacks sourced from B. Dalton and Waldenbooks, with Fighting Fantasy being an absolute obsession that lasts to this day. I’d always wanted to write interactive fiction but could never find an appropriate market for it until the call for A Darkness Visible came around.

To write “Pangloss,” I used a freeware app called Twine and designed the story so that it stretched about 3,000 words long no matter which path the reader took. It was challenging but a blast to create, and the experience whet my appetite to write more CYOA.

A Darkness Visible is available now in paperback or as an e-book.

Write a Ghost Story With Me

This October I’ll be leading a 90-minute workshop on gothic fiction at the Mystic and Noank Library in Mystic, Connecticut.

The gothic is the past returning to haunt us in the present. Yet like vampires and werewolves, gothic stories can assume different shapes and forms: Bram Stoker’s Dracula involves a supernatural evil unleashed in contemporary England, while the narrator of Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” is haunted simply by his own guilt. In this workshop, join author and freelance writer Jackson Kuhl for an evening investigating the dark art of gothic fiction writing. We’ll look at some examples of classic gothic literature to inspire us, then brainstorm ideas, sketch a brief outline, and craft a piece of gothic flash fiction to take home.

Interested in attending? You can register at the library’s website. There’s no charge but it’s expected to fill up fast.

Bardot’s Wins Shirley Jackson Award

This past weekend, Professor Charlatan Bardot’s Travel Anthology to the Most (Fictional) Haunted Buildings in the Weird, Wild World won the 2021 Shirley Jackson Award for edited anthology.

The award was presented to editor Eric Guignard at the Boston Book Festival. Eric shared the award with Dave Ring, whose anthology Unfettered Hexes: Queer Tales of Insatiable Darkness also won.

Bardot’s Travel Anthology is presented as a guidebook edited by world traveler and occult expert Charlatan Bardot. My story, “A Tour of the Ramses,” portrays a guide leading a walk through a former luxury hotel, now fallen into disrepair after a tragic history.

The book is an amazing production. It has incredible cover art. The interior presentation features maps which pinpoint the settings of the stories while pieces of flash fiction serve as palate cleansers between longer works. Even the font choices and all-around deco vibe make Bardot’s Travel Anthology wonderful to behold.

You can order a copy at Amazon or explore other buying options at Goodreads.

Congratulations Eric!

Love Letters to Poe, Volume Won

Love Letters to Poe, Volume I: A Toast to Edgar Allan Poe won the 2022 Saturday Visiter Award in the category of “Original Works Inspired by E.A. Poe’s Life and Writing.”

The award was presented to editor and publisher Sara Crocoll Smith at the International Edgar Allan Poe Festival & Awards in Baltimore this past weekend.

The nonprofit Poe Baltimore presents the Saturday Visiter Awards to recognize a new generation of artists continuing Edgar Allan Poe’s legacy in the arts and literature around the world. The awards are named after the prize won by a young Poe.

My story “An Incident on Mulberry Street” appeared in the anthology, which collected a year’s worth of contributions to Smith’s web publication Love Letters to Poe.

This is the first time an anthology I’ve appeared in has won an award. Eric Guignard’s Dark Tales of Lost Civilizations and Professor Charlatan Bardot’s Travel Anthology were both nominated for Stokers but didn’t win (although Bardot’s is currently up for a Shirley Jackson Award, which will be handed out later this month in Boston).

The second book in the series, Love Letters to Poe, Volume II: Houses of Usher, was published in August and includes my story, “The Last Stand of Sassacus House.”

You can grab a copy of Volume I here and Volume II here.

Congratulations Sara!

The Last Stand of Sassacus House

Love Letters to Poe Volume 2: Houses of Usher

Because the first was so nice we had to do it twice, Love Letters to Poe, Volume II: Houses of Usher is available today.

The anthology features 19 short stories and 11 poems of the Gothic and macabre inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s 1839 story, “The Fall of the House of Usher.”

My contribution, “The Last Stand of Sassacus House,” revolves around one man’s greed not for a house but rather for its absence:

Rueben Tolbridge coveted Sassacus House long before he coveted the woman who owned it. For years Tolbridge slowed his shay past the old Sassacus place in admiration — not for the ramshackle manor itself but rather for its position high above the gray waters of the Sound. Set back from the road, partially screened by tall weeds and braided tree limbs, it staggered his imagination that no one bothered to knock down the decrepit structure and develop the parcel.

Whoever took the trouble of clearing its overgrown acres, Tolbridge told himself, could build the mansion of his dreams, a magnificent home to spoil its owner, then net him a sizable profit when he sold it. If he sold it, and didn’t live out his life there.

Love Letters to Poe, Volume II: Houses of Usher is available in ebook, paperback, hardcover, and large-print formats.

Houses of Usher is the second volume of Poe tribute fiction by editor Sara Crocoll Smith. Meanwhile, the initial entry has been nominated for a Saturday Visiter Award in the category of “Original Works Inspired by E.A. Poe’s Life and Writing.” The winner will be announced in October at the International Edgar Allan Poe Festival & Awards in Baltimore, MD.

The Half That Matters

A little diversion of mine appears in the latest issue of the Australian anthology series Thuggish Itch.

Titled “The Half That Matters,” it’s a story of two fellows on an unsavory errand to dispose of something into the sea.

This one’s a favorite. Not only is it the first time my fiction has been published south of the equator (some of my nonfiction was reprinted in Oz years ago), but it’s also the first time I’ve published a piece of flash fiction.

I wrote “Half” almost back-to-back with “A Tour of the Ramses,” which appears in Professor Charlatan Bardot’s Travel Anthology to the Most (Fictional) Haunted Buildings in the Weird, Wild World. Both stories use a similar first-person perspective in which the action is verbally narrated to an audience, but in the case of “Half,” the narrator is even less trustworthy.

Some of the setting’s description is based upon a real place. There’s a hike I enjoy along a sea wall to a lonely peninsula which terminates in an automated lighthouse. I almost never meet anyone out there except for the peninsula’s inhabitants: a handful of feral cats who live among the rocks and dunes. Occasionally schools of bunker (menhaden) are stranded by the ebb tide on the beach’s mud flats, creating a feast for the cats; meanwhile pools of rainwater collect in the natural bowls of the landscape.

The cats and I observe each other from a safe distance, neither sure about the other. I suspect they live better lives than some humans.

You can pick up Thuggish Itch: By the Seaside over on Amazon.