Cheap Candy

For the next day or so, you can pick up SOUR CANDYSour Candy - Resized at a discount at Amazon. 99 cents today and tomorrow, $1.99 for a few days after that until it returns to its regular price. So, if you haven’t read it and want to, now’s the time to grab it for less than the price of a cup of coffee. And hey, it’s #WorldBookDay, so you have two reasons to grab it.
 
“an excellent terror-filled novella….a stomach-twisting ride through the depths of horror, breathing new life into an often-stagnant part of the genre.”
Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)
 
Sour Candy is spectacularly good. A brilliant premise, marvelously executed, it’s as close to a perfect story as I can remember reading. I only wish I’d written it myself.”
— Bentley Little, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of The Resort, and The Store.
 
 

Short Stories: 2017 Edition

It’s been quite a productive year for me already, and while (as per usual) I can’t spill the beans on everything that’s cooking right now (as much as I’d love to), I can at least share some news about stories that are on the way in various publications.15319120_1192194820869660_8567178783653999739_n

My story of dwarves tasked with finding their errant brethren in territory governed by the dead, “Down Here with Us” will appear in Tales of the Lost Citadel, a shared fantasy world anthology edited by C.A. Suleiman. There’s no release date yet, but as I’ve already received a sample copy, I imagine it can’t be too far away. More news on this as I have it.

“Andromeda”, about a technological and possibly cosmic plague, will appear in an upcoming chapbook from Sinister Grin Press.

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The wartime story “Go Warily After Dark” about a family who pick the wrong place to seek shelter during an airstrike, will appear in Crystal Lake Publishing‘s forthcoming anthology Tales from the Lake Volume IV, edited by Joe Mynhardt and Ben Eads, due August 30th.

One of my rare erotica pieces “She Comes” is slated for publication this month in Great Jones Street‘s My Bloody Valentine series.

“Traveler”, a nasty little piece about a body-hopping entity who uses his unwitting victims to commit unspeakable crimes, will be featured in Dark Fuse Magazine in March.

hbyaoh-tpb-cvr-solMy novelette “A Wicked Thirst”, about an alcoholic whose date goes gruesomely wrong, will appear in Garden of Fiends: Tales of Addiction Horror, edited by Mark Matthews. As a rather cool incentive, the first 25 people to order the book can choose a free book by any of the authors listed on the table of contents.

“Sanctuary”, about a child sent to retrieve his father in a city forgotten by the rest of the world, will appear in Dark Cities, edited by Christopher Golden, and published by Titan Books. Look for it in May.

“Verstedkt”, in which our titular hero is sent to an Alpine village to investigate claims of a witch, will appear in the prose anthology Hellboy: An Assortment of Horrors, edited by Christopher Golden and Mike Mignola, due in August from Dark Horse Books.

Lastly, I have just turned in a short story “The Mannequin Challenge”, about an antisocial man who reluctantly agrees to attend the office Halloween party, and quickly wishes he hadn’t, to the Halloween Carnival anthology, edited by Brian Freeman, to be published by Cemetery Dance Publications and Random House.

I’ll update this list as more news develops…

Charles L. Grant’s The Orchard

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In the midst of writing a new essay for Dancing with Shadows, The Charles L. Grant Blogathon, I realized that I had said many of the same things before, and much more succinctly, in my preface for Necon Books’ digital reissue of The Orchard, which is not only one of my favorite titles from Charlie’s extensive body of work, but also one of my favorite collections, period. So, rather than repeat myself, I thought it more prudent to share that essay with you here (with slight edits for clarity):

There’s no better time to write this introduction than today, October 24th, because this is Charlie’s season. As I sit here pecking away at the keyboard, the light is an eerie shade of tarnished gold through a persistent rain. Dead leaves scratch across the porch like dirty paper airplanes thrown by sullen children. The wind is not quite howling, but it’s considering it, as it whips through the woods around my house. The branches are gnarled and bare, casting long thin shadows that look like rotten ropes poised to pull in the encroaching dark. The earth is sodden, the air smells like smoke. The river is thick and full and muddy as it rushes under the small wooden bridge that leads away from here.

This is Charlie’s season.

And this is what I said to my girlfriend a few days ago as we bundled up and took a stroll along the lane that meanders through these woods. “I love fall,” I told her. “The quality of the light, the taste of the air…it’s Charlie Grant’s season.” She did not need to ask who I meant, as she has heard me go on (and on, and on, God bless her patience) at length about my favorite writer. I have read passages to her from his books; she has seen the towering stack of yellowed paperbacks bearing his name that materializes beside the bed at this same time every year. She knows I edited a book called Quietly Now, which was a celebration of the man and his work. And she has heard me speak of him as a writer whose style I emulate over all others. There are any number of reasons why this is the case, most of which I’ve covered in the various essays and tributes I’ve written since Charlie passed away, so I won’t rehash them here. Besides, if you’re reading this book now, then chances are you already know them.

orchard-uk-pb-grantOf everything Charlie wrote, my favorite books of his are those that combine quartets of stories linked by a central motif and packaged as novels, books like Nightmare Seasons, The Black Carousel, Dialing the Wind, and this one you’re reading now. It has long been argued that, for horror writers particularly, the novella is the ideal length for a story. It allows character development and plenty of darkness, while negating the need for rambling or filler. For the reader, it’s just long enough to be worth the investment, but not so long it seems daunting. Charlie seemed most at home with novellas, and indeed they represented him at the height of his power, and nowhere is that more evident than in The Orchard.

Here, our connective tissue is the titular venue, an old orchard on the outskirts of town that has somehow managed to be forgotten by most of the people in Oxrun Station. And perhaps it wants to be forgotten. There was a fire there, you see, and although apples still grow on the trees that escaped the flames, it is inadvisable to eat them. Doing so changes things, changes you, and unleashes an insidious evil, whether within or without.

But people will always find places not meant to be found, and amid the shifting mists and half-glimpsed shadows, the orchard spreads its tendrils into the minds of the weak, exploiting the unrequited love of poor, overweight Herb Alstar in “My Mary’s Asleep”, and the loneliness and paternal insecurities of policeman Brett, in the ironically titled, “I See Her Sweet and Fair”.

I read this book in my late teens, about seven years after it was released, and though I didn’t revisit it until Captain of the Good Ship Necon, Bob Booth, approached me to write this introduction, the one story that had never left me was “The Last and Dreadful Hour”, which I recalled with almost perfect clarity. It’s a terrifying piece, a veritable chiaroscuro of horror, and my favorite kind of story—one that traps people together in a single setting and pits them against some type of invasive, unknowable evil. After I first read this, visits to my dilapidated local movie theater were never quite the same, and as I sat in the gloom, usually alone, waiting for the movie to start, I would always find myself squinting into the shadows beneath the stained screen, wondering if there was something hiding there. It’s a testament to Charlie’s power that he can write something so moody, so dark and dirty, that it sticks in the mind decades after you first read it. And that’s one of the reasons I love his work so much. It is less a reading experience than an immersion into a meticulously crafted and lyrical carnival of shadows you find difficult to forget.

Similarly, the closing segment of The Orchard, “Screaming, In the Dark” documents a man trapped (this time by injury and not supernatural means) in a hospital bed as odd things begin to occur in the hallways and rooms around him. What I like most about this one is how Charlie subverts the use of darkness and somehow manages to make dazzling bursts of white light even more threatening.

The Orchard is bookended by the story of Abe Stockton, the current chief of police, who is not long for this world, and the man he brings to the orchard to educate about the ways of the place. To assist him, he has brought along some files, and it is those that make up the stories in the book. This introduction and epilogue could be considered incidental, but they’re anything but. In addition to making the book read more cohesively than most novels, they’re also just as skin-crawlingly unsettling as the stories themselves.

If you’re reading these stories for the first time, I envy you. And I can’t help wondering what Charlie would have made of seeing his work presented in digital form. Some authors still rail against the new medium, and I completely understand why. Like them, I too have a deep attachment to physical books. To me, it’s as much a part of the reading experience as the stories themselves, and it’s still how I prefer to read, if possible. The argument could, and has, been made that digital reading is too cold and impersonal, but to be fair, I think this misses the point. The medium is irrelevant, merely the means by which the stories are brought to you. Deliver them via papyrus scrolls, cave paintings, pulp, movies, audio, digital screen, retinal scan, or brain implant (for who knows what comes next!), it is the stories, and only the stories that matter. I don’t think Charlie would have cared how you read his work, only that you enjoyed it. And it is my hope that having his work available digitally exposes it to a new and expanded audience. It is nothing less than he deserved.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve prattled on long enough, and I am due another walk with my better half. It is the perfect day for such things, just as it is the perfect day to reminisce about my favorite writer and mentor.

Because now the light is fading and streetlights are coming on, sending shadows sprawling across the porch and toward the door. The wind has indeed risen to a howl, moaning once more about the things it seeks to change. The leaves are scratching at the door, tapping on the windows, asking to be let in, eager for me to come out. The river hurries on, and there’s a chill in the air that foretells of the coming storm.

It’s Charlie Grant’s season.

And it always will be.

 

 

THE TENT Free on Wattpad

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You can now read my novella THE TENT for free on Wattpad.

“If JAWS was the story that made people stay away from the ocean, THE TENT is the mean little novella that will keep them out of the woods.” – Norman Partridge, author of DARK HARVEST.

“Burke has concocted a tasty mix of THE THING meets INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS meets THE TWILIGHT ZONE, and he made sure to marinate it in a couple of gallons of blood before setting it free.” – FEARNET

John Carpenter’s TALES FOR A HALLOWEEN NIGHT, V2

I have a story (“Mr. Goodnight”) in the upcoming graphic novel anthology John Carpenter’s Tales for a Halloween Night, Volume 2, edited by Sandy King Carpenter. As a lifelong fan of John and Sandy King Carpenter’s work, to say it’s an honor to be included in this book is an understatement.

Look for the book in stores on October 18th, or preorder the book here.

From John Carpenter, the man who brought you the cult classic horror film Halloween and all of the scares beyond comes 12 more twisted tales of terror, tricks, and treats. In volume 2 of the award-winning graphic novel series, Carpenter brings together another stellar ensemble of storytellers from the worlds of movies, novels and comics for a collection of stories that will haunt your dreams at night.

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Announcing SECRET FACES

Secret Faces smallI am pleased to announce that my new short story collection SECRET FACES is now available for preorder on Amazon, Smashwords, and Kobo, with all other vendors to follow in the coming hours. Here’s the lowdown:

“If you are hiding from yourself, don’t expect anyone else to see you.”

Everyone has a secret. Everyone is someone else when the world isn’t looking. Sometimes that person is good, sometimes that person is not. In Bram Stoker Award-winning author Kealan Patrick Burke’s latest terrifying collection of short stories, you’ll meet thirteen people who discover the horror of what happens when those secret faces are removed and the true darkness that dwells within us all is unleashed.

Table of Contents:

Home
Stalled
The End of Us
The Red Light is Blinking
Mother/Nature
I’m Not There
Memory Lane
Terminal
Forced Entry
The Quiet
The One Night of the Year
Pig
Hoarder

With an introduction and story notes by the author.

Preorder on Amazon here.

 

 

On Location

When The Turtle Boy was first released back in 2003, I included an afterword letting readers know that Myers Pond, where Timmy Quinn first encounters the boy who will change his life forever, was based on a real place, as is the neighborhood in which Timmy lives. The pond is in Delaware, Ohio, which is where I was living when I wrote it. This is not the first time I have used real places in my work, so I thought it might be fun to share a few of them with you here.

The Turtle Boy, Currency of Souls, “Snowmen”, “Mr. Goodnight” – Delaware, OH

Myers Pond

All the locations used in the novella are real and are still there today, though, as documented at the end of the story, a house was built by the pond, which made it private property, and the water was subsequently dyed green, an aesthetic move I can only assume proved fatal for the turtles who once called it home. In the town proper, the economic downturn meant that most of the people you encountered looked dispirited, burdened, a sight so prevalent it inspired an entire novel and the creation of the haunted town of Milestone.

The Hides, “The Acquaintance”, “Prohibited” – Dungarvan, Ireland

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Photo courtesy Wikipedia/Mik Herman

The Hides was my chance to revisit my hometown in the south of Ireland and populate it with ghosts and other things. While I took some geographical and historical liberties to service the story, the majority of locations in the book are just as they appear in real life, with the exception of the leather factory (now a block of apartments) and the library (since moved to a new location, though the Old Market House which used to house it, still remains.) The Moresby Buoy (“there was a dead woman clinging to it”) has been restored and stands as a monument to the lives lost when the titular ship was sunk just outside the harbor.

Vessels – Inis Oírr, The Aran Islands

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Photo courtesy DiscoverIreland.ie

Located on the west coast of Ireland, Inis Oírr is the smallest of three islands which make up The Aran Islands. With a combined population of approximately 1200 people, I couldn’t think of a better place to send Timmy Quinn, who, by the time we catch up to him in Vessels, is desperate for isolation.

Peregrine’s Tale, Nemesis, The Tent – Hocking Hills, OH

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Photo courtesy ExploreHockingHills.com

I’ve been to Hocking Hills dozens of times. With its caves, nature trails, wide expanse of untamed woods, hideaways, and cabins, it’s a great place to get away from it all. And when you find yourself in the forest without a cell phone signal, well, how can you not write a horror story about it?

Nemesis – Adare Manor, Ireland

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Photo courtesy Adaremanor.com

In the final book of the Timmy Quinn series, Timmy finds that there are others who share his curse/talent. These people call themselves The Conduits. Led by the mysterious Catherine Moriarty, their base of operations is a mansion, inspired by the very real and very beautiful Adare Manor in Ireland.

Kin – Alabama

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Photo courtesy The Miami Herald

I had never been outside of Ohio by the time I took my first road trip. That trip took me through Alabama, some of the best and worst parts of the state. Then I saw a cotton field, something I’d never seen before. I walked through it, watching as the sun hit it just right, my fingers trailing over the cotton, and inspiration struck. While Kin had been on my mind for quite some time, that’s when I knew where it would start. When I returned from the road trip (to Florida), I immediately sat down and wrote the first four chapters of the book. The wind-wracked tree upon which Claire etches her initials and those of her friends, is real too.

Jack & Jill – Logan, Ohio

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Photo courtesy Wikipedia

With no disrespect to the people who call it home, there is something very much amiss about Logan. For a start, I have been there three times and never seen more than a handful of people there. On my first visit, a beautiful blonde woman in white was playing a violin on a bandstand at twilight, to no audience. I was convinced she was a ghost. For another, on my last visit, as I was talking with my friends about best places to photograph, a woman burst out of her house and fell to the ground screaming and covered in blood. My friend’s son questioned Heaven as we were walking through the cemetery. There are an unusual number of car accidents there. The worst thing that’s ever happened to a friend happened in Logan when she was a child. There’s a feeling in the air there that’s just wrong. The graveyards are on a hill that overlook the town, and at the opposite end, there stands a parade of mausoleums, many of them sunken, many of them open. I cannot explain what it is or why it is that’s so odd about the place, but Jack & Jill describes it better than I can here.

Master of the Moors, “Tonight the Moon is Ours” – Touraneena, Ireland

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Photo courtesy FlickrHiveMind.net

I spent a lot of my childhood in Touraneena, which is where my grandparents lived. It’s a beautiful, rural area surrounded by mountains on one side and endless fields on the other. It’s ancient, steeped in history, an anachronistic paradise for a storyteller. Many of my adventures and misadventures ended up making it into future stories. In the short “Tonight the Moon is Ours”, everything but the supernatural element really happened, though when you’re in Touraneena, it’s not hard to believe all of it could have happened. The fields, the horses, the mountains, the fog that appears abruptly, all of these combined to help influence my novel Master of the Moors.