THIS WEEK I RECEIVED the Advance Reading Copy of my 12th novel, Voodoo Heart, my next book from Flame Tree Press (it will be released on October 20). I also set a new personal high score on Mata Hari, a pinball machine that I’ve played since I was 17 years old. And I was a guest on Glenn Rolfe’s Horror Shop YouTube show. So… it’s been a great week!
I was thinking that it’s been awhile since I wrote a blog and should probably memorialize some of the things that have been going on… and then I looked and realized holy crap… it’s been six months since I wrote The Joy of Isolation. Spring has come and Summer is nearly gone. So what have I been up to all this time? Writing. Gardening. Working. Playing Pinball. Honestly… it’s been a pretty good six months. My dayjob sent us into full-time telecommuting as soon as COVID hit, which has freed up almost two hours a day that I used to lose to commuting. There have been a LOT of long days at work… but I always end them here at home and can start my evenings immediately. That’s meant more time for pinball.
Of Pinball and Vinyl Records…
For anyone who doesn’t know, I’m a big pinball fan and have five older pins in my personal “basement arcade.” I once even wrote a pinball horror story for the Chopping Block anthology a couple years ago. I always play my tables more in the winter, since I’m stuck in the house more, but this year, that just extended… indefinitely. For the past nine months, I’ve been playing for at least an hour every night, often longer. And… that’s meant I’ve improved and beaten all of my prior high scores. I’ll never be a “wizard” but I’m definitely a better player than I was.
For most of the year, my original table — Mata Hari — was broken. I bought the table in 2014, but have played it all my life, because my in-laws used to own one. I finally got mine fixed at the beginning of August, and while it took me a couple weeks to get back into the “groove” of the machine, over the past couple weeks, I’ve beaten my old lifetime high score not once… but twice! Last night I sat down and had the best game of my life on the table while listening to Romeo Void’s Instincts album. I knew it was going to be a top score so I pulled up my phone and recorded it:
Fixing Mata Hari has actually led to me combing through my vinyl album collection and listening to things like Romeo Void, Let’s Active and The Pandoras that I haven’t listened to in years. While it wasn’t working, I moved it away from the rest of my machines into the room in my basement that has a pool table left by the former owners (that sadly, I rarely use). That room also has the only turntable in the house, which I actually bought in high school (still works great!) So playing Mata Hari since she’s come back to life has allowed me to enjoy all sorts of old, near-forgotten albums.
Last week, while playing Mata Hari, I was rediscovering my favorite “local bands” from the four years that I went to school at University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana in the mid-80s. There were a handful of artists during that period that all managed to break out of the college town and onto the national scene, at least for an album or two.
Here’s a picture of the LPs I’ve been listening to. The Elvis Brothers, a rockabilly/power pop trio got signed for two albums with Portrait, and synth popsters Last Gentlemen ended up signing with Zoo Entertainment (home of Tool and Matthew Sweet). And speaking of Sweet, Paul Chastain eventually would become Sweet’s longtime bassist. Otis & The Elevators was a Deadhead kind of band who never quite broke out of the region.
I used to go see all of these bands at a local rock club called Mabels, and all of the indie albums they cut back in Champaign days were awesome.
Books! Giallo! Voodoo!
The past couple years, I’ve spent my Christmas vacation frantically trying to finish and turn in my next novel by the end of the year. This year… I vowed I would not do that — I wanted to get this year’s novel done by fall. And… COVID has certainly helped. With most of my weekends free, I’ve been able to keep to a weekly writing schedule which, at this point, should have me finishing up sometime in mid-October.
The new novel-in-progress is called Five Deaths for Seven Songbirds. For fans of ’70s Italian movies, you might pick up on the title sounding a bit like the giallo genre of movies… and you’d be right! I love giallos — I own more than 100 of them on DVD and Blu-Ray. So this year, I decided to write my own homage story to the film genre I love. I’m hoping that fans of the form will enjoy it.
This project has also led to me re-watching so many of the films that influenced me this summer — I’ve revisited everything from Argento’s Deep Red and Opera to Fulci’s Don’t Torture a Duckling and A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin to Bava’s Blood and Black Lace to Martino’s All the Colors of the Dark and The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh and so many more. If you haven’t seen those films… I highly recommend them all. There’s a great list here; I own most of them and they’re great Halloween season viewing!
Speaking of my favorite holiday, Halloween is coming soon… and so is my 12th novel, Voodoo Heart! It’s available for pre-order in paperback, hardcover and ebook now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Hoping lots of readers will pre-order and give it a good launch boost!
Reviews and Interviews
So far reviews for Voodoo Heart have been really great — Glenn Rolfe talks about it a little on his Episode Two of The Horror Shop and then hosted me on Episode Three for a long interview where you can see my basement bar and arcade, Glenn’s wife’s mysterious eye and learn more about the new book, our shared love of beer and Kesha:
Book Nook Retreat gave it five stars and said “This book literally kept me awake nights as I just could not put it down. I told myself that I was just going to read a couple of chapters, but the more I became involved in the storyline the more hours I stayed awake!”
Read the full review on GoodReads.
I’ve also turned up a couple times this summer on the Are You Into Horror? channel on YouTube! House By The Cemetery got a great review in June and The Devil’s Equinox scored “Five Pentagrams in a review in August:
The host of the program, Richard Wilson has obviously been reading a lot of my stuff this summer, and so recently he sent me a couple books to sign. I surprised him by adding to the return shipment. You can see his “unboxing video” posted this week here:
So that’s what’s been going on!
Today is Labor Day in the United States, which serves as a sort of unofficial “end of summer” holiday, though the end of the season is still officially a couple weeks away. I’m going to go enjoy what looks like a perfect day — sunny and 75 — and work on a chapter of Five Deaths for Seven Songbirds.