Wednesday, April 26, 2017

WHAT IMMORTAL HAND Cover Reveal

It is with great pride and excitement that today I reveal the cover for my upcoming book, WHAT IMMORTAL HAND.

It is a dark tale of a dark journey, a psychological odyssey that tested me and my skill. I'm very proud of it.

Without further ado, I present the cover for WHAT IMMORTAL HAND.




Coming this September from Omnium Gatherum Media.



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

420 - Thoughts of Hunter


Today’s a holiday for some people. Underground and subversive, spoke of in gasps as one tries not to exhale. And on this day I find myself in Las Vegas and my thoughts naturally turn to my youth when I explored this city with rock and roll ringing in my ears, chemicals in my veins, and the words of Hunter S. Thompson gathering that energy together, focussing it, and fixing it into an idea transcendent of my own experience and time.

An entire generation joined the good doctor on his journey of self and social discovery. These were the wide-eyed and cynical counter-culture revolutionaries who bought a ticket and took the ride. He took them to the edge, or at least showed them the way. I discovered him late historically, but personally, he arrived at the perfect time.

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
My brother McKeen had introduced me to Hunter S. Thompson,  but it was my peers who gave him life. Like a debauched book club, my group of friends all read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas one year in preparation for our annual pilgrimage to see the Dead down there. The book, like those pilgrimages, changed my life.

My speed has changed since those days. This trip to Vegas is not fueled as before with drugs whose name it is illegal to speak in most places or with the friends who shined with me, but aren’t with me, and some who never will be again. But I remember and I will miss them all and wish I could have my youth again—not to change a thing, but to make more of the days that were the exception to "normal," because those are the days I remember. Those are the days whose fire still flares into flame and in whose hot embers I test all I know and want.

Today, now, here in Vegas–underbelly of the US, I particularly miss Thompson’s wit and clarity. I pray that somewhere now in our current social crisis there is a voice like his rising to light the way, a voice of the authentic and debached. A insane voice of reason in madness.

If there is, I bet that voice knows what day it is.

Today, in Vegas, I will l drink Kentucky bourbon in honor of Kentucky’s son. I will worry about the future, of politics and the planet. Of human rights and insatiable greed. I will think no one has ever had it as hard as we have now. I will lose hope, and then I will climb to a high window, or find a hill, and using eyes Hunter shaped, I will peer west and and remember this passage:

“Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era—the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run . . . but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant. . . .

History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of “history” it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time—and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.

...

There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda. . . . You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . .

And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.” 

― Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas


That always gets me. I take hope from it and with the right kind of eyes, it makes me search the horizon for the next wave.


Happy 420!



Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Artist and the Salesman


I’m reading a book on writing books penned by an agent. It’s not one of the big agents (see below) and it’s not the first like it I’ve read. This time however, I’m seeing it with new eyes. I’m really noticing the disconnect and the difference between the artist and salesman. The book, like others like it, states unequivocally the pocket logic of not to write to the market but then, as is also the way of these books. goes on to spend the next thee hundred pages telling you exactly how to do just that.

Using examples from once in a lifetime efforts, fads and flash-in-the-pans, from lucky authors who caught lightning in a bottle are gems like these:

Just come up with a great idea and write that.

Tense doesn’t matter but don’t use present.

Always have a romance, but let the story dictate.

Your story should be as long as it needs to be, but don’t go over 80,000 words.

Your story must be High Concept (explainable in a single sentence) or don’t bother submitting it. 

I feel for the agent who advises authors. They want to celebrate the art, but they’re not on that side; they’re on the business side. They need to push easily digestible junk food pulp and hope something in their catalog will nourish their readers enough to keep them coming back.

But what I really hate about these kinds of how-to advice columns is how the agent’s prejudices and experiences are melted down to a kind of formula. I hate that. I don’t believe in it. It’s a personal grudge, one that grew out of books on writing by agents and also from the infamous screenwriting bible SAVE THE CAT.

Remember 1984, George Orwells’ formulaic market chasing junk food political thriller? If I remember it right, there was a division in the Ministry of Truth, that actually produced books on an assembly line according to a pattern. Smut and violence for the masses. Artless consumer goods.

The idea that art—my art-—can be summed up into a formula is a horror.

It’s not that formulas don’t work, it’s that people grow so used to them that they see anything outside it as wrong. I see new editors really struggle with this. A cookie-cutter mentality of reproduction. It’s a prejudice, and I use that word deliberately, with all the social emphasis I can because these are the guidelines agents and editors use to judge the merit of a book without actually reading it. They close their minds to the new. They give lip service to originality, but that’s not what they’re looking for. They cherish the artist, but sign the hack. It’s safer to let only the High Concept, 70,000 word Young Adult Romantic Time Traveling adventure through than to investigate a book whose author couldn’t sum it up in a soundbite. I get it, but it’s ugly.

Worse, new writers who get their hands on an agent-written book on writing are apt to write while looking over their shoulder. Instead of investigating their question, following the path of their muse, they’ll pound square pegs into round holes because an expert told them to do it that way.

Next week I’m going to Las Vegas. I’m attending the Las Vegas Writer's Conference put on by the Henderson Writing Group. It looks absolutely amazing. I’m really stoked. I get to talk facets and theme to the desert tribe. I get to wax poetic on pain and the transcendental experience expression and language. Then I’m spending a day with Donald Maass. If you don’t know who that is, you’ve haven’t started querying agents yet. If I had to name the biggest, most influential agents on the planet, I’d say Donald Maass and then shut up. He’s written a half dozen books on writing. I haven’t read his (yet) but they’re best sellers and I have some on my shelf and will doubtlessly pick up the ones I don’t have while I’m down there. He’s putting on a full day seminar and I’ll be there taking advantage of the rare opportunity to breath to same air as he. I’m sure I’ll get lots of golden nuggets about the industry, but I’m not sure I’ll learn much about the art. I’m steeling myself for it. I know I’ll question everything I’ve written, everything I am writing, everything I want to write. I have little doubt I’ll be hit by a brick of inadequacy during his workshop and question my entire career because it has not been as commercial is might otherwise be.

A one saving grace that agents can’t conceal in their commercial recipe is that the books they point to as great, innovative and industry-changing all broke previously established rules and expectations. Present tense was bad, until THE HUNGER GAMES. You’ve got to have a strong romantic element, until HARRY POTTER. Literary fiction is dead until Cormac McCarthy. You must have sympathetic characters until GIRL ON THE TRAIN.

The other thing about popular books, the blockbusters, the best-sellers to remember is that they also got god-damned lucky. They were the right thing at the right time with the right people backing it. Knowing this, and remembering it, are what keeps me going because I can’t write as the agents tell me.

I’m justifying, I know. But I’ve done that my whole life. I’m not a copy. I’m an individual. I rebel against convention, hipster that I am. Some of your rules I like (bathing, commas) others I don’t (sugar sodas, seven point plots). I think of myself as an artist before a salesman and find truth in my writing because of it, though possibly not the sales I might have had otherwise.

David Morrell once told me, it’s better to an authentic you than a counterfeit other. Taking advice from the commercial side of publishing suggests, against all their lip service, that the counterfeit is what you need to be.

Bullshit. I’ll stick with Dave.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

WHAT IMMORTAL HAND

Buckle up. I have a new book coming out. WHAT IMMORTAL HAND.

The Dark Mother loves her children and beckons them home when they’re lost.

What begins as a routine investigation of a hijacked truck turns into a desperate and personal quest for memories, faith, and meaning. The answers to these, for Michael Oswald, like the strangled cries of a thousand murdered travelers, is found in the dark heart of an ancient cult of killers.

Michael is called of God, just not that God.


WHAT IMMORTAL HAND is an upmarket, adult occult-horror. Literary and dark, It is a road trip across American wastelands into the depths of spiritual shadow. The Dark Mother, Kali, has come to the New World and her children thrive.

Well researched and imagined, in the tradition of Dan Simmons’ Song of Kali, throbbing with symbolism and epic undertones, What Immortal Hand answer’s William’s Blake famous question from The Tyger: “What immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry?” It is the Goddess Kali, consort of Shiva, Lord of Destruction. Through her worshipers, the Faithful Tigers—The Thugs of old, she culls the roads of travelers and prepares the fires of renewal.



Coming September 2017 from Omnium Gatherum.


Cover Reveal April 27, 2017.



Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Horror University Interview

As part of my upcoming class at StokerCon 2017, Horror University, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by internet computer gadgetry. Here's the result. 

Enjoy. 

I hope to see you at StokerCon for Mistakes Were Made.





Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Rant About the Glacial Pace of Querying

In my time as an author, that is a writer consciously and deliberately trying to make a career out of a passion, I’ve learned much about production and rejection but also something about delay.

Delay.

Ah, delay.

Delay is the unforeseen irritant that irks me no little bit in this job and I’m here today to talk about it.

I realized early that the only real control I have in this occupation is contained exclusively in my writing. The expression and work of the creative process. That is mine. There It is pure and though maybe not finished, it’s where my wishes are going to find the easiest outlet. After that, it becomes a cooperative effort and it gets muddy. And slow. Slow. Slow…

Beta-readers take for ever. No offense to you wonderful people willing to delve into a book that’s still got it’s sharp edges, but as a writer, anxious to move along, feeling the cold hand of death reaching for him, any delay is a trial. It’s the artist’s angst. As professional as I want to be, I also need validation and so the delay here is taken personally. Nothing for it though, people are busy and I need people. I write this off as part of the process.

There are other delays in creation, like editing and re-writes, back to readers, but these are creative for the most part.

The real hell comes once it’s sent out for query. Let me explain it for you.

Querying is a nerve-wracking, soul-crushing exercise of masochistic torture that drives most would-be authors out of the business. I’ve queried a lot. Lots and lots. I have a door covered with my rejection notices. I didn’t dare hang it on the load bearing wall. Rejections are part of the game. There’re lots of reasons to be rejected and you try not to take it personally, though, again, it’s your baby and you’re going to damn well take it personally. Once you start querying, it’s a numbers game and rejections flow back to you like the little bird that you’re supposed to set free if you love, but it comes back and poops on your head before ruining your garden.

But what makes it worse, what makes querying really suck is how long it takes. If you get a response right away from an agent or an editor, it’s a rejection. Count on it. They decide on a NO must faster than a YES. Don’t worry though, these are few and far between. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a form letter rejection six months after you sent your query. Six months. Form letter. Yep. Lucky us.

They weren't pondering the whole time. No. Not at all. They made their decision instantly, it's just that takes that long for editors to get through their slush piles. Six months is common. I’m still getting rejections for ELEANOR three years after it was published! That’s how glacial this business is.

Mostly though, you won’t get as much as a form letter back. There’ll be a line of small print on a website saying that if you haven’t heard back within 8 weeks assume it’s a no. On pins and needles for eight weeks and by the time their intern reads your cover letter, the new craze is space chicks in leotards fighting bird men and your tender character study ain’t getting past the freshman Communications Major whose boyfriend just left her for a Slovakian exchange student.

What I’m saying is that the process is long and delayed. Agents and editors are swamped. Their interns (like themselves) are underpaid and overworked and everyone with a word processor is trying to be a writer.

Strange as it sounds, no news is often good news. If they don’t have the eight weeks, "we’re really deleting every query as they come in” notice buried on their webpage, a long delay can be seen as a good thing. The story interests them and the delay might be the book being bantered around the office, or set on the agenda for a mythical upcoming meeting. Maybe. We can hope, right?

The holidays hurt. Between Thanksgiving and New Years no one reads queries. You want a surefire rejection? Send your book during the agent’s vacation and Christmas party. There’s a reason so many rejections go out in November—they’re clearing their box for the season.

Eventually (one can hope) comes the magical moment when the stars align and you get the mythical Request For Manuscript. After only nine months, the letter arrives and they’re going to look at your book! Hallelujah! Within the hour (since this is in your control) the files go out and your excitement is uncontrollable.

For a year.

Until they reject it with an letter saying they liked X and Y but Z left them cold. And then there's the fighting space chicks in leotards.

This is not a theoretical situation here. This has happened to me several times. You think a regular rejection hurts? Try getting one after a RFM and a long wait with a big house. Carrie Fisher, actress and writer, had her ashes placed in an urn the shape of a Prozac tablet. Yeah, she was an author.

My method of surviving all this was to query on. Whenever I got a rejection, I’d send five more out that day. I took them at their word that this was a subjection decision and I should keep trying. So I did. Not do. Did.

Now I have an agent and much of the pain is taken from me, but not the delay. I have a little more now too, because she's a human and adds delays of her own. Before I’d send out 5-20 queries a week. Now we’re being more precise and perfect and targeted. I’ve traded in a scattergun for a sniper rifle. But the delays are still there.

They're always there.

Glacial, heart-wrenching delays for a half dozen books waiting for rejections.

Waiting for the chance to wait longer when it's picked up and enters the slow publication process. <sigh>

Such is the nature of the business. If you’re in a hurry, this is not the business for you. Small presses take months, big presses years. Agents are hens teeth and editors use interns who weren’t reading when you wrote your book. What a business.

I return to the only place that I ever had control, the nucleus of this madness. The art. I write and I carry on.

Waiting.



Wednesday, March 8, 2017

League of Utah Writers 2017 Spring Conference


I am stoked to announce the upcoming League of Utah Writers Spring Conference to be held at on April 8th, 2017 at the Taylorsville campus of Salt Lake Community College.(4600 South Redwood Road, Salt Lake City, UT 84123)

Last year was the best attended Spring Conference The League has ever had. Hundreds of people were there to take advantage of this intense half-day event. We had twenty five hours of classes, panels and presentations about writing. This year, we’ve increased that to thirty-five. It’s going to be awesome. Beyond the classes, we’re also offering practice pitch sessions with agents and experts along with manuscript critiques from established editors. All this for the low low cost of $25 for League Members. It’s $50 for non-league, so you might as well join the league for for $25 and then come. AT the door, the price is $75.





As president Elect of the League, this conference is my baby, so I’m hoping lots and lots of people come and learn even more. It’s about giving back and he Spring Conference is full of mentors at all levels. See you writing types there!