Sunday, December 30, 2007

Looks like the sap is running early this year...

I'm not one for looking back, as a rule, but 2007 has been an extraordinary year, one that demands some measure of reflection. In no particular order, here are some milestones I've been lucky enough to reach this year. Keep your head down, 'cause here come the bullets:
Of course, there have been other milestones as well. I turned thirty. I bought a house. I managed to hoodwink my lovely, charming wife into staying with me for yet another year (believe me, that never ceases to surprise). But a year is more than simply a collection of milestones, and with that in mind, I'd like to thank the folks I've met in the course of my writerly travails. I'm not dumb enough to try to list them all; I'd doubtless forget someone, and kick myself for weeks. If you take a look at my links and my blog comments, though, you'll get a pretty good idea.

I've always felt a bit of an outsider (in school, in work, in life), but this year I've encountered dozens of folks whose generosity of spirit is matched only by their talent. It's a strange thing, to find one's tribe, but a good strange. I wish them all the best in the coming year, and extend my thanks as well. I'm constantly amazed how supportive this community can be, and you can be damn sure I'm not about to take that for granted.

So happy new year, and goodbye to a hell of a last one. God only knows what's in store, but one thing's for sure: we're in for a hell of a ride.

(And yes, Sandra, I absolutely count my impending Spinetingler debut as a milestone; it'll be first on next year's list...)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Note on "Random Dude"

In my last post, I made a joke (or twenty) about a chap at my sister's work who I found had read my stories and/or swung by this blog. Since then, friend-of-the-blog Lyman seems to have picked up his very own crazy person, this one of the real, live variety. So, in the interests of not lumping Random Dude in with a person of such jackassery, please let it be known that, as far as I'm aware, Mr. Dude is a fine, upstanding gentleman whom women want to be with, and men want to be (or vice versa, whichever his preference might be).

In other news, Lyman Feero eats babies, so, um, vote for me instead.

That is all.

Friday, December 14, 2007

To the random dude at my sister's work that reads this blog...

Dear Random Dude,

Thanks for stopping by! It's a pleasure to have a dude of your randomness popping in from time to time, keeping tabs on little old me. I confess I pondered, for a while, what might have brought you here, and so far, here's what I've come up with:

a) You have a burgeoning interest in writing/publishing, and (God help you) you found something just charming and/or entertaining enough about this blog to keep you from clicking away to, say, freerice or porn or whatnot.

b) You are a crazy insane person who is planning to make from my skin a writer-suit that (God help you) you think will help you break into the publishing industry. ("It puts the thesaurus in the bucket.")

Either way, I thank you for your kind attention, and either way, here's a little something you can give back (after all, 'tis the season of giving, and I've already given so much – either in wisdom or in, you know, skin). I direct your attention to my previous post, in which I mention I've been shortlisted for a Spinetingler Award. Now here comes the giving part. Go check out Seven Days of Rain. Check out the competition, too. If you like my story best, send a vote my way. If you like someone else's, vote for them instead. My only request is that if it's the latter, maybe you consider them for that writer-suit of yours, okay?

Happy holidays,
Chris

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"Seven" Shortlisted!

I just received word that Seven Days of Rain has been shortlisted for a Spinetingler Award in the category of Best Short Story on the Web, and I seriously couldn't be more excited. I'm nominated in the same damn category as Charles Freakin' Ardai (that's what it says on his birth-certificate, I swear!), so I fully expect to get my ass handed to me, but as they always say, it's a thrill just to be nominated.

Funny – I always suspected people were totally full of shit when they said that. Turns out, not so much! Thanks to all who nominated me. Looks like I owe some folks a beer.

So what now, you ask? Well, I'll tell you (or, rather, I'll let the ever-charming Sandra Ruttan tell you; italics mine):

Voting is open. ONE E-MAIL PER PERSON ONLY. You cannot send another vote in, even for a different category – multiple votes from the same sender will not be counted. Take the time to consider your votes carefully. E-mails must be received by December 30, 2007 - authors, if you're putting this in your newsletter make sure you are clear about the deadline for voting. Many recommendations were not considered in the first round because they were sent late.You may vote for one winner in each category as long as all votes are submitted in one e-mail. Simply state the category and your chosen winner for each of the eight categories. Any votes that contain more than one selection per category may be removed from consideration completely. No ties.Send your e-mail to sandra.ruttan@spinetinglermag.com with AWARD NOMINATIONS in the subject line. It is not necessary to explain the reason for your vote.Popular vote will be counterbalanced against editorial opinion at this stage, except for the short story category. In order to ensure fairness the short story category will be determined strictly by popular vote. While I also appreciate the people who nominated me for special services, I removed myself from consideration for that category as well as from the New Voice category. Winners will be announced in early 2008.

For additional information, as well as the complete list of nominees, check out Sandra's post on the Crime Zine Report. Oh, and if you dig the story, drop her an e-mail, and maybe send a vote my way!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Holiday Loot

Now, I know what you're probably thinking: as holidays go, Thanksgiving ain't so much about the loot. To that, I say, it's your bad planning, not having a birthday that coincides with the tastiest holiday o' the year.

But I'm not here to taunt you with tales of my Dedicated Pumpkin Pie (made, spectacularly as always, by my culinary genius of a wife, who is also insightful enough to recognize the great injustice that is watching this, my favorite of pies, being devoured by scads of undeserving non-birthday-having pretenders-to-the-holiday while I look on helplessly) or of my tasty, tasty cheesecake (the box pictured above, which was again crafted by said uberwife, who then stocked it with scores of delicious and unpronounceable cheeses from our local fromage-monger). Nor am I going to mention the snazzy clothes, bevy of music, or stack of DVDs I've been the happy recipient of on this tastiest of birthdays. This is, after all a writer's blog, and mentioning any of that here would be no more than gloating, really. No, instead, I thought I'd talk about the books.

It was a light year, this year, book-wise (see assorted sundry other presents above), but what it lacks in quantity, it more than makes up for in quality. All three books are ones I've been dying to read, and they span several genres, which guarantees a book for any mood. Said book-loot is as follows:

Songs of Innocence, by Richard Aleas
Anyone who doesn't think Charles Ardai's pseudonymous debut Little Girl Lost was one of the best PI tales in recent years is, quite frankly, off their nut. (Off his/her nut? Man, we need us a gender-nonspecific singular; that just sounds awkward as hell.) This, his follow-up, promises to be every bit as good. I'll be shocked if I don't devour it in a sitting.

Four and Twenty Blackbirds, by Cherie Priest
A while back, Jennifer Jackson, Agent Extraordinaire, posted a link to this post on Cherie Priest's blog, and I've been reading ever since. This, her debut, sounds like a fantastic tale of gothic horror, and I've been dying to get my hands on it. Right now, I'm reading Michael McDowell's Blackwater (one of Katrina's faves), so I'm primed for some more kick-ass Southern gothic. Also worth noting is the cover's freakin' beautiful.

The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman
Okay, all right, I'm a bad book-geek. I admit I want to read it 'cause the movie trailer kicks wheelbarrows full of ass. Sue me.

So there you have it. I may be a year older, but I ain't complaining. After all, I've got loads of stuff to read...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Good Life

Ah, the holidays – that magical time of year when submissions go unread, and the great, multi-headed beast that is the publishing industry gets sleepy from turkey consumption and moves with all the speed of congealed gravy...

Sorry. That one got away from me a bit. Anyway, where was I?

Right. The holidays. It seems for most of the publishing world, the holidays are a time to close up shop and catch up on the heaps of work that have piled up in the preceding months. For me, though, the holidays are all about vast swaths of time in which the Day Job doth not interfere, which means I get to wake up in the morning, make myself a cup of tea, and clack away at the keyboard for hours unimpeded. They say most folks prefer having written to writing, and believe me, having written doesn't suck, but writing (when it's working) is about the best damn thing there is. Okay, top five at least.

Now, I'm not the speediest writer in the world (Nora Roberts, for example, has written and sold three novels in the time it's taken me to type this sentence), so I can use all the extra time I can get. Especially since I'm trying something a little different with the Next Book: namely, not outlining. With The Angels' Share, both the demands of the plot and the fact that I'd never written a novel-length work before made outlining a natural choice, and it doubtless had its benefits. I think the plot is fairly tight, and I was able to plan the rhythm of the book in a way not possible when writing off the cuff. The flip-side of that, though, is that some of my favorite passages in that book were total surprises to me when I was writing them, and when working with an outline, the surprises are few and far-between.

For the Next Book, I wanted to try something a little looser, and maybe see if I could keep the surprises coming. Don't get me wrong, I've got some idea of the major beats of the story, and I know more or less how I expect it to end, but there's something about committing an outline to paper that seems to solidify the events in my mind. Writing off the cuff has certainly kept the book fresher for me thus far, and I figure if I don't know exactly how the story's going to unfold, it's a safe bet the reader won't either. And there's another benefit as well: I find I don't hold back as much. Rather than saving a big moment of suspense for later in the book, I try to write the biggest, baddest scene I can, and worry about topping it later. Of course, that strategy might bite me in the ass later, but thus far, it's been going okay. And it's nice to see that as I'm nearing the halfway-mark, there are still moments of discovery to be had.

The pain about not outlining is that you're forced to make a lot more decisions on the fly. That means breaking to research something as you write, which can slow the process considerably. Also, there's a chance I'm deluding myself on the whole not-outlining-as-strategy thing – I think all writers are sort of junkies for those moments where their characters surprise them, and I certainly get loads more surprises when I'm flying without a net. But I'm really liking the book so far, and I've got to believe that'll translate to the page.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some writing to get back to.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Looking for something good to read?

Yeah, whatever, I suck. Between the Next Book and some (wholly unexpected) outlining of a sequel to The Angels' Share, I've been not so much with the blogginess these days. That's right: blogginess. It's a word – write it down.

Anyway, in lieu of any content of my own, here's a little something to keep you busy:

In the Ditch by Patrick Shawn Bagley

White Crosses by Christa Miller

Nothing like a little murder, mayhem, and fiddleheads to keep you warm in this chill descent into winter. Enjoy.

Friday, October 19, 2007

I'm back, babydoll!

On the heels of the recent demise of 1018 Press, I just heard that an anthology I'd written a short story for has been shelved indefinitely – a damn shame, because the anthology was a hell of an idea, and the editor a class act.

That's the bad news. The good news is that means I've got two more shorts to shop around (no minor thing, since the New Book is taking up all of my brain-space and writing time). I'm confident there's a good home out there for both of them.

So stay tuned. Oh, and bonus points for whoever can peg the source of this post's title. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to figure out how difficult it'd be to break into the zoo – I've gotta see some penguins like right now.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Broken Links and Market Woes

For those of you popping in for updates on the release of The Toll Collectors (hi, Mom!), here's my less-than-encouraging report. Not long after I mentioned here that all was silent on the Back Roads front, I noticed that 1018 Press pulled down their site. Now, Sam and company had said in their most recent site update (early August, I think) that they planned to "fall back and regroup", and that the coming months would see them getting back on track with their publications; it's entirely possible that a massive site update is part of that plan. But the site's been down for the better part of a month, and I'm starting to wonder if Back Roads is ever coming back. The problem is, with the website down, their e-mail accounts are down as well, so I've got no way to get in touch with them to find out what's going on. Which sucks, really, because I'd love to know. After all, if I've got to start shopping The Toll Collectors around again, it'd be nice to know that sooner rather than later.

Short fiction has a tough go these days, market-wise. Not a lot of people read short stories, and so the margins for the people who publish them are razor-thin. As a consequence, markets fold all the time. Here's hoping Back Roads beats the odds...

Friday, October 05, 2007

Is Blogger trying to tell me something?

For the last God-knows-how-long, my Blogger profile indicated that I live in Maine, Afghanistan. I mean, I know we blue-staters get a bum rap from the far-right, but this is ridiculous...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Let it Rain

The Fall 2007 issue of Demolition (featuring my short story Seven Days of Rain) is now available! Demolition is one of the best webzines around, and from what I've read thus far, this issue's no exception. So go check it out. If you like it, tell a friend. If not, well, it's quiet time for you.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Sitch

Okay, I know it's been a while since my last post, but since then, things have been a little nuts. A note to everybody currently navigating the badlands of Query: don't expect that afterward you'll have time to catch your breath. After all, that's when the fun really begins. (So very not complaining, by the way. I'll take busy over waiting for the phone to ring any day of the week.)

So, with so much up in the air, I bring you my life in bullets:
  • The Angels' Share is now a shiny, happy, finished manuscript ready to strike out into the world. For now, that's all I'll say about that, except to say I'm crazy excited. Like, chair-dancing as we speak. You should see my wife looking at me.
  • I also have a snazzy new website. Well, new at least, and snazzy for me. It's exciting, really, having my own little corner in this-here series of tubes. So go and poke around. If y'all find any typos, feel free to mock me about the head and neck.
  • After a couple of weeks where quality writing time was in short supply, the new WIP is once again coming along nicely (never as quickly as I'd like, but nicely nonetheless). And no, I won't tell you what it's called. Or what it's about. Or why I insist on teasing you folks when you honestly couldn't care less.
  • On the short story front, the release-date of The Toll Collectors is still very much up in the air. If you've been to 1018 Press' site, you know as much as I do. But before you round up the torches and the pitchforks, remember that small presses are very much a labor of love, and the good folks who run them have to balance them against their own writing, their day jobs, and, you know, their lives. So Mom, stop penning those death-threats; it'll come out when it comes out.
  • The new issue of Demolition (featuring Seven Days of Rain) should be live in not too long. I'll be sure to plaster this site with links once it's up. It's free, and no subscription is required, so you guys will have no damn excuses but to check it out.
  • Also in short story news, I've begun work on another short called The New Girl. I'm trying to cram it in around work on the new book, but I hope to get it out the door in not too long.
So that's what's going on. I know what you're thinking. Was that five bullets, or was it six? So tell me, do you feel lucky? Well do ya, punk?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Happydancetastic?

I'll tell you, I've been fortunate of late. Looking back over my recent posts, I've copped to being happy, pleased, and/or delighted more than a few times, not to mention once vowing (threatening?) to kiss the entire EQMM editorial staff. Today, though, happy just ain't going to cut it. Today I'd need to coin another word to describe how freaking ecstatic I am (see title above).

I'm elated (thrilled, overjoyed, etc.) to announce that, as of 11:30 this morning, I am officially represented by Jennifer Jackson of the Donald Maass Literary Agency. As well as being an absolute delight thus far to talk to, Jennifer represents a slew of talented authors in a wide range of genres, including Jim Butcher, author of the bestselling Dresden Files series, as well as award-winners Elizabeth Bear and Jay Lake, and Derringer nominee C.M. Chan. And on top of it all, she somehow finds the time to run a widely read blog that is without a doubt one of the most valuable sources of insight and information available to any aspiring author.

More important, though, than the fact that she's immensely qualified, is the fact that I couldn't imagine a better person to represent The Angels' Share (or, for that matter, the next book, or the one after that). Finding an agent isn't easy; finding the right agent is almost too much to hope for. Or, rather, it was.

So tonight we drink in celebration, but not too much. After all, tomorrow morning I've got to get to work that Next Book ain't gonna write itself...

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Kindness Abounds

I just received word from the ever-charming Sandra Ruttan that my short story A Simple Kindness has been accepted to appear in the winter issue of Spinetingler Magazine, due out January 2008. The issue is being guest-edited by Jack Getze, so thanks to Jack and Sandra both. I've long been an admirer of Spinetingler, and I couldn't have asked for a better home for my story.

Oh, and Spinetingler is a Canadian publication, which means I've officially gone international. Now I'm no mathematician, but it stands to reason I've just accomplished 1/3 of my ultimate goal of heading up an international crime syndicate.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Thanks, Mimi.

It all started seven years ago. My wife and I were fresh out of college, sharing a floor of a ramshackle old house with a pack of friends both old and new. One of those friends was in the thrall of a certain boy-wizard, a fact I picked on her mercilessly for to no end – after all, it was a children’s book, and an obscenely popular one at that; there was simply no way it was any damn good. But Mimi was more formidable than her name may suggest. She bought me a copy, and threw down a challenge: if I read it, and did not buy myself the second one, I could mock her all I wanted.

So read it I did. My wife, for her part, mocked me as I’d mocked Mimi, but it didn’t matter – I was only reading it to win a bet. Of course, I had to admit, it wasn’t half-bad, but still, I was sure I’d coast to victory.

A few days later, I finished. It was close to midnight, and Kat was working late. When we spoke on the phone, I mentioned I might duck out to the CVS for a minute. “Are you sick?” she asked. I wasn’t. But Charlottesville closes shop early, and I was pretty sure the drugstore was my best bet to pick up the second Harry Potter.

Yeah, she mocked me. Until I made her the same bet. It wasn’t long before the mocking stopped.

Last night, Kat and I both finished the final installment of Rowling’s epic cycle. Yeah, we bought two. And you know what? I loved it. Say what you will, the woman spins one hell of a yarn. So thanks, Ms. Rowling, and thanks to Mimi, too. Sometimes, being wrong doesn’t suck at all.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

It's no zombie kickball, but still...

I couldn't help but notice my fair burg was mentioned in a recent Times article about the release of the new Harry Potter. It seems we're the host of Mugglefest Portland 2007, an absolutely insane Harry Potter extravaganza designed to celebrate the final book's release and benefiting the local non-profit Youth and Family Outreach.

Now, I know some writer-types roll their eyes every time some uber-bestseller rolls around and sweeps the public off their collective feet, but as far as I'm concerned, this is awesome. These people are going freaking nuts over a book. Okay, a series of books, really, but a series of books that a) are pretty freakin' entertaining, and b) are creating a veritable army of voracious children readers, many of whom will grow up to be voracious adult readers, and that doesn't suck. Plus, as you can see in my bio to the left, I'm a bit of a Star Wars fan; what kind of geek would I be if I didn't support a group of folks so willing to let their freak-flags fly?

Friday, July 06, 2007

When Working Titles Don't

A recent post on David Dvorkin’s blog has got me thinking about the importance of a good working title. I’m sure it’s a little different for everyone, but for me, having a working title that I like is paramount. I’d had the framework of The Angels’ Share bouncing around my head for years, but until I settled on a title, the idea never really crystallized. When the title hit me, it served to define the central conceit of the novel, and I suddenly knew how the story needed to be told.

My new work-in-progress was a little different. The idea just kind of whacked me on the head one day, and I started writing. I tried out a half a dozen working titles before I found the one that stuck. (As I’ve said before, and as evidenced by this post, names – for me, at least – have power, and I’m not yet ready to let this one out into the world, hence the dodginess.) Even though I’d already started writing, I’m convinced that the title served to focus the novel, affecting nearly every aspect of it, from plot to tone to narrative voice.

My short stories, as far as titles go, are a bit of a mixed bag. Seven Days of Rain and A Simple Kindness began as nothing but a title. The Toll Collectors, on the other hand, was finished long before it found a name – it tried on title after title until finally one fit. (Truth be told, it was my wife who suggested the name, and thank God. Honestly, I had nothing.)

Of course, this post isn’t simply about titles; it’s about working titles. I’ve been fortunate enough that all my stories accepted thus far have retained their original title, but that streak can’t last forever. To quote David Dvorkin, “To us, our titles are the distillation of our novels. To publishers, they're part of the marketing package.” One of these days, some big-shot publisher is sure to deem my package inadequate. So what then? Tears? Rending of fabric? Dogged insistence on sticking to my working title, and publication be damned? Nah. I’m attached to my titles, to be sure, but partly because they serve to inform my writing. Once the writing’s done, I suppose it’ll look more or less the same no matter what title’s on the cover. In a way, the title is like training-wheels – early on, they keep me riding straight, but eventually, the book’s got to stay up on it’s own.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Books I Never Seem to Shut Up About

Like (I think) most writers, I often find myself curious about what the people around me enjoy reading. Being the nosy sort, I'm always asking someone what they're reading now (a very good indicator of the kind of books they really like), who their favorite authors are (a so-so indicator of the kind of books they really like), and what kind of books they like to read (an amazing indicator of how well they can recall what Oprah said to read that week).

Of course, I'm as much a fan as a writer, so those questions inevitably lead to me saying, "If you like that, you should totally read..." because a) I'm apparently, in this example, a Valley girl; b) I can't help but shill for the books I love; and c) I seem to lack the gene that allows one to tell when someone would really prefer not to be bothered with the recommendations of a self-confessed book nerd.

Recently, though, I've noticed a trend. There are several books I find myself recommending all the freaking time. And so, gene still lacking, I've decided it's not enough I bug the people immediately surrounding me with my constant recommendations – it's high time I bugged you people, too. So, without further ado on this, my fiftieth post, I bring you Chris' List of Ten Or So Books He Thinks You Should Drop Everything and Read Right Away (In No Particular Order) and Why:

The Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman
I'm the first to admit it shouldn't work; two-hundred-odd pages of made-up facts from a self-proclaimed expert sounds tiring at best. But Hodgman is a genius, and this book is funny as hell. And believe me, what you don't know about hobos may surprise you...

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
To my mind, this is one of the greatest novels ever written. Chandler's prose is beautiful, and his characters full of wit and charm; would that I could visit Marlowe's Los Angeles, if only for a while. Who says genre fiction can't be transcendent?

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
My first Vonnegut, and my favorite as well. Equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking, from one of the finest writers of this or any age.

The Coming Plague by Laurie Garrett
You want the shit scared out of you by someone who really knows what she's talking about? Then this is the book for you. Laurie Garrett won a Pulitzer for her reporting on the Ebola virus, and has a Polk and a Peabody to match. In The Coming Plague, she brings her considerable chops to bear on a host of emerging diseases, examining where we've succeeded, where we've failed, and, perhaps most importantly, where we're vulnerable. Though it was released over a decade ago, it's as prescient as ever. Not to mention, she makes bug-hunters sound like the biggest bad-asses on the planet. They're the John McClane of science geeks. Yippie-kiy-yay, motherfucker.

The Confession by Domenic Stansberry
This is the book I recommend to anyone who thinks first-person narratives aren't worth their time. It's a nasty little slug of noir so taut and well-written it could have only come from the folks at Hard Case Crime.

The Eight by Katherine Neville
This one I bust out whenever I hear, "I don't read much, but I really liked The Da Vinci Code." It's got everything you need: A global conspiracy spanning three continents and at least as many centuries. A dangerous game in which we all may be unwitting players. A bloody revolution. The birth of OPEC. And enough sparkling prose to make Dan Brown wet himself and cry for his mommy. A word of warning for all you writers, though: as debut novels go, they don't get much better than this. When I read it, I didn't want to write for a week. Have something crappy on hand to read afterward.

If you love books – I mean really love books, like an unhealthy amount – then this series is for you. Fforde writes gleeful comic fantasy in the vein of Douglas Adams (a comparison I do not make lightly) about a world in which Shakespeare is both quoted and cloned with alarming frequency, the written word is revered, and nefarious villains climb into and out of great works of fiction with impunity, loosing their nefarious schemes on beloved classics of literature and an unwitting public alike. First in the series is The Eyre Affair, though you don't get a true sense of what Fforde is capable of until its followup, Lost in a Good Book. The two that follow ain't no slouches, either. Read 'em all, and read 'em often.

King Dork by Frank Portman
Michael Schaub at Bookslut said of King Dork, "I love this book as much as I hated high school", and I couldn't agree more. It's one of the funniest books I've ever read, and it's an unflinchingly honest look at high school from the point of view of an endearing outcast. It's sweet, it's funny, and best of all, it's all kinds of punk-rock. What's not to love?

Last Call by Tim Powers
Tim Powers is an evil genius. If Dashiell Hammett and Philip Dick collaborated on a novel, it might look a bit like this.

Our Band Could Be Your Life by Michael Azerrad
This book reads like a sports movie for music geeks. Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991 tells the tales of 13 legendary indie bands as they forged new sounds, labels, and subcultures, paving the way for the so-called alternative-rock explosion of the '90s. Even if the music's not your cup of tea, the stories are well worth the read. I'm not sure what's more awesome: that Gibby Haynes of Butthole Surfers was once a practicing lawyer, or that he gave it all up to chase his dream, even if it meant living in a van, scrounging for change, and playing in dive after dive with little hope of ever hitting it rich. That's love, pure and simple. And as far as I'm concerned, it's the only worthwhile reason to pick up a guitar or clack away at a keyboard – anything else is just gravy.

So there you have it. No doubt I'll think of two-dozen more in the next few days. Mayhap I'll even post them. So now it's payback time. What books move you to harass friends and strangers? Comment or post or, you know, don't. But I could use me a good book. Who's gonna step up to the plate?

Thursday, May 31, 2007

When it Rains... er, Demolicious... um...

Okay, title-wise, I've got nothin'. Content-wise, though, I've got plenty. Namely this: Seven Days of Rain was accepted for publication by Demolition Magazine, to appear in their Fall 2007 issue. Demolition is fresh off of winning the 2007 Gumshoe Award for Best Crime Fiction Website, and they've clearly decided to let the place go all to shit – why else would they invite me to grace their (web)pages?

In all seriousness, I couldn't be happier. Demolition is a hell of a publication, and Seven Days of Rain is a favorite of mine; I couldn't have asked for a better fit. Best of all? It's on-line and free. So what are you waiting for? Pop over and check 'em out. And, come fall, do it all over again.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

And now for something completely different.

Okay, this might have nothing to do with writing, but what it lacks in topicality (it's a word write it down) it makes up for in sheer awesomeness.

Today, May 27, at 1:00 PM, on Portland's Eastern Prom, is the second annual Zombie Kickball game. What, you might ask, is zombie kickball? Let me see if I can explain:

IT'S ZOMBIES PLAYING KICKBALL.

Don't believe me? Check the myspace. Or the paper, who had this to say (picture theirs, italics mine):


Ah, Memorial Day Weekend. Barbecues, parades and … zombies. This Saturday presents a unique opportunity to dress like a zombie and play kickball on Portland’s Eastern Prom. Organizers hope to draw 100 of the walking dead. Those who don’t want to play ball can still fill out the "Zombie Bleachers" or serve as zombie cheerleaders.

That's right zombie cheerleaders. I live in the best town ever.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

On Irons and Fire

Spring's a funny thing. The days are getting longer, but somehow, it seems I have less and less free time – hence the sudden dearth of posts. That's not to say that nothing's going on – just that I haven't had time to pop in here and write about it. So without further ado, here's the rundown, bullet-style (hey, it is a crime-fic blog, after all):
  • The June 2007 issue of EQMM is now really, actually in stores. For serious this time. So go buy it, and if you like my story, tell a friend. If you don't, well, then it's quiet time for you.
  • I recently completed a new short story called The Big Score. Usually, when I finish a story, I'll write a post about where it came from, but the origins of this one are a tad mundane. (I'd like to think that the story is anything but.) I wrote it at the request of a friend who's editing an anthology. With these sorts of things, there are always a ton of variables at play (not the least of which being that there's always the chance it's just not his cup of tea), so for now, that's all I got. More details as they come.
  • For those keeping track, that's four short stories making the rounds. I had a bit of non-rejectiony bad luck of late (markets closing, editors sitting on subs for the better part of a year – that sort of thing), but I'd like to think the worst is behind me. All the markets currently considering my stories are very cool, and I'd be psyched to be in any of them. Once again, stay tuned.
  • The Angels' Share is still making the rounds as well, but I've had some tremendous feedback, and I'm delighted at the attention it's garnered thus far. Agents, it turns out, are far nicer than they're given credit for. Things are still very much up in the air, but I'm pretty optimistic. If you're reading this, cross your fingers for me.
  • Last, but certainly not least, the WIP. WIPs, really. (Ws IP? Tricky plural, that. Like WMDs, which makes no sense, or Attorneys General, at least one of which makes no sense.) Anyway, I've got two novels in the works. Yes, they have names, and no, I'm not saying what they are. I will say this: one's a stand-alone thriller with a lot of potential. It's got a tricky plot structure, and it's a bit of a slow burn, but I think I like where it's going. The other is the first in a series. It's chock full of action-y goodness, and it's about as subtle as a freight train. Right now, I think the latter's winning. Subtle's never been my strong suit.
So there you have it. My life in bullets. Well, the writing bit of it, at least. So stick around. Things are getting interesting.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Godspeed, Mr. Vonnegut...

... and thank you. The world's a less interesting place without you in it.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

"The World Behind" Now Available!


Well, sort of, at least. I got word from a good friend and EQMM subscriber that the June 2007 issue arrived in her mailbox yesterday. She further assured me that my acceptance was not, in fact, some sort of elaborate prank, as The World Behind was really, actually, um, in it. So good on me, then.

Also, word on the street (and by "on the street" I mean "from my mom, who harassed every bookseller and/or purveyor of magazines in upstate New York to track down a copy or ten") is that the issue will hit newsstands the second week of April. That's next week, for the calendar-challenged. So head on out and pick up a copy. Though I've yet to see it, I'm certain it's chock-full of mysterious goodness. After all, it features stories by such impressive folks as P.J. Parrish, Kate Ellis, and James Lincoln Warren (not to mention yours truly). Oh, and some guy named Larry, who I think really might have a future in this business...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I'm "Many More"!

EQMM recently posted online a partial list of the contents of the June issue (which features yours truly):

"A Vision in White" by Lawrence Block, "Heat of the Moment" by James Lincoln Warren, "The Angel of Manton Worthy" by Kate Ellis, "Lost and Found" by P. J. Parrish, and many more . . .

That's right – Lawrence freakin' Block. The man is an honest-to-God legend, and without a doubt my favorite living mystery writer. I'll tell you, I didn't mind being bumped from May to June before, but now? I could kiss each and every member of the EQMM editorial staff.

Too far? Yeah, probably. Guess I'll have do just dust off the old happy dance instead.

Oh, and incidentally, I considered "Me and Lawrence Block Between the Covers" as a title for this post, but I decided against it. I'd love to tell you that good taste prevailed, but really I just couldn't reconcile the "under the covers"/"between the sheets" mixed imagery.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Call For Submissions

As I understand it, the good folks over at 1018 Press are on the lookout for quality submissions. Got a nasty little bit of noir? How 'bout horror? Pirates? Post-apocalyptic bad-assity? Send it on over. You know you want to.

Now, to be fair, I'm a touch biased – my short story The Toll Collectors is scheduled to appear in Back Roads #4, one of the many venerable publications linked to above. But I can say in good conscience that their stuff is slick and professional. So check 'em out. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Shoe Money Tonight!

This evening, I came home from work to find my completed EQMM contract in the mail, along with a big, fat check. Okay, the check was normal-sized, and I'm not exactly about to backstroke Scrooge-McDuck-style through my giant vault o' riches, but I just got paid for a bunch of stuff I made up. Like actual money and everything. Pretty cool, that.

It's easy to get lost in the minutiae of queries and partials and nudges and whatnot, and lose track of what this writing deal's supposed to be about. Tonight, however, I drink not out of frustration; tonight I drink in celebration. (One glass, Ma, I swear. Okay, maybe two.)

Oh, and lest you think I have a shoe fetish, the title is cribbed from Sports Night. As far as you know.

Now, about that drink...

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Who's on First?

Recently, I read a post on an agent’s blog warning against mentioning that the novel you’re querying is your first. Why? “Because, in my opinion, first novels are not very well written.” Though I understand his point (and he’s doubtless got mountains of partials to back it up), I’m forced to wonder just what it means when you say a novel is your first.

Okay, in the interest of full disclosure, here’s a snippet from a typical query for The Angels' Share:

Though The Angels' Share is my first novel, my short story “The World Behind” was recently accepted by Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine to appear in their Department of First Stories, June 2007.

Yep. I said it. My first novel. And it’s true, too, but not in the way that the afore-mentioned agent is assuming. The Angels' Share is the first novel I’ve completed. It’s the first novel-length work I’ve liked enough to finish, polish, and submit. And believe me, polish I have. But it sure as hell isn’t my first attempt.

Before I sat down to write The Angels' Share, I spent a year slogging away at another novel entirely. I had no idea what I was doing, and it showed. Eventually, I wrote myself into a corner, and it’s a damn good thing. You see, I learned a ton while writing that book, and one of the things I learned is to listen to your instincts. My instincts were screaming “THIS IS THE OPPOSITE OF GOOD,” and they were right. So, humbled, I regrouped and set out to write something new, applying the lessons I learned during that first ill-fated project. That something new wound up being The Angels' Share, a book I’m immensely proud of. So yeah, The Angels' Share is my first novel, but don’t hold that against it.

It’s worth noting that my prior attempt wasn’t technically my first whack at writing a novel, either. See, in high school, I got it in my head that I could write me a book, and I set out to do just that. I bought a nice, new notebook and started writing. No plot, no outline, no idea what in the hell I was doing. I was probably fifteen at the time, and solidly in the thrall of Neuromancer. The result was a near-future dystopic crap-pile of a book. Or, to be more precise, about 37 handwritten pages of a near-future dystopic crap-pile of a book. I’m pretty sure the whole affair ended with me throwing it out in frustration, and thank God. The last thing I need is for anyone to see that.