Archive for June, 2012
My new $0.99 ebook ANASAZI SKIN is now available in the Amazon Kindle Store. If you purchased and enjoyed last week’s offering of SUNDAE, you should be warned that while this story is no less sincere, it’s also rife with some very adult themes, language, and graphic violence.
A few years ago I began writing these short, fragmented, almost dream-like pieces about two characters named Saint and Talya. At the time it was my attempt to idealize a very bad relationship I was enduring and seek a truer, more pure love between two people. If you write at all, you know half the time we’re doing it just to help keep our sanity and create a better world for ourselves. That’s where those original pieces came from.
I rolled Saint and Talya into a more proper narrative when a very nice man named Jeffrey Conolly commissioned a story from me for the first issue of a short-lived webzine called The Daily Tourniquet. That story was the first incarnation of “Anasazi Skin” and it was a brief, direct yarn with more classic horror and sci-fi elements to match my editor’s word count requirements and the style of the ‘zine.
For ANASAZI SKIN I’ve folded those earlier Talya and Saint bits into a new version of the story. In structuring and editing this one I was very much inspired by the way John Boorman and Lee Marvin combined the more ethereal elements of French New Wave with really gritty noir in the 1967 film Point Blank. For all its hard edges and testosterone, a very airy, almost existential aura of mystery permeated those characters and that story. I wanted to meld my violent and futuristic setting with that sort of un-reality those first pieces contained.
The result is something very different, but nonetheless a story I like very much. At various points it may repulse you, it may leave you guessing, and it may break your heart.
At least I hope it does.
The last thing to be said about this one is that while not exactly the same, reading it now it shares a lot of elements with Repo: The Genetic Opera and the novel/movie Repossession Mambo/Repo Men. While I’m a great fan of the former, and at least enjoyed the knife work in the latter, I wrote mine before I was exposed to either. You can’t do much about independent invention.
Besides, as Michael Moorcock said, never be too proud to steal a good idea (I’m talking about the guys who wrote Mambo and made Repo Men. They know).
The cover for ANASAZI SKIN was designed by my good friend Keith Rainville. Keith is a fellow Judoka, a talented graphic designer, a writer of feature films and pulp magazines, and the purveyor of Vintage Ninja, which I’ve had the privilege of contributing to several times in the past.
Go forth and consume, and whether you love or hate the story, please do leave your review on its Amazon page. It makes a difference.
Over the weekend this little guy and I undertook a glorious adventure. We met new and fascinating people around the globe, we slew monsters, we fought the good fight for purity and innocence and creativity and literacy and all that worthy mess.
Above all, we prevailed. As the Clan Wallace and teddy bears do. As we are made to do.
On Friday I published a never-before-released story called SUNDAE as a $0.99 ebook in Amazon’s Kindle Store. This wasn’t an entirely new pursuit. I used to podcast my fiction for free every week and I’ve had entire books translated to all the trendy new digital formats. But I’ve been away from the game for a while. I haven’t had anything published or released any new fiction in a couple of years. And I never took it upon myself to publish digitally.
The sudden return to loosing my words came about for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, SUNDAE is a very different story for me. It’s an adult enough piece and it’s not without my usual sensibilities, but it required me to excise my usual quota of foul-yet-colorful language and graphic violence and rely on a very pure form of storytelling. It also became a particularly meaningful story for me. More than anything I’ve written in a while for my own amusement I felt it was worth putting out, and I also wanted to remind people of some things of which writing it reminded me.
I was also curious to see how a new story would fare commercially carried on nothing but my name and word-of-mouth. I didn’t do any real marketing. There was no big lead-up. I didn’t plug it anywhere save for my own Twitter and Facebook. I just dropped it on the world. I went with the Kindle Store strictly because it was the easiest and quickest place to set it up. I didn’t worry about making it available in every format. I just wanted to gauge general interest and get a sense of how much going-out-there-and-pimping on my part releasing stories this way would require, at least to make them a viable pursuit.
So we’re clear I hardly think I’m inventing the wheel here. This wasn’t a broad social or professional or technological experiment. It’s been done and is being done with greater success by bigger and better and wiser than I. This was just for me. It takes time to do this kind of thing right and regularly, and I only have so much of that in a day, especially where writing is concerned as it is my bread and butter and rum. If I’m going to release my own fiction, I needed to know if the return would be there.
It appears as though it will. Within the first few hours it had already moved well over a hundred digital copies. Within the first twenty-four hours it had completely exceeded any and all of my expectations. Crazily, it sold stronger and stronger as the weekend progressed, as different international time zones woke up and signed on. I heard from fans all over the world via Twitter and Facebook. Whether the reader was German or Irish of British or Israeli or Aussie or Kiwi, virtually everyone connected with the story in the way I’d hoped, the way I did when I wrote it.
Almost as importantly, they bought it. It occupied the top ten list for fiction short stories in the Amazon Kindle Store, placing as high as #4 at its peak (possibly higher. I couldn’t check the stats every second). It also rose to #2 in children’s literature and #4 in children’s books. By the time I stopped pushing it on Twitter and Facebook on Sunday it had sold well enough to cover my good friend and colleague Dr. David Kanter’s weekend bar tab. And you can’t ask for more than that.
Now it’s Monday. I’m no longer updating its ranking hourly with screen captures and actively pushing the link. Sales have slowed to a trickle. It’s falling back farther and father on the best-seller lists. All of that is par for the course. But you came out, you bought it, you read it, you rallied behind it, and many of you seemed to really enjoy it. Thank you.
Creatively it was pretty rewarding. Monetarily and professionally it’s definitely worth the investment of time and energy on my part (and yours, it would seem).
I’ve decided to keep going. I’ll be releasing a new short story every Friday. I have no plans to step up my promotional efforts. I’m just going to throw them up, let the people who take the time to follow along with me know, and what dreams may come. Most of them will be new stories you’ve never seen, heard, or read anywhere else. Many of them will be very recent. All of them will be the best I have to give.
I hope you’ll keep reading. I hope you keep coming back. I hope I keep delivering.
It’s what we do.
He’s a crusader. He’s a friend. He’s the greatest warrior the world has ever known. For over a century he’s protected your children as they slept, from the darkness and from the monsters that dwell there.
He’s someone you know quite well, and something you’ve never seen before.
My new five-thousand-word ebook SUNDAE has been released and is available for just ninety-nine cents. You can pick it up right now on Amazon and enjoy it right on your computer or phone pretty much instantly. Technology is a wonderful thing. Except for robots. They’ll be our undoing.
I’ve been silent for a time, or rather my stories have. This one demanded I make some noise. If you’re among the select group of people who’ve either been following my stuff for years or have recently discovered it and were waiting for more and new, I hope you’ll find this offering as meaningful and worth the effort as I have.
Right now SUNDAE is available exclusively in the Amazon Kindle Store. If you don’t have a Kindle you can download the Kindle app for your Mac, PC, or phone for free. Depending on the response, both critically and commercially (which is fancy talk for do you guys and gals like it and did you buy it) I’ll see about expanding the available formats.
I’d like to thank my brother and comrade-in-arms Earl Newton for designing that truly remarkable cover for Sundae. I’d also like to thank all of you who continued to pester me with e-mails and tweets demanding new fiction.
My short story “Akropolis” has been selected to appear in The Book of Cthulhu II coming to stores later this year. It is, as the junior detectives among you have no doubt already postulated, a collection of Lovecraftian fiction and the follow-up to last year’s very successful anthology of the same name.
I don’t like the publishing industry and I hate themed anthologies, but I’m actually fairly excited to be part of this one. The first incarnation was, I felt, a very worthy offering. Also, Night Shade just released the official Table of Contents for Cthulhu II and it is stacked deeper than Pride FC’s roster in its heyday.
I haven’t had a story in an anthology since 2010. I haven’t submitted a short story in far longer. Although writing them will forever be one of my top three all-time abiding passions (the others are edged weapons and that exquisitely soft patch of flesh between the pronouncement of a woman’s belly and her pelvis), I’ve all but lost interest in fiction publishing. I will still on occasion (and far less often than I tell people) receive a reprint request like this or a solicitation for something new. I generally shine them on. Sadly it’s very rarely worth the trouble.
However, when editor Ross Lockhart hit me up, having heard “Akropolis” on the podcast horror ‘zine Pseudopod, I was down for a couple of reasons. First and foremost I don’t have what I would classify “Lovecraftian” sensibilities. In fact, “Akropolis” is the only story I’ve written that would even qualify for a collection like this. The fact it was selected seemed significant to my ego and me. Mostly my ego.
I also have the honor of sharing a table of contents for the first time with, among many other talented authors, Neil Gaiman, Caitlin R. Kiernan, and Michael Chabon. Those three rank among my personal favorites and are all writers I deeply respect. Kiernan in particular has been a big and direct influence on my own writing. It’s a true privilege to be counted among them even in the slightest way.
The Book of Cthulhu II will be available in stores and on-line in October.
On an only scantly related note, I am writing this the morning of Ray Bradbury’s death. It should go without saying the man was a titan and one of the reasons I do all of the above. I had the good fortune to finally meet him (and be an impromptu roadie for his appearance) at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore on his birthday last year.
I don’t think meeting me is what killed him, but I am forever grateful he waited for the encounter.
From 2007 to 2010 I wrote a back-page column for Murky Depths, a magazine of fiction and comics published in the UK and founded by a mad, sweet Brit named Terry Martin. It was a periodical of stunning quality unseen in today’s post-print apocalypse, one that recalled Métal Hurlant at its most experimental height and Marvel’s Epic Illustrated. I was one of the founding editors and contributors to the ‘zine when it debuted. I had to leave that editorial role a while later to focus on my own career, but I continued on with what I dubbed Depth Charge.
I wrote close to two dozen Depth Charge columns, tried to win a BSFA Award a couple of times (Murky Depths as a magazine succeeded in this vein in 2010), and generally just had fun channeling a cyborg amalgamation of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, Alan Moore on Martian weed, and an eighteen-year-old version of myself that still cared passionately about things like art and culture. Terry gave me free rein to write what I wanted, how I wanted. My columns weren’t always journalistic masterpieces, but I tried to make them valid.
Murky Depths the magazine is gone now, folded earlier this year. Terry has evolved the brand into quality indy publisher The House of Murky Depths. His focus is still on cutting edge graphics melded with innovative storytelling. In addition to putting out the cyberpunk titan Richard Calder-penned Dead Girls comic book series and graphic novel, he’s also created a YA imprint called Murkee. One of his featured releases is an illustrated children’s book by Lavie Tidhar and Paul McCaffrey called Going to the Moon that I think is just this side of brilliant and like nothing out there for kids.
Look into it. All of it.
I’d like to present to you, from the vault, my final Depth Charge from June, 2010. I’ve written millions of words in my life, published countless thousands, and seen a reasonable fraction of that realized on-screen in various filmic forms. The following remains among my top five favorite pieces I’ve written for a variety of reasons, only a few of them sentimental.
I titled it “Sincerely Yours,”
Listen. Can you hear it? They’re playing our song tonight.
As you read this it may not be dark out there in the world you know. Right now it may be dawn. They may just be waking up on the beaches of Belle Mare, shaking sand and drunken half-memories from their hair and trying not to wretch used rum as that first waft from the Indian Ocean hits their nostrils. It may be a bustling afternoon in London where the suits are taking tea and daydreaming of the weekend laudettes coming out to play in all of their scant-skirted, binge drinking glory. It may be dusk above the jungle canopy in Rangoon where magic hour is assassinated by shadows, but of course it doesn’t matter because Burmese pythons are color blind anyway.
It is night somewhere, however, and in that night they’re playing our song. They’re playing our song and it’s got to be the last for a while. It’s a last waltz, a last sweaty rhythmic fling, a last rite performed Benedictine and smoke-filled for these precious one-way confessionals of ours. Because, you see, I’m stepping out. I’m stepping away, and for a while you’ll have to live without my back-page wisdom and warnings and oft tirades. I’m closing down the store for a time, and although I can’t speak to the span of that time it will be long enough to merit this little denouement.
Do you hear that? Our song’s already reached its first chorus.
You may find me in the months to come flipping bones in Singapore. You may find me teaching riot control to Israeli commandos. I can’t say. But here and now we still have some business to which we need to attend.
Lighting up pitch-black basins and hydro-choked crevasses with the Depth Charge has been an increasingly zen pursuit for me. It’s given me hours to meditate on my own world and all that’s meaningful and less than meaningful within it. It’s also given my mother one more piece of tangible evidence to support her claims that “writer” does not mean her son is unemployed. It has forced me to deal, at least in my own veiled and distorted way, with reality instead of the fantasy that is my stock and trade.
Now that I’m shutting it down, it seems as though I owe it to both myself and any of you who have actually kept reading to the back page time and time again to present my closing argument. I’ve tried to treat the Depth Charge as a single, prolonged thesis and as such we’ve finally reached the conclusion.
Here is what I’ve come up with for better or for worse, in sickness and to your continued mental health, so help me Science.
I’m a writer in a too-rapidly evolving world. No one knows what a book is anymore. No one knows what a movie is anymore. The digital has self-propagated and become legion. It has born bastards untold, from new hardware to rebel software that tips the scales from revolutionary to apocalyptic. It has greatly affected those of us who try to mix art and industry and grind some decent form of living from the gears of such a mutant hybrid machine.
I’ve tried to form some cogent thoughts on this subject and from those formulate some plan of attack; some new rules of engagement for the modern combat that is the publishing industry (be it fiction publishing, music publishing, or any other form of distribution for the arts). If I’ve fallen short of that, I’ve tried to at least add a few new moves to your own fighting repertoire and give you access to munitions larger than rocks.
As I go on sabbatical to hunt the demon snipes of Georgia’s lost back fields, or perhaps open a cliff-side bar in Tierra del Fuego, the argument I choose to present is as follows. Whether industry finally and fully catches up to technology, whether the dam breaks and content truly does flow free for good and all, there is one undeniable fact we all need to deal with as creators and consumers. The way we tell stories is changing. The way we express those abstract angels and metaphorical monsters in our nature through color and form and iambic pentameter is changing. If you aren’t adapting to that change, if you aren’t trying to find your new voice in this new world, then you’re stagnating.
Stagnating means two things to both the artist and the working content creator: 1) Your work is going to become irrelevant. 2) Your irrelevant work will have no marketability.
So, as I pack my rucksack and set my sights on a world tour of the finest flask-making factories across the globe, I want to leave you with this final, brief survival compendium.
Try something new with your chosen medium. It doesn’t matter how you feel about the iPad and the Kindle Reader, or YouTube and Netflix, or iTunes and RDIO, or even 3-D filmmaking. Neither should you try to conform your content to any platform or purpose as far as distribution goes. Use these things only as tools to experiment with and liberate your own work. The next step will come on its own if the content you create bears that it should be so. Believe in an exciting new world for artists and you’ll find yourself creating that world each time you step up and cut loose.
Also, own everything you create. Lease it, rent it, option it to the masses and those that will bring it to said masses, but retain all the rights you can hold from them at the point of a double-barrel shotgun (this being a metaphorical shotgun, of course). It is, or it can be, the time of the creator if you’re willing to seize it and resist selling yourself cheap.
Notice I don’t advocate against selling yourself. What I advocate most vehemently against is ending up bitter and broke and obscure for the sake of pride and refusing to play the game at all.
Finally, whatever your trip—fiction, film, music, graphics, dance, freerunning, throwing flaming axes at ring-tailed lemurs strapped to spinning wheels—you have to realize that the time has come to be unbound. There are no rules or restraints anymore. The knowledge isn’t kept in ivory towers, and the means are not denied to everyone save a few masters. They’re both freely available to any and everyone with equal parts brain, balls, and drive. All that is required is the motivation. And a good story.
No rules. No excuses.
I have nothing left. You’ve had it all. And our song, I fear, has ended. Step back and take a breath, remember at least a few of my words, and never stop checking the back page.
I do turn up in the damndest places.