The Children of Old Leech: Excerpt: “Walpurgisnacht,” by Orrin Grey

Our third excerpt from The Children of Old Leech comes from “Walpurgisnacht,” by Orrin Grey. Traditionally, April 30th marks the feast of Saint Walpurga, an 8th Century German Abbess. But it’s also held to be the night that witches meet and revel on the Brocken, the highest peak in Germany’s Harz Mountains…

On the train, Nicky told me about the Brocken Spectre. “It’s a sort of optical illusion,” he said, leaning forward, his elbows on his knees. Nicky was younger than me, and prettier, and his dark hair fell in front of his face whenever he slouched, which was often. “The sun casts a giant shadow of you on the clouds below, right, and your head gets this prismatic halo. Like an angel.”

“I hear the sun only shines here like sixty days a year,” I said. “Besides, it’s night.” I was only half-listening anyway, my head lolling against the cool glass of the window. I’d had more than a few drinks at the airport bar, and I could feel a headache trying to force its way out past my eyes. Outside, I could see our destination looming up out of the darkness, the two towers of the Sender Brocken, old and new. Like Tolkien’s Minas Morgul and Orthanc. The sun was still going down, and the towers stood out like shadows against the gloaming, their lights already on. Gleaming yellow ones in the windows of the old tower, now the Brocken Hotel, and blinking red ones to warn planes away from the new tower, a candy-cane-striped lance that jutted skyward from the peak.

“It doesn’t look terribly inviting,” Nicky said, noticing my inattentiveness and nodding at the towers.

Now to the Brocken the witches ride.” I intoned, and then, without bothering to glance and see his puzzled expression, explained, “It’s Goethe. From Faust.”

That was why we were going, of course. It was Walpurgisnacht, the night when the witches and devils gathered on the crown of the bald mountain to welcome the spring. Nicky and I, and whoever else was on the train with us, were the witches in this equation, and we were all gathering on the Brocken to kiss the ass of a black goat.

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.



The Children of Old Leech: Excerpt: “Pale Apostle,” by J. T. Glover and Jesse Bullington

Today’s excerpt from The Children of Old Leech comes from J. T. Glover and Jesse Bullington‘s collaborative tale, “Pale Apostle,” which I’m sure you’ll agree sets up the fireworks with a dangerously short fuse…

The bell at the front of the shop tinkled, and Wah clicked her teeth—she hadn’t heard his key in the lock, which meant he’d left the door open again. It was bad enough he insisted on making deliveries to all the family associations himself, but his forgetting to lock up was simply unsafe. Ducking through the curtain, her slippers whisking against the boards, she saw his familiar silhouette across the dark shop. He’d turned and was locking the door.

“It doesn’t do much good, now,” she said, trying to keep the chiding tone from her voice. “When I’m in the back, though, try to remember to—oh!”

The white man smiling at her across the shadowed bins and shelves was not her father.

“I sorry, honorable sir, but we closed right now,” she said, speaking with deliberate fresh-off-the-boat awkwardness even as her mind raced.

Her father was probably talking over old times at some association by now, and might not return for hours. It wasn’t late enough yet for the police to be rattling doorknobs, and they rarely took much notice of crime in the Chinatown anyway. Who would hear if she screamed? Mr. Dong next door, perhaps, but perhaps not…

Top shelf, middle aisle. As she stepped around the counter, she studiously kept her eyes on the intruder, instead of the modest display of cutlery. If she could just—

“How excellent,” the stranger said, speaking in perfectly unaccented Szechuanese as he glided toward her, past the knives. “That means we shall not be disturbed.”

The smile he gave her stretched his strangely ageless face into a rictus—like most white men, his exotic features somehow coalesced into a bland, nondescript whole. His black coat and broad-brimmed hat were wet with the night’s rain, leaving puddles on the floor, but his skin looked parched as scrolls from a temple. He reached inside his coat, and Wah flinched, wondering if it would be a weapon, or worse, handcuffs—given the choice between a stickup man or a plainclothes Seattle policeman, she would take the lesser villain. Instead, he held out an envelope to her, as dry as the withered hand that held it.

“My name is Clarence Kernochan, and I have a business proposition to discuss with you.”

“My father—” Wah began, but he cut her off in the rude fashion of Americans, waggling the envelope.

“I trust you will surely find this to the advantage of both yourself and your father, Miss Sung.”

Wah looked back at his face, and in the instant before she saw him straight-on, she could have sworn that his black pupils seemed to undulate, as if something wriggled behind them.

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.



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.



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.



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.



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.


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.



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
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
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
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
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
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
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.



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.


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
Daniel Mills – WHISTLER’S GORE
Edward Morris – LULLABY
Jon R. Meyers – ALL IN A ROW
Michael Allen Rose – THE PUPPET OF GRUDGES
Neal Alan Spurlock – ANYWAY PEOPLE DIE
Andrew Wayne Adams – ADAM CATMAN
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy – ‘there comes a midnighthour…’
James Champagne – THE WITHERING ECHO
Joseph Pulver Sr. – when the twilighttwilight of nihil.nihil chimes…
Michael Göttert – SHADOWS AND ABYSS
Hyacinthe L. Raven – OR ALONE



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!



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.”


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

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