So, it’s Halloween in a couple of weeks and I was thinking to myself.
“Self,” I said. “I think a Halloween story would be a great idea. But I don’t have time to write one!”
“You realize there’s no one here, right? Just you? Have you taken your meds?”
“But I was thinking, hey, I could put up one I’ve already written that a lot of people probably haven’t read, yet.”
“Okay, look, just take your pills. They’re right here. You’re supposed to take three of the pink capsules and one of the round white ones. And hey, look! You’ve already got something to drink them with.”
“So I’ll put that story up for people to read. That’s a good idea.”
“I’m not sure you’re supposed to take these with bourbon, though. This is bourbon, right? Smells like bourbon.”
And so, ladies, gentlemen and those who straddle in between, a zombie Halloween tale that you can read right here and right now.
Please to enjoy. *throws confetti*
And if you’re interested in more Halloween stories by other fantastic authors, check out the antho that it’s in, DEADLY TREATS.
For those of you new to this, Noir At The Bar is a reading event across the nation where a bunch of crime writers read their tales of broken dreams and busted heads to a room full of drunk people. Out here in L.A. it’s run by me and crime author extraordinaire Eric Beetner.
This time around we have, as usual, a stellar line-up. Charlie Huston (SKINNER), Laurie Stevens (THE DARK BEFORE THE DAWN), Susan C. Shea (THE KING’S JAR), Terry Shames (A KILLING AT COTTON HILL) and Maria Alexander (AT LOUCHE ENDS).
We start at 8:00pm, give it some time for folks to show up and buy a drink then do some reading. We’ll give you a break to make-out in the alley with your date or go do a couple rails off the bathroom sink and then we’re back for more.
And to make it that much better we’ve got Mysterious Galaxy on hand selling our readers’ books.
So come on down, have a drink and listen to some violent tales of woe.
I really should have had this up this morning, but if it’s one thing I suck at it’s self-promotion. That and freeing myself of digestive parasites, but you don’t really need to know about that. (Pro-tip: yanking on tapeworms is counter-productive.)
You can get it through Evil Hat’s webstore (paperback and all ebook formats or just all ebook formats) and Amazon (Kindle, of course). Paper will be getting out to various bookstores soon-ish I’m told due to a minor distribution hiccup.
Unless you haven’t been paying attention, or don’t want to pay attention, you’ve probably noticed that a lot of women authors, actresses, politicians, etc. get asked questions that men don’t. Questions that have nothing to do with what they’re working on, their accomplishments, who they are as professionals, and so on. They’re questions that are totally irrelevant to their careers.
Questions like, “Why haven’t you had babies, yet?”, “What’s your diet like?” ”What do you do to feel pretty?” It’s stupid, and an epidemic, and guys don’t get asked these questions. Well, I suppose Jon Hamm gets a lot about his moose-knuckle. But for the most part, us guys don’t have to deal with that shit.
And so, to get this point across and have some fun, Lela Gwenn at WHACK! Magazine asked Chuck Wendig and I these same sorts of questions.
Check it out over here.
Oh, and Chuck has an excellent idea about this. “Let’s crowdsource the worst, most offensive and outright dopiest questions posed to women authors. What other questions do women authors get asked that men never do?”
Yep. I wrote that line. In a book.
God help me.
This book, in fact. KHAN OF MARS, a ridiculous and action-packed tale of gorilla Professor Khan in the 1930′s pulp setting of Spirit of The Century, wherein he is transported to the Red Planet with his trusty cowboy sidekick Bulls-Eye Gutierrez.
It comes out August 20th to all you lovely people in ebook and paperback form. I actually keep forgetting this, since the book was part of the Evil Hat Spirit of The Century fiction Kickstarter from last year and 1500 backers have already gotten their digital copies. In my head that means it’s released, when it actually isn’t.
I’m stupid sometimes.
Anyway, last week I got these hardcover copies of KHAN OF MARS. Funny thing. You can’t buy them. Really. Only a handful of hardcovers were printed for specific Kickstarter backers and they’re not being released. The only way you can buy the book is either in paperback or ebook form.
But it doesn’t mean you can’t get your hands on one.
That’s right! It’s giveaway time!
I have three hardbound copies of KHAN OF MARS to hand off to one of you lucky people.
Here’s how you do it.
1. Follow me on Twitter. I’m @sblackmoore
2. Tell me here or on Twitter why you need this book.
3. The three that make me laugh the most win a copy.
4. You have until this Friday, August 9th to get your entries in.
Caveats: North America only. Sorry. Shipping across the pond is an ass-kicker.
Now if all you want is to pre-order a copy of the paperback, well, you can do that via IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository, Barnes & Noble or wait until it comes out and order it direct from Evil Hat itself.
And here’s something else to think about. The next book in the series, KING KHAN, was written by the fantastic author Harry Connolly and, oh look! he got copies of KING KHAN, too! Seems he’s thinking about doing a giveaway after KHAN OF MARS comes out, so you’re gonna want to watch that space to get in on that action. It’s a fantastic book. And while you’re at it, check out his other stuff, too.
So go on and get those entries in, people. Make me laugh.
Today marks the release of Chris F Holm’s latest book in his excellent Collector series, THE BIG REAP, about Sam Thornton a fallen man who’s been recruited (if that’s the word for it) by Hell as a collector of souls that are trying to game the system and get out of their deals with the Devil. It’s a fantastic series and I can’t recommend it enough.
This book’s been a little different for Chris than his previous books. How? I’ll let him tell you himself.
It’s mighty kind of Stephen to let me sully up his blog-space, particularly since we may well be the Biggie and 2Pac of weird-ass crime/fantasy crossover novels. Unfortunately, my every attempt to spark a bitter East Coast/West Coast rivalry between us has been thwarted by a) my general lethargy and physical cowardice, and b) the fact I’m nuts about Stephen’s books, which totally shoots me in the foot when it comes to writing a kickass diss-track. (Don’t worry – I have no fucking idea what I’m talking about, either. There comes a point in the pre-book-release ramp-up when delirium sets in and all you can do is roll with it.)
The fact is, both our series draw inspiration from the pulps of yore, but until I sat down to write the most recent installment of my Collector series, THE BIG REAP, I had no idea that my books had to that point lacked a key ingredient all classic pulp has in common: blind deadline-looming panic.
The first book in my series, DEAD HARVEST, took me the better part of two years to write – which was fine, since nobody was waiting on it. And by the time Angry Robot bought it and its sequel, THE WRONG GOODBYE, the second book was all but done. There’s something to be said for writing a book at whatever pace it presents itself to you. It allows you to turn over every idea in your head. To examine every concept, every plot point, every theme in great detail.
That is not how I wrote THE BIG REAP.
By the time the deal for book three was inked, my publisher wanted it yesterday. My agent talked ’em into waiting seven months – which was about eleven fewer months than it’d ever taken me to write a book before. I figured I had to get a draft done in six at the outside, so I’d have some time to edit. And okay, that’s still a damn sight longer than the inkslingers of the pulp era had to work with, but their novels topped out at 50,000 words or so, and I knew the story I wanted to tell would take me twice that. For one, it was epic, spanning five continents and several thousand years. And for two, I wanted to go bigger and deffer (seriously, what is wrong with me today?) with my set-pieces, my scares, my thrills, and my character work than I’d ever gone before.
So I sat down at my keyboard to write… and stayed there every waking hour not spent at my day job for the next six months. I barely spoke. I hardly ate. I told that not-so-tiny voice of doubt in my head to sit down and shut up, because dude can’t you see I’m busy? And I told myself than whenever faced with the choice between playing it safe or swinging for the cheap seats, I’d grit my teeth and take the riskier path. The way I saw it, I had no time to dally at a fork in the road, and if I was gonna go down, I was gonna go down swinging.
In the end, I’d gained some wrinkles, lost some pounds, and worn down no shortage of tooth enamel, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t finish. The problem was, I had no idea if it was any good.
That first read-through, I feared the worst. Only you know what? Turns out, it didn’t suck. By the third draft or so, I handed it to my wife/beta reader, and to my great surprise, she agreed. (Believe me, that ain’t nothing. The fact we share a bed aside, she’s not one to blithely rubber-stamp.) But it wasn’t until my editor declared it the best of the series I realized it’s not for nothing I fell in love with pulp. There’s something visceral about the best of it. Something borderline unconscious. And if you ask me, THE BIG REAP is as close as I’ve ever come to duplicating it.
But then, you don’t have to ask me. The fine folks who’ve reviewed it so far have been nuts about it. Guess I shoulda benched that voice of doubt years ago.
Of course, that ain’t as easy as it sounds. Maybe that’s why all those pulp writers I look up to were such drunks.
Got a little update on my SDCC schedule. Hope to see some of you out there.
KEEP ‘EM AT THE EDGE OF THEIR SEATS
Thursday, July 18
4:00 pm – 5:00 pm Keep ‘Em at the Edge of Their Seats - Room 25ABC
The gory, gruesome, and paranoia-inducing elements in these novels will take readers on a jet-fueled ride to the dark side. These writers spare no expense to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up with stories that will surprise you at every turn. Their protagonists solve crimes, kick ass, and don’t let anyone–or anything–stand in their way. Thrill to the discussion with James Rollins (Eye of God), Duane Swierczynski (Point & Shoot), Stephen Blackmoore (Dead Things), Charlie Huston (Skinner), Jeffrey J. Mariotte (Season of the Wolf) and Roger Hobbs (Ghostman), led by David Mariotte of Mysterious Galaxy. Room 25ABC
05:30 pm – 06:30 pm - Signing – AA09
James Rollins (Eye of God), Duane Swierczynski (Point & Shoot), Stephen Blackmoore (Dead Things), Charlie Huston (Skinner), Jeffrey J. Mariotte (Season of the Wolf) and Roger Hobbs (Ghostman)
Friday, July 19th
12:00 pm – 12:45 pm MYSTERIOUS GALAXY SIGNING (BOOTH #1119)
I’ll be signing at the MG booth if you want to come by.
For those authors, etc. who will be in attendance at it, I will also be at the Penguin dinner that night. So if you’re one of those people and want to throw shit at me, that’s where I’ll be. Presumably we will not be dining on penguins.
Noir At The Bar comin’, yo! Sunday, July 14th at 8:00pm at The Mandrake on La Cienega.
Aside from having a killer line-up of Sara Gran (CLAIRE DeWITT & THE BOHEMIAN HIGHWAY), Lisa Brackmann (HOUR OF THE RAT), Tim Hallinan (THE FAME THIEF), Stephanie Cha (FOLLOW HER HOME) and Anonymous 9 (HARD BITE), it also marks our second anniversary! Which I think is… bullets? Bail bonds? I’m not sure.
Buy us a drink, maybe?
Same as it ever was. Show up around 8:00, grab some hooch. We start reading between 8:30 and 9:00 and go on until about 10-ish with a break in the middle so you can
feel each other up in the bathroom grab another drink.
As always, Mysterious Galaxy will be on hand selling books.
Hope to see y’all there.
I will be on a panel Thursday, July 18th and afterward will be signing books. So if you’re there on Thursday pop on by.
KEEP ‘EM AT THE EDGE OF THEIR SEATS
Thursday, July 18
4:00 – 5:00pm Keep ‘Em at the Edge of Their Seats — The gory, gruesome, and paranoia-inducing elements in these novels will take readers on a jet-fueled ride to the dark side. These writers spare no expense to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up with stories that will surprise you at every turn. Their protagonists solve crimes, kick ass, and don’t let anyone–or anything–stand in their way. Thrill to the discussion with James Rollins (Eye of God), Duane Swierczynski (Point & Shoot), Stephen Blackmoore (Dead Things), Charlie Huston (Skinner), Jeffrey J. Mariotte (Season of the Wolf) and Roger Hobbs (Ghostman), led by David Mariotte of Mysterious Galaxy. Room 25ABC
Signing – Keep ‘em At the Edge of Their Seats, Thursday AA09 05:30 PM – 06:30 PM
James Rollins (Eye of God), Duane Swierczynski (Point & Shoot), Stephen Blackmoore (Dead Things), Charlie Huston (Skinner), Jeffrey J. Mariotte (Season of the Wolf) and Roger Hobbs (Ghostman) Thursday AA09 05:30 PM – 06:30 PM
I ran into this passage from Brian Eno recently and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.
“Stop thinking about art works as objects, and start thinking about them as triggers for experiences.”
There’s more to it, but the gist is that art is not a thing so much as something that happens. The experience of ‘art’ is what you, as the recipient of it brings to the table. This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while now, but I could never find the words to express it, which, as a writer, is both maddening and embarrassing.
I have a hard time seeing books as art. I tend to see them as machines, as well (or poorly) crafted devices. Engines through which ideas churn, full of nuts and bolts and creaking hinges. Things better described in terms of craft than of art.
Some of that, I think, is because like most writers I’ve learned to pick books apart. Dissecting them more often than experiencing them. It’s a rare treat to find myself lost in a book, to look up after a few hours and realize I haven’t tried to analyze it for structure or turns of phrase.
But I think there’s more to it. Culturally the only books we tend to see as art are ones that fall firmly into the Literary genre. We rate books with multiple stars and upturned thumbs the way we rate restaurants. We confuse criticism with critique, a poor experience with shoddy craftsmanship. How many 1-star reviews are “Why isn’t the ebook cheaper?” or “The main character was a bad person” or “There was too much swearing”?
The simple fact that Amazon, a company that will sell you a 55 gallon drum of lube, is now the de-facto keeper of our cultural cachet is mind-boggling.
When you talk to writers about books, conversations invariably turn to sales, outlines, process. Number shit. Angry, angry number shit. Seriously, you’d think we were all living our lives in data mines chipping out chunks of raw ore with our Excel picks. Get past all that and, sure, we’ll tell you what we like about a story, what we think works, why we think it does or doesn’t. But that can take a while.
And readers? Readers, those blessed, blessed masses. Those unknowable voices in the dark. I don’t know who the hell most of you are. But I am thankful for every last one of you crazy fuckers who takes a chance on my fiction. Really. You are amazing and I can only hope that I give you a satisfying time when you do.
But I don’t really know if I actually connect. Most of your thoughts are hidden behind multi-star reviews, or occasionally, single-star reviews. If you put in any kind of review at all. I don’t know what you’re not telling me. Like trying to glean the motives of suicides from the survivors, I don’t really know what motivates you to pick up my books, or what it is you like or don’t like about them.
To be clear, this is not a fault. You don’t have to tell me a goddamn thing. You don’t owe me a goddamn thing. I don’t expect anything of you. Hell, I don’t even expect you to buy my books and am honestly, and pleasantly, surprised when you do.
But when was the last time people talked about how a book made them feel?
I don’t mean, “I didn’t like the protagonist.” I mean, “It made me feel like that time I was in summer camp and down by the river I watched the dragonflies flit around the reeds and then Mary-Anne Phillips dared me to jump in and I had a crush on her so I did and I lost my swim trunks and was mortified the rest of the week as kids kept pointing and staring.”
You know, feelings.
I know that replacing an easy to gauge 1-5 star system with, “Yes, but how did you feel about it?” isn’t feasible. But this isn’t about numbers, or ratings. It’s about what did a story bring up for you? You. Not your best friend, not your book club. YOU. What did you experience with it? Did it make you feel anything? Angry? Sad? Joyous? Wanting to dance around in your living room naked in unbridled glee?
I gave a copy of a draft of DEAD THINGS to a friend of mine before it was published and when she read it she said of the protagonist, “He really pissed me off.”
That’s gold right there. Not just for me, because that’s how I had intended to write him and it was nice to see that she picked that up, but also for this idea that we can talk about stories based on how they make us feel. She got angry. Not at me or at the book. She was aware enough that his actions, as a fictional character, were making her angry with him. She was invested.
I call that a win.
And so I would invite everyone to think about how a piece made them feel. Whether you rate it on Amazon or not, or mark it on Goodreads or toss it in the trash. I don’t care if you never tell me.
But I think that if more of us put some thought into what experience art, whether it be a painting, a poem, a novel, a badly lettered request for oral sex scribbled on a bathroom wall, makes us feel, I think that will make us better. Better at what, I don’t really know. Better people? Better readers or writers or critics?
I think mostly it’s that I want to live in a world where we experience art, rather than just see it.