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In 2020, I read 30 novels, 32 novellas, and 219 short stories.

Instead of limiting my favourites to lists of ten or fifteen titles, I’ve included everything I liked. (As usual, not all of these were published in 2020.)

Favourite Novels

Worse Angels — Laird Barron
Even the Wicked — Lawrence Block
The Long Tomorrow —
Leigh Brackett
Save Yourself —
Kelly Braffet
Bone Dance —
Emma Bull
The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet
— Becky Chambers
Ex-Heroes — Peter Clines
House of Leaves — Mark Z. Danielewski
Don’t Get Caught — Kurt Dinan
Sharp Objects — Gillian Flynn
We Sold Our Souls — Grady Hendrix
Angel’s Inferno — William Hjortsberg
The Absence of Sparrows — Kurt Kirchmeier
The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane — Laird Koenig
I Wish I Was Like You — S.P. Miskowski
Knock Knock — S.P. Miskowski
Wilderness — Robert B. Parker
The Atrocity Archives — Charles Stross

Favourite Novellas and Novelettes

Trapper’s Valley — Ray Cluley
Within the Wind, Beneath the Snow —
Ray Cluley
The Thyme Fiend — Jeffrey Ford
The Guardian — Philip Fracassi
The Floor of the Basement is the Roof of Hell —
Stephen Graham Jones
The Life of Chuck —
Stephen King
At Home in the House of the Devil —
John Langan
Lost in the Dark — John Langan
Sefira —
John Langan
Looking for Laika —
Laura Mauro
The Pain-Eater’s Daughter —
Laura Mauro
Astoria —
S.P. Miskowski
Delphine Dodd —
S.P. Miskowski
In the Light —
S.P. Miskowski
Stag in Flight —
S.P. Miskowski
Black Flowers Blossom
— Vina Jie-Min Prasad
A Series of Steaks
— Vina Jie-Min Prasad
Contact Sports —
Eden Robinson
Notes from the Dog Walkers
— Paul Tremblay
Sicko — Stephen Volk
Everything Is Beautiful and Nothing Bad Can Ever Happen Here — Michael Wehunt

Favourite Collections and Anthologies

Enough Rope — Lawrence Block
Best Horror of the Year, Volume 4 — edited by Ellen Datlow
Sefira & Other Betrayals — John Langan
Let the Old Dreams Die — John Ajvide Lindqvist
Sing Your Sadness Deep — Laura Mauro
Strange is the Night — S.P. Miskowski
The Secret of Ventriloquism — Jon Padgett
The Man With the Barbed-Wire Fists — Norman Partridge
Traplines — Eden Robinson
Growing Things and Other Stories — Paul Tremblay

Favourite Short Stories

“The Hearts of All” — Gregory Norman Bossert
“We’ll Always Have Paris” — M.R. Carey
“The Castellmarch Man” — Ray Cluley
“In the Wake of My Father” — Ray Cluley
“Sideways” — Ray Cluley
“Steel Bodies” — Ray Cluley
“Turtledove” — Ray Cluley
“The Whalers Song” — Ray Cluley
“Elo Havel” — Brian Evenson
“The Glassy, Burning Floor of Hell” — Brian Evenson
“Workday” — Kurt Fawver
“each thing I show you is a piece of my death” — Gemma Files and Stephen J. Barringer
“The Blameless” — Jeffrey Ford
“Blood Drive” — Jeffrey Ford
“Witch Hazel” — Jeffrey Ford
“Cleaver, Meat, and Block” — Maria Haskins
“The Nimble Men” — Glen Hirshberg
“You Become the Neighborhood” — Glen Hirshberg
“Roots and All” — Brian Hodge
“A Redress for Andromeda” — Caitlin R. Kiernan
“The Eight People Who Murdered Me (Excerpt from Lucy Westenra’s Diary)” — Gwendolyn Kiste
“The Diane Arbus Suicide Portfolio” — Marc Laidlaw
“Bloom” — John Langan
“Yellow and Red” — Tanith Lee
“The Cloud Cartographer” — V.H. Leslie
“Lacunae” — V.H. Leslie
“Eternal/Love” — John Ajvide Lindqvist
“Let the Old Dreams Die” — John Ajvide Lindqvist
“One of These Nights” — Livia Llewellyn
“The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family” — Usman T. Malik
“Letters from Elodie” — Laura Mauro
“In the City of Bones” — Laura Mauro
“In the Marrow” — Laura Mauro
“When Charles Sleeps” — Laura Mauro
“With Graveyard Seeds and Wolfsbane Seeds” — Seanan McGuire
“A.G.A.” — S.P. Miskowski
“Death and Disbursement” — S.P. Miskowski
“This Many” — S.P. Miskowski
“The Infusorium” — Jon Padgett
“Murmurs of a Voice Foreknown” — Jon Padgett
“In the Porches of My Ears” — Norman Prentiss
“Diamond Saw” — Sarah Read
“Krazy Krax” — Naben Ruthnum
“The Show” — Priya Sharma
“Last Rites and Resurrections” — Martin Simpson
“No Good Deed” — Angela Slatter
“The Somnambulists” — Simon Strantzas
“Forwarded” — Steve Rasnic Tem
“The Ice Tower” — Paul Tremblay
“The Thirteenth Temple” — Paul Tremblay
“Replacements” — Lisa Tuttle
“We Didn’t Always Live in the Woods” — Jack Westlake
“And the Carnival Leaves Town” — A.C. Wise
“Final Girl Theory” — A.C. Wise


So, that was 2020. 

There’s not much to say about the Year of the Plague that hasn’t been said elsewhere, so I’ll try to stick to the personal notes. 

2020 was a strange year for me, as it was for pretty much everyone on the planet, and yet it was also oddly normal. Seeing as how I’ve been writing full time for the past three and a half years, working from home due to Covid-19 didn’t upset my world as much as it did virtually everyone else. 

When the first lockdown came into effect back in March, my wife suddenly found herself working from home. Like everyone else, we thought it would only be for a few weeks until the world got its shit together and we got a handle on this pesky coronavirus thing. 

Of course, we all know how that turned out. A few weeks turned into the rest of the spring and the entire summer, and my wife only ended up returning to the office in the fall, and even then it was under the new guidelines that are now in effect everywhere (masks, social distancing, etc.). 

While the race for vaccines went on, and people tried to acclimate to our scary new world, I started work on a short story called “The Dead Girl’s Sleepover.” Over the weeks and months — while my wife turned our dining room table into a workstation before finally moving into the guest-bedroom-turned-home-office — the story grew into a novelette, and then into a novella. When it was finally finished it had become a 75k novel. 

It’s a very different story for me, but I’m pretty happy with it. No idea when, or if, it will ever see the light of day. It’s been so damn long since I’ve had a book out that I’m kinda done with talking about the future of my writing career. If you’ve read any of my previous year-end reviews, I imagine you are as well. 

On that front, all I will say is that I’m still working, still writing, still trying my best to “make it.” I’ve got an excellent pair of agents who really believe in my work, and I actually do have some pretty cool stuff happening in 2021. I just can’t talk about it yet. Story of my life! 

Speaking of which, my 2020 ended on a rather pleasant note, with a very big story sale that came in right on December 31st. Unfortunately I can’t tell you about that yet, either (sorry!).

This is my way of saying that I can’t complain about my current situation. Especially as far as the pandemic goes. Many people have it much, much worse, and although I am the furthest thing from a religious person, I am definitely counting my blessings. 

I’m married to an incredible woman, my best friend and the most incredible person I know, and someone who managed not to murder me during the lockdown of 2020. I’m still writing and I still love it. And I’m still excited by all the stories I have yet to write. 

2020 sucked for a lot of people, and while it was no picnic for Kathryn and I, we are very lucky, very fortunate, and if we have any virtue at all it’s that we know that. We have great family and friends, and we look forward to seeing them all in person again very soon. 

Take care, folks, and be safe. 

See you on the flip-flop. 

 


I’ve got a new novelette out today called “Go Fish,” a pseudo-sequel to my story “The House on Ashley Avenue,” which was a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award.  

You can read “Go Fish” for free on the Tor.com website, or if you prefer to read on a device, the eBook is available for only a dollar at all the usual places. Here’s the wonderful cover art and a description of the story, along with links to where you can find it.

A team of psychic investigators are assigned to examine the grisly death of a night watchman in an abandoned fish processing plant.

Read it for FREE on Tor.com!

Or buy the eBook for only a dollar at: 

B&N Nook | Google Play | Kindle
Kobo | eBooks.com | iBooks

Hope you dig it! 


In 2019, I read 34 novels, 20 novellas, and 180 short stories.

Instead of limiting my favourites to lists of ten or fifteen titles, I’ve included everything I liked. (As usual, not all of these were published in 2019.)

Favourite Novels

Black Mountain — Laird Barron
American Elsewhere — Robert Jackson Bennett
Burglars Can’t Be Choosers — Lawrence Block
Fellside — M.R. Carey
The Black Angel — John Connolly
Chasing Darkness — Robert Crais
The Forgiven Man — Robert Crais
Come Closer — Sara Gran
Afterparty — Daryl Gregory
My Heart Struck Sorrow — John Hornor Jacobs
The Institute — Stephen King
Gidget — Frederic Kohner
Moonlight Mile — Dennis Lehane
Boy’s Life — Robert McCammon
Black Fairy Tale — Otsuichi
Behind Her Eyes — Sarah Pinborough
Dreadnought — Cherie Priest
Monkey Beach — Eden Robinson
Résumé With Monsters — William Browning Spencer
Wanderers — Chuck Wendig

Favourite Novellas and Novelettes

Six Months, Three Days — Charlie Jane Anders
The Ghoul Goes West — Dale Bailey
The Butcher’s Table — Nathan Ballingrud
6/6 — Ray Cluley
Errantry — Elizabeth Hand
Faun — Joe Hill
The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky — John Hornor Jacobs
Hammers on Bone — Cassandra Khaw
Tainaron: Mail From Another City — Leena Krohn
The Autopsy — Michael Shea
And This Is Where We Falter — Robert Shearman
All Reality Blossoms in Flames — Simon Strantzas

Favourite Collections and Anthologies

The End of the End of Everything — Dale Bailey
Wounds — Nathan Ballingrud
Creeping Waves — Matthew M. Bartlett
Errantry — Elizabeth Hand
Full Throttle — Joe Hill
A Lush and Seething Hell — John Hornor Jacobs
All the Things We Never See — Michael Kelly
Furnace — Livia Llewellyn
You’ll Know When You Get There — Lynda E. Rucker
Nothing Is Everything — Simon Strantzas

Favourite Short Stories

“The Bluehole” — Dale Bailey
“The Horror of Party Beach” — Dale Bailey
“I Married a Monster from Outer Space” — Dale Bailey
“Keller’s Horoscope” — Lawrence Block
“Keller on the Spot” — Lawrence Block
“The House That Jessica Built” — Nadia Bulkin
“Wish You Were Here” — Nadia Bulkin
“Bloodchild” — Octavia E. Butler
“Barcode Jesus” — Brian Evenson
“Virtual” — Brian Evenson
“The Dark” — Karen Joy Fowler
“Bait” — Michael Kelly
“A Guttering of Flickers” — Michael Kelly
“Some Other You” — Michael Kelly
“Allochthon” — Livia Llewellyn
“The Last, Clean, Bright Summer” — Livia Llewellyn
“Worlds That Flourish” — Ben Okri
“This Time of Day, This Time of Year” — Lynda E. Rucker
“Who Is This Who Is Coming?” — Lynda E. Rucker
“Shades” — Lucius Shepard
“Ghost Dogs” — Simon Strantzas
“It Won’t Go Away” — Paul Tremblay
“Something About Birds” — Paul Tremblay


This was another quiet year for me. 

Okay, that’s not entirely true. There was one particularly exciting thing that happened — that is still happening, actually — but it’s not something I’m permitted to talk about yet. I know it’s a tease to say something like that, but I mention it only because there really isn’t much else to say about 2019, at least as far as writing and publishing goes.  

Welllll, that’s not entirely true, either. 

In addition to the news-that-cannot-be-revealed, I did end up selling a novelette to Ellen Datlow for Tor.com. It’s called “Go Fish” and I believe it’s scheduled to appear online and as an eBook in April of this year. This was one of only two sales I had in 2019, but it’s easily the biggest short fiction sale of my entire writing career. The sale aside, it’s been a real honour to work with Ellen, which is something I’ve wanted to do since I started publishing. 

My second fiction sale of the year was a Black Lands/Felix Renn story called “A Glass Darkly” to Space & Time magazine. It always makes me happy to have more Black Lands stories out there in the world. Especially now that all of my writerly focus is on the Felix Renn novels. 

Speaking of which, over the past month or so, I undertook a massive edit of the first Felix novel, Sycamore, and it’s now back with my agent. I also wrote a very strange standalone novella called “Grey,” that I’ve been describing as Good Omens meets Get Carter. It’s a pulpy action fantasy story about a mysterious celestial entity called Grey, Heaven’s hatchet man, who’s hired by God to retrieve the last human soul which has been stolen by the Seven Deadly Sins. It was a lot of fun to write, partly because it’s not like anything I’d ever written before. Not sure if it’ll find a home because it’s just so damn weird, but time will tell. 

I’m currently working on a few short stories, and once those are done I’ll be back to work on the next Felix novel. I’m also working on a new Felix novella, “The Sun Never Rises,” which takes place between Sycamore and Book 2. Felix first appeared in a series of chapbook novellas, and as a long-time lover of the form, I always knew I’d continue to write Felix novellas alongside the longer novels. 

On a somewhat related note, Kat and I went to Seattle in May of last year, and we had the chance to visit a number of the locations from one of our favourite TV shows, Twin Peaks. I’ve been a huge Peaks fan since it originally aired, and I count the show as a major influence on my own work, so it was really great to see so many of those iconic locations. And the trees! Those big, majestic Douglas firs! 

I think the reason it feels like not much happened for me in 2019 is partly because I spent the better part of the year looking for new representation. Ask anyone in the biz and they will tell you that trying to find an agent is a long, stressful, soul-sucking task. I like to think it’s one of those things that decides how serious you are about your career, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s really no fun at all. 

On the plus side, I did end up signing with a new literary agent and a new film/tv agent, both of whom are fantastic and enthusiastic, and I’m excited to be working with them.

I tend to keep my expectations low, because disappointment has a habit of striking when you least expect it, and it has no qualms about hitting you when you’re already down, but I’m still hopeful and optimistic for the future. You have to be in this business, or any creative endeavour, for that matter. The fact is, I’d write even if I wasn’t trying to get published, but I’d be a liar if I said it wasn’t my dream to have some sort of writing career. I don’t need to be rich, but it would be nice to make enough money to pay my share of the bills and have enough left over to treat my wife, go on the occasional vacation, save for retirement, etc. 

I feel this is a modest dream, an attainable dream, despite all the blog posts and advice columns that will happily tell you that a career as a fiction writer is virtually impossible. Since there’s a new Star Wars movie out, I will respond with a quote from that lovable scoundrel Han Solo: “Never tell me the odds.” 

It isn’t that Han doesn’t want to hear the odds, he knows the chances of survival are slim, but he also knows he’s going into that asteroid field anyway, so he’s saying keep your doomsaying and negativity to yourself.

I think anyone who has a dream of a career in the creative arts needs to have that attitude. We don’t try because it’s easy, and we don’t try because it’s hard, either. We try because this is what we were made to do. It’s the thing that, no matter how much it might hurt us or disappoint us, we always come back to in the end. It’s our passion. And even if I never publish another book, I can tell you the odds of me giving up writing: slim to none. 

Okay, that’s not entirely true, either. 

It’s actually none. 

See you on the flip-flop. 


I was updating the Black Lands website the other day when I noticed something interesting — a milestone I wasn’t aware of, but one that I feel deserves a small acknowledgement.

Ten years ago, in September 2009, the very first Black Lands story was published as a chapbook by Burning Effigy Press.

“Temporary Monsters” marked the introduction of Felix Renn, the Toronto PI who works supernatural cases in a world where paranormal has become the norm.

Several more novellas and short stories have followed over the years, some featuring Felix, some introducing new characters — because as I’ve always said, the main character in this series is the Black Lands itself — and they’ve always been my favourite ones to write.

Last year I finally finished the first Felix Renn novel, Sycamore, and I have plans for many more books in the series.

I don’t like to talk about stories that aren’t written yet, or books that aren’t published, but I can tell you there’s a lot happening behind the scenes. I’ve got enough material for a new collection of Felix Renn stories, a collection of standalone Black Lands stories, and I’m about to begin work on the second Felix Renn novel.

I wish I could tell you when these books will see the light of day, but that’s a bit harder to determine. Without getting into the business side of things, all I’ll say is that I’m currently looking for the right agent, one who gets what I’m trying to do with this series, and will support and champion my work. Any writer will tell you this can be a long and difficult process.

But today I’d like to focus on the 10th anniversary of “Temporary Monsters,” and the debut of Felix Renn and the Black Lands.

I’d like to thank Monica S. Kuebler for publishing that little chapbook all those years ago, and the ones that followed, as well as the Felix Renn collection, SuperNOIRtural Tales (and to Mike Carey for writing a wonderful introduction). I’d also like to thank all the writers and readers who have supported my work, and the Black Lands series in particular. The world of writing and publishing can be as dark a place as the Black Lands itself, and you have all been the beacons of light that help show me the way.

I look forward to seeing what happens in the next ten years.

(“Temporary Monsters” is available to read for free online — also as an eBook for Kindle, epub, pdf.)


What better way to celebrate the fall season than with a new Black Lands story! 

Space & Time #134

In “A Glass Darkly,” Felix Renn receives an unpleasant blast from the past when he’s asked to help an old colleague set up a meeting with the Paranormal Intelligence Agency. 

What follows is a nightmarish bloodbath from which Felix might not be able to escape. 

This was a fun story to write, in part because I got to explore a bit of Felix’s backstory, but mostly because I got to cut loose with some visceral action featuring PIA agents going toe-to-claw with some really nasty Black Lands entities… with Felix caught in the middle. 

On a rather cool side note, I believe the magazine features the first artist rendition of Felix Renn. There’ve been many Felix stories published over the years, but I’m sure pretty sure none of the artwork thus far has provided a glimpse as to what Mr. Renn looks like. 

Space & Time is available in print and electronic versions. This issue also features fiction from some other excellent authors, so I hope you’ll check it out. 


In 2018, I read 45 novels, 21 novellas, and 274 short stories.

Instead of limiting my favourites to lists of ten or fifteen titles, I’ve included everything I liked. (As usual, not all of these were published in 2018.)

Favourite Novels

Blood Standard — Laird Barron
A Long Line of Dead Men — Lawrence Block
The Neon Rain — James Lee Burke
The Naming of the Beasts — Mike Carey
Thicker Than Water — Mike Carey
The Little Sister — Raymond Chandler
Indigo Slam — Robert Crais
L.A. Requiem — Robert Crais
The Last Detective — Robert Crais
The Saturday Night Ghost Club — Craig Davidson
Experimental Film — Gemma Files
Dark Places — Gillian Flynn
I Am The River — T.E. Grau
Raising Stony Mayhall — Daryl Gregory
Aloha from Hell — Richard Kadrey
The Outsider — Stephen King
The 37th Mandala — Marc Laidlaw
Jackrabbit Smile — Joe R. Lansdale
Prayers for Rain — Dennis Lehane
Hollywood North — Michael Libling
Ghost Road Blues — Jonathan Maberry
The Blue Hammer — Ross Macdonald
Unbury Carol — Josh Malerman
First Blood — David Morrell
The Rook — Daniel O’Malley
Invisible Monsters — Chuck Palahniuk
They Say A Girl Died Here Once — Sarah Pinborough
The Family Plot — Cherie Priest
The Cabin at the End of the World — Paul Tremblay
Web — John Wyndham
My Name Is Legion — Roger Zelazny

Favourite Novellas and Novelettes

The Other Side of the Mountain — Michel Bernanos
Resume Speed — Lawrence Block
The Warren — Brian Evenson
The Twilight Pariah — Jeffrey Ford
Wylding Hall — Elizabeth Hand
The Ballad of Black Tom — Victor LaValle
Nightflyers — George R.R. Martin
Sandkings — George R.R. Martin
A Song for Lya — George R.R. Martin
Forest Under the Sea — Koji Suzuki
The Tired Sounds, A Wake — Michael Wehunt

Favourite Collections and Anthologies

The Girlfriend Game — Nick Antosca
Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Volume 1 — edited by Laird Barron
The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway — Ernest Hemingway
Bleeding Shadows — Joe R. Lansdale
The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard — Elmore Leonard
Nightflyers — George R.R. Martin
The Lord Came at Twilight — Daniel Mills
Aickman’s Heirs — edited by Simon Stantzas
All We Want Is Everything — Andrew F. Sullivan
Dark Water — Koji Suzuki
Over the Darkening Fields — Scott Thomas

Favourite Short Stories

“Carnal Quartet” — Nick Antosca
“The Thickness of Clown Blood” — Nick Antosca
“Night Dog” — Matthew M. Bartlett
“The Howling Man” — Charles Beaumont
“The Hungry House” — Robert Bloch
“The Boy Who Disappeared Clouds” — Lawrence Block
“Someday I’ll Plant More Walnut Trees” — Lawrence Block
“The Aleph” — Jorge Luis Borges
“Seven Minutes in Heaven” — Nadia Bulkin
“The Colomber” — Dino Buzzati
“White Rabbits” — Leonora Carrington
“Nine Last Days on Planet Earth” — Daryl Gregory
“Black Ass at the Cross Roads” — Ernest Hemingway
“Landscape With Figures” — Ernest Hemingway
“Nearer to Thee” — Stephen Graham Jones
“Author’s Tea” — Louis L’Amour
“The Man Who Stole Shakespeare” — Louis L’Amour
“Underground Economy” — John Langan
“Smoke Ghost” — Fritz Leiber
“The Naked Goddess” — Daniel Mills
“The Lord Came at Twilight” — Daniel Mills
“Mother Jones and the Nasty Eclipse” — Cherie Priest
“Fabulous Beasts” — Priya Sharma
“Pumpkinheads” — Andrew F. Sullivan
“Self-Cleaning Oven” — Andrew F. Sullivan
“Towers” — Andrew F. Sullivan
“Cabin 13” — Scott Thomas
“The Book That Finds You” — Lisa Tuttle
“The Pine Arch Collection” — Michael Wehunt
“Mimic” — Donald A. Wollheim


Random Writing Quote

"Real writers write. Wannabe writers write about writing on message boards all day long."
Brian Keene

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