Preparing for Battle

I tried.  I mean, I really tried.  Thing is, after a week of not writing on this bastard I started to get antsy.  When I realized 2008 was still half a week away, I decided I couldn’t take it anymore.

So here I am.  Welcome back.

I wish I could tell you December has been a mad rush of book contracts and publications, but I just can’t.  I’ve had some really hopeful signs, and a new retailer has picked up all the Frequency Press books (look for them on Horror-Mall real soon!), but that ever-elusive deal remains just out of reach.

Unless you count that one thing, but I’m afraid to talk about that until something is signed.  Maybe before my birthday.

So this leaves me preparing for battle in 2008.  I remember a few years back when Warren Ellis proclaimed the next year The Year of the Shithammer.  While I don’t really plan on having that kind of year, I want 2008 to be a big step forward for me.  And I think it will be.  Things are looming on the horizon, and I think they’re going to get better as the year rolls out.

Of course, there are speedbumps along the way.

For instance, I just found out last night that two members of my super-close writer support group aren’t going to make World Horror in March.  This means I have to work harder to put myself out there.  I can’t follow these folks around and act like I know what I’m doing.  Instead, I have to dive in head-first and prove I know what I’m doing.  Dammit, that’s hard for a shy-as-all-hell guy like yours truly.

So, battle. 

2008 should prove very interesting.  If not, I’ll just cut and paste this entry next December.

Rocketing toward 2008

We’re less than two weeks away from the end of the year, and I couldn’t be more excited.  As incredible as 2007 was, 2008 promises to be even bigger.  I can’t wait.

In the past year, three new short stories have hit the public.   “Insomnia Is My Only Friend” landed in the first issue of Horror Literature Quarterly back in April.  Two months later, “Johnny Hall’s Amazing Vanishing Act” appeared both in prose and as an audio recording at The Late Late Show.  Wait another two months, and August saw the publication of a new Rundberg story, “Of Cabbages and Kings,” in The Dead Walk Again!

Not a bad track record, if I do say so myself (and this is my homepage, so I do get to say so myself).

Depending on publishing schedules, I should have at least four stories published in 2008.  That will tie my most productive year (2005), but I really think I’ll be able to top that because I’m writing better than I ever have.  We’ll see how it goes.

In the past year, I finished two novels and wrote the first draft of a third.  I’ve never felt so productive, and it’s my sincere hope that I’ll be able to show you at least one of these books soon.  Keep your fingers crossed, and I’ll do the same.

In the coming year, I have quite a few projects to fill my time.  One of them, a secret project with some other writers, should be ready for World Horror in March.

Finally, I bought a house with Shawna this year, making me both a homeowner and an official homebody.  Couldn’t be happier.

I’ll see you guys in 2008.  Have a good December.

2007 Top 10 Songs of the Year

Moving on with the various top 10 lists, we’ll go with songs. I tried to stick with songs released in 2007, but I’m afraid it just wasn’t a very good year. At least the top five came out this year. I can’t make the same promise for the last five.

As a special note, all of these songs should be available on iTunes.

1. “My Way Home Is Through You” by My Chemical Romance. Who would have thought the song of the year would be a B-Side by a band that’s seen so much success in the last year? “My Way Home” is a gut-kick of a love song delivered in under three minutes. Kudos for admitting in the middle of the song that there’s no message but a declaration of love. “We’re not here to pay a compliment or sing about the government…”

2. “Feathers” by Coheed and Cambria. It figures that these prog-rockers would reach their apex when channeling both “Janie’s Crying” and “Jump.” The result is an incredible string of pop-rock bliss with an incredible hook. “So right now hide your feathers on the back porch baby…”

3. “Magazine” by The Afghan Whigs. The Whigs return after eight years and score a touchdown with a song that doesn’t even have a chorus. Greg Dulli sums up the entire Whigs output in three minutes of heartfelt longing. “Think I’m driving by your house, don’t ya?”

4. “Point of Extinction” by Motion City Soundtrack. While Even If It Kills Me may have been the weakest of their records, this song is one of their strongest. In just over two minutes, Justin Pierre and company create a pop masterpiece. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned you always get burned, but you never get enough.”

5. “Little Lover’s So Polite” by Silversun Pickups. Wow. I didn’t think there would be a single band to impress me with a debut record this year, but these guys did it without even trying. “Can’t control the slow ride, little lover’s so polite.”

6. “Song Without A Chorus” by Butch Walker and the Let’s Go Out Tonights. Yeah, it’s another song lacking in the chorus department. Instead, it’s three minutes of Butch Walker harmonizing with Pink while contemplating love, the creative process, and the music industry. “And this beach is getting wider than this train of thought is long, and each little drop of sand is probably some other asshole poet’s song.”

7. “Intervention” by The Arcade Fire. Cutting down religion and politics in the same song could end up as an obvious joke, but The Arcade Fire make it work in ways that it shouldn’t. “Working for the church while your family dies…”

8. “I’m Shipping Up to Boston” by Dropkick Murphys. There’s more violence, anger, and optimism in this two minute and 34 seconds than I’ve heard in my entire life. “Climbing up the top sails, I lost my leg!”

9. “Starlight” by Muse. Slow, driving, and featuring a keyboard line that turns the song into a pop masterpiece. This probably wins points for being the strangest love song of the year (Yeah, I’m addicted to love songs). “Far away, this ship is taking me far away…”

10. “Finale” from the Dreamgirls soundtrack. Just in case the previous nine songs didn’t completely sabotage my cool, here’s one from a musical. Even if you haven’t watched the preceding two hours of this movie, this song packs enough punch to put you on your knees. Led by Jennifer Hudson, the climax of this song is a crushing example of musicality, and then they strip away everything for the final note. Damn-near perfect. “We’ll be theeeeeeere!”

2007 Top 10 Books of the Year

Every year, I like to list my favorite reads.  I’m pretty lax on my rules, as I’m constantly playing catch up when it comes to reading.  You’ll note that most of these books didn’t come out this year.  My only rule is that I had to read them for the first time in 2007.

Now, on with the list (complete with links where you can learn more and buy, buy, buy!)… 

1. Pressure, Jeff Strand.  I’ve mentioned this one multiple times, so you’ve probably seen this coming.  Strand’s tale of a man hunted by a former friend turned raging psychopath is at times funny, heartwarming, and utterly horrifying.  One of the best books I’ve ever read, and an easy cap to 2007’s list.

2. The Dead Letters, Tom Piccirilli. A masterful mix of police thriller and horror.  This tale of a man hunting a serial killer who’s just trying to make up for the horrible things he’s done will have you turning pages faster than you thought possible.

3. Under My Roof, Nick Mamatas. Funny and thought-provoking.  This story of a suburban home declairing itself its own micro-country is fun even as it makes you ponder the world around you.

4. The Keeper, Sarah Langan.  This story of a small town trying to get back on its feet even as terrible events begin to spiral out of control is as wonderful an example of mood and character as I can find.

5. Crooked Little Vein, Warren Ellis. Hilarious, twisted, maybe a little psychotic.  When a detective is sent after the original, secret Constitution of United States, he meets every imaginable nutjob in America.

6. The Road, Cormac McCarthy. McCarthy writes in a style I didn’t think I would dig, but this story of a man and his son wandering a post-apocalyptic landscape just trying to stay alive was one of the most affecting books I’ve read in a long time.

7. DMZ: Public Works, Brian Wood and Ricardo Burchielli.  Wood writes a story of terrorism and corporate exploitation in a war-shattered Manhattan.  It helps to have read the previous DMZ volumes, but this story is powerful enough on its own to warrant inclusion on this list.

8. The Waste Lands, Stephen King.  As I make my way through King’s Dark Tower series, I find myself more and more amazed with each passing volume.  The third book in the series is the most wonderful yet.

9. Ghoul, Brian Keene.  Brian captures the spirit of youth in so many ways with this novel.  From the wonder of the unknown to fear of the adult world and what it might do to your innocence, Keene leaves no stone unturned, leaving us with one of his best novels to date.

10. Baltimore, Chris Golden and Mike Mignola.  In this illustrated beauty, Mignola and Golden weave a story that will remind you of Stoker, Shelley, Lovecraft, Poe, and all the old masters.  Incredible from start to finish.

When good ideas begat time management fiascos

Big project is done.  New draft of another project will be sent off to editor by Friday.  That gives me the weekend to read a short story Kelli Dunlap is supposed to send me and write another story of my own.  On Monday, I start working on my Young Adult Horror idea.

And last night Shawna said, “I thought you were done with writing?”  Either she was saying that tongue planted firmly in cheek or she’s decided I should give up and be a waiter or something.  Sadly, she won’t tell me which.

Anyway, all of this got me thinking about the way I currently write, manage my time, and how it all will probably drive me bugfuck crazy within a year or two.

See, when I get an idea (or, preferably, a really good idea) I like to start working on it right away.  And if something needs doing, writing-wise, I tend to jump on it.  Paul Puglisi told a story at Necon this year about me saying I’d have a new draft of a story to him within a few days, only to turn it in an hour later.  That’s just what I do.  I get excited, and I attack.  Boom, and all that jazz.

Well, this personal philosophy tends to create a few time management snafus.  Luckily, I’m not exactly weighed down by real deadlines at this stage, but I honestly couldn’t pull off all the writing I want to without a thirty-hour workday or one helluva meth habit.

Case in point: I have an idea for a novel called Firewater.  More than just a novel, it’s a love letter, a way of expressing my thankfullness and admiration for Shawna and the rest of my family, along with my friends, pets, and this incredible city I live in, all wrapped up in a supernatural noir story starring homeless people.  I honestly think it’s going to be one of the best things I’ve written to this point, and I can’t wait to get started.

I should be able to get started in May at the earliest.  That sucks in ways I don’t care to describe, but I have to finish up all the ideas (some of which are really good ideas, at least in my head) that came before it.  It makes me want to rip my hair out (or at least wish I had hair to rip out), but it simply must be done.  It’s how I work.

When I start getting actual deadlines, this practice will need to change.  I know this, and it terrifies me.  If you don’t mind, I’m now going to crawl under my desk and cry.

Special Note: Shawna is nothing but supportive of both me and my writing.  Please take the above Shawna comments as the lame attempts at comedy that they are.