Little Black Spots, Summer 2018



My next book, Little Black Spots, coming late this summer, 2018.

Isn’t that an awesome cover?

Notice it says “With a Special Guest Introduction.”  Yeah, I’m working on that, and it will be filled in with someone great, I promise!

The TOC has 16 stories in it, 8 previously appearing, 8 brand, spankin’ new.

  • The Bunny Suit   NEW
  • The Depravity of Inanimate Things
  • The Dark Level
  • Everything Must Go   NEW
  • A Winter’s Tale   NEW
  • Their Hands   NEW
  • The Night Bird
  • Just a Phone Call Away
  • The Immolation Scene
  • Purple Soda Hand   NEW
  • Three Dog Night
  • The Night Moves
  • A Kiss from the Sun for Pardon   NEW
  • The Bitches of Madison County
  • Gethsemane, In Rain   NEW
  • The Coriolis Effect or Chiromancy for Beginners   NEW

More on each of these stories as we get closer to publication date.  But I am inordinately, superlatively proud of this collection.  I think it’s some of my best work yet.  And I’m tremendously excited to share it with you.  As always, Tony and everyone at Grey Matter has done a tremendous job with this book.  They’re now five books deep in my oeuvre–with the definitive edition of Little Deaths, Kill-Off, The Bell Witch and Stoker Award-nominated The End in All Beginnings. 

And…who knows?  Maybe a big, major announcement of something freakin’ awesome coming soon?  Oh yeah….


Providence and Stuff

So, I went to the Horror Writers Association’s StokerCon two weeks ago.  Yeah, it’s taken me this long to process it.  It was a great con, and I was able to connect with a lot of people there, which is ultimately why I go.  Make the connections.  Get to know people.  And develop lots of projects that will keep me busy and (perhaps) gainfully employed in future months.

I was able to hang out extensively with my Blood Brother, Erik T. Johnson, author of YES TRESPASSING.  That was great and very cool.  We were able to pitch I CAN HEAR THE SHADOWS–the follow up to I CAN TASTE THE BLOOD, featuring both of us along with Joe Schwartz, J. Daniel Stone and Josh Malerman.  I think this one will see life somewhere in 2019.  We’re all working on our stories right now, and this one sounds terrific so far.  Joe Schwartz–JOE FUCKING SCHWARTZ–is writing a horror story for this.  I shit you not.

I got to see my good friend and editor Doug Murano win the Stoker Award for Best Anthology for Behold: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders!  And this was after Doug’s harrowing trip cross country in an SUV filled with his wife and four little kids, many of whom were sick.  I had a story in Behold, “A Ware That Will Not Keep,” which made it to the preliminary ballot but not the final ballot, so this was a pleasant bit of news.

I also got to see Patrick Freivald, Rena Mason, Lisa Morton, Ellen Datlow, Jim Chambers, Brian Matthews, Nicole Cushing, Tom Deady, Pete Kahle, Chad Stroup, Brian Kirk, John Palisano, Eric Guignard and Stephanie Wytovich.  I got to moderate a panel on long fiction and do a reading from my short story “The Coriolis Effect or Chiromancy for Beginners,” from my upcoming collection Little Black Spots (more on that soon).

I also emerged with a project that Brian Kirk and I are working on, and that I am VERY excited about.  And I got two huge names interested in another Big Project that Josh Malerman and I are working on.  MUCH more on this later.

I also met a few people I was really looking forward to meeting.  One of them was Alan Baxter, a great guy and author of the phenomenal Crow Shine and Hidden City, and a new member of the Grey Matter Press family!  Another was Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and Disappearance at Devil’s Rock.  And the other was Victor LaValle, author of The Ballad of Black Tom, The Changeling (which I am now reading), and the devastating Destroyer graphic novel, which I finished last night. And to be utterly gratuitous, here’s a picture of me and Victor.  Great guy and a super author!


All in all, a super conference, with a lot coming out of it.

More on all these projects in the very near future…and there are things ticking with Little Black Spots and The Fearing. Soon….so very, very soon.

Dallas Mayr Has Passed Away


The amazing Jack Ketchum, Lifetime Achievement Winner

One of my writing heroes has passed away.

Dallas Mayr, aka Jack Ketchum was the giant in the industry you might not have heard of.  He wrote suspense/horror classics like The Girl Next Door, Off Season, Peaceable Kingdom, and a huge number of short stories. He wrote what is unquestionably one of my favorite short stories ever, “The Box.”

Want some kismet?  Jack’s story “The Box,” which went on to win a Stoker award in 1994 for best short story, first appeared in Cemetery Dance.  As it turns out–and I didn’t realize this for a while–my short story “Three Silent Things” also appeared in that very same issue of Cemetery Dance.

I first met Jack back at the World Horror/HWA convention in Portland in 2014.  I went alone, didn’t know a whole helluva lot of people yet.  I was pushing The End in All Beginnings, my novella collection.  Tony at Grey Matter had booked a reading for me and had sent me a box of ARCs to hand out as I saw fit.

I walked the little trade show part of the con one afternoon, and there, sitting alone at a table with no one around was Jack Ketchum.  If you’ve met me, you know I am a friendly person by nature, approachable, garrulous, interested.  But I am not generally the type to approach people I don’t know…especially people whom I respect or admire.  But, screwing my discomfort to the sticking place, I walked up to Jack, introduced myself and told him I was a huge admirer of his, especially his story “The Box.”

Now, as old and impaired as I was–and continue to be–I did not realize that this story that I had an abiding admiration for was in the same issue as one of my own stories.  But Jack was friendly, and we spoke for a while.  I told him I was a writer just getting back into the industry, and that I had a book coming out.  I had a copy of said book clamped in my hand, and he inquired about it.

I showed him the book and offered him a copy.  He accepted it, then passed it directly back to me.  “You have to sign it first.”

I wasn’t accustomed to this.  Hadn’t signed too many copies of my own books at that point, and was a little flummoxed.  I took the book back and hastily inscribed it, putting into print that I was disconcerted by signing a book over to him.

He took the book, we shook hands, and that was it.  I’d met one of my writing heroes.  Done.  Great experience.  He was a nice guy. It was definitely something I’d remember.

Cut to about two months later.  I’d written something here on this blog about that meeting, and I got a notice from WordPress that I had to approve a comment left on the blog posting.  I stared at the response in question for several minutes trying to figure out who the hell Dallas Mayr was.

The response was this: “In your inscription to me you wrote, ‘I feel funny signing a book for you.’ Can’t think why. THE END IN ALL BEGINNINGS is accomplished stuff, complex and heartfelt. There’s an attention to character and an access to feeling that’s very refreshing indeed. So thanks for the good read, John, and good luck with that Stoker.”

Then I saw the signature;

Best, Dallas aka Jack Ketchum

I nearly passed out.  Really.  Here this man who was an idol took the time to not only speak with me–and encouragingly, I might add–then had accepted a copy of my book, took it, actually read it, and took the time to hunt me down to leave me that note.

In the ensuing months, he also tweeted about the book at least twice that I saw, incredibly glowing things. In one of them, he called the book “the best novella collection I’ve read in years.”

Did I ask him if we could use these for blurbs for the book?  Of course I did.  And he agreed.

I met him a few more times.  The pic above is me with him after the Stoker Banquet in Atlanta in 2015.  I was a finalist in the fiction collection category for The End in All Beginnings.  I didn’t win, but that was okay.  I got the opportunity to have my picture taken with him. I will cherish it.

We talked a few more times over the years.  He read a few more things of mine and was incredibly complimentary and incredibly gracious.  I have a few things of his signed on my bookshelf…including a copy of that issue of Cemetery Dance with our stories in it.

When I finally remembered, I sent him a note about it, and he was pleasantly surprised.  When I saw him next, which I think was also in Atlanta, I brought it with me, and he signed it. It will never leave my possession.

I may never be as big or successful an author as Dallas Mayr.  But I hope I am as good a person.  I try to be just as accessible, just as approachable, just as supportive to other writers as he was.

I’m sorry I won’t get to see him again.  I’m sorry I won’t get that electric thrill of shouting “Dallas!” across a crowded room, as if speaking a secret code.  I’m sorry I won’t be able to buy him any more promised drinks.  I’m sorry for his family and friends.  And for this industry, that’s lost not only a gigantic author, but a gigantically good man.


I Made the Bram Stoker Award Preliminary Ballot!

The Bram Stoker Award is sort of the Oscars of the horror industry.  I was honored in 2014 when my novella collection, The End in All Beginnings, was a finalist in the Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection category.

The award process has four components.  First is the Recommended Reading List, which is the opening mechanism for generating potential nominees in each category.  From this, a slate of perhaps 10 or so works in each category are culled into the Preliminary Ballot, which is where we are now.

This year, my story “A Ware That Will Not Keep,” which was featured in Behold! Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders, made the preliminary ballot in the short fiction category!


This doesn’t mean I’m a winner or even a nominee yet; that’s the next step.  In the upcoming week, HWA members will vote on this Preliminary Ballot, which will result in a smaller slate of nominees in each category in a Final Ballot.  Then, of course, the winners, which will be announced at the Bram Stoker Awards Banquet at StokerCon, this year in Providence, RI.  I will be attending, and I hope to be on that final ballot.  And…who knows?

At any rate, Behold! also made the preliminary ballot under the Fiction Anthology category.  And Hal Bodner’s superb story, “The Baker of Millepoix,” made it to the preliminary ballot along with mine.  Congrats!  I’m proud to be part of this fantastic book Doug put together.

My friend Mark Matthew’s also got to the prelims with Garden of Fiends, an anthology I also am proud to have a story in!  Congrats, Mark!

And Josh Malerman got on twice, both with Black Mad Wheel (under novels), and the awesome Goblin (under fiction collection).  You go, Josh!

Send some positive thoughts into the ether for me, friends! I’d love to see one of those Stoker houses on my desk this year!

Great Review for Little Deaths: The Definitive Collection!


So, Little Deaths: The Definitive Collection racked up its first new review, and it’s a swell one.  The folks over at scifi/horror site Signal Horizon posted a great review of the book last week.

“Overall I found this compilation easy to read, hard to put down and impossible to forget. These stories all felt new and ancient at the same time in the most amazing of ways. Long after I finished the last word I thought about the characters. I would strongly recommend this for fans of truly thought provoking horror. Fans should check out Taff’s other books.”

I’d say that’s pretty good. Click here to read the entire review.

Get all my books at Amazon.  Kindle versions are on sale for just $2.99 each.  Click here to go to my Amazon Author page to find them all!

Why Aren’t You Reading–and Reviewing!–This Book?


Time to start the New Year with a whiny author whine.

Why aren’t you reading more of the books I’m in?

And if you are (thanks!), then why aren’t you reviewing them?

I don’t mean starting your own review site and laboriously writing in-depth analysis of books you’ve read.  There are plenty of good review sites and reviewers out there–I give you Shane Keene at Shotgun Logic and This is Horror, David W. Spell, Rich over at The Horror Bookshelf, Adrian at the Grim Reader, and the voracious reader Gabino Iglesias.

No, I’m not suggesting you hang out a shingle and devote your life to analysis of the written word, I’m just saying taking the time to post a two or three sentence distillation of what you liked/didn’t like about a book along with a commensurate number of stars might be a nice idea…and helpful to the publisher and author who brought the book to you!

Case in point:  Shadows Over Main Street 2, which came out a few months ago.  Edited by a terrific duo–Doug Murano and D. Alexander Ward–the book sports short Lovecraftian small-town fiction from the likes of Joyce Carol Oates, Joe Lansdale…and me!  My story is entitled “Shug,” and is a…well…a continuation, let’s say, of my eponymously titled story in I Can Taste the Blood.

Anyway, it’s a solid book with a bunch of great horror authors.  And a great publisher in Cutting Block Books.  So, lots of great people involved in this project, all of whom deserve your support.

So far, the book has generated two reviews at Amazon.  Two.  Granted, they’re both great reviews, but only two.  That’s not even one review for every month it’s been out there.  I can’t stress enough how important reviews of any kind are for books and their publishers. Amazon’s complex and probably arcane sales algorithms don’t even kick in until a book gets more than two dozen reviews.  As I look over the numbers of reviews most of the books I’m in get, it’s less than this…anemically less.

Look, I know reviewing books is a hassle.  I know it takes some time and your life is hectic.  I know.  I’m right there with ya.  But if you want to continue to read quality horror and dark speculative fiction, you need to support the small, indie press, because this stuff isn’t coming (for the most part) from the big press.  Sure, there are a scant handful of big press horror authors.  But by and large, most of the stuff is coming from the small press.  And they need your help in beating the bushes and attracting new readers, because they don’t have the marketing budgets of a big publisher.  Most don’t have any marketing budget.

So, get out there and leave a line or two or three for the books you’ve read and enjoyed, particularly books like Shadows Over Main Street 2.  You’ll help those publishers continue to bring you great horror literature in the future.

Now, get out there and read more in 2018!

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