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Shrubberies (for Joe Pulver)

Shrubberies
For Joe Pulver

I’ve seen the man eat shrubberies,
Pulling one,
Then another from a pill bottle,
Pop them into his hoary maw,
Some kind of anti-Lorax,
Masticating, molar-grinding,
Felling tiny trees.
“You know that’s less effective,”
I say, understanding a thing
About pain management.
“Combustion is key.” He grins,
Flecks of green revealed
Inbetwixt expatriate teeth.
“Cest n’est pas une pipe,”
He murmurs. I suggest a beercan,
Crushed & punched, a lighter,
Hot knives. He laughs,
Drops a tiny Christmas tree
Into my palm, closes
My fingers around it.
And what do I do?
I eat the damned thing.
And I dream…

{Frank Sinatra, “Some Enchanted Evening”; Charles Mingus, “The Clown”; Thelonious Monk Quartet, “Monk’s Dream”}

XPulver!

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The Return of #FeedCthulhu / Saying Thanks

One week from today is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday which we celebrate by gathering together, sharing food, and saying thanks. This year, I’ve got a lot to be thankful for, because you’ve helped Word Horde succeed in its most ambitious year yet. We published five books this year: Molly Tanzer’s weird western, Vermilion; Nicole Cushing’s ultra-dark delve, Mr. Suicide; Orrin Grey’s captivating collection, Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts, and the anthologies Giallo Fantastique and Cthulhu Fhtagn! So, to celebrate this success, and to give back, I’ve decided it’s time for The Return of #FeedCthulhu.

In 2011, when my first anthology, The Book of Cthulhu, was published, I challenged readers to make a donation to a local food charity, and to share news of that donation on Twitter, using the hashtag #FeedCthulhu. That year, we raised several hundred dollars in pledges across the country to local food banks and homeless shelters. In 2012, to accompany the publication of The Book of Cthulhu 2, we repeated the challenge, raising over a thousand dollars worth of pledges.

Thanksgiving may be the time to celebrate our prosperity and providence, but people still go hungry. And hunger sucks. So once again I’d like to challenge you to make a difference, by making a donation–no matter how small–to a food charity. This can be a local food bank, church, temple, mosque, coven, bin outside your grocery store, or national (or international) hunger relief organization. The organization doesn’t matter, so long as they’re feeding people. Once you do that, post the following on social media:

I fed Cthulhu [your donation] to [organization] #FeedCthulhu @lossrockhart

Don’t forget to include the hashtag (#FeedCthulhu) and my Twitter handle (@lossrockhart) so that I can see–and share–your post. Also, if you send a link to your post via email to publicity[at]wordhorde[dot]com, in return for your generosity, I’ll send you the ebook of my latest anthology, Cthulhu Fhtagn!. Just let me know if you’d prefer ePub, mobi, or PDF format. I’ll be checking social media for the hashtag, and on December 1, I’ll be selecting three random posters, who will receive a personalized autographed copy of Cthulhu Fhtagn!

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“Pie is my favourite dessert, and blueberry (for summer) and mince (for winter) are my preferred kinds—with apple as a good all-year-round third. Like to take vanilla ice cream with apple and blueberry pie.” –H. P. Lovecraft to Robert E. Howard (7 November 1932)

And for dessert, I’d also like to say thanks to you by making you a special offer. Place an order with Word Horde between now and the end of November, use the coupon code THANKS, and take 20% off your purchase. It’s our way of saying “Thank you!” for a great year, and encouraging you to give Word Horde books to your cool friends this holiday season.

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Context: The Shoggoth in the Room

In 1975, a group of horror and fantasy fans and authors, frustrated that the Hugo Awards focused on the whizz-bang of rockets and rayguns rather than the subtle chill and grotesque strangeness of their preferred end of the genre swimming pool, founded their own convention and award: the World Fantasy Convention and the World Fantasy Award. For the award itself, they chose a bust of pulp fantasist H. P. Lovecraft, sculpted by cartoonist and author Gahan Wilson to resemble a grotesque, primitive, pagan idol: The Howard. This wasn’t an arbitrary choice, but a nod to an inspirational figure central to their fandom, and a personal correspondent to some of the first recipients of the award, including Robert Bloch and Fritz Leiber. Others had connections to the Lovecraft-centric publisher, Arkham House (Ray Bradbury, Lee Brown Coye, Donald M. Grant). The first few World Fantasy Award winners for best novel were Patricia A. McKillip, Richard Matheson, William Kotzwinkle, Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock, Elizabeth A. Lynn, Gene Wolfe, John Crowley, Michael Shea, and John M. Ford. Over the last forty years, the World Fantasy Award has come to be considered one of the most prestigious awards in the genre field.

Social mores evolve over time, and while Lovecraft is still an inspiring figure central to Weird and fantastic fiction, many of his personal views on race, not uncommon in a time before the Civil Rights movement, mass communication, and the end of Jim Crow laws, feel repugnant when viewed through a twenty-first-century lens. And though it may be easy to dismiss Lovecraft’s racism as simply a product of its time, Lovecraft was somewhat of an overachiever, not quite to the point of donning a white hood and burning crosses, but certainly allowing sentiments of white supremacy and non-white inferiority to inform his fiction, poetry, and letters. And yet, Lovecraft and the Weird Fiction movement were contemporary to the Harlem Renaissance, with such works as W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Gift of Black Folk, Wallace Thurman’s The Blacker the Berry, and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes were Watching God all written and published during the same period Lovecraft was writing and publishing his weird tales of Cthulhu, Azathoth, and Nyarlathotep. Between 1924 and 1926, when Lovecraft lived in New York City, Louis Armstrong and Fletcher Henderson played at the Roseland Ballroom, jazz was showcased at Aeolian Hall, and the Savoy Ballroom opened. Lovecraft was likely unaware of these literary and musical movements, but it is fascinating to realize that while Lovecraft penned “The Shunned House,” “The Horror at Red Hook,” “He,” “In the Vault,” and “Cool Air,” a few blocks away, the world was changing.

I discovered Lovecraft’s fiction around 1980, initially through the Dungeons and Dragons book Deities and Demigods. And this discovery led to a lifelong fascination with the Old Man of Providence and his work. I’ve written about this extensively in the introductions to the three volumes of Lovecraft-inspired fiction I’ve edited, The Book of Cthulhu, The Book of Cthulhu II, and Cthulhu Fhtagn! On some levels, I think of Lovecraft as a difficult uncle, admirable, yet repellent. Inspiring, yet frustrating. I own T-shirts with the man’s image on them. Books by, about, and inspired by Lovecraft line my shelves. A rubbing of his gravestone hangs in my office (a gift from a friend). But these are conversation starters, and I am quick to talk about the love/hate aspect of my relationship with H.P.L., as a fan of his work, as a creator inspired by his oeuvre, but as a human being frustrated by his racism and xenophobia.

Photo by Scott Nicolay

Which brings me back to the shoggoth in the room: The World Fantasy Award. A few years ago, I worked for a World Fantasy Award-winning small-press publisher. I regularly admired the Howard, as it sat, gathering dust on the company owner’s neglected fireplace, and I said to myself, “I’m going to win one of those some day.” Not for the sake of Lovecraft, per se, but for the recognition and accomplishment of achieving one of the highest honors in the Weird Fiction field. For putting together stand-out fiction. For breaking the mold. For bringing diverse authors together to entertain, enlighten, and uplift. With the announcement this past weekend that the World Fantasy Award committee would be changing from Lovecraft to a less-offensive trophy, starting next year, that personal goal must change, but then, if I stuck to every childish goal, I’d likely be a railroad engineer today. I understand and appreciate what the World Fantasy Awards is doing by changing the award. They are not bowing to pressure. They are not being bullied by Social Justice Warriors. They are not caving. They are moving into the twenty-first century. They are demonstrating that racism ends with us.

This week, people who should know better are throwing tantrums. Some are returning their Howards to the WFC committee. Some are threatening boycotts. Some are making short-sighted, hateful statements. They need to grow up.

Photo by Scott Nicolay. #BlackLivesMatter

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Word Horde Pitch Sessions at the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival and CthulhuCon

As posted as Word Horde:

Have you enjoyed reading recent Word Horde novels such as J. M. McDermott’s We Leave Together, Molly Tanzer’s Vermilion, and Nicole Cushing’s Mr. Suicide? Are you looking forward to collections like Orrin Grey’s Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts and Livia Llewellyn’s Furnace: Stories? Have you written a novel (or long novella) that you think might be a fit for Word Horde? Or would you just like the chance to ask a professional editor a few questions? Are you attending next weekend’s H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival and CthulhuCon in Portland, OR? Now’s your chance to sign up for a one-on-one pitch session with Word Horde’s editor in chief, Ross E. Lockhart. On Saturday, October 3 between 12 pm and 2 pm, Ross will be listening to pitches and looking for the next break-out hit book. Only a limited number of slots are available, and those slots are going on a first come, first served, basis. Interested pitchers should send an email to submissions[at]wordhorde[dot]com. We’re looking forward to hearing your pitch! Sign up today!

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What we’re looking for: Intelligent, adult-oriented fantasy and horror novels, not necessarily in the Lovecraftian tradition, where the writing is excellent and the ideas are fresh. We are not currently looking for Young Adult, superhero, or anthology pitches. Short fiction pitches for in-progress anthologies will be considered.

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Giallo Fantastique

My latest anthology, Giallo Fantastique, is out now. As we say on the back of the book, Giallo Fantastique is “An anthology of original strange stories at the intersection of crime, terror, and supernatural fiction. Inspired by and drawing from the highly stylized cinematic thrillers of Argento, Bava, and Fulci; American noir and crime fiction; and the grim fantasies of Edgar Allan Poe, Guy de Maupassant, and Jean Ray, Giallo Fantastique seeks to unnerve readers through virtuoso storytelling and startlingly colorful imagery.”

With stories by authors Adam Cesare, Orrin Grey, Nikki Guerlain, Brian Keene, John Langan, E. Catherine Tobler, and more, Giallo Fantastique will take you on a wild, cinematic ride.

KatieW

Here’s what the critics are saying:

“Lockhart translates giallo fantastique as weird crime, and each story, while very different in style and tone, melds crime and supernatural horror with panache and verve. […] The stories’ conclusions are never definitive, leaving the reader with a delicious sense of lingering unease.” —Publishers Weekly

“A lavish, sumptuous tapestry of luxurious surrealism and strangeness.” –Christine Morgan, The Horror Fiction Review

“…ultimately satisfying, with a few tales that skirt tantalizingly close to brilliance.” –Mer Whinery, Muzzleland Press

Ashleigh

If you’re in the North Bay Area, I’ll be officially launching Giallo Fantastique at Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma this Wednesday, May 20, at 7 pm. I’ll be talking about Word Horde, the origins of the anthology, and reading a story or two. Come on by and say hello if you can. And if you RSVP, you can save 20% on the book the night of the event.

Ask for Giallo Fantastique by name wherever better books are sold.

And a big shout-out and a round of applause to our two Final Girls, Katie Wigglesworth and Ashleigh Rose Walker.

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The Children of Old Leech Nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award

It is with pleasure and gratitude that we announce the following: The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron has been nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award. Needless to say, we are over the moon.

SJA_9781939905079_covSM

It requires an army of people to put together an anthology like The Children of Old Leech, so a huge THANK YOU! goes out to the following: Co-editor Justin Steele; authors Allyson Bird, Jesse Bullington, Michael Cisco, Jesse James Douthit-Nicolay, Gemma Files, Richard Gavin, J. T. Glover, Cody Goodfellow, T.E. Grau, Orrin Grey, Michael Griffin, Stephen Graham Jones, John Langan, Daniel Mills, Scott Nicolay, Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., Molly Tanzer, Jeffrey Thomas, and Paul Tremblay; copyeditor Marty Halpern; hardcover artist/designer Matthew Revert; softcover artist Dalton Rose; softcover designer Scott R. Jones; and, of course, Laird Barron, for letting all of us play in his universe. Thanks also to all of you who purchased the book (and other Word Horde titles), and to all of the readers and reviewers who have taken the time to recommend the book to others. Thanks to the Shirley Jackson Awards Board of Directors and jurors. And thanks to everyone who shared a toast to Old Leech with us back when we launched the book. Cheers!

JustinLeechWhiskeyCigar

Read the full list of nominees here: http://www.shirleyjacksonawards.org/nominees/

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Cthulhu Fhtagn! Table of Contents Reveal!

485px-Cthulhu_sketch_by_Lovecraft

This August, the stars will be right. Cthulhu Fhtagn! Weird Tales Inspired by H. P. Lovecraft will be unleashing cosmic horror onto an unsuspecting–but deserving–world, just in time to commemorate H. P. Lovecraft’s 125th birthday. In the next few weeks, we’ll be revealing the cover and opening up pre-orders, so that you can bring this monster home, but today, as promised, here’s the full Table of Contents:

Cthulhu Fhtagn!
Table of Contents

Introduction: In His House at R’lyeh… – Ross E. Lockhart
The Lightning Splitter – Walter Greatshell
Dead Canyons – Ann K. Schwader
Delirium Sings at the Maelstrom Window – Michael Griffin
Into Ye Smoke-Wreath’d World of Dream – W. H. Pugmire
The Lurker In the Shadows – Nathan Carson
The Insectivore – Orrin Grey
The Body Shop – Richard Lee Byers
On a Kansas Plain – Michael J. Martinez
The Prince of Lyghes – Anya Martin
The Curious Death of Sir Arthur Turnbridge – G. D. Falksen
Aerkheim’s Horror – Christine Morgan
Return of the Prodigy – T.E. Grau
The Curse of the Old Ones – Molly Tanzer and Jesse Bullington
Love Will Save You – Cameron Pierce
Assemblage Point – Scott R. Jones
The Return of Sarnath – Gord Sellar
The Long Dark – Wendy N. Wagner
Green Revolution – Cody Goodfellow
Don’t Make Me Assume My Ultimate Form – Laird Barron

Photo: H. P. Lovecraft’s own depiction of Cthulhu.

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Strike a blow for the small press by nominating Word Horde authors for a Hugo Award

The nomination period in this year’s Hugo Awards will be closing on March 10, 2015, and while I’m under no illusions that my scrappy, horror-and-fantasy small-press, Word Horde, will be bringing home a rocket, I can dream. And if you share that dream, whether you’re a Social Justice Warrior or a Sad Puppy, and are a voting member of the 2014, 2015, or 2016 Wordcons, I do hope that you’ll consider the following choices as you finalize your ballot.

moon

The Worldcon 2015 ballot is available here: http://sasquan.org/hugo-awards/nominations/

Best Novel:

We Leave Together, by J. M. McDermott

Best Related Work (as there is no Hugo anthology category):

The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron

Best Novelette:

“Of a Thousand Cuts,” Cody Goodfellow, TCoOL
“Love Songs from the Hydrogen Jukebox” T.E. Grau, TCoOL
“Ymir,” John Langan, TCoOL
“Tenebrionidae,” Scott Nicolay and Jesse James Douthit Nicolay, TCoOL

Best Short Story:

“The Golden Stars at Night,” Allyson Bird, TCoOL
“Learn to Kill,” Michael Cisco, TCoOL
“The Harrow,” Gemma Files, TCoOL
“The Old Pageant,” Richard Gavin, TCoOL
“Pale Apostle,” J. T. Glover and Jesse Bullington, TCoOL
“Walpurgisnacht,” Orrin Grey, TCoOL
“Firedancing,” Michael Griffin, TCoOL
“Brushdogs,” Stephen Graham Jones, TCoOL
“The Woman in the Wood,” Daniel Mills, TCoOL
“The Last Crossroads on a Calendar of Yesteryears,” Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., TCoOL
“Good Lord, Show Me the Way,” Molly Tanzer, TCoOL
“Snake Wine,” Jeffrey Thomas, TCoOL
“Notes for ‘The Barn in the Wild’,” Paul Tremblay, TCoOL

Best Professional Editor, Short Form:

Ross E. Lockhart

Best Professional Artist:

Julien Alday
Matthew Revert
Dalton Rose

Best Fanzine:

The Arkham Digest

Best Fan Writer:

Justin Steele, “Introduction: Of Whisky and Doppelgängers,” TCoOL, The Arkham Digest

Should you be nominating/voting in the Hugo Awards, I would be happy to send you an electronic copy of The Children of Old Leech or We Leave Together by email, provided you drop me a line with proof of membership. And thanks for supporting Word Horde and helping us continue bringing you the best independent fiction out there.

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Giallo Fantastique: Cover and TOC Reveal

Coming May 15, 2015 from Word Horde: Giallo Fantastique

GialloFantastique_TPB_FC_005

An anthology of original strange stories at the intersection of crime, terror, and supernatural fiction. Inspired by and drawing from the highly stylized cinematic thrillers of Argento, Bava, and Fulci; American noir and crime fiction; and the grim fantasies of Edgar Allan Poe, Guy de Maupassant, and Jean Ray, Giallo Fantastique seeks to unnerve readers through virtuoso storytelling and startlingly colorful imagery.

What’s your favorite shade of yellow?

Table of Contents

Introduction • Ross E. Lockhart
Minerva • Michael Kazepis
In the Flat Light • Adam Cesare
Terror in the House of Broken Belles • Nikki Guerlain
The Strange Vice of ZLA-313 • MP Johnson
Sensoria • Anya Martin
The Red Church • Orrin Grey
Balch Creek • Cameron Pierce
Hello, Handsome • Garrett Cook
We Can Only Become Monsters • Ennis Drake
The Threshold of Waking Light • E. Catherine Tobler
The Communion of Saints • John Langan
Exit Strategies • Brian Keene

Cover art by David Palumbo
Cover design by Scott R. Jones

Coming May 15, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-939905-06-2
Preorder soon at Word Horde

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The Children of Old Leech: Afterword

Today brings the final installment in our series of excerpts from The Children of Old Leech. We hope you’ve enjoyed these excerpts as much as we’ve enjoyed bringing them to you, and we sincerely hope that we’ve persuaded you to pick up a copy of The Children of Old Leech for yourself. And while this round is over, we will be back with more samples of Word Horde books, photos, reviews, and previews, so we would encourage you to stay tuned. So with the melancholic sense of a journey’s impending conclusion, but no regrets, we bring you a look behind the curtain with co-editor/publisher Ross E. Lockhart’s “Afterword.”

Ross

One of my first gigs in this crazy business we call publishing was writing the flap copy for the hardcover edition of Laird Barron’s first collection, The Imago Sequence. As I recall, I got paid in books for this, which is fine because I’d likely have spent any monetary compensation on books anyhow.

The Imago Sequence blew me away. I was already fairly well versed in the weird tale, and in the typical tropes associated with Lovecraftian pastiche, but Barron’s approach did something unexpected with the form, fusing the strangeness of supernatural horror with the stark naturalism of Jack London (whose “To Build a Fire” Barron himself classifies as Cosmic Horror), daring to deliver something different, a high-stakes carnivorous cosmos populated with tough, rugged protagonists more accustomed to inhabiting hard-boiled tales of crime or espionage than Lovecraft’s prone-to-fainting academics. Through this (at the time) unlikely combination, Barron managed to, in the words Ezra Pound once pinched from a Chinese emperor’s bathtub, “make it new.”

One does not read a Laird Barron story so much as one experiences it in a visceral manner. A tale like “Shiva, Open Your Eye” strips away a reader’s reason, flaying him, leaving him floating in the primordial jelly, innocent of coherent thought. “Hallucigenia” is, quite literally, a kick in the head. The painstaking noirish layering to be found in “The Imago Sequence” culminates in a ghastly, shuddering reveal of staggering proportions. And it is that sense of culmination one finds echoing throughout Laird Barron’s work, binding the whole together into a Pacific Northwest Mythos reminiscent of, but cut from another cloth entirely from, Lovecraft’s witch-haunted New England.

A handful of one-off copywriting gigs led to greater opportunities, and soon, I found myself working full-time for the publisher of The Imago Sequence, which led to my meeting Laird in the flesh at the World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga, NY. I found we shared a kindred spirit… and a taste for rare spirits and supernatural tales. Upon my return, I worked on the trade paperback edition of The Imago Sequence, and on Laird’s next collection, Occultation, where I not only wrote the jacket copy, but laid out the book, coordinated the production team working on it, supervised copyedits, approved those edits with Laird, and corrected the book (as a nod to Robert Bloch, I suppose you could refer to me as “The Man Who Corrected Laird Barron.”).

Shortly after Occultation landed, my wife and I embarked on a road trip up the West Coast, a drive where the scenery—stark mountains, tall trees, steep costal drop-offs—constantly reminded me of one Laird Barron story or another. Our journey brought us to Olympia, where we met Laird for lunch, talked martial arts and American literature, and I snapped a few photographs of Laird playing with our little dog, Maddie.

Somewhere along the line, both The Imago Sequence and Occultation managed to win Laird his first and second Shirley Jackson Awards, and I began working with Laird as editor of his first novel, The Croning, which he sent to me in bits and pieces over the course of a tough year, building it like a wall, brick by brick and layer by layer. With The Croning, Laird metaphorically opened a vein and bled words onto the page, and while a casual reader might not spot the author’s open wounds, the emotional wallop delivered by the book more than assures you that those wounds are not only there, but that they are raw.

I published Laird’s novella “The Men from Porlock” in my first anthology, The Book of Cthulhu, and his “Hand of Glory” in my second, The Book of Cthulhu II. And over the course of 2012, I worked on Laird’s third collection, The Beautiful Thing that Awaits Us All, reading stories as Laird finished them and sent them along. One of my favorites in the collection, the wickedly sardonic “More Dark,” managed to get me in trouble when I read it on my phone during a baseball game, prompting my wife to elbow me as I laughed—then shivered—at a situation that rode the train from bad to weird to worse to a downright Barronic level of darkness. The Beautiful Thing that Awaits Us All was the final project I worked on for its publisher, which might bring us full circle, were it not for the fact that this circle, like the sigil marking Moderor de Caliginis, is an open—and hungry—curve.

In 2013, I started my own publishing company, Word Horde, launching the press with Tales of Jack the Ripper, an anthology that included Laird Barron’s tour-de-force “Termination Dust,” a fractured narrative not only providing the thrills and chills expected from Barron’s oeuvre, but marking a new venue for his brand of cosmicism, a strange, savage, and sanguine land that Laird knows quite well… Alaska.

Not long after the publication of Tales of Jack the Ripper, Justin Steele, who had reviewed The Book(s) of Cthulhu and Tales of Jack the Ripper at his weird fiction website, The Arkham Digest, approached me suggesting this anthology. I receive—and say no to—a lot of anthology pitches, many of which are suggested as possible co-editorial projects, but I found the idea of honoring Laird, an author whose work has influenced and intersected with much of my professional career, irresistible. I approached Laird, asking for permission to let other authors play in his sandbox, and to my delight, Laird said yes. For that, Justin and I owe Laird a lifetime of gratitude. We immediately set to building a roster of our favorite authors, authors who we felt shared Laird’s vision of a ravenous universe, and an understanding of that terrible, beautiful thing that awaits us all.

There are no accidents ’round here. The editors of, and the authors included in, this volume have been inspired and affected by Laird Barron’s carnivorous cosmos. We’ve all gazed at mysterious holes, wondering where they lead. We’ve all found ourselves in conversation with a stranger, staring at a scar and wondering if it is, instead, a seam. We’ve all heard the voices whispering in the night, praising Belphegor, and saying, “We, the Children of Old Leech, have always been here. And we love you.”

The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron may be ordered directly from Word Horde or wherever better books are sold. Ask for The Children of Old Leech and other Word Horde titles at your favorite bookseller.

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