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The Children of Old Leech: Excerpt: “The Harrow,” by Gemma Files

As you might have heard, we’ve got a new anthology landing July 15, The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron. Over the next few weeks, we thought we’d share a brief excerpt to preview each story. These will be dropping on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and start today with “The Harrow,” by Gemma Files

The earth is old and full of holes, Lydie Massenet’s mother used to say, at least once a day, back when she was still Lydie Pell. Its crust is thin, and underneath there’s nothing but darkness. A rind, that’s all we live on; just thin ice, waiting for it to thaw and crack. No need to dig, really—if they want to find you, they will. Never trust anything that comes out of a hole.

And: Okay, Mom, Lydie would say, the way her father had taught her to. That’s good. That’s fine. Then just smile and nod, all the time staring off at nothing much, something invisible—contemplating Mars, he called it—until her mother finally stopped talking.

You have to know this, Lydie, if nothing else, her mother told her. Darkness shifts, darkness conceals; it’s impossible to know what’s hiding inside it, no matter how hard you try. But if history teaches anything, it’s that what we don’t understand, we fear… and what we fear, eventually, we come to worship, if only to keep it in its rightful place. To make sure it doesn’t come after us.

Yes, Mom. Okay. Sure.

’Til, one day: Stop saying that, goddamnit! her mother yelled, and slapped Lydie across the face, so hard her glasses cracked in half. That was the day her father brought Doctor Russ home, the day before her mother went somewhere else—first for a rest, and then, after everything they did to her while she was there had utterly failed to make her well enough to come home again, to stay.

What’s wrong with her, Daddy? Lydie asked her father, at last, to which he only shook his head and sniffed, trying to pretend he hadn’t been crying.

Honey, I wish to God I knew, was all he said, in return. And hugged her a little too long, a little too tight.

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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What to Read in July

Have you been asking yourself “What am I going to read this July?” Barnes & Noble has you covered with this handy list of new releases, including Word Horde’s own The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron. Here’s what B&N blogger Paul Goat Allen has to say about the anthology in his recommendation:

A nightmare-inducing tribute to Laird Barron and his Carnivorous Cosmos, this stellar anthology features 17 original stories from some of weird fiction’s brightest stars—John Langan, Gemma Files, Jeffrey Thomas, Michael Cisco, and Paul Tremblay, to name just a few. You will look under the bed after finishing this creepy collection.

Check out the full list of awesome reads at this link. To order The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron from B&N, click here.

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Recent Reviews: The Children of Old Leech

We’ve been busy shipping preorder copies of the latest Word Horde anthology, The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron, and the book is starting to be spotted at retailers, e-tailers, and in the wild. It’s also been picking up some great reviews. You may have seen our previous round-up of the Publishers Weekly and Cthonic Matter reviews, but here are two more to add to the balefire.

We love you...

Scott R. Jones of Martian Migraine Press touches onto core fears in his review of The Children of Old Leech, sharing a chilling tale of a hollow tree in his detailed examination of stories by Gemma Files, Molly Tanzer, T.E. Grau, Richard Gavin, Paul Tremblay, Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., John Langan, and Cody Goodfellow, concluding: “Each is a class in storytelling, every one is entertaining, and every other one is thought provoking. Lockhart and Steele have a winner on their hands, I think; this is one I’ll keep coming back to, much as I do with Laird’s work. Reading TCoOL was like standing in that Tree beside that lake in the hills, up to my ankles in smoky rot and grey grubs, unable to move, while the sun dipped down to dusk. Recommended.” Read the full Martian Migraine Press review at this link.

Over at Betwixt Book Reviews, Benito Corral also digs deep, singling out tales by Gemma Files, Orrin Grey, Jeffrey Thomas, T.E. Grau, Michael Griffin, Cody Goodfellow, and John Langan, saying, “Each story in The Children of Old Leech leads you deeper and deeper into the ‘carnivorous cosmos’ of Laird Barron; all the authors here have crafted glorious tributes to the master, faithfully plumbing his Mythos to create a truly stunning collection.” The review concludes, “The Children of Old Leech is a triumph for Lockhart and Steele, and a tremendous gift for purveyors of dark fiction. Look for this volume to be on multiple ‘best of’ lists this year. Mr Barron would be proud!” Read the full Betwixt Book Reviews review at this link.

The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron is now shipping from Word Horde. Ask for the anthology and other fine Word Horde titles at your favorite bookseller.

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No Fault When Stars Grow Right

The other day at the bookstore, a woman came in to return a book. It was one of those ubiquitous Young Adult paranormal titles, with a matte black cover featuring colorful spot-gloss accents and a touch of gold foil on the title treatment, something dealing with destiny, and danger, and demons.

The woman had purchased this book for her granddaughter, who, after reading the back cover copy and part of the opening chapter, had decided that demons were entirely too scary for her worldview, and had instructed grandma to exchange the book and bring home something less terrifying: John Green’s
The Fault in Our Stars, which she referred to as “that Cancer Kids book.”

We had a chuckle over this, commiserating that, as rational-minded adults, cancer is far, far more terrifying than any number of fictional demons. After all, cancer has killed a number of my friends. Demons, on the other hand, shockingly few.

But since my stock in trade tends toward fictional demons, and monsters, and strange alien god-things threatening and terrifying humankind, the wheels started turning. The gears engaged. I considered H. P. Lovercraft’s stomach cancer, Brian Lumley’s story “The Big C” and Norman Spinrad’s “Carcinoma Angels,” rolling their ideas around in my head like scotch in a glass, examining the viscosity, the translucence, savoring the peaty, dank scents. Then, adding a few aromatic bitters culled from John Green’s
The Fault in Our Stars, the memories of friends lost to cancer, and a few ice cubes, wrote this…

No Fault When Stars Grow Right
(With Apologies to John Green)
Ross E. Lockhart

Late summer of the year I turned seventeen, my mother decided that I was depressed. The evidence was in her favor. I stayed home a lot, spent long hours in bed, reading the same book—a John Dee translation of the dread Necronomicon—again and again and again, and spent an awful lot of time worrying about the return of the Great Old Ones and the utter demise of the human race.

When one frequently reads of the dreadful things awaiting humanity in the latter days as stars grow right, depression comes with the territory. But then, so do madness, terror, existential angst, and, occasionally, religious fervor. But that is the cancer that eats at the soul of all human endeavor, the stultifying fear that we are only temporary things in a universe incapable of noticing, let alone acknowledging, our plight.

Mom decided that I needed treatment, so she took me to see my Regular Doctor Bob, who after talking with me for an hour or so about my cosmicist bent, put me on a more aggressive regimen of antidepressants (which I pocketed) and recommended that I begin attending a weekly Support Group.

This support group featured a veritable rogues’ gallery of depressed and disaffected teens, in various conditions of disarray and disheartenment. It was, I’m sure you understand, depressing as fuck. We would meet every Thursday night in the basement of an old Unitarian hall, now acting as Sabbath sanctuary for a group of fishy-smelling oldsters calling themselves the Esoteric Order of Dagon. We would sit in a rough circle in the dingy hall, where a giant, intersecting figure had been etched on the floor, looking sort of like two Christian fish symbols colliding in a massive eye, a two-tailed figure representing Mother Hydra, the all-seeing aquatic matriarch of the aforementioned New Aeon cult.

I remark on this because Sunand, the Support Group Leader and the lone so-called adult in the room, talked about the Eye of Mother Hydra every meeting, like some true believer on a door-to-door mission, with pamphlets. We mostly rolled our eyes as he testified, and I’d sit there, looking back and forth between my peers—wannabe vampires, burnouts, stoners, longhairs, parent-punchers, sex fiends, depressoids, readers, writers, and artists—and realize that each was as bored, and depressed, and doomed, as I. I thought of the Sword of Damocles hanging over each of our heads, as certain as a planet-killing comet or strange tentacled things crawling out of the sea, and fantasized about grasping that sword by its hilt and lopping off our Fearless Leader’s head mid-sentence, sending it rolling into the corner like a soccer ball into the net.

I SHOULD BE SO LUCKY!

Here’s how our typical Support Group meeting would go. A silly ritual, repeated week to week. Most of the time I’d only half pay attention. We would introduce ourselves: Name. Age. Malaise. I’m Asenath. I’m seventeen. I know that our species is doomed. But I keep showing up to these meetings, so I must be okay.

Thus begins the Great Big Circle Jerk of Support, as we go around the circle and each burnout takes their turn, sharing their own Special Snowflake reason their parents and/or doctors (or both) started dragging them to the Esoteric Order of Dagon Existential Angst Support Group. I ignored most of them, preferring to picture each with their brains boiling, dripping out of their gaping, open mouths, or devoured slowly by Giant Squid, or picked apart by strange, fungal beings from beyond the ex-planet Pluto. The one-upsmanship of their boasts, the endless unsuccessful suicide attempts, the cancerous rot of just soldiering on, living another day even though they were each doomed, all doomed.

The only redeeming aspect of the Support Group from Hell was Cioran, a tall, skinny, long-limbed kid with bulging eyes and long, dark lines on his neck. Cioran came from the East Coast, some flyover fishing town that the government had blown up in the nineteen-twenties. Gangsters, or bootleggers, or something. He’d breathe heavily through his mouth, and sigh loudly, often interrupting Sunand’s boring soliloquys on the greatness that is Mother Hydra. Cioran was a weird-looking kid, but there was something familiar, comforting, even, about his face, like a misremembered dream, so every week I’d move a chair closer to where he tended to sit, a silent game of musical chairs as I closed in on him like a predator.

The day finally came where I managed to grab the seat next to Cioran. I’d arrived early in anticipation, my pulse beating a rapid tattoo of anticipation over this gangly teenager I’d only spoken to from across the room. The others filtered in, taking seats, talking, laughing in spite of the inevitability of it all. Soon, Cioran grabbed his usual seat, giving me a quick second look and a brief smile. I met his eye, then looked down at his hands, clasped in his lap, noting the thick webbing between his fingers. The introductions began working their way along the circle, eventually coming to me.

I’m Asenath, I said. I’m seventeen. I know that our species is doomed. But I keep showing up to these meetings, so I must be okay.

Cioran, on my right, spoke next. I’m Cioran. I’m seventeen. I’ve got these vestigial gills on my neck. They showed up shortly after I turned sixteen. My parents and my doctor say I’m supposed to have surgery soon, have them removed, but I’ve been thinking about skipping out on that. Maybe hitting the road. Maybe returning to the sea.

My heart fluttered. My hand went up to my own neck, felt a trace, a ridge I’d never noticed before. Then another below it. And another. I gasped. Cioran kept talking.

I think Asenath is right. Signs and portents are coming to pass. There are stirrings in the deeps. Prophesies are being born out.

Humanity has long claimed the place of steward of the earth, caretaker. And yet we have been terrible caretakers, dumping endless rivers of crap into the sea, shearing forests, breeding like uncontrollable cancer cells. And maybe that’s what we are, a cancer eating its host. A cancer, dooming itself as it devours and grows and metastasizes. It’s not our fault, just our destiny.

I looked around the room. The half-dead, half-asleep eyes of our Support Group fellows bounced around lazily, unaware or uncaring of their ultimate fate. Sunand picked at something beneath his fingernail, yawned. Cioran talked on.

We are just the latest generation of carcinomatous cells, reproducing and dividing ad infinitum. Unaware of our malignancy. We fall. The Old Ones return. Chaos reigns. Inevitable.

I looked up at Ciroran and met his eyes. He was talking to me. Only to me. Looking back at me. Only me.

I reached out, took his hand in mine. Felt the webbing between his fingers, between my fingers.

And as I held his hand, above our heads the stars grew right, the eye of Mother Hydra blinked, and the end of the world began.

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My World Horror Convention 2014 Schedule

Next month, I’ll be returning to Portland, OR to attend the 2014 World Horror Convention. In addition to hitting the fun stuff like the Bram Stoker Awards Banquet, the Cthulhu Prayer Breakfast, and the ever-present BarCon, I’m participating in a handful of panels and even doing a Friday afternoon reading (odds are pretty good I’ll be reading “Folie a Deux,” from the latest issue of Strange Aeons Magazine, but I also take requests). And as per usual at conventions, if you’re interested in pitching me your killer idea in an elevator or the bar, I’m there to listen. But make it good.

Here’s my schedule…

Thursday, May 8

8:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Ross/Morrison
Panel: What Editors Want
(Paula Guran, Don D’Auria, Jeff Burk, Nick Mamatas, Ross Lockhart )
Professional editors offer their insights on their side of the publishing market: what sells, what grabs an audience, and what often crashes with the best of intentions.

9:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Ross/Morrison
Panel: Writing Characters That Come To Life On The Page
(Lisa Manetti, Kelli Owen, Jane Brooks, John Urbancik, Ross Lockhart)
How does a writer catch the most memorable aspects of themselves and others and weave them into a character readers can’t forget? Pro tips on breathing life into Pandora.

Friday, May 9

11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Sellwood
Panel: That Is Not Dead – H. P. Lovecraft’s Contributions To Modern Horror
(S.T. Joshi, W.H. Pugmire, Cody Goodfellow, Nick Mamatas, Ross Lockhart, Ellen Datlow)
Six of the Lovecraft Circle’s brightest lights explain the renaissance going on in the Cosmic Horror subgenre today, from ‘True Detective’ back to the Providence Spook’s own literary and anthropological influences.

1:30 PM – 2:00 PM
Hawthorne
Reading: Ross Lockhart

6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Willamette Foyer
Mass Autograph Signing (I’ll have a few copies of my books on hand to sell.)

Saturday, May 10

12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
Sellwood
Panel: Starving In Style: Surviving As A Small Press
(Cameron Pierce, Chris Morey, Steven Booth, Ross Lockhart, Loren Rhoads, Kate Jonez)
With the massive changes taking place in publishing today, the role of the small press has become larger and more of a game-changer. Warriors of the small press explain the best ways to survive in the trenches as an independent publisher.

1:00 PM – 2:00 PM
Ross/Morrison
Panel: How To Put Together A Great Anthology
(Paula Guran, Ellen Datlow, Nick Mamatas, Ross Lockhart, Jennifer Brozek, R.J. Cavender )
Professional anthologists discuss the ways that the multi-headed anthology beast survives its infancy and becomes remembered.

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Mighty in Sorrow

I’m over the moon and pleased as Punch to reveal that I’ve got a story, “A Garden of Cucumbers,” appearing in Mighty in Sorrow: A tribute to David Tibet and Current 93, the latest anthology from Dynatox Ministries. And I’m sharing space with one hell of a lineup of awesome authors (see below).

Big thanks to editor/publisher/propagandist Jordan Krall, for accepting my twisted tale of mysticism and martyrdom, and to Ari Eberlin, who worked with me at Wherehouse Records #93 in about ’93 and turned me on to Current 93, much to the chagrin of the blue-hairs. Ponder that Gnostic number sequence and take a look at this lovely cover.

MightyInSorrow

Right now, you can order the book for Amazon Kindle, with a trade paperback coming soon.

Here’s the full TOC:

Table of Contents
Andrew Liles – Foreword
Nikki Guerlain – SMOKE WINDING THROUGH PETRICHOR
Michael Griffin – MAY DAWN REDEEM WHAT NIGHT DESTROYS
Ross E. Lockhart – A GARDEN OF CUCUMBERS
Daniel Mills – WHISTLER’S GORE
Nicole Cushing – THE SUFFERING CLOWN
Josh Myers – AIRWAVES BURST TO BLISSFUL
Edward Morris – LULLABY
Ian Delacroix – THE MAN OF THE CROSSES
Jon R. Meyers – ALL IN A ROW
Kent Gowran – THROUGH OUR MASTER’S BLOOD WE SING
Michael Allen Rose – THE PUPPET OF GRUDGES
Neal Alan Spurlock – ANYWAY PEOPLE DIE
D.P. Watt – MALICE AND MAJESTY
Bob Freeman – MOURN NOT THE SLEEPLESS CHILDREN
Andrew Wayne Adams – ADAM CATMAN
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy – ‘there comes a midnighthour…’
James Champagne – THE WITHERING ECHO
Robert M. Price – THE INMOST DARKNESS
Joseph Pulver Sr. – when the twilighttwilight of nihil.nihil chimes…
Dustin Reade – CHRIST BEGAT THE PERVERSIONS
Michael Göttert – SHADOWS AND ABYSS
Dinah Prim – THE INVOCATION OF NODDY
Chris Kelso – NIGHTMARE FOR THE IRON YOUTH
Thomas Ligotti – IN A FOREIGN TOWN, IN A FOREIGN LAND
Hyacinthe L. Raven – OR ALONE

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The Children of Old Leech are coming…

There are Things–terrifying Things–whispered of in darkened forests beyond the safe comfort of firelight: The Black Guide, the Broken Ouroboros, the Pageant, Belphegor, Old Leech…

These Things have always been here. They predate you. They will outlast you.

This book pays tribute to those Things.

For We are the Children of Old Leech… and we love you.

We are the Children of Old Leech... and we love you.

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

Edited by Ross E. Lockhart & Justin Steele
Cover design by Matthew Revert

Coming summer 2014 from Word Horde

TOC to be unveiled soon

Reviewer inquiries to publicity[at]wordhorde[dot]com

PS: Happy Birthday, Laird!

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Tales of Jack the Ripper: Just $2.99 for a limited time!

“It’s elementary, folks,” says Inspector Elinor. “Simple math. Two dollars and ninety-nine cents equals Tales of Jack the Ripper on your Kindle, smartphone, or tablet. So visit Amazon and download a copy of Tales of Jack the Ripper, edited by Ross E. Lockhart. Watson and I need the clues you will find in the ebook to track down Jack the Ripper and bring the cur to justice.”

20140127-083149.jpg

Buy Tales of Jack the Ripper for your Kindle right here.

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Chick Bassist and the Suicide Girls

As you probably know, I wrote a book called Chick Bassist, it’s a love letter to rock ‘n’ roll and it was published in late 2012 by Lazy Fascist Press. Chick Bassist follows the trials and tribulations of a trio of punk rockers, Heroes for Goats, as their band breaks up and they strike out in their own directions. It’s about love and sex and drugs and dumb decisions and revenge and–most of all–the indomitable can-do spirit of rock ‘n’ roll. Chick Bassist is thin enough to fit in your guitar case, smart enough to have you thinking about the book for days after you’re done reading, and well-worth reading on the bus between gigs. But don’t take my word for it:

Chick Bassist is utterly savage. Lockhart’s style waxes poetic as a modern Beat giving us a glimpse into Rock & Roll hell.” —Laird Barron, Shirley Jackson Award-winning author of The Croning

“Complete rock excellence.” –Adam Cesare, author of Video Night and Tribesmen

“…the most fun read of its type since Harlan Ellison’s Spider Kiss.” –Edward Morris, author of Blackguard 1: Fathers and Sons

“Don’t start a band without reading Chick Bassist!” –J. M. McDermott, author of Last Dragon

“Holy fucking fuck what a great book.” —MP Johnson, author of The Afterlife of Pork-Knuckles Malone

“Crank the volume up and read it now.” —Gabino Iglesias, Verbicide Magazine

Right around the time Chick Bassist was published, I met a very, very cool person: author, photographer, and model Tiffany Scandal. Tiffany’s debut novel, punk-rock apocalypse There’s No Happy Ending was just published as part of Eraserhead Press’s New Bizarro Author Series, and it’s easily one of the best books I read this year.

There's No Happy Ending

Tiffany recently got together a group of friends for a special photo shoot featuring some of her favorite books, notably these shots including Chick Bassist, a vintage Fender P-Bass, and a cadre of Suicide Girls. She sent me the photos Christmas morning (best stocking stuffer ever), and I hope you enjoy them…

Chick Bassist and the Suicide Girls

Models from left to right are Dali Moon (Dali Suicide), Selene Suicide, Jessica (Persephone Suicide), Lyxzen Suicide, and Amanda (Rourke Suicide).

Chick Bassist and the Suicide Girls #2

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For your consideration…

It is award season once again in genre fiction land, so I’ve been fielding occasional queries wondering whether Tales of Jack the Ripper (Word Horde) and its contents are eligible for various awards. In the interest of placing all the necessary information at your fingertips (and mine), here is some statistical information on the anthology that I hope will both inform and enlighten.

Think you know everything there is to know about the Whitechapel slayings? You don't know Jack!

The anthology Tales of Jack the Ripper was published August 31, 2013, and is comprised of seventeen stories, two poems, and an introduction. Of those seventeen stories, three are reprints, as are the two poems, and fourteen stories are original to the anthology. Tales of Jack the Ripper is a professional market, paying .05/word for original stories and .02/word for reprints. The anthology as a whole should be eligible for consideration in most industry awards’ Anthology categories. The book is 75,859 words total; 60,134 original [79.27%]; 15,723 reprint [20.72%].

The following original stories should be eligible for consideration in most Novelette/Novella/Mid-Length Fiction categories:
Barron, Laird: “Termination Dust” 10101 words
Kurtz, Ed: “Hell Broke Loose” 9796 words
Sargent, Stanley C.: “When the Means Just Defy the End” 12226 words

The following original stories should be eligible for consideration in most Short Fiction categories:
Drake, Ennis: “The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker” 4300 words
Grau, T.E.: “The Truffle Pig” 2840 words
Greatshell, Walter: “Ripping” 2302 words
Grey, Orrin: “Ripperology” 2800 words
Moreno-Garcia, Silvia: “Abandon All Flesh” 2200 words
Morris, Edward: “Where Have You Been All My Life?” 1900 words
Pulver, Joseph S.: “Juliette’s New Toy” 861 words
Rawlik, Pete: “Villains by Necessity” 2149 words
Tobler, E. Catherine: “Once November” 2400 words
Tumblety, Patrick: “Something About Dr. Tumblety” 4114 words
Yardley, Mercedes M.: “A Pretty for Polly” 1600 words

Editor Ross E. Lockhart is eligible to be nominated as Best Editor (Short Form) for Tales of Jack the Ripper, and as Best Editor (Long Form) for works published in 2013 (all of which are also worthy of your consideration), including Blind Gods Bluff, by Richard Lee Byers; Earth Thirst, by Mark Teppo; No Return, by Zachary Jernigan; Binding, by Carol Wolf; The Beautiful Thing that Awaits Us All, by Laird Barron, The Daedalus Incident, by Michael J. Martinez, and Reanimators, by Pete Rawlik.

Publisher Word Horde is eligible to be nominated (where applicable) as Best Publisher.

On behalf of Word Horde and the authors included in Tales of Jack the Ripper, thank you for your consideration and support during this year’s oh-so-competitive awards season.

Sincerely,

Ross E. Lockhart
Word Horde

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