It’s been a long time coming, but my haunted video arcade novella Zero Lives Remaining is finally printed and ready to ship.

Shock Totem Publications faced several production delays on this title, but there was a big time payoff for that long wait: one of the coolest books I’ve ever had the pleasure of holding.

Here I am, this past weekend, signing them all:



You can go here to see pictures of the finished product and place your order (it comes packaged in a plastic VHS clamshell and with bonus liner insert and trading cards). These will sell out, Shock Totem just yesterday posted these pictures and already this limited edition is over 50% spoken for.

As I’ve said in previous posts: yes, this is an expensive (and relatively short) book, so if you’re on the fence about it or are not a collector know that there will be more affordable ebook and paperback editions. Those will be available sometime after the “early adopters” who bought the limited have received their copies.

Huge thanks to everyone who’s been patient while we made this a book you’ll be proud to have on your shelf, and an equally huge thanks to everyone invlolved with the production.

Before you go, be sure to watch the short film Mike Lombardo and Reel Splatter Productions shot to promote the book:

“No Giant Mouse?” and Other Disappointments

Last week one of my publishers, Samhain, terminated one of my editors, Don D’Auria. If you’re at all into horror fiction, either reading it or following the industry: then you probably read something about it online.

If you haven’t, I’m not going to give too much of a recap here because, frankly, I’m no good at that stuff. If you need the scoop, I think John Everson has the best rundown of what happened and Don’s pedigree while also giving voice to a writer’s experience with Don, a prince of a man. But if you want a little more fire in your reading, you can also check out the post Brian Keene wrote on the subject. I don’t wholly agree with Mr. Keene (someone who’s been very supportive of me and whose writing and industry know-how I greatly admire) but I can nod my head at a lot of what he’s saying.

Where we disagree is that I don’t read the decision to let Don go as one predicated on him being replaced with an editor who is “social media savvy.” Even if that’s how the company’s press release seems to be (insanely unfortunately) worded, I think his exit from the company was likely a much more straightforward matter of economics.

As a Samhain author for three years (a book a year, even though it was constantly implied that I should be on a faster release schedule), I’ve seen a lot of internal emails and press releases that read similarly to the one sent out last week. The gist of those pieces of correspondence are usually “we know there’s a problem with [marketing, distribution, art direction, etc.] and we’re working on fixing it.”

Without getting too far into my thoughts on last week’s press release, my opinion runs towards:

“Big changes are coming that will make things better for everyone!” begins to sound a lot like “remain calm. No shoving. Make an orderly line to the lifeboats, please” when you hear it repeated ad nauseam.

The bottom line is: while I haven’t always thought that Samhain made the right moves, there are good people working there in the Cincinnati office and I want to see them succeed. Thanks to Don, Samhain is currently publishing some fantastic authors (some of them I count as great friends), and I hope that the company can continue the horror line and grow sales/the readership to where authors like Jonathan Janz, Sephera Giron, Kristopher Rufty, Patrick Lacey, David Bernstein, Hunter Shea and many others deserve. Support these people.

As for Don himself, I’m sure you read enough sappy blogs last week to hold you over for a lifetime. He’s a great editor, a fantastic guy, and I have no doubt that there are already talks on-going for another publishing house to bring him in. Last week I put this picture and caption up on Facebook and I think it sums up my feelings nicely:

“Here are some more fun Don facts, as they pertain to me:

  1. He’s not just an expert in horror fiction, he’s as big a Euro-horror cinema geek as you’re likely to find. Most of our World Horror Convention conversations have been about DVDs and Blu-rays, even the conversations where the drinks were going on the Samhain company credit card and we were supposed to be talking business. Thanks, Samhain!
  1. I pitched him my first novel, Video Night, and lied about it being finished. Not only that, I was sweating bullets during the pitch session (at Stoker Weekend 2011 on Long Island) and it had to be apparent to Don. He put me at ease by making small talk instead of asking me about the manuscript (I hadn’t sold anything beyond a few short stories at that point), we landed on topics like Boston in the ’80s and Warren Zevon. He later acquired the book.
  1. He doesn’t do a lot of afterhours events at cons, and when he does he always knows where the paparazzi are, as evidenced by this photo from Killercon:

Don and Adam

Don will be a catch wherever he goes, and I hope to work with him (and chat movies) again one day soon.

I may not have any books forthcoming with Samhain (I have some coming from elsewhere though, so don’t worry if you’re one of my four readers) but they’re still the publisher of a large section of my backlist. Not only that, a month or so ago events were set in motion to get one of those backlist titles discounted for a limited time.

So, uh, I’m left in the awkward position of making this blog post about two different (somewhat ill-fitting) topics and will now proceed to try and sell you something.

We’re about to switch over to shilling mode, don’t hate the player hate the game.

For the next week my book Exponential is on sale for a measly 99 cents wherever ebooks are sold (amazon, B&N, Kobo).

I think that’s too low a price, but Exponential is a bit of an odd duck when it comes to my books. It’s kind of my “sleeper” title. And it got that way via an underwhelming release that can be traced back to a lot of factors.

For one—and this one’s totally on me—I was very busy when the book was released and didn’t get to send out requests for press (reviews, interviews, etc.) or plaster the internet like I should have. At this level of publishing (at basically all levels, really, these days) the onus for a book launch is placed partially or wholly onto the author’s level of hustle. I thought I’d try a “set it and forget it” approach here with Exponential, and it didn’t work. Even the folks who bought (and presumably enjoyed) my prior two novels didn’t show up to the party. And maybe that’s because they weren’t made aware that there was a party going on at all. Again, my bad.

But there’s also another problem I’ve run into with book, and this one’s only partially on me: people seem to read the back-cover copy and think that Exponential is about a giant mouse.

Exponential is not about a giant mouse.

chuckycheese gif

You heard me.

(Yeah, this entire post was basically an excuse for me to use that gif.)

Neither does Exponential, as the cover art “strongly inspired” by the poster art for 1988’s The Blob implies, feature Kevin Dillon’s long flowing hair nor a dude getting sucked down a drain.


The ad copy and the cover weren’t prepped by me. I did offer some notes for the cover image (eventually getting cut off after a couple rounds of revisions for being “too nitpicky,” if I remember) and probably could have had the synopsis refined, but I somehow let the notion that people could falsely assume the book’s about a giant mouse slip by me until it was released.

After that, people at cons started asking “So this book’s about a giant mouse?” after reading the back cover synopsis. Leading to a reaction from me similar to this:

job mistake

So if not a giant mouse, what is Exponential about? 

It’s about a bunch of characters who seem like they’d be better suited to an crime thriller ending up face to face with a gelatinous bone golem that is cultivating mass by eating people and wildlife as it moves from Arizona towards Las Vegas. In short: it’s a giant monster road novel that I pitch at cons as “Tremors meets Breaking Bad!”

I honestly do feel like it features some of my best writing and character work and the reviews bear me out on this (it got a nice write-up in Rue Morgue #152 and even made some “Year’s Best” lists). It bums me out that the book wasn’t a hit on initial release, but I hope that you’ll give it a chance now and that it’ll find a new audience (and if you don’t like reading, there’s even an audiobook version).

And whether you like the book or wish that it had slightly more giant mice: please tell someone about it (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Goodreads reviews do wonders, even if they’re negative/mixed).

Thanks for listening to the spiel and good vibes to all my Samhain brothers and sisters,


Halloween Treats (i.e. short stories) and a Seasonal Discount

Spent last weekend slinging books and kissing babies at Rock and Shock 2015. And while I had a great time hanging out with buddy Matt Serafini, I don’t talk about that experience here. If you want to hear about it head over to my Cemetery Dance Online column.

Just stopping in to offer three quick updates for your Halloween season.

I’ve had not one but two short stories drop this month.

sp 7

The first was in UK ‘zine Splatterpunk. If you’re frightened off by the name and cover of the magazine (which I love, but it is brutal): you shouldn’t be, because there’s nary a drop of  blood to be found in my satirical ghost story “Readings Off the Charts”. It’s a little more sarcastic than my fiction usually goes, so I think I have the punk part of splatterpunk squared for the issue. That’s available to order direct from the publisher and even if you live in the US it’s still a bargain and ships quickly. Also features Krist Rufty, Jeff Strand and Garret Cook. Each story’s illustrated and mine is handled by the wonderful Jim Agplaza.

dark hallows

I’m also overjoyed to announce that I’m a part of Dark Hallows: 10 Halloween Haunts, a collection featuring Richard Chizmar, Brian James Freeman, Norman Partridge, Ronald Malfi, Lisa Morton, and others. It’s also fully illustrated by my friend Aaron Dries (and features a story by him, too!). That’s available in paperback and ebook right now and is a pretty good way to celebrate the season. Thanks to editor Mark Parker for including my story “Starting Early”, which is original to this collection (as are all but one of the stories, I believe).


Lastly, but not leastly, my new novel Mercy House has been selected to be a part of Barnes & Noble’s Halloween Horror Sale. Grab that for your Nook right now while it’s cheap ($2) and tell your friends to do the same. If you don’t have a Nook, then that’s okay because the sale price is available on all other digital platforms. Thanks to B&N and publisher Random House Hydra for hooking that up.

Happy Halloween!

Goodnight Expectations, Goodnight Click-Bait, GOODNIGHT MOMMY (2014)

goodnight mommy poster

“The Scariest Movie Trailer of All-Time” hails MTV and Uproxx! “People are Freaking Out About this Horror Movie Trailer” exclaims Buzzfeed!

Those are real headlines.

And I’m of two minds about them.

For one: I’m glad that whatever advertising firm/distributor was able to get Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz’s Goodnight Mommy this kind of press coverage.

In an age where so many movies deserving of theatrical runs end up dumped on VOD, then need a second flush to move them down the pipes to Netflix: I’m glad that someone found a way to sell this beautiful, idiosyncratic movie.

But I also saw those headlines back in April and deliberately avoided clicking on the links.

Mostly because I’m so entrenched in this horror thing, that if a film is getting any kind of positive word-of-mouth I know that I’m going to end up seeing it. But also because I don’t respond well to click-bait. I try to rise above, I don’t want to give into the cognitive SEO hackers who write that crap.

Well, those noble reasons and the cold hard facts that trailers have a way of giving up too much of the goods.

Tonight I saw Goodnight Mommy along with Superghost author and superfriend Scott Cole. Coming out of the theater, he was way more introspective than I was.

“It’s just not what I was expecting, the trailer sold me something else,” Scott said (I’m paraphrasing).

For the record,  I was ranting and raving about how much I loved the movie. And that much must be stressed upfront. Recently I’ve been inundated with a lot of films that were falling in the “like not love” camp, only the upper echelons of that crop of unloved warranting mention on the blog.

But DAMN does it feel good to love a movie. And, even though the romance hasn’t had a chance to cool yet, I gotta say that I do love Goodnight Mommy.

But back to Scott’s reaction to the flick.

I pressed him on it, wanting to know why he didn’t like it. But he pushed back, clarifying his point, articulating that he definitely enjoyed the film, he just felt a little betrayed by the trailer. That trailer that got all those headlines.

So what did I do upon returning home? You can bet that I fired up that trailer I’d been avoiding.

And after watching it: I see what Scott means.

The trailer for Goodnight Mommy is incredibly misleading. Like, nearly class-action-suit level misleading, because for a moment it cuts three unrelated shots together to make them seem like they’re one contiguous scene in order to better “sell” the narrative of the trailer.

As shady as it is to reconstruct a non-existent scene in a trailer, I also think that it’s a kind of brilliant marketing move. Most bad trailers show you all a film’s “money shots” (pardon, but if there’s a better term for this phenomena I’m unfamiliar). Instead of doing that, Goodnight Mommy’s trailer builds an alternate first act for the film.

Sure, it’s a punchier alternative first act that completely misrepresents the Austrian film’s arthouse leanings (leanings that I’m TOTALLY into), but if it gets asses in seats…

So, if you haven’t already: maybe don’t watch that trailer. If you have a theater that’s playing Goodnight Mommy near you (it made it to Philly, can you believe it?): go see it. If not, I’m sure it’ll have a VOD run soon. The trailer is an interesting curio, but take my word for it and go in to the movie cold.

And, no, I don’t want to do a proper “review” of Goodnight Mommy. Because that would require synopsizing. Synopsizing that might hurt your enjoyment of the movie. But what I will share is comparing Goodnight Mommy to the work of Jack Ketchum and Miike’s Audition. From those reference points I’m guessing that you can put together that this film is rather brutal. And a specific kind of high-minded brutality, at that.

If that doesn’t sell you, to wrap up, there’s the pithy tagline I thought of coming out of the theater:

“It’s a Hardy Boys Adventure as filmed by Michael Haneke!”

Now, if you have seen the movie, feel free to keep reading for one additional thought about the internet’s reception of the film. There are no spoilers, per se, but if you read any further you won’t be going in to the movie tabula rasa.

…one more thing, and this has slightly more to do with the content of this film itself.

While I was on the Google warpath of looking up the ridiculous headlines about the film’s trailer, I couldn’t help but see another trend among the articles. There is a small-but-vocal minority of reviewers slamming the film’s twist ending, labeling it as “predictable.” I won’t reveal the ending here, but in most cases I’d argue that even knowing a film has “a twist” itself constitutes a spoiler. With Goodnight Mommy not so much.

That’s because everything about Goodnight Mommy is smart and deliberate and exceedingly well-made. It’s a quiet film, one where most of the dialogue is presented as the shorthand mumbling of two prepubescent brothers. For much of its runtime it’s about as close to silent film as modern movies can get.

And like a silent film, Goodnight Mommy demands your attention, your taking in of subtle details. It does very little hand-holding for much of its narrative, which is what leads me to the conclusion that co-writer/directors Franz and Fiala don’t want the ending to be a twist. They WANT you to guess it beforehand, or–if not want–are fine with you guessing.

In fact, I think they tip their cards pretty early in the film (maybe by the 20 minute mark, in my estimation) and offer scant red herrings to try and elude audience prefiguring. The twist is less a twist, more a series of treats for the attentive.

This isn’t me being some douchebag petting his beard and bragging that “I guessed the ending!” I rarely get this kind of stuff right. I’m a total sucker when watching movies, I get blindsided by simple twists all the time. That said: I completely foresaw where Goodnight Mommy ends up going and it felt like I was intended to.

It’s kind of a case of parallax view: if you recognize where it’s going early on in the film, Goodnight Mommy is recontextualized as a tragedy from its earliest scenes. And that “educated guessing” does nothing to harm one’s enjoyment of the movie. If anything it enhances that enjoyment, because you get to sit there with the thought “I’m pretty sure I know where this is going, but I don’t want to be right” dancing around in your head, not knowing for sure that you’re right until the final reel.

I can dig on that.


If you like this rambling about a movie, than you’ll probably love to read me and author Orrin Grey ramble about a century’s worth of our favorite movie monsters over at Cemetery Dance Online. It’s the fourth installment of my monthly column, Paper Cuts, and I’m just so freakin’ glad that they haven’t asked me to leave yet.

THE GREEN INFERNO (2015): Run Through the Jungle

green inferno

Now that we can all finally see it, Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno is going to end up being a kind of litmus test among horror fans.

After a two year delay, the movie opened fairly wide this weekend.

With festival screenings happening sporadically over those two-plus years, there have been plenty of opportunities to hear what people think. But grapevine word has been hopelessly mixed.

I didn’t much trust any of the opinions I was hearing, good or bad. The negative reviews sounded mostly like they were coming from Roth detractors and the positive reactions seemed to be praising the film’s unabashed gorehound roots.

To the people who dislike Roth: that’s not really an opinion I understand. I can see being mixed on some of his other films, but who in their right mind doesn’t like Hostel Part 2? And the blackshirts who would give a movie a pass by measuring onscreen blood in fluid ounces…eh, not really my barometer.

So I was going into this one blind. Haven’t even seen a second of footage, as I’ve avoided all clips and trailers (no easy feat when you stretch a film’s release out for years).

To end the suspense: The Green Inferno is my jam. I enjoyed it a lot, even more so as I think about it.

In interviews, Roth has recently begun re-branding the movie as a response to “hashtag-activism”/“slacktivism” (I’m using quotes because the people who use those terms as slurs often end up being more obnoxious than their targets).

Roth may be selling a few extra tickets with that kind of talk but he’s actually underselling the surprisingly nuanced set-up that gets our characters stuck behind cannibal-lines.*

Where the default moral setting for the cannibal films of the seventies and eighties was “the cruelty of man knows no bounds and is beholden to no level of ‘civilization’” (a message frequently stomped on by movies that are, by and large, pretty icky), The Green Inferno’s characters, for the most part, aren’t dicks. They’re kids who, while naive enough to be manipulated, are legitimately trying to do some good in the world. One of the first scenes has our protagonist walking out of Zabar’s and a few scenes later she’s ready to padlock herself to a bulldozer. This is clearly a character willing to put her money where her mouth is.

To sell the movie as “dumb college kids get what’s coming to them” is not only false advertising, it runs the risk of making the movie sound brainless and generic. Which it isn’t.

Much of the film’s (surprisingly involved) plot seems to be asking who’s right to tell people they’re wrong? With “people” alternatively being Americans, Peruvians, and natives.

It’s this complexity that heightens the film beyond where its baser instincts sometimes want it to go.

At the beginning of this write-up I said that The Green Inferno would end up being a litmus test. What I mean by that is the movie’s a kind of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup taste-test. How much comedy can you take with your gore and how much abject depravity can you take in your comedies?

What you certainly wouldn’t glean from the film’s marketing is how much humor is in The Green Inferno. And you’d be even more surprised how much of the humor successfully lands. In a couple of situations the jokes land better than the gore effects. I really regret seeing this as a Friday matinee. It would have played better with a bigger audience, and I felt strange laughing when there were only three other people in the theater. All more serious.

The gore is plentiful and above-average. It’s largely practical (although when there is computer animated blood: you notice it), but it’s the smaller gags (background trauma in the aftermath of a plane crash, for example) that really shine and that’s because they’re allowed a little mystique, aren’t given enough screen time to outstay their welcome.

The cast (which starts out pretty sprawling and is…whittled), is uniformly good. With the exception of Lorenza Izzo, who is excellent. Izzo plays our protagonist, Justine, while walking the razor’s edge between sweet and over-naive (there’s that word again). For a film so reliant on location and effects, Izzo bears much of its success or failure on her shoulders and succeeds.

All this positivity isn’t to say that the film is without flaws. It has a few legitimate ones, and they may be deal-breakers for a lot of people.

Despite shooting in Peru, there’s not going to be any mistaking The Green Inferno for a nature documentary. Every piece of wildlife, including a group of insects integral to a late-movie kill, ends up being some unfortunate mishmash if CG and green screen. There’s also a couple of weird pacing snags and a final reel that fizzles more than pops (complete with a Marvel-style post-credits tag, which feels like a first for this kind of movie).

But all of those are quibbles when I think back on the fact that I just sat in a multiplex theater and watched an honest-to-goodness gore film. A good one! A gore film that is very modern (and smart!) in its framing and storytelling, but is plenty old-school enough when it comes to what fans want: gallons and gallons of the red stuff, some of it coursing through a still-functioning brain.

One last thing. There’s a subsection of fans for which The Green Inferno won’t be a litmus test, but instead an entre to a pissing match. I’ve already seen it happening on my Facebook wall. The argument mostly boils down to “he’s ripping off Deodato!” and is mostly coming from people who haven’t seen the movie yet.

You’re right, dummy: they don’t make them like they used to. And they can’t, because we live in a different time.

To flash my own cred for a second: I’ve seen Cannibal Holocaust projected in 35mm (a feel-good, animal-friendly double feature in conjunction with The Man From Deep River). It wasn’t my first time seeing it, but as I told a friend leaving the theater: I think it will be my last. There will simply be no topping that screening experience and as much as I love so many aspects of the movie, watching those animals die makes me feel terrible. Terrible and glad that ‘they don’t make’em like that anymore.’

And, gaining ethos-wise, there’s also that thing I wrote a few years ago.

What I respect most about The Green Inferno is that it’s not a reference fest. It is reverent to what’s come before, but it understands that it needs to be a modern movie with modern concerns.  It does its own thing, and any horror movie that does that is worth supporting in a theater.

Horror fans: don’t be snobs. You claim to hate snobbery (we are the most looked down upon genre, as many are quick to point out). See the movie and make up your own mind, but don’t go into it thinking you have to dislike it because it walks a different tonal path than the cannibals that have come before.

*and, don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate the P.T. Barnum-ness of Roth’s claims, along with the normal “viral” rumors of people fainting and being sick at screenings, something we’ll surely be inundated with this weekend. William Castle would be proud.

THE VISIT (2015): Grandma Take Me Home


The Visit is going to be heralded as a “return to form” for M. Night Shyamalan.

That’s not true.

But in this case not being a return to form is not a bad thing.

Confused? Well, to reveal my own twist in the fourth line: I really enjoyed The Visit.

That “form” that most reviewers will claim Shyamalan is “returning to” will be defined as the two (or three, depending on how Signs tracks for them) movie run that started with The Sixth Sense. A run of movies that is most certainly accomplished, but could also be labeled dour.

And by “could” I mean to say that I’m labeling them as dour.

Come at me.

But what The Visit gets right (and it gets a lot right) had its seeds sown in what many consider to be the writer/director’s greatest failure: The Happening.

Full disclosure: I love The Happening.

And I’m not using “love” in that millennial, groomed-on –Mystery Science Theater 3000, macchiato-sipping, “so bad it’s good” scoffing, post-ironic way. To hell with that.

I genuinely like that movie, and the biggest reason for my affection is how strange it is. How blazingly disrespectful it is to tonal cohesion and the tropes of modern horror it is.

What’s important to note when discussing The Happening is that it isn’t outsider art. It’s not The Room. It’s the product of a man who, a couple years prior, we were all lauding as a director who lived and breathed cinema.

The Happening is an over-written act of hubris, mystifyingly cast and with several moments of deliberate (and very very funny) humor that call into question whether or not the whole film itself was concieved as a put-on. A kind of Them! where the giant ants are invisible. It’s a Rorschach test that has one foot in Shyamalan’s “serious” output and one foot in the ludicrous. That playful ambiguity infuriates most viewers and amuses a small subset.

And perhaps The Visit’s greatest gift is that it makes its sense of humor abundantly clear, as to validate this particular viewer’s take on The Happening.

But that’s enough about The Happening. I’ve written thousands of words about that movie. All of them out of print, but thousands of words nonetheless.

The 2011 issue of Paracinema featuring my article

A 2011 issue of Paracinema featuring my article “What, No!”

The first surprise The Visit offered me was that it was found footage. I mean, I was in the theater on day one, but I feel like I would have been there even faster if I’d known it was FF. You see, I just wrote up a big long defense of the format over at Cemetery Dance Online and have recently found myself in the mood for some discovered footage (he said, indelicately linking you over to a longass essay).

There are two things that are interesting about the film’s found footage conceit. First is that our director/cameraman/protagonist, a younger teenager named Becca (Olivia DeJonge), is an aspiring filmmaker who’s chosen to make a documentary about her first trip to meet her (estranged from her mother) grandparents.

The fact that Becca knows what she’s doing behind the camera means that the film is allowed to have its cake and eat it when it comes to cinematography. Most shots are expertly composed, with moments of directorial self-aggrandizement thrown in when our narrator finds a particularly novel way to shoot her grandparent’s Pennsylvania farm.

Secondly there’s an autobiographical element to making this a found footage movie. It’s a much-mythologized factoid on the bonus features of every Shyamalan DVD that the director has been making movies from a very young age. That makes the precociousness of his lead actress (and the impossibly convoluted lexicon the script bestows upon her) is not only validated by the plot, but meta-text.

It’s also worth mentioning that Becca has a brother, Tyler (Ed Oxenbould). In any other film Tyler could have been insanely abrasive. But in The Visit’s weird twilight-existence between vicious teeny-shocker and children’s adventure comedy, Tyler is the joke-cracking, self-involved, freestyle rapping heart of the film. And if that description sounds farfetched: my first thought walking out of the theater was that this movie has been grossly mismarketed. The Visit plays like Amblin’s take on The Blair Witch Project. And that’s a pretty cool mash-up, to me.

Everything I’ve said so far is playing up the film’s humor and kid-friendliness. But what you probably want to know about a horror movie is: is it scary?

Plenty scary.

Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie give wonderfully creepy performances as Becca and Tyler’s NaNa and PopPop. They feel like characters that Roald Dahl would’ve created if we snuck a few pages from an Edward Lee novel into one of his manuscripts. NaNa and PopPop are child’s idea of why old people are scary, if we shot that understanding through with an adult’s experience of how mean (and filthy) an aging human body gets.

Rounding out the cast is Katheryn Hahn (Transparent) as the kids’ (largely absent, telecommuting into scenes via Skype) mother.

“So what’s the twist?” I can hear you shouting from the cheap seats.

Well. I’m not going to tell you that, but at the very least I could tell you that there is one. But it doesn’t feel like a “Shyamalan-ian twist” in that it doesn’t alter the movie that came before it in any fundamental way.

There’s a mystery here, for sure, but it’s probably going to be obvious for half the audience (I mean, it fooled me, but I’m dumb).

What’s cool about the twist is the red herrings. There’s an entire subplot that ends up simply being character/relationship exposition and doesn’t feed into the central mystery at all (even though you think it’s going to eventually). I like that approach, it doesn’t feel disingenuous and doesn’t harm the–heightened–“reality” of the picture.

If that last paragraph sounds vague: I’m a spoiler-phobe. It’ll make sense once you see the movie, which is something you should probably do.

The film was produced by Blumhouse. They’ve been knocking it out of the park, releasing the aberrantly mature The Gift just a few months ago and before then have given us a steady drip of reliable spookhouse pleasures (and Whiplash, which isn’t horror but was just my tempo). One has to wonder if it’s the tightened budget and the right nudging on behalf of the producers that resulted in this movie. It feels focused and self-aware, stripped-down but not “minor” in any way.

More like this please!

Nearly completely unrelated: a few years ago I became a Philadelphian, like Mr. Shyamalan. It gives me no end of pleasure to drive up the block to my girlfriend’s childhood home and see where parts of The Happening (“Don’t take my daughter’s hand unless you mean it.”) were shot. Being a townie, by stellar coincidence I happened to be in 30th Street Station while they were filming The Visit, back when it was going by its (superior) title of Sundowning.

Philly pride all the way, here’s my very crappy set-spy photography:


He’s in the middle, in the baseball cap. You can see him, right?

Absolutely, completely unrelated: if this didn’t quench your thirst for old people horror, Random House Hydra has put my novel Mercy House on sale for the next few days. It’s $1.99 for the ebook, down from $5.99. This is for a very limited time, so pick it up discounted while you can. If you’ve already read the book and wanted to leave a review: this is the best possible time you could do that.


Happy Birthday, Mary!


Mary Shelley’s turning 175 and author Heather Herrman is throwing a party to celebrate. And she’s invited me and fellow Random House Hydra author Micheal M. Hughes along for the ride.


Even better, she’s inviting YOU!

Well, it’s a Facebook party, but nobody’s stopping you from mixing up your own punch bowl (and spiking it). It’ll be held this Sunday, August 30th, from 7-9, CDT (I’m not even sure when that is my time) and you can RSVP here.

If you’re Facebook friends with authors, you probably get invites to stuff like this all the time, but I promise that we’ll actively deliver the goods. There will be Frankenstein trivia, some Q&A if you want to ask us about our own writing, and there will also be a boatload of PRIZES.

Not only will there be the normal jun…er…treasures that I give away (books, my own and others), but both Heather and Michael have offered up goods like one-of-a-kind bound galleys, manuscript critiques, tarot card readings. Our publisher, Hydra, is also throwing in with a few prizes of their own (coffee mugs, books).

It’s going to be legit, so come and help us celebrate the mother of modern horror. And scifi. And possibly the found footage genre. I hope to see you there. Full details on the fb page. In the meantime you should buy my esteemed colleague’s books here and here.

And if you haven’t checked out my book, Mercy House, now would be the perfect time to get on that. If you don’t like it, at least you know where I’ll be hanging around on Sunday so you can heckle me.

“What’s THIS One About?”

I like the covers for my books.

There are some I like more than others but I do have positive feelings about all of them. I know a lot of authors aren’t able to say the same thing, so I consider myself very lucky.

When people come up to my table at cons and compliment me on the covers, I think they think I have a lot more to do with the process than actually I do.

For example, with the books where I’ve worked with Samhain Publishing, they have me fill out a questionnaire to pass along to their art department. These artists haven’t read the books. I’m not even sure they’re horror fans at all, and considering that I try to make my suggestions for the cover art as straight-forward and visual as possible. I offer colors I think would work well, describe some central images from the book, attach some “mood” art to the file, then send it off and hope for the best.

This process was how the cover to my second novel, The Summer Job, was created and I’m happy with the results.

For the most part. It’s a good cover, I like the colors and composition, but maybe it’s a better cover for a book that’s not The Summer Job. I’ve heard from people who’ve picked it up thinking it would have more in common with the erotic horror of my friend John Everson. It’s not, and I’d be bummed if I picked up a book thinking it was one thing and getting something way different.

Coming off of my first title with Samhain, I really wanted to mix my style up and not do a novel that would read like Video Night Part 2: The Legend of Curly’s Gold.

The Summer Job was a deliberate attempt to write the anti-Video Night. That book had a ton of characters who got their own perspective chapters? I tried bolting The Summer Job‘s perspective down to the protagonist for most of the book. That book had crazy, over-the-top alien violence? The Summer Job would be much more restrained in that respect. That book dealt with the obsessions of teenage boys? The Summer Job would be an honest attempt at a much more feminine point of view.

So, as much as I like the cover Samhain came up with, I’m not crazy that my deliberately more restrained and demure book has a cover sporting a woman in a sheer gown, her nipples visible.

The cover for Samhain's paperback edition.

The cover for Samhain’s paperback edition.

People like the cover, it probably helps sell books, but still: what I had in mind while writing wasn’t that cover. And that’s cool, that’s the way of the world. I am not a graphic designer, nor a marketer, nor an editor. But I do know that the cover captures attention, this last weekend at Scares That Care (shout outs to Joe Ripple and Brian Keene for a great con, everyone go next year!) I had a lot of people look down my line of books and stop when they get to The Summer Job.

“What’s that one about?!”

The cover definitely does its job.

When I was first approached by Sinister Grin Press about doing a signed limited edition hardcover for one of my books, I saw it as an opportunity to get a “director’s cut” version of this cover. I found Sasha Yosselani’s work by complete chance, she was set up at the Philadelphia Comic Con and I took down her information just in case. Her art is miraculous and her style is an exact fit for the book.

Here’s her cover, title and further design by Frank Walls:


And here’s some internal artwork that will be gracing the inside of this very special edition:

summer job internal

Whoa! I love this art. Privileged to have some of the work I’m proudest of looking this good.

Not content with dope art, Sinister Grin went so far as to secure new a new blurb for a book that’s been out for a couple of years:

“Adam Cesare’s [The Summer Job] is reminiscent of the slow-burn, atmospheric films of Ti West, full of foreboding, uneasiness, and the notion that evil can lurk right next door…or, in this case, just beyond the trees. With smooth prose, likable characters, and deepening sense of dread, horror fans will find much to like here.” –Ronald Malfi, author of December Park and Little Girls

As a fan of Malfi’s work (and Malfi the guy), this was an unexpected perk of this new edition.

Pre-orders are open from now until August 8th (I think). And if the book  hits its production limit before then, not even getting an order in before the 8th will secure you a copy. Order now if you want one!

As I’ve said in the past about limited editions*: I know these books are expensive. They have to be to pay the artists, writers, printers, and editors involved in producing a book with such a small print run. But they’re for a specific kind of book collector and I certainly won’t be offended if you’d rather opt for the cheaper ebook or trade paperback editions of The Summer Job.


In other news, my second Paper Cuts column is now up on Cemetery Dance Online. Pleased as punch to be there. This one’s about three pieces of fiction that demand to be adapted to film. Read, share, comment until your heart’s content, people! Thanks!

*and, a quick update on Zero Lives Remaining, a book many people have been asking about and many pre-orderers have been VERY patient about: proofs off the book and packaging have been printed and are being looked over by the editors as you read this. I’ve seen pictures and they look AMAZING. There’s still no concrete shipping date for the book (Shock Totem has made and broken a lot of deadlines for this incredibly involved project, so you can forgive them for not wanting to break another one), but it’s almost done!

Icebergs, Open Letters, and More Catch Up


It’s been an eventful few weeks since my last post. And this one may not look like it’s going to be a long one, but it’s packed with content if you follow the links.

Today’s a good day because I get to announce something I’ve been keeping under my hat for a bit: the illustrious Cemetery Dance Publications has a new web-version of their magazine called Cemetery Dance Online. And I’m writing a monthly column for it!

It’s called Paper Cuts and it’ll be essays about horror cinema written by a dude who reads and writes horror fiction (me). The first installment is up now and you can read it by clicking here. It’s an extra-sized introductory post in which I wail on a defenseless Facebook meme and offer up a “Top Five” list that’s not ranked at all. Please let me know what you think in the comments section over there.

I’ve been a fan/collector of Cemetery Dance Magazine (and their hardcovers) for about as long as I’ve been a reader, so joining them in this new venture is a bit of a dream come true. Thanks to managing editor Blu Gilliand for having me.

Switching gears but still staying in the longass posts I wrote that I want you to read ballpark:

To help promote Mercy House, I was also asked by Random House/Del Rey folks to make an appearance on Suvudu. They run a series call “Dear Reader” and I had a lot of fun (and did some minor soul-searching) writing up my open letter to perspective readers.

Also on the Mercy House campaign trail was this discussion I had with Jonathan Lees over at HorrorTalk. Our discussion’s fairly wide ranging and he kept me on my toes.

I’m very happy with how both the interview and the “Dear Reader” thing turned out. And, yeah, they’re promo stuff, but I think there’s some meat on both those bones, entertainment-wise. But if they “worked” and you wanted to buy a copy of Mercy House and then rave about it in your Amazon review…nobody’s stopping you.

And, also, if you’ve found this page by linking over from Cemetery Dance: welcome! You can click around in the archives by hitting the “Older Posts” button on the bottom of the front page, that’s where you can dig up more of my movie thoughts. Click the covers on the sidebar to buy one of my books and see whether or not you trust my taste in lit and movies.

Thanks, all!

Mercy House is Open For Business


Tell your friends, shout it from the rooftops, break down your neighbor’s door and carve it into their kitchen counter: Mercy House is now available everywhere that ebooks are sold!

I’ll probably do one more post towards the end of the week to wrangle all the press (interviews, reviews, and guest essays) that will be popping up soon. But, to recap, here’s the stuff that you need to know:

Is this a novella or a novel? It’s a full-length (about 90,000 words) novel!

Will there be a paperback? No! This is being released through Random House’s digital-only imprint Hydra. Coffee is for closers and Mercy House is for ebook readers. If course I’d love a paperback on my shelf but, sadly, I have no control over how the book is being released. If you don’t have an ereader but still want in on this action: Kindle, Nook, and most other reading platforms are available for your phone or computer for free.

Killer old folks? Sure that sounds good, but I’m still not convinced. What have other people been saying about Mercy HouseI’m glad you asked. Yesterday, HorrorTalk ran this very enthusiastic review. Huge thanks to reviewer Jonathan Lees (who I spoke to for an interview shortly after he read the book, so I’ll post that when it’s up). Add that to Wag the Fox and The Novel Pursuit and I’d say buzz is starting out positive.

And, of course, there are the blurbs. ROLL THOSE BLURBS!

Mercy House is 100% distilled nightmare juice. Adam Cesare notches up the horror to nigh-unbearable levels. Even my skin was screaming by the end of this book.”—Nick Cutter, author of The Troop and The Deep

“Adam Cesare makes his presence felt with Mercy House. A no-holds-barred combo of survival horror and the occult.”—Laird Barron, author of The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All

“Adam Cesare’s Mercy House is a rowdy, gory, blood-soaked horror tale guaranteed to keep you up at night. And if that was all it was, I’d have been a happy reader. But Cesare has a maturity far and away beyond his years. His characters are treated with a surprising capacity for understanding and empathy, giving them an unexpected depth rarely seen among the nightmare crowd.Mercy House is the kind of novel you sprint through, eating up the pages as fast as you can turn them, and yet it lingers in the mind like a haunting memory, or the ghost of a smell. Cesare is poised to take the reins of the new generation. Looking for the new face of horror? This is it right here.”—Joe McKinney, Bram Stoker Award–winning author of The Dead Won’t Die and Dead City

I like the cut of your jib, Cesare. How can I help? Well that’s very nice of you. Aside from the obvious “please buy the book!” there are a number of ways to help spread the word. Vendor reviews (posting your thoughts on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks) are some of the most effective ways to let people know what you think of Mercy House, but you can also share this post (or any link that leads back to the book, really) on Facebook, twitter, or any readers groups you belong to, and you can track your reading process and leave a review on the book’s Goodreads page.

Thank you all for your enthusiasm and your patience. I’m so damn excited to have this book out.