Monthly Archives: June 2008

New Ink!

I felt like celebrating this weekend, so I made an appointment with the incredibly talented Ezra Haidet at Austin’s own Triple Crown Tattoo. Ezra had a craving to make robots this weekend, and I had an idea I thought might be right up his alley.

So without further delay, I introduce you to my new buddy Zombot, the Zombie Robot!

Isn’t he adorable? You just want to take him home to mama!

Tales of the Mountain State 2 cover and lineup

Dig that Lansdale blurb, huh?

The official lineup for this one has been released.

Mark Justice
Jonathan Maberry
Bob Freeman
Lucy A. Snyder
Nate Kenyon
Steven L. Shrewsbury
Michael Laimo
Maurice Broaddus
Gary A. Braunbeck
Brian J. Hatcher
Mary SanGiovanni
Rob Darnell
Nate Southard

It’s an honor to be a part of this one.  For those of you who haven’t read any Braunbeck, you really owe to yourself to do so.  I don’t know if the names reflect story order, but if that’s the case I’m pleased as punch to own the “Take It Home” slot. 

The story I wrote for this one, “For Just One Night,” is one of my favorites.  I hope you guys dig it.

I’ll post more on this one when it’s up for sale.

Sad conversations I’ve had recently

Exhibit A

Location - Supermarket

Me:  Where’s the O’Doul’s?

Shawna: In the corner.  Oh, Coors has a non-alcoholic beer, too.

Me (sarcastic): Yeah, bet that tastes excellent.

Just call me Nate Southard – recovering alcoholic, near-beer snob.

Exhibit B

Location – Home

Shawna: What did you have for dinner?

Me: Went to Chipotle.

Shawna: I thought you were going to eat cheesecake and banana pudding?

Me: Well…

Yeah, I had all three.  Fucking sue me.

A Matter of Middles

So right now I’m what some might call “neck deep” in a rewrite of my latest manuscript.  It’s moving along okay, but it reminds me of a good topic: middles.

See, the previous draft of this manuscript suffered from what my pre-readers called “pacing problems” and what I called “being a huge piece of dogshit.”  In English, the middle dragged.  I shouldn’t have been surprised, really.  The entire novel was inspired by its final scene.  The first scene popped into my head later, and I set about connecting those two dots.

This may have been a mistake.

See, this manuscript was 80,000 words long (1,000 words is roughly five manuscript pages).  By the time this rewrite is finished, I’ll have kept the last 15,000 words and maybe the first 10,000.  That’s right, I’m keeping just under a third of the orginal story.  Ouch.

I’ve often thought about middles.  Several writers I know have said they’ll start a story with a set beginning and ending, but the middle is just a cloudy little kernal of an idea in their minds.  Sometimes it shows.  I just read Wizard and Glass, the middle chapter of King’s Dark Tower series and the first of the books I didn’t love.  As a matter of fact, I damn near hated the thing.  It was a slog and a half.

The middle is supposed to be the bulk of your book.  It’s where the stuff happens.  If it’s slow, your story is slow.  There’s no way around it.  Even when it’s the best party of a story, like The Empire Strikes Back, it usually involves bullshit like Luke doing handstands in the swamp.  And don’t get me started on how slow The Two Towers is with its “Hobbits in a Tree” subplot.  Or season three of Lost.  Blech.

Now, I’ve encountered more than a few stories that handle the middle very well.  Charlie Huston’s excellent crime thriller Caught Stealing solves the problem by breaking the narrative into four seperate days that almost read as four different stories. Several of the Vertigo comics series handle the problem by keeping the narrative moving in finite story arcs.  The Walking Dead, though an excellent series most of the time, could learn a little from the Vertigo books.

At the end of the day, I’m stuck with solving my own middle problem.  I think I’m doing a good job, but my pre-readers will have to tell me more.  Looking down the line, I’ll have to tackle the problem again.  The next two books I have on my slate involve one that tackles the middle issue in a rather creative fashion, but the other is currently based on its opening and closing scenes, and I’m just not sure what that middle is yet.

Why do I do this to myself?

It Must Be Summer

My electric bill has skyrocketed, kids are everywhere, the crap-ass ice cream van is driving past my house playing the same shitty version of “It’s a Small World After All” every ten minutes, and I really wish people would stop throwing parties so I could just stay home for one fucking weekend.

Yep, summer’s here.

I’m told summer is a time of celebration and stuff like that.  Personally, I don’t buy it.  It’s a time for me to rack up debt on entertainment and a time for me to wish I had enough cash to get the air conditioner on my car fixed, but if you expect me to celebrate either of those things, you’ve got another thing coming.  Odds are, you’ve got coming at your throat at high speed, but you never know.

Sure, there are fond memories.  There were trips to amusement parks back when I wasn’t paying for them.  There was swimming back before I hated taking my shirt off in front of people.  There was even an especially cool night spent riding around with Benny Turner and Brian Hunt listening to Oasis B-Sides.  I enjoyed it because I was sure Oasis was one of the worst bands of all time, and I really enjoyed despising them.  More than ten years later, I’m confronted by the disappinting fact that–despite being made by musicians who were total douchebags–“Cast No Shadow,” “Morning Glory,” and “She’s Electric” are incredible songs.

So yeah, summer’s lost some of its shine.  Of course, the entire world has.  What an ugly fucking place we inhabit, huh?

On the bright side, the summer brings us “So You Think You Can Dance.”  I say without a trace of shame that this is one of my favorite shows.  A chance encounter with the show last summer (I was walking through the living room five minutes after a Simpson’s re-run) pulled me in like a pulling mechanism of some kind.  Then it hooked me like a hook or something (it’s early, go write your own fucking similes).

So, yeah.  There’s summer for you, the good and the bad.  Enjoy your summer TV, read a book, and try to pay your bills on a single income.  Go on, I dare ya! 

Announcement: Darkness on the Edge

I’ve mentioned this one before, but here’s great news I wanted to share. I just want to say how excited I am about this one. It’s an incredible honor to share a table of contents with such wonderful authors.

And a special thank you to Brian Keene for introducing me to Harrison! 

From Editor Harrison Howe:

Darkness on the Edge: Tales Inspired by the Songs of Bruce Springsteen

Hello all,

You may have heard mention, on this message board and other places, about the above-mentioned anthology. I’m pleased to announce that the final manuscript has been delivered to PS Publishing. The TOC is as appears below. As soon as there’s a link to pre-order the book, I’ll post it here. It’s slated to see publication in Spring 2009. It was a long and tough journey and I thank everyone involved for helping making this exactly as I envisioned it.

Here’s the list of fine stories and songs from which they drew inspiration:

Darkness on the Edge:
Tales Inspired by the Songs of Bruce Springsteen
Edited by
Harrison Howe

CONTENTS

Nothing Forgiven………………………………………………..Lee Thomas
(Inspired by “Something In the Night”)

Fire……………………………………………………………….Elizabeth Massie
(Inspired by “I’m On Fire”)

Atonement……………………………………………………….Gary A. Braunbeck
(Inspired by “My Father’s House”)

Kneeling In the Darkness………………………………………Lorne Dixon
(Inspired by “Point Blank”)

The Hungry Heart………………………………………………Michael A. Arnzen
(Inspired by “Hungry Heart”)

Die Angle…………………………………………………………Lawrence C. Connolly
(Inspired by “Murder, Inc.”)

From the Dark Heart of a Dream………………………………Tom Piccirilli
(Inspired by “Adam Raised a Cain”)

Independence Day…..…………………………………………….Sarah Langan
(Inspired by “The Rising” and “Independence Day”)

Ain’t No Angel Gonna Greet Me……………………………..…Guy Adams
(Inspired by “Maria’s Bed”)

With These Hands……………………………………………..…Kurt Dinan
(Inspired by “Factory” and “Two Faces”)

Wings for Wheels………………………………………………….John Palisano
(Inspired by “Thunder Road”)

Across the Border………………………………………………….Peter Abrahams
(Inspired by “Across the Border”)

The Room………………………………………………………….Jeffrey Thomas
(Inspired by “Candy’s Room”)

Fog Boy………………………………………………………………T.M. Wright
(Inspired by “My Father’s House”)

Darkness on the Edge of Town…………………………………….James A. Moore
(Inspired by “Darkness on the Edge of Town”)

Lightning Can’t Catch Me…………………………………………Gerard Houarner
(Inspired by “State Trooper”)

In Winter…………………………………………………………….Nancy Kilpatrick
(Inspired by “Streets of Philadelphia”)

Armageddon, Now Available in High Definition…………………Nate Southard
(Inspired by “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)”)

Devil’s Arcade……………………………………………………….Mark Newton
(Inspired by “Devil’s Arcade”)

American Skin

This past weekend I read one damn good book.  American Skin by Ken Bruen is by far the best crime novel I’ve read this year.  Publishers Weekly describes the book like so…

At the start of Bruen’s dark tribute to the Irish fascination with the American dream, Stephen Blake is on the run after a bank heist, hoping to disappear in the desert near Tucson. He has the money, and his girlfriend, Siobhan, knows how to launder it. All he has to do is change his accent, his skin and pass as American. But John A. Stapleton, hit man for the IRA, wants more than his share of the swag, and the psychotic Dade, obsessively devoted to the music of Tammy Wynette, is wandering the Southwest like a slaughter wagon.

Bruen, who I’d never read before but am now addicted to, writes in a crackling-yet-sad prose style.  The words drip emotion and energy, carrying you through even the slowest portions of the narrative at a breakneck pace.

The characters populating American Skin are a vivid collection.  They run the gamut of sympathetic to terrifying, many times within the same character.  All of them are fascinating, some of them stupifying.

Look, I can be a slow reader.  I know that.  I couldn’t put American Skin down.  This novel wormed its way into my brain and changed the way I want to read.  It’s that powerful.

If Noir is your thing at all, then do yourself a favor and pick up American Skin.  You won’t be sorry.