Just finished the second (and hopefully last) draft of a horror story I have to turn in tomorrow. Jesus Christ, that thing was hard to write. Mostly because it contained some personal details. Also because it scared the shit out of me.

I know that sounds crazy, to be scared by something you write yourself. Somehow, though, magically, stories take on a life of their own once committed to paper. It becomes an entity outside of you, with its own idea about who and what it is. The characters speak to you. The story carries you along, like a fiendish twist on automatic writing. Hard to explain. Disconcerting at times.

Particularly when the story is so connected to me. To be honest as a writer, I believe you must write things that affect you emotionally. In this case, for instance, in order to write something scary, I had to write something that would scare me. Whether it scares anyone else or not is another question. What I wrote is honest.

So much so that I literally couldn't work on this thing at night. With the LOML gone, children away for the weekend, I am rattling around this big old house alone, like a ghost of some long-dead inhabitant. I make little impact. Shadows lurk now, small noises are amplified and startle me. I had to wait until the daylight to give my imagination full reign on this one. Otherwise, I might have spent the night huddled under the covers, freaking out.

In any case, I believe it's done. Sending it through the wires to my tireless proofreaders, and then off to the editors. Fingers crossed. Now on to the next thing.

28 June 2008

LOLCat of the Day

more cat pictures

27 June 2008

Secret Lives

Via Jeff VanderMeer's blog, an announcement on the release of his new book, Secret Lives, available in a limited edition first printing run from Ziesing Books. Looks very interesting. Just finished the anthology he recently edited with his wife Ann, Steampunk, and I loved it, so I thought I'd pass it along. I'll post a review here once mine arrives.

25 June 2008

The Nerds of Summer Booklist

Yet another list - this one a nerdy summer primer of tomes to absorb while you try to keep cool. If you're lucky enough to have lazy summer afternoons, and your tastes edge toward fantasy, sci-fi & steam/cyberpunk, check it out.

23 June 2008

Another List

Continuing on, here's another top 100 list: This time the top 100 Sci-Fi/Fantasy titles. EVER. Personally I think there should be more Gaiman in there. And Vonnegut. Still, not a bad list. Here's the top 10:

1. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

2. The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny (all ten are now available in an Omnibus)

3. The Ender Quartet by Orson Scott Card

4. Neuromancer by William Gibson

5. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson (6 Books total)

6. Foundation by Isaac Asimov (6 Books total)

7. Dune by Frank Herbert

8. Elric by Michael Moorcock (available in omnibus editions)

9. The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick

10. 1984 by George Orwell

Sad to Hear

George Carlin passed away yesterday from heart failure in Los Angeles. He was 71. Besides being hilariously funny, I always admired him for his bravery and irreverence. He was the jester in Lear's court - not afraid to tell the truth with a sly grin, a purveyor of things that made us laugh, but also made us think. RIP.

The Door to Hell

And you thought it was just a myth...

22 June 2008

The EW List

A few days ago Entertainment Weekly posted their list of the top 100 books published since 1983. Most of them I've heard of, many I've read, but now I'm curious about the ones that are neither. For the most part I agree with their choices, though I have to say I have a hard time swallowing "The DaVinci Code" as a new classic. But hey, this is Entertainment Weekly. There's no accounting for taste, right?

Here's the top ten:

1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
4. The Liars' Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)

Love at First Sight

Check out Wordle, where you can make a nifty picture out of any text you wish. I created the below from an essay I wrote about soulmates, and meeting the LOML.

19 June 2008

A Review of Bikeman, by Thomas Flynn

I have to admit I was somewhat skeptical when I received a copy of Thomas Flynn’s Bikeman to review. An epic poem? About 9/11? The events of that day can certainly be considered epic by any standard, but poetry that seeks to record such an event seems almost…outdated. I opened the book and flipped around at random, glancing at the page in front of me. This is what I read:

They topple out of shattered windows.
They soar: two or three at once or four.
They fall straight as straws.
They do not tumble like a child’s jacks
but fly straight. The frantic arm waving is over.
They fall resigned.

The impact of those verses hit me like a brick wall, and stayed in my mind until later that night when I sat down to read the rest of the book. I was impressed.

The beauty of poetry lies in its ability to condense emotion and experience into small and powerful packets of verse. There are no spare words – each line is crafted with careful accuracy, cutting with a surgeon’s precision. The result has something like the impact of visual art – immediate and stunning. Flynn seems to understand that principle, and with his choice of form, has distilled the events of 9/11 into a raw, almost visceral experience.

To most of us, that September morning was a series of images, horrifyingly surreal, of tragedy and terror. We watched in unbelief as people jumped to their deaths, and two iconic buildings crashed to the ground as so much rubble. Instead of writing a book that rehashes the facts of that day, Flynn instead revisits the emotions – the anger, helplessness and grief that we felt as a nation.

Thomas Flynn is by trade a journalist, and this book makes a point of highlighting that fact. Dan Rather wrote the foreword. His colleagues Diane Sawyer, Harry Smith, and Meredith Vieira, read it and wrote blurbs for the jacket. What this book gives us, however, is not cold, hard journalistic perspective. Instead, what it offers is much, much more. Epic indeed.

New Feature

For a few months I've been part of LibraryThing's Early Reviewer Program. So far I've snagged three books, and I posted the reviews both there and on Amazon. In an effort to spread the word about some of these new writers, and open my portfolio up a bit more to include book reviews, I've decided to start cross posting my reviews here as well. Depending on how often I get a book, whether purchased or ARC, I'll try to post one or two reviews per month. First up will be the last book I reviewed for LT: Bikeman, by Thomas Flynn.

The Problem of Susan

I'm a big fan of Neil Gaiman, having rediscovered him years after my first exposure during his Sandman years. One of the earliest things I read during this newer prose period was Fragile Things, and the story that probably struck me the most in that book was "The Problem of Susan." Today I came across (by way of Elizabeth Bear) a remarkable review of that story written by Sarah Monette, who has a lovely blog over at livejournal. She really nails how Gaiman criticizes Lewis for his treatment of Susan, and it's not necessarily where you'd think:

In my posts on Narnia, I talked a lot about Lewis's negative portrayal of adulthood, particularly adult femininity, and the way that all his "good" characters sneer at Susan for choosing that over Narnia. That seems to be Susan's sin in Lewis's eyes, and I think it's interesting that Gaiman doesn't articulate that directly, but his critique of Lewis's stance captures perfectly what's wrong with it:
"I don't know about the girl in the books," says the professor, "but remaining behind would also have meant that she was available to identify her brothers' and little sister's bodies. [...] My younger brother was decapitated, you know. A god who would punish me for liking nylons and parties by making me walk through that school dining room, with the flies, to identify Ed, well . . . he's enjoying himself a bit too much, isn't he? Like a cat, getting the last ounce of enjoyment out of a mouse."
She also analyzes the story on a couple of other layers as well, and after I read the thing I was left with another chill down my spine, something else to think about. This is what makes great literary criticism - the ability of the essayist to make you look at a piece of writing in a new way, to have a new "a-ha!" moment.

04 June 2008

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words

At least.
Found this picture on Shorpy. It's been haunting me like a stubborn ghost ever since. I've looked at it many times, and I'm convinced there's a story there...

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