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.