Heya, everyone! If you’re fans of my over the top zombie/hot rod novel The Slab City Event, then I have some excellent news for you! The fine folks at Sinister Grin Press were kind enough to create as serious of Slab City Event T-Shirts. You can pick the color, and there are plenty of options. Go grab one, wear it with pride, and I will give you an awkward-yet-heartfelt thumbs up if I ever see you wearing one. Have a good one, people!
“Where do you get your ideas?”
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.
This coming weekend, I’ll be appearing at Armadillocon in Austin, TX. It looks like this will be my only convention appearance this year (yay, hometown convention!), so you might want to come out. or not. I’m not the boss of you.
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
Hi, everybody. My small town zombie action slab of batshit insanity Scavengers is about to go back into print. After the folding of Creeping Hemlock Press, Sinister Grin Press was kind enough to offer me a deal. A new paperback and kindle edition will be available late this year or early next.
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!
In a few days, my new collection Will the Sun Ever Come Out Again? will be available. This one’s a big deal for me. Firstly, because it’s a collection of four novellas, which is something I’ve wanted ever since seeing the cover of Stephen King’s Different Seasons back in the 80’s. Secondly, it features an introduction by Laird Barron, which still just barely makes sense to me. Laird’s a damn hero of mine, and it’s an amazing honor to have him write an intro for this collection. Finally, this is the first time I’ve worked with J. David Osborne and Broken River Books, something I’m hoping to do again sooner rather than later.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
Anybody who knows me knows I love cooking. I’m not sure when it started, because, as a kid, I wouldn’t eat anything. There was even a point when I thought pizza was disgusting. Maybe it started with my first serious girlfriend. I didn’t want to be the 22 year old guy who wouldn’t eat his vegetables, so I just tried everything that was put in front of me. Slowly, I started loving it all. From there, I guess, it worked the same way my love for reading turned into a love for writing. Wanting to eat amazing food made me want to cook amazing food.
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….
Yesterday, I woke up after four hours of sleep to discover I was 38 years old. No big shock or anything. I’d been expecting it. Hadn’t expected to reach it on so little sleep, but that’s my fault. Sometimes movie rentals get the best of you.
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….
In March, the super awesome Broken River Books will release my next collection. Will the Sun Ever Come Out Again? collects four novellas into one dark, weird, potentially heartbreaking package. Among those novellas you’ll see redneck magician Charlie Crawford (in anticipation of his first novel, which is completed) and ancient evil The Darkness Below (from Down). It also collects my long out of print novella He Stepped Through, which has been rewritten a tad.
But wait…there’s more.
I’m both thrilled and honored to tell you Laird Barron wrote an amazing introduction for this. Laird’s a freakin’ hero of mine, so this is absolutely jaw-dropping for me.
So stay tuned in March. Will the Sun Ever Come Out Again? Dig it, baby.
It’s been a few years since I did this. Sorry about that. I’m constantly behind in my reading (and I’m not the lightning fast reader I used to be). Because of this, the following list is a top five instead of a top ten, and it’s made up of books I read this year. Very few, if any, were first published in 2014.
1. WILD FELL by Michael Rowe – One of the best parts of my ReaderCon trip this year was plunking down cash at the ChiZine table. Those folks put out great books year after year. Among my many great buys, Michael Rowe’s WILD FELL stands at the top. An ominous and unique take on the ghost story, Rowe starts with a kernal of dread and builds and builds. The book accelerates as you read it, and I was finished with this one before I reached my first layover on the way home. Excellent read!
2. THE BEAUTIFUL THING THAT AWAITS US ALL by Laird Barron – This year brought us Laird Barron’s third collection, and it may be his best yet. Dripping with atmosphere, the stories in this collection just burrow deep into the center of you. “The Men From Porlock” was the stand out for me, with a look at Barron’s Old Leech, which is one of the best creations the genre’s seen in years.
3. SCALPED by Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera – This was the year I finally finished SCALPED, Aaron and Guera’s amazing comics tale of an undercover FBI agent infiltrating the reservation where he was raised. One of the best noir comics I’ve ever read, full of intrigue, violence, heartbreak, and some of the most powerful characters you’ll find in comics. I’ve linked to the first trade paperback collection. Start there and work your way through the entire story.
4. THE WIDE, CARNIVOROUS SKY & OTHER MONSTROUS GEOGRAPHIES by John Langan – Langan is one of the best writers of short fiction working today, and this collection (only his second) almost feels like a victory lap, with Langan putting his unique spin on several of the genre’s better-known tropes. There’s the zombie version of OUR TOWN, for instance. With “Technicolor,” he twists Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death” into something even more terrifying. The title story, might I add, is the second best vampire story I’ve read…ever.
5. NORTH AMERICAN LAKE MONSTERS by Nathan Ballingrud – What’s the best vampire story I’ve ever read? Why, it would be “Sunbleached” from this collection, which is a story that hits like a punch right to the heart. I’d never read Ballingrud before this colelction, but I can now say he’s one of my favorite writers. The stories collected in this book are outstanding from front to back. Grab a copy and start reading. You won’t be sorry.
This weekend, I’ll appearing at Phil Anselmo’s Housecore Horror Festival as a guest of Sinister Grin Press. We’ll have copies of Down and The Slab City Event on sale, and I’ll be trying to hide the fact that I’m not a metalhead. Stop by and say hello. If you buy a book and tell me your favorite Superchunk song, I’ll write you a little story.
Friday, Octover 24th 3pm-7pm (with Shane McKenzie and Ed Kurtz)
Saturday, October 25th 10am-2pm (with Shane McKenzie)
Sunday, October 26th noon-4pm (with Shane McKenzie)