Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Arthur Machen, One of the Great Masters

This post is due to my writing partnership with fellow author, Ben Eads, to try to enlighten newbie writers and readers to great authors' works.

Arthur Machen (1863-1947) is best known for his novel, The Great God Pan, and is also noted as creating the legend of the Angels of Mons. The Great God Pan has been called "Maybe the best [horror story] in the English Language" by Stephen King. It was the influence for King's short story, "N," one of most frightening tales in the amazing new collection, Just After Sunset.

Arthur was born in the Welsh country of Gwent in Wales. The breathtaking atmosphere, along with the Celtic, Roman and medieval history, influenced his eerie works. Machen's father, the vicar of a church, brought Arthur up in the rectory (no small wonder why he turned to the occult!). Young Arthur attended a cathedral school at eleven but did not attend college, due to his family's poverty. Later, sent to London, he failed the exams to get into medical school. He worked as a children's tutor and a publisher's clerk while he wrote his macabre fiction in the evening.

A member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn along with Algernon Blackwood, Yeats, Aleister Crowley and Machen's friend, A. E. Waite, Machen was also a journalist, essayist and Shakespearean actor. His autobiography is available, beginning with Far Off Things in 1922, the first of three volumes, if you want to get geeky about your Machen research. Along with Algernon Blackwood, M. R. James and Lord Dunsany, H. P. Lovecraft called him one of the four "modern masters" of supernatural horror.

A prolific writer, he wrote many books in his lifetime: Eleusinia (1881); The Chronicle of Cleventy (1888); The Great God Pan and The Inmost Light (1894); The Three Impostors (1895); The House of Souls (1906); The Secret Glory (1907); The Hill of Dreams (1907); The Angels of Mons: The Bowman and Other Legends of the War (1915); The Terror (1916); Strange Roads (1923); The Shining Pyramid (1923); Omaments in Jade (1924); The Glorious Mystery (1924); The Green Round (1933); The Children of the Pool and Other Stories (1936); The Cosy Room (1936); and Tales of Horror and the Supernatural (1948). He wrote too many short stories to even count.

Horror authors of today, take note, and do not fail to be inspired by one of the greatest horror authors of all time!

I owe a debt to Wikipedia for their excellent article on Arthur Machen, as well as this amazing page on Arthur:

Monday, June 21, 2010


I'm swamped as usual as far as writing projects are concerned, getting my novel chapters critiqued and fixed two at a time in the critique group, Critters, as well as writing and proofreading short stories while I wait for novel critiques. I have a piece in at Horror Bound's Fear of the Dark anthology, a story entered in another magazine where I'm waiting to hear if I'll win first or second place and earn a prize, and a collaboration with fellow author, Ro Van Saint, in at Shroud magazine. This is in addition to critiquing others people's stories and proofreading my second and third novels as I wait for crits. I'm waiting for two more critiques for a short story for Shroud's Halloween issue as well. In addition to having a couple pieces accepted for publication lately, I'm writing a new novel, trying to pound out 2,000 words every morning. The week is for writing and the weekends are for critiquing and reading agent blogs. I hardly have time to shit!

On the playlist: the latest two Megadeth CDs, United Abominations and Endgame. I'm proud to announce they're back to performing speed-metal. The latter two discs are the best ones since 1990's Rust in Peace!

Reading: Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris. A former crime-writer, Harris never fails to deliver as he continues the sage of the ultimate villian, Hannibal the Cannibal, the one outlaw smarter than the FBI and the police.

Oh, and certain people joining my blog that aren't eighteen are hereby warned: GET THE HELL OFF MY BLOG IF YOU'RE UNDER EIGHTEEN AND GO SOMEWHERE ELSE! IT ISN'T LEGAL TO PUSH UNCENSORED HORROR TO CHILDREN!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Influental Work of Algernon Blackwood

Thanks to my good friend, author Ben Eads, he and I are spotlighting authors of the past and present as major influences of horror writers everywhere, and are hoping to turn some people on to the great masters, should they be living in a cave.

Today's spotlight is on Algernon Blackwood (1869-1951), who was mainly known for his ghost stories but a prolific author who expounded on various topics and achieved much more than the mere "ghost story author" tag. Because of the eclectic mix of mysticism, spiritualism and psychology, S. T. Joshi stated that "his work is more consistently meritorious than any weird writer's except Lord Dunsany's." H. P. Lovecraft said his supernatural, mystical undertones put him on a par with Arthur Machen and called his story, "The Willows," the best modern short story he'd ever read.

Algernon was born in Shooter's Hill, now Kent, England, to a well-to-do religous family headed by his father, a high official in the British Post Office. Refusing to conform to their Sandemanian conversion which landed them in an ultra-Calvinistic sect, young Algernon was educated at Wellington College and worked a number of tedious jobs (as I have also done), finding himself no good at these Just Over Brokes. He moved to New York and lived in abject poverty. A weaker man might have given up, but Blackwood found himself in the good graces of a wealthy man and was soon writing for the New York Times, as well as being an occasional essayist for various periodicals.

The pivotal point in his life came when he moved back to England in his thirties and began to write tales of the supernatural. Penning at least ten short story collections (so many, in fact, he couldn't count them all), he soon told these tales on radio and television. He not only joined The Ghost Club, but was an avid enthusiast of nature, likely to be skiing or mountain-climbing when not working on his horrific stories. A loner, his cheerful demeanor moved those he dealt with when venturing out in public. Known for his qabbalistic factions, he eventually joined the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.

Blackwood is best known for not only "The Willows," but also for his short story, "The Wendigo," the best tale ever written about the enormous Indian werewolf, told through the eyes of the protagonist as his friend is carried into the sky by a giant-sized monster.

His first book in 1906, The Empty House, was followed by The Listener (1907). Not limited to the horror genre, his other tomes include The Human Chord (1910), The Lost Valley (1910), The Centaur (1911), Pan's Garden (1912), Incredible Adventures (1914), Ten Minute Stories (1914), Julius LeVallon (1916), Day and Night Stories (1917), The Wolves of God (1921), The Bright Messenger (1922) and Tongues of Fire (1924).

His range of influence on my work comes from what he calls "a series of shocks," catching the reader off-guard with what he called "grotesqueries (a word I now use in abundance)." My favorite Blackwood tale is "Ancient Sorceries," a titillating piece about a small, nerdy man looked down on by conventional society. He gets off a train at the wrong stop to embark on an adventure which becomes the thrill-ride of his life. He checks into an inn and, the owner's daughter, a seventeen year old vivacious girl, leads him into a racious romance. He comes to find out this child is a reincarnated witch who's deathly afraid of fire because she was burned to death in the inquisition.

No one can deny Algernon Blackwood's contribution to the horror genre, a true master of not only the ghost story but of every kind of macabre tale, a forerunner of today's trend, Wiccan horror, in stories like "Ancient Lights." Algernon Blackwood is a must-read for anyone serious about becoming a horror author.

This blogger owes a thanks to literature and Web sites. Information based on research from E. F. Bleiler's introduction in Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood, the Wikipedia article on Algernon Blackwood and the Web site, The Literary Gothic.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Horror Quantity Gone Down, So Stress the Quality

Has anyone else noticed that the quantity of great horror is way down lately? It seems like anyone can become an author today (see earlier post, "Becoming"). Even Miley Cyrus has a book!

I prefer authors of yesteryear like Shirley Jackson, Ira Levin, Whitley Strieber, Jay Anson, William Peter Blatty, H.P. Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Woolstonecraft Shelley and early Stephen King and Dean Koontz (70's and early 80's). In the old days, one really had to be gifted to get a book contract. Now, anyone who learns the writer rules can have a book out. Hell, even those that don't (see my earlier post on "Twilight")!

Not that there aren't great books coming out. They're just far and few between: Gary Braunbeck's Coffin County; Gord Rollo's The Jigsaw Man; John Everson's Covenant and Sacrifice; Scott Smith's The Ruins; anything by Ray Garton; The Girl Next Door and The Lost by Jack Ketchum; and anything by Edward Lee. But you're lucky to get a great book today. If you do, it's one in a million. That saddens me.

And then there's the slasher story. No plot, just a guy running around with a mask and a weapon chasing a nubile little minx into a shack where she has to choose between the bowie knife, sword, handgun, machete, rifle and flashlight, and she picks the fucking flashlight. Thanks to that shit, "horror" is now a bad word because it shot itself in the head in the 80's with sequel no. 34 of the same old shit, different day. What's even worse is that they're remaking all the slasher flicks from the 80's that gave us a bad reputation in the first place!

Let's strive to put out the best work we can and, to do that, one has to read like a fiend to avoid writer's block.


Friday, June 11, 2010

On Music

I thought I'd stray from writing a little bit this week and talk about music. I have an hourglass body Jackson Charvel. I also have a Randy Rhoads V Jackson Charvel, but I broke it and won't have the money to get it fixed until I finish my novel and get a book contract. The V has hot pickups and my other guitars (including a bass) don't. So that's a big problem right there. Once you go hot pickups you never go back!


I also blew a tube in my amp, which I also can't afford to fix till the book contract.

Now, you'd think this would be a huge problem. I did too. But what it forced me to do was hunker down and really reach to get a great sound out of it. The high E-string sounds almost completely acoustic. I can't even use my Marshall pedal. With a tube blown, it still has a distortion sound but not as flashy as before.

What this forced me to do was play like a fiend to sound professional, and I did it! I really reached down deep and found some adrenaline. The fact that I can still make it sound brutal and wonderful is a miracle.

If you can't jam on a near-acoustic amp then you ain't shit.

I'm not going to tell you about the embarrassing album I put out in 2002 when I didn't know anything about death metal, and don't try to find it. It's out of print. I gave my last copy to my cousin so don't pester me about it. Believe me, you don't want it. I'm light years beyond that now and know what I'm doing. I backslid to devil worship for a year and loaded up on Deicide, Morbid Angel, Nile, Six Feet Under, Cannibal Corpse, Demiricous and Corporal Mortification. Therefore, I know how to do real death metal.

Now I sound like a Christian Cannibal Corpse.

So, the moral of the story is, it was probably better not to fix my amp!


Oh shit, I can't do it, can't stay away from the writing topic. The Haunting of Hill House is FUCKING BRILLIANT!

Friday, June 4, 2010

I Love My Sony Reader!

I never thought I'd say this, but I love my Sony Reader! I'm playing with my new toy, typical behavior from me since I'm just a big kid, still the same seventeen year old that read Chillers horror magazine constantly. The screen isn't hard on my eyes. The only regret is I can't get some Kindle titles. *Sighs* I'm still reading my paper books, but there's a fascination present when I use the electronic device I didn't think I'd have. I guess I'm a total technology whore! Now I want an iPod, an iPad (yeah, like I'd be able to afford that) and I want to turn on my cell phone. I'd be able to put up a bunch of cool pictures on Facebook with it, and I wouldn't have to buy an expensive digital camera.

At this point, I'm still reading the instruction manual and getting ready to get some e-books at the library, plus wanting to search for some free e-books. Next month, when I'm not in such financial straights, I'll start buying some electronic novels. Last night, I read the first seventeen pages of The Strain. I'm definitely buying that book! I downloaded my e-library, and found they have House Infernal by Edward Lee! I've already bought and read City Infernal and Infernal Angel, but I haven't been able to find the third book in the trilogy anywhere: out of print on the 'net and absent in the used bookstore in Pekin. Therein lies the purpose of the e-book.

McLovin it like McDonald's! But I still love my paper books. It's a hell of a lot easier to buy a paperback and bring it home and read it. You don't have to order it on your computer and switch it over. Currently I'm in love with my paperback edition of Joe Hill's Heart-Shaped Box. Time will tell if I'll get tired of my e-reader or not and, that seems to be the question, doesn't it? Will the e-book trend die off? I don't think so. People didn't get tired of their iPods.

Information about whether the e-book trend will last came from and Publisher's Weekly.