The Writer’s Block: In Twain’s Shadow

I live in Connecticut. As you might imagine, we have to scramble to find things to brag about. We have two impressive casinos, the best women’s college basketball team in the nation, and a failed hockey team. It was in Bristol, CT, in 1989 that Milli Vanilli’s scam started to unravel. That about sums up everything we’re known for.

Oh, except one more thing: we’re also the former home of one Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain.

As a writer, being from the same place as the guy that William Faulkner once called “the father of American literature” can be intimidating. (Don’t get me wrong—I’d rather be a horror writer from Mark Twain’s home state, than, say, Maine, where a much bigger horror author’s reputation looms.) In elementary school, it was guaranteed that one field trip every year would be to the Mark Twain House. (As a kid, the highlight of this tour was seeing the bedroom in which one of Twain’s daughters actually died. As an adult, I was quite disappointed to find they’d roped off that room from the tour.) Everybody knew who this Twain guy was. No worries, though: I wrote horror. I didn’t have to worry about this long-dead literary legacy overshadowing me. After all, he wrote adventure stories and humorous essays and stuff about Yankees in King Arthur’s court.

Fast-forward to 2016. I found myself in charge of an anthology that I wanted to use to showcase some of Connecticut’s finest authors. And really, you can’t do an anthology like that without including Sam Clemens.

But what to use? Did I not just mention adventures and essays and Yankees? None of that really fit into a collection of spooky stories. I started perusing Twain’s essays, despondent that I’d be putting out a book of celebrated Connecticut authors without including Connecticut’s most celebrated author.

And then I found it.

Back in 1902, Harper’s Bazaar had published a story by the great Twain. “The Californian” was . . . a ghost story. Thank you, Mr. Clemens, for saving my neck from beyond the grave.

Tricks and Treats: A Collection of Spooky Stories by Connecticut Authors contains a fantastic array of tales from past Nutmeggers Twain, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and John G.C. Brainard. It also features impressive entries by contemporary writers John Valeri, Ryanne Strong, G. Elmer Munson, Melissa Crandall, Dan Foley, Kristi Petersen Schoonover, and me. It debuts September 1 from Books & Boos Press, and you can find it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and select retail outlets. You can view the book trailer here.

I can only hope Mr. Twain would approve.

(And in case you missed it, Sci-Fi Saturday Night’s anthology, My Peculiar Family, is also available now!)


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