Tags: writing

Now it can be told: "Sunbleached" sold to TEETH

Ellen Datlow gave me permission to make the announcement I alluded to yesterday. I sold "Sunbleached" to a YA vampire anthology called Teeth, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. (I'm dearly glad I did, too, because business is so slow at work that the money from that sale is the only thing keeping a roof over my head this winter.) I'm not sure yet when it's due on the shelves.

I was reluctant, at first, to write this story, both because I doubted I had anything new or interesting to write about vampires, and because I've never written for a YA market before.

As I began writing, though, I hit upon an approach which I haven't seen taken before. I may very well be wrong, of course, but I'm very happy with the result. As far as writing for the YA market, that tripped me up for quite a while. I think I wrote two or three drafts of this story worrying about "kids" reading it, and what that meant. Then I picked up Tithe, by Holly Black, and realized pretty much anything goes. I decided to write the story as if I were sending it to any adult market. There's no sex in it, and I think there's only one curse word, but other than that I gave myself no restrictions. The result is, I think, more purely a horror story than anything I've yet written.

I feel really good about this one.

So here's the good stuff

Some minor bits of publication news occurred during my long hiatus. Here's a quick rundown:

An essay I wrote for Booklife, by Jeff VanderMeer, appeared as an appendix in the book, which was released late last year. It's called "Chasing Experience," about -- well, you can guess what it's about, one would hope. It was based on an interview Jeff conducted with me, which you can read here, if you like. I really enjoyed writing the essay. It came quickly and easily, and I intend to do more. I just got some fresh material tonight, as a matter of fact.

"The Crevasse," the story I wrote with Dale Bailey for Lovecraft Unbound, was recently picked up for The Best Horror of the Year, Volume 2. This new series is published by Night Shade Books, and so far their choice of cover art has been phenomenal.

I sold a story called "Sunbleached" to an anthology which I am not yet allowed to talk about. I think it's a kick-ass story, though, and I can't wait until people get to read it.

"The Way Station," a story I wrote some time ago now and which was due to appear this year in Ellen Datlow's Naked City: New Tales of Urban Fantasy, will not be coming out this year after all. The publisher has pushed the anthology back until early next year, as far as I understand it.

Two stories are underway right now, and I'm excited about them both. One has been an idea that's been percolating in my brain for some time; the other was whipped up for a specific market, and is developing on the fly. It's kind of fun to write them at the same time, while having to approach them from such different angles.

Finally, I am trying to put a collection together. I believe I have the necessary words. Now it's just a matter -- I think -- of stumbling through the process.

My kid is a better writer than I am

My daughter Mia, who is nine now, has aspirations to be a writer. She's always at work on something. She's been toiling away at my laptop this morning, and a little while ago she brought it in to show me this. I asked her if I could put it on the blog, and she gave her permission, so here it is.

Agile Waters

I was at the Great Barrier Reef diving into the shallow waters with great impact trying to be silent so I could hear the whispers of the angel fish. I walked along the ocean floor sending clouds of strawberry blonde sand rising up to obey the ripples. I was running out of breath so I let go of gravity and sent my body silently floating to the surface. There were a few playing kids and the rest of my family arguing with my tax company ... boring stuff.
Did I mention she's nine? There's no way I was writing with this sort of imagery, this awareness of the language's potential for beauty, at nine years of age. I know adults writing today who don't. When I was her age I think  was writing Morris and Boris fan fiction, for god's sake. Sometimes she flat out amazes me.

A free week

So this is what it's like to not have anything to do during the day except write. I love it!

Starting yesterday, I'm taking a week's vacation from work. Aside from keeping my hair from catching fire due to work-related angst, it's affording me a lot more time to write. Ever since I started the 500 words a day thing, I've been struck by the dramatic effect it's had on my work. Not just in terms of output, which has increased considerably; I expected that much. What's surprising is how much easier writing has become, and how much more I enjoy it now. I actually look forward to it now (although I still have to work through my standard delaying tactics, the difference is that now I actually do work through them). I was afraid the opposite would be true. Another happy discovery is that writing through plot problems actually works. Before, if I wasn't sure how to resolve some narrative knot, I'd just stop writing and let my backbrain sort it out. Sometimes this took quite a while. Now I just push through, and so far the answer is always waiting for me in the words.

I realize that to a lot of readers of this blog, this sounds like elementary stuff, stuff I should have learned years ago. And I guess that's true. But it's taken me this long. I'm just glad it happened. 

The week's goals include finishing the vampire story and getting at least hip deep into "The Love Mills," a story I'm working on for another anthology. I'm also starting work on a novella called "The Cannibal Priests of New England" for yet another anthology project. The due date for that one is still far away, but here's another benefit of the daily schedule: I don't wait until the last minute anymore.

A preview of "The Crevasse"

Since Lovecraft Unbound is being published by Dark Horse -- the same company that publishes Hellboy and The Goon -- some comic sites are taking an interest. Comixology has reproduced the first four pages of "The Crevasse" (by Dale Bailey and me, in case you've forgotten) over on their ordering page. Click here and see.

Thanks to Marc Laidlaw for pointing this out.

In the same vein, the book has been garnering more good press. Blu Gilliand at Dark Scribe Magazine mentions "The Crevasse," as well as stories by Brian Evenson and Michael Chabon, as highlights. The reviewer reveals himself as someone who does not enjoy Lovecraft's fiction, but thoroughly enjoyed Lovecraft Unbound anyway. I think that speaks well of the book, and of Ellen's success in realizing her intentions of collecting stories that might share some genetic coding with Lovecraft's stories, but are not in any way pastiches. (Incidentally, some folks have raised some ethical objections to a reviewer writing about a book based on a subject for which he has a professed disinterest, but it doesn't bother me all that much.) 

Finally, Anna Tambour, at her blog Medlar Comfits, talks a little about Lovecraft Unbound, though mostly in the context of the Dark Scribe review. I just dug it because she took a moment to throw some praise at "North American Lake Monsters", my story in The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

And did I mention the starred review in Publishers Weekly, which also made special mention of "The Crevasse"? I did? Okay. I'll just get my coat.

Update, and projects in the works

I am without internet access at home again for awhile, hence the lack of updates here. Here's a quick rundown of what's been happening.

Mia just started the fourth grade, and she's loving it so far. She spent most of the summer here (her mom came to NC for their visit, rather than Mia going to Alabama), and I can discern a remarkable difference in Mia's temperament as a result. She's happier, more at ease, and more confident. It's really night and day from this time last year, and I'm suddenly very optimistic for her.

I've decided to take a new approach to writing, since the one I've been using resulted in a glacial production rate. I'm aiming for a daily wordcount -- something I've disdained for a long time. Nothing big; just 500 words a day. If I go over, great, but I have to hit that minimum. It's a small, easily achievable goal, and already I'm producing so much more. And, as ever, ideas beget ideas. I have more projects in the works or waiting for me to start them than I ever have in my life.

Here are some of them: I'm writing a story for a vampire anthology. I never thought I'd write a story about vampires, but once this opportunity arose an idea presented itself, and I've fallen in love with it. Even if I receive word that the anthology closes tomorrow, I'll finish this one. Now there's no way I can't not write it.

I'm writing a story -- one of many, I hope -- centered around a character named Jack Oleander, who appeared in the closing paragraphs of the short piece I wrote for The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases. He owns a bookstore in the Appalachians, and when it closes for the winter he goes off on expeditions for unique volumes for his back room, available only to collectors with very specific needs and considerable wealth.

I've begun work on a long sword & sorcery tale, about the traditional brutal S&S protagonist -- but he's in his fifties now, his body is breaking down, and he's being forced to deal with the consequences of the brutal life he's lead until now. I get to show my love for Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber with this one, while hopefully turning things around and adding something new to the genre.

I'm working on a joint project with Dale Bailey about a marriage involving a ghoul. It's kind of a collaboration, I guess, though only in the loosest sense.

I'm writing a novel about a kidnapping, though I don't want to get into any detail at this point, except to say that it may not have any fantastical elements to it at all.

And I'm developing an online project, about a community on Mars. This will take a little while to develop, but if I can pull it off I think it's going to be something special. I'm bouncing some ideas around with a few friends who've offered their assistance, and I'm very excited by it. We'll see how it goes.

Anyway, this is just to show, for any who are interested, that work continues apace. More now than ever. The future is looking good.

The 2009 Shirley Jackson Awards

The Shirley Jackson awards turn two this year, and it appears the people who administer them are intent on maintaining their credibility. Here are the winners, announced just this afternoon at Readercon:

Novel: The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford

Novella: Disquiet by Julia Leigh

Novelette: "Pride and Prometheus" by John Kessel

Short Story: "The Pile" by Michael Bishop

Collection: The Diving Pool by Yoko Ogawa

Anthology: The New Uncanny, edited by Sarah Eyre and Ra Page

I'm especially pleased to see Mike, Jeff, and John bringing them home. They are, of course, three of the very best writers in the field. Congratulations, everyone.

"You Go Where It Takes You" is getting reprinted

My short story "You Go Where It Takes You" is getting reprinted in Digital Domains, an anthology edited by Ellen Datlow. She's served as editor for three online venues over the years -- OMNI Online, Event Horizon, and SCIFICTION -- and these stories are drawn from all three.

Although I sold a couple stories before "You Go Where It Takes You," they were of a different era in my life; I consider this story to mark my true beginning as the writer I am today. It's a story I felt guilty for writing, and I had no idea whether or not it approached anything like professional quality work. I was absolutely certain Ellen would not buy it for SCIFICTION; at most, I hoped that she would at least like it enough to remember me the next time I submitted a story to her.

Everything that came after was a wonderful surprise. It made me some decent money and got reprinted in volume 17 of the Year's Best Fantasy & Horror. Lucius Shepard wrote an appreciation of it on the SCIFICTION memorial blog. It let me know I might actually be a writer. Ellen rejected the next story I sent to her, and I think the real testament to how confident I felt after my experience with "You Go Where It Takes You" is evinced by how unfazed I was by that rejection.

Of course, the jury's still out on what kind of writer I am. I'm still working to improve my rate of production, which is the real albatross around my neck, the one major obstacle I must overcome if I can take myself completely seriously at this endeavor. But even that's getting better. I have two stories -- "The Crevasse" and "The Way Station" -- appearing in anthologies soon; a story called "Wolves" which I feel extremely good about; and I'll soon finish a story called "Sunbleached," which might be more purely a horror story than anything I've written to date (for whatever that's worth).

So I'm proud of this little story, and it still reads well to me, and I'm happy it's getting reprinted. Thanks, Ellen.

Digital Domains, from Prime Books, will come out in February of next year. The contents follow. Again, I am in very fine company. (I'm especially pleased at seeing "Frankenstein's Daughter" here, which is one of my favorite stories from my favorite science fiction writer.)

Introduction Ellen Datlow

OMNI online: September 1996 - March 1998

"Thirteen Phantasms" by James P. Blaylock
"Mr. Goober’s Show" by Howard Waldrop
"Get a Grip" by Paul Park

Event Horizon: August 1988 - July 1999

"The Girl Detective" by Kelly Link
"Pansolapia" by Jeffrey Ford
"Harbingers" by Severna Park

SCIFICTION: May 19, 2000 - December 28, 2005

"Frankenstein’s Daughter" by Maureen McHugh
"The Pottawatomie Giant" by Andy Duncan
"What I Didn’t See" by Karen Joy Fowler
"Daughter of the Monkey God" by M.K. Hobson
"Tomorrow Town" by Kim Newman
"There’s a Hole in the City" by Richard Bowes
"All of Us Can Almost… " by Carol Emshwiller
"You Go Where It Takes You" by Nathan Ballingrud
"Russian Vine" by Simon Ings

The Book of Bunk, by Glen Hirshberg

Please go over to Glen Hirshberg's website and check out his posted excerpt of The Book of Bunk, a novel which remains, at the moment, unsold. Glen has written about some of the travails he's undergone in trying to find this book a home; it's a striking -- sometimes moving -- account. If you like what you read, spread the word. Generate some interest.  

Like me, he's not a manic blogger; sometimes weeks will go by between posts. But he is one of the finest, most nuanced writers in our field, and if you're not visiting his site then you're missing out on something special.

Anyway, here's a excerpt from the excerpt; click the pretty blue letters to read the whole thing.

Somewhere in the long silences and occasional chatter that made up the rest of our first evening together, my elbow brushed up against hers and stayed there. Her skin felt cool. She didn’t move away.

“So who are all these people you tend to?” I asked.

“Just one person, mostly. Danny.”

I didn’t want to ask the next question, but I did anyway. “He’s your boyfriend?”

The smile Melissa flashed then was closer to the one she used on Sherman Street. Quick and light. “Danny?” The smile vanished.

“Danny is my leatherwing bat. My black-hearted magician. My closest friend. But he will never, ever, be my boyfriend. No matter how much he thinks he wants to be.”

She went quiet again. The breeze drifting out of the pines had a furtiveness to it. By the time we began retracing our steps to the fields at the bottom of the mountain, the moon had filled the sky behind us. I’d been planning to take Melissa’s hand, but didn’t actually try to do it until the Sherman Street elms loomed overhead. Her fingers accepted mine but didn’t squeeze around them. Above us, warblers chirred and trilled.

“Okay, Paul. Time for your personality test. I’ve had a lovely night. So I’ve decided to grant you one of two wishes. You can kiss me, or you can find out what’s in my black bag.”

We were standing in front of Mr. Gene’s. For once, my eyes made no move toward the leafy canopy above.

“Is this a trick question?” I said. “I mean, is there a right answer?”

“Only your answer.”

My mind raced. My strained lungs tickled, which made me want to cough, but I managed not to. “Does what I answer determine whether I get another night?”

Melissa rose onto her tiptoes, then settled back down. “No. But it might determine what kind of night the next one is.”

“Get the bag,” I said.