Hello and welcome to the latest issue of The Ghoulish Times. My name is Max Booth III and this is my spooky newsletter. I begin almost every newsletter with those two sentences and you would think at a certain point I would start copy/pasting it to save time, but I want you to know I would never copy/paste those two sentences. I type them from memory every single issue. I am dedicated to delivering the very best for my readers, and sometimes that means making sacrifices (such as refusing to copy/paste my intro and typing the same two sentences multiple times a month). I hope that means something to you. I hope it inspires you to always do your best. The end of this newsletter, however, where I say “That’s it for now” and drop a bunch of promo links—that’s definitely a copy/paste job. I never said I was perfect. Even I have my imperfections, as does everybody. The sooner you accept this, the sooner you can finally start living life.
I have no plans to die any time soon, but a recent funeral episode of Succession has me thinking about things, and to set the record straight here is what I want as far as a funeral goes: all of my writer-friends gathered together, each taking turns doing live readings of the most vile, disgusting material they can possibly conceive. At the end, everybody gets to take a piece of my corpse home. They can do whatever they want with their individual portions. The weirder the better.
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HORROR ON MAIN
This weekend our very own Jessica McHugh is a Guest of Honor at the Horror on Main convention in Hunt Valley, Maryland.
Jessica McHugh is truly a one-of-a-kind writer and I am very honored to have published four of her novels (five, after next year). She is one of the best examples of a writer who writes whatever the hell she wants. Here’s a little sneak peek into her bibliography:
Seriously. You should be reading Jessica McHugh. From us, we’ve published The Train Derails in Boston, The Green Kangaroos, Rabbits in the Garden, and Hares in the Hedgerow. Next year we’re releasing the third installment of her Gardening Guidebooks trilogy, Witches in the Warren.
BOOKS IN THE FREEZER
Speaking of awesome authors named Jessica who we’ve published—Jessica Leonard was recently on the Books in the Freezer podcast to talk about supernatural horror and promote her new novel Conjuring the Witch.
You can listen to it HERE.
And buy Conjuring the Witch HERE.
SATURDAY NIGHT SPOOKIES
This Saturday at the new Ghoulish Books bookshop, we’re hosting our very first horror movie night. It’s a series we are calling Saturday Night Spookies, and they will typically be hosted by Miguel Myers (of the My Horror Confessional podcast). For legal reasons, we cannot advertise the title of the movie we are screening, but we can say it’s witch-themed. Let the title’s mystery lure you to our shop this Saturday! Showtime begins at 7pm CST (but we will have a pre-show that’ll start around 6:30!). It’s free but I encourage you to RSVP on the Facebook event. Snacks & drinks will be available to purchase.
JUNE BOOKSTORE EVENTS
In June we have a lot of events planned, actually. We haven’t made official event pages for them yet, but they’re all written up on the whiteboard in our lobby. Take a look…
So, as you can see, we will be hosting multiple trivia nights, a Scrabble tournament, a spooky open mic, a kids reading hour (you bring your kids and we read an age-appropriate spooky book to them), and a book club, plus another movie night on the 24th. This month’s book club pick is Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon. The book will be discussed throughout the month of June on the GHOULISH Discord, but we will also host a physical meetup on the 23rd at 8pm for anyone local (I’m going to try figuring out a way for Discord members to zoom in, too).
THE GHOULISH SHOW
Next Tuesday is another installment of The Ghoulish Show over at Radio Coffee & Beer in Austin, TX. If you’re local, consider coming down for a fun comedy show featuring myself and several guests, including Kelby Losack, Ryan C. Bradley, Michael Louis Dixon, Leticia Urieta, Nate Southard, and Susan Snyder.
RSVP on the Facebook event page. See you Tuesday at 8pm.
SOCIAL MEDIA BRAIN ROT
Once or twice a year I delete all of my tweets on Twitter. There’s many services out there that makes it easy to do. I don’t think it’s wise to leave years of tweets out for anyone to comb through. Tweets are not meant to be permanent things. There’s a reason most get lost instantly in the newsfeed.
I have complicated feelings about social media. Mostly I feel like it is a poison. I think if you don’t take precautions, it can rot your brain. It can alter your personality and turn you into a stranger. I used to have a very good friend in the Austin area. He’d hang out and do events with us and all the other things that friends do with friends. Then he figured out how to tweet. When I say “how to tweet” I mean “how to tweet in such a way that everybody retweets your shit and everything you say goes viral because you’ve worded it in such a way that people just have to share”. He’s still pretty famous on Twitter. Sometimes he still writes books, although I think his tweets are more famous than his books. The last few times we socialized, he started speaking like his Twitter personality rather than his real-life personality. Slowly, he changed. We stopped talking. He shut out everybody he used to hang out with locally and focused on growing his social media presence. There was a very clear separation from our real community as he embraced this pseudo Twitter community. I’ve witnessed this happen and I know it can happen to any of us.
In July I’ll turn 30. I’ve spent a huge chunk of my life online, and I don’t think it has done wonders for my mental health. A lot of people born at a certain age have probably spent more of their life online than they have off, and that’s kind of fucking terrifying, isn’t it? At a certain point, with social media, something in your brain malfunctions and you spend every day performing for an audience. You forget about the things that are important, or maybe you never learn about them to begin with, and all you can concentrate on is increasing your follower count. For many people, having the biggest follower count is the only true goal. It is weird as hell.
Sometimes I freak out about how much of an open book I am. I don’t like how much information I share about myself online, especially on social media. I often joke about wanting to become a recluse, but it’s true. I think people like Pynchon are the smart ones. But of course Pynchon doesn’t need to worry about people buying his books. People are going to buy them. I hate social media very much, but I also cannot leave it, because I do have books people need to know about, and it is up to me to share them with people. Books I write and books I publish and even just books I’ve read and enjoyed. Going forward, my goal is to only use social media for promotional reasons. I’ve made this vow before, and I’ve broken it. Many times, actually. Will this time be the same? I don’t know. I don’t mind sharing non-promo shit in this newsletter. It’s hard to explain but it feels different. It feels more like writing, and writing is what I love. On Twitter, I made a small announcement that my personal account would be promo only going forward, and I concluded it with this statement: “If you want to get to know me, read my books.”
Plus, to be honest, it has become increasingly difficult to give a shit about a social media platform owned by a tech dipshit buddying up with a Floridian fascist.
I should also probably mention one of the main incidents that prompted me to do a mass deletion this time around. I am not going to get into too many details here, but I have found myself in the (digital) crosshairs of an unhinged stalker. I’ve been dealing with him since the start of the year and it has not been…uh, fun. A recent storm of tweets by this guy made me and many others in the horror community feel unsettled. One tweet in particular I interpreted as a personal death threat against me, although it’s worded in such a way that it could easily be argued as something else. But c’mon. It was definitely a death threat.
How did this happen? I don’t know. I mean, I do know, but it’s complicated. I think being such an open, public person on social media certainly didn’t help. It invites unwanted people into your life. Strangers start believing you are their friend. People you’ve never met or spoken to somehow know everything about your life. Privacy is a good thing, and it maybe isn’t valued as much as it used to be.
Am I a little nervous that my whereabouts 5 days a week are now public? Well, yeah, of course. But I do love owning a bookstore. So this is just a necessary risk, I guess. Am I also having a close friend show me how to use a handgun soon? Also necessary, I think, unfortunately.
MOVIES, TELEVISION, MUSIC, BOOKS
I watched Rolling Thunder last night. Never heard of it before, despite one of my favorite filmmakers (Paul Schrader) having written the original screenplay. It’s really, really good. Quentin Tarantino recently screened it at Cannes, which is how I heard about its existence. Based on a script by Schrader, which was then mostly rewritten by Heywood Gould, and directed by John Flynn (The Outfit), it stars William Devane as a Vietnam vet returning to San Antonio after spending the last seven years as a POW in Hanoi. He’s a hero to everybody in ol’ San Antone except for his wife and son. The son doesn’t remember him, and his wife has already agreed to marry another man. What follows is bleak and wonderful. After watching it, I took out my unread copy of Tarantino’s Cinema Speculation and read the chapter about Rolling Thunder, which I highly recommend doing after you check out the movie.
Other movies I’ve watched lately: Babylon (my second time through it, and it remains a masterpiece. I know most people really despised it, but goddamn I adore it to death. I have a hard time figuring out if it feels more like a love letter or a suicide letter, but it’s important to remind myself those are often the same thing), Sweet Smell of Success (first time watching, and holy crap what a movie! perfect screenplay), Short Eyes (extremely powerful and dirty movie about a prison in New York and how its inmates deal with the recent arrival of a child rapist; “short eyes” is prison slang for someone who has molested children. based originally on a play written by Miguel Piñero while serving time in Sing Sing for armed robbery, he later wrote the screenplay version and Robert M. Young directed. If you have some time, read up on Piñero. He’s fascinating. One quick story I’ll share: while the adaptation of Short Eyes was filming, him and another actor from the movie were arrested for armed robbery and arraigned in the same building they were filming. There’s a movie about his life titled Piñero written & directed by Leon Ichaso that I’m eager to check out sometime soon), Funny Games (people have been telling me to watch this one for years, and I finally did. I should note that I watched the original 1997 version, not the shot-by-shot remake released in 2007. I liked it! especially the egg scene), BlackBerry (Matt Johnson is one of the best filmmakers working today and his latest is so fucking good, if it’s still in the theaters when you’re reading this newsletter I encourage you to check it out on the big screen; for those unfamiliar with Matt Johnson’s work, also check out his other two movies The Dirties and Operation Avalanche, plus his television series Nirvana the Band the Show, although you’re going to have a difficult time watching NtBtS unless you’re cool with piracy, which is how I ended up watching it).
Television wise, I’m obviously slobbering for that series finale of Succession this Sunday. We’re also watching Barry although I kind of agree with Larry David that it should have ended last season. There’s some good stuff in this latest season but for the most part I’m struggling to give a shit. Maybe that will change. I don’t know. Besides that, we mostly just watch Jeopardy! and Only Connect.
My latest music obsessions are: Mariee Sioux’s Faces in the Rocks, Messa’s Close, Indigo De Souza’s I Love My Mom, and Khanate’s To Be Cruel.
And, as far as books go, here is what I’ve read lately: The Collected Works of Scott McClanahan Vol. 1, Hill William, Crapalachia: A Biography of a Place, and The Sarah Book by Scott McClanahan (that last one was a reread but the rest of his books were new ones for me; Scott has a way of making me laugh and cry all within one paragraph. truly a genius storyteller and I will read anything he publishes from now on), Hawk Mountain by Conner Habib (what an ending!!), The Body in Question by Jill Ciment (somehow made me want to get called for jury duty?), and The Strange by Nathan Ballingrud (one of my favorite writers finally released his first novel and it fucking rules so hard). Books I’m in the middle of reading include: Cinema Speculation by Quentin Tarantino (after reading that Rolling Thunder chapter I felt obliged to go back to the beginning and properly start it—it’s great!), Our Share of Night by Mariana Enríquez (it’s very, very good, but also requires a type of concentration I seldom have lately), and East Pittsburgh Downlow by Dave Newman (hilarious!). I also recently received a couple ARCs that I’m eager to find time to read, including Whalefall by Daniel Kraus and This Wretched Valley by Jenny Kiefer. This long paragraph does not include the many, many books and stories I am currently editing for publication and also considering from various slush piles. Basically, my eyeballs are perpetually bleeding at this point, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Okay, that’s it for now. You can support us on Patreon, browse the books in our webstore, and follow us on Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter (PMMP | Ghoulish Tales | Ghoulish podcast | Ghoulish Books | personal).
My new book, Abnormal Statistics, is out now through Apocalypse Party.
Or just click on our LINKTREE for all relevant links.
You can also join us on the Ghoulish Discord.
See you next time, ghouls.
The Ghoulish Times is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
So what are your plans for your Ghoulish thirtieth?!?
It's wild the effects social media has on some people. A guy I work with became very big on TikTok. Was guest at several regional conventions, was wined and dined along with other big "influencers" at out of state events. Got to be his TikTok persona blended with his reality. He's managed to ground himself, but it was weird for a while.