Sunday, January 31, 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Still Among the Living -- or the Living Dead

I know I haven't blogged much lately.  The past few weeks I've been busy.  Sadly, though, not with writing.  I've had to pull together paperwork for the contracts I just signed.  Gather marketing information for when The Vampire Hunters is published next month.  Check in with my readers who are looking over the zombie novel.  And, on top of all that, I've started research on my next project. 

Things should pick up.  The jacket cover for TVH and the proofs for the book should be here soon.  Once they arrive, and the time for publication gets closer, I'll have more to write.

So hang in there and check back on this blog often. 

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Bunnies

This is Woodstock (Woody), our rescue rabbit.  He is the most even-tempered bunny of the group, and asks for nothing more than love and attention.  But don't let that innocent face fool you. If he doesn't get what he wants, he can be a little weasel.

A while back I was down in the basement study working on one of my novels and became so engrossed in writing that I spent nearly five hours on the computer and no time with Woody.  Big mistake.  When I came back down after dinner, this is what greeted me.

Not only had he pulled out the bag of Care Fresh (for his litter box) from beside the cage and tore it open, he had spread the contents all over the rug.  He also ripped apart a roll of paper towels, dragged the shirt he uses for a bed over by the computer (far left), and pulled the manila envelopes off the printer shelf and chewed them.  The best part was when I came down and saw the mess, he raced over and sat in the middle of everything, taking pride in his work.  I didn't get anything else done on my novel that night because I had to spend the next few hours placating a pissed off rabbit. 

I sometimes wonder who's the pet and who's the master.

Friday, January 22, 2010

What Happens When You Encourage a Weird Little Boy?

Here I am. Another Friday night staring at the computer screen trying to think of something witty or inspiring to say, and once again drawing a blank. After ten minutes of getting nothing accomplished besides petting Cocoa while he groomed himself, I switched over to Microsoft and resumed working on my biographical blurb for my publisher. While drafting that was when it suddenly dawned on me what I should write about.

How did I wind up writing horror novels for a living?

Although I’ve only been writing horror/urban fantasy since 2003, my love for the genre goes back to when I was just a kid. One of my earliest memories from childhood was sneaking out of bed one night and hiding in the family room to watch the late night running of the original King Kong. Of course, being about seven years old at the time, my choice of hiding places was not that brilliant. I hid under a TV tray, figuring if I couldn‘t see my folks then they couldn‘t see me. My sanctuary was quickly discovered, but rather than being sent back to bed, they gave me a few cookies and let me watch Kong tear apart New York. From that moment on I was hooked.

While most of my friends’ parents looked on horror and science fiction as degenerate or, at best, a waste of time, my folks indulged my fascination with monsters. Every Saturday morning my father, grandfather, and I would go for breakfast a the local diner. Afterwards, he would drive me all over town in search of my newest horror treasure. One Saturday it would be off to the hobby shop for one of Aurora’s Universal monster models. The next it would be to the camera store for one of Castle Film’s 8mm version of a classic horror or sci-fi movie. [NOTE: In the days before DVDs and -- and I’m really dating myself -- videos, the only way to see movies when you wanted was to buy these truncated, 12-minute, subtitled versions of your favorite movie and run them on a clunky home movie projector.] Each morning was capped by a stop at the local smoke shop to pick up the latest version of Famous Monsters of Filmland, The Monster Times, The Godzilla Times, Creepy, or Eerie, which would be read at least twice before having to trudge back to school Monday morning.

My mother encouraged me in her own way. She set up an old manual typewriter for me (again I’m dating myself) and put up with the endless clacking while I put together the most amateur fan magazine on the face of the planet. Of course, to my mother, it was the greatest thing she ever read, and she always urged me to write the next edition. Thanks to her, I developed my love of writing. (My mother still reads everything I write. However, truth be known, she’s a retired nurse and always has been a bit of a ghoul. Now her feedback usually are along the lines of “that’s not what intestines look like” to “a body doesn’t have that much blood in it.”)

Then one year for Christmas when I was about twelve my folks gave me as a gift a paperback by a new horror author. Up until then I only had read the classics by Poe, Wells, Stoker, etc. My mother thought I might like it. I was skeptical, especially after reading the back cover blurb. How scary could it be? The spirit of an Indian medicine man is reborn to punish the white man for stealing New York from his forebears. Even the title sounded lame. The Manitou. But I read it over winter break, staying up late every night to find out what would happen next. By the time I read the last page, I was hooked.

Now, thirty-plus years later I’m about to get my first horror novel published.

And it wouldn’t be happening if my folks hadn’t seen a spark of creativity in the warped little mind of a weird twelve-year-old and encouraged him.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Friday, January 15, 2010

A Good Way To Start 2010

I'm still on vaction in New England, and at the moment am enjoying a relaxing (and cold) weekend on the coast of Maine. But I received some good news this week that I wanted to share.

Shadowfire Press offered me a contract this week for the next two books in my vampire trilogy -- The Vampire Hunters: Vampyrnomicon (scheduled for publication in August 2010) and The Vampire Hunters: Dominion (scheduled for publication in February 2011). These two novels will introduce the Master, expand on the vampire mythos, and finally detail the ultimate battle between good and evil.

Another good omen of the great things to come this year was my visit on Thursday to Salem, Massachusetts, my old stomping ground (I earned a bachelor's degree in history from Salem State College and spent two summers working as a tour guide in the Essex Institute in the 1980s). Back when I spent time in Salem, the city seemed embarrassed by its association with the witchcraft trials of 1692, except for those tourist traps that tried to exploit visitors' fascination with the macabre aspects of the trials. ("And here we have a replica of a room that contains furniture similar to the ones that might have been used by those hanged as witches.")

Now Salem embraces its heritage with a vengeance. It began in 2005 when Salem erected a statue to Bewitched's Samantha Stephens, the domestic witch played by Elizabeth Montgomery. Now the city is home to the 40 Whacks Museum dedicated to spinster axe murderer Lizzie Borden (even though she butchered her parents farther south in Fall River), the monster museum at Count Orlok's Nightmare Gallery, plus a wide range of haunted walking and trolley tours. Granted, most of these attractions have as little to do with Salem's history as the witch locales. But it's great to see the city embracing horror. For me, it means my genre is alive and thriving.

So I'm going to enjoy my last few days of vacation with a good seafood dinner tonight and a nice morning walk along the beach. I'll need it. Next week the writing kicks back in big time.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sunday Bunnies

At least there's someone who is happy the holidays are over.

                                         Ho Ho Frackin' Ho

Friday, January 1, 2010

More Good News for Authors on the Digital War Front

On Sunday 27 December 2009, The Washington Post carried an article about the on-going battle within the publishing industry over how to handle digital publications. (Link to The Washington Post article) The article details the battle between the larger publishing houses, who want to keep their high profits and are fighting the advent of e-books, and authors/agents who claim that since set-up costs are considerably less for digital books, their royalties should be greater. No need for me to point out which side I'm allied with.

However, what interested me most about the article was the conflict between the major distributors over how to distribute digital works and which platform to use, and how customers' demands for inexpensive books are being ignored. According to the article (so please don't write and chew me a new butthole if I offend your digital reader), Amazon's Kindle is popular at the moment not because of its technological advancements, which The Washington Post describes as "closer to the computer aesthetics of the 1980s than today's digital world," but because Amazon sells its books at a price reasonable to the customers. Barnes & Noble's Nook has a better technological design concept but suffers from functionality problems. And more and more digital readers are coming out every month. But if you own a Nook, good luck buying books from, and vice versa.

Okay, you're probably asking about now. Publishers don't want to pay us more royalties and digital readers are still in their infancy. So how the hell can this be good news for authors?

Because authors are the barbarian hordes sitting on the sidelines waiting for the great powers to beat themselves senseless so we can ride in when the war is over and reap the rewards of someone else's victory.

Earlier this year, a New York literary agent I had lunch with compared the on-going battle over digital publishing to the Great Home Entertainment War of the 1980s when VHS, Beta, and Laser Disks were slugging it out to see which one would be the medium for bringing movies and TV shows into the family living room. VHS eventually won that conflict because they offered considerably more titles at reasonable prices. And VHS ruled as the supreme lord and master for almost twenty years until those upstart DVDs came along, offering even more titles at cheaper prices, and with extra features.

Throughout that war, directors (the creative talent) continued to make movies which played in theaters before making their way to VHS/Beta/LDs and eventually to DVD. The conflict had minimal negative impact on the making of movies, and in the long run directors benefited from the competition. For example, with the advent of DVDs, directors who earlier could never get the major studios to even look at the movies are now able to get them to the public by distributing them directly to DVD. Granted, many of those DVDs can be considered the war crimes of this conflict, but I've also been pleasantly surprised by a direct-to-DVD production that had exceptional quality, but otherwise never would have been seen by the public.

Authors are the creative talent in this present conflict. We'll continue to write no matter who wins on the digital reader front. We'll get our books published as e-books and in trade paperbacks, and if we're really lucky in hard cover and special editions. Every time digital readers are reformatted or updated, we'll sell more and more copies of our books. And someday, when the major publishers raise the white flag of surrender and join the digital age, we'll sweep down from the mountains and pillage them of higher royalties.

So I'm going to go practice my barbarian yell for when Random House comes looking to negotiate a contract.

Happy New Year. May victory be ours in 2010.