I just wanted to take a second to say the fine folks have Sinister Grin Press have started merchandise stores for several of their titles, and both The Slab City Event and Red Sky made the cut. You can buy everything from shirts to phone cases to travel mugs. Go check it out. There’s some fun stuff there.
The Slab City Store
The Red Sky Store]]>
Anyway, as I have to say every time I do one of these lists, these are not all books that came out this year. These are books I read this year. I am constantly playing catch up and–shocking!–I still haven’t caught up.
So enjoy. Then follow some links and buy some books. There’s still time before Christmas!
10. KNIFE FIGHT AND OTHER STRUGGLES by David Nickle – This year, I read a lot of short fiction. Gotta say, I am so glad I did! Of all the amazing genre shorts I read this year, this collection contains some of the best. Nickle’s short fiction settles in deep and refuses to let go. Strange love stories like “Looker” leave you feeling lovely and shaken and aching, while horrifying satire like “Knife Fight” leaves you thrilled and…also shaken. To me, the masterpiece of this collection is “Basements,” a story that scared the hell out of me and is one of the quartet of stories I think every genre author should read.
9. HAIR SIDE, FLESH SIDE by Helen Marshall – Marshall writes the kind of dark fantasy the makes your skin crawl. The stories in this collection cover the gamut from ghost stories to the downright bizarre. Little girls who receive the bodies of saints for their birthdays, editors who find lost manuscripts written on the inside of their skin, and so much more. You will find something incredible in this collection.
8. THE VISIBLE FILTH by Nathan Ballingrud – Brutal, grimy, horrifying. This novella, about a bartender who recovers a cell phone after a violent brawl and starts receiving more and more disturbing/violent messages, pulls no punches. Ballingrud starts with a place full of dirt and shadows, makes you feel at home there, and then slowly turns up the heat. An excellent study in rising tension and engaging characters.
7. WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY FINE by Daryl Gregory – A support group made up of very unique people might just save the world from a very ancient, otherworldly terror. This novella was the first Gregory I’ve read, but it will be nowhere near the last. He creates riveting characters and lets the story roll out naturally, not to mention the amazing amount of imagination and a brilliant, heartfelt final twist. Read. Now.
6. AVAILABLE DARK by Elizabeth Hand – Cass Neary ain’t your standard heroine. I mean, she has experience with heroin. And speed. And pills. And death. She’s lived hard, she’s a mess, and she’s tough as a metal bucket. There is a lot to love about Cass Neary, but don’t you dare pity her. This book, the sequel to Generation Loss, is in many ways its equal and in some ways its better. In this one, Cass travels to Europe to authenticate a series of gruesome photographs for a collector and ends up embroiled in a series of murders related to the Scandinavian black metal scene. If the standard crime novel isn’t mean enough for you, check out this one.
5. CONFESSIONS by Kanae Minato – Yuko Moriguchi is a teacher giving her last lecture in the wake of her four-year-old’s accidental drowning. Here’s the thing, though: Yuko knows her child’s death was no accident. It was murder. Further, she knows two of her students are the murderers. This novel, told from several points of view, adds layers of tension and intrigue in a way that never lets you forget the very real hearts of its characters. You’ll find yourself cringing on one page and then cheering on the next.
4. LET’S PLAY WHITE by Chesya Burke – I was four years late reading Chesya Burke’s most recent collection. It’s a mistake I will not make again. At turns terrifying, thought-provoking, and heartbreaking, the stories in Let’s Play White examine society, relationships, and the horrors humans inflict on each other and ourselves, all wrapped in delicious, fantastical prose. The story “Purse” is still lodged in my brain. I can’t shake it loose.
3. NOT FOR NOTHING by Stephen Graham Jones – Hands down, the best noir I’ve read in years. Nicholas Bruiseman is a disgraced homicide detective living in a storage unit in his Texas hometown. When his former cheerleader crush shows up asking for help, it leads him on a path straight to destruction. Nicholas is all too human, making choices he thinks are the right ones only to find they were wrong at best and downright stupid at worst. Jones writes prose that crackles with a pitch black energy. This one, here…amazing.
2. A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS by Paul Tremblay – Look, if you read any list of the best horror novels of the year, you’ll read about this book. Stephen King loved it. Brian Keene loved it. Everyone loved it. Why? It’s amazing. A demon possession novel that makes you continuously doubt there’s an actual possession taking place, A Head Full of Ghosts keeps you guessing right up to the last page and beyond, the way The Caretaker of Lorne Field and Gone Girl did in years past. Paul always delivers the goods. He does the same here, and it is well worth the read.
1. THE PULSE BETWEEN DIMENSIONS AND THE DESERT by Rios de la Luz – Holy Hell, man. I was not prepared. Not even a little. Rios de la Luz came out of nowhere to deliver this collection–her first–and amaze me on every level. In these stories she rides a razor’s edge between crime, fantasy, and horror (so much so that some might call these stories bizarro, which I find steals some of the credit due her incredible balancing act) while exploring such themes as alienation, racism, sexism, family, and so much more. Some stories are sweet and wondrous, while some are so brutal they’ll make you flinch. No other book I read this year was so refreshing and thought-provoking. nothing made me feel as deep and desperately as this collection. Rios is it. Check her out immediately.]]>
First off, ugh. Second…no one’s ever asked me that. Seriously. It’s such a stereotypical, annoying question, and no one has ever even hinted like they were going to ask me. Maybe that has to do with having a relatively small readership, or maybe it’s working in the small press, where the fans are generally more knowledgeable about both the genre and the writing process. Shit, maybe it’s my generally abrasive demeanor. I dunno. All I know is no one has ever asked me where I get my ideas.
“Nate, get to the goddamn point.”
I’m working on it!
So, last night I was talking to an old friend of mine, and somehow we started talking about how ideas eventually turn into stories. For me, a good idea is seldom enough to hang a story on. The way I work, I sort of collect ideas and information, and eventually a few of them fit together in a way that makes for a good story (yes, this is also what Warren Ellis does, proving there is nothing I can do that a better writer can’t do…better).
A great example of this (and one I used during last night’s convo), is my recent story “Bottle. Paper. Samurai.” The earliest seed of this story idea is eight years old, when I had an idea for a book called Firewater. In that idea, a dying angel gives a homeless man a bottle of whiskey that may or may not contain the soul of Christ (holy shit, that sounds dumb). I took a stab or two at writing it, but it never really came together. the idea was too thin.
Years later, I tried to write a story called Omizawa about a man who is so good at origami that the things he creates become real. Same deal: took a few shots at it, but it never came together.
Finally, I had this idea for a voice, a clipped, fractured voice from someone whose mind had broken in some way. I tinkered around with it some, seeing if I could get a feel for it. While I liked it, I didn’t know what kind of story I could use it to tell. As I was driving home from work one day, I was creating little sample sentences in my head, and suddenly it happened…
First fold. Easy.
Second fold. Easy.
By the time I got home, I had the first few hundred words in my head, and everything made sense. This fractured voice had brought together Firewater and Omizawa. It was the bridge that took pretty good ideas and brought them together to become a great one.
So if you have an idea you can’t make work, just file it away until later. Maybe it’s missing a piece.]]>
Anyway, here’s my schedule….
Career Adjustments for the Writer
Sat 3:00 PM-4:00 PM Ballroom E
Liu, Maresca, Southard, Swendson, Weisman, Wells*,
Knowing when it’s time to switch agent, publisher, genre, or even (last resort) your name.
Southern Gothic Fiction
Sat 7:00 PM-8:00 PM Ballroom D
Lansdale*, Richerson, Southard, Spencer, Wade, Wood
What is the intersection of Southern Gothic and SF/F? Do the themes being explored today differ from Southern Gothic of the past? Why does the South seem to have a monopoly on deeply flawed, eccentric, morally ambivalent characters?
Sat 8:30 PM-9:00 PM Conference Center
Sat 10:00 PM-11:00 PM Southpark A
Finn, Osborne, Rountree*, Sanger, Southard
Are they considered horror or dark fantasy, and are they even viable in today’s literature?
Short Fiction You Shold Have Read Last Year
Sun 1:00 PM-2:00 PM Southpark A
Fischer, Rylander, Sisson*, Southard, Schwarz
Our panelists discuss short fiction from the last year that you need to know about.
Sun 2:00 PM-3:00 PM Dealers’ Room
Rose, Oliver, Southard, Swendson, Yoachim
Scavengers is finally getting a signed, limited edition. At $45, this hardcover is going to look sweeeeet. It’s got new cover art, and Sinister Grin always delivers on the production values.
This sucker is pre-order only, and you have until June 15th to order you copy. Go! Buy!]]>
Because of all of this, I’ve decided to celebrate the release of Will the Sun Ever Come Out Again? with a contest. So listen up. Hopefully, you’ll think this is as cool an idea as I do….
THE WILL THE SUN EVER COME OUT AGAIN? RELEASE AND REVIEW CONTEST
WHAT IS IT?
At its most basic, the contest is a chance for you to win free shit by doing nothing more than offering an honest review of my new book, Will the Sun Ever Come Out Again?
Okay, check this out. Will the Sun Ever Come Out Again? will be available this week. Once it’s available, pick up a copy and give it a read. Leave an honest review (seriously, just be honest…I’m not fishing for five stars, here) at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Goodreads, and then mail a link to said review to email@example.com. Your review enters you in the contest. On June 1st, I’ll draw three winners from the entries via super awesome, name-from-a-hat technology.
Prior to this, I will need to buy a hat.
DO I GET ONE ENTRY FOR EACH SITE?
Sure, why not? If you review on each site, you get an entry for each site. No cutting and pasting, though!
CAN I WIN MORE THAN ONCE?
No. Don’t be greedy.
WHAT IF I REVIEW BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY?
Then I thank you for your service. But I’m afraid I’m only counting reviews from the three sites mentioned above.
WHAT IF MY REVIEW IS JUST A LINK TO MY BLOG OR WEBSITE, WHERE I’VE REVIEWED THE BOOK?
Get out of my spotlight. I mean, thanks for reviewing the book, but we’re trying to promote me, here, not you.
OKAY, FINE. SO, WHAT CAN I WIN?
Ah! Now, we’re talking (also, I realize this is just me typing and that we’re not really talking). As I said above, there will be three random winners. Those winners will, well, win…
Book package containing the limited, hardcover edition of my novel Pale Horses, signed and personalized; a copy limited, hardcover anthology Is There a Demon In You?, featuring novels by myself, Brian Keene, Wrath James White, and Mary SanGiovanni; and a personalized paperback of my novel Down.
Book package containing a signed, personalized limited hardcover of my novel Lights Out and a signed, personalized paperback of my novel The Slab City Event.
Book Package containing a signed, personalized limited hardcover of my novella Like Thunder and a signed, personalized paperback of Pale Horses.
ANY SPECIAL ADDENDUMS?
Star ratings without reviews don’t count. Reviews that make it shockingly obvious you haven’t read the book don’t count.
All right. You have until June 1st. Go!
So, there you have it.]]>
Flashback to two years ago, when I was seriously considering going back to school. Austin has a pair of culinary schools, and I thought I’d take a crack at it. I ran it by my friend Ek, who’s an amazing chef, and he said something that changed my life…
“Don’t go to school for it, man. Just start working here. I’ll teach you.”
So I did. For six weeks, I staged (basically, kitchen intern) at Ek’s place SPIN Modern Thai. I picked cilantro, chopped onions, cooked rice, and made tempura batter a few times a week. It was an excellent beginning, a good starter course on how to get around in a kitchen. Sadly, infrastructure problems killed the restaurant, but I learned a bit, and I fell in love with the work.
Six months later Ek was helping his sister reopen her restaurant Titaya’s Thai Cuisine. I had the silly idea to submit a resume (job experience: six weeks staging at your brother’s last restaurant). Honestly, I just wanted to stage again, to keep learning. I even said as such when I interviewed with Titaya, who is one of the hardest working and most terrifying people I’ve ever met. When she started talking about pay at the end of the interview, I was stunned. I’d just sat there and told her I didn’t really know my ass from a hole in the ground, but she was still going to give me a shot. When Ek told me a few weeks later I’d start out working the wok station in one of the city’s most popular Thai restaurants, I thanked him for the vote of confidence before going home and having a three-day panic attack.
Training happened the night before we opened, kitchen manager Bob (or Pop…he answers to both), stood by the woks with Michael (another SPIN alumn, and a great cook) and me and said, “Here’s how you make pad thai, here’s fried rice, here’s a regular stirfry…everything else is pretty much the same.” Wait…what? I didn’t have time to panic for another three days, so I went home, curled into a ball, and screamed for an hour or so. The next day, I went to work.
Opening night hit Titaya’s like a goddamn tsunami. Packed dining room, lines out the door, and me standing over a wok, sweating my ass off and hoping I did everything right. Michael saved my ass more than once, as did Ek, and I can’t tell you how thankful I’ll always be for not telling Titaya to just shitcan me right away. For weeks, they coached me along with their mix of support and shit-talking. Fun story: a month ago, I asked Michael how good he thought I was. I wanted an honest opinion. A drunk Michael hemmed and hawed a bit, then said, “You’re starting. You work part time. You’re as good as you should be.” Very true, and, honestly, as close to a compliment as I deserve.
After four months, I left Titaya’s to follow Ek to his new place, the Thai/Southern Comfort place Kin & Comfort. I’ve learned even more there, the benefits of a smaller kitchen and closer staff. Since June, I’ve been there, usually popping in a night or two a week to make sauces. It’s been great, and the food’s been amazing. Do yourself a favor and stop by either place the next time you’re in Austin.
All of this new experience has led to a lot of thinking. See, a while back I got an idea for a novella that would take place in a food trailer. I still haven’t gotten around to writing it, because I decided the first thing I’d do is come up with the trailer’s menu. I spent almost two weeks tinkering with that damn menu, a menu for a trailer that doesn’t exist.
Then, I did something I didn’t expect. Instead of starting the novella, I started testing out the menu items. I tried a few every weekend, playing and tinkering and refining. I used some of them for a holiday meal for my ex and her family, used them again for a friend’s going away party. They went over well. Shockingly well. This past weekend, I experimented a little more, and everything clicked into place.
Holy shit. Do I want to start a food trailer? At the age of 38, do I want to throw every ounce of my life into opening a goddamn food trailer?
No, I couldn’t. It’s a terrible idea. I’ve spent one year working in restaurants part time. My chops aren’t where they need to be. I don’t have anything resembling start-up cash. Diving in would mean me leaving my job with its livable wage and health benefits and paid vacation. I’d be so busy, I don’t know what would happen to my writing. And food trailers fail on a daily basis. It’s a terrible, stupid idea.
But it’s also an awesome and inspiring idea, the first thing that’s really excited me in years. It’s scary (hell, terrifying), but it’s something I think about more and more every day.
And I can’t seem to stop thinking. Weird….]]>
After I scraped the ice off my car, I treated myself to a pretty sedate birthday: hot pho lunch, shopping at Target and the book store, then a quick hour of prep work at the restaurant. It felt good. At the tail end of my thirties, I’m too often broke and stressed. Sometimes relaxation is what I crave. The simple pleasures of buying a new belt and a plain gray T-shirt. I’m old and boring, and I love it.
Next month, I have two writing projects coming out. I’m the featured writer in the next issue of LampLight, so if you pick it up you’ll get both an interview and a new short story, “Bottle. Paper. Samurai.” It’s something a little different from me.
Second up, Broken River Books releases my new collection Will the Sun Ever Come Out Again? Containing four novellas, I hop you’ll pick it up and dig it. There will be a contest involved, which I’ll drop details on soon.
So yeah. It’s 2015. I’m 38. Let’s go….]]>