Wednesday, December 27, 2006

On the Spot

I'd like to send a shout-out to Graham Powell, curator of the fantastic CrimeSpot. For those who don't know, CrimeSpot is a site dedicated to keeping track of all the bloggy goodness from the world of crime fiction. As of this morning, it'll also be keeping track of me. Man, I'd better get interesting in a hurry.

If you found your way here via CrimeSpot, thanks for stopping by. Feel free to poke around. Of course, some of you may have better things to do than to wander through my archives (though you're here, so all evidence points to the contrary). If that's the case, I suggest you start here. It's a fave of mine, and why not? It's got thrills! It's got aliens! It's got chocolate! Seriously, folks, what more could you want?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Have a Merry Christmukkwanza

Well, we don't exactly have snow (unlike the good Mr. Dvorkin), but I can't think of much better than a few days off from work, time spent with family, and the heaping helping of books that I always manage to get under the tree.

And in the interest of spreading some holiday cheer, I just finished David Dvorkin's Time for Sherlock Holmes, and I'm delighted to say it was an absolute blast. I grew up reading Sherlock Holmes, and Wells' The Time Machine was one of my all-time favorite reads as a kid; Dvorkin weaves them together wonderfully, to surprising and satisfying result. If you want to know where to get it, I suggest looking here.

Now, I suppose, I'll have to ask him what of his I should check out next...

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Tabula Rasa

It occurred to me as I sat turkey-drugged and lethargic in front of my computer that I hadn't posted here in a while, so figured it was time for a quick update. Now that all the short-story-related craziness has died down, there isn't much to report on the publishing front. Which isn't to say nothing's going on. I've spent a lot of time getting queries out, and I'm happy to say there's been some interest, though discretion being the better part of valor, that's all I'll say about that. What I will talk about, at least briefly, is the Next Book.

Right now, the Next Book consists of about a dozen pages of barely legible notes in a legal pad, countless Post-its filled with ideas good and bad, and the first five pages of what is proving to be a rather detailed outline. And then there's all the research: e-mails back and forth with folks more knowledgeable than I, a laundry-list of URLs, and maps galore.

The Next Book has a title, too, but names have power, and I'm not ready to let this one out into the world just yet. Soon, maybe.

In not too long, the writing will begin in earnest. Fine by me. It's been just two months since I finished The Angels' Share, and for my money, that's two months too long.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

An Update on the Update

Okay. Here's the deal. The World Behind is now set to appear in the June 2007 issue of EQMM. The Toll Collectors will still be appearing in Back Roads #4, also scheduled for June. Since the June 2007 issue of EQMM actually comes out in April, The World Behind will still be my first-ever credit, if only by a hair.

Got all that? Good, 'cause later, there's gonna be a quiz...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Toll Collectors and The World Behind: An Update

When I submitted The World Behind to EQMM, way back in May, I sent it in to their Department of First Stories, as I'd yet to land a professional credit. Since then, The Toll Collectors was accepted for publication by Back Roads; I was told it was scheduled to appear in their March issue.

When EQMM contacted me last week to tell me they'd accepted The World Behind for publication, they asked me if it was still eligible for the Department of First Stories. My dream-come-true publication-credit flashing before my eyes, I gritted my teeth and told them that while I had not published anything in the interim, I did have a short story scheduled to come out in March. To my surprise, they were very understanding. They made it clear that, though they would prefer it if I could move the date of The Toll Collectors' release, they did not want to jeopardize my opportunity for the Back Roads credit, nor would they reject The World Behind on the grounds that I'd since received an acceptance that had yet to even be published.

Once I stopped freaking out, I e-mailed Sam Hawken, the editor of Back Roads. I explained the situation and asked him if it would be possible to delay release of The Toll Collectors. Sam graciously agreed.

So, long story slightly less long: The World Behind is scheduled to appear in the May 2007 issue of EQMM. The Toll Collectors will appear in issue #4 of Back Roads, due out in June of 2007. And a big, fat shout-out to Sam Hawken of 1018 Press and the folks at EQMM. If everyone in publishing were half as decent as they are, writers'd have to come up with something else to whine about.

And if you ask me, they've got some pretty good taste, too.

UPDATE: The World Behind is now set to appear in the June 2007 issue of EQMM.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

"Holy @&$#!" Or, "An Announcement."

Yesterday, I received word that my short story The World Behind has been accepted for publication by Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. If you're not familiar with Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, then you likely live under a rock, but for the unitiated, EQMM is without qualification the most prestigous, venerable, and oft-honored magazine in the history of crime fiction. Since their founding in 1941, they've featured work from the world's greatest writers, including Rudyard Kipling, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Isaac Asimov, Norman Mailer, Alice Walker, and Stephen King, just to name a few. And, in May of 2007, they'll feature me.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go and work on my happy dance, whilst simultaneously trying not to throw up.

Now there's a line I bet Faulkner never uttered...

UPDATE: The World Behind is now set to appear in the June 2007 issue of EQMM.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Toll Collectors

I just received word from the good folks at Back Roads that The Toll Collectors will be appearing in Back Roads #3, which is slated for release in March of 2007.

Back Roads is a magazine dedicated to rural horror, put out by 1018 Press. If you haven't heard of them, you should check them out, either at their homepage or at their CafePress store. They're sort of one-stop shopping for all your genre needs. All the cool kids are reading them. In fact, you might want to buy a couple of everything, just to be on the safe side.

Not, of course, that I'm biased.

UPDATE: The Toll Collectors will now appear in Back Roads #4, set for a June 2007 release.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Done

Two years.

Two years of my life I've lived with the characters of The Angels' Share. Two years, five drafts, and countless hours spent ignoring the world while I pushed words around the page.

Two years, and today it's done.

It's a strange feeling. Just a final read-through, and it's ready for submission. And you know what? I think it's pretty damn good.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Beyond Here be Dragons!

As you may or may not have noticed, I've added a few links of late. Some, like David Dvorkin or Crissa-Jean Chappell, are Friends-of-the-Blog (or, at the very least, friendly acquaintances.) Many, however, were added because they are relevant to the business-side of writing – specifically, to finding an agent.

These past two weeks, I've been working on a query letter and synopsis for The Angels' Share, and beginning the daunting process of researching literary agents. For many (myself included), this is uncharted territory, which is why I wanted to call your attention to this post by Donna Andrews on the Femmes Fatales blog. Anybody interested in landing themselves an agent would do well to check it out. It's already been a great help to me, both in reinforcing what I've already done, and in suggesting avenues previously unknown to me.

Anyway, back to that query letter...

Monday, September 04, 2006

It's a little drafty in here...

Another week, another draft. This one (my fourth) is 78,637 words (287 pages at 12pt TNR). The real news is that The Angels' Share is officially as good as I can make it on my own. Today, I'm heading out to print it, and handing it over to my wife.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Wives and mothers are not to be trusted when it comes to critiquing one's writing. But there are a few mitigating factors at play here.

1) My wife is a brilliant writer, with a hell of an eye for grammar. Whatever I might have missed, she will not.

2) She's read more mysteries than any ten other people. If I'm treading a path well-traveled, she'll be sure to notice. Which brings me to...

3) She is a horrible liar. Seriously, you should see it. I've never met anyone so incapable of deception. Sure, she'll try, but somewhere between her brain and her mouth, things get tangled, and what comes out is either a nonsensical string of half-finished sentences and irrelevant details or, well, the truth. So if my book sucks, she might not tell me so, but I'll get the message nonetheless.

4) She's darn cute. That doesn't have anything to do with my book, really, but I thought it should be known I married up.

Add to that the fact that she's the last roadblock between my book and the rest of the world, and she's got all the incentive she needs to be brutally honest. After all, good book or bad, she's stuck with me.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

This is beginning to feel like a weight-loss blog.

First draft: 110, 850 words (365 pages at 12pt TNR, for the page-inclined)

Second draft: 90,824 words (319 pages at 12pt TNR)

Third draft: 78,303 words (285 pages at 12pt TNR)

Of course, the numbers only tell half the story. The, um, story tells the other half. And I think this is the first draft that really resembles the book I set out to write. If I had to be done today, I think that what I've got would do.

That said, now that all the extraneous bits are gone (and believe me, some of them I hated cutting), I can really see some spots where the potential exists to make this book as good as I possibly can. I expect my fourth draft is going to be back up over 80,000, if only barely. Then it's off to my wife, and, assuming she doesn't crucify it, another quick polish and it's out the door.

Monday, August 21, 2006

I think my muse has a bad connection.

Writing is a funny thing. Sometimes, an idea drops fully formed out of the clear blue sky, complete with plot, title, and narrative voice, and you grab the nearest writing implement, scribbling furiously for fear you’ll forget it. More often than not, though, what you get’s a little garbled. A phrase. A name. A snippet of dialogue. It rattles around in your head like a half-remembered melody; worse, in fact, since there is no melody yet – it’s up to you to make one up. And not just any melody, mind you. The right one.

The other day, while I was at work, I was struck with an idea for a title: Seven Days of Rain.

That’s all well and good, I thought, but I’m kind of busy right now, what with work and all.

Seven Days of Rain, my muse replied.

Yes, that’s very nice, I thought, but ‘seven days of rain’ is hardly a comprehensive outline, now, is it? Also, I'm very nearly finished with my novel, so I couldn't possibly take on anything else. I’m afraid I’ll have to pass.

Seven Days of Rain! My muse was clearly losing patience. Believe me, the last thing you need is a pissed-off muse – next thing you know, you’ll be feverishly jotting down a treatment for Weekend at Bernie’s 3.

All right, all right, I thought, Seven Days of Rain. I got out a Post-it and jotted it down, certain it’d disappear into the sea of indecipherable bits of paper that litter my apartment, imparting such nuggets of wisdom as “Write about squirrel – make it funny” or “Zombie protagonist!”

This evening, I put the finishing touches on a short story entitled Seven Days of Rain. I literally sat down at the computer with not a thought in the world but to prove to my muse that I had no idea what in the hell Seven Days of Rain would be about, and next thing I knew, there it was. It took a few days to finish and polish, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t pretty good. As of right now, it’s at the mercy of the USPS.

For anyone who’s counting, that’s five stories out the door. Five stories, and a novel on the way. Now it’s just a matter of time.

Monday, August 14, 2006

No Such Thing

This weekend, the lovely and talented Tess Gerritsen wrote a blog entry entitled Legume Literature that I think anybody who loves books ought to check out. In it, she discusses the dichotomy between Important Literature and Books People Actually Like to Read. In all fairness, she phrases it in a less inflammatory fashion (and, also in fairness, I think there’s at least a little overlap in the Venn diagram of literary fiction and plain old good books), but the crux of the piece couldn’t be any simpler: Read what you like. Let others read what they like. Championing work you love is great, but don’t tear down or diminish the tastes of others in the process.

I couldn’t agree more, though I think that we all share in the blame for shaming people into hiding or abandoning outright their personal taste in favor of an ever-shifting and often-dull Canon of What is Good. To some extent, we can’t help it. It’s human nature. We talk smack about stuff we don’t like (or, all too often, stuff with which we’re unfamiliar) like it’s our national pastime. We do it to justify our own taste. We do it to establish our own aesthetic superiority. We do it because we’re bored or cranky or don’t know any better. But we all do it.

Even worse, though, is when we denigrate things we actually like out of some misplaced sense of shame. How many times have you heard someone put down whatever bestseller they’re reading as fluff or garbage and then keep right on reading? How many times have you watched an entire episode of something while thinking, “God, who watches this crap?”

The fact is, there’s a certain duplicity to each of our individual tastes, a tug-of-war between what we like and what we wish we liked. Don’t believe me? Sign up for Netflix. I guarantee that when you sit down to arrange your queue for the first time, you’ll load it full of classics and obscure-but-well-reviewed art flicks, only to find when you start getting them that all you want to do is send them back and get something, I don’t know, explosiony-er.

That’s right, explosiony-er. It’s a word. Write it down.

So here's my suggestion. Come out of your closets, people. Like what you like, without reservation and without qualification. There should be no such thing as a guilty pleasure. You’ll be happier for it, believe me.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go make sure I’ve set Rock Star:Supernova up to record…

Friday, July 21, 2006

Pirates? Pirates.


All right, America. If there's one thing these past two weeks have taught us, it's that you freakin' love pirates. Now, I'm no mathematician, but if my calculations are correct, Dead Man's Chest stands to gross approximately eleventeen-bagillion dollars, and why not? Swashbuckling Depp? Check. Undead barnacley sailors? Check. Giant mythical sea-creature? Also check.

So allow me to make a plug, and spread a little piratey joy. Namely, On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers. After several years out of print, it's been rereleased in a lovely trade paperback edition. It's the story of John Chandagnac, a man crossing the Atlantic to exact revenge for his father's death. Along the way, his ship is taken by pirates, and he's given a choice: join them or die. What follows is a magnificent tale of adventure involving Blackbeard, zombies, voodoo, and a quantum-mechanical Fountain of Youth.

Still not convinced? Here's an excerpt (italics mine):

"All set?"

"I'd say so, Phil," Shandy answered with a tension-twitchy grin. "Far too many men, with nearly no provisions, the rigging all held together with nipper twine, and the navigator is a one-armed lunatic taking directions from a severed head in a box."

"Excellent," said Davies, nodding.

Seriously, folks. Do yourselves a favor and pick it up. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Low Interest Too Much

So. Another month, another guilt-fueled post. And as usual, there’s not much to report.

Not that nothing’s happening. I’m well into my third draft. I’m weeks away from my wife’s first ulcer-inducing read (visions of Funny Farm dance in my head). But none of that makes for thrilling blogging, and with summer comes the inevitable short-fiction-market slowdown. About half the print markets close, while the other half are as slow as molasses that for whatever reason doesn’t feel like reading my story.

Sorry. That one got away from me a bit.

Anyway, in the interests of teasing my readership (hi, Mom), I’ve decided to excerpt one of my stories here, a bit of noir entitled A Simple Kindness. However, I’m not so psyched at the prospect of losing a shot at later publication, so I’ve decided to translate it into Korean, and then back into English. Man, I hope this doesn’t forfeit my first gibberish rights:

Kind It It Is Simple
Is a fun, with realness. Goes out also after all this year and, in the place which goes wrong me is not yet positively. The kindness which is simple, anything compared to was. The possibility which there will be, is there was not I.
Me goes out and egg, criticizing but the thing I is to the place which goes wrong. She will not be beautiful, anyone of this she will go round and she will not happen until now, they the place. She was but. It is beautiful. The low interest too much.
On our lower part in width funeral chattering it hit lightly inside hour and the slender leg, me as her collection did to see, under being absent her skirt, the long thing only it did to sleep. Her or in opposition location with the seat at the time of side walking quality seven me it does and it does to sleep, and it catches certainly the messenger unit which is black in the gain and loss which is clear approximately from 116 distance reverses which it sees her, the sample. She did not see the tourist. New one, possibly. The first day worries. It intruded inside their suite and tie and the distorted face and her face it executed, it went out and and by the impulse which comforts her her worrying does not have anything to her which it talked her beat color head hair which falls to that piece and to respect, chess time she inspected the face of our colleague passenger.

I swear, I have no idea why her skirt is absent. Still, it does hold one's interest, does it not?

Monday, June 12, 2006

A Numbers Game

First draft: 110, 850 words (365 pages at 12pt TNR, for the page-inclined)

Second draft: 90,824 words (319 pages at 12pt TNR)

Time to get back to work.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Public Service Announcement

Read King Dork. Seriously. Right now, if possible.

That is all. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go and start a band. I'm thinking The Fiona Deal, me on guitar and prestidigitation, Kat on bass and notarizing, and Maggie and Binkley on drums, percussion, percussive drums, and string-chasing.

Oh, those last two might be cats. Man, I need more friends.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

So here's the deal...

...and the deal is this:

I've been going back and forth on that last post for two days now, wondering whether or not I should take it down. It's not that I don't agree with the central thesis. I do, mostly. I'm just not sure the tone is entirely right for this blog.

The point of this blog as I see it (apart from being a shameless ploy to establish a fledgling author's web-presence) is to provide insight into the process of becoming a working author. That's insight I don't yet have. But Sunday's post came perilously (and unintentionally) close to instructive, which presupposes I know what the hell I'm talking about. Maybe I do, and maybe I don't, but I can't think of a single reason why you should assume I do.

I've decided not to take down the post, though I offer this caveat. When it comes to sites dedicated to the business and the craft of writing, read critically. It amazes me how many people want to tell you how to write the perfect mystery, the perfect romance, the perfect whatever, and how few of them I've ever actually heard of. I had an Economics teacher in high school who often professed a profound understanding of the stock market. I always wondered if that were so, why he drove a beat-up Chevette.

Don't assume either that someone who is published and well-recieved has any earthly idea how they managed it. There's more than one path to take, and though there is plenty of valuable advice out there, nobody's going to draw you a map. Beware the ones who claim they can.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Resonance

It's funny, really. In all my years of writing, the question I'm asked most frequently is the one I have the toughest time answering. What, you may wonder, is the question that so flummoxes me, sending me into fits of stammering, backtracking, and other assorted idiocy?

"What's it about?"

Sure, it seems benign enough. Hell, I imagine most of the time the person asking is just trying to be polite. After all, if I can't manage a couple of coherent sentences describing my book/short story/manifesto, how good could said book/short story/manifesto really be? But I've botched the answer so many times now that I've come up with a brief, descriptive sentence that does the job but bears little resemblance to what I think the work in question is actually about, just to have something to say that doesn't make whoever asked hide the paste and take away my big-boy scissors. In the case of my novel, that faux-descriptive sentence is as follows:

It's about the murder of a lower-class girl in an affluent small-town community on the coast of Maine.

Every time I say it, though, I'm thinking, "You idiot! That's not at all what it's about! It's about classism and corruption in small-town America! It's about exorcising the demons of your past and reconciling who you are with who you thought you'd be! It's about greed and ambition and the price we pay for timidity and apathy in the face of it! It's about pie!" Okay, maybe not that last one, but you get the point. The thing is, though, you can't say any of that, because when you do, whoever you're talking to glazes over and you can practically hear them thinking, "Oh, it's one of those books."

It's not, though. I have neither illusions nor ambitions about writing an Important Novel. I rarely read Important Novels, and when I do, they're typically genre fiction that, by virtue of quality and age, has been retroactively dubbed Important.

I do believe, though, that the best genre fiction has resonance. Romero's Dead cycle is about zombies, sure, but it's also about racism, classism, and consumerism. Hammett's Red Harvest rails against the corrupting force of power. Tolkien's Rings was about found family and finding humanity in the smaller moments, amongst other things.

I'm not talking highfalutin-"Ahab's pursuit of the great white whale represents Man's doomed devotion to monomaniacal monotheism"-type symbolism, here. I'm talking about that certain something that makes you relate to a survivor in a post-apocalyptic zombie wasteland, an honest man in a corrupt, mob-run burg, or a short, hairy-footed wanderer headed for Mordor. Often, it just happens, which for me is how it ought to be. I think that if you focus too much on theme, the story tends to get lost along the way. But once a story is finished, it's often more about those moments that really resonate than it is about connecting the dots of the plot.

Yesterday, I finished a story that's been plaguing me for weeks. It's called The World Behind, and it's about a boy who befriends a homeless man in Richmond in the summer of 1986. It's also about the lies we tell, and the consequences that befall us when those lies are cast aside. Of course, I didn't know that when I started it -- it just kind of ended up that way. And really, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Illusive Details

Two posts in two days? Madness, I say!

Actually, I just wanted to call attention to this hilarious post over at Making Light. If you're not reading them every damn day, you should be.

And before you go commenting that my title is techically incorrect, maybe you should follow the link...

Monday, May 01, 2006

Don't worry, it's benign.

There's a short story I've been obsessing about of late. I can't seem to get it out of my head, literally or figuratively. So today, I brought it to work, figuring I'd do a little editing over lunch.

The story is nearly finished, and I think it's mostly pretty good, but there was a section about half a page long that was giving me a hell of a time. It was tonally off, and it killed the momentum of the story. I've been agonizing for days over how to fix it, and today it hit me. I snatched my red pen from behind my ear, drew a box around the offending prose, and crossed it out.

Oftentimes, this sort of whole-cloth approach doesn't quite cut it (ouch, an accidental-pun/mixed-metaphor double whammy!) The section in question might introduce a character or a concept integral to the story, and cutting it completely will cause a cascade of panicked rewrites. Today, though, the section I cut was a discrete quantum of awful, and cutting it didn't hurt a thing.

I've decided such helpfully self-contained bits of bad writing are heretofore dubbed benign. The more invasive bits, obviously, would be malignant. Write it down -- all the cool kids will be saying it in no time. Unless, of course, all the cool kids are already saying it, in which case I'm just the last kid in school to stop tight-rolling his pants.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Not Enough Time in the Day

Wow, has it really been a month since my last post? Oh, how time flies. For those of you who wonder what it's like to be a fledgling writer, here's an exercise you can do at home:

1. Check mail.
2. Check e-mail.
3. Repeat.

That pretty much covers it. Well, that and the writing. And the worst part of the whole process is not knowing whether you're rooting for a response or not. Talk about an optimism/pessimism litmus test.

In other news, I'm working on a new short story, tentatively titled The World Behind. It's a little longer than my previous attempts, and I can't seem to find enough alone-time in front of the computer to get it done. Which sucks, because it just might be the best thing I've ever written. I'm psyched to get it out.

Of course, it could be crap.

Stay tuned, folks. I have a feeling things are just starting to get interesting.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

What ho, old fruit?

Another post, another very little to report. I spent the last several days in New Orleans, at the wedding of an old friend, which means at present I'm feeling guilty and annoyed at my lack of progress editing my novel. Still, the trip was fun (if a bit surreal), and with luck, I'll return to my only-slightly-less-painfully-slow routine in no time.

Some odds and ends. First, I picked up a book for the trip, an impulse purchase based on stellar reviews and the odd award or two. The name I'll omit, discretion being the better part of valor. Suffice to say it was a genre book (a sf/mystery double whammy, no less!) All positive press aside, I thought is was abysmal. The story was murky at best, and it was so chock-full of ," he glowered darkly-s and I watched as she...-s that I found myself reaching for the red pen that often sits perched behind my ear while I edit. Of course, it wasn't there, and I'm sure my fellow passengers thought me insane. The book served to once again to remind me that the mainstream press has absolutely no idea what it's talking about when it comes to good genre writing. I had to pick up The Long Goodbye when I got home just to cleanse my palette.

In other news, the lovely and talented Jane Espenson has started a blog. If you've any interest in writing for television, writing comedy, or in finding out what one of the funniest people on the planet eats for lunch on any given day, go check it out. She's charming and informative and a world-class language geek (in the best possible way, of course.) She's worked on just about every fantastic show ever. She invented "the funny syphilis." Need more convincing? Here's a snippet (italics mine):

Spec scripts are non-spraying beetles, but that's all the more reason they need to stand on their heads, look in anticipation at their own rear ends, and give every impression that something big is about to happen.

Followed the link yet? Yeah, I thought so.

That's it for me. Oh, wait – the title. Right. You see, my wife and I have been watching lots of Jeeves and Wooster lately, and I need to find some outlet for my sudden comprehensive knowledge of period British slang.

Toodle pip!

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Well

About seven months ago, I had an idea for a story called The Well. It hit me all at once, as these things rarely do, but I was at work, so I sat down at lunch and sent myself an e-mail, getting as much down as I could. The funny thing was, I didn't much like the idea. It was darker than what I usually like to write, and it kind of got under my skin.

When I sat down at the computer that weekend to flesh it out, I turned out page after page, each more distasteful than the next. The more detail I added to the story, the less I liked it. I don't mind creeping out others a bit, but I think that restraint is a virtue, and I really didn't want to cross a line in my writing that I wouldn't want to cross in my reading. So, even though I thought there was a story worth telling in there somewhere, I set it aside.

A few days ago, I came across the initial e-mail. When I read it, I was struck by something -- my notes had what my attempts to flesh it out had lacked. Subtlety. Ambiguity. Restraint. There was no explicit violence or anything overtly objectionable. Just a pervasive, eerie mood, one that still managed to creep me out. So I sat down and started tinkering, and not long after, I had my first ever work of very short fiction. 775 words did what 5,000 couldn't. An interesting lesson, and one that resulted in the easiest story I've ever written of any length. Funny how things work out.

A few minutes ago, I sent it out the door. I guess we'll see soon if The Well was worth the wait.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Love and Murder

These past weeks, I've been in a holding pattern. The Toll Collectors and A Simple Kindness are both out the door, looking for a home. The second draft of my novel is coming along, albeit slowly. And so, on this Valentine's Day edition of my bi-weekly guilt-fueled posts, I've little to report. This, folks, is the insight you just won't get from a Neil Gaiman or a Tess Gerritsen. The waiting. The utter lack of news. The fast-paced world of the not-yet-published. Yup, this is the stuff.

What I can say is that lately I've had phenomenal luck in the stuff I've been reading, thanks in part to the fine folks at Hard Case Crime, though most of the credit goes to my lovely wife Katrina. Her unerring taste has left me with a pile of great books from Christmas, my birthday, and now Valentine's Day. I mean come on, what says Valentine's Day like Ed McBain's The Gutter and the Grave?

So, to those who want to give the gift of murder and mayhem, let me say this: Lawrence Block is one badass mofo. Donald Westlake is great fun. Domenic Stansberry's The Confession is utterly incredible. Seriously. The dude scared me a little.

And why didn't anybody tell me that Alan Moore's Watchmen was this damn good? (Okay, to be fair, like a billion people told me, but it took a while for me to listen.) If you haven't read it, go now and buy it. If you don't like it, e-mail me and I'll send you a check for the cost. Of course, if you don't like it, the chances you're smart enough to successfully operate a computer are slim, so I think I'm off the hook.

That's it for now. With luck, some real news to follow. Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

No Good Deed Unpunished

This weekend, despite being laid up with a nefarious, fiction-hating cold, I managed to polish and send off a short story entitled A Simple Kindness. It is the story of a man who finds himself caught in the center of a violent, dangerous game, all because of a spontaneous act of goodwill. Though it's set in the present, the story is very much the product of my recent hard-boiled binge. At 2,391 words, it's short, taut, and full of plot. If I'm to trust my tried-and-true test audience, it's also pretty good, but seeing as how they are all, well, related to me, I guess the jury's still out on that one. It's out of my hands now, though. All that's left is to cross my fingers and wait. Oh, and NyQuil. Lots and lots of NyQuil.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Dieting

These past weeks, I've been editing down my novel, which means I've been dieting. All hard-boiled, all the time. In the past two weeks alone I've read Grifter's Game by Lawrence Block, 361 by Donald Westlake, and I'm smack in the middle of Hammett's Red Harvest. Meanwhile, Caleb Carr's The Italian Secretary sits unfinished on my coffee table, and I haven't even cracked Tim Powers' The Stress of Her Regard (take that, Strunk!) Now, a hard-boiled diet is a greasy, nasty way to go, all bourbon and cigarettes and murder, but it does have its upside. I'm writing a thriller (okay, editing, but bear with me). It stands to follow that it should be thrilling, right? Well, as anybody reading this can see, I tend toward wordiness. Not terribly thrilling. What I'd love is the economy of prose of the old pulp classics, minus possibly the references to doxies and fedoras. So that's what I'm reading.

Now, sentences that seemed perfectly acceptable before are about forty words too long. Commas become periods. Adjectives become flotsam. Book, hopefully, becomes thrilling.

The downside is that you read enough of these, and the whole world looks a little off-kilter. Murder and blackmail everywhere. In fact, I got a nasty little short-story out of it this weekend, complete with femme fatales, fall-guys, and double-crosses. But the diet is worth it, I think. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell was one of my favorite reads of last year, but man, you should have seen the sentences I wrote while I was reading that.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Jonesin'

So. A new year. The holidays are behind us, the dust has settled, and things are returning to normal.

Thank god.

For three weeks, I’ve been shopping or wrapping or packing or traveling. I’ve been to Christmas parties, family gatherings, and even a wedding. Every waking moment not already swallowed up by the day job has been occupied, leaving me unfocused, irritable, and borderline-depressed.

Three weeks without writing. Without editing. Without any real progress on my manuscript. Doesn’t sound like much? Ask any writer.

So here we are. 2006. Time to get back to work.