Recently, I was lucky enough to be awarded Best Horror Short Story for "Baby's Breath" in the 2014 P&E Readers' Poll. I'm so grateful for everyone who took the time to read the story and vote for me, and especially appreciative for those of you who took the time to leave feedback. It meant a great deal. This award means a great deal.
I mentioned recently on Facebook that "Baby's Breath" carried a substantial amount of personal significance to me for a few reasons. In a nutshell, it's a tribute to someone I never met, but have learned to love through the eyes of another. I've come to know this woman from someone who has become a stronger person for all of her weaknesses and the tragedies she faced throughout her short, sad, and pained life. And despite her weaknesses, she also had many strengths.
That said, the Diane in my story is not the same Diane about whom I am speaking. Though based on some fact, I took her story to the extreme--as we often do in horror--and in my own way, sought some vindication for her that she was unable to find on her own.
There's quite a bit of symbolism in "Baby's Breath" that dwells beneath the uncomfortable, unpleasant, and often unbearable surface of the narrative. Those years following my accident were long, lonely, and excruciating--and coming to terms with the grief of losing a career I had worked and fought so hard to secure was not easy. I had a lot of support from my family and friends, and can't imagine what it must be like for someone to endure such an ordeal without that--so relatively speaking, I always tried to consider myself extremely lucky.
Writing the story was hard. It was only the second I wrote start to finish after emerging from the black hole into which I had fallen after the accident. Years of pain, post-concussive symptoms, surgeries, fighting the nightmare that is worker's compensation, depression . . . there was a time I never thought I would read again, let alone write. Diane's descent into madness, insecurity, paranoia, and reclusivity was likely an exaggerated depiction of what I experienced during that time, though while writing it I'm not altogether sure I was aware of this. I think it takes a step back--or even someone else pointing it out after the fact--to recognize something like this happening in our writing.
Do you ever find yourself unintentionally writing about your own experiences in your work? Writing yourself into your characters?
Like King said, "Fiction is the truth inside the lie."
Simon Rumley's praise for "Baby's Breath" in the Foreword did more for me than I can describe in words. But I will say that reading what he said about my work was one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments I will never forget. I'd be remiss not to thank the great Daniel Knauf for his invaluable support both as a friend and professional, as well.
And to all of you who have offered help and assistance along the way--be it through friendship or support of this story and/or other work--thank you. You can't possibly know how much it means to me.
My first "professional" experience assimilating back into the industry was negative and unpleasant to say the least, and if it weren't for the kindness and actual professionalism so many of you showed to outweigh that, it would have been easy to just give up.
But if an accident like the one I had can't keep me down, and cancer can't beat me, one bad apple in the barrel sure isn't going to make me toss the whole thing out. It just makes me appreciate the goodness of the others that much more.
There are way too many good apples to mention, but in addition to those I’ve named, special thanks for various reasons go to Morgan Griffith, Rose Blackthorn, Carl R. Moore, Gretch, Sandy and Mark, Julya Oui, Suzy Saylor, John R. Little, John Palisano, Rena Mason, Gard Goldsmith, Taylor Grant, Kurt Fawver, Michael Randolph, Randy D. Rubin, Maddie Von Stark, Kristi DeMeester, Ken Wood, John Boden, Tim Deal, Freud, Sal, Matt Edginton, Mark Matthews, Daniele Serra, Jeremy Wagner, Dr. Alex and Bobbi Scully, Aaron Gudmunson, JDS, Stephen Williams, Jon Moon, David North-Martino, Colum McKnightmare, Josh Black, Kenneth Cain, Amie, Aaron Sterns, John Dixon, Ted, Sean Padlo, Matthew Bartlett, ChickaDee, Tracie Orsi, Adam Domville, Stephanie Wytovich, Marge Simon, Alexander Zelenyj, Eric J. Guignard, Matt Manochio, Michael Bailey, Chris Kelso, Greg Norris, Ken MacGregor, April Hawks, John Urbancik, André Øvredal, Anthony Rivera, Paul Fry, Joe Lansdale, Norman Prentiss, Kami Garcia, Lawrence Connolly, Robin Spriggs, Emma Audsley, Richard Thomas, Killion Slade, Gene O'Neill, John DeMember, Dave Dormer, Douglas E. Winter, and many others who hopefully know who you are.
If you haven't read "Baby's Breath" yet,
you can read it here.
These are some of the kind things readers and peers have said about it:
“The narrator's slow unhinging is perfectly paced
and the author pushes against the border of the grotesque
just enough to make the story as viscerally disturbing
as it is psychologically unsettling . . .
A supremely skilled tale of the decomposition of a relationship and the horrifying consequences of failed parenthood.”
“I was in pain the entire time I read this story. A fantastic piece of horror that burrows deep into the psyche as well as the skin.”
“A visceral story that gets right under your skin.”
“The writing is tight and spare . . .
The non-sequential narrative is handled effectively,
allowing the story to open with a strong hook before rewinding to fill in the details of the germinating horror.”
“utterly chilling . . . Diane's macabre narrative
is a powerful shot of multifaceted strangeness.”
“engrossing from the first page until the last,
and deliciously horrific throughout.”
“short, sharp, emotional and uncomfortable”
“An exquisitely dreadful story.”
“The most chilling short I read all year.”
We at Villipede are very proud of that collection and honored to be representing Michael Bailey's stellar work. I simply can't say enough about the collection, except that I believe with every fiber of my being that it fully deserves to be on the ballot. You've all heard me rave about it for some time now, and I am pleased to see it among such fine company in its category.
As far as "Dandelion Clocks" goes, well . . . Michael seems surprised it made it through, but I'm not. Again, he's in really good company! But I fell head over heels in love with that novelette and think he deserves a place on the ballot as much as anybody. And the fact that Douglas E. Winter guest-edited that piece makes it even more special to me.
Michael blogged about the Preliminary Ballot here . . . slightly more eloquently than me, perhaps. Thanks for the kind words, Michael!
Here is the ballot, as announced by the HWA:
Superior Achievement in a Novel
Tim Burke – The Flesh Sutra (NobleFusion Press)
Adam Christopher – The Burning Dark (Tor Books)
Michaelbrent Collings – This Darkness Light (self-published)
Lawrence C. Connolly – Vortex (Fantasist Enterprises)
Craig DiLouie – Suffer the Children (Gallery Books of Simon & Schuster)
Patrick Freivald – Jade Sky (JournalStone)
Chuck Palahniuk – Beautiful You (Jonathan Cape, Vintage/Penguin Random House UK)
Christopher Rice – The Vines (47North)
Brett J. Talley – The Reborn (JournalStone)
Steve Rasnic Tem – Blood Kin (Solaris Books)
Superior Achievement in a First Novel
Maria Alexander – Mr. Wicker (Raw Dog Screaming Press)
J.D. Barker – Forsaken (Hampton Creek Press)
Janice Gable Bashman – Predator (Month9Books)
David Cronenberg – Consumed (Scribner)
Michael Knost – Return of the Mothman (Woodland Press)
Daniel Levine – Hyde (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Josh Malerman – Bird Box (Harper Collins)
Whitney Miller – The Violet Hour (Flux)
Chantal Noordeloos – Angel Manor (Horrific Tales Publishing)
C.J. Waller – Predator X (Severed Press)
Superior Achievement in a Young Adult Novel
Ari Berk – Lych Way (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)
Jake Bible – Intentional Haunting (Permuted Press)
Ilsa J. Bick – White Space (Egmont)
John Dixon – Phoenix Island (Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books)
Kami Garcia – Unmarked (The Legion Series Book 2) (Little Brown Books for Young Readers)
S.E. Green – Killer Instinct (Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse)
Tonya Hurley – Passionaries (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Micol Ostow – Amity (Egmont)
Peter Adam Salomon – All Those Broken Angels (Flux)
Stan Swanson and Araminta Star Matthews – Horror High School: Return of the Loving Dead (Curiosity Quills Press)
Johnny Worthen – Eleanor: Book 1 (The Unseen) (Jolly Fish Press)
Superior Achievement in a Graphic Novel
Charles Burns – Sugar Skull
Emily Carroll – Through the Woods
Victor Gischler – Kiss Me Satan
Joe Hill – Locke and Key, Vol. 6
Joe R. Lansdale and Daniele Serra – I Tell You It’s Love (Short, Scary Tales Publications)
Jonathan Maberry – Bad Blood (Dark Horse Books)
Paul Tobin – The Witcher
Superior Achievement in Long Fiction
Michael Bailey – Dandelion Clocks (Inkblots and Blood Spots) (Villipede Publications)
Taylor Grant – The Infected (Cemetery Dance #71) (Cemetery Dance)
Eric J. Guignard – Dreams of a Little Suicide (Hell Comes To Hollywood II: Twenty-Two More Tales Of Tinseltown Terror (Volume 2) (Big Time Books)
Kate Jonez – Ceremony of Flies (DarkFuse)
Joe R. Lansdale – Fishing for Dinosaurs (Limbus, Inc., Book II) (JournalStone)
Jonathan Maberry – Three Guys Walk Into a Bar (Limbus, Inc., Book II) (JournalStone)
Joe McKinney – Lost and Found (Limbus, Inc., Book II) (JournalStone)
Gene O’Neill – Ridin the Dawg (Mia Moja) (Thunderstorm Books)
John F.D. Taff – The Long Long Breakdown (The End in all Beginnings) (Grey Matter Press)
Gregor Xane – The Riggle Twins (Bad Apples) (Corpus Press)
Superior Achievement in Short Fiction
Dale Bailey – Sleep Paralysis (Nightmare Magazine, April 2014) (Nightmare)
Hal Bodner – Hot Tub (Hell Comes to Hollywood II) (Big Time Books)
Patrick Freivald – Trigger Warning (Demonic Visions Book 4) (Chris Robertson)
Sydney Leigh – Baby’s Breath (Bugs: Tales That Slither, Creep, and Crawl) (Great Old Ones Publishing)
Usman T. Malik – The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family (Qualia Nous) (Written Backwards)
Alessandro Manzetti – Nature’s Oddities (The Shaman: And Other Shadows) (self-published)
Rena Mason – Ruminations (Qualia Nous) (Written Backwards)
John Palisano – Splinterette (Widowmakers: A Benefit Anthology of Dark Fiction)
Sayuri Ueda – The Street of Fruiting Bodies (Phantasm Japan) (Haikasoru, an imprint of VIZ Media, LLC)
Genevieve Valentine – A Dweller in Amenty (Nightmare Magazine, March 2014) (Nightmare)
Damien Angelica Walters – The Floating Girls: A Documentary (Jamais Vu, Issue Three) (Post Mortem Press)
Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection
Michael Bailey – Inkblots and Blood Spots (Villipede Publications)
Stephen Graham Jones – After the People Lights Have Gone Off (Dark House Press)
John R. Little – Little by Little (Bad Moon Books)
Helen Marshall – Gifts for the One Who Comes After (ChiZine Publications)
David Sakmyster – Escape Plans (Wordfire Press)
Terrence Scott – The Madeleine Wheel: Playing with Spiders (Amazon)
Lucy Snyder – Soft Apocalypses (Raw Dog Screaming Press)
Robin Spriggs – The Untold Tales of Ozman Droom (Anomalous Books)
John F.D. Taff – The End In All Beginnings (Grey Matter Press)
Alexander Zelenyj – Songs for the Lost (Eibonvale Press)
Superior Achievement in an Anthology
John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey – The End Is Nigh (Broad Reach Publishing)
Michael Bailey – Qualia Nous (Written Backwards)
Jason Brock – A Darke Phantastique (Cycatrix Press)
Ellen Datlow – Fearful Symmetries (ChiZine Publications)
Kate Jonez – Halloween Tales (Omnium Gatherum)
Eric Miller – Hell Comes to Hollywood II (Big Time Books)
Chuck Palahniuk, Richard Thomas, and Dennis Widmyer – Burnt Tongues (Medallion Press)
Brian M. Sammons – The Dark Rites of Cthulhu (April Moon Books)
Brett J. Talley – Limbus, Inc., Book II (JournalStone)
Terry M. West – Journals of Horror: Found Fiction (Pleasant Storm Entertainment)
Superior Achievement in a Screenplay
Scott M. Gimple – The Walking Dead: The Grove, episode 4:14 (AMC)
Jennifer Kent – The Babadook (Causeway Films)
Alex Kurtzman and Mark Goffman – Sleepy Hollow: “Bad Blood” (Sketch Films/K/O Paper Products/20th Century Fox Television)
John Logan – Penny Dreadful: Séance (Desert Wolf Productions/Neal Street Productions)
Greg Mclean and Aaron Sterns – Wolf Creek 2 (Emu Creek Pictures)
Steven Moffat – Doctor Who: Listen (British Broadcasting Corporation)
Cameron Porsendah – Helix: Pilot (Tall Ship Productions/Kaji Productions/Muse Entertainment/Lynda Obst Productions/in association with Sony Pictures Television)
Jack Thomas Smith –Infliction (Fox Trail Productions)
James Wong – American Horror Story: Coven: “The Magical Delights of Stevie Nicks” (FX Network)
Superior Achievement in Non-Fiction
Massimo Berruti, S.T. Joshi, and Sam Gafford – William Hope Hodgson: Voices from the Borderland (Hippocampus Press)
Jason V. Brock – Disorders of Magnitude (Rowman & Littlefield)
Hayley Campbell – The Art of Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins Publishers)
S.T. Joshi – Lovecraft and A World in Transition (Hippocampus Press)
Leslie S. Klinger – The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft (Liveright Publishing Corp., a division of W.W. Norton & Co.)
Joe Mynhardt and Emma Audsley – Horror 101: The Way Forward (Crystal Lake Publishing)
Robert Damon Schneck – Mrs. Wakeman vs. the Antichrist (Tarcher/Penguin)
Lucy Snyder – Shooting Yourself in the Head For Fun and Profit: A Writer’s Survival Guide (Post Mortem Press)
Tom Weaver, David Schecter, and Steve Kronenberg – The Creature Chronicles: Exploring the Black Lagoon Trilogy (McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers)
Superior Achievement in a Poetry Collection
Robert Payne Cabeen – Fearworms: Selected Poems (Fanboy Comics)
G.O. Clark – Gravedigger’s Dance (Dark Renaissance Books)
David E. Cowen – The Madness of Empty Spaces (Weasel Press)
Corrinne De Winter and Alessandro Manzetti – Venus Intervention (Kipple Officina Libraria)
Wade German – Dreams from the Black Nebula (Hippocampus Press)
Tom Piccirilli – Forgiving Judas (Crossroad Press)
Michelle Scalise – The Manufacturer of Sorrow (Eldritch Press)
Marge Simon and Mary Turzillo – Sweet Poison (Dark Renaissance Books)
Tiffany Tang – Creepy Little Death Poems (Dreality Press)
Stephanie Wytovich – Mourning Jewelry (Raw Dog Screaming Press)
I am so incredibly honored to be included in such company!
Voting HWA Members: For copies of "Baby's Breath," "Dandelion Clocks," or Inkblots and Blood Spots, feel free to shoot me an email or PM via my contact page. They are also available to download on the HWA Forum.
The lucky winners of the Bram Stoker Awards will be announced on May 9th at the awards ceremony during the 2015 World Horror Convention in Atlanta.
No matter what, I'll be there to cheer everyone on.