THE HOUSE THAT HORROR BUILT preview, launch event and preorder signed bookplate giveaway!

Hello, my lovely reader friends. I know, I know – I’ve been EXTREMELY BAD about keeping this website up to date. I’ve been struggling for the last few years with a chronic health condition that makes it hard for me to do much of anything some days, and when that happens I prioritize getting as much actual writing done as possible. That said, I am going to try to do better than once a year.

My most recent book, GOOD GIRLS DON’T DIE, was released in November and I was able to do a little book tour to support it. Extremely huge thanks to Jimmy Juliano, Gabino Iglesias, Sadie Hartmann, and KC Grifant (all wonderful writers in their own right) for helping me out with that. Also MUCH love and thanks to all of the readers who showed up and also to the bookstores that sponsored the events – Bucket O’Blood Books and Records in Chicago, Vintage Bookstore and Wine Bar in Austin, Third Place Books in Seattle, and Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego.

My next book, THE HOUSE THAT HORROR BUILT, will be out on May 14th, 2024! I’ll be doing a launch/signing event at Three Avenues Bookshop at 3009 N. Southport Ave in Chicago at 6pm. If you’re in the Chicago area please join me! I’d love to see you. FREE tickets for the event are at this link: Three Avenues launch event

If you’re not in the Chicago area you can still get a signed bookplate from me if you preorder THE HOUSE THAT HORROR BUILT! Here’s how it works:

1) Preorder a copy of the book from any retailer (but support your local bookshop if you can),

2) Email me at with proof of your preorder and your mailing address,

3) I’ll send you a signed bookplate for your book.

A couple of caveats: a) You have to live in the U.S./Canada (international postage is verrrry expensive, sorry) and b) I won’t be answering any of these emails as someone will be helping me collect the addresses.

If you live in the U.K. don’t despair! There is a special limited edition with a signed bookplate and sprayed edges available from Waterstones: The House That Horror Built signed UK edition

Read on for a little preview of THE HOUSE THAT HORROR BUILT!


SHE REMEMBERED FALLING IN love with movies when she was very young, remembered disappearing into the dark with only the flickering screen to guide her. She remembered the feeling of drifting away from the seat and the small bag of too- salty popcorn and into the movie as the restless sounds of her mother and father and sister shifting and coughing and whispering faded to another time and place, another time and place that Harry had left behind.

Her parents took her to very few films, and even then only films that were considered “clean”— while the rest of her fourth- grade class chattered excitedly about Titanic she had to content herself with occasional glimpses of clips during television commercial breaks. Her parents were half- convinced that film and television were actual tools of the devil, and Harry and her sister Margaret (always Margaret, never Maggie) weren’t allowed to see anything that had higher than a G rating. But Harry didn’t care. She loved the movies— loved the drive to the theater and the way

everything smelled like hot butter and Raisinets, loved watching the coming attractions before the film started and the hush of anticipation that fell when the title sequence began. Even if she was only allowed to see G movies at least she was seeing movies. At least she was someplace besides her sober, judgmental household, a place where the only acceptable conversation was prayer and the only acceptable attitude was piety.

Harry knew her family was different than other families, even different from most of the families who attended the same church. Her school friends attended Sunday school with her and went to Christian summer camp but they also were allowed to walk the mall in small groups. They had cable television and saw rated R movies late at night after their parents had gone to bed. They had new clothes from places like the Gap and American Eagle and Aeropostale, while Harry and Margaret were only allowed Salvation Army secondhands.

Harry was eleven when she was permitted to attend her first sleepover birthday party. She’d begged her mother to allow her to go, having always been the only girl left out when she had to turn down previous invitations. For some reason, on that particular occasion, her normally stern mother relented— a decision she would likely regret for the rest of her life, because it was on that night that Harry was irredeemably corrupted.

The friend, Jessica Piniansky, had an older sister named Erin who had been left in charge of the menagerie of girls for the evening while Jessica’s parents wisely went out to dinner after the birthday cake was served. Erin had been dispatched to the local video store to rent Kiefer Sutherland movies, as Kiefer was Jessica’s current obsession and her bedroom was plastered with photographs of him torn from Us and Entertainment Weekly and People that she’d taken from the library. Jessica always had slightly out of date obsessions, like she ought to have been born ten years earlier.

Erin had returned with copies of The Lost Boys and Flatliners, two films that Harry would never have been permitted to watch under normal circumstances. Her hands were sweaty as The Lost Boys slid into the DVD player, as she stared down the barrel of doing something her parents would not approve.

All around her the other girls argued over the relative merits of Jason Patric vs. Corey Haim vs. Kiefer Sutherland, but Harry didn’t join in. She was in love with the dark, with the lost boys swinging and flying under the railroad track, with the arterial spray of the first vampire attack, with the blood gushing from the sinks and spattering all over the house. She relished the thrumming of her heart, the pulse of her own blood, the terror and the splendor and the excitement she’d never felt before.

When the movie was over she felt reborn, reborn as an addict seeking another thrill. She didn’t know how she would find it again, how such a visceral pleasure would ever be allowed in a home where pleasure of any kind was a sin.

She began to sneakily read copies of Fangoria magazine whenever she saw them— at the corner store when she was sent out to buy milk, or at the bookstore when her mother wasn’t paying attention. As she entered high school and she got a job of her own— making ice cream cones and sundaes at Dairy Queen after school— she had more time and money to do what she liked, to stop and buy those copies of Fangoria on the way home and ferret them away between her mattress and box spring, taking them out only when everyone else in the house was asleep and scanning the pages, flashlight in hand, seeing hints of worlds where she still wasn’t permitted to travel— places where regular people were flesh-eating cannibals, or writers accidentally opened portals to terrible universes, or alien creatures stalked a prison world. She wanted more. She always wanted more, and more, and more, but it wasn’t until she made her escape— when she became Harry Adams and left Harriet Anne Schorr behind forever— that she could have all the terror she wanted, and then some.


IT WAS THE SIZE of the house that got Harry every time she saw it. Of course she’d seen houses that size before, in Certain Neighborhoods around Chicago, giant houses whose sheer enormity should have relegated them to the suburbs. This city house wasn’t a McMansion, though— one of those classless boxes, bulging oversized dwellings for those who wanted to display their money, or at least their debt.
It was decidedly not new, not the province of some futures broker or investment banker. It had the same gray stone face as her own two- flat apartment building— a fifteen- minute bus ride and half a world away, economically speaking— but it was twice the size. The house covered two lots, with a third lot for a side yard. As an apartment dweller she didn’t often contemplate property taxes but just the fact of those three lots made queasy multi- digit numbers dance before her eyes.
The building was three stories plus a basement level. The windows were tall on the lowest story, less so on the second one, and downright tiny on the topmost, giving the overall effect of slowly closing eyes if you glanced from the bottom to the top.
Other than the oddly sized windows there were no particular architectural flourishes save two. At the northeast corner of the roof a sculpture protruded like a Notre Dame gargoyle— a horse’s head and neck carved in stone, the horse’s lips pulled back, its eyes wild. All around the horse, stone flames rose, waiting to burn. Harry thought she’d grimace, too, if she was trapped in fire for all eternity.
In addition to the frantic stallion, there was a name carved in an arc above the door— BRIGHT HORSES.
The entire property was surrounded by a ten- foot- high black iron fence. The only two entry points were the gate in front of her and the sliding gate in front of the garage in the back.
Harry reached toward the call box so she could be buzzed in, but paused as she heard her phone chirp in her pocket. She pulled it out and saw a text from her son, Gabe.
FORGOT MY CHEM REPORT! IT’S ON MY DESK? followed by a praying hands emoji.
Already at work, she texted back, and tacked on the woman shrugging and holding her hands up.
She only worked three days a week, so if Gabe had tried on a different day she might have hopped the bus and brought his report to him. Maybe. Part of her thought he needed to learn the consequences of not thinking ahead and putting the report in his bag the night before. The other part of her wanted to cut him some slack, given that it was his freshman year and the first time the kids were back at school post- pandemic, even if it was only three days a week.
She was grateful that it was only two days off in person schooling, as her unemployed spring (furloughed from her server job, never to return) coupled with overseeing remote learning for a thirteen- year- old with ADHD had resulted in screaming, emotional breakdowns for both of them. Having Gabe’s learning monitored by qualified teachers was a profound relief.
Harry watched the reply bubbles churn on her screen until Gabe’s answer popped up. A sad face emoji, followed by a shrugging boy.
Noise crackled from the call box and a deep baritone voice emitted from it. “Are you going to stand there all day, or perhaps you’d like to work?”
Harry glanced up at the camera perched on the top corner of the fence. The preponderance of cameras in and around the house always left her feeling uneasy, even though she understood the necessity of them. There were a few too many, in Harry’s opinion, though she was careful to keep that opinion to herself.
“Sorry, Mr. Castillo,” she said, and the gate buzzed.
Harry pushed the gate open and hurried up the walk as Javier Castillo opened the front door, watching her approach.
“We’ll start in the blue room today,” he said as she jogged up the steps.
“No problem,” she said, pausing in the doorway. She pulled her slippers— plain gray terry cloth scuffs, bought expressly for and used only at the Castillo residence— out of her backpack, placed them on the floor in the entryway and toed out of her sneakers one by one, sliding each foot into a slipper without ever touching the ground.
Harry picked up her sneakers and carried them inside, placing them on the special shelf to the left of the doorway. No outside dirt, damp or germs touched the floors in Bright Horses.
The shelf that housed her sneakers was something like a preschooler’s cubby, with a space for shoes at the bottom, hooks for bags and coats in the center, and a top shelf for hats and other items. Harry pulled off her black windbreaker and hung it on a hook. She slid her cell phone into her backpack as Mr. Castillo watched. There was a strict no phone policy inside the house. Violation of this rule was grounds for immediate dismissal, though she was allowed to go outside during her lunch break to check messages.
Mr. Castillo held out the box of latex gloves stored on a side table behind the door. Harry pulled on the gloves, wincing a little as she did. She hated the feeling of pulling on the gloves, the way the material seemed to grab and yank at her skin. Once the gloves were actually on she didn’t mind them as much, although she still liked the moment at the end of the day when she was allowed to peel them off and let her skin breathe again.
Harry adjusted her medical mask— Mr. Castillo never allowed her to remove it inside the house except in the kitchen when eating or drinking— so that all that was visible were her faded blue eyes and the bit of her forehead that showed when she pulled her pin- straight blonde hair into a ponytail. She followed him down the hallway and up the stairs to the second floor.
The entry to the house was deliberately neutral— the plain gray carpet and faded wallpaper practically screamed, There’s nothing to see here! But upon leaving the downstairs hall and passing into any other room the true nature of Bright Horses was revealed.

It started on the stairway, after the first few steps, when the stairs curved to the left, out of sight from anyone standing in the entryway. A large framed poster of a voluptuous blonde in a red dress hung on the wall there. A snarling cat, blood dripping from its mouth, curled over her right shoulder, and over her left were the words SHE WAS MARKED WITH THE CURSE OF THOSE WHO SLINK AND COURT AND KILL BY NIGHT! Above her head the words CAT PEOPLE floated over a clock whose hands showed midnight.
Harry always smiled at this poster, as Cat People was one of her favorite films, though Mr. Castillo had hastened to point out that the poster wasn’t an original print. Most of the posters that lined the wall along the stairs were contemporary copies, thought there were a few genuine articles— the original U.K. quad poster for Hammer’s The Curse of Frankenstein, the lurid red French theatrical poster for Eyes Without a Face, a U.S. lobby poster for An American Werewolf in London.
It was slow going to the top of the stairs, as Mr. Castillo always got out of breath halfway up and had to stop. Harry didn’t remark on this, or offer any help. She’d made the mistake of offering assistance once, saying she would fetch a glass of water.
“I’m fine,” Mr. Castillo snapped. “I’m just fat.”
Harry attributed his breathlessness to lack of regular exercise rather than size— she knew plenty of heavier people who had no trouble with stairs because they ran or lifted weights on the regular, and plenty of thin people who tired after walking half a block. But she hadn’t said this.
She hadn’t said anything unnecessary or even vaguely personal, because it had been her first day. She was grateful to have work again, and desperately averse to jeopardizing her new source of income.
Even now, more than a month later, she never said anything that might be construed as personal. She was too much in awe of him, in awe of this person who’d let her into his home.
Javier Castillo had brown hair going gray, brown eyes behind steel-rimmed spectacles, was on the shorter side (though not as (though not as short as Harry, who had reached five feet at age thirteen and never grown again) and overall had the completely nondescript appearance of any random person on the block. He was the sort who would never attract attention unless you knew who he was, would never be whispered about if he went to the grocery store— which he never did. He never went anywhere if he could help it.
Because of this, very few people in his neighborhood realized one of the world’s greatest living horror directors lived among them. Javier Castillo, director and writer of fifteen films, most of them visually groundbreaking, genre- defying masterpieces. His film The Monster had won the Oscar for Best Picture five years earlier and swept most of the other major categories along the way, including Director and Original Screenplay. The world had waited breathlessly for the announcement of his next project.
Then a shocking, unthinkable incident happened, and Castillo withdrew into his California home, and there was no mention of potential new movies while the paparazzi stood outside his house with their cameras ready for any sign of life within.
After one too many wildfires came too close to his residence he decided to move, somewhat incongruously, to Chicago. He packed up his legendary and possibly priceless collection of movie props and memorabilia and brought them to a cold Midwestern city where the last major urban burning was decidedly in the distant past.
If it wasn’t for those California wildfires Harry would still be collecting unemployment, frantically responding to job ads with a horde of other desperate people, never hearing back, wondering how long Gabe would believe her tight smile followed by, “Everything’s going to be fine.”
But instead there was this miracle, this miracle of a strange and reclusive director who needed someone to help him clean his collection of weird stuff three days a week, and so Harry climbed up the stairs and listened to Javier Castillo huff and puff.

THE HOUSE THAT HORROR BUILT is published by Berkley Books in the U.S. and by Titan Books in the U.K.

Preorder in the U.S.:

Bookshop (supporting Three Avenues Bookshop)

Anderson’s Bookshop

Barnes & Noble

The Book Cellar



Bucket O’Blood Books and Records

Hudson Booksellers


Mysterious Galaxy



Third Place Books

Unabridged Bookstore

Vintage Bookstore and Wine Bar

Women and Children First



For preorder in the UK:

Forbidden Planet