A Weird Writer’s 2022 Retrospective

Season’s Chillings,

I’m wishing all my friends, family, as well as fellow readers and writers a most merry holiday and New Year! This short article, which contains neither boasting nor complaints, is simply about the facts. What sort of depravity did I write? What was published and where? What’s in store for my readers in 2023?

Briefly, here is my creative output for 2022:

  • I wrote 18 short stories. A handful of these yarns may deserve to be lit on fire in a suitable burn barrel. Yet the majority of them, I’ve come to believe, are quite good . . .
  • One ‘weird sea’ novella of 39,000 words (this novella is a collage of influences, ranging from Herman Melville to William Hope Hodgson to H.P. Lovecraft).
  • One horror novel of 62,000 words (a weird and fantastic novel, currently in its 2nd draft, which I hope to polish and revise for a 2023 publication).
  • A few dozen poems of varying quality.

In regards to publication of tales written solely this year: My stories “An Obsolete Art”, “The Monster in H. Philip’s Grocery”, and “In the Town of Sweet Hollow: A Novelette” were published in my latest book, Beneath the Jack-O-Lantern Sky: Tales of Sweet Hollow. This fine collection of tales was published by Weird House Press in September ’22, along with many other excellent tales.

Additionally, my tale “The Thing Beneath the Dock” was published in TRAPPED: A Dark Dozen Anthology, a gruesome and dark collection of tales edited by the excellent, Candace Nola. Available in beautiful hardcover and trade paperback!

EVENTS:

My first solo author event was held at OTHER SKIES WEIRD FICTION, a wonderful new bookstore in Saint Paul, MN. This event took place in early November. It was a full house and, to my delight, many of my books were purchased. An interesting discussion on ‘weird fiction’ occurred, followed by a dramatic reading by yours truly, as well as an extensive book-signing. I’ll be returning to OTHER SKIES for yet another author event around October of 2023.

Beneath the Jack O’ Lantern Sky: Tales of Sweet Hollow was published September of 2022. It is my best work to date (in my opinion), and is available as a limited edition signed & numbered trade paperback from Weird House Press. Grab them up while you can . . .

See here: https://www.weirdhousepress.com/product/beneath-the-jack-o-lantern-sky/

designed by Cyrus Wraith Walker at Weird House Press

I made an appearance on Joshua Rex’s excellent podcast, THE NIGHT PARLOR (episode 24). J. Rex is a marvelous writer in his own right, and was very kind to invite me on his show to aske me intelligent and thoughtful questions. One may listen to the podcast here: https://joshuarex.com/the-night-parlor-podcast/

My wife, daughter, and I hosted the biggest, most exciting Halloween party yet.

My family gladdens my heart (even if I AM a werewolf . . .)

Although hardly considered an ‘event’, a number of my books received excellent reviews on Amazon/Goodreads . . . thought I must admit, it is a great struggle to sell books as an ‘indie writer’, a tough market to master, and even more difficult to collect reviews . . . thus I am exceedingly grateful for those who read my work this year, and, having enjoyed the tales, went out of their way to leave a positive review. To those attentive readers, you have my utmost gratitude!

Here’s the master list of Tales Written in 2022:

  1. An Obsolete Art
  2. The Monster in H. Philip’s Grocery
  3. The Dreaded Maccba
  4. Tom and Judy’s Prelude to Night
  5. In the Town of Sweet Hollow (Novelette)
  6. The Thing Beneath the Dock
  7. Shadows Know Not Themselves
  8. When Halloween Came to Egypt
  9. Making Father Proud
  10. The Wickies
  11. Your Body Changes
  12. Your Tales, They Are Not So Tall
  13. Hatchlings
  14. Mr. Pollidori Moves In
  15. Women’s Day
  16. Summer’s End Parade
  17. The White Things
  18. A Tunnel Through the Mountain
  19. The Last of the Lot
  20. The Man out of Time (A Novella: 39,000 words)
  21. Old Dark Houses (A NOVEL, 62,000 words)

Yes, but What Shall be Next?

As mentioned above, I have written an excellent ‘weird sea’ novella which I aim to publish in 2023, as well as my debut novel.

I also have yet another short story collection I desire to publish. It has not found a publisher as of yet, but there are a few prospects. This batch of tales will reveal a new aspect of my macabre writing no one has seen yet . . . if I may be immodest, I’ll only say that I’m growing and expanding as a writer, and all my tales reflect the sort of psychological space I inhabit whenever I pen them.

This year, much like every year, has been a great struggle, and a great joy.

Wishing everyone an utmost fulfilling New Year!

Best,

Tylor James

PS: I have included a list of all the books I’ve read, as well as best films I have watched in 2022.

My reading list includes fiction and non-fiction, books regarded as classics, and works of my contemporary macabre/horror/weird fiction writers. I must mention that The Descent & Other Stories by Joshua Rex is among my very favorite books of htis year—his writing is among the most intelligent speculative fiction I have had the pleasure of reading. Additionally, The Halloween Boy by William P. Simmons is among the best Halloween tales I’ve ever read (which is saying a great deal, as I’ve read many). I’ve also discovered Josh Malerman’s works this year, and have found the man and his writing to be a sheer delight and inspiration.

Books Read in 2022:

  1. Making Movies – Syndey Lumet
  2. The Golden Apples of the Sun – Ray Bradbury
  3. I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream – Harlan Ellison
  4. Night of the Living Dead: Behind the Scenes of the Most Terrifying Zombie Movie Ever – Joe Kane
  5. Film and Art – Bruce H. Hinrichs
  6. Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances – Neil Gaiman
  7. The Consolations of Philosophy – Alain de Botton
  8. Stirring the Sheets – Chad Lutzke
  9. Edgar Allan Poe: A Biography – Arthur Hobson Quinn
  10. The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine – Lindsey Fitzharris
  11. The Modern Prometheus – Jayson R. Ducharme
  12. Halloween: An American Holiday, An American History – Lesley Bannatyne
  13. Birdbox – Josh Malerman
  14. We Feed the Dark: Tales of Terror, Loss, and the Supernatural – William P. Simmons
  15. The Halloween Store – Ronald Kelly
  16. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde
  17. Cycle of the Werewolf – Stephen King
  18. The King in Yellow – Robert W. Chambers
  19. Misery – Stephen King
  20. On Writing – Stephen King
  21. Selected Tales of William Faulkner
  22. The Mist – Stephen King
  23. Bishop – Candace Nola
  24. GOBLIN – Josh Malerman
  25. The Descent and Other Strange Stories – Joshua Rex
  26. Nightshade and Damnations – Gerald Kersh
  27. Approaching Oblivion – Harlan Ellison
  28. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  29. The October Country – Ray Bradbury
  30. The Halloween Boy and Other October Horrors – William P. Simmons
  31. In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Essex Whaleship – Nathaniel Philbrick
  32. Selected Tales of William Hope Hodgson
  33. Dead of Winter – Kealan Patrick Burke
  34. Moby Dick – Herman Melville

Many of the films on my “Best Of” list are a few decades old, but ‘new’ to me, and thus have been included in my listing. This year I have discovered, at last, the works of Robert Eggers, and have resolved to watch any film he directs from here on out.

Best Films Watched in 2022:

We Have Always Lived in the Castle (2018)

Pig (2021)

The Color out of Space (2019)

The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021)

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Curse of the Werewolf (1961)

Document of the Dead (documentary by Roy Frumkes)

The Witch (2015)

Vampire’s Kiss (1988)

Oculus (2013)

X (2022)

Dead and Buried (1981)

Paranoic (1963)

Brides of Dracula (1960)

Naked Lunch (Cronenberg)

Jakob’s Wife (2021)

Shirley (2020)

Of Mice and Men (1939)

The Others (2001)

The Northman (2022)

It Follows (2014)

Barbarian (2022)

Black Swan (2010)

The Seventh Seal (1957)

The Third Man (1949)

Citizen Kane (1941)

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

The Black Phone (2022)

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Halloween Kills (2022)

Advertisement

On my First Author Event at OTHER SKIES, A Weird Fiction Bookstore.

            It is snowing.

            It is supposed to snow for the next three days, ushering in Wisconsin’s winter season. Although Christmas displays have already been set up in retail stores, and families are eagerly making Thanksgiving plans, my mind is elsewhere.

            Away from strings of multicolored lights and grinning snowmen.

            Away from plastic trees stuffed into living rooms, gleaming gleeful and garish with bulbs and angels and candy canes.

            I am thinking of November 6th, when I had my very first author event at Other Skies, a new weird fiction bookstore located on Dodd Street in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

            On that day, the wind howled.

            On that day, dead leaves blew upward into crazy cyclones.

            It was not yet snowing. The dry carapace-leaves still crunched wonderfully beneath one’s shoes. Faces of leering jack o’ lanterns peered out from porches, driveways, and stoops—now beginning to rot and puddle into a soft, orange rind.

            I got dressed.

            I drove for an hour and crossed the Wisconsin-Minnesota border, navigated the wild freeway traffic, and, at long last, arrived at Other Skies.

            A change in atmosphere.

The street is a long black ribbon. The buildings are old-fashioned; brown brick facades built in the early twentieth century. Their large front windows serve as mirrors, reflecting yourself as you walk past and wonder briefly at the mystery of who you are.

Harkening back to an earlier era, Other Skies is a building one enters with a peculiar sense of wonder and unease.

One feels as if they’re entering a book shop from long, long ago. As if the years have obscured this place from the world, and yet now, here you are, looking up at the ancient brick frontage, wondering at the strange decals upon the window (is that a tentacle?) and now, you open the black screen door, your hand is on the doorknob, and its cold brass feels strangely good beneath your palm, and then you step inside.

From here on, it’s all over.

No turning back.

How can you? Look at all these rare, wonderful books lining the walls! And the tall, stately clock standing sentinel in the corner, with skeletal black hands whirling about the clockface! And the cozy couch beneath the window! And the . . . casket?

Yes. A casket.

And it’s open.

Thankfully (or not thankfully, depending on the sort of person you are), a dead body isn’t lying in wait. No pale moon flesh, closed eyes, purple lips. Rather, the cushiony interior of the long grey casket serves as a display for especially rare books and items—including what appears to be a First Edition of The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson.  

Right about this time, the proprietors of this fine establishment, Josh Hames and Becca Olene, will warmly welcome you. They are here if you’ve any questions, or if you need help finding anything. For their knowledge regarding books verges on encyclopedic, and their manners are polite and genial.  

Other Skies, you see, deals in used and rare books—especially those relating to horror, fantasy, science-fiction, and the occult.

            Because I am a writer of strange tales, of macabre fantasies, of horror tales—whatever you wish to call them—it seems there is no better place than Other Skies to host my first author event.

            I was given a nice tall chair, and a podium, and something to drink.

            I set out my books for display. Mr. Hames decided the prices for them (I’m grateful he did, as I have a habit of underpricing my years’ worth of hard work). About ten minutes before the event was supposed to start, people began wandering in.

            I had expected a total of, perhaps, two or three folks to show up. I have heard and seen nightmares of scarcely attended author events before. I’d fully intended to remain stoic about the evening.

            Instead, we got a full room.

            After Josh’s formal introduction, I delivered a small speech about being a writer, the sort of stories I tell, and why I tell them. After this, I gave a short reading of Night of the Child, a Halloween tale from my latest book, Beneath the Jack O’ Lantern Sky.

            Next came an in-depth discussion regarding all things weird fiction, creativity, and storytelling. Josh, quite thankfully, had a great deal of thoughtful questions to ask me, and thus the evening was saved from languishing into awkward silence. We found, in the course of this discussion, the surprising fact that nobody seemed to have an exact, or perfectly adequate definition of ‘weird fiction’—which is probably all the better.

            It took some time, but eventually audience members began to engage, and soon a dialogue between author, bookstore owner, and audience was underway.

            I gave one last reading. The lights were turned low and dim. A soft yellow light provided just enough illumination for me to see my papers.

Using a voice that may well belong to the nineteenth century, I performed a reading of The Tower: A Tale in Ten Sonnets. This piece is a hybrid of tale and poem, telling the tale of a reclusive man who resides in a great tower in the country. Soon, he is besieged by strange, fish-like creatures with sharp teeth, thick lips, barbel-like whiskers, and fierce claws which infect one with a mysterious, green-glowing plague, should they find purchase in one’s flesh.

The performance went over very well.

Books were purchased.

Books were signed.

And the evening, for myself, as well as for Josh and Becca, proved a resounding success.

I’ve been invited back for another author event come October 2023.

If you missed this one, you’ll won’t want to miss the next.

Things are only bound to get more, shall we say . . . weird.

Best,

Tylor James.

One may purchase a signed & limited edition of Beneath the Jack O’ Lantern Sky: Tales of Sweet Hollow here: https://www.weirdhousepress.com/product/beneath-the-jack-o-lantern-sky/

Edgar Allan Poe Reviews “Beneath the Jack-O-Lantern Sky” (BOOK TRAILER)

My brother and I put together this silly little 2 1/2 minute film, wherein I perform as Edgar Allan Poe—who, apparently, has gone rather mad over my new book!

You can view the trailer, if you so choose, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_35r1PhfX8

Now, as for the book itself, allow me to expound . . .

You’ve just entered Sweet Hollow, where everyone has a horror tale to tell…

Strange are the secrets harbored in Sweet Hollow… A Midwest town luminous with legends, morbid with monsters, and crazed with killers. Its hills and houses are haunted, its graveyard gales are billowed by bats, its citizens creeped upon by cemetery skeletons. Encompassing all—a hallowed, Jack O’ Lantern sky serves as the backdrop for the terrifying tales within this harrowing horror-collection.

In the town of Sweet Hollow, one must prepare themselves to encounter:

  • A Cult of Immortals Eager for Human Sacrifice.
  • A Haunted “Manor” That Is Not What It Appears.
  • A Fisherman Reincarnated into His Prized Catch.
  • Giant Mosquitos!
  • The Formative Years of a Serial Killer.
  • An Old Dance Hall Waltzing with Corpses.
  • A Haunted House Mystery Bank (Coin-Operated).

And that’s only a few of the curiosities one may discover in the shops, streets, houses, and cemeteries of Sweet Hollow. If you long for a scare, then open your mind, and prepare yourself for a dark descent into madness and horror.

Interested? You may purchase it through WEIRD HOUSE PRESS in trade paperback here: https://www.weirdhousepress.com/product/beneath-the-jack-o-lantern-sky/

OR, in ebook/paperback on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Beneath-Jack-Lantern-Sky-Hollow/dp/1957121246

Wishing everyone an auspicious autumn, and a Happy Halloween!

Best,

Tylor James

BENEATH THE JACK-O-LANTERN SKY

Friends of the Macabre,

I’m rather proud to announce my new book, BENEATH THE JACK O’ LANTERN SKY: TALES OF SWEET HOLLOW, will be available for pre-order from Weird House Press this September!

“Strange are the secrets harbored in Sweet Hollow, a town luminous with legends, morbid with monsters, and crazed with killers . . . “

Once upon a time, I thought MATTERS MOST MACABRE was the best thing I’ve done, but I think this new book tops it handily. Its been a pleasure writing this collection of twelve tales and one novelette, and cannot wait to behold it in print.

Here is the book’s full back cover description:

Strange are the secrets harbored in Sweet Hollow… A Midwest town luminous with legends, morbid with monsters, and crazed with killers. Its hills and houses are haunted, its graveyard gales are billowed by bats, its citizens creeped upon by cemetery skeletons. Encompassing all—a hallowed, Jack O’ Lantern sky serves as the backdrop for the terrifying tales within this harrowing horror-collection.

In the town of Sweet Hollow, one must prepare themselves to encounter:

A Cult of Immortals Eager for Human Sacrifice.
A Haunted “Manor” That Is Not What It Appears.
A Fisherman Reincarnated into His Prized Catch.
Giant Mosquitos!
The Formative Years of a Serial Killer.
An Old Dance Hall Waltzing with Corpses.
A Haunted House Mystery Bank (Coin-Operated).
And that’s only a few of the curiosities one may discover in the shops, streets, houses, and cemeteries of Sweet Hollow. If you long for a scare, then open your mind, and prepare yourself for a dark descent into madness and horror.

Sound like this book might be to your taste? Please consider ordering a copy this September! You can order it here, on the Weird House Press website: https://www.weirdhousepress.com/product/beneath-the-jack-o-lantern-sky/

In the meantime, I’m currently finishing up what may be a debut novel for next year (2023), working on a poetry book, and planning a month long retreat merely to catch up on reading and re-filling my inner well of ideas.

Wishing you the best this late summer and harvest season.

Morose, macabre, and maniacally yours,

Tylor James.

2021: A MACABRE YEAR IN REVIEW, IN LOVE AND IN WRITING.

It’s difficult for me to recall what I’ve done in the previous week, not to mention an entire year. Thankfully, I’ve got many documents and journal entries to remind me just what the hell happened in 2021. One is tempted to speak only on one’s victories, to cherry-pick only the bright spots in one’s life. But of course, isn’t it better to include the panoply of human experience? With every joy and victory there is despair and failure!

I’ll start with the failures, but shall end on only positive notes:

I received around 40 rejections from publishers regarding short stories, poems, and essays. I wrote a 114,000 word-length novel, and in the end, didn’t much like it. I began writing another novel, got 20,000 words in, then didn’t have enough inspiration to complete it. I struggled for months over short stories. What was once a joy and release had become a chore. I was writing every day, yes, but the stories were no good. I became frustrated and slightly depressed. I got restless. Drank a bit too much.

Now, onto the positives, which I believe will vastly outweigh what I’ve shared thus far:

All in all, I wrote 29 short stories, 1 short screenplay, 1 giant novel, 3 personal essays, 83 poems, and 3 journal books. I pat myself on the back and say, “Not bad, kid.” All the while, I’m hoping to do even better in the upcoming year.

When I fell into that uninspired slump with my stories, I counteracted by drastically changing my routine. Instead of writing a short story every week, as I’d been doing the past two years, I decided to write one poem a day for an entire month! This resulted in a full-length poetry book, titled, “I Grew Up in a Haunted House”, which I aim to edit and publish. After that, I wrote a personal essay every week, and came up with some decent pieces that way.

Along with 40 story rejections, and many “non-responses” (or, at the very least, eternally pending responses . . . ) from publishers, I was able to sell three stories I’d written. Here they are:

“If Fish Could Scream” was sold to Forlorn-The Periodical.

“Out Beneath the Jack O’ Lantern Sky” was sold to Hellbound Books for their Madame Gray’s Vault of Gore anthology.

“Billy’s First Haircut” was sold and will appear in an upcoming issue of Cosmic Horrror Monthly — which I’m incredibly excited about.

I’ve also compiled a NEW short story collection (I’ll be editing this and sending it off to publishers soon, hoping to publish traditionally as opposed to self-publishing, as I’ve done with all of my books thus far).

TWO of my stories were also featured in WEIRDSMITH: Number One, from Too Much Weird press. I also independently published MATTERS MOST MACABRE, my proudest work to date (which has also collected many excellent reviews), as well as published GATOR HOUSE, a novelette, which has received mostly good, yet mixed reviews.

Today is January 1st of 2022, and I’ve began it by pounding out 4000+ words and finishing a new short story, “An Obsolete Art”, which I believe readers are truly going to enjoy. It’s a slow build of a story, yet with an utterly macabre pay-off!

As for my next creative project, I’ll be directing a debut film, a fifteen minute black-and-white supernatural feature called, “A Bell-Tierney Christmas Mystery”, which is currently in pre-production and will be shot in early February. I’ve got some great actor-friends tagged to this film. I’m incredibly nervous and excited to make it.

Best of all, above even writing and art, 2021 is the year I married the love of my life, Tessandra. We are closer, and happier, than we’ve ever been in our six years together. I’m grateful for what will be, if I’m fortunate, many more years with this excellent (and patient) human being. She doesn’t merely put up with my idiosyncrasies and my ego, but rather accepts me as I am — and that is love.

In addition, I’ve had the honor and pleasure of being interviewed by the talented Candace Nola, for her website, Uncomfortably Dark. (See here, though you’ll have to scroll a bit: https://www.uncomfortablydark.com/blank-page-5). I also did an interview with Curtis Lawson, for his WYRD TRANSMISSIONS podcast. Admittedly, I was quite nervous for this interview, and could hardly be myself. Still, it was an honor.

I also lost a job this year (at the ‘haunted factory’, where I was a security guard working the graveyard shift — the best writing job one could imagine), as well as quit one of the worst factory jobs I’ve ever had, and am now quite content and grateful to work as a full-time bookseller at a Half-Price Books store in Minnesota.

A week ago, I (stupidly) crashed my car and wound up having to take out a loan to buy a another vehicle, but at least I have reliable transportation once again.

I am wishing friends, family, and fellow readers and writers much fulfillment in the New Year. I’ve included, in addition, my favorite books and films I’ve come across in 2021.

Best,

Tylor James.

Top 10 books I’ve Read in 2021:

The Complete Stories of Robert Bloch, Vol. 1

Age of American Unreason – Susan Jacoby

Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque – Joyce Carol Oates

How to Read and Why – Harold Bloom

STIFF: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers – Mary Roach

Shatterday – Harlan Ellison

Dandelion Wine – Ray Bradbury

The House on the Borderland – William Hope Hodgson

Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween – Lisa Morton

Top 10 Films Seen in 2021:

The Lighthouse (this has become one of my very favorite films!)

A Streetcar Named Desire

Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive (2017 documentary)

Strangers on a Train

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?

American Movie

Waking Life

Get Out

Vertigo

I’m Thinking of Ending Things

MATTERS MOST MACABRE, available in kindle, paperback, hardcover: https://www.amazon.com/Matters-Most-Macabre-Tylor-James-ebook/dp/B08Z7LM8TZ#:~:text=Matters%20Most%20Macabre%20is%20a,just%20plain%20weird%20you%20out!

GATOR HOUSE by Tylor James

Fellow Friends of the Macabre,

Might you enjoy an appetizer for the upcoming spooky season? Consider GATOR HOUSE, my new terrifying novelette, now available in kindle/paperback on Amazon. Beware, this tale of just eighty pages has teeth — sharp ones!

I had a great deal of fun writing his tale of beasts and men (which are worse? I cannot truly say), and can only hope my readers will have just as good a time reading it.

A link to the kindle ($2.99) and paperback ($6.99): https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09F71Q9BR/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0

Wishing you a most enjoyable spooky season,

Tylor James.

PS: If a short novelette isn’t what you’re looking for, I understand. You need something more to sink your teeth into, eh? In which case consider MATTERS MOST MACABRE, my highly-acclaimed, full-length collection of short stories. You can find that here in kindle/paperback, even hardcover: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08Z7LM8TZ/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i2