Monday, September 12, 2016

DANCING WITH SHADOWS – THE CHARLES L. GRANT BLOGATHON - Oxrun Station

My first contribution to Neil Snowdon's Charles L. Grant blogathon.

It was Charles Grant's Oxrun Station novella quartets which did it for me.

I first discovered Charles Grant when, after reading Norman Pretniss' wonderful novella Invisible Fences, I read Douglas Clegg's blurb for Fences, comparing Norman to some guy named Charles L. Grant. I thought to myself, "If this Grant guy is like Norman Prentiss, I should check him out."

My first several Grant novels I enjoyed. The Grave, For Fear of the Night and Stunts. However, it was the Oxrun Station novella quartets - The Orchard, Nightmare Seasons, Dialing the Wind, and Black Carousel - which grabbed me by the throat and wouldn't let go. The poetic, tight lyricism of his prose. The subtle, creeping atmosphere. The quiet, looming dread. And the strange town where some people, unfortunately, go missing and are never found, ever again. Or go mad. Or lock themselves inside their homes and never come back out. 

And, always, there was the prose:

"Winter...and rain.

During the blade-sharp of January a cold-snap, during the hours when snow immobilizes and breath turns to short-lived fog, there are the dreams of summer, of green, of walking with no particular purpose except to savor across the playing fields of the park beneath hickory and ash and white birch of such luxuriantly thick foliage that even the still air seems hazed with mint. In part it is a steeled defiance of numbing temperature that reduces animals to hibernation and man to bitter complaint; and in part it is a hypnotic gesture to the pleading of one's senses for an earnest reassurance that this sort of weather will not last, that there will indeed be a time when warmth beyond the hearth is a reality in spite of the fact that it seems now like nothing more, and nothing less, than attic memory.

But there are worse times than the cold.

And there are worse illusions than memory." - Nightmare Seasons

Oxrun Station joined Greentown, Illinois, Castle Rock, and Cedar Hill as one of my favorite fictional small towns, and in some ways, the best of all of them: Grant was able to masterfully weave his Oxrun Station novella quartets, novels and short stories together without ever becoming too self-referential. Credit this to his subtle touch, I suppose. If you've never read an Oxrun Station story before, side characters seem simply that. But if you're steeped in the town, everything takes on a larger, darkly transcendent meaning. 

And of course, like a true addict, I had to collect all the Oxrun books. I devoured them. I still re-read them today. They have had a profound effect on my work and my own mythos; an impact exceeded only by Papa King's.  

Grant never revealed exactly what was wrong with Oxrun Station. Perhaps he passed away (too soon) before he could. Somehow, I'm glad he never did pull back the curtain. Oxrun Station is a just a strange, out of the way - maybe lethal - town, and that's just the way things are.

But he wrote about more than Oxrun Station. Tomorrow I'll talk about that.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Mystery Road Cover Reveal

Many of you probably caught this on Facebook yesterday, but for those who didn't - I was finally able to reveal the cover to my next Clifton Heights book, Mystery Road, forthcoming from the revered Cemetery Dance Publications. 

There are certain watermarks you set for yourself when you begin writing. This is a big one, and I still sorta can't believe it's happening. 

2016-2017 promises to be a busy year. Mystery Road is coming out, I've got three short stories to write, my Horror 101 column for Lamplight, and a new column for Cemetery Dance Online. Busy is good, though! I've always wanted to be busy, and now that I am, I'm smiling, for sure.

Monday, May 9, 2016

"When We All Meet at the Ofrenda"

Update: Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories  is available for preorder! Below is Luke Spooner's illustration for my short story in it, "When We All Meet at the Ofrenda." I couldn't be happier. Actually stunned is a much better word for it. Bleeding Cool offers this review of the collection, and says about my story:

"Kevin Lucia’s “When We All Meet at the Ofrenda” made me truly care about the protagonist and continued that theme I liked at the beginning of what we’d do for our loved ones. "


Gutted releases June 24th, featuring an all-star lineup which, quite frankly, leaves me feeling more than a little unworthy. That, and I feel like this is one of the best stories I've ever written. Check out the synopsis and TOC below:

Awe and ache. Terror and transcendence. Regret and rebirth. Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories is coming this June! Imagine a series of stories that explores the tension between beauty and horror, wonder and terror, sorrow and transcendence. A book where the only choices are “bad” and “worse.” It’s a book of scars, regret and loneliness. But through it all, it’s a book where hope can still exist and beauty can still thrive. Where goodness, if not rewarded, is at least acknowledged. A flower in the barrel of a rifle. A rose rising defiantly through a crack in the concrete. This is GUTTED: An anthology of terrible wonder and darkness. With a foreword by Cemetery Dance magazine founder Richard Chizmar.
  1. “The Morning After Was Filled with Bone” by Stephanie M. Wytovich
  2. “Picking Splinters from a Sex Slave” by Brian Kirk
  3. “Arbeit Macht Frei” by Lisa Mannetti
  4. “The Problem of Susan” by Neil Gaiman
  5. “Dominion” by Christopher Coake
  6. “Water Thy Bones” by Mercedes M. Yardley
  7. “A Haunted House is a Wheel Upon Which Some Are Broken” by Paul Tremblay
  8. “On the Other Side of the Door, Everything Changes” by Damien Angelica Walters
  9. “Repent” by Richard Thomas
  10. “Coming to Grief” by Clive Barker
  11. “Cards for His Spokes, Coins for His Fare” by John F.D. Taff
  12. “Cellar’s Dog” by Amanda Gowin
  13. “When We All Meet at the Ofrenda” by Kevin Lucia
  14. “Hey, Little Sister” by Maria Alexander
  15. “The One You Live With” by Josh Malerman
  16. “The Place of Revelation” by Ramsey Campbell


Thursday, May 5, 2016

My Stuff: Illustrated Classics

Remember these bad boys? I wonder how many readers were first exposed to the classics in this way? Once upon a time, I had a whole collection of them. My uncle gave me a whole set for Christmas one year, and I read them over and over. I think this was one of my favorites. Again, one automatically thinks science fiction, but when you consider the ape-like Morlocks living underground and feeding on the Eloi, the horrible vision of the future the Time Traveller sees when he accidentally goes too far ahead....
 
Pretty horrific.
 
Anyway, I have no idea what happened to all of these. I found this one at, as usual, the local library used book sale. Someday, I'm going to hunt up the entire set on Amazon. Madi's probably already a bit past these, but I'd like Zack to read the someday, when he's ready.
 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

My Stuff: Those Big Mushrooms You Could Write On

When I was a kid, Dad showed us how to write on mushrooms. Ever go walking in the woods and see those big white mushrooms growing on the bases of trees? If you're careful when you break them off, you can write in the spongy underside with a stick. Dad did that a lot when he took a roll of film of our vacations, the introductory picture in that roll was a mushroom with the date and location of said vacation.
 
I still have this one, from September 2nd, 1986. Growing up, we discovered a HUGE blackberry patch about a mile or so up a hill, in the middle of the forest past the train tracks behind our house. We unofficially named it Blackberry Hill. We picked bucket loads of blackberries there for several years. One summer, I decided to commemorate one of our trips with a mushroom. Apparently, that day, according to my inscription, it was "Great picking."
 
It's a now calcified mushroom sitting on my stuff shelf. But it represents a significant portion of my childhood, the marking of important moments which pale in comparison to graduation, or getting a job, or buying a car, or a promotion, or whatever. In some ways, though, it's far more important. It represents an Indian Summer day of perfection: a morning of ease, no cares, a morning of childhood, carved into a mushroom.
 
The neat part is we've passed along this tradition to my daughter Madi, as you can see below. She has her own mushrooms now. Hopefully, she'll come to treasure these days as much as I do mine.
 
 
 
 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

My Stuff: Rocket Man

One of the best things about seventh grade was Shop Class. Two of the best things about Shop Class were CO2 race cars, and solid stage rockets. We made them from scratch (parachutes too) and launched them suckers. Probably seems silly, but it was quite a rush to press the button on the electrical ignition system and light something into the air, something YOU built.
 
Years later, in college, when I was working at a youth program, I remembered those rockets when I was planning for projects. I went scouting at our local hobby store, and sure enough, they had engines, parachutes, and ignition systems. You could buy pre-made rockets too, but seeing as how I was planning the rockets for a sorta science/crafting unit, I figured out how to make them from scratch, and taught kids how to make them. They were a big hit. The kids got the same charge I did at building something, then launching it into the sky. A couple years later, I adapted the rockets to make ignitable RACE cars. They failed, but they failed in spectacular fashion, which was almost as fun.
 
A few years ago, Madi and I made these rockets over the summer. We never got to launch them, however, because my ignition system was old, and the fuses old, so the rockets didn't fire, and we really didn't have the cash to splurge on a new ignition system. This summer, however? WE'RE GO FOR LAUNCH, MISSION CONTROL....

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

My Stuff: A Long Time Ago....

One of my treasured possessions (unfortunately, as you'll soon see, I didn't treat them that way) growing up was a series of limited edition, collectible STAR WARS glasses Burger King produced during the run of RETURN OF THE JEDI. They were possibly the first things I owned which could be considered collectibles, and therefore something of value past nostalgic or their "neat factor." Unfortunately as a kid, I didn't understand their worth, and it wasn't long before I managed to break both of them. At the time, I pretended it was no big deal when my parents mildly admonished me that I'd just broken something I couldn't replace, but inside, I felt a little twinge of loss, realizing they were right, and not knowing what to do with the idea that I HAD foolishly treated something of value poorly.
 
Recently, in cleaning out some stuff at home, Dad presented me with these collectible glasses, which they had purchased back then and had wisely squirreled away for a time when I WOULD appreciate them. You can imagine how I felt, having this come full circle, that my parents had the foresight to buy extras, knowing ahead of time that, as a kid, I probably wouldn't understand the value (both actual and nostalgic) of those glasses.
 
And, though we live in a culture in which you can buy specialty glasses at the local dollar store, it's neat to see Rey's glass next to Luke's, all these years later. I can only hope I'll have the wisdom to teach my kids to value such things, as my parents taught me.