See Emily Play

2017-10-27 11.27.31The last event for me in October was NEPCA at UMass-Amherst where I gave a presentation on Elisabeth Sanxay Holding’s The Blank Wall; at PCA National this spring I’ll be talking about the film adaptations, too. I also finally visited Emily Dickinson’s house. Despite living in New England for many years, I had not managed to get there.

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It was magic, as you might imagine. I didn’t know this enigmatic middle child had auburn hair. It was odd to see furniture that was like the vintage stuff Robert has bought for our house which is about the same age as the Dickinson house. Her actual bed is there, reproductions of some of her letters and the many scraps of odd paper on which she wrote in flashes of imagination before revising over and over.


Down a well-worn path next door her brother and sister-in-law lived in The Evergreens with a mad swirl of activity. Unlike the increasingly retiring poet, they hosted soirees and had a bowl full of visiting cards. They also stuffed the house with art, many from the Hudson River Valley school as well as landscapes and ‘orientalist’ works. Our lively guide Keeley not only filled in the history about various objects and rooms but quoted from the poems often. The words rang vividly in the places the poet had lived and loved. Make the time to visit. I plan to go back when I can do so more leisurely.

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Collisions

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I shared my Inspirations Song List today as I’d updated it (Songs that Inspired Stories), then joked that I should make a list of stories that started from collisions. Not literally — although I do have one or two of those — but collisions of ideas.

Example: later this month Empty Mirror will publish my essay ‘Chaucer and the Art of the Grift’ which came from a collision in my head between The Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale and David Maurer’s The Big Con. It makes perfect sense to me but maybe this is why I have a hard time getting people to follow my thoughts. Possibly they seem random and incoherent!

But they seem reasonable to me. Here’s a random selection of things what I have written and the collisions from which they sprang:

The Mangrove Legacy: Peter Cook & Jane Austen

White RabbitBlue Sunshine & Seance on a Wet Afternoon & certain London pubs

How to Be Dull: academia & Jerome K. Jerome

Airships & Alchemy:  <— exactly that

Owl Stretching: The Descent of Inanna & Spike Milligan

‘Elf Prefix’: The Maltese Falcon & The Fairy Melusine

‘Headless in Bury’: The Big Sleep & vikings

‘Wordgeryne’: Lovecraft and medieval charms

‘Losing My Religion’: REM, Tony Hancock & social media debates

“Domus inferna Sancti Guthlaci: A Rediscovery of the Twelfth-Century Narrative of The Saint and the Money Pit”: my Pseudo-Society talk that sprang from rearranging the Harley Roll illustrations of the life of the saint so they became a sort of DIY disaster

…and of course there’s a whole random Fall song + whatever random obsession has fired in my brain this week which covers most of my crime writing that isn’t currently inspired by Robyn Hitchcock.

It’s not just me, right?

[Image from the Cosmagraphia Scoti MS. Canon. Misc. 378 via Bodleian Library]

Out Now: The Blood Red Experiment

Click the cover to buy!

Inspired by the genius of Hitchcock and his films, latin luminaries such as Argento and Bava directed macabre murder-mystery thrillers, that combined the suspense with scenes of outrageous violence, stylish cinematography, and groovy soundtracks. This genre became known in their native Italy as giallo.

Giallo is Italian for yellow, inspired by the lurid covers of thrillers, in the way that pulp fiction was derived from the cheap wood pulp paper of the crime stories, or Film Noir came from the chiaroscuro of the German Expressionist lighting.

We at TBRE want to bring gialli-inspired stories by some of the best crime writers on the scene today to a wider audience, giving birth to a new literary movement in crime writing, NeoGiallo, and drag this much maligned genre screaming and slashing its way into the 21st Century.

Features the first instalment of novellas by Richard GodwinTom LeinsK. A. LaityKevin BergMark CooperJack Bates, and James Shaffer; edited by Jason Michel & Craig Douglas.

BONUS: Today only get Hard-Boiled Witch: Abra Cadavra for free! Click on the image below.

Devil’s Night (2007)

satans-sorority-promo-image-sljDevil’s Night
It was called Devil’s Night in the town where I lived
That veiled night before Halloween,
When goblins came out and devils ran wild
And some said that witches were seen.
We kids stayed inside, safe in our beds
And whispered of what there might be—
But one year we intended to see for ourselves,
My sister, my black cat and me.

The sun had long set and the darkness had come
To wrap all the houses in black,
When we crawled out the window and crept ‘cross the lawn
And none of us even looked back.
Though the wind tapped our shoulders and played with our hair
And ran through the leaves with mad glee,
We were stalwart and true like the heroes we knew,
My sister, my black cat and me.

We had never quite said, but each knew in our heads
The goal of our late night foray;
There was only one house whose black shutters and spires
Cast long inky shadows by day.
The house of nightmares was the subject of dares
For children much older than we,
But we knew we must try to sneak in and spy,
My sister, my black cat and me.

As we walked on our own down the mist-shrouded lane
The goblin cries rang through the night.
My sister told me, with an air of disdain,
That I should not take any fright.
‘It’s only some kids wrapped in sheets that they hid,
That they took from their mothers laundry.’
And we continued along with much knocking of knees
By my sister, my black cat and me.

The house loomed ahead with its turrets like spikes
Aimed at a portentous sky
The old shutters rattled and the chimney howled doom
But the wind smelled like pumpkin pie.
‘An old witch lives here and she eats little kids,’
My sister heard from Katie Lee
And we were likely to die if we drew too near by
My sister, my black cat and me.

‘I’ll go up on the porch and ring her doorbell
then run—like the wind—quick away.
You go ‘round the back and give a sharp rat-a-tat,
Before she can come out this way.’
Her plans carefully laid, my sister then stayed
As I walked toward the back door slowly,
I’ll admit I was scared and I felt ill- prepared,
No sister, just black cat and me.

As I prowled through the gloom I saw a bright room
And an old woman dressed all in black.
‘It must be the witch,’ I said to my cat
And shivered and shook in my tracks.
I wanted to run but I heard the doorbell
And I knew that my sister’s safety
Was all in my hands, so we gathered our breaths,
Poor little black cat and me.

I made a small fist and raised up my arm
To deliver the thunderous tap
But I froze to the spot when I saw a dark shape
That opened the door with a snap.
‘I know what you want!’ I heard the witch say
But my feet would not move to flee
And she swept us inside the warm kitchen’s light,
Poor little black cat and me.

My tears trickled down and I begged for my life
And the life of my little kitty.
The old witch just smiled and patted my head
And said to me, ‘Don’t be silly.
I’ve got oodles of pie and candy and fudge
And a gingerbread house so pretty,
And I wish you would share all the food I’ve prepared—
It’s too much for my big cat and me!’

I looked all around and my fear dissipated
The kitchen was cheerful and clean
And the huge oaken table was filled ‘til it groaned
With more treats than I’d ever seen—
Pies of all kinds and cookies with chips
And a big steaming pot of green tea,
And in front of the fire a great big cat yawned
At my ravenous black cat and me.

I said, ‘Thank you ma’am!’ and plopped down in a chair
And she set a blue plate before me
And I piled it up high with some warm pumpkin pie
And a big taste of each sweet dainty.
I was feeding my face and telling the witch of our chase
When my sister’s gaze fell upon me.
But it took little time before we brought her inside
To eat with my black cat and me.

So when you see a witch and your knees start to shake
And you’re tempted to run to the hills,
Just remember the night that we wandered quite late
Seeking out Devil’s Night thrills.
Some witches are good, and some witches are bad
But they all make amazing candy!
If you’re sweet and not rude, they might share their food
With your sister, your black cat and thee.

[Listen to the audio version]

Happy Halloween! Samhain maith! Wear iron and don’t talk to pookahs. Let us remember those who have gone whom we miss and share the bright memories with those near us now. Be well.

[Thanks Stephanie for the coolness of the alternate Satan’s Sorority image]

Get Spooky!

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Get my zombie western HIGH PLAINS LAZARUS or my supernatural collection UNQUIET DREAMS for super cheap this weekend along with a lot of other Tirgearr treats. And you can pre-order THE BLOOD RED EXPERIMENT, a giallo-inspired magazine that includes the first instalment of my novella THE MADONNA OF THE WASPS: out on Halloween!

Blood Red Experiment 1

Occult Humanities Conference 2017


I headed down to the city on a day that started out dark but became rather lovely. I saw the lovely Katja and her kitties: she’s the hostess with the mostest. We had a lovely dinner at Veselka, too. I saw a couple of the Ai Weiwei installations too. There are always sights to see in NYC including the 777 exhibit by Jen DeNike & Damien Echols and of course there was the third Occult Humanities Conference, which proved most inspirational in all kinds of ways. More photos on the ‘book — I’m thinking of trying Instagram: pros or cons you care to offer?

Make note: next April the 100th anniversary celebration of Leonora Carrington in Mexico City. I may need to get to that. Road trip, anyone? I’ve not been there before. Only along the border.

I forgot to take pictures of the lovely exhibit by Tin Can Forest, but you can see a lot of their art online. They did the fabulous What is a Witch with conference co-host Pam Grossman.

Tomorrow I’m talking on medieval charms at ISATMA. Free and open, including the concerts honouring the late Pauline Oliveros.

Write 4 a Day: 15 Oct 2017

Write 4 a DayDon’t you deserve at least one day to write?

Write 4 a Day is a series of monthly one-day writing retreatsin upstate New York. There is:

  • no workshop
  • no agenda
  • no required activities
  • no assignments
  • no schedule
  • no WiFi!

Unplug. Write. Don’t write. Think. Daydream. Doodle. Outline. Come for the whole day or just for part of it; network, collaborate or write solo; wander the woods, hills, fields and streams of Universal Pathways for inspiration (bring sturdy shoes) or sit in a comfy chair and brainstorm. It’s up to you.

WHO – you! We haven’t had to limit attendance yet, but it’s getting to be a consideration. If you want to be sure to reserve a space, email me via the contact form.

WHY – because you deserve a day to devote to your writing (or daydreaming or sketching or scheming or knitting or…)

WHAT – $22 fee for the space (cash/check/PayPal/$20 for HVWG members) and food (a dish to share or your own lunch)

WHEN – 10am-5pm

2017: Oct 15, Nov 19, Dec 17

WHERE – Universal Pathways, 692 Pleasant Valley Rd, Berne, NY 12023 – Phone: (518) 872-2272