FantasyReader16

Avon Fantasy Reader No. 16, featuring an early Robert Bloch pulp novella “The Black Kiss.”

I had only written to a few authors in my life up until that point. None of them ever replied. Somehow, I thought this would be different.

I was 16 years old.  I was a long-haired hellion struggling with that ever important career decision between writer and rock star.  I had nothing but rejection letters to my name.

This writing thing was tough.

I needed advice.

The year was 1987.  I discovered Stephen King a couple of years before.  My uncle, upon finding out that I enjoyed reading horror and fantasy, opened a door for me to the amazing world of pulp fiction.  I imagine I had stars in my eyes reading those tales by Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Seabury Quinn, Thorpe McClusky, and a whole list of writers criminally forgotten today.

I loved the work of H.P. Lovecraft. I’m not ashamed to say that this love was spawned by my fondness for the Lovecraft “adaptations” of Brian Yuzna and Stuart Gordon – Re-Animator and From Beyond.

My battered copy of one of my favorite Robert Bloch collections, The Skull of the Marquis De Sade.

My battered copy of one of my favorite Robert Bloch collections, The Skull of the Marquis De Sade.

I read everything by Lovecraft that I could get my hands on.  I learned of the circle of Weird Tales writers who corresponded with one another.  I learned that Lovecraft corresponded with writers seeking advice.

One of these writers was a very young Robert Bloch.

Upon that revelation, I had to read Robert Bloch. Although he was primarily referred to as “that guy who wrote Psycho,” I discovered him first through his short stories. I was fortunate that the first two books of his that I found were very good short story collections: The Best of Robert Bloch and The Skull of the Marquis De Sade.  He became a favorite of mine.  I’d read that he had a way of paying forward the advice and kindness that Lovecraft had paid him early on, before his first professionally published story.

Heck, I thought. He must have been the same age I was at the time he wrote to Lovecraft.

I needed help. Bloch was a master. This seemed right.

If he’d reply, I’d be golden. He’d tell me everything I needed to know, and then I’d hold the key to success!

Funny how, when we’re young, we always think that lessons learned by hard knocks and skill earned by years of putting pen to paper will somehow rub off on us like fairy dust and make us good writers.

So I wrote to Robert Bloch, in care of Del Rey/Ballantine Books.

Honestly, I had no expectation of a response.

About four weeks later, I received a letter in a small envelope. It had no return address as I recall – just an ink stamp of a typewriter.

As an acolyte of Lovecraft, Bloch wrote many stories considered part of the Cthulhu Mythos collected here in Mysteries of the Worm.

As an acolyte of Lovecraft, Bloch wrote many stories considered part of the Cthulhu Mythos collected here in Mysteries of the Worm.

It was a letter from Robert Bloch.

I wish I could say I still had it. Right now, thinking about the loss of that letter, I feel a little pain in my heart. I lost the letter along with a lot of other precious things when, in my early 20s, I lived with a friend who’d been spending our rent money on crack cocaine. Not kidding. I’d been giving him my half of the rent for a couple of months, thinking he was … well, you know, actually paying the rent.  As it turns out, a couple months without paying rent = eviction.  I got a call where I worked split shifts at Sea Galley one day, saying the Sheriff was at the apartment, and I had 10 minutes to get up there and grab what I wanted before they kicked our asses out onto the street. Our apartment was in the middle of town, and I was way down on the south side of Colorado Springs.  With no car. I’d been riding the bus to work, so there was no way I could get there in time. It was ugly. One of the things I lost was a World War II-era Navy trunk that used to be my grandfather’s. Inside was a complete run of Cemetery Dance magazines issues one through eight, issues of The Horror Show, Grue, Haunts, 2AM, some rare pulps, piles of rejection letters, and that letter from Mr. Bloch.

I wish I had it so I could read it all over again. No doubt, there was wisdom there that escaped me in my youth.

Robert Bloch was a prolific short story writer. Fear Today, Gone Tomorrow is one of many of his collections.

Robert Bloch was a prolific short story writer. Fear Today, Gone Tomorrow is one of many of his collections.

I still remember a few things clearly, however.  That typewriter stamp was in the top left corner of a page of typing paper.  The letter was handwritten.  He said some encouraging things, said he saw promise in my letter (maybe just being nice), and gave me one piece of advice that stuck with me.

He told me not to use profanity in my stories if I could avoid it. The one line I remember in clarity was – “everyone can spell ‘bullshit’ but few people can spell ‘acquire.’”

I remember being stunned.

I can’t say I’ve been good about following that advice, but still….

God, I wish I could read that letter again.

Anyway.  It was a momentous occasion, and I was grateful he took the time to write (actually write) to me.

I have enjoyed his stories and novels ever since. I will never forget that he took time to write to me, and if I should ever be in such a position that someone actually wants my advice, I will always look to his example and extend kind advice and encouragement to fellow writers embarking on this long and lonely quest.

Robert Bloch in the late 1950s.

Robert Bloch in the late 1950s.

April 5 was Robert Bloch’s birthday.  I’ve been mulling over some kind of blog post to feature a little more of my collection, and this seems natural.  Robert Bloch was a star, an amazing writer, and, as I understand it, a kind man with a great sense of humor.  He should never be forgotten in writing circles as an influential man of varied interests and significant accomplishments. I won’t recount a list of those accomplishments here, which are well documented around the Interwebs.

So, I’ve posted my collection of Robert Bloch books, which bring me a great deal of joy.  I enjoy looking at other people’s collections, so I figure others do, too. Hopefully this is seen as a fitting tribute to someone who was extremely prolific in the genres of suspense, science fiction, and horror.

Happy birthday, Robert Bloch.  Thanks for the hours of enjoyment, for the example you set in your writing, and your willingness to pay it forward.

And for the record, I’m glad I chose writer instead of rock star. But I guess there’s still time.

R.I.P. Robert Bloch (April 5, 1917 – September 23, 1994).

DARKFUSE #1 edited by Shane Staley, published by DarkFuse 2014

DARKFUSE #1 edited by Shane Staley, published by DarkFuse 2014

I’m pleased to announce that my (actually kind of longish) short story “Children of the Horned God” appears in DARKFUSE #1, a new anthology series from the eponymous DarkFuse, premier publisher of horror and dark fiction for the masses.

A little bit of history: this story was originally written in hopes of getting on the Darkside Digital roster a few years ago. Due to some changes behind the scenes at the the time, Darkside Digital was closing down, but Shane read the story and liked it enough to accept it for HORRORWIRED 2, which would have been a Delirium Books title.  Well, the stars realigned and mighty forces combined to become DarkFuse.  Finally when the DARKFUSE anthology series was born, the story found its true home, and I couldn’t be happier with how things ended up.

The book is available in an attractive mini-hardcover edition at an affordable price. It’s also available for Kindle.  Check out the links below:

If you’re a horror fan, this book should hold something of interest for you no matter what your tastes.  DARKFUSE #1 includes offerings by five other authors as well, including the excellent William Meikle and Gary McMahon. Please check it out.

Angeline and I will be guest panelists and signing books at ConDFW this Saturday, February 22. Please come visit us and say hello if you’re in the area.  For people who need things like details, the website for the convention can be found here.  Kevin J. Anderson is this year’s author guest of honor.

My schedule for Saturday looks like this:

PROGRAMMING (Trinity VII)
Saturday, 2pm: The Return of Heroic Fantasy!
Ever wonder what George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones would be like if Conan were in it? So much for winter, by Crom! Bringing heroic fantasy back to the writing world one sword at a time, our panelists discuss how to write in this genre, and what separates it from Epic Fantasy such as Middle Earth and Westeros.

AUTOGRAPHS (Dealers Room)
Saturday, 3pm: Angeline Hawkes, Stina Leicht, Christopher Fulbright

PROGRAMMING 2 (Chinaberry)
Saturday, 6pm: Horror 101: Exploring the Subgenres
There are so many genres that are lumped together into Horror. Examples are: Lovecraftian, Ghosts, Zombies, Urban, Apocalypse, Epic, Splatterpunk, Slasher, Asian, and the many Witch-Werewolf-Vampire types (True Love vs Dresden Files vs Twilight vs etc.). We bring together several of our horror writers to explain what horror truly is, and where to look for inspiration.

LG_DevilBehindMe_215

THE DEVIL BEHIND ME by Christopher Fulbright & Angeline Hawkes, 2013 Dark Regions Press, cover art Fotokostic/Shutterstock.com

Angeline and I are excited to announce that our new novella, THE DEVIL BEHIND ME, is now available as a Dark Regions Digital exclusive, just in time for the holidays.

About the book: Alex Brandt’s life is the stuff of lore and legend, but not the fairytale one would welcome. The sole survivor of the Krampusnacht Massacre, Alex was shipped away to America on the heels of tragedy. Childhood trauma followed him to an adulthood plagued with fear and self-doubt. The horror of his past affects him so deeply each holiday season that his girlfriend urges him to resolve his issues once and for all.

Seeking closure to the Christmas tragedy, with the help of his uncle and a retired German police officer, Alex returns to the scene of the crime in Bavaria. But what lurks in the Alpine darkness on the snow-swept mountain slopes knows Alex has come back, and it’s seeking some closure of its own…

DARK FUSIONS: WHERE MONSTERS LURK edited by Lois Gresh, PS Publishing 2013

DARK FUSIONS: WHERE MONSTERS LURK edited by Lois Gresh, PS Publishing 2013

My short story “Death Eater” appears in this new limited hardcover edition of DARK FUSIONS: WHERE MONSTERS LURK, which debuted at the World Fantasy Convention in Brighton this past weekend.

The book is edited by Lois Gresh and features eldritch tales by lots of great folks, including Darrell Schweitzer, Robert M. Price, Yvonne Navarro, Nick Cato, Nancy Kilpatrick, Norman Prentiss and more. It was published in a 200-copy limited hardcover edition by PS Publishing, the UK’s foremost genre specialty press.

Fans of Lovecraftian horror and generally dark, weird fiction will likely find something of interest in these pages. If this is your kind of thing, please check it out:

The book is limited to 200 numbered copies with fantastic art by Steve Upham. Click the link to see the full jacket wrap and a complete list of contributors.