Lisa's February 2018 Newsletter (#14)
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Hi Gang!

How's 2018 treating you so far? My sympathies to those of you on the east coast who've endured a winter of hard-to-grasp temperatures! We're having a dry, warm January in fact, maybe a little too dry, especially compared to last year's torrential January downpours.

January was a tough month for both science fiction and horror fans, with the passing of two legends: Ursula K. Le Guin and Jack Ketchum (better known to his friends as Dallas Mayr). I knew Dallas and have enjoyed his friendship for nearly two decades, but I'd always wanted to meet Ursula and now I'm sorry I'll never have that chance. I grew up on classics like A Wizard of Earthsea and The Left Hand of Darkness (and I had tremendous admiration for some of her fearless speeches over the last decade), and in the last twenty years I became a fan of Ketchum books like The Girl Next Door and The Lost. Genre literature definitely starts February a little poorer.

Speaking of Ursula K. Le Guin, my significant other Ricky Grove has written a beautiful, personal tribute to her: check out his site BookLad and give it a read.

Still Life
In which I rhapsodize about favorite movie photos from my collection
Remember when amphibious gill-men were scary?

Okay, that's an admittedly silly reference to Guillermo Del Toro's Academy Award-nominated ode to The Creature from the Black Lagoon. I'm talking, of course, about The Shape of Water, which Del Toro has repeatedly stated derived from his early love of the Creature (or, as Forrest J. Ackerman used to occasionally refer to him in Famous Monsters of Filmland, "Blackie"). 

Have you seen the two sequels made to the original Creature from the Black Lagoon? The strangest one is The Creature Walks Among Us, in which mad scientists attempt to evolve the Creature into a human, and end up with a thing that looks neither human nor creature-ish. 

What's interesting about comparing The Creature Walks Among Us to The Shape of Water is the way in which attitudes toward science and monsters have changed during the intervening half-century. In The Shape of Water, it's the military who are sinister, while the scientists are far less mad. But even more interesting is that in The Shape of Water, the protagonist - the woman who falls in love with the creature - yearns to be more like him, rather than wanting him to become more like her.

I guess in 2017 we can finally acknowledge what we couldn't in the '50s: that many of us would like to be a little more creature-ish.
The Halloween Spirit
Tips for keeping it going all year 'round
I get a lot of requests to blurb books.

That's not meant to be a boast, because it's actually sometimes frustrating. I have to turn things down not because the books sound uninteresting, but because there are only so many hours in a week. Sometimes I agree to provide a blurb, and find the blurb deadline has passed and I've never had time to pick the book up.

But sometimes I agree to something, pick it up, read two pages, and can't put it down. Granted, that doesn't happen all that often.

But it sure happened with Drawn to the Dark, a travel memoir quite unlike anything else ever written. The author, Chris Kullstroem, spent a year traveling the world engaging in "scare tourism" - in other words, Halloween-like events. She went to Mexico for Dia de los Muertos, Germany for Walpurgisnacht, Britain for "Zombie Boot Camp", and more incredible places. In most of these locales she stayed with hosts she found on, and the book details both her experiences as an expert in scare tourism and her relationships with her hosts, who regard her with anything from mild amusement to enthusiastic sharing.

The book also includes some photos. Overall, it's a wonderful way to stay connected to the Halloween spirit at any time of the year!
Get Drawn to the Dark!
Strange Fruit
The weirdest thing I've recently uncovered in my research
Henry James wrote The Turn of the Screw because of failure.

One of the greatest ghost stories ever written started in 1895, when a new play by Henry James called Guy Domville opened in London. The premiere performance was such a failure that James was booed off the stage when he appeared at the end to take a bow.

Devastated, James left London behind and moved to a large, rambling country house in rural Sussex. James had investigated the Spiritualism movement in London - his brother, the famed philosopher William James, was deeply involved with Spiritualism - and so between his failure (which left him with thoughts of death), the huge, half-empty old house, and the religion that thought communication with the dead was possible, The Turn of the Screw was born.

I recently re-read this important contribution to Gothic literature (I'm writing a story that follows the unnamed governess after the events in The Turn of the Screw), and was amazed to discover that it's presented as a Christmas story! There's a prologue involving a group of well-to-do Londoners sharing ghost stories on Christmas Eve (a common nineteenth century tradition), and one gentleman reads the journal of the governess as his offering. 

Although James's dense prose can occasionally be difficult to wade through, The Turn of the Screw nonetheless remains a chilling story of both sinister ghosts and preternaturally-precocious children.
Read (for free!) The Turn of the Screw
Behind the Screams
About a Story
"Black Jack Lonegan and the City of Dreams" from CEA Greatest Anthology Written
On February 1st, 1887, a man named Harvey Wilcox officially registered the name Hollywood with the Los Angeles County Recorder's Office. Harvey and his wife Daeida had moved to the area four years earlier and purchased 160 acres of land with the idea of forming a staid religious community.

Unfortunately for Harvey and his God-fearing followers, the motion picture industry soon found the area to be perfect for its uses - the mild climate meant that movies could be shot all year 'round (remember, this was an era before big lights existed). Westerns were popular, and cowboys flocked to the city in search of employment as movie extras. The streets of Hollywood were soon flooded with rip-snorting, rootin'-tootin' cowboys who would drink up their movie pay and ride the streets of the sleepy town shouting and firing their six-guns.

Okay, seriously...who could hear about that and NOT want to write a story?

I decided to craft something around the idea of an outlaw hiding out in the early movie industry, where it wasn't always easy to tell reality from cinematic fantasy. The title outlaw even falls for a pretty young extra, all while a determined lawman is tracking him down.

What's funny about "Black Jack Lonegan and the City of Dreams" is that it was originally written to submit to a slipstream anthology, so it had lots of weird stuff where Black Jack slips in and out of more than just movie fantasy.

The story was rejected from the slipstream book, and I forgot about it. Then last year, I stumbled across it in an old file, re-read it...and realized it was a fun western and an absolutely awful slipstream story. So I removed the slipstream elements and ended up with a dandy little western...that I had no idea what to do with.

When friends told me about this book - that really exists to try and break the Guinness Record on the biggest anthology ever put together - I sent them "Black Jack Lonegan", and they took it. Home sweet home for my once-a-slipstream-now-a-western piece.
My current works-in-progress
January was an interesting month for me: catching up on old projects, some major re-arrangements in my home life (all good!), and a week of jury duty. In case you're thinking, Jury duty is only slightly preferable to driving bamboo splints under my nails...well, before January I would have agreed, but I wound up on an extraordinary trial for a 16-year-old cold case that involved kidnapping, sexual assault, and - tangentially - murder. You can read about it here in my blog essay: "Jury Duty."

I also wrote something that's kind of unusual for me: a science fiction story. It'll be featured in an upcoming anthology that I probably shouldn't reveal yet, but I love science fiction and would like to venture more into the genre. Just a hint: it involves time travel and truckers.

Lastly, my interview with S. P. Miskowski (and if you haven't read her yet, go get her collection Strange is the Night or her novel I Wish I Was Like You) is live now at Nightmare Magazine.

The Samhanach and Other Halloween Treats

The Samhanach and Other Halloween Treats is now available in e-book and print from JournalStone. It collects four novellas, ten short stories, a new introduction by Nancy Holder, and new notes about the stories from me.
Keep Halloween Going!
Ghosts: A Haunted History
My acclaimed book Ghosts: A Haunted History is now available in an affordable trade paperback.
Haunt Yourself
CD Select: Lisa Morton
CD Select: Lisa Morton is a mini-collection gathering together four tales chosen by me, with accompanying notes. Available in either e-book or signed & limited hardcover edition.
Reserve Yours Now!
The Art of Horror Movies
The Art of Horror Movies is Stephen Jones's stunning follow-up to his multiple-award-winning The Art of Horror. I wrote the chapter on "The Evil 80s".
Dive Into the Art

Haunted Nights

This anthology of all-new Halloween (and Dia de los Muertos/Devil's Night/All Souls' Eve) fiction features sixteen stories by some of the genre's hottest authors. The anthology received a starred and boxed review in Publishers Weekly, as well as raves from Rue Morgue, Locus, and many others.
Haunt Your Nights!
Halloween Carnival Volume One
Adam's Ladder , edited by Michael Bailey and Darren Speegle, includes my story "Eyes of the Beholders".
Unspeakable Horror 2
Unspeakable Horror 2: Abominations of Desire is the long-awaited follow-up to the Bram Stoker Award-winning first book. Includes my story "Ofrenda".
Get Unspeakable
CEA Greatest Anthology Written
"Drabbles" are short stories that are exactly 100 words long, and you get more than 100 of them in this cool book!
Drabble On!
For this month's giveaway, I've ransacked the archives for a pair of gems: the first paperback printings of two highly-acclaimed anthologies, Dark Terrors and Dark Delicacies. The former includes my story "Love Eats", and latter has my ode to abalone hunting (yes, really), "Black Mill Cove." One lucky winner will receive both of these collectible "dark" books! Slap the button below to enter (the contest ends at 11:59 p.m. on February 25), and good luck.

I Want to Win The Dark Paperbacks!
Copyright © 2017 Lisa Morton All rights reserved.

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