Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Blow

This was a long time ago. It was the first year of Portland's Time Based Arts Festival, I think, so call it maybe twelve or thirteen years ago. A friend invited me to one of the festival's after-parties. I went despite not knowing what time based art was. It seemed (and seems) that all art is time based. Anyway. The party took place in a warehouse space. It was jammed with people, a bar, free food and, at one end, a stage. I knew that there's be a show of some sort by a band called The Blow.

After a while, I girl came out. Blonde and tiny. She carried a boom box. She approached the mic and did her best to get the attention of the crowd. It took a while. Finally, when the majority of people had quieted down, she told us all that the band was running late and that they'd sent her out to entertain us until they were ready. She started to tell a rambling story about (I think) going on a drive with a boy and the conversation they'd had. After a while, she said that it might be better if she sang the next part. She bent over and pressed play on the boom box and began to sing.

It was at that moment that I figured out this girl was The Blow and that everything she had said and done from the very first moment had been part of her act. And I was smitten. I've been a fan of hers ever since through a number of incarnations. All because she played so expertly with my sense of expectation

I called her tiny earlier. Well, as the performance went on, she seemed to grow bigger and bigger with each new song. Honestly, I think I've only had one other musical experience that was like it. I felt like it reshaped me.

Right. What's this got to do with anything? I've been thinking about what I want to do with Zomburbia. You know, my debut YA novel which will be out from Kensington Books next year... I've had a couple of conversations lately about including a message in a story. Does Zomburbia have a message? Yep, and I hope I've sneaked it in in such a way that almost invisible. No matter how important your message, no one's going to get it if it isn't wrapped up in a good story. I hope that's what I've done. I hope I've crafted a novel that walks out on stage, presents itself as one thing – a good horror story – and is in truth something else as well.

Have I succeeded? How the hell should I know? I just wrote the thing. I'll have to wait until the book is out and see what people think of it to know how well I did.

By the way, as I write this, I'm listening to the new self-titled album by The Blow. It came out earlier this month, and it's excellent. I can't recommend it enough.

That's all for now.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

People I know write things: Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam

I know a lot of very nice, very talented people. Enough that I'm going to start highlighting when one of them goes and gets something published.

First up is Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, whom I know from Stonecoast, and who may have the best name of any genre writer ever. A new story of hers, The Siren, has just been posted over at Strange Horizons. You should follow this link now and read it.

It occurs to me as I write this that I should go back in time a bit and write about some other folks I know who've published books, actual, real books, in the recent past. Soon, my pet, soon...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Man, Myth and Magic

I originally wrote this post for Triptych, the web comic I created with Devon Devereaux. I liked it a lot and wanted to share it here just in case there are folks who aren't reading the comic. Though, I can't understand why you wouldn't be. Anyway, here's the post:

My first exposure to the occult came in the form of Richard Cavendish’s 24-volume Man, Myth and Magic. I still remember the shock I felt looking through those books for the first time. It was similar to the feeling I had the first time I looked at porn – though I knew it wasn’t technically illicit since my parents had it on a shelf I could easily access. It’s hard for me to imagine why those volumes were in the house. It must have been because of my mother. She had a passing interest in all things spiritual.Tarot decks were common in our house, and we had a Ouija board. So, I suppose that answers that.

I first discovered these books, collections of articles which appeared in Cavendish’s magazine of the same name, when I was six. I can still feel the cold concrete floor beneath me as I looked through the volumes. Every page seemed to bring an electric thrill as image after image flooded into my wee brain. At that age, of course, all I did was look at the pictures. Later I read the damned thing from beginning to end and would regularly re-read articles as I grew older. There were articles on demons, ritual scarification, witchcraft, cannibalism, and so much more. I encountered some 1,000 articles as I looked through those books. And I would only ever look at it in that room, I’d certainly never have taken it into the room where I slept. In those days, I was a true believer. Of everything. I’ve changed since then – nowadays I feel like I don’t believe in anything. I don’t know that I recommend either state.

There’s a feeling I’ve had a few times in my life as I experience a piece of art. I’ve tried to explain it at different times with varying degrees of success. Sometimes as I look at or read a piece of art, I feel something happening in my brain – I feel something inside me reconfiguring itself. Later in life, I began to feel that this was my body preparing itself to download new software. It was a physical manifestation of how art can change one’s perceptions. I’ve felt it looking at the art of Basil Wolverton, reading the Revelation of St. John, watching films like Altered States and Videodrome. And the first time I ever felt it was looking through those strange volumes of Man, Myth and Magic.

I think my parents sold those volumes when they moved from that house where I’d grown up. Even if they didn’t, that’s when I lost track of the books. In the years since then I’ve searched half-heartedly for them. I remember finding a complete set at least a decade ago. The bookstore was asking the ungodly sum of $200 and there was no Triptych.
way I could have afforded that at the time. I don’t even know if I’d want them again at this point. I’m sure that everything I found scary and thrilling and new about them would seem now, nearly 40 years on, creaky and silly. I think I’d rather keep my memories intact. Especially because those books have informed so much of what I have written and what I plan to write. They certainly inform everything I’m doing with

Friday, March 29, 2013

What's next?

I want to be as transparent as possible about the publishing process, but I have been asked not to reveal the name of the publisher who acquired my book until all the contracts have been signed, so I'll talk around some things for the time being.

So, what am I doing now that I've learned my book will be published?

I've already spoken with my editor and they have let me know that there will be some edits to the Zomburbia manuscript, though, thankfully, nothing structural. I won't receive those until after the contracts are signed, either. In the meantime, I'm thinking about the general shape of book two. Later in the year, I'll need to deliver the first three chapters and a detailed outline. That part scares me a bit because I haven't worked from an outline before – not a detailed one, at any rate. Zomburbia had a four-page plot and I diverged from it somewhere around the middle of the book. Regardless, that needs to be done.

I was also asked to start looking at YA book covers. While I will not have anything like final say, I was told I'd be consulted on the cover design. I sense a field trip coming on, maybe to Powell's, though our local indy bookstore has a great YA selection.

And as to what I'll actually be writing as I wait for notes from my editor, I am 91,000 words into a steampunk novel that I started writing because I had no idea whether or not Zomburbia would ever sell. I wasn't being pessimistic, just honest about how the world of publishing works. I plan to barrel along on that manuscript for as long as I can before I have to back-burner it. No matter what else happens, I will finish it, it just might take me longer than I planned.

Finally, I plan to wrap my head around the fact that someone wants to publish a book I've written. And its sequel. It's still a bit unreal to me. Part of that may be that I haven't had a chance to really celebrate it. A friend asked me today what happened when I found out about the deal. I told her the truth: I showed my wife the phone with the email from Ann, my agent, and we both cheered and jumped around for a bit. Then we regained our composure and my wife reminded me that the garbage needed to be taken out to the curb. I'm sure that we'll time to celebrate, but we have to get on with life at the moment, since life just keeps happening.

I should also take a few days and update the links and other stuff on this blog. It's all painfully out of date...

If folks have any questions about this process as we go, please feel free to leave a comment, or send me anemail.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

An early announcement

More details to come after all the paperwork is signed, but I wanted to let people know that a publisher has offered me a two-book deal (for Zomburbia and its as-yet unwritten sequel) and, through my agent, Ann Collette of the Rees Agency, I've accepted. Like I said, as soon as the paperwork is finalized, I'll be on  here with all the news. I've been sitting on this news for more than a week and finally got the go-ahead to say this much, so there you go.

And here's a funny story about Ann. Her first words to me, after she learned my name, were, "Come to Momma!"

More later.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Two things, briefly

Item 1: Last night, the clearing house for many of the Internets most wonderful things, Laughing Squid, gave a shout out to Triptych, the web comic that is illustrated by Devon Devereaux and written by me. This was an unexpected and very welcome boost for us. Click here to see the mention.

Item 2: This trailer for a documentary about sign painters really hit me in my typographical sweet spot. I need to figure out how to get it screened in my city.

Monday, March 11, 2013

I make with the talky

My Buddy, Devon Devereaux -- a name you might recognize as the artist/co-creator of my new web comic, Triptych -- started a podcast several weeks ago. He held out as long as possible, but he finally scraped the bottom of the barrel guest-wise and asked me to be a guest. 

We spent an hour talking about writing comics and novels, about my history in the comics industry and about what exactly is going on in Triptych. It was a lot of fun talking with him mostly because it was just like any of our conversations, it just happened to be recorded. Everyone should check it out. Here's the link to our conversation.

And you're all reading Triptych every Friday, right?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


My friend, the insanely talented Devon Devereaux, and I have launched a new web comic. Triptych will update to the tune of one page a week beginning last Friday! I've wanted to work with Devon since I first met him some ten years ago and the planets finally aligned and made it possible.

But what is Triptych? Well, here's the description I wrote for the About page:

"Terry is sixteen-years-old, and he's reached a watershed moment in his life. His friends are growing beyond him, his family and school are failing him, and he's beginning to realize that he's losing control of his life – if he ever had control of it in the first place. Full of the self-assurance and bitterness only a teenager can bring to bear, Terry looks around him, at the culture in which he's immersed, at the friends he's supposed to emulate, and he decides that only one thing can change his life for the better – magic. But the path of the magician is never an easy one. Terry may kill himself trying to save his life."

I think that says it pretty well.

I hope you'll join us every Friday as we take this angry, spooky trip.