Monthly Archives: December 2008

I’m so predictable it hurts

So Sunday morning I’m up making breakfast.  I do this sometimes, though not as often as Shawna would like.  Shawna walks in, and we banter our way through the morning, exchanging small talk and such.  You know, friendly chit chat.  It isn’t supposed to turn ugly, and it isn’t supposed to highlight how predictable I am or how Shawna knows me better than I know myself.

But it did.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present a transcript of a rather embarrassing portion of our Sunday morning conversation…

Me: I had a really weird dream last night.

Shawna: Was it the one where I bring home Megan Mullally and Kelly Clarkson and you watch the three of us make out?

Me: I said it was weird, not so awesome it hurts.

Shawna: Okay, what was it?

Me: All right, so I was back in Indiana, and I accidentally killed my neighbors–

Shawna: You don’t like your old neighbors?

Me: Wasn’t really them.  Just some faceless couple.  Dream people or whatever.

Shawna: Okay.

Me: So I had to go into hiding.

Shawna: Into hiding.

Me: Yeah.

Shawna: Okay.

Me: Well, I ended up going into a grocery store because I needed food, and I’m checking out the magazine rack.  That’s when I notice they’ve put a bunch of magazines out with the headline NATE SOUTHARD: THE NEXT BIG THING IN HORROR in order to flush me out.

Shawna: So how many did you buy?

Me: Huh?

Shawna: How many did you buy?

Me: They were using them to find me.  I couldn’t buy them.

Shawna: …

Me: Two.

And there you have it, ladies and gentlemen, a glimpse into the mind of predictable ol’ me.

Getting in the spirit

I was a little worried I’d have trouble getting in the holiday spirit this year.  As I’ve said before, it’s been a rough year.  And I did have a little trouble.  I was worried about money, and I wasn’t thrilled with the fact that Shawna has no surprises under the Christmas Tree (which we don’t have because the pets might destroy it).  Maybe this is all part of Christmas as an adult.  Heck if I know.

Luckily, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to get me ready for this Thursday.

First, there’s cooking.  I love cooking, and I love doing it for the holidays.  This year’s theme is pretty south of the border, so tonight I’ll be going home and slow roasting five pounds of puerco pibil.  The smell of annetto and cumin will fill my house like it was the Christmas Spirit.

Second, egg nog.  More to the point, using egg nog to flavor my coffee.  Yummy stuff, and I’m pretty sure I pack on a few pounds with each mug.  ANd it just feels so damn Christmasy!

Then there’s TV.  I’ve already watched the George C Scott Christmas Carol.  Tonight is reserved for the original Grinch.  A Colbert Christmas has quickly become a classic in our household.  If only I had some other specials on DVD.

Finally, there’s the music.  “Fairytale of New York” and the Springsteen version of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” are old favs, along with anything from the Andy Williams Christmas record.  I swear you can’t go wrong with that stuff!

So Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and all that other stuff.  Tomorrow night I’ll be staying up late, because I can’t go to sleep until it’s officially Christmas. 

Sometimes I really do feel like a kid again.

Appearance in Shroud Magazine

The new Shroud Magazine is available. 

If you click over there, you might notice my name on the cover, just to the left of the femme fatale who appears to think my name smells bad.  That’s because editor, writer, and all around groovy guy Michael Knost featured me as the first subject of his new Progknostications column, where he highlights various up and coming writers.  My short story “Inside the Box” also appears.  That makes this my first appearance on a cover and as the subject of an article.

Not a bad Christmas present, really?

Change we can… wait, what?

I didn’t vote in this last election.  Personally, I don’t vote outside of local issues.  I do this because all politicians are sub-human scum and are undeserving of any support I could possibly give them.  I also don’t enjoy lying to myself and trying to convince myself that any politician cares about me and my hourly wage lifestyle.

But I had a brief, brief moment when I wanted to vote for Obama, a shiny instant when I wanted to believe he was an agent of change and not another politician reaching for the presidency in that empty, greedy, “Gimme it, it’s mine!” sort of way.

Boy, I sure am glad I got over that!

See, today Obama chose evangelical pastor Rick Warren, a noted opponent of gay and abortion rights (who once compared all abortions, no matter the circumstances, to the holocaust) to deliver the invocation at the inauguration.  All that change everybody was so sure they’d get appears to be the smoke and mirrors a very good magician.  The shiny knight of the future has chosen to toe the anti-gay and anti-woman line.  He’s been elected, so now he doesn’t care about a damn thing past getting re-elected.

Sure, I didn’t vote, so many will say I have no right to bitch.  Why?  Because I wasn’t fooled? 

Look, I still hope Obama can do some good.  I’m not holding out hope, though.  I ran out of hope the first time I took a government class.

Enjoy your weekend.

Bits and Pieces, Odds and Ends

The year is winding down, most New York publishers are working under “No Buy” orders, and I don’t have much in the way of news, so today I’ll be playing general catch up.

GIFT IDEAS?

Have you looked at The Bookstore lately?  Sure. it might be tough to find a copy of Just Like Hell these days, but there are plenty of copies of Drive, A Trip to Rundberg, Brian Keene’s FEAR, Bits of the Dead, Tales of the Mountain State 2 and The Dead Walk Again available.  Really, you could do worse for your Christmas shopping.

COMMUNICATION

Did you know I’m on twitter now?  Just check out www.twitter.com/natesouthard and you too can watch me whine about how miserable I am at all hours.  I’m also on facebook and myspace, for those who feel like running a quick search.

WORK RELEASE

It occurs to me that subtitle might be more creepy than clever.  Oh, well.

The last week or so was spent knocking out a trio of new short stories.  Two of them should have homes ready and waiting, and I know where the last is going first went it starts making the submission rounds.  Maybe it’s early, but all three feel like a strong step forward in my writing.

This week, I’ll start the second draft of a crime novel that needs to be fleshed out a bit.  There’s a good skeleton there, but it needs a little muscle.

And that’s about all the news I can think of.  Hopefully, I’ll come back later in the week with something fun.

Hating the World and Meeting Goals

What a year.  When I look back on 2008, my thoughts can best be described in four simple words:

Man, fuck this year.

Seriously, fuck this year.  2008 contained such golden oldies as heart attacks, a cancer diagnosis, and a death in the family, divorces for close friends, dying pets, car crashes, facing addiction, a possible rabies diagnosis, and other things you usually only see in period literature.  I mean, come on!

By the time October and November rolled around, I hated leaving the house and only rarely saw a point in getting out of bed.  I closed myself off from family and friends and reverted to my old habit of sitting in a corner and hoping everybody would ignore me.  Only the help of Shawna and a few of my closest friends got me through it with any sort of success.

Something strange happened, though.  In the midst of all this tragedy, bother, and self-pity, I managed to have the best year my writing career has ever seen.  I entered the year with two goals: Sell out Just Like Hell’s print run within a year and sell a novel.  I achieved the first within five months (with the help of Paul at Thunderstorm and a score of others), and there should be an announcement on the other sometime in the new year (because I’m really getting tired of sitting on the news).

In the course of the year I also sold a story to Cemetery Dance, finished three novels and wrote the first draft of a fourth.  My writing improved by leaps and bounds, and I even received a few rather large checks for said writing.  I’d toast myself if I wasn’t so committed to staying sober.

So that’s 2008.  It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.  Weird stuff.  I probably wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t lived through it.

But really, can we just get to 2009 soon?

Top Ten Books of 2008

With the year coming to a close (thank goodness!), I thought I’d take the chance to look back on my year’s reading and pick my ten favorite books.  These are not all books that came out this year.  They are, however, books that I read the first time in 2008. 

1. American Skin – Ken Bruen.  I read a few Bruen books this year, and this was by far my favorite.  This tale of violent people doing violent things in Ireland, New York, and the American desert is spellbinding.  Bruen’s prose crackles as it grabs you by the throat and shakes you.  An incredible story, one of the best I’ve read in years.

2. Caught Stealing – Charlie Huston.  Maybe Huston is the heir apparent ot Leonard and Hitchcock; I don’t know.  After reading his debut novel, however, I am positive that he’s one of the best thriller writers working today.  A recovering drunk agrees to watch his neighbors cat.  Within a few days he’s graduated to murder, car chases, and lugging around sackfuls of cash.  A tight, gripping suspense yarn that must be read to be believed.

3. 20th Century Ghosts – Joe Hill. This collection of short stories was my first exposure to Joe Hill.  Luckily, it’s one of the best fiction collections to come down the pike in several years.  Stories such as “Best New Horror,” “My Father’s Mask,” and “Voluntary Commital” run the gamut from pulse-pounding to quietly chilling.  Hill shows himself to be a confident writer of great ability, and I hope he releases another collection sooner rather than later.

4. The Shallow End of the Pool – Adam-Troy Castro.  Parents can do terrible things to their children, and Adam-Troy Castro knows this.  In this novella, he paints a harrowing, heartbreaking portrait of two siblings who have never met and are forced to battle to the death in order to settle a grudge between their estranged parents.  Castro writes wonderfully, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

5. The Imago Sequence – Laird Barron.  Every now and then I read a book that really makes me want to be a better writer, a book that makes me realize how much room for improvement really exists.  Laird Barron’s collection of weird, chilling tales is a book just like that.  I won’t call these stories Cthulhu-esque, because that really sells Laird short.  Barron has created a whole new universe of terrible things lurking just inside the shadows, and the characters he uses to navigate these tales (a weathered CIA spook, a grizzled pinkerton, and several others) are masterpieces of characterization.

6. Scalped, Indian Country – Jason Aaron.  Aaron impressed me with his Vietnam series The Other Side, but he really took me by surprise with this noir set on a reservation.  He hits all the right, gritty notes, and he brings enough twists to keep you guessing well after you think you can’t be surprised anymore.  Two more collections are available, and both are just as excellent as the first.

7. The Dust of Wonderland – Lee Thomas.  This was one of the first books I read this year, and the fact that it still found a place on this list is a testament to Lee’s skill as a writer.  Thomas crafts a story about New Orleans, lost love, finding yourself, and terrible evil in the form of a man named Travis Brugier and his brothel, Wonderland.  The prose is masterful, and the characters and horrors will leave you uniquely satsified.

8. The Fever Kill – Tom Piccirilli.  Over the past year, Tom Piccirilli has morphed from one of the most original voices in horror to one of the most confident voices in crime and noir.  The Fever Kill, his tale of vengeance, justice, and all the terrible things our pasts can heap on us, is possibly the best example of this.

9. Severence Package – Duane Swierczynski.  When I was in middle school, I used to write stories about vicious battles breaking out among the student body, terribly violent and action packed things that would probably get a kid arrested today.  Anyway, transplant that sort of tale into a corporate office, and you have Severence Package.  Swierczynski is another writer I discovered this year, and I’m happy to report he’s one of the best. 

10. The Bleeding Season – Greg Gifune. What if you thought you knew somebody, only to learn it all might be a lie?  This novel by Greg Gifune addresses that question when a group of friends discover their recently-deceased partner in crime may have been a serial killer.  Gifune brings the chills, and his characters have a depth and realism I’ve seldom seen in genre fiction.