Exciting News!

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I'm very excited to finally announce that I've signed with Flame Tree Press for the release of my next novel, The Toy Thief. This is another big step for me, as this novel will appear in bookstores and internationally.

And check out that cover! If that doesn't get you fired up, I don't know what will. 

I can't wait to share more about the book in the months leading up to the September 2018 release. Stay tuned.

Another Milestone

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It's a slow, mostly uneventful journey being a writer, but occasionally, you hit those nice little milestones that keep you going. It's a bit like having a really good friend who happens to be invisible, mute, and mostly sedentary. After months, even years, of silence you begin to believe that you just made this friend up, that they don't actually exist.

Then, they leave a sticky note on your laptop that reads, "You're doing it...You're actually doing it. Whatever happens next, Don't Stop!"

The latest milestone was the offer of representation from a literary agent. Aimee Ashcraft of Brower Literary really enjoyed my novel Where Toys Go, and the contract is signed. Excitement doesn't do that feeling justice.

For my non-writer friends, what does this step mean? Well, larger publishers don't accept anything unless it is represented by an agent. So, to get into bigger markets, you really need to find an agent that believes in your work. This might not guarantee anything, but on a personal level, it means everything.

Make no mistake...this is just the beginning. There will be setbacks, and even the victories will be slow to come. But I really, really needed that sticky note.

Time to work.

The Boys Club...Now Featuring Girls

Back when Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens was just about to hit, I had a memorable moment with my daughter. I showed her the commercial, gauging her reaction, half expecting her not to care. She watched, and halfway through when the female protagonist appeared, she asked, “Who’s that?”

“Her name’s Rey.”

She smiled a bit and said, “I’m gonna be Rey.”

It was a cute and very sweet moment, but I realized some time later, that it was kind of profound as well. For the first time, Star Wars had presented a character that could potentially represent her. It didn’t undo anything that had come before, and if they didn't like it, people could be free to ignore this new, more inclusive chapter in the saga. If you'd rather pretend that girls were only princesses in slave costumes or there was only one black guy in the universe, well, go right on ahead.

I’m remembering this now specifically because all the noise surrounding the Ghostbusters reboot has reached a crescendo only to be drowned out by the wave of mostly positive reviews. Currently, it’s near 80% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is pretty damn good. It might not change the world, but it seems to be a worthy entry into a series that really only features one good flick.

So, for the angry men mostly around my age, what does this actually mean?

Does the existence of penis-less Ghostbusters somehow retroactively ruin your love for the original? Did Melissa McCarthy travel back in time to give you a wedgie as you watched the original in your Egon pajamas? Will Kristen Wiig arrive on your doorstep and hold you hostage via proton pack until you purchase a ticket on Fandago?

The answer to all these is a resounding no. But, consider if you will some questions from the other side of the coin.

Will this movie inspire some young girl to take up the role of quirky scientist at the playground, instead of say, yet another princess? After watching this movie, will half of the adolescent population be able to see themselves as something other than just pretty? Smart perhaps? Could busting ghosts take the place of makeup and nail polish?

I don’t know the answers any more than you do, but I do know this. If an all female Ghostbusters makes you angry on principle, just close your eyes, take a deep breath, and repeat this mantra:

For once in my life, it’s not all about me.

Futility

Some time in late 2014, I watched the news become an assembly line of horrific events, of children murdered, of elderly men choked to death, of bodies lying in the street. None of this was new, but something in the collective psyche changed, and suddenly, people knew that in some cases, their only hope for salvation was the camera in their pockets.

I was disgusted then, and I'm disgusted now, and I did just about the only thing I know to do. I wrote. 

The novel that spawned from that anger and resentment, titled WEEP, was undoubtedly the ugliest thing I've ever written. How could it not be, inspired by a system where hope is a concept so abstract that it becomes something resembling fantasy? It hasn't been published yet, and honestly, it might never be. I realize I might not be the person to write it, but I wanted an outlet for that anger, to direct that sense of futility. Unfortunately, it's as relevant now as it was several years ago.

Below, for any who care to read it, is an excerpt from the book that captures that futility, the feeling of punching the wind or emptying the sea with a teacup. As long as the system is against you, you know you'll never win. The details don't matter, but this passage tells the story of a black man attempting to save the woman he loves after she has been shot.

From WEEP, chapter titled "At First Sight"

She groaned, half in and out of consciousness, and tears rolled down both sides of Carl’s face. They were helpless tears, a child’s tears, the sort of thing that doesn’t happen very often in the grownup world. Here was a man, hard-working, self-sufficient, and now, completely lost at sea. He remembered what she had said no more than an hour before, about how close they were to town from the cabin. At night, they would climb the hill and they could see the lights, the street lights, the beacons of civilization. No more than a few miles as the crow flies. Before him, just on the opposite side of the road, was a treeline, but beyond that, he couldn’t quite be sure, especially with the fire raging behind him.

“Go,” he told himself. “Go you son of a bitch. If she lives or dies, it will be because of you, so GO!”

He leapt over the narrow ditch before him and stepped through the barricade of trees which broke quickly, revealing open fields as far as the eye could see. Out of the firelight, he could see for the first time, and there it was. A glow on the horizon. Town. No more than a few miles away, just as she had said it was.

“Hang on baby,” he told her. “We’re getting out of this.”

He ran.

The field of tall grass whipped against his jeans, a steady, thwip, thwip, thwip that blended with the crickets, the whippoorwills, the quiet breeze. She wasn’t heavy, maybe one hundred and twenty pounds, but his back began to ache before he had crossed the first acre. Behind him, the red glow peeked over the tree tops, splashing orange and gold on the otherwise black field.

He ran.

Past a pond, a chorus of frogs, leaping in unison at the perceived danger that barreled towards them. His breath beat out in clouds before him, the growing night bringing a coolness he wouldn’t have thought possible just hours before. Past the pond, past a few lonely trees, past a barbed wire fence that leaned ludicrously close to the ground. A barn came into view, black and monolithic, and he made his way for it, certain that it must be close to a farmhouse. It looked so very close, near enough to touch, but his steady footfalls seemed impossibly tedious, so slow that he couldn’t look at the growing barn without going mad. He cast his eyes to his feet, to the whipping grass and thistles, to his aching feet. He would stop. There was no question about it. He didn’t have a choice. Behind him, a roar as the roof of the cabin caved in, a vibrant, jolting sound that pushed him on farther, and when he looked up, the barn was there, right there, and he saw it for what it was, a husk, empty and dead without a farmhouse for miles in sight.

He ran.

His body burned, every inch of it, every muscle begging him for mercy. Never before had his heart and his brain been more at odds, the two of them locked in coiling, miserable combat. Seconds stretched, grew, lived their own lives, and died at his feet. Each step a moment in time, left behind, nothing more than awful, tiny nightmares. The sky, a black pall, suddenly opened, and starlight spilled down on the field. More trees were rising to meet him, obstacles vomited up by the very earth, put in place with the singular purpose of making him stop. He couldn’t look at them. It hurt to look at them, so he gazed skyward, hoping that the pain hadn’t found its way up there. Had he ever seen such stars before? He couldn’t remember a single moment in his life where they had looked so very real, a sewn together blanket of them, something that beckoned him, invited him, whispered in his ear like a lover. Stop. Such a simple request, what a wonderful sensation that would be. Once more, Abby moaned, her life running out of her and onto his legs like warm maple syrup.

He ran.

He crossed miles and hours, passing into something else entirely, an end to life as he knew it. Across a gulf of time and pain, a place where the physical self no longer exists, something outside himself, a driven, relentless essence that refused to stop. He couldn’t feel the pain, not anymore, but he could sense it, a tangible thing with form that he could reach out and touch if he chose to. The agony seemed to speak to him, to promise him amazing and wonderful things that would be his if only he would stop. That’s all he had to do. Just drop her right there. No reason to flail about, delaying the inevitable. She wanted to be free, just like everyone in the world, and that’s what he would be giving her, a gift unlike any other, more precious than that silly ring in his pocket.

The ring.

Just a thought and there it was, the box just a bit too big for his pocket, pressing into his skin, digging, biting him, mocking the very idea that he, a nigger, could be happy. Were there tears on his face now, or just sweat, a second skin as cold as a snake’s. Who could say?

Still, he ran.

The twinkling sky folded downward under his feet, and he passed through it, a part of the cosmos, returning to the very furnace that had birthed this place. All of it came from there, he could see that now, from the white men in suits, to the black men that shined their shoes, a billion people bent on hurting each other, never stopping to marvel at the plain fact that they were all nothing more than stars, and nothing less as well. His eyes were skyward, the lights of forever reflected off his glistening lens like mirrors. And the sky folded back, and the trees shot up from the ground all around him, enveloping him and the dying woman in his arms, and for the first time in what felt like a lifetime, he looked down. A circle of dark trunks opened into a clear, empty field, and a monolith stood steadfast in the center. A tree then. A monster of a tree. It opened its arms to them, welcoming them as the scent of death and buzz of flies swirled around them.

He tripped.

He fell.

He ran no more.

6/12/16

I'm not much of a poet, but I just felt like writing this. Make of it what you will.

 

FOR THOSE WHO WORSHIP THE SWORD

If you choose to worship the sword, my son

There are a few things you should know

Your eyes may begin to deceive you

In time every friend becomes foe.

 

There are many who worship the sword, my son

Their hawk feathers concealing a dove

They stoically promise to save us

But in truth wound the ones that they love.

 

For if you should worship the sword, my son

There’s a truth that will twist in your gut

If your God is a blade, one piece of advice

Don’t weep when you finally get cut.

The Calm Before the...Calm

Writing is solitary work. It's for people who enjoy being alone, working quietly, daydreaming about whatever sort of horrible shit pops into their head. In short, I'm very cut out for this. I'm a pretty patient person, but I have to say...

...the wait is killing me.

Before your eyes roll out of your head and you tell me to shut the hell up and get a real job, let me explain. I've been doing this for a long time. I know the age old mantra for writers of staying busy, work on something else, and don't stare at your inbox. I get that, I really do. 

It's just that I've been very busy during that waiting period, and there's just so much I want you to see. For the record, this is what I'm currently sitting on:

  • One novel under contract
  • One short story collection under contract
  • Two completed novels under consideration
  • One nearly completed novel
  • One novel draft, soon to go into editing

And it doesn't stop there. I've got another outline ready to roll, with the plan being having two - three novels out in the wild by 2017.  All of that is to say, it's not the work that I'm getting weary of, it's the lack of feedback. 

Feedback is water on the withering plant that is creativity. My wife can attest to this fact. She's always my first reader, and I sit quietly waiting for her to finish the last few pages of a new book.

"Sooooo...what'd you think?"

It doesn't matter how naturally introverted I am, I write for people to read it. I want to know what they love in my work, what they hate, what pissed them off, and what made them cry. Did my words make you feel anything at all? Then, for the love of God, let's talk about it!

To really nail the point, just imagine this. Let's say you decide to paint your kitchen. You fret over colors, check out new counters, maybe put in a new backsplash, and finally, after all that work, you step back and gaze at your work. You're proud of yourself, and why not? You spent hours getting things just like you like them. With excitement bubbling, you whip out your phone, snap a picture, go to put in on Instagram or Facebook, and...

...a message pops up that says, "Picture Downloaded....Will Be Available In 2-3 Years."

I'm just bitching here, I'm fully aware of the fact. I still feel very lucky to have made it as far as I have, but maybe, just maybe, someone will read this and get a laugh. Being a writer, especially a struggling one, is all about those breadcrumbs, those little morsels that tell you to keep going, to hang in there because the good stuff is just around the corner. Maybe your little chuckle will be enough to keep me hanging on a little bit longer.

Handmade Monsters

2016 is turning into a very exciting year as I learned recently that my next book, a short story collection titled HANDMADE MONSTERS has been picked up for publication. 

The collection features several years worth of short horror stories that I consider to be some of my best work. Some have been previously published in anthologies and online, while others will make their debut.

The collection will be available in print, ebook, and in audiobook (!). I can't wait for everyone to check it out.

More to come...

The Gathering Dark...

No, it's not just an ominous title to a post. The Gathering Dark is the name of a soon-to-arrive project from Manor House. It features myself as well as three other fantastic horror writers, and our stories will be narrated by some serious voice talent and accompanied by wonderfully horrific artwork.

I've never quite been a part of anything like this before, but I'm very excited about it. My short story to be featured is titled "Skin to Skin," and it's a bit..how should I say it?

R-rated? Adults only?

I've seen the artwork, and I feel safe in saying, you don't want to miss it. Sign up for the Manor House RIP section to get it for free.

Learn more at Manor House.

Inspirations

Most of my friends already know this (because I won't shut up about it), but my debut novel, Still Dark, is set to arrive in 2016 from Siren's Call. It's a remarkably long road from idea to print, but it's also pretty fun to look back and ask yourself, "Where the hell did that come from?"

It's an old question, and I won't attempt to answer for other writers, but let's just say that more often than not, ideas just happen. Sometimes it's in the middle of day, while driving, or occasionally even in a dream. I'm glad (for a lot of reasons) that Still Dark was the first  of my novels to be picked up because it just makes a good story.

Here's the dream...

I'm standing on the edge of a frozen pond in the middle of a snow-covered forest. The thin sheath of ice ripples and cracks, and I know, instantly, that something is hiding under the water. Just then, a shape moves just under the surface, and again, I know exactly what I'm seeing.

It's something that shouldn't be there. Something that couldn't be there...

I won't spoil the rest, but I immediately stumbled out of bed at 3:00 AM and started fumbling around in the dark for something to write on. After about three minutes of searching (loudly), my wife, understandably, said, "What the hell are you doing?"

I found that slip of paper just about a week ago. It was an insurance statement from a trip to the doctor. The date was August 12, 2013.  Still Dark was finished probably six months after that.

I can't wait to share it with you.