Monthly Archives: May 2007

The Myspace Interview

(Note: This was originally posted to my Myspace Page.  Feel free to take part, but all questions must be submitted through myspace.)

This could be a good idea or a crap idea.  Only time will tell…

Since the reader drive I went on a few weeks back, my blog readership has gone up like a moon rocket.  So, in an attempt to both thank my readers and exploit them, I’m launching The Myspace Interview!

Here’s the deal.  Anybody who wants can ask up to three questions.  You all have until Monday to send your questions to me either in the comments of this entry right here or in a private message.  I’ll answer anything, though I reserve the right to be a smart ass when I want to be.

Here’s your chance to peak inside the psyche and life of a struggling horror writer who’s just itching and scratching to make a name for himself.  It’ll be like asking Stephen King questions, only nobody knows who I am!

TV Thoughts, Squeezable Butts, and Other Weekend Dispatches

The last two weeks have been full of various season finales. Officially, I only loved The Office season ender. Can’t wait for that show to come back. Guess I should throw a spoiler alert up for the rest of this.

I enjoyed the twenty minutes or so that I saw of the Lost finale. I got to watch Charlie die, Locke kill somebody with a knife, and Sayid break a dude’s neck with his legs. What’s not to love about that? Well, there’s Jack’s fake beard, I guess, but the flash forward concept has my interest stirred. Maybe I’ll watch this next year. I’m sure three episodes in they’ll forget all about moving the plot forward again, but it’s worth a shot.

The Heroes finale: meh. If you’re going to have a superhero smackdown, you should probably make it, y’know, super. Standing around isn’t that exciting.

Goodbye, Veronica Mars. We’ll miss you.

Do I really watch so few shows?

Oh. The American Idol finale. I was in and out of the room for this one. Well, I ran into the room when I heard Kelly Clarkson (the most beautiful woman on Earth that I’m not currently in a relationship with) singing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I’m just gonna lay it out on the line right now. If anybody out there can arrange it so I can squeeze Kelly’s ass for ten consecutive seconds, I will write them an 80,000 word novel of their choosing. Thank you.

So the weekend’s here (it’s a long one, yay!), and I’m booked up. Gotta finish that wall, because I damn near ruined it a few days ago. Have to enter some notes on a manuscript I’m reading for Kelli Dunlap and send it back to her (I was supposed to do this last weekend, but allergies and a family emergency delayed me. Sorry, Kelli! Notes are on the way! I’m sure there’s other stuff to do, like mowing the yard if the rain ever stops, but my brain is starting to shut down on me.

As a closing thought, checkout the Reggie and the Full Effect record Songs Not to Fall in Love To. Great stuff!

The Allergies, The Work, and The Bad Idea

I never used to have allergies.  I was even tested once–fifty or so pin pricks in my back testing me for everything from grass to cat dander to cigarette smoke.  I was found to have absolutely zero allergies.

Then I moved to Austin.

Something like three hundred times a year, these giant clouds of pollen, mold, or fungus drift out of the trees and create a giant allergen carpet.  At least four times a year, I suffer from allergies so horrible I want to move to Antarctica where there is no pollen.   Just for the record, I am both pissed and bitter over this.  If you haven’t guessed, I’m sitting here thinking like that little girl in the cough syrup commercial who keeps saying “It’ll hurt if I swallow.”  I also coughed a few minutes ago and spent half a minute choking on my own bile and mucous.  Lovely!

***

Writing is moving along as I try to get back in the swing of things post moving into the house.  Still one large home project to finish, but allergies, a medical emergency, and general laziness has delayed the wall we’re trying to finish.  I should just do it tonight.

Right, so back to the work.

Cranking away on a novellette right now.  Fun stuff.  It’s a little weirder than anything I’ve done in the past.  Any luck you’ll all get to read it sooner rather than later.  I think you’ll dig it.  Once this is finished, I’ve got some stuff to rewrite.  We’ll see what happens after that.

***

And now for the bad idea.  Last Friday, I was driving with Shawna, heading to College Station to go see my friend’s band play.  It wasn’t a bad drive, little traffic-heavy.  Anyway, we’re tooling along Highway 21 when I turn to Shawna and spout off the dumbest idea I’ve ever had.

“I think I’m going to record an album this summer.”

Shawna, bless her heart, responded with a “Cool.”

I’ve looked into it, and I could do it on the cheap for about $300-$400.  I’ve heard of worse deals.  So now I’ve just got to see if I want to put my crappy little speck of musical talent on tape.  Maybe the more intelligent half of my brain will prevail.

Lord, help us all.

Read This!: Graphic Novel Round Up 2

Ladies and gentlemen, a selection of the graphic novels I’ve picked my way through in the last month…

Hellblazer (The Azzarello arc)
By Brian Azzarello and various artists

Before he was an idiot with a golden, cross-shaped shotgun played by Keanu Reeves, John Constantine was a total bastard of a magician (and English, too!).  He was one of the best characters in comics, written at various times by some of the greatest writers comics has ever seen.

Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets) took control of Constantine for an extended arc, the first American to write the character.  Brian’s arc is collected in the four volumes titled Hard Time, Good Intentions, Freezes Over, and Highwater.  These four trades contain some of my favorite stories, period.  The situations Constantine finds himself in as he crosses the underbelly of America might not be the normal Constantine adventures we’ve seen, but they are powerful.

The story begins in Hard Time, with Constantine entering prison for the murder of one of his friends.  I’ll try not to give any spoilers, but I will say by the time Azzarello is finished, Constantine encounters animal porn, a murderer who only comes out during blizzards, and a billionaire industrialist named S.W. Manor that Azzarello had to cook up when DC comics said he couldn’t use Bruce Wayne as his villain.  There’s evil, wonder, and delicious depravity.  Fun!

Recommendation: Read it now!

Dragon Head, Volume 1
By Minetaro Mochizuki

A commuter train full of school children is swallowed up by the ground when a massive earthquake hits Japan.  Out of several cars, only three children survive–and one of them might be insane.  Will they be rescued?  What’s that sound in the darkness?  And why is it so hot?

Dragon Head stands out as one of the strongest horror comics I have ever read.  The sense of claustrophobia and darkness is overwhelming.  The pacing is spot on and completely amazing, letting the tension build and build until you’re ready to scream.  There are several volumes of Dragon Head available, with more on the way.  Run out and grab them right away!

Recommendation: Must Read!

Wasteland Book 1: Cities in Dust
By Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten

A hundred years after the Big Wet, Earth has been left a broken, infertile world of rock and sand. The town of Providens is like many others on the post-Big Wet planet – small, mostly illiterate and struggling for survival. But while most communities are like Providens, not all the cities that survived the Big Wet are. Some are like Newbegin, burgeoning metropolises that combine pieces of past societies with the new status quo. When Providens welcomes a stranger named Michael into its midst, will the quiet man lead them to the better world of Newbegin or shatter what little order still exists?

Johnston and Mitten bring you one of the best new comics of the past few years, and it all starts here.  There’s an equal emphasis on story and world-building in this volume, and it all clicks together perfectly.  Scenes like the journey through the pre-city and the attack of the sand eaters will get the blood pumping and the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end.  Amazing stuff from start to finish.

Recommendation: Super-ultra-mega strong!

The Exterminators Vol. 2: Insurgency
By Simon Oliver, Tony Moore, and Chris Samnee

If there’s a stranger book out there, I don’t think I’ve found it.  Buddhist pest exterminators, an immortal redneck, and an army of cockroaches doing battle against humans.  I haven’t even gotten into the masked rat wrestler yet.  Oh, or the literature cathouse.

When a bug poison ends up mutating a roach, it gets pissed that its friends are being exterminated and leads an attack against mankind.  What follows is at times hilarious, gross, and always well-written.  And when you have Samnee and Moore–two of the best artists working today–on the title, you can’t go wrong.

Recommendation: Very high.  Pick up volume 1 first, though.

Music Festivals, Caving In, and Creative Displays of Displeasure

I live in Austin, home of the annual ACL Festival–three days of country, hip hop, soul, rock, hipster, electronic, and blues bands.  The festival has become a national fixture, and the lineup has just gotten better year after year.

And I’ve never gone.

See, the fine folks at the ACL Fest make it standard practice to put tickets on sale weeks before the lineup is announced.  You have to pay over $100 for a show you might not like.  They’ve never had a problem selling out, though.  Maybe it’s the rich former-hippies that populate Austin.  Maybe it’s rich college brats.  My point is, if you want to wait until the lineup comes out, you have to pay $30-$50 more.  At best, that’s irritating.  At worst, it’s complete and total bullshit that deserves a kick to the gut.

I’ve had friends tell me “But the lineup is always great!  You don’t have to worry about it!”  Not the point.  It’s the principle of the thing.  I shouldn’t have to bet on a concert.  That shit ain’t right, as a wise man once said.

So I’ve never gone.  Fuck them.

Then they released this year’s lineup… Bjork, The White Stripes, The Killers, Muse, LCD Soundsystem, Yo La Tengo, Pete Yorn, Bob Dylan (yeah, I shouldn’t list this one so far back, but I’m not a Dylan fan), Amy Winehouse, Butch Walker.

So I bought a goddamn ticket.  $157 after delivery.  I’m stoked, as the cool kids say, but my excitement for this festival is matched only by my continued disdain for its policies.  I’m a hypochrite, sure, but I’m a righteous hypochrite! 

So I’ve concocted a few ways to express my displeasure at the festival while still enjoying myself.  Here are the possibilities.

1. Don’t smile.  Ever.

2. Constantly prank the Lost and Found area.  “Hi, have you found a little bag with two joints and some mushrooms in it?  I can’t find that thing anywhere!”

3. Keep asking festival staff when Springsteen’s supposed to go on stage.  Or when Willie Nelson’s gonna show up.

4. Break into the VIP area.  Really, how tough can it be?

5. Have a Mr. John Jacob Jingleheimerschmidt paged, then have four of my friends show up at the same time.  “Hey, that’s my name too!”

Read This!: Closing Time

Closing Time
By Jack Ketchum

Ketchum is probably my favorite writer today, so news that he had a new short story collection on the way was fantastic.  While the $50 price tag is far too much for the casual reader, this is a good collection.  Ketchum has written an all too brief afterword for each story.  Maybe someday we’ll see a mass market edition hit the stands.

Normally, a Ketchum collection would be full of terror and barely contained chaos.  Closing Time is a different matter, however.  The stories in this one deal with sadness and despair for the most part.  The characters feel lonely, and the hopelessness of life damn near drips off the page.  There are a few glimpses of the madness and horror in there, but they’re few and far between.  It sure doesn’t hurt that Ketchum’s prose is some of the best out there, and it shines in these stories!

Ketchum wears his heart on his sleeve for this collection.  You can sense his deep love of animals, smoking, and Greek food.  And there’s a lot of greek food in there.  AT least three stories take place in Greek restaurants.  It can be a little distracting, but still enjoyable.

Recommendation: High.  You might want to wait for a more affordable edition, but this is an excellent read.

The Prose Comic Book

There’s a fun little poser I’ve been thinking about lately, and sometimes I like to think out loud.  Indulge me, will you?

For a hungry young writer, there can be some tough decisions to make.  Say you’ve got a story idea.  Better yet, say you’ve got a slew of the bastards, a series of interconnected thoughts and ideas involving the same characters.  You’re talking about something ongoing, something that can wrap you up like a television show.  Now, how do you write that?

Okay, I know how you write it, but what medium do you go for.  Novels are great.  You have a greater sense of control when it comes to manipulating the reader.  With comics, you’re talking about giving half of the creative process over to an artist (if you’re like me and lack any artistic talent).

But comic books are built to be serialized.  It’s a part of their nature, and it’s something they do very well.  You get 22 pages of story every four weeks (unless that artist screws it up, far too common these days), and maybe every six months you get a trade paperback collecting the previous half-year’s stories.  Not a bad shake, really.  You get a sturdy volume for your bookshelf, but you can also feed that monthly jones.

But, yeah, there’s more than one problem there.  The first is that artist thing.  I think I could kill a tiger with my bare hands before convincing an artist to sign on for a monthly series without having a deal for the book in place.  Catch 22, you can’t sell a comic these days without an artist attached.  Add in the factors that the only publishers who will touch a non-superhero serial (save Vertigo and Dark Horse, who ain’t gonna touch me without some kick ass prior credits) pay back end deals only and the horrifically tiny readership for non superhero comics, and you’ve got one daunting problem on your hands.

So then there’s manga, those wonderful japanese comics that come in thick, yet pocket-sized digests and have their own section in bookstores across the country.  There’s real potential there, but it’s a tight market, and I’m not sure it’s the way I want to go.  Plus, the only publisher who will touch OEL (Original English Language) Manga demands 60% ownership and claims horror doesn’t sell.  Scratch that off the list.

So what’s a guy to do?

Well, I’ve got an idea.  Even better, I think it might be a good idea.  Novels used to be serialized all the time.  The books were (largely) shorter back then, but that’s beside the point.  King proved with The Green Mile that it can still be done.  “But you’re no Stephen King,” you say.  “Duh!” I reply.  This would have to be done cheaper, with a smaller base.  Why?  Because we’re not serializing a single novel.  We’re making comics in prose form.

I see it this way: a 14k word (roughly 70 page), saddle stiched chapbook every month.  It could even be on a six week schedule.  At 1500 words a day, it’ll take about ten days to write, then another week for a second pass.  Editor gets a week, then we go to press.  We’re printing the chaps on the cheap, so they take a week or two max.  So, yeah.  Six weeks is more than possible, four is a tighter fit, but why not?  That’s what lead time is for.  Have six months to a year’s worth of story ready to go before the first goes to press.  No sweat.

Plus, after six months, you’ve got an 84k word novel ready to go–perfect Mass Market length.  And sure, you want the novel to be of better quality than the chaps, but you don’t need to go crazy with it.  We’re talking pulp fiction, here.  Maybe a $14 trade, but the pulpy mass market is the way to go.  Of course, selling to the mass market takes a lot of time, so maybe sticking with the indies is the better way to go (that trade thing again).  An indie could even rattle off a 100 copy limited hardcover, add to their profit.

So here’s what we want to happen…

Six months of chapbooks.  At the end of that six months, the collected novel goes on pre-order.  You can even advertise where to order the book from in the back of the chap.  The chaps keep coming, and in another six months the first collection comes out, just as the second collection goes up for pre-order.

Boom.  You have a prose comic book.

WordPress Help Needed

I’m kind of a computer idiot, so I need some help.  I’m trying to find a way to shift the “Writers” link category toward the top of the right hand side of this page.  Any suggestions, or do I just need to create a “links” page?

Preparing for another culinary adventure

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, I love to eat.  It’s my favorite hobby.  Well, maybe my second fav.  My top would be cooking.  I looove to cook.  I’m not too great at it, but I’m constantly striving to improve (I even considered joining a culinary program until I realized it would mean another $10,000 worth of debt for me.

Okay, that’s neither here nor there.  Right now we’re talking about eating.  Two years ago, I started an annual summer project.  That year, I had to try a new restaurant every week.  Last year, I went on the search for the perfect taco.

This year, I will find Austin’s best hamburger.

Maybe this isn’t the greatest idea when I’m trying to improve my eating habits, but I figure once a week won’t do too much damage, and there’s really too many fabled Austin burger joints to pass up.  My only concern is visiting a majority of them during a single summer.  Oh well.  I make these sacrifices so you don’t have to.

Be sure to pay attention starting in June.  Let’s eat!