Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy Holidays

With the inevitable slowdown in publishing that the holiday season brings, I don't expect I'll be posting much 'round these parts until the new year begins. Though personally, I won't be too sad to see the end of 2009, I'm delighted with the success it's brought to friends like Sophie and Stuart, two insanely talented writers who are no doubt just getting started. And I'm grateful for the friends old and new that never let me forget that, hard as this writing gig can be sometimes, it comes with the best tribe a guy could hope for.

Thanks, y'all. Have a safe and happy holiday season.

(Oh, and if you really can't get by without the inane ramblings of yours truly, pop on over to my Twitter feed. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll, um, read short snippets of random crap I put up there.)

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

"Eight Pounds" now available!

Just a quick update to let y'all know the November/December issue of Thuglit, featuring my short story Eight Pounds, is now live. Go check it out! If you dig it, be sure to tell any and all big-time editor friends you have (or big-time editor strangers, for that matter). If it ain't your cup o' tea, then, well, it's quiet time for you...

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Nada.

Zip.

Zilch.

As in, that's how much is going on 'round here these days.

Got a story coming out soon in Thuglit. Another in Hitchcock's in the spring. Got two books out on submission, like half the damn world right now it seems.

Work on the New Book continues. Got a couple shorts trying to wiggle their way out of my head and onto paper, but no damn time to deal with 'em.

Anything happens with any of that, I'll be sure to let y'all know.

Till then, though?

Nada.

Friday, November 06, 2009

A little love for my alma mater...

We Hamilton grads are pretty fond of our namesake, and apparently, we are not alone. Click through to hear Tony-Award-winner Lin-Manuel Miranda drop some sick rhymes about the man so money he's on it. Weird as hell? Yes. Awesome? Oddly, also yes. And in case you're wondering, yes, I am embarrassed I wrote that second sentence.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Vote!

Just a friendly reminder, as November 3rd draws near, to get out and vote. And if you live in Maine, please consider voting no on question one. Equality is a fundamental right, not a privilege of one race, one faith, or one orientation. Be a part of something great, and affirm that right.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween! (And a triple shot of horror.)


Ah, Halloween -- that glorious time of year when we abandon all pretense of cultural sophistication, carving totems and donning masks in the hopes that the oogly-booglies will pass us by in favor of some tastier-looking morsel (like that non-waving jackass down the street that's always blasting Foreigner and cleaning his Winnebago; but I digress).

Awesome, says I. And since this here chunk of Interweb is my little dog-and-pony show, I've decided to celebrate by linking to my three entrants into the horror genre -- three shorts that represent the nastiest I have to offer. Here they are, in order of length (cause hey, you're busy today, bloodying rags and severing limbs and whatnot; you need to know which scares might fit your hectic zombie/ax-murderer/please-don't-say-princess-what-kind-of-costume-is-that schedule):

The Well (short, and not-so-sweet)

A Better Life
(what's worse than mice in your eaves?)

The Toll Collectors
(an undead revenge tale or one whacked-out protagonist? You decide...)

Anyways, I hope y'all enjoy 'em. And have a safe and happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Some Love for The Feral Pages!

Just in time for Halloween, Keith Rawson's got some kind things to say about the first issue of The Feral Pages over at BSC Review, and by extension yours truly. You can read the article here.

"Exceptional chiller"? I'll take it. Heck, I'da taken anything north of "meh", so this may well elicit chair-dancing...

Monday, October 26, 2009

"Eight Pounds" to appear in Thuglit!

After a crap-ass day in which neither I nor the universe seemed to do anything right, I'm happy to report things seem to be turning around. I've now got a working furnace, some tasty Chinese food, and word from Thuglit that they've accepted my short story Eight Pounds for their November/December issue!

Thuglit has published some kick-ass stories in their time, and played a major role in the discovery of a certain Mr. Neville. I'm glad to be part of the team.

And on a related note, I'd like to send a shout-out to David Cranmer and Elaine Ash, for general menschiness in the face of writerly stupidity. 'Tis much appreciated...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

"A Better Life" Now Available!

The premiere issue of The Feral Pages, featuring my short horror piece A Better Life, goes live today. Also featured are fantastic outings by the likes of Patrick Shawn Bagley, David Dvorkin, and Maren Foley, as well as a boatload of worthwhile nonfiction content by editor Lyman Feero (who, by the way, is also responsible for the site looking so darn snazzy). So pop by and take a gander; you'll be glad you did.

Oh, and reading it back, this may be my best blog post title ever.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

More Details on The Feral Pages

The Feral Pages, the new cross-genre webzine from award-winning editor (and tremendous author in his own right) Lyman Feero, is set to go live October 15, so mark your calendars. The premiere issue features one hell of a crime/horror crossover by Patrick Shawn Bagley, as well as a quiet little horror piece with a gut-punch of an ending by yours truly. The zine will also feature articles and editorials on genre and genre theory, which I, for one, am psyched about, because Lyman spends more time thinking about this stuff than most people spend awake.

If you'd like to read Lyman's musings on his intentions for the direction of The Feral Pages, you can check them out here. If you're a writer who'd like to submit, the guidelines can be found here. So get to work, and be sure to check back in October 15, when the whole shebang goes live.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

The Ghosts of Belfast Available Today!

Stuart Neville's brilliant (stupendous, phenomenal, insert-superlative-of-your-choice) debut novel, The Ghosts of Belfast (known in the UK as The Twelve), goes on sale on the Budweiser and barbecue side of the pond today, and I'm here to tell you, this ain't your mama's thriller. Unless your mama's some kind of crazy crime-fic savant, that is. I mean, Patricia Highsmith was someone's mom, right? (What's that? She was an angry, alcoholic, misanthropic lesbian with no children? Oh. Still, though.)

Want prose that sparkles? This has got it. Rich characters? Check. Massive stakes? Neville's got you covered. So what the hell are you waiting for? Buy it buy it buy it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Feero, Bagley, Feral, and Me

A few weeks back, writer, editor, and all-around ass-kicker Lyman Feero hit me up to write a story for a new venture he had cookin' called The Feral Pages. Never one to turn down a submission invite, I said sure.

Problem was, I had nothing.

When I had four weeks to come up with something, it was no big deal. Three weeks left, and I was fine. At two weeks, I began to sweat. When this weekend rolled around, and I realized I only had four days to get my ass in gear, I started thinking maybe I wasn't gonna come through. Skipping deadlines, even deadlines set by friends, is the height of writerly bad form, and I didn't much relish the thought of missing this one, but every story I sketched out sucked, and the ones I'd started never seemed to cross the finish line. My head was too full of book-thoughts; short stories just wouldn't come.

So yeah, I got nervous. I tossed. I turned. And somewhere along the way, I got to wondering what that scratching in my walls was all about.

The result of that wondering is a short story called A Better Life. I started it on Saturday, and finished it today, the day that it was due, in the wee hours of the morning. Not bad for 2,500 words and five freakin' drafts. And actually, I quite like it. Lyman seems to, as well, because it's gonna appear in The Feral Pages premiere issue, set to go live sometime in October (details and links to follow).

So that covers the Feero, Feral, and Me, but what about the Bagley? Easy -- Patrick's also got a story in The Feral Pages, and I was lucky enough to get a peek at it. You know what? The bastard blows me out of the water. The Cove is all I've come to expect from him and then some; an inimitable voice, stunning characterization, and an ending that's pure poetry. This guy writes Maine like Ardai writes New York. If you're not reading him, you don't know what you're missing.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Call for Submissions (Talk Like a Pirate Day Edition)

Avast, ye mangy scallywags! There's somethin' comin' up on the horizon! 'Tis the first ever print edition of Beat to a Pulp, it is! An' it seems they're in need of rum an' women (er... war stories, sea yarns, and cozy mysteries.) Of course, my readin' of cozies is why me mates cut off me leg -- so it's up to you to give 'em what they want!

Here's the good word from the the Dread Pirate Cranmer hisself:

Spread the word, please! There will be only a few openings, but the first print anthology for BEAT to a PULP is in the works. To round out our usual, diverse array of pulp genres, we are actively seeking war stories, sea yarns and cozy mysteries. 4,000 words or less. The BEAT to a PULP print collection will be released in 2010.

Need more details? Find 'em here. Now get writin', or risk a keel-haulin'!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Depp, Powers, and Pirates?

A few years back, upon the release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, I wrote a post lauding one of the best and most unsung pirate stories of all time, Tim Powers' On Stranger Tides.

Yesterday, Disney announced that the title of the new Pirates flick is Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, fueling speculation that Powers' book will be the basis for the story.

Honestly, I'm not sure what to make of this. Verbinski et al. have proven they've got the chops to make a kick-ass pirate movie (some would argue only one, but still), and On Stranger Tides may be the most cinematic of Powers' works. On a personal note, though, I freakin' love this book, so it'll hurt if they go and screw it up. (An aside: despite what I think was a valiant effort on the part of Zack Snyder, I didn't last ten minutes into Watchmen. For me, a great read isn't necessarily begging to be movie-ized; a great read stands on its own, and sometimes, frankly, shouldn't be mucked with.)

Of course, all of this is still in the fanboy rumor stage. But if it proves to be true, one of my favorite authors should be cashing a fat check, signed by the mouse himself -- and even if the movie sucks, it'll likely boost his book sales. Those seem to me to be good things. And fingers crossed the movie doesn't suck, in which case everybody wins.

(Aside #2: On Stranger Tides was also an inspiration -- along with the original Pirates of the Caribbean ride -- for the fantastic Monkey Island series of video games. So who knows? Maybe P4:OST will rock. Though I'd recommend against abbreviating it in the promo materials; it just plain looks weird.)

Friday, September 04, 2009

"Papa," or "Why I Write Crime"

Photo courtesy Stephanie MacDerment

The other day, I was poking around my cousin Steph's blog, and came across the picture posted above. She'd taken it at the Syracuse PD tent at the New York State Fair. Seeing it rocked me back, because the scrawny young man receiving his Police Academy diploma is my grandfather.

My grandfather (Papa, to us grandkids, because nobody, but nobody, called him Grandpa) was a great many things. A decent man. A stern disciplinarian. A fierce competitor. A consummate storyteller.

But most of all, my Papa was a cop.

A damn good one, by all accounts. Papa rose through the ranks of the Syracuse PD from beat cop all the way to Deputy Chief, and despite everything he'd seen along the way, the man still never locked his doors at night. "If they want to get in, they'll get in," he'd say. "No point having them break a window to do it." This from a man who thought if it couldn't be fixed with a hammer and a flat-head screwdriver, it couldn't be fixed.

I remember clear as day the joy of riding with him in his tobacco-scented Caddy (he always said when he made it, he was gonna get a Cadillac, and even though that piece of junk wound up going through engines like it went through gas, he loved it just the same) on his weekend rounds, my feet not even touching the floor mats. To the newsstand, for a Batman comic (mine) and a Sunday paper (his). To the bakery, where we'd pick up doughnuts for the family to nosh on after Sunday dinner (that's right -- the man was thin as a rail, but I'll be damned if he didn't love his doughnuts, and don't you even think of cracking a joke). And to the Public Safety Building, where every cop in the place would stop and say hello like I was some kind of VIP. (Yeah, okay, my cousin Joey was usually there too, but if he wants to tell his side, he can get his own damn blog.)

I remember, a few years later, me and Joey heading to the basement of the PSB with one of Papa's friends -- for what, exactly, we didn't know, because all Papa'd say was that it was a surprise. See, like most young boys, we'd developed a fascination with firearms, in that harmless, cops-and-robbers kind of way. Common enough, I know (even if my liberal leanings may retroactively make that sound a little scandalous). What's less common is getting to go to the official police firing range with a member of the SWAT team to learn to shoot one (or five or six, as was the case that day.) But that was Papa. Tough as he could be, the man was a marshmallow when it came to his grandchildren.

I remember Papa whisking me, Joey, Steph, and Sarah to Friendly's for ice cream ("For God's sake, don't tell your grandmother.") The post-Sunday-dinner candy lottery, where the names of all the grandkids (and mine is a Catholic family, mind, so there's a lot of freakin' grandkids) are put into a hat, and the order in which they're drawn dictates when you get to pick from the candy bowl (winner=Caramello; loser=Necco Wafers.) Waiting for Papa to get up off his spot on the couch, so that we kids could pile on and wait for him to come back and forcibly remove us (and if you don't think tickling can be forcible, then you haven't ever really experienced tickling, says I.)

I've got a thousand stories like that about my grandfather, sweet remembrances of kindnesses big and small, but there is nothing he passed on to me that I treasure more than my love of books. The man went through mysteries like he went through cigarettes (he could kill a smoke in three good drags), and when he finished them (the books, that is), he passed them on for the rest of the family to read. They'd circulate from house to house like holy relics, each read leaving them more dog-eared and broken-spined than the last, until, finally, they found their way to me.

I couldn't have been more than ten when I traded up from my Holmes and Christie and Hardy Boys to Papa's MacDonald, Sanders, Wambaugh, and McBain, and believe you me, it was a revelation. Their books were filled with men who smoked and cussed and fought and loved and never failed to crack a joke, men who lived in the darkness and the muck, but who were never of it. Men that, to my young mind, looked an awful lot like Papa.

It's taken me a long time to realize just why the archetypes of crime fiction are so resonant for me. Papa died ten years ago this summer, cancer withering in mere months a man that I had thought was cut from stone. But looking back, I'd say the origin of my passion for writing crime is pretty clear.

Okay, I've probably got my mom crying pretty good now, so I think it's time to close this down. And since no words of mine could do so eloquently enough, I leave you with this quote from Raymond Chandler, taken from his landmark essay, The Simple Art of Murder. I don't know if Papa ever read any Chandler, but I have a feeling he'da liked him if he did:

"[D]own these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. [...] If there were enough like him, I think the world would be a very safe place to live in, and yet not too dull to be worth living in."

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

And now for something completely different (non-zombie edition).

Okay, this post isn't, strictly speaking, about writing (nor zombies, as my last "And now for something..." proved to be). But I hadn't properly put pen to paper for years before putting down roots in Portland, so every once and a while, I like to celebrate what makes my little burg so damn inspiring. Sometimes, it's zombies. Sometimes, killer book-signings.

But today, it's all about the food. That's right, baby -- Portland, Maine, the first, best Portland in all the land, has been named Bon Appetit's 2009 Foodiest Small Town of the Year, for both quality of food and drink. And how could they not? Miyake. The Bear. Geary's Hampshire Special. Hugo's, home to James Beard Award-winning chef Rob Evans. Haggarty's. One of the ten best French restaurants in America. Two Lights. More fresh seafood that you could shake a lobster buoy at. 555. And mmm, Gritty's Halloween Ale.

A hat-tip to the fantastic Portland Food Map for getting the scoop. Oh, and note to self: get famous enough so that you get free stuff for mentioning purveyors of tasty, tasty food on your blog...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Eight Pounds

Today, I finished up a short story called "Eight Pounds", a nasty bit of business about a pleasant night out at the pub that just sort of... curdles. It's dark and funny and not just a little violent -- or, at least, I hope it is. Y'all can be the judge of that once I find it a loving home.

So yeah. One more short out the door. Now on to finishing that novel...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Godspeed, Maggie

Growing up in the country, I've had my share of cats. (Only one dog, which I suppose places me solidly in the feline camp. Also once a duck. But I digress.) So when I say that in my entire life, I have never had a cat as bright, inquisitive, or downright peculiar as Magellan Niidas Holm proved to be, you'll understand I ain't just whistling Dixie.

Maggie died today of complications related to lymphoma. We tried, in her final hours, to make her as comfortable as we could, which is to say not nearly as comfortable as we would have liked. Such is the way of things, I suppose.

I'm not going to spend all day eulogizing a housecat on my blog, but I will say this: Maggie was a dear, sweet friend, and she will be missed. Godspeed, Maggie Niidas Holm.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Back to work (if not to normal).

Okay, stuff has settled down a bit around these parts, at least temporarily. Which means the return of two things that are vital to maintaining my precarious grasp on sanity.

Thing One: Reading.
Before Kat's medical woes, I'd just begun to dig into Stuart Neville's The Twelve, a book I'd been looking forward to reading for quite some time. Then all hell broke loose, and I couldn't give it the attention it deserved, so I set it aside in favor of some lighter fare (read: stuff I didn't care if I was only half-reading in hospital waiting-rooms). Now I'm back at it, and I've got to say, every damn page I find something new that blows me away. I'm trying to take my time and savor it, but believe me, it resists time-taking. It is just that freaking good. Oh, and on deck? A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield. Damn, am I spoiled. (Oh, and The Wheelman. Totally going to get to it, Josh, provided I'm not crushed to death by the weight of my TBR pile in the interim.)

Thing Two: Writing.
I'm not saying that the WIP's been at a total standstill of late, but thanks to loads of real-world craziness, progress has been slow. This weekend, though, that has begun to turn around. Oh, and I also managed to write a mess of notes for the sequel (book three of my Collector cycle, after Dead Harvest and The MS That Shall Not Be Named), as well as some ideas for a standalone I've been pondering for years. Holy hell, am I happy to be writing again -- really writing, not just staring at the screen and sweating blood. When it's going well (hell, when it's going at all), there's really nothing else I could ever imagine doing with my life. How many people can honestly say they know exactly what they want to be when they grow up?

Oh, and Bonus! Thing Three? Quite possibly tattoos. I'm just saying.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A heartfelt thanks

I think it's pretty clear these past few months have been a little rocky 'round the _holm household (which reminds me, I should really explain that whole _holm thing sometime, since I cribbed it for my blog title and all), and these past few days have been no exception. We've had crises big and small, and no shortage of excitement. (Really? A late-night trip to the animal ER and a busted dishwasher in one day? And on our anniversary no less? On some level, universe, you really must be joking.)

But this post ain't about wallowing in the bad. This post is an acknowledgment of the startling grace and goodwill Kat and I have been the grateful recipients of from those around us. From on-line friends who sent along well-wishes (I can't tell you how much we appreciated them), to offline ones like Anne and Josh, whose efforts to buoy our spirits hit their mark in a huge way (Anne: Kat cried; Josh: the only reason I've yet to read the Swierczynski is 'cause you got me so damned hooked on Huston, I've not been able to put him down.) Huge thanks also to our families, who've done their damndest to make things just a little easier on us. Believe me, it helped.

So yeah. Thank you all so much. The world may be determined to kick our asses, but that just makes me all the more grateful for those who're there to pick us up and dust us off so we're ready for the second round...

Thursday, August 06, 2009

What a year, what a year.

A few months ago, our cat Maggie began having trouble digesting her food. She threw up all the time, and if we could get the food to stay long enough, she'd wind up with the runs. In a matter of weeks, a muscular, agile, beautiful animal was reduced to nothing much but fur and bones.

We switched foods. No change. We called a vet, who recommended a different, prescription food. It seemed to help. She stopped getting sick. The diarrhea stopped, too. But for some odd reason, she never managed to put the weight back on.

As it turns out, that reason was a blood-orange-sized tumor in her intestine, which pressed on her bladder and kidneys, and robbed her body of nutrients. Said tumor is now on its way to be analyzed, and the smart money's on cancer. Right now, though, I don't care, because after a harrowing day waiting, Maggie is back home, grumpy and drugged out of her little kitty gourd. I have a feeling this weekend's gonna suck, but with luck, she'll be back on her feet in a couple of days. With a little more luck, she'll be around a good few years after that.

Katrina just came in to tell me Maggie just meowed. It's a testament to the suckage of this day that her cry of pain/confusion/despair has actually managed to cheer me some. See, on top of it all, Maggie had a pretty strong reaction to the anesthetic, and so we're supposed to keep close watch on her to make sure she actually comes out of it. I don't expect I'll sleep too much tonight, but so long as she makes it through, I'm pretty darn okay with that.

Mostly, I have a good life. A happy life. But the past year or so has me wondering just when the hell my luck is gonna change...

UPDATE: Two days out from surgery, and Maggie's mood and health are much improved. With luck, she'll be back to tormenting her sister in no time. Major thanks to Dr. Lyons and the staff at Falmouth Veterinary Hospital for taking such good care of her; here's hoping we don't see you all for quite a while...

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A Bad Day For Sorry Now Available!

Sophie Littlefield is without a doubt one of the finest short story writers working today. She also happens to be one of my favorite people. So imagine my excitement at the chance to finally get a hold of her kick-ass debut novel!

How do I know it's so kick-ass? Easy.
1) Sophie wrote it.
2) Everybody and their mother says it is. (Click the link and scroll down to see what I mean.)

So go and get yourself a copy or twelve today. I know I'm gonna. And Sophie? I hope you find some time today to rock a happy dance.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

In which the author is a persnickety old coot...

peaked (adj.)
1. having a peak.
2. pale or drawn appearance suggesting illness or stress.

peek (verb; past: peeked)
1. to glance furtively.

pique (verb; past: piqued)
1. to affect with sharp irritation and resentment.
2. to wound (pride, vanity, etc.)
3. to excite (interest, curiosity, etc.)

Usage: A peek in the mirror indicates this fit of pique has left me looking peaked, so vexed was I at having once each today come across the phrases "peaked my interest" and "peeked my interest", when in fact the proper word choice would be "piqued".

Also, GET OFF MY LAWN.

Thank you. That is all.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bagley, Blackmoore, and a Whole Bunch More Uncaged!


With all Katrina's recent medical craziness, I almost forgot to post about the long-anticipated release of Uncage Me, an anthology of transgressive crime shorts from a lineup that reads like a who's who in the world of crime fiction. Faust, Gischler, Bagley, Guthrie, Blackmoore, and a whole bunch more, plus a foreword by John Connolly that's worth the sticker price all on its own. So if you've got the stomach for some of the most brutal stories the crime world has to offer, go buy yourself a copy or three. I know I'm gonna.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Where were you when we landed on the moon?

You know what? It doesn't matter. Unless your name's Neil Armstrong, David Dvorkin's answer is no doubt cooler.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Back Surgery

I wish that title were a clever segue into talking about tweaking a character's back-story or some such, but unfortunately, this post is actually about back surgery. Specifically, Katrina's.

As some of you already know, for a little over a month Katrina has been suffering severe pain, as well as numbness and muscle weakness, radiating down her left side. About ten days ago, an MRI confirmed that she had a massively herniated disk -- one bad enough to warrant a consult with a spinal surgeon on Tuesday, followed by a diskectomy on Friday. As of right now, she's resting (somewhat uncomfortably) on the couch, but the fact that she is home at all right now is a relief. Thanks to the severity of her injury, the next two weeks are going to be a bit rocky, but overall, her prognosis is quite good.

Truthfully, I wasn't sure I'd mention it here, because I like to keep my writing life and personal life separate, and I'm wary of cheapening these sorts of things by treating them as blogfodder. And I rejected outright the idea of posting about it before her surgery took place. Downplaying her condition beforehand would have risked tempting fate; waxing melodramatic about it would would have been tacky and exploitive. But I'm writing about it now because it's been dominating my brain-space for quite a while now, and if I'm scarce in commenting on friends' blogs for the next several days, it's because my time online is limited until I can get her back on her feet.

While I'm posting, I'd like to give a huge shout-out to Dr. Binette of Orthopedic Associates, and the rest of his surgical team as well. They came through in a big way for the both of us, and I'm very grateful for the level of care they provided. Thanks to them, Katrina will be right as rain in a matter of weeks. Without their help, it would have been years, if ever, before she got back to normal functionality.

Oh, and a brief language-nerd PS: I used to hate the word "exploitive". For the longest time, "exploitative" was the more common form of the adjective for "exploit", and only in recent years has the admittedly odd-looking "exploitive" begun to make up ground. So why my conversion? Simple: "exploitive" is shorter, without sacrificing one iota of clarity. It's often said that in writing, clarity is god, and I agree. But I'd put brevity at a close second (demigod, maybe?). So "exploitive" it is.

Then again, I just used up a hundred or so words explaining why a couple fewer letters was the way to go, so what do I know?

Friday, July 10, 2009

John Connolly in Waterville

Tonight, at 8:15PM, John Connolly will be signing books at Children's Book Cellar (52 Main Street) in Waterville, Maine. I can't make it, but Bagley's gonna be there holding down the fort, which for my money makes two ridiculously talented crime writers under one roof. Be sure to check it out. You can read the details here.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Cash Money

Today has been kind of a shit day. As in a "in all my years as a doctor, that's the most impressively herniated disc I've ever seen" kind of day. (Not my disc, mind you, but Kat's. If it was my back that was all messed up, I'd be on the living room floor, demanding IV narcotics and crying like a tiny litte girl. Katrina went back to work, and followed that up with a little grocery shopping. Then she tried to carry the goddamn bags. And she actually is a tiny little girl. Maybe people should start saying "I cried like a scrawny, goateed crime writer." But I digress.) But you know what makes a shit day better? Money.

More specifically, money for writing. See, the mail today (which Katrina went and fetched; there's just no freakin' stopping her) contained a check from Dell Magazines -- payment for my short story Action, which will appear in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine sometime in the not-too-distant future. It probably ain't enough to cover the copay for the MRI, but it doesn't matter. It may sound crass, but there's no better feeling for a writer than getting paid actual dollars American for something you made up.

So yeah. Happy-dancing abounds. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go prevent my wife from making dinner.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

A Confidence Game

This morning, I read a post over at Kameron Hurley's blog that really resonated with me. In it, she talks about her flagging confidence in her writing, and comes to a conclusion that sort of rocked me back. Here's an excerpt (italics mine):

I worry these days that my writing isn’t as good as it used to be, because all the choices I make seem to be poor ones. I’ll go through a story or a scene and realize that what I chose during the first pass was totally inappropriate. I keep thinking I’ve lost touch with the words, that there’s some kind of innate feeling for plot, character, structure, that went by the wayside. It’s made the last year of writing incredibly slow-going and difficult.

It wasn’t until tonight, as I went through and worked on the heroes story, that I realized what I was doing. There wasn’t anything different about the choices I made the first time through now than there was three years ago. The difference is, they’re *transparently wrong choices* now. As I go through and clean up the words, I’m seeing the errors – and where those errors will lead – a lot sooner than I would have a couple years ago.

Her conclusion really resonated with me because I've been struggling with precisely the same thing. I've found that I've completely lost the ability to plow merrily through my manuscript, tossing words about willy-nilly with nary a care as to where they land. Instead, each and every word, phrase, character, and plot element in a scene is carefully placed, nudged, tweaked, turned, and then angrily toppled like a child's stack of blocks, only to start from scratch again until the scene is right. The result is a first draft far cleaner than any I've written, but written at a far slower pace than I'm used to. I suspect, in the end, this book won't take any longer than the last two (in fact, it may wind up finished quicker), but much like being stuck in traffic instead of cruising on the open road, it sure feels like it's taking longer.

For the longest time, I've just assumed my issue was one of shaken confidence. Shopping two books that represent several years of effort and brain-space is an arduous task, and no amount of truly wonderful feedback can do much to lessen the strain the process puts on you. The whole process is nerve-jangling and nausea-inducing, if only for the fact that I've put myself out there, and I'm really freakin' invested in the outcome.

But Kameron's post managed to reframe my current manuscript-angst. I've come to realize the book I'm working on now may be the best I've written yet. The only catch is, it is that way because I've learned a thing or two in the course of writing my last two books, and that knowledge comes not without a price. Rather than sailing obliviously on through my first draft, only to panic while working on the second, I'm meeting those problems head-on early in the process. Which, frankly, kinda sucks.

So yeah. I'm not entirely sure what to do with this little borrowed revelation o'mine, except to put my head down and soldier on. But I take heart in the thought that this weird crisis of confidence might simply be a rite of passage. As Sam Beam'll tell you, "There's no way to grow that don't hurt." Long as you realize that, the hurt don't seem so bad.

And with that, it's back to the WIP for me...

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Stuart Neville's THE TWELVE Released Today!

Congrats, Stuart! It's official. According to Amazon UK, my copy's in the mail.

Oh, and for those of you who'd like to get your hands on a copy, I'd start here. By all accounts, you'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Who doesn't like free?

Just a quick post to point you toward Stuart Neville's site, where he's giving away a free short story collection as a promotion for the release of his debut novel, The Twelve. For those of you who don't know the tale of Stuart's path to publication, it was a short published in Thuglit that first caught the attention of his agent. So if you want to read some great short fiction, or maybe see just what it takes to make an agent stand up and take notice, get over there and check it out.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Adventure of Link

Okay, folks, I thought I'd offer a little linkage to brighten this rainy Mainey Sunday, now with BONUS! list of summer reads sure to fill your days with awesome. So cue the John Woo doves and slo-mo, 'cause here come the bullets:
  • Jack Getze, author of the fantastic Austin Carr series, has some nice things to say about yours truly in advance of the impending relaunch of Spinetingler as a part of BSC Review. If you've not read any of Jack's stuff, start with the freakin' smashing (thrilling, hilarious, tequila-soaked) Big Numbers. And while you're at it, scoop up Big Money, too -- you're gonna wanna read 'em both.
  • While we're talking about ordering books, I thought I'd take the time to mention how easy it is for folks on my side of the pond to order Stuart Neville's The Twelve via Amazon UK (due out July 2nd). If you've got an Amazon account, your login is the same, and the shipping's very reasonable. It's out in the US in October as The Ghosts of Belfast, and I'm thinking you might wanna pick up one of each. This book is going to be huge. Of course, you don't have to take my word for it: just ask Ken Bruen, John Connolly, and James Ellroy.
  • Hey, you wanna read a couple killer reviews? Check out what Publishers Weekly had to say about Sophie Littlefield's A Bad Day for Sorry. Then check out this review from Kirkus. And did you click through the link above to see that killer price on Amazon? You know you want it, so what's stopping you?
  • For those of you who, come summer, are challenged of attention-span, Bleak House books is offering up Uncage Me, a collection of seriously twisted short fiction from some of the best in the crime business. Now, you might think that with luminaries like Faust, Gischler, and Guthrie on the list, they could've coasted on the rest. But a couple hungry new kids on the block (ah, hell, has a freakin' boy band ruined that phrase forever?) by the name of Bagley and Blackmoore have a thing or two to say about that. Seriously, these guys always bring the goods, and if you like your bleak with a side of brutal, you'd be nuts to pass this collection up.
So there you go. Enough fantastic reading to keep you grinning ear to ear all summer long. And a word of warning: if you guys don't go out and buy all of this stuff right now, you're going to regret it. Not least because I'm a big fan of each and every one of these guys (and gal), so I'm not above guilting you until you do. So what're you waiting for?

UPDATE: The aforementioned Mr. Blackmoore has informed me The Twelve is also available to US customers at The Book Depository, and that shipping is free to anywhere in the world. So seriously, there's no excuse not to pick yourself up a copy.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

An Addendum to "Losing My Voice"

Is it just me, or are process-y writing posts dull as dirt to read? Even I kind of didn't care what I was talking about by the end of that last one. Mayhap fiction should be slotted alongside sausages and laws in that whole don't-want-to-see-'em-made category.

Note to self: be more interesting...

Losing My Voice

There's been something bugging me of late about my WIP. A niggling little annoyance that's been hampering my word count, and keeping me scowling at my computer screen for hours on end. This weekend, though, I realized what it was, and after a few hours' work, I think I'm back on track.

Turns out, one of my characters was a bit of a loudmouth. (A shock, I'm sure, for anyone who knows me. You can all stop laughing now. It's kind of insulting.) See, for a hundred pages or so, my protagonist sounded like my protagonist. Then I introduced this other guy, and all of the sudden my protagonist sounded like him. A little rougher, a little less educated, and a whole lot more colorful of speech. Which is fine for the character who's supposed to talk that way, but it's crap for the one who's not. Nothing shatters the illusion of fiction like all the characters sounding alike, and having a voice shift mid-book? Just awful.

Luckily, it proved easy enough to fix, and now that I know to look out for it, it should be easily avoided in the future. I suppose I could've left it for the second draft, but I just don't work that way. Once I know there's a problem that needs addressing, I can't move on until I've dealt with it. But now I have, which frees me up for the totally bad-ass scene I'm writing next. And on the plus side, I just read through the manuscript in its entirety, and I think that, former voice issues aside, it's really pretty good. Now, of course, all that's left is to finish the damn thing...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bag'd and Tagged

Alright, the Bag Man (whose movie choices were so damn good I nearly cribbed 'em as my own) tagged me with this whole four-thing meme that's been infecting writers' blogs of late, and I thought I'd give it a go. So without further ado, let the bloggy narcissism commence!

4 movies you would watch over and over again:
The Player
The Empire Strikes Back
John Carpenter's The Thing
Heathers

4 places you have lived:
A weird-ass hippie co-op in Clinton, NY (don't ask)
A punk-rock hell hotel (okay, crappy not-quite-student apartment, but whatever) in Charlottesville, VA
A boarding house in the lower village of Kennebunk, ME
A funky little out-of-square bungalow in Portland, ME

NOW WITH BONUS! 4 places you have lived (fiction edition):
Poisonville
Arrakis
Castle Rock
The Well of Lost Plots

4 TV shows you love to watch:
Twin Peaks
Mystery Science Theater 3000
Firefly
How I Met Your Mother

4 places you have been on vacation:
St. Thomas
Key West
Salem, Mass (again, don't ask)
Disney World (that's right -- Disney World. I went for the first time ever a few years back, and I freakin' loved it. You know they let you walk around with booze there?)

4 of your favorite foods:
Barbecue (as in Southern, smoked, and preferably served with corn bread and collard greens)
Sushi
Biscuits and sausage gravy
Bacon (on, in, or beside pretty much anything)

4 web sites you visit daily:
Crimespot
The A.V. Club
BoingBoing
Arcaedia

4 places you would rather be right now:
At my desk, writing.
On my front porch, reading (or playing guitar).
Touring the distilleries of Scotland.
Plotting world domination from the safety of my own private moon base.

4 things you'd like to do before you die:
See a novel through to publication.
Make a living as a writer.
Travel to Japan.
Run the table in a game of nine-ball.

4 books you wish you could read again for the first time:
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Tag 4 people you think will respond:
People I think will respond? That's a tall order. Here's four people whose answers I'd be curious to read:
Gabriel Beyers
Sandra Ruttan
Stuart Neville
David Dvorkin

Monday, June 08, 2009

Two Quick Things

Thing One: College reunions are like, seriously, seriously weird. Particularly when you're still recovering from the Plague, and therefore cannot drink to excess. Well, not two nights in a row, at least.

Thing Two: A weekend of traveling is hell on the word count. Bad word counts mean a grumpy, grumpy Chris, but they do have a tendency to light a fire under me, which means they're sort of a down payment on future good word counts.

Now with Bonus Thing Three! Thanks to this weekend, I'll never hear the word 'boondoggle' again without cracking a smile. And chances are I'd have to be quite drunk before I ever tell you why.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Best laid plans...

Hey, you know that really cool thing going down tonight in my hometown? Yeah, I'm not going.

Turns out, cold viruses have a nasty sense of humor. See, I've had a so-mild-I-could-just-ignore-it cold for days now, and I figured by the time the book release rolled around, I'd be right as rain.

Instead, I woke up this morning with a sore throat and what I can only assume is a cinderblock wedged in my sinuses. I could barely get out of bed to call in to work. Methinks partying ain't the best idea ever, and even if it was, giving a writer a cold at his own book release seems like pretty bad form.

Blerg. I guess it's back to bed for me.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

John Connolly at The Great Lost Bear

A public service announcement for any fellow Mainers reading this blog (okay, fine, I'm from away, but you know what I mean):

This Tuesday, June 2nd at 7:00 PM, The Great Lost Bear will be hosting a book release party for John Connolly's newest Charlie Parker novel, The Lovers. As I understand it, the bar (a favorite of mine) features prominently in the book, and collector-types should note they'll be giving away limited-edition T-shirts to those who buy a copy of the book (you can read the details here).

In the interest of not seeming like a total poseur, I should mention that Connolly's work is new to me, having until recently read nothing of his but his fantastic introduction to the upcoming Bleak House release Uncage Me. Thankfully, that proved easy enough to rectify, and on a tip from Stuart, I picked up The Book of Lost Things just this week. Thus far, it's nothing short of riveting.

So yeah. 7:00 PM Tuesday. The Great Lost Bear. 540 Forest Avenue. If you see me there, by all means say hello -- I'll be the one trying to nurse my Hampshire Special so as to not make an ass of myself, or wind up tipsy on a school-night. (Seriously, I freakin' love that stuff. I hazily recall shaking David Geary's hand when he was guest-tending bar at the Bear one night, just for being the man who makes it.)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Apparently, the fourth week is the charm.

After three weeks of beating my head against the wall, trying to get the chapter I was stuck on to work, I finally cracked it. I'd love to say that once it clicked, the deathless prose flowed like water from a tap, and that the final product's one of the best chapters I've ever written, but the fact is, that just ain't true.

What is true is that for several weeks, the chapter was unworkable crap. (Overstatement? Maybe. But it sure felt like unworkable crap to me, so really, what's the difference?) Now it's rough, and messy, but good enough for me to move on. And really, that's all I wanted. First drafts are allowed to have their rough spots. The trick, for me, is to make sure that even those rough spots have the raw materials in place that'll allow me to make something out of 'em later. I don't always know what raw materials I'm going to need later on, but something in my head always seems to know when they're missing.

So yeah. Back on track. Just another 30,000 words to go. Time to get cranking.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

"Blerg" or "Why Transitions Suck"

Three weeks.

For three weeks now, I've been wrestling with the same freakin' scene. Three weeks of writing, deleting, cutting, and pasting. Three weeks of moving the pieces around without the slightest investment in what's actually going on on the page.

It'd be easy to blame that on the fact that I'm smack in the middle of the New Book (which yes, has a title, and no, I'm not saying what it is just yet). I've often heard the middle tends to drag for writers, fresh off the flush of beginning a new book, but still a ways off from the Thrilling Conclusion. Thing is, that's never how it is for me. For me, the middle's usually pretty fun to write, because that's where you really get to pile on the conflict.

No, I think the problem is that the scene I'm writing is nothing more than a transition from where I've been to where I know I need to go. It's a checklist scene: Sam's got to get patched up after a meeting with a less-than-friendly bug-monster, he needs to boost himself a shiny new ride, and although he doesn't know it yet, he's about to pick up a very hungover complication along the way. All of that needs to happen to set up for what comes next, and all of it is proving boring as all get-out to write.

This isn't the first time this has happened to me (that would be here), and I'm not terribly worried, on account of last time it turned out fine, but still, there's no shortcut but to work at it until it clicks. (There is no shortcut, right? I mean, if you know one, and you ain't telling, that's just mean.) I've mentioned before I'm not the speediest of writers, but the flip-side is, my first drafts are pretty clean, and one reason why is I tend not to move on until the bit I'm writing works. I think I mostly do that out of the fear that if I only write the bits I'm looking forward to, I'll never go back and connect the dots into, you know, a story. (Also, I think all characters should have an emotional arc, and they get tough to keep track of when you're writing out of order, but that's a post for another time.)

Oh, and just so I don't have to keep typing "the New Book" all the time, I decree that I will heretofore refer to it by its initials: WG. Feel free to take up Blogger's bandwidth with predictions. Wizened Gefiltefish? Wonky Grandma? I'll never tell. (I think semi-anonymous commenter Josh won the guessing game for DH with his so-great-I-wish-I'd-written-it guess of Dastardly Haberdasher.)

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Maine = Awesome

Okay, I try not to talk politics too much 'round these parts, but today's developments are just too big not to comment on. Today, Maine became the first state in the Union to pass a same-sex marriage bill in the legislature and have it signed into law by the governor, and I couldn't be more proud.

The bill passed with a final tally of 89-57 in the state House, and 21-13 in the Senate. Add to that the support of Governor John Baldacci, and that makes 111. 111 people who stood up for freedom and equality. 111 people who deserve our thanks.

Of course, the issue's far from over. There will doubtless be a referendum vote, and the chance for a so-called people's veto, but for now, there's cause to celebrate. Equal rights ain't just lip-service any more.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Giving Back

Friend and writer Lyman Feero has put together an organization called the Society for the Advancement of Young Writers, an organization that aims to foster an interest in creative writing among elementary-age children, and he's looking for writers who are interested in helping. You can read about it here.

Lyman's plan is ambitious, but his goals are both attainable and (in my humble opinion) very, very cool. If you've been with me since the beginning, you've probably already read my post on the first story I ever wrote. If not, go check it out -- I'll wait.

So why (beyond self-aggrandizement and rampant narcissism) did I ask you to go do that? Because if you're a writer, my guess is you've had a similar experience sometime in your life. Think about how it stuck with you, and how much it shaped the person you've become.

Now think about what it would be like to do that for someone else.

So please, go check out Lyman's post, and see if this is something you'd be interested in. You'll be glad you did.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Close, but no cigar.

Well, folks, it looks like it wasn't meant to be. The winners of the 2009 Derringer Awards have been announced, and The Big Score didn't make the grade. But hey, I had a pretty good run, so who am I to complain?

Huge congrats go out to those who did win, and a monster thanks to all those who voted for me! And if you voted, but you didn't vote for me, well good on you, too. Know it or not, you just helped make someone's day. Those someones are as follows:

BEST FLASH STORY: "No Place Like Home" by Dee Stuart, published in Mysterical-E

BEST SHORT STORY: "The Cost of Doing Business" by Michael Penncavage, published in ThugLit

BEST LONG STORY: "The Quick Brown Fox" by Robert S. Levinson, published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine

BEST NOVELETTE: "Too Wise" by O'Neil De Noux, published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine

EDWARD D. HOCH MEMORIAL GOLDEN DERRINGER AWARD FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT: Clark Howard

Monday, April 27, 2009

Woohoo!

I just got word that my short story Action has been accepted by Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine! The publication-date is still to be determined, but that ain't stopping me from rockin' a little chair-dancing as we speak.

Action is a dark comedy/caper story conceived as a sort of homage to the late, great Donald Westlake. I couldn't be happier where it ended up.

So yeah. Not a bad way to start the work week. And speaking of, back to the day-job for me...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Comfy, comfy.

Ah, the joys of home ownership. This weekend, Kat and I did our taxes, and thanks to the whole house-buying thing, we got ourselves a return for the first time in a very, very long time. So today, I'm writing from the comfort of a snazzy new office chair. My old one was kinda beat when I first got it probably sixteen years ago, and the years have not been kind to it since. My new one, though hardly expensive, is a ridiculous improvement.

Think a crappy office chair ain't that big a deal? Try writing a couple novels in one. Of course, now Kat's worried that with the new chair, I'll go all soft, and start writing stories about puppies licking rainbows. Somehow, I don't see that happening.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna kick back, relax, and continue beating the living hell out of my protagonist.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

"The Big Score" Scores!

Okay, so this morning, I get a comment on my last post from Sandra, congratulating me all cryptic-like. Naturally, I endeavored to find out why. It turns out The Big Score was named a finalist for this year's Derringer Award!

So yeah. Wow. Big thanks to Sandra for tipping me off, and to Richard Helms, editor of The Back Alley, for putting my story out into the world. Thanks also to Patrick Shawn Bagley, for getting me to write the thing in the first place. And finally, thanks to the Short Fiction Mystery Society, for totally making my day.

I'd also like to take a moment to congratulate all the other finalists, particularly the fantastic Sophie Littlefield, who was nominated for her brilliant short A Taste for It. In all honesty, I'm glad she and I are nominated in different categories; that story blew me away, and going up against her, I wouldn't much like my odds.

Oh, and for those of you reading who happen to be members of the SFMS: don't forget to vote! If you vote for me, great. If not, that's cool -- there are a bunch of fantastic stories on the docket. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some chair-dancing to attend to...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Second Annual Spinetingler Awards

Nominees for the Second Annual Spinetingler Awards have been announced. You can check out the complete list, as well as vote on your faves, here.

Big congrats to all the nominees, and mad props to the ever-awesome Sandra Ruttan, who probably has no idea just how many peoples' days she's made by putting all of this together.

Oh, and to the folks nominated in the category of Best Short Story on the Web: best of luck, but if you think I'm giving up this tiara, you're fucking nuts. (That's right, I said tiara. And so what if I had to buy it myself -- I earned it.)

Thursday, March 05, 2009

"Jonesin' for a Fix", or "Why Writers Sometimes Shouldn't Blog"

Man, it's been a while. A year, it seems, or maybe more. I can tell because I'm twitchy, on edge. My skin is crawling; my thoughts are scattered.

Did I say a year? Feels like a freakin' decade.

I stop and check. It's been less than fifty days. That can't be right, can it? But it is. Less than fifty days since my last acceptance. And that last one was a doozy -- two in one day. No wonder I got the jones so bad.

You know what the worst part is? There ain't nothin' I can do to scratch the itch. Nothing but that hoary old standard: write, submit, repeat. But it's not enough. It's never enough.

I've got two books floating around out there in the great big world. Two books, and another on the way. Got a short out there, too. Should have more than one short making the rounds, but the New Book eats up all my time. Not that I mind much; the New Book is good. Really good. And when I'm working on it, the New Book makes the itch go away.

I check my e-mail. There's nothing there. I pop over to CrimeSpot and read a couple blog posts, or, at least, I try; their words barely even register. I drift like a ghost from one usual internet haunt to the next, but there ain't one of 'em can make the craving go away.

The phone rings. I flinch. Turns out, it's not for me. That's okay -- maybe there's something waiting in my e-mail.

Nope, still nothing. It's coming soon, though, I can feel it. Or at least, I hope I can.

Sometimes being a writer ain't easy. You know what, though? It sure beats just sitting around. After all, the only thing worse than waiting is having nothing at all to wait for...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pulpy Goodness!

This is just a quick post to say that The Toll Collectors is now up at Beat to a Pulp. Go check it out!

In just a short while, David and Elaine have made Beat to a Pulp destination-reading for fans of modern pulp fiction, and with contributors like Patti Abbott, Sandra Seamans, Stephen D. Rogers, and Big Daddy Thug himself (not to mention a host of other talented writers), it's no surprise why. I'm happy to be part of the club.

Oh, and a brief note about the story: the setting for The Toll Collectors is an abandoned stretch of turnpike in the wilds of Pennsylvania. The wild thing is, that turnpike actually exists. You can see it here. Anyways, I stumbled across it while doing research on abandoned rail lines for The World Behind, and once I saw the pictures, the story sort of wrote itself.

UPDATE: Check out the cool illustration David cooked up to accompany my story here.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Meme-a culpa

Okay, here's the deal. About four centuries ago in blog years, Sandra Ruttan tagged yours truly on a 16 random things meme. Now, I'm not often one for memes, but it seems to me the window for politeness has long since passed on the whole declining thing; I'm already a boorish idiot for flaking for so long (chalk it up to my brilliant organizational system of thousands upon thousands of illegible Post-it notes. Or, you know, stupidity.) Besides, Sandra's good people, so if she wants 16 random facts, then 16 random facts she'll get. So without further ado, here goes:

1. Sandra's #s 7 and 10 also apply to me. Oh, and technically her #1, too, but since it wasn't a near thing, I almost didn't mention it.

2. When I started this blog, I had no internet friends whatsoever. A lot of blogs at the time were doing a random things meme, and I wanted to join in all the reindeer games, hence the exceedingly random (and slightly embarrassing) profile blurb to the left of this post.

3. I was once tagged to come up with six random things about myself as punishment for outing a baby-eating baby-eater. I do not plan on counting those six random things toward my fulfillment of this meme.

4. I am deathly afraid of most bugs. The exceptions to this rule are a) stinging insects, because my hatred overwhelms my fear, and b) spiders, because I respect the fact that they eat other bugs.

5. When I was a kid, I wanted glasses. My whole family's got 'em, and I thought they'd make me look smarter.

6. The fact that I wanted glasses as a kid because I thought they'd make me look smarter makes no damn sense, because in grade school, I was horrified at the prospect of being thought of as a nerd for carrying a book with me wherever I went. Since those books were most often by Stephen King, I compensated for my perceived nerdiness by putting to use some of his more colorful language whenever I could. I'm pretty sure that's why I swear too much to this day.

7. Though I don't believe in ghosts or goblins or other creatures that go bump in the night, I fear them nonetheless.

8. Every Sunday, my wife and I clean our house from top to bottom. Right now, I'm doing this instead. I feel pretty guilty about that fact.

9. Despite not having a dishwasher until adulthood, I am something of a prodigy at getting things to fit. I think it may be my superpower.

10. I'm really lousy at staying in touch with my friends, despite the fact that they mean more to me than I can say.

11. I'm beginning to regret not counting the six random things mentioned in #3, because I'm rapidly running out of things to say.

12. I secretly think that Men at Work is a better movie than Children of Men. (Actually, I secretly think Men at Work is a better movie than most movies ever made. I know I should be ashamed of this, but I'm not.)

13. My obsession with random music facts borders on the pathological.

14. I hate hate hate seeing pictures of myself (or hearing a recording of my own voice.) It's something that I'm working on.

15. I will do just about anything to avoid putting away the groceries, even if the something in question is a messier/crappier/more arduous job. I have no idea why that is.

16. I seriously considered using the word 'arduoser' in the previous random fact, but in the end, my love of language won out over concerns of cadence.

So yeah, there you have it, Sandra, and with my apologies. Now, I'd tag someone, but this meme's probably burned its way through the blogosphere twice since I was tagged, so there's really not much point. But hey, you feel like playing along, I ain't gonna stop ya.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

"The Well" Now Available!

Just a quick post to say that my flash horror story, The Well, is now live over at Flashes in the Dark. This one creeped me out to write, so hopefully, it's creepy to read as well. Go check it out!

UPDATE: Soon-to-be international superstar Stuart Neville thinks my story should come with a warning label. So, yeah. I guess that means it's scary. Consider yourselves warned.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

A bit of linkage...

I just wanted to take a moment to point you all toward this speech, given by J.K. Rowling at Harvard's commencement. Whether you're a fan of her work or not, I urge you to read it. It is charming and eloquent, wise and insightful, and if it fails by any metric, it's this: she claims all she was shooting for was forgettable.

Linkage courtesy of Bookslut.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Accidental Fantasist

Okay, fair warning: the following is a metaphor wrapped in what may seem like pointless back story. Fear not and soldier on. There's no less than an 11% chance it's going somewhere.

When I was a little kid, my hair was straight and blond. As I got older, it began to curl and darken into the unruly mane of brown (okay, brown and white) hair I've got today. Only here's the thing: for years after it changed, if anyone had asked me what color my hair was, I'd say blond. The lesson, I suppose, is that self-image is somewhat resistant to change, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence to the contrary.

That's all well and good, but what the hell has it got to do with writing? Well, I'll tell you. Whenever someone asks me what kind of books I write, I always answer that I write mysteries. Although if one were to take a gander at a description of Dead Harvest, it sounds an awful lot more like fantasy than mystery. If that's the case, then why the label disconnect?

(A brief aside: this is often the bit where writer of genre A says something wildly inflammatory and pejorative about genre B out of spite, genre-bigotry, or plain old ignorance. That ain't gonna happen here. I love fantasy. I read loads of it. I'd be delighted to be stocked in the fantasy section of my local bookstore. Or in horror. Or in self-help, for that matter. It's just not how I think of what I write. Then again, I was the dope with brown hair telling everyone it was blond, so what the hell do I know?)

Anyway, where was I? Ah, right -- the question of disconnect. I guess I consider myself first and foremost a writer of mysteries because to me, no matter how fantastical the frame upon which I hang my story is, mystery will always be the engine that drives the story. I can't help it; it's how I'm wired. Seriously, when I read something that's got no mystery to it, I regard it with confusion and wonder. How did the author know where to start? Where to stop?

That's not to say the fantasy in Dead Harvest is window-dressing. I think the point of including fantastic elements is to use them -- to tell a story that would not be possible without their inclusion. Otherwise, why bother with them at all? But to me, the mystery is what counts. The mystery is where the story lives or dies.

Of course, I guess the real point of all of this isn't that I write mysteries or fantasies; the point is that I write the books I write, without much thought as to where they might eventually be shelved (which is not at all the same as without a thought as to whether there's a market for them.) And my hope for Dead Harvest is that it's embraced my mystery fans and fantasy buffs alike. It freakin' better be, because so far, the sequel rocks. Right now, I'd be perfectly happy writing a dozen books in the DH universe, wherever they wind up being shelved.

Fingers crossed I get the chance.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Call for Submissions

I just got a note from Tony Smith, editor of Flashes in the Dark, saying he's got an opening for a work of Valentine's Day horror flash to appear on his site on, you guessed it, Valentine's Day. So if you've got something that fits the bill, send it on along, and if you don't, then get cracking. Submission guidelines can be found here.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sometimes the vibes ain't nothing but the vibes.

Tuesday night, I put the finishing touches on my first short story in ages, a darkly comedic caper story titled Action. First thing Wednesday morning, I dropped it in the mail, feeling pretty good about myself for getting it out the door so quickly.

Then my entire day went to shit.

Okay, that might be a slight overstatement, but suffice to say, yesterday wasn't my favorite day ever. And to make matters worse, some wildly superstitious part of my brain (which, if I'm being honest, is pretty much the whole damn thing) is convinced that yesterday's bad vibes are gonna sour my submission. Of course, I suppose it could be argued (by one as insanely superstitious as I apparently am) that my lousy day was due to the fact that I spent all my luck on what is sure to be a charmed submission. Or that I'm nuts for fretting over something as nebulous and potentially nonexistent as bad juju. Concerning the former, it's possible, and as for the latter, I know I am. But still, it doesn't stop the fretting.

Of course, maybe I should heed the words of the great Barry Adamson: "The vibes ain't nothing but the vibes." I guess now all I can do is wait and see.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A _holm grindhouse double-feature!

Today has been a good day. Nay, a great day. Not to mention an unprecedented day (for me, at least.)

Today was a two-acceptance day.

I just received word that my short story The Toll Collectors has been accepted by Beat to a Pulp, and is scheduled to go live sometime in February. The Toll Collectors is a creepy little cross-genre crime/horror piece, and I couldn't be happier at where it ended up.

But wait -- there's more! I also received word that The Well, a nasty little piece of horror flash that may well be the scariest thing I've ever written, is going to appear in Flashes in the Dark! When, you ask? Funny thing, that. It's also gonna go live sometime in February. Which means a big fat February double-feature of me, and I, for one, think that's very, very cool.

So a big thanks to David and Tony, the editors of BtaP and FitD, respectively. You two just made my day. And stay tuned for further updates, as I'll be certain to let you know when the stories go live. But in the meantime, you might want to go check out the other fantastic stories up on their sites...

Friday, January 02, 2009

Farewell, Mr. Westlake

Yesterday, my wife and I celebrated Christmas with her family, which meant a whole new pile o' loot for yours truly. Of all the gifts I got, perhaps the coolest was the beautiful University of Chicago Press reissue of Richard Stark's The Outfit, a book I couldn't help but open the second I got, and one I damn near finished in the wee hours of the morning before finally succumbing to sleep.

Today, when I got home, I read to my dismay that the man behind the pen name, Donald Westlake, passed away on the final day of 2008, a Godawful year in my estimation. The man was a giant, a writer of surprising charm and grace, and the world is worse off for the sudden lack of him. I urge anybody reading this who's not familiar with his work to go get your hands on some Westlake, pronto. I promise you'll be glad you did.