Corpse ExhibitionBefore tak­ing out his knife, he said, “After study­ing the client’s file, you must sub­mit a brief note on how you pro­pose to kill your first client and how you will dis­play his body in the city. But that doesn’t mean that what you pro­pose in your note will be approved…”

So begins the title story, a sur­real and har­row­ing tale of mur­ders care­fully crafted and art­fully dis­played to evoke max­i­mum hor­ror. The nar­ra­tor of the tale is inter­view­ing for the posi­tion of assas­sin, with the caveat that his vic­tims must be posi­tioned in eye-​catching and mem­o­rable ways. Fail­ure to live up to the job descrip­tion can only end in a grisly demise.

Blasim is a writer and film­maker who fled per­se­cu­tion under Sad­dam Hus­sein in 1998 and now lives in Fin­land. The Corpse Exhi­bi­tion is a graphic and Kafkaesque look at a night­mare world of feral young men groomed to be gang­sters and killers, doomed fam­i­lies, des­per­ate sur­vivors, and death at its most grue­some and meaningless.

In “The Song of Goats”, the nar­ra­tor finds him­self com­pet­ing with other would-​be con­tes­tants to see who can tell the most hor­rific story and win a place on a radio game show. Shock fol­lows absur­dity as the hap­less nar­ra­tor vies to come up with the most appalling tale, while another con­tes­tant grum­bles, “That’s a story? If I told my story to a rock, it would break its heart.”

The Mad­man of Free­dom Square” chron­i­cles the mir­a­cle of two young blond men who appear in the wretched Dark­ness Dis­trict and rejuvinate the squalid neigh­bor­hood. After their dis­ap­pear­ance, a bloody bat­tle ensues between the gov­ern­ment and the locals over the fate of the stat­ues erected to honor them.

The col­lec­tion con­cludes with “The Night­mare of Car­los Fuentes”, in which an Iraqui escapes to Hol­land and does his best to embrace his new life and good for­tune, but pon­ders the stark dif­fer­ences between his life then and now. “Why can’t we be peace­ful like them?…Why do they respect dogs as much as humans? Why do we mas­tur­bate twenty-​four hours a day?” There is, how­ever, no refuge from the night­mares and Car­los Fuentes soon learns that there’s more to escap­ing one’s past than just geography.

The Corpse Exhi­bi­tion is by no means an easy read. Blasim piles hor­ror upon hor­ror. But clearly the author writes with the author­ity of expe­ri­ence. Beneath the often fan­tas­ti­cal nar­ra­tive is a vivid and sober­ing look into a world most of us know only from the head­lines and the evening news.

horror in exotic landsOver­look Con­nec­tion Press pub­lisher Dave Hinch­berger is giv­ing away two copies of the lim­ited edi­tion of Fatal Jour­neys! To be in the run­ning just post a review of the book on Fatal Jour­neys’ Face­book and Ama­zon pages. You will authomat­i­cally be entered in a lot­tery to win one of the two lim­ited edi­tions being given away.

The lim­ited edi­tion includes:

*“Wing­less Beasts”, a bonus story, never-​before-​pubished and mak­ing its first appear­ance in this signed lim­ited edition

*Orig­i­nal cover foil-​stamped design by noted hor­ror and dark fan­tasy artist Glenn Chad­bourne, who cre­ated new art for the front and back of this edition

*Sig­na­tures by Lucy Tay­lor, Jack Ketchum, and Glenn Chadbourne

*Fron­tispiece by Bill Munster

*Bound-​in silk bookmark

There are only two hun­dred copies of the lim­ited edi­tion avail­able, so write a review and get one for free!

Yesterday’s newslet­ter went out with Terry M. West’s novel incor­rectly referred to as “Hor­ror” in the Magic Now rather than HEROIN IN THE MAGIC NOW.

Heroin-In-the-Magic-NowEven with­out the vam­pires, zom­bie whores, and a Frankenstein-​esque crime king, the life of film­maker and drug addict Gary Hack would be the stuff of nightmares.

Once an ambi­tious, aspir­ing writer, Gary dwells in a squalid limbo of heroin addic­tion, self-​pity, and self-​destruction. When he’s not feed­ing his habit, his life cen­ters around mak­ing porn films, occa­sion­ally bick­er­ing with a bit­ter ex-​wife, and won­der­ing why even on a diet of heroin, he still man­ages to be fat.

Bad luck and worse choices seem to dog him, begin­ning as a school boy who earned the label of ‘deviant’ when he drew a pic­ture of the devil with ‘tits and a penis’ and earned a beat­ing from his mom.

That lit­tle episode, fre­quently recalled when the adult Gary is deep in a drug-​induced haze, has set the tra­jec­tory for a life mired in drugs, porn, and the myr­iad degra­da­tions of life shared with the mon­sters that inhabit West’s bleak and seedy ver­sion of New York City.

No ques­tion but Heroin in the Magic Now is a grip­pingly twisted saga, in which a world full of mon­sters is the new real­ity – home­less zom­bies scrounge in alley­ways, vam­pires prowl the boule­vards, and shapeshifters aspire to be porn stars. A bleaker, more soul-​crushing world would be hard to imag­ine: “Some days, Gary felt like the crea­tures were merely haunt­ing his head in a meta­phys­i­cal way and he could bury them if he quit his addic­tions, but every­one around him seemed to be in a quandary about the mon­sters and their rights and the dark impact they were having…the mon­sters were everywhere.”

An accom­plished author, film­maker, artist, and actor, West depicts this macabre world with style and dark humor. The impact is height­ened by the intro­duc­tion, in which West makes clear that Gary Hack’s demons have been his own,too, and that the most ter­ri­ble mon­sters are not the ones stalk­ing the night, but those lodged in the human heart.

free story from collection Fatal-JourneysSea­sick and shiv­er­ing, Thomas Blacks­burg peered out from beneath the orange life boat canopy, watch­ing help­lessly as the pow­er­ful Benguela cur­rent swept him north up the coast of Namibia. For hours, he’d been within sight of the Skele­ton Coast, that sav­age, wave-​battered por­tion of the West African shore stretch­ing between Angola to the north and Swakop­mund to the south.

Through ghostly fil­a­ments of fog that drifted around the boat, Blacks­burg could make out the dis­tant shore and the camel’s back out­line of tow­er­ing, buff-​colored dunes. To his hor­ror, the land appeared to be reced­ing. Hav­ing been brought tan­ta­liz­ingly close to sal­va­tion, the cur­rent was now tug­ging him back out into the fierce Atlantic.”

Thus begins “Nik­ishi”, one of the sto­ries in my new col­lec­tion Fatal Jour­neys. To cel­e­brate the launch of the book, I’m pub­lish­ing the entire story on the home page of my website.

Just go to www​.dark​fan​tasy​.us to read the entire tale!

Descansos in New MexicoDes­can­sos– in New Mex­ico you see them every­where – along major high­ways and nar­row coun­try roads, at the inter­sec­tion of city streets and in lonely niches along dusty, unpaved lanes. They’re the road­side shrines mark­ing the place where some­one has died sud­denly and vio­lently, often a long way from home, and they serve as both a memo­ri­al­iza­tion of the deceased and a warn­ing to remem­ber the fragility and imper­ma­nence of life.

In span­ish, the word ‘des­canso’ means respite or rest­ing place. Years ago, when the cof­fin was often car­ried from the church to the grave­yard, the bear­ers would have to set it down at some point and rest. The spot was then marked with a cross or ‘descanso’.

Many des­can­sos con­sist of a cross with flow­ers, pho­tographs, per­haps a stuffed ani­mal of a statue of the deceased’s favorite saint. Some shrines are lov­ingly tended; oth­ers are neglected and over­grown with weeds.

To me, the des­can­sos are poignant and haunt­ing, a reminder that death can come at any hour, in the moment we least expect it. They’re the memento mori of the New Mex­i­can road­side. Their pres­ence carves out a sacred space and a pil­grim­age site for fam­i­lies and friends of the departed.

Almost invari­ably, the des­can­sos face the high­way, so those speed­ing past can catch a glimpse of the spot where some­one died. I always notice them,and I won­der about the per­son who died there, what hap­pened, and who vis­its the des­canso to mourn.

For a few miles at least, I drive a lit­tle slowler and appre­ci­ate my life a lit­tle bit more.


I don’t read enough sci­ence fiction.

Not nearly. Espe­cially sci­ence fic­tion writ­ten by women.

Until the other day, though, when I read the June issue of “Light­speed Mag­a­zine”, this wasn’t a topic that con­cerned me.

That’s because I didn’t real­ize what I was miss­ing. Now I do. “Women Destroy Sci­ence Fic­tion!”, the June issue of “Light­speed”, is a project that was funded by more than two thou­sand back­ers on Kick­starter and put together by 109 women, includ­ing authors, essay­ists, illus­tra­tors, copy­ed­i­tors, blog­gers, and many others.

The idea of an issue devoted entirely to women in sci­ence fic­tion was con­ceived in part by “Light­speed” assis­tant edi­tor Christie Yant as a way to address the per­cep­tion that sci­ence fic­tion writ­ten by women is less “real” than that writ­ten by men. Author Pat Mur­phy pointed it out over 20 years ago in a speech in which she famously iden­ti­fied the atti­tude per­me­at­ing sci­ence fic­tion that essen­tially says, “Women don’t write sci­ence fic­tion.” Or, put in less p.c. terms, “Those damn women are ruin­ing sci­ence fiction.”

If ever such anti­quated ideas were finally shelved, it should be now, with this mas­ter­ful edi­tion of “Light­speed”. Sto­ries that stood out for me (and really all of them did!) include, “A Word Shaped Like Bones” by Kris Mil­ler­ing, in which a space trav­el­ing artist shares her tiny auto­mated space­ship with a dead man, a sit­u­a­tion made more ghastly when the arti­fi­cial grav­ity fails.

Cuts Both Ways” by Heather Clitheroe fea­tures an exhausted cyborg mak­ing a Christ­mas trip home whose inabil­ity to for­get the hor­rors he’s wit­nessed leaves him near collapse.

And in “Canth” by K.C. Nor­ton, the cap­tain of a run­away ship fol­lows her ves­sel, with the aid of some pirates, into the lair of the mys­te­ri­ous Sea Monk.

There’s also some won­der­ful flash fic­tion, includ­ing “The Mouths” by Ellen Den­ham, where glob­u­lous crea­tures receive sen­sory input through the crack­ers they con­stantly consume.

Along with the sto­ries, the issue includes arti­cles and inter­views rein­forc­ing the idea that wom­ens’ par­tic­i­pa­tion in sci­ence fic­tion con­tin­ues to expand in ways ben­e­fit­ting us all.

As Pat Mur­phy writes, “The sto­ries we read and the sto­ries we tell shape who we are.”

And with fifty per­cent of the world being female, now would be a good time to listen.

See the website »

I want to thank Michelle Augello-​Page for invit­ing me to par­tic­i­pate in “My Writ­ing Process Blog Tour.” To read Michelle’s insight­ful Q&A last week, click on http://​michel​leaugel​lopage​.word​press​.com/​2014​/​06​/​16​/​m​y​-​w​r​i​t​i​n​g​-​p​r​o​c​e​s​s​-​b​l​o​g​-​t​o​u​r​/

Q&A with Lucy Taylor

1) What am I work­ing on? I keep a num­ber of projects on the fire and go back and forth, which keeps me from get­ting bored. At the moment, I’m fin­ish­ing up a short story set in New Mex­ico that cen­ters around the des­can­sos, shrines that mark where peo­ple have been killed on the highway.

Cur­rently, I’m also help­ing edi­tor Dave Hinch­burger of The Over­look Con­nec­tion Press get the word out about my new book, a col­lec­tion of short sto­ries called FATAL JOUR­NEYS with a pub date of July 8, 14. It is a themed col­lec­tion about hor­ror in exotic places, and there’s a won­der­ful intro­duc­tion by acclaimed author Jack Ketchum. Four of these sto­ries have never before been pub­lished, includ­ing the novella “How Real Men Die”.

My long term project is a post-​apocalyptic novel with mul­ti­ple nar­ra­tors set in the west­ern U.S.

2) How does my work dif­fer from oth­ers of the genre? My writ­ing is a com­bi­na­tion of hor­ror, erot­ica and dark fan­tasy. I’ve been told some of my work has a Love­craft­ian bent, for exam­ple, the short story “Extremophiles”, from the heavy metal anthol­ogy AXES OF EVIL and the title story in my col­lec­tion THE SILENCE BETWEEN THE SCREAMS. At least as far as my fic­tion, I def­i­nitely see the cos­mos as a fun­da­men­tally hos­tile, irra­tional, and men­ac­ing place where often unseen forces of destruc­tion lurk just below the sur­face and where we humans, basi­cally, haven’t a clue.

There’s also a strong erotic ele­ment to my work, some of which might be con­sid­ered ‘wish ful­fil­ment’. The story “Sum­mer­land” from FATAL JOUR­NEYS falls into that category.

In gen­eral, though, I don’t like to focus too much on what genre I’m writ­ing in; I don’t really care much for labels, which I find very lim­it­ing. Let’s just say I write what comes nat­u­rally to me.

3) Why do I write what I do? Wow, what else could I write?! I love writ­ing that is dis­turb­ing and macabre. Dark­ness, be it of the cos­mos or the human soul, fas­ci­nates me. I still remem­ber the first time I read a hor­ror story. It was a copy of “Alfred Hitchcock’s Mys­tery Mag­a­zine” and I found it enthralling. Also, on a per­sonal level, my child­hood was pure South­ern Gothic. I was raised by a mother and grand­mother who, to put it kindly, lived in an alter­nate real­ity, a kind of folie a deux. I sur­vived by observ­ing, liv­ing in my head, and pro­tect­ing my inner self as best I could from the mad­house envi­ron­ment. There was a lot of fear, dread, and sur­pressed rage. Writ­ing dark fic­tion allows me to explore those feel­ings from a posi­tion of power. Play­ing God, after all, can be very satisfying.

As a writer of dark fic­tion, I’ve some­times com­pared my mind to a won­der­ful attic full of weird and creepy things to explore at my leisure. I’m never afraid of what I’ll find there and I never get tired of pok­ing and pry­ing around in the inter­est of cre­at­ing new sto­ries. It’s very liberating.

4) How does my writ­ing process work? Some ideas speak to me more lyri­cally and pow­er­fully than oth­ers. I get lots of ideas, but some­times I just know that a par­tic­u­lar one has to be turned into fic­tion. Some­times that hap­pens quickly, other times an idea ger­mi­nates for years. Occa­sion­ally a title comes to me that grabs my atten­tion so much that I have find a story to go with it. That was the case with “A Hairy Chest, A Big Dick, and a Harley”.

Another exam­ple: a cou­ple of years ago, I found out that a friend of mine sells fire­works every sum­mer lead­ing up to the Fourth of July. He’s in the fire­works tent 24/​7, sleep­ing on a cot, sell­ing fire­works at any hour of the day or night. For some rea­son, this struck me as an amaz­ing and slightly creepy thing to do, since I could only imag­ine who might be buy­ing fire­works at 3 a.m. I knew I had to use that idea some­how and it became “The High and Mighty and Me” from FATAL JOURNEYS.

As far as the prac­ti­cal side of the process, I’m a morn­ing per­son and like to write new mate­r­ial early in the day, then work on revis­ing, research, play­ing around with new plot ideas etc. later. I find that if the writ­ing side of my life is going well, then pretty much every­thing else is okay. If I’m not writ­ing, to say that I feel rest­less, irri­ta­ble, and dis­con­tent is putting it mildly.

Next week, June 30, 2014, “My Writ­ing Process Blog Tour” will con­tinue with Alex John­son, Sab­rina Kaleta, and Jim Goforth. For their view­points into the writ­ing life, visit the sites below.

Alex S. John­son is a col­lege Eng­lish instruc­tor cur­rently liv­ing in Sacra­mento, Cal­i­for­nia. His books include THE DEATH JAZZ, WICKED CANDY, and BAD SUN­SET. He is also the edi­tor of the AXES OF EVIL heavy metal hor­ror series. Read more about Alex S. John­son at http://​bizar​alex​.word​press​.com

Sab­rina Kaleta writes: “I am a poet, music jour­nal­ist, mother, per­for­mance artist, Doo-​Dah Queen, reluc­tant debu­tante, punk, host­ess, for­tune teller…all these labels might tell a bit of my story. As a poet, I have graced the stages of The Expresso Bar, The Old Towne Pub, Sam’s Book City, the Coconut Teazer, and High­land Grounds and have been pub­lished in Flip­side, Sat­ur­day After­noon Jour­nal, and Kether. Other pub­li­ca­tions include Gui­tar World, Metal Ham­mer, New Times, Dia­bo­lik, and BAM. In my Pasadena CA home, I con­tinue to try to ignore the out­side voices, have a good time, and cre­ate what I can. Visit Sab­rina Kaleta’s blog, House­hold Mantras, at www​.sabri​nakaleta​.tum​blr​.com

Jim Goforth has been writ­ing tales of hor­ror since the early 90’s. After years of detour­ing into work­ing with the extreme metal com­mu­nity and writ­ing reviews for hun­dreds of bands with Black Belle Music, he has returned to his writ­ing love with his first book PLEBS, pub­lished by J. Elling­ton Ash­ton Press. He has sto­ries in a cou­ple of antholo­gies with a col­lab­o­ra­tive novel and a col­lec­tion of his own short sto­ries to emerge in the com­ing months. To learn more about Jim Goforth, visit http://​jim​go​forth​hor​ro​rauthor​.word​press​.com/

how to raise a kid to be a horror writerI can see my grand­mother now, hawk-​eyed and hyper-​vigilant as she looks up from her evening paper in alarm and whis­pers to my mother, “Did you hear some­thing upstairs?”

As if on cue, my mother gets up, arms her­self with an umbrella (hers being a gen­er­a­tion of women that had not yet embraced the virtues of the semi-​automatic) and pro­ceeds up the stairs, to con­front what sort of ghastly fate one can only imag­ine. The first place she would check for an intruder would be under the bed (since we all know that’s where psy­cho killers, rapists, and bogey­men lie in wait for us all). As a young child, it never made sense to me – it seemed we should be run­ning out the front door rather than pok­ing umbrel­las into dan­ger­ous places.

As far as I know, my mother never found any­thing scarier than dust bun­nies under the bed, but this and far more out­ra­geous South­ern Gothic looni­ness laid for me a firm belief sys­tem that, beneath a super­fi­cial veneer of grim banal­ity, the world is actu­ally a mad­house of dan­ger and weird­shit deprav­ity, much of it lurk­ing just below the sur­face of one’s own fam­ily – even within one’s own mind!

Clearly the only rea­son­able voca­tion for a per­son raised in such a hot­house of creep­ing dread is that of hor­ror writer (or pos­si­bly stand-​up comic).

In a way, though, I know I received an inter­est­ing, if per­haps dubi­ous, bless­ing – the com­pul­sion to write hor­ror fic­tion. It’s all in my head any­way, why not put it on paper? I love hav­ing access to the bizarre and creepy fan­tasies within my own imag­i­na­tion. It’s like hav­ing a pri­vate attic full of won­drous mon­strosi­ties and dark gri­moires to explore and peruse at my leisure.

Which I’ve been doing for quite a few years now. When I wrote the novel THE SAFETY OF UNKNOWN CITIES, I got to explore extremes of erot­ica well beyond what I’ve known in real life. In the novella “Spree” I cre­ated a vengeance-​obsessed pro­tag­o­nist who acts on his fury in ways few sane peo­ple would ever resort to. And in the short story “Extremophiles” for the anthol­ogy AXES OF EVIL, my char­ac­ters find out the hard way what I already sus­pected a long time ago, that the world, in fact, the very cos­mos, is def­i­nitely out to get us.

Writ­ing about the lurid, the per­verse, the unspeak­able has a sur­pris­ing reward – it makes the real world with all its hor­rors seem safer, more man­age­able, and def­i­nitely, in a weird way, more fun!

Autumn in the Abyss by John Claude SmithWith AUTUMN IN THE ABYSS, John Claude Smith man­ages the rare feat of match­ing a lit­er­ary and, at times, lyri­cal voice with pull-​no-​punches sto­ry­telling and images graphic enough to make the more squea­mish reader shud­der. Make no mis­take, there’s gore here, but there’s also so much more.

The book is a themed col­lec­tion of five sto­ries, loosely linked by the theme of art and its poten­tial as a vehi­cle for both redemp­tion and self-​annihilation. In “La Mia Immor­talita” an ego-​driven sculp­tor for­feits his human­ity for the chance to cre­ate one superb and last­ing work – with hor­ri­fy­ing results. In “Bro­ken Teacup” a pair of depraved young film­mak­ers out to get rich mak­ing snuff flics learn the con­se­quences of their cho­sen path. “Autumn in the Abyss” chron­i­cles the narrator’s obses­sive quest to dis­cover the truth behind a lost beat poet’s mys­te­ri­ous disappearance.

Also link­ing the collection’s cen­tral theme is the engi­matic char­ac­ter of Mr. Liu, who inter­venes to bring bal­ance to a Uni­verse always lurch­ing toward chaos, and who acts as an inter­me­di­ary between the pathetic hubris and deprav­ity of humans and the admit­tedly slim, but still pos­si­ble, chance for redemption.

I enjoyed this book not just for the excel­lent writ­ing and finely crafted sto­ries, but above all for the ques­tions Smith seems to be explor­ing from many dif­fer­ent angles and the feel­ing that, how­ever hor­rific the images he paints, there is an under­ly­ing sense of a Uni­verse both sen­tient and, seem­ingly against all odds, not entirely unbenign.