The Emptiness In Me: Outside the Cave

(This is a follow-up to September’s post, “The Emptiness in Me.” If you haven’t read it, go back and do so, as this post may not make much sense without it…)

So. The insurance issue was resolved in a weird way. They ultimately denied my appeal on a ridiculous technicality (because of course they did), but left the claim in the hands of my employer to make a final decision. Fortunately, they did the right thing, and in mid-October, right before Merrimack, I was paid for missed wages. With that weight off my chest, I was free to truly relax, and have done so these last couple of weeks. Our short trip to Boston for the Merrimack festival was part of that relaxation.

Last week, I had a follow-up appointment with my psychiatrist. The medication is in full swing, and I can say I haven’t felt this clear-headed and focused in a very long time. Hell, maybe I’ve never felt this focused and clear-headed. It’s sort of like putting on glasses for the first time, when all that blurriness goes away and the world sharpens with clarity. Things that used to stress me out simply aren’t anymore. When I was at Merrimack, surrounded by all those people, I didn’t feel anxious or panicked anymore. I took everything in stride. Granted, the social interaction took its toll this past week, leaving me feeling exhausted for a few days, but I imagine the 7+ hour drives to and from Boston had something to do with that.

Anyway, my doctor cleared me to return to work on a part-time basis for the next four weeks. If all goes well, I can resume full-time work after my next follow-up in November.

Yeah. Returning to work. Where things aren’t good. In fact, based on conversations with friends in the workplace, things have only deteriorated more in my absence.

I’d be lying if I said I’m not nervous, but at the same time, I’m not pacing the halls or losing sleep over it, either. I’m honestly looking forward to seeing a few folks when I return tomorrow. And the knowledge that it’s only half-days for a few weeks is also a relief. It’s nice knowing that I can ease my way back into the job.

It’s still a weird feeling, going back. I’ve been gone since August 1st, sleeping without a schedule or alarm clock, spending my days with the cats. I feel like a hermit emerging from his cave to see the sun. Looking back on the last two months, I’ve had a lot of time to myself, to think on my emotions or lack thereof, my lack of energy, my hopes, goals, dreams, and so on. This new perspective afforded me by antidepressants has allowed me to see more of what I want, and more importantly, how to obtain it. I feel invigorated by this. Driven, even.

In summary, I feel somewhat whole again. The emptiness is still there–it will always be there–but it’s smaller. There’s more of me now. And it’s time to get back to work.


Merrimack Recap

The weekend sped by in a blur. Seven hours up to Boston on Friday, eight hours back to PA on Sunday. And in the middle, one of the best book events I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending. All told, according to Chris Golden and the Haverhill Library, there were over 1000 people there on Saturday. I sold some books, spent a lot of money on books, and saw many of my friends during the course of the day. If you’re a writer, I urge you to attend next year if you can. Even if you can’t get a table for your own books, you should still go. It’s an experience.

Erica and I spent the weekend  with Richard B. Wood and his lovely wife Tina. They were kind enough to host us in their home, saving us the expense of a hotel, and in the process I think we all learned that we’re not just friends, but family. Thanks, Richard & Tina!

Richard & Tina

As I write this, I realize I didn’t get photos with Cat Scully or Jason Parent or Barry Desaju or John & Di Buja or Doug Wynne or Catherine Grant or Jack Haringa or Grady Hendrix. Believe me when I say the day was manic and insane in the best way possible.

A few highlights I want to mention:

  • Meeting Stephanie Wytovich and her husband, Dennis. The last time I saw Stephanie was at Necon 2016, on the very last day, for about five minutes. I finally got a copy of her novel, The Eighth.
  • Sharing a table with Morgan Sylvia, author of Abode. We’re fellow Opeth fans, and she shared a list of music that I’m going to check out.
  • Hearing from Ed Kurtz that he read ULT and enjoyed it. He said it was good stuff and to keep doing what I’m doing. That was a huge compliment (and a handsome one).
  • Signing books for John Langan and Laird Barron, two of my favorite authors. I can’t properly express the honor I felt in doing so. They’ve both been a huge influence on me and my work over the last several years, and to be treated as a friend and contemporary is…well, it’s magic.

Seriously, if you’re a horror writer, or even just a book fan, try to make it to Haverhill, MA next year. And bring your credit card.

I’ll let the rest of these photos speak for me:

Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival!

I know this is short notice but I have to share. By a pure stroke of luck, I snagged a table at the Merrimack Halloween Book Festival in Haverhill, MA this Saturday, October 13th. I’ll be at Table 20 alongside Morgan Sylvia, author of Abode, from 1 to 4:30. Here’s the full schedule:

(all day if not otherwise noted)

Table 1:
Christopher Golden
Thomas Sniegoski

Table 2:
Jennifer McMahon
Rio Youers

Table 3:
Hillary Monahan
Cat Scully

Table 4:
The Peculiarity Shop
Toni LP Kelner/Leigh Perry

Table 5:
Grady Hendrix
Nicholas Kaufmann

Table 6:
Laird Barron
John Langan

Table 7:
Jeff Strand
Lynne Hansen

Table 8:
Bracken MacLeod
KL Pereira

Table 9:
Stephen R. Bissette

Table 10:
James A. Moore
Charles R. Rutledge

Table 11:
Haverhill House Publishers
(John McIlveen, Tony Tremblay, Matt Bechtel)

Table 12:
Mary SanGiovanni
Brian Keene

Table 13:
Kelli Owen (AD)
Izzy Lee (AM)
Bob Ford (PM)

Table 14:
Stephanie Wytovich (AD)
Larissa Glasser (AM)
Kristin Dearborn (PM)

Table 15:
Trisha Wooldridge (AM)
Scott Goudsward (AM)
Errick Nunnally (PM)
Daniel Palmer (PM)

Table 16:
Ed Kurtz (AM)
Doungjai Gam (AM)
Dan Foley (PM)
Philip Perron (PM)

Table 17:
Craig Shaw Gardner
Tom Deady

Table 18:
Kameryn James (AM)
Sara Codair (AM)
Kenneth Vaughan (PM)
Jason Parent (PM)

Table 19:
John Goodrich (AM)
Mary Hart (AM)
Gene Doucette (PM)
Mike Sullivan (PM)

Table 20:
Gregory Bastianelli (AM)
Robert Stava (AM)
Morgan Sylvia (PM)
Todd Keisling (PM)

Table 21:
Lisa Carlisle (AM)
Lindsay Moore (AM)
Barry DeJasu (PM)
David Price (PM)

Table 22:
Sarah Smith (AM)
Kat Howard (AM)
Sam Costello (PM)
JG Faherty (PM)

Table 23:
Laurie Faria Stolarz (AD)
Rob Smales (AM)
William Carl (PM)

Table 24:
Glenn Chadbourne

Table 25:
Douglas Wynne (AD)
Catherine Grant (AM)
Kelly Braffet 1pm
Catherine Grant (2:30 onward)

Owen King 2:30 pm

Many thanks to Jason Parent and Christopher Golden for making this happen! I hope you see you folks there!


Horror at the Fort 2018

I spent Saturday at Fort Mifflin on Saturday for Horror at the Fort 2018, an event hosted by T. Fox Dunham and his podcast, What Are You Afraid Of? Along with setting up a vendor table, I also got to read “A Man in Your Garden” inside the old military bunker which was really cool. Here are some photos from the event:

Humble Beginnings

A friend of mine shared this with me tonight. It’s the title page from Written in Red, my first chapbook. I published it myself back in 2005, during my senior year of college. The profits helped pay my way out of Kentucky.

Seeing the title page inspired me to go digging through my files, to see if I still had all the stuff from that period of time. Allow me to share…

Here’s the cover that Erica designed, using a combination of Bryce (I know, I know…) and Photoshop. When you have a budget of $10, you’ll use what you have available at the time.


Here are some shots of the books and the bookmarks we created to promote the book. They were printed at the Staples where I’d end up working for almost a year after I moved to Pennsylvania.

Here’s the flyer used to promote the book signing at Common Grounds, a coffee house in Lexington, and at Sam Goody (yeah, remember those?). “Four stories, three poems, one debut.” Groan!




I’d had a signing scheduled at Books-A-Million in my hometown, but they cancelled on me at the last minute and I had to improvise. Sam Goody sold books, so…yeah. They let me set up outside their store to hock my wares. Here’s a shot of Erica and I outside the store. This was the day before I graduated from college.

And last but not least, here’s my author photo from the back of the book. I think this proves that, once upon a time, I had a face beneath the beard and long hair to match.

Ah, to be 22 again…

Anyway. That’s enough of memory lane for one post. Just thought I’d share. As a reminder, I’ll be at the Horror at the Fort event at Fort Mifflin this Saturday, October 6th. I’ll have a vendor table with books for sale, and I’ll be the last one to read that evening. If you’re in the area, you should drop by and say hello. Maybe buy a book or three.


PSA: Today is the Last Day to Pre-Order!

Yes, that’s right. Today is the last day to pre-order a premium hardcover edition of THE KING IN YELLOW. To recap, this edition is full-color and contains:

  • All ten original stories as they were published in 1895.
  • Ten full-color illustrations by Luke Spooner.
  • A new introduction by Joe Pulver, Sr.
  • A beautiful cover designed by Erica Keisling.

You can find ordering information here.

And if the premium hardcover is out of your price range, don’t worry–the black-and-white paperback edition is also available to order on Amazon! 


Heads up, folks. I’ll be one of the guest authors at this year’s Horror at the Fort event at Fort Mifflin, PA on October 6th. I’ll also have a vendor table with copies of Ugly Little Things, The Smile Factory, and The Final Reconciliation available for sale. Directions and ticketing information can be found here.  I hope to see you there!

The Emptiness In Me: Living with Anxiety & Depression

Right. So, this is something personal. I’ve made no secret about my struggles with anxiety and depression. Historically, I’ve taken a stance of being open and honest with these struggles, because doing so may help others battling the same demons to know they aren’t alone. However, I’ve not gone public with my most recent battles because…well, I needed some time to heal first. I wanted to make sure I’m on the mend first before saying anything. I’m writing this today because I think I am, or at least I’m getting there.

Truth is, I haven’t felt like myself for a while now. At least since June. By the time NECON rolled around, I’d hoped the days away seeing friends and peers would help me out of my funk, but things didn’t work out that way. Things got worse. If you were hoping to connect with me at NECON this year and found me absent, please accept my apology. My anxiety was off the charts during that whole conference, and I spent most of the time either off-site or hiding in Amelia’s room. Some of you who were there and talked to me may not have noticed anything was wrong, and that’s the way I intended it. I’ve got a lot of experience burying my symptoms because I don’t want to inconvenience anyone.

So, NECON came and went, and I returned home to the daily grind. I’ve also made no secret about the instability of my work situation and my feelings on the matter. Anyone who’s read The Smile Factory knows all too well. I was back at work two days when I had an anxiety attack. A few days later, on Monday morning of the following week, I had another one while I was getting ready for work. This time, I called in sick and made an appointment with my doctor.

Along with increasing the dosage of my anxiety meds, my doctor also suggested I remove myself from the environment for a while so that I can get back on my feet, clear my head, and heal. I’m fortunate in that I was able to file for a leave of absence through my employer (FMLA) and also submit a claim through my insurance for short-term disability (STD). Everything started August 1st. I haven’t been back to work since.

Since then, I’ve gone through a gamut of emotions. I spent the first week in bed, so exhausted that I slept most of the days away, and invested a ridiculous amount of time filling out paperwork for my insurance company regarding my claim. The hits kept on coming, though. Two weeks after my leave began, the insurance company denied my claim to short-term disability on account of the wording my doctor used when she filed her paperwork. We filed an appeal. Then my grandmother passed away, and Erica and I drove to Kentucky for the funeral.

Depression followed. I managed to get an appointment with a therapist, who has helped. She referred me to a psychiatrist in order to get my medications in order, and for the last few weeks, I’ve been on an antidepressant as well as my regular anxiety meds. Aside from some weird mood swings and a lack of appetite, it seems to be working (so far).

I’ve busied myself with other projects, like preparing the paperback edition of Tony’s book, and completing my King in Yellow project. Lately, I’ve been working on trimming down the Devil’s Creek manuscript for my agent. I’ve caught up on my reading. Watched a lot of movies and TV. Gone for walks and had many, many naps. More importantly, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on my mental health and well-being.

Anyone reading this who has anxiety or depression knows these things aren’t something you can just shrug off, sleep off, or move beyond with positive thinking. It doesn’t work like that. Anxiety and depression are chemical imbalances in the brain. You can’t shut them off or simply decide to not feel that way anymore. They have to be managed, and I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out what triggers them.

For me, that means avoiding crowded places for long periods of time (like retail spaces), avoiding situations that I perceive to be hopeless or pointless (like my day job), and avoiding as much negativity as possible. It means trying to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night, accomplishing something every day no matter how minuscule, and keeping myself hydrated. It means breathing exercises, meditation, immersing myself in media for a few hours to get my mind off matters, and doing things that bring happiness into my life.

That last point is important, I think. I knew I’d reached a particularly deep period of depression in August when I no longer felt joy doing the things I loved. I stopped reading, writing, playing video games, or watching movies. I literally did nothing all day, and then felt awful and useless because I’d accomplished nothing, even though I had no desire to. See the contradiction? That’s depression and anxiety in play, folks: Anxiety over the lack of action feeding the depression sapping the energy to act. They’re a vicious cycle that will perpetuate themselves forever if I allow them.

And I’m fucking tired of letting them control my life.

So, I’m taking steps to regain some form of control in my life. The medication and therapy are part of it, but I’m also trying to change the way I approach obstacles and circumstances. I’m trying to find a reason to smile every day, because no matter where I look, there’s always a reason. I have an amazing wife, an incredible son, and some of the best friends anyone could ever ask for. I’m beyond grateful for those things, and if nothing else, I will always have a reason to smile because of them.

So, even though I’m still awaiting a decision on my appeal from the insurance company, even though my day job has stopped paying me in accordance with FMLA, even though I may be forced to go back to work before I feel ready due to the insurance company’s bullshit, I still have reasons to smile. I still have reasons to be grateful. And I’m still me.

I think I’m going to end on that note. Thanks for listening. We’ll talk soon, okay?


P.S. The deadline to pre-order a King In Yellow hardcover is October 2nd. And the paperback edition of Tony Rapino’s Greetings from Moon Hill is now available, too.

THE KING IN YELLOW is now available for pre-order.

Here’s a little project I’ve been working on since early 2017: A new edition of THE KING IN YELLOW by Robert W. Chambers. It’s got the complete text as it was originally published in 1895, a full cover spread designed by my wife Erica, a new introduction by Joe Pulver, and ten gorgeous illustrations by Luke Spooner. I couldn’t settle for just a regular paperback edition in black-and-white. Those illustrations deserve to be in color, which is what brings us to this project.

I mean, seriously, look at some of these…

And that amazing cover art…

The book is casewrapped (no dust jacket) and printed with full color throughout. This edition is intended for collectors and fans of the Yellow Mythos. The price is $50 plus shipping, and we’ll be taking pre-orders beginning today, 9/4, through 10/2.

If that’s too steep, don’t fret–that black-and-white paperback edition will be available in October as well, at a normal paperback price.

So, if this your sort of thing, or if you want to get a gift for someone who digs the Yellow King, be sure to check out the Storenvy shop.