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A creepy, grisly little piece to start your week off right. As always, please share this link with your friends, and please leave me a review if you like it. Thanks!

Don’t have a Kindle? Get one here, or download a free Kindle reading app for your PC, Mac, smartphone, or tablet!

Remake

In his heyday, audiences called Franz Joseph the “Angel of Fear.” Long-retired, half-forgotten, his most famous film is about to be remade, but the Angel of Fear has some ideas of his own ….

Free from September 29, 2014, through October 03, 2014! Download now »

This short story originally appeared in the collection “SLICES,” available now.

Here’s a strange little fairytale for you this week, one of my favorites. As always, please share this link with your friends, and please leave me a review if you like it. Thanks!

Don’t have a Kindle? Get one here, or download a free Kindle reading app for your PC, Mac, smartphone, or tablet!

Lost Boy

Andrew ran away to The Woods to be alone, to live however he wanted. Instead, he found the brother he’d never had, which was so much better than being alone — and so much more dangerous ….

Free from September 22, 2014, through September 26, 2014! Download now »

This short story originally appeared in the collection “SLICES,” available now.

I’ve had a lot of readers tell me this is one of their favorites. As always, please share this link with your friends, and please leave me a review if you like it. Thanks!

Don’t have a Kindle? Get one here, or download a free Kindle reading app for your PC, Mac, smartphone, or tablet!

Feeding the Flesh

A SHADOW MARKET STORY — Former Senator Jonathan Eldridge is a connoisseur of the rarest meats, from the flesh of endangered animals to those thought to be mythical. He’d thought he’d seen every cut the Shadow Market has to offer — until now ….

Free from September 15, 2014, through September 19, 2014! Download now »

This short story originally appeared in the collection “SLICES,” available now.

Someone you know wants to die.

I don’t necessarily know you, or have any insight into your life. But I still feel pretty comfortable saying that. A 2008 NIMH survey found that 3.7% of adults had considered suicide. That means that if you know just twenty-seven people, odds are, one of them has thought about it. Might be thinking about it right now, as you’re reading this. They might be making a plan.

I’m not the only one thinking about this health crisis right now. The death of Robin Williams this past week has made all of the people whose lives he touched stop and think about it – and that’s nearly everyone. I have a hard time thinking of any entertainer, any public figure, who was more universally loved. And that wasn’t enough to save him.

Most people who don’t suffer from depression have been absolutely shocked by his death. How can someone who brought us such laughter and light get taken by the darkness? Most of us who have our own struggles with it already recognized a kindred spirit, recognized his mania as belonging to someone who was just holding on by his teeth.

And I think a lot of us have the same thought that I had: Oh, my God. I’m still not safe.

You want to think that maybe you made it. If you’ve had a major depressive episode and you survived it, you think, maybe that’s it, maybe that’s the last time, maybe it will never get that bad again. Then you hear that Robin Williams reached the age of 63 and then he still hit that wall, where he made it through everything else and still thought, that’s it, I can’t take even one more day.

It turns out that puts him in the bracket of the highest suicide risk:

In 2011, the highest suicide rate (18.6) was among people 45 to 64 years old. The second highest rate (16.9) occurred in those 85 years and older.

I almost didn’t make it through last year, and now I find out I’m still two years away from the point where it can get even worse. That’s very sobering. I will never be safe. There will still always be a chance that the black dog will catch up to me and I will lose that last fight.

But looking around at the stunned reaction to Williams’ death, I feel determined not to let it, not to make the people I love feel this sharp and sudden sense of loss. And to try to keep it from catching up to anyone else.

I am insanely lucky, and incredibly grateful, that I have people in my life whose presence and love is helping me to want more life, not less. A year ago, I would console myself as I went to sleep that I had made it through one more day, and that death – which I saw as peace, as an end to heartache – was one day closer. Now, I have dreams of a future that I actually want, and I’m trying to work towards improving my health, hoping and trying to add days and months and maybe years to my life instead of wanting to reach the end of it.

Say something. Reach out. Find that one friend in twenty-seven, and let your voice be louder and clearer than all voices in their head that are trying to kill them. Let all your friends know – you are here, you love them, you will listen, no matter what’s wrong, no matter whether they think they’re worth your time and attention or not.

I will get back to talking about writing soon, I promise. But in the meantime, don’t forget to take care of each other.

Help isn’t coming, people. We’re all we’ve got. Shine as bright as you can, and rage against the dying of the goddamn light.

Hey, everybody! Fellow author, longtime friend, and goth icon Jillian Venters of Gothic Charm School posted her review of my novel, Still Life, and she had some very nice things to say about it. It’s a detailed and thoughtful review, and you should go read the whole thing but here are some choice quotes:

Still Life is a razor-sharp look at what numbness and entropy can do to someone. Becoming a vampire doesn’t fix any of Nikki’s problems or make the heartache of Gabe’s suicide any easier to bear. It just buries those concerns under a suffocating blanket of other needs: the need for blood, the need to navigate Sylvan’s constantly shifting affection and humor so she can be given blood, and the weight of all her unanswered questions [….] While Still Life does look into the abyss of depression and the pendulum swings of an uncertain emotional attachment, it’s not a depressing read. For one thing, Michael Montoure’s ability to turn a phrase is amazing.

Also, Still Life feels familiar — it’s full of themes and characters that are woven into the shared subconscious of goths (or anyone else who has ever felt unsure or alone, seeking something or someone to provide that electric jolt of connection), but none of it is a cliche. It’s a novel of emotional truths, dark and bright, dressed up in fangs and post-modern ironic velvet. […] Ultimately, Still Life is a book about choices: the fear and indecision that are entwined with choices, how you can become stuck at crossroads of your own making, and how, at the core of it all, making a choice is always better than sinking into passive resignation.”

Thanks so much, Jillian! If the above makes you want to check out the book — and honestly, why wouldn’t it? — then you might like to know it’s on sale right now at Amazon for just $0.99. It’s a Kindle Countdown Sale, which means the price will increment upward until it’s back to it’s normal listing at $5.99:

  • $0.99 until July 20th at 4:00 PM
  • $1.99 until July 22th at 12:00 AM
  • $2.99 until July 23th at 8:00 AM
  • $3.99 until July 24th at 4:00 PM
  • $4.99 until July 25th at midnight

So the sooner you grab a copy, the better deal you’re getting, which is pretty cool. Tell your friends, won’t you?

(Umm. So I haven’t posted since – January? Can that possibly be right? I need to start remembering that I have a website. There are totally things I could post here. Like the fact that I’m on a podcast now. That kind of thing. Anyway… )

This year I was once again delighted to be a panelist at Crypticon Seattle, the Pacific Northwest’s own horror convention. I didn’t end up seeing a lot of the actual convention, as it happens – I attended maybe two panels that I wasn’t actually on, I didn’t go to the BioHazard party, and I missed the film track entirely – but I managed to have a great time anyway.  Let me break this down for you.

[crypticon logo] Friday: I Didn’t Go!

Umm, yeah, that’s about it for Friday. I’m so broke right now I could only justify using enough gas to go for two days, not all three. The writer’s life is a romantic one, kids.

Saturday: Monster Island Is Actually A Peninsula! (*)

I showed up about an hour and a half before my panel, took a swing through the quite frankly amazing Dealer’s Room, and then spent a good chunk of the rest of that time trying to figure out where the hell I was supposed to be. The e-mail I got with my list of panels didn’t say. I didn’t get a printed program guide when I picked up my wrist band, because they had run out. (They should keep some set-aside in reserve for us panelists, because we’re different and special and important and oh well never mind.) I tried looking up my panel in the schedule listed on the website, and because it turns out I’m nowhere near as smart as I think I am, I was looking at Friday’s schedule when I thought I was looking at Saturday’s schedule and thus didn’t see a 4:00 panel listed at all.

Fortunately, I have many years of vast convention experience to draw on in a situation like this, and so I knew exactly what to do. Namely, I panicked. I went back to the table where I picked up my wristband and asked if they had even a single copy of the printed program that I could look at for just a minute. They regretfully explained that they did not, and pointed me toward their merch table, and said that the woman there might have one, so I headed over and repeated my request.

You would think I had just asked her if I could have one of her kidneys. This was her only copy, she told me firmly, and there weren’t any more, and – yeah. I reiterated that I just needed to look at it for a few seconds, I wasn’t even going to leave the table, and I would hand it right back to her, and she finally reluctantly placed it in my hands. I looked up my panel – 4:00 in Peninsula B, got it – and handed it back.

I wandered off to find the room, and quickly realized that not only did I not know where that was, but that I’d been coming to this hotel for various conventions for years, I had never heard of Peninsula B. What the hell? I wanted to go back and look at that program book again, in hopes there was a map, but I was afraid if I asked her a second time, she might try to have me arrested. (Seriously, next year I want to show up early, grab a stack of program books, and sell them to my fellow convention-goers for fifty bucks a pop. If I sell enough of them, I might even be able to afford to buy a meal in the hotel restaurant.)

Fortunately, I happen to run into Don Thacker, whom I had met here last year at his presentation of his film Motivational Growth (which was amazing, by the way). “Don, right?” I said to him. “Where the hell is Peninsula B?”

Fortunately, he recognized me, and didn’t think I was a crazed stalker fan or anything, and in fact immediately realized that I must be a fellow panelist and led me, Sherpa-like, into uncharted territory. The SeaTac Hilton is actually two buildings, I didn’t think there was any convention programming in the other building, hell, I didn’t know we were allowed to set foot in the other building. But there we were, bright and early for our panel, Best Horror Films of 2013.

sat-panel-crypticon-2014

From left to right, we’ve got: Adrianna Angel and Steven Gray, Don Thacker, Tony Kay, my humble self, Matt Faure, and Ronnie Angel.

I found out when I got to the panel that I was actually supposed to be moderator – or, as they refer to it at Crypticon, “Panel Wrangler,” which delights me and also seems a little more accurate. This panel was a cakewalk to moderate – I had everyone introduce themselves, I asked everyone what film was their biggest disappointment in 2013 and we each answered in turn, and then asked everyone what their favorite films were from 2013, and by the time we were done with all that, we had about ten minutes left in the hour and I opened the floor to questions. Dead simple, and enormously helped by the fact that all of my panelists were charming, knowledgeable, well-spoken, and funny as hell. I really had a great time with this one, even though some of the opinions expressed about horror movies were clearly and obviously demonstrably wrong. Ahem.

Afterwards, Don was doing a panel about his next feature, Depth, and so I followed him to check that out, and chatted with some of his Imagos Films team on the way, including Trin Miller, who is starring in Depth and who was also one of the stars of my will-get-released-one-of-these-days-I-swear-to-God webseries CAUSALITY. Always nice to see Trin. I’m very glad I went to the panel – they had a surprise casting announcement to make, which they did very theatrically by having the actor in question walk into the panel about halfway through. I was ridiculously excited, since this is an actor I’ve always loved – but since the ink isn’t dry on the contracts, I don’t think I can tell you who it is just yet. Stay tuned.

Then I hung out with the Imagos folks a while longer, and then paid a more thorough visit to the Dealer’s Room, which I eventually walked out of empty-handed. (Remember me mentioning how broke I am? I swear to God, one of these years I have to come to this convention with some actual foldy spendy cash in my wallet, because I could’ve dropped a few hundred bucks in there without even noticing. I could even have managed to get some of my Christmas shopping done really early.)

I ended up heading home relatively early, even though a very pretty girl was asking me to stay for the the BioHazard party. I don’t even understand myself sometimes.

Sunday: Land Of The Dead!

I did have a reason for going home early, though, and that’s because my Sunday panel was at noon. Wait, noon? You want me to be up and out of bed and dressed and presentable and coherent and out of the house and on the road and all the way down to SeaTac by noon? Why not just ask me to jump on a live hand grenade instead?

I managed it. I was even early. Wandering around the convention, I realized that practically no one was awake. All of these people were only pretending to be awake. With varying degrees of realism.

Sunday’s panel was, once again, in Peninsula B. (As I told one of the convention organizers later – if they wanted to hide me away in another building away from the rest of the convention, they could’ve just said so.) The topic this time was Best and Worst Book-to-Movie Adaptations, and the panelists included K.L. Young, Ronnie AngelTony Kay, John Portanova, Lorelei Shannon, Chris Fred, me again, Shannon Flowers and Don Thacker. That’s nine people all told, which means we greatly outnumbered the audience. So this was not quite as much fun as the previous day’s panel, if only because of the disappointing attendance. It was still pretty damn fun, though.

After that, I didn’t really have anything else left to do, and usually at conventions, I reach the “screw this, I’m out” state pretty early on Sunday afternoons, but this time I was having so much fun just hanging out and talking to people that I stayed well past the point where the convention was visibly winding down – partly so I could catch the last-ditch showing of the “Horrors of the PNW” documentary by Gloomy Sunday Productions. This showing seemed kind of cursed; the original Friday night screening was cut short by audio problems, and the late-night screening on Saturday got pushed back an additional 45 minutes because the previous program ran too long. The convention had given GSP one last shot on Sunday, in one of the film track rooms after programming there had concluded – at a time when the convention was technically over, but the con had told us that the room was ours so long as the hotel didn’t kick us out. So I did finally get chance to see it. (The fact that I heard that the documentary started with a clip from an interview with me surely had nothing to do with my determination to watch it. I’m not that vain. Am I? Okay, yes, I am.)

It was a good time, and it was over too fast. I love getting to run around feeling like I’m one of The Cool Kids. I’m already making plans for next year.

Look – I know how it is. I hear you out there, saying, “Montoure, your online presence enlightens and enriches us all. But it’s not enough! I want to see you with my own eyes! I want to hear your mellifluous voice, with its stentorian tones and distinctive vowel sounds, with my very own ears! I want to stand uncomfortably close to you.”

Okay, that – that escalated quickly. Never mind. The point is, for the convenience of all my stalkers out there, I wanted to hip you jive cats to my groove, as I’m pretty sure the kids are saying these days. That’s right – I’m actually leaving my cave and braving the daylight world, and here’s where you can find me, wandering around and blinking at blurry objects in confusion.

For starters, I’m going to be a panelist at RustyCon, which starts – well, today, actually. (No, that’s not much notice. Look, I never said I was good at this.) Here’s my panel schedule:

British Media
Sat Jan 18 11:00:am – Salon H
Going beyond Doctor Who, what other British shows are out there, and are they any good?

Joss Whedon & His Universes
Sat Jan 18 4:00:pm – Everett
Come discuss the Universes of Joss Whedon and listen to our panelists give their views on him (and his universes).

Humor in Writing? No, Never!
Sat Jan 18 5:00:pm – Salon I
Join several authors as they celebrate the best of bad writing advice, humorous rewrites, copy-editing quirks, and other funny moments in the world of writing. Caveat: Do not follow the advice, but feel free to laugh! (This panel will poke lighthearted fun at itself, the writing industry, and probably whatever else the panelists can think of to make the all-ages attendees laugh.)

Doctor Who-What
Sat Jan 18 6:00:pm – Salon H
What is coming down the pipe for the 12th doctor, speculation and everything we can dig up.

Fandom
Sun Jan 19 1:00:pm – Salon F
We like to think that our fandom is diverse and inclusive but notions like “fake geek girls” and events in the recent past like ReaderCon and PAX Prime illuminate the cracks in the facade. Join us to brain storm ways in which we can make fandom more welcoming.

Next up, I’m going to be down in Los Angeles for the Gallifrey One Doctor Who convention, on February 14th through the 16th. I’m not going to be doing any panels or readings or anything – I’m just going to be there, running around being a huge dork. If you’re there and you happen to see me, come say hi. I’m really nice! Forget what those other people told you.

Finally, I’m going to be doing another reading at Wayward Coffeehouse, on Friday, February 21st, at 8:00 PM. Click on the banner below to RSVP to the event on Facebook:

[banner]

 

That’s about it for now. Hope to see you soon!

A year ago, I declared that I was going to spend 2013 working on writing and self-publishing – that I was going to take time away from having a day job by cashing in some stocks and living off that money for a year. I’m here today to tell you how that went.

It . . . didn’t go very well.

Here’s what I said back at the beginning of last year:

I set myself a very simple victory condition. The goal is simply to do it. If my goal had been that in one year’s time, I would be earning a living wage from self-publishing, I would just be setting myself up for failure. But my only goal here is just not to walk away from it. As long as I’m still concentrating on my writing career by the time I cross the finish line a year from now, I can call this year a success.

I’m sure that within that year’s time I will manage to become more successful. I’ll manage to increase my sales a little bit and get my name out there more. The only hope here is to bump the needle a little — to lay the groundwork for a writing career that, hopefully, will someday earn me a living. I’m going to try to set specific, measurable goals during the next year in order to see if I’m on the right track, but I’m going to try not to stress over them too much. This is just to see if I can actually do the work, and that depends solely on me.

After that, my year got off to a pretty good start. I ran a book giveaway promotion that put me, however briefly, at the top of Amazon’s Top 100 lists, both for free books and paid. After that, I started my main project – revising a novel that I’d written about a decade ago, to get it into good enough shape to publish.

That went well, although it took even more time than I expected it to – I thought it was going to need a quick polish and a few minor changes, but with the help of my writer friend Elisabeth Knottingham, I soon realized there were parts of the plot that needed reengineering. While we were going back and forth over the final draft, I also started a new project – a new novel that’s really quite different from anything I’ve ever published before.

Unfortunately, that’s about when things started to go off the rails:

I’ve actually been having a hell of a hard time lately, even though I really haven’t talked about that much here. Left to my own devices, having no other obligations other than simply to write hasn’t been the liberating experience I thought it would be. It’s been paralyzing. On days when I’m not feeling too overwhelmed and depressed to sit down at the keyboard, I too often find myself instead sitting there in a blank state of free-floating anxiety – elevated heart rate, shallow breathing. [….]

Another big issue I have at the moment is that my current work-in-progress is very, very different in style and tone from anything I’ve ever published, and so [I’m afraid] that I’m not writing what everyone wants from me, even though I think what I’m writing is fun and good and even though everyone I’ve described the project to seems very enthusiastic about it. I still can’t seem to just relax and let myself work on it.

Part of the problem is that I had gone off my meds. My prescriptions for depression, diabetes, cholesterol, and high blood pressure had all expired, and I needed to find a new doctor but I kept being too anxious and depressed to actually do it, and the longer I put it off, the worse the situation got. It was an incredibly stupid vicious cycle, and I knew that at the time, but that didn’t make it any easier to get out of it.

I managed to finish revising Still Life and get it published. But after that, I had a couple of setbacks.

I tried to buy ad space in the BookBub newsletter. I heard they were pretty selective about the books they were willing to promote, but I was pretty confident – Still Life was getting good reviews on Amazon and it had a sharp, professional-looking cover. But they turned me down. This really rattled me – for one thing, it really made me start second-guessing myself in terms of the quality of my work, but mainly, it left me thinking, what the hell do I do now? Most of the tips and tricks that had lead others to self-publishing success over the past few years were no longer effective in the face of changing Amazon algorithms and policies, and as of mid-2013, BookBub was the 500-pound gorilla of book promotion. Most indie authors considered them the only game in town. So where did that leave me?

The more serious setback was that the mysterious chronic pain I’d been having in my left hand finally flared up in my right hand as well. I’d been getting by pretty well with a one-handed keyboard layout, but this left me practically unable to use a keyboard and mouse at all for more than a few minutes at a time.

This seriously cut into my ability to work. I never had quite gotten used to using voice recognition software to write fiction, and the limited time I could spend on the computer meant that all my promotional activities basically stopped as well, and therefore my sales dropped to practically nothing. My inability to work sent me spiraling down even farther into depression. My general health crashed pretty hard around this same time.

I honestly think this was the hardest, darkest period of my life. During that whole time, I managed to write exactly one short story, a submission for an anthology I desperately wanted to be in.

That little victory helped. With the support of my friends, I finally managed to force myself to go see a doctor and get back on my medications, and that helped pull me back up out of the place I was in.

I’m starting to feel better, but my year is over, and I need to start looking for a job again. (Although I’m not sure what kind of work I can do with my hands in their current condition.) Looking back at the past year, I’m forced to realize that almost half of it was largely wasted.

I’m trying not to beat myself up too hard over this. I didn’t manage to meet even my simple goal of “just keep at it,” and it’s hard not to look back at that and feel like I failed. Extenuating circumstances or not.

But dammit, Still Life is finished. It’s out in the world, finally. Even if I could only accomplish one thing in 2013 – that’s a hell of a thing to accomplish.

 

Well — rats. I just received my rejection letter this morning — my submission, “Waiting For The Miracle,” was not selected for the Midian Unmade: Tales of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed anthology.

I had really high hopes for this story, especially after reading last month’s update from the editors letting authors know that they had finished the first round of their selection process. That told me that since I hadn’t already received a rejection letter by then, I’d made it into the second round — out of the 500 entries they’d received, mine was among the 50 or so they were still considering. I thought those were pretty good odds, and have had my fingers crossed ever since.

Sadly, the editors ultimately decided that my submission didn’t fit in with the other stories they’d selected. I was a little afraid this might happen. I had gone in a very different direction with my story than I assumed most of the other submissions would go, in an attempt stand out from the rest of the pack. But it did occur to me at the time that this approach might knock me out of the running if they were looking to have a more cohesive anthology, either in terms of plot details or general style.

I’m definitely proud of the story I wrote — and even more proud of the simple fact that I managed to write it at all. I had a very serious fight with depression this year, one that lasted months — which is why you haven’t seen any posts from me here for quite a while — and the deadline for this anthology was coming up right in the middle of the worst of it.

I’ve always loved Nightbreed, both the original novel and especially the flawed but beautiful film that Barker made of it. (Longtime readers might remember my pilgrimage down to Portland to see the long-awaited restored cut of the film.) I was always a strange and slightly morbid child, fascinated by monsters, and the idea of a home for these monsters and outsiders, the hidden city of Midian, resonated with me quite deeply when I first saw the film as a young man.

Since it was so dear to me, I knew I would never quite forgive myself if I let this deadline pass by. At a time when I was barely managing to make it out of bed in the mornings, I was able to make myself sit down and write something that felt dark and beautiful enough to me to be worthy of the source material, and edit and polish the manuscript well enough to be confident in sending it off. That was an accomplishment I was able to hold onto, one that helped me get through the rest of that depression.

“Waiting For The Miracle” will never see the light of day — which, for a story inspired by a secret underground city, seems somehow appropriate. But I’m glad I wrote it. (I will be sending it out as a free Christmas bonus story to my newsletter subscribers, though, so if you’re curious about it and you’re not already a subscriber, this would be a good time to sign up.)

It’s that time of year again! It kind of snuck up on me. No, not Halloween, but the week before Halloween — which brings us COFFIN HOP, the annual online event for indie horror and genre authors and artists to reach out to their fans and readers. Authors hold contests, gave away e-books, paperbacks, prize packages, autographed copies, toys, personalized writings, videos, themed jewellery, movie posters, and more. Visit www.coffinhop.com and follow the member links there to see what everyone has for all you trick-or-treaters this year.

This year, they’re doing something special — the COFFIN HOP team has released a collection of some of the best stories from their members.  COFFIN HOP: DEATH BY DRIVE-IN includes twenty-one B-movie inspired stories about “Brains from Space! Robot Squids Gone Wild! Radioactive Microwave Men! Monster Mash Massacres! Crotch Tentacles! Pinterest-loving Werewolves! Cannibal Bikers! Vampire Seduction! A man-eating Toilet! Robot Lincoln & Zombie Jackson!”

All profits from the anthology will be donated to LitWorld.org, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization supporting child literacy and social improvement the world over. The book is available here: KINDLE | SMASHWORDS | PAPERBACK

You can also win a copy right here! Just leave a comment on this post, and you’ll be entered in a drawing for a free e-book of COFFIN HOP: DEATH BY DRIVE-IN, and a free e-book of my new novel, STILL LIFE! Good luck!

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An unreliable narrator, MICHAEL MONTOURE ( montoure@bloodletters.com ) is an indie writer of horror and dark urban fantasy. His obsessions include hidden truths, secret dealings, and the changing and fragile nature of our own pasts. He is known as much for his spoken-word performances of his fiction at Seattle coffeehouses and conventions as for the stories themselves. Currently working as a writer and producer of the webseries Causality, he lives alone with a gray cat by the edge of Echo Lake, Washington. ( Twitter / Facebook / Google+ )
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