While I love a good horror novel, it’s a genre that particularly shines in short form. I cut my teeth reading books like King’s NIGHT SHIFT, Barker’s BOOKS OF BLOOD, and the old Best Horror anthologies edited by Karl Edward Wagner. There’s a lean viciousness that can be achieved with short horror stories and the best ones stay with you for a very long time.
When I first started writing, my major sales were non-fiction articles to national magazines, mostly martial arts or health and fitness rags. But I kept writing short fiction, wanting so badly to contribute to the kinds of experiences I’d always had reading short horror. When I started publishing short stories, I was gobsmacked to see them in anthologies alongside authors I’d read my whole life. Seeing my name in a Table of Contents wedged in between folks like Neil Gaiman, George RR Martin, Charlaine Harris, Chuck Palahniuk, Jim Butcher, and Sherrilyn Kenyon was its own unique thrill.
Fast-forward ten years or so. I’ve worked in film and television, written comic books and (mostly unpublished) novels. Yet no matter what else I work on, I always come back to the short story. Thus I am beyond excited to present my first collection: WHERE CARRION GODS DANCE.
Scroll down for reviews and a preview of the stories found within.
The ground here is ancient, its dark soil rich with blood and marrow, its trees swaying in diseased wind. The air is cool even in summer and sunlight never touches the earth. Birds speak here, as do the things wriggling through the dirt. Be careful, now, for what they say has broken stronger minds than yours. Step through, child. Don’t be afraid. We’re all here, and we’ve been waiting for you. Welcome to the place WHERE CARRION GODS DANCE.
In this, his first collection of short fiction, acclaimed author and screenwriter Brad C. Hodson visits what Ray Bradbury called “the October Country,” that place where it’s always fall and dread things whisper from dark corners. The 17 stories inside tell of spirits brought forth by cursed plays, visions waiting in the space between breaths, and fleshly pleasures locked behind attic doors. A couple who have lost a child are given a second chance at parenting while two friends become addicted to dying. Childhood trauma comes back to scratch at the window in one tale while a corpse tears a crime spree across the Midwest in another.
So step into the clearing, pull that log close to the fire, and see why Hodson has been called “a master of atmosphere” and “a writer who easily weaves emotional landmines throughout the fear.” Step into the place WHERE CARRION GODS DANCE.
I can only hope the stories here – some previously published, others entirely new – can create the same kind of dark magic in readers that I relish in collections and anthologies.
Published by Washington Park Press, WHERE CARRION GODS DANCE is distributed through Ingram. The ebook and paperback can be found here.
What you’ll find inside:
Dumpster Stories – In the introduction, I confess to… Well, you’ll see.
Haunted – Two young boys sneak into an abandoned house on Halloween.
The Other Patrick – A couple mourning the loss of their son are given one last chance at parenting.
Il Donnaiolo – A tale of sexual obsession played out on the streets of modern Rome.
The Perfect Jackson – High school graduates on a cross-country road trip become obsessed with a walking corpse that’s tearing a crime spree across the Midwest.
Breathe – What hides in the space between breaths?
In the Halls and on the Stairs – After their father’s funeral, two sisters return to the house they grew up in to face whatever stalks the halls at night.
The Scottish Play – Shakespeare’s Macbeth is thought to be a cursed play. A theater owner is about to discover why.
Almost – A mind unravels in a different kind of vampire tale.
His Only Company, the Walls – Told in a series of voicemails, a young man unravels trapped in a hotel room where he believes the walls are speaking to him.
Picked Last – Childhood trauma comes back to scratch at the window.
Chasing the Reaper – Two friends who have become addicted to dying discover how bad the withdrawals can be.
Tabula Rasa – A May-December romance goes wrong when something not quite human moves into the attic.
Hester Cohen – A man has to deal with the suicide of his sick and abusive wife.
Biology – Elmer is about to find out that we’re all nothing but hormones and chemicals.
Where Carrion Gods Dance – When he brought the box home that he found on the side of the road, he had no idea where the contents would lead him.
The Thousandth Hell – A father and son who hate one another are forced to navigate the Courts of Hell together.
The Lord of Misrule – When her wife goes missing on a trip to Ireland, a woman struggling with depression will uncover an ancient horror best left alone.
What others are saying about WHERE CARRION GODS DANCE:
“A twisted cornucopia of dark delights. These stories will pierce your heart swift and silent as an assassin’s dagger.” – Tim Waggoner, author of The Forever House
“Brad C. Hodson grabs you by the throat and never lets go.”
-Don Roff, Author of Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection and Snowblind
“Hodson had me hooked from the intro with his signature, simultaneously elegant and conversational voice. Where Carrion Gods Dance is a sweet little treat, perfect for the Halloween season or year-roundchills.”
– Megan Hart, NYT Bestselling Author of Black Wings
“What I’ve always loved about Brad Hodson’s work – and I’ve been a fan for many years – is not just the way his tales worm their way into your head like little invisible demons, but his gifts for creating living, breathing characters who bleed and love and cry like all of us. Brad’s one of the horror genre’s truest dark hidden treasures.”
– Lisa Morton, six-time Bram Stoker Award-winning author and editor
“There are few writers able to terrify and move you in equal measure. Hodson is one of that rare number who can paint a rich palette of emotions through his words alone. There are not characters in his work, but rather real people. They are strange and haunted yet fully realized to such an extent that you’ll find yourself quoting them days later. That is, when you’re not looking over your shoulder. I can’t imagine experiencing these stories and not feeling eyes on you or wondering what’s crouched there in the dark, watching as you read. That he can do all of this with only the written word is a remarkable feat indeed.”
– Harry Lennix, THE BLACKLIST, MAN OF STEEL, and THE MATRIX trilogy
“Hodson’s mind is not a place I would want to live, but visiting is fun as long as you have some time to deal with the horror and trauma his narratives inflict. His work is a depthful energetic ride, full of fully fleshed out characters with surprising inner demons. His stories will make you shiver a little, maybe laugh, but for sure you will put them down and think about them for some time to come. The horror genre needs more Brad Hodson!”
– Paul Eckstein, writer and producer of NARCOS, LAW & ORDER: CRIMINAL INTENT, and co-creator of GODFATHER OF HARLEM
“Brad Hodson’s Where Carrion Gods Dance is a collection you don’t want to miss! The author has the rare ability and well-honed sensitivity that makes him able to delve into the minds of his characters and bring them to vivid life no matter how different from himself they might be. It’s clear Hodson has spent a lifetime studying people. These stories shimmer on the page with emotion and compassion that amplifies and focuses the horror.”
– Kate Jonez, author of Lady Bits
“Brad C. Hodson’s first story collection, Where Carrion Gods Dance, reminds me of his excellent first novel, Darling. The writing is precise, the pacing fast, and the plotting compelling, but they both share a great characteristic. We read good books and collections, but we only experience the rarest book or collection. Lose yourself experiencing the stories in this excellent collection. Highly recommended.”
– Gene O’Neill, The Burden of Indigo and The White Plague Chronicles
The air is cool, the leaves are crisp, and Pumpkin Spice has infected every drink and dessert like a culinary Captain Tripps. That’s right, autumn is officially here.
It’s too hot and sunny out right now to truly feel like Halloween season has arrived, but I’m embracing it anyway. We put up our Halloween decor over the weekend and started consuming as much fog-shrouded media as we could. I also built this little gem with my 7-year-old:
Legos, by the way, may be the most calming toy I’ve ever played with. I know people are all into coloring books, but give me a bucket of blocks and a glass of wine and I’m as chill as Bobby Drake.
Being that we could all use a little Halloween cheer this strangest of strange years, I thought I’d share some of what I view, read, and play with other Autumn People. That is the best part of venturing into October Country, after all. And the white-shrouded things that flit between the trees there demand we speak of them. If we didn’t, how would others know to venture down those shadowed paths?
We kicked off with one of the new classics.
Now that I have two small children, there’s a constant search for creepy movies that won’t scar them for life. Or, at least, only scar them in socially acceptable ways.
MONSTER HOUSE is a perfect little treat. Gil Kenan’s animated feature gives us everything we could want to kick off the season: a suburb in a vague 1980s setting, trick-or-treating, a creepy house, and a mysterious cranky old man who desperately needs to keep the kids off of his lawn. MONSTER HOUSE is spooky, exciting, funny, and touching in equal measures.
THE CONCEPTION OF TERROR
I’m an unabashed fan of the weird ghost stories of M.R. James. This audio drama updates four of James’s most well known stories to a modern setting. “Casting the Runes,” “Lost Hearts,” “The Treasure of Abbot Thomas,” and “A View from a Hill” are well-cast and well-written adaptations. They also take major liberties with the source material to create audio plays that will chill both die-hard James fans and those unfamiliar with his work.
MAN OF MEDAN
MAN OF MEDAN is the first in Supermassive’s DARK PICTURES ANTHOLOGY. Supermassive, of course, is the company who created UNTIL DAWN, often considered one of the best horror games of all time. Here they aim to present shorter, self-contained works of horror that can be completed in one or two evenings.
With the options to play with a friend online, or the great “Movie Night” feature that allows a group of people in the same room to each make decisions for one character, MAN OF MEDAN delivers on the promise first made in UNTIL DAWN: every choice you make will have repercussions.
If you’ve never played a Supermassive game, they rely on a strong narrative and character interaction rather than shooting or crafting or what have you. MAN OF MEDAN plays like a choose-your-own-adventure horror movie. The atmosphere is great, and the scares had me jumping more than once, but the highlight here is the cast. Like UNTIL DAWN, which starred Rami Malek and Hayden Panittiere, we get a great cast headed up THE FOLLOWING’s Shawn Ashmore.
Check out the trailer below:
ON THE NIGHT BORDER by James Chambers
James Chambers is a rare author who can get under your skin to such a degree that you’ll dream about his work. His Kolchak graphic novel first did that to me and he repeats the trick here with a fantastic collection of short fiction. “Lost Daughters” in particular stayed with me. The back cover warns us that “at night, terrors come to life” and boy does it not disappoint. Highly recommended.
You can pick up a copy HERE.
I’d be remiss here if I didn’t mention that the great Sid Haig passed away today.
Known most for his character Captain Spaulding in Rob Zombie’s films, Haig had an impressive career that stretched back to 1960 and included such shows as the A-Team and Dukes of Hazzard, as well as films like POINT BLANK, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, COFFY, and JACKIE BROWN.
I was lucky enough to be on a panel at a convention in Fresno once where Sid was also a guest. The four or five of us writers on the panel somehow hooked up with Sid and Ken Foree. They invited us to come hang out in their room all night as they told us stories of Hollywood in the 1970s. And what stories they were! Sid was warm and charismatic and funny and kind. He was truly a gem of a man and he will be missed.
JoBlo Videos put together a nice tribute:
That’s all for now. I’ll be back tomorrow with some other recommendations. In the meantime, what are you reading, watching, or playing to get into the Halloween mood? Comment below and share your recommendations.
Brad C. Hodson is a writer in Los Angeles and the Admin for the Horror Writers Association. Check out the audiobook for his novel DARLING on Audible.
Here are your responses to the angry rhetoric over today’s Supreme Court decision. No need to pick just one!
(1) “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”
Actually, it’s Adam and Lilith. Lilith left Adam because he was abusive and God punished her for caring about her own well-being. Eve was Adam’s second mate. And they were also never married, meaning that they lived their lives in sin and the entire human race is just a bunch of bastards.
(2) “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”
Actually, it’s the RNF213 and ARHGAPIIB genes.
(3) Citing any Biblical verse
Corinthians states that “faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” The Bible itself states that love is greater than faith. Today’s decision may fly in the face of your faith, but the Bible agrees that this is exactly as it should be.
(4) “I am going to leave this country.”
Great! Uganda is very anti-homosexual and I hear their human rights violations are lovely this time of year.
(5) “What’s next? We’ll be able to marry our dogs?”
No, because dogs are neither citizens nor able to sign legally binding contracts. I refer you to Webster’s Dictionary and the definition of “human.”
(6) “What will I tell my children?”
I don’t know. What do you tell them about any marriage? For that matter, what do you tell them about mass shootings or abject poverty? “Get your priorities straight,” that’s what you should tell them.
(7) “The purpose of marriage is to have children.”
Well, shit. I guess we should nullify all the marriages between people who are incapable of having children. Or choose not to. Or are too old to. Or marry for money. Or marry for a green card. Or marry for publicity. Or…
(8) “The sanctity of marriage…”
Stop right there. If you don’t also try to have divorce made illegal and protest sites like AshleyMadison, then you are not allowed to continue that sentence.
(9) “How horrible of a life will their children have?”
You realize that this is the same argument that was made to prevent blacks and whites from marrying, right? In fact, most of the arguments against marriage equality were made in the sixties to keep interracial marriage illegal. Contemplate this on the Tree of Woe.
(10) “By this logic, my open carry permit should be honored in all fifty states then, too.”
Actually, it… No. You know what? You’re absolutely right. I highly urge you to walk around in a state that does not have open carry with your pistol on your hip. I’ll even chip in for the airfare.
Brad C. Hodson is an author and screenwriter living in Los Angeles.
Today’s Halloween post comes courtesy of the Horror Writers Association. Head on over to their Halloween Haunts and check out my recommendations for horror films that may have flown under the radar – but that you should be watching this month.
While there, stick around and read a few other posts. Halloween Haunts is HWA’s annual celebration of all things Halloween with a new post (sometimes two) daily throughout the month of October. It’s a definite bookmark for the Autumn People.
When the leaves change color and the wind cools, we find ourselves imagining what could be lurking in the shadows, what could be waiting in closets and under beds and inside dank, dark spaces. It’s a time that, whether through tradition or the influence of pop culture, begins to conjure images of ghosts.
And, if you’re going to talk about ghosts, you should talk about M.R. James.
Montague Rhodes James was a British antiquarian and medieval scholar who taught at Eton and King’s College. While still respected among academics for his scholarly work, it’s his ghost stories that horror fans should be interested in. While James has remained popular in the UK since his first collection, Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, was published in 1904, somehow his name is unknown among most horror fans in the States.
His unique fiction was a major inspiration for horror icons like HP Lovecraft, Stephen King, and Ramsey Campbell, and was of a style that could only be labeled “weird.” His ghost stories were products of the age in which he lived; an age that rushed toward the future yet struggled to gaze into the past. As such, most of his protagonists were scholars who had gone in search of research materials or had discovered an ancient relic, any of which could bring about an unwanted visitation.
The ghosts he created are not floating around in plain sight, rattling chains and moaning for peace. James envisioned the dead as horrid, incomprehensible beings that could barely be processed by the human mind, let alone described. They come in all sorts of twisted, diseased shapes, their forms driving their witnesses to the edge of madness.
And that’s the ones that can be seen. James made brilliant use of the senses in his stories, his hauntings sometimes manifesting as rustling fabric and scratching across floorboards. If a character was unlucky enough to actually touch one of these things… well, those passages are better read in James than here.
One of my favorite weird ghost stories is “The Haunted Doll’s House.” In it, an antique dealer purchases an old doll house that comes to life every night and reenacts a series of horrific events that seem to have happened in the house it was modeled on. The following passage is but one of the eerie and unsettling things the antique dealer witnesses:
The door was opening again. The seer does not like to dwell upon what he saw entering the room: he says it might be described as a frog – the size of a man – but it had scanty white hair about its head. It was busy about the truckle-beds, but not for long. The sound of cries – faint, as if coming out of a vast distance – but, even so, infinitely appalling, reached the ear.
James’s stories were filled with mystery and he never felt the need to provide all the answers. The facts of the other side are unknown and all the more frightening for it. Take, for instance, the story “The Mezzotint.” In it, a man comes into the possession of a picture of his home, a picture that changes slowly over time. While that basic idea has been recycled a hundred times since James, it has never been as frightening as the original, partly because of the mystery.
The picture lay face upwards on the table where the last man who looked at it had put it, and it caught his eye as he turned the lamp down. What he saw made him very nearly drop the candle on the floor, and he declares now that if he had been left in the dark at that moment he would have had a fit. But, as that did not happen he was able to put down the light on the table and take a good look at the picture. It was indubitable – rankly impossible, no doubt, but absolutely certain. In the middle of the lawn in front of the unknown house there was a figure where no figure had been at five o’clock that afternoon. It was crawling on all-fours towards the house, and it was muffled in a strange black garment with a white cross on the back.
What this thing is, or why it’s crawling on all fours or has a cross on its back, is never explained. Its explanation is not the point and not knowing what it is takes nothing away from the story. Instead, it adds to the dread and lingers in the back of your mind, waiting for nightfall so that it can creep out into your dreams.
Then there are the horrifying things that reside in “The Ash Tree:”
There is very little light about the bedstead, but there is a strange movement there; it seems as if Sir Richard were moving his head rapidly to and fro with only the slightest possible sound. And now you would guess, so deceptive is the half-darkness, that he had several heads, round and brownish, which move back and forward, even as low as his chest. It is a horrible illusion. Is it nothing more? There! something drops off the bed with a soft plump, like a kitten, and is out of the window in a flash; another – four – and after that there is quiet again.
And let’s not forget the face of the blind abomination in “Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad:”
Parkins, who very much dislikes being questioned about it, did once describe something of it in my hearing, and I gathered that what he chiefly remembers about it is a horrible, an intensely horrible, face of crumbled linen. What expression he read upon it he could not or would not tell, but that the fear of it went nigh to maddening him is certain.
Here’s a clip from the 1968 BBC adaptation:
That clip probably comes the closest of any film to capturing the strange and horrifying otherworldliness of James’s dead. It’s easy to see how he was one of H.P. Lovecraft’s primary influences as Lovecraft’s horrors adopted the sheer maddening quality that James had infused into his ghosts.
Originally written to be read aloud on Christmas Eve (a traditional night for telling ghost stories), James’s short fiction has a conversational tone and an attention to detail that makes the reader feel the story really occurred, that the character relating the events was real. It’s this feeling, along with the nightmarish and incomprehensible quality inherent to the dead, that leaves his fiction as frightening today as it was at the beginning of the twentieth century.
James was the unparalleled master of the ghost story and, though many writers have tried, none have surpassed him.
Brad C. Hodson is an author and screenwriter living in Los Angeles. For more of his work, please visit brad-hodson.com, or follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
That magical time of year is here once again. The skies are a little grayer, the air a little chillier. Multicolored leaves dance their way down the street in the embrace of a cool wind. Candles flicker from inside the hollow eyes of a pumpkin and ghosts cavort across our television screens.
And, perhaps, across our bedrooms at night.
For us Autumn People, the weeks leading up to Halloween are some of our favorite of the year. It’s our time to sip a pumpkin latte while reading a good (and, let us not forget, dark) book. Or to eat apple cinnamon cake while watching a marathon of creepy cinema on cable or Netflix. Or taking a walk in the crisp early evening (an evening that has crept and crawled into a time that was daylight mere weeks ago) and once again enjoy the night. Whatever your traditions, however fun or macabre your rituals, if you’re reading this chances are you feel the same.
And so, as I prepare for own holiday traditions (which include daily Halloween related posts on this here site), I thought I’d offer a few twilight words to help the Autumn People as they march this wondrous October.
A fascinating (and terrifying) documentary on sleep paralysis and how it has given rise to some frightening legends.
Most of you are probably already aware of Stephen King’s followup to his best selling novel THE SHINING. I’d recommend the audio book as the narrator (actor Will Patton) really brings a lot to the material.
GHOSTS OF THE UNDERGROUND
No matter your personal belief on ghosts, this documentary that takes a look at all of the mysterious ghost stories surrounding the London Underground is a must-see.
Em Garner’s debut YA horror novel packs a definite punch, one that’s both visceral and emotional. Check it out.
The Horror Writers Association’s annual “Halloween Haunts” returns with a new Halloween related post every day (and sometimes more than one each day).
Halloween expert Lisa Morton has made a career out of debunking Halloween myths, but in her new novel those myths try to debunk her.
AMNESIA: A MACHINE FOR PIGS
The followup to the award winning video game, “A Machine for Pigs” has more than just a creepy name. Turn down the lights and turn up the volume on this one. Then change your pants.
That’s all I have time for now, keep checking back for more. In the mean time, what are some of YOUR Halloween recommendations?
Brad C. Hodson is the award winning writer of two dozen short stories, a feature film, and the horror novel DARLING. For more information on his work, check out his Bibliography.