|Fresh Dirt Archives: April-June 2004
The summer squash is here. I'll probably be eating it
Friday. The tomatoes are looking good, though I'm hearing
scare stories about blight. I did learn that blossom-end
blight can be reduced by applying lime, which boosts
calcium in the soil. Another type of blight is air-borne
and harder to fight. The best defense is to plant
early-yielding varieties and give the plants plenty of
breathing room. Cucumbers and peppers are doing well so
far, and I've put out bluberry and Japanese wineberry
I've had a couple
of nice early reviews for The Manor. I'm not sure if
reviews matter all that much, but it's better than a bee
sting. My story "Angelorum Orbis" is reprinted
at Revolution SF with a cool illustration from comic book
artist Jaxon Renick. The anthology The Book of Final
Flesh, containing my story "You'll Never Walk
Alone," won an Origins Award for game-related
fiction. I guess I deserve maybe five percent of the
June 26, 2004
I recently finished reading Cemetery
Dance #48, which
featured the usual good slate of horror and mystery
stories, plus Mike Marano's hilarious movie reviews. The
best tale hands-down was by James Ireland Baker, who
apparently is also a screenwriter. His story
"Worried Man Blues" is a perfect example of
sustaining suspense throughout without leaving any
question marks for the reader. I'll be looking for more
of his work.
My Poe story
"Last Writes" will appear in the forthcoming
anthology Poe's Lighthouse published by Cemetery
Dance. The writers were asked to "co-author" a
story with Poe based on a manuscript fragment called
"The Lighthouse" that Poe left unfunished. It's
a great concept for a book, and some top-notch authors
like Mike Resnick, Tim Lebbon, and Tamara Thorne are
participating. A friend let me borrow some CDs and I'm
enjoying a live Violent Femmes record. I also received
the complete Tommy Keene collection from Doug Seymour, a
Charleston artist. Keene is cool and I've corresponded
with him and sent him some of my books.
June 20, 2004
A nice Father's Day present--a hug from a little girl in
pigtails and a collection of drawings. This
is her hippopotamus, which I hope isn't an editorial
statement on daddy's middle-aged belly. Being a good
parent is very hard, and in an era when the word
"hero" gets bandied about a half-dozen times in
every television newscast, it's easy to forget the real
heroes are those who are there all the time, giving their
best, making sacrifices. Good parents are the real hope
of the future, because without them, children have no
moorings and no direction. The Marines Corps may have a
trademark on the phrase, but parenting really is the
toughest job you'll ever love.
June 16, 2004
My royalty statement for
The Harvest arrived yesterday and it looks good. Even
subtracting the book club advance, for which I was paid
separately, the book came just short of earning out its
advance in a mere four months. It sold more in that
period than The Red Church did in its entire first year,
so it's good news both that people are finding the book
and that my publisher is showing faith by bumping up my
print runs. There's a delicate formula in place: the
publisher has to print enough books to get bookstore
buyers to think they mean business, the bookstore buyers
then have to buy enough copies to give them a solid
presence in the store, and the individual customers have
to be intrigued enough to plunk down their hard-earned
cash. With any luck, the formula is repeated again and
again, with each category increasing over time.
complain about the publishing industry and their own
publishers in particular, but I have been extremely lucky
to get to the right place at the right time. Sure, the
publisher could do more to make me happy, such as back up
a truck full of cash to my door, but I think we're on the
right track to really accomplish something worthwhile
together. I've been treated as well as I deserve and in
return have worked hard on my end. And that's the
simplest formula of all.
June 14, 2004
I've rekindled a dormant
interest in the '80s band The Clash, largely from seeing
the video "West Way to the World." A couple of
bands I was in covered some Clash songs, and that blend
of punk and reggae was a nice transition from the angry
new music of the late 1970s. The Clash didn't quite last
long enough to join the all-time greats, I suppose, but
they carved their mark in the sonic landscape. Among my
favorites are "Straight to Hell," "Lost In
the Supermarket," "Train in Vain","
and "Death or Glory."
launching my "Recommended Reads" page after working on it a while.
I'll be adding to it as I go along, as I read more and as
I remember some books I read long ago that are worth a
nod. I can't say all of them will work for you, but
you'll notice I'm never one to overdo it on the hype
(unless it's one of my own books!). I'll be adding a
recommended movies page someday, though I'm notoriously
underqualified to offer any type of real film criticism.
This fall I'll be a
guest author on Dark Fluidity, a site operated by John Urbancik, a
talented writer himself.
June 8, 2004
I've planted a type of
purple-hulled cowpea and some okra in the garden. My
broccoli was planted too late and bolted due to the warm
weather. I'm going to let them go to seed and try another
planting late in the year. I think my spinach also
started too late. The tomatoes, peppers, squash, and
cucumbers are doing well. Now I need to get my apple, pear, and cherry
trees planted, along with a few blueberry and gooseberry
I'm working on an Edgar Allan Poe
story for a project, finishing the last third of a
screenplay, and taking notes for a new novel. I was
looking at my bibliography and noticed I haven't had a
short story published in over a year, though I should
have a few coming out soon.
I'm having a contest to give away a cover blow-up of
"The Harvest." Go to the contest page for details. The press release for The
Manor is posted in the media kit.
June 6, 2004
ConCarolinas was fun,
and, as usual, seeing friends was the best part: Fred
Grimm, Cindy Tallent, Kelly Goldberg, Stephen Euin Cobb.
On one panel we were on together, Kelly took a guy in the
audience to task when he first declared poor people were
in that state because of moral flaws. Then he added that
people who were mentally or physically disabled had
earned their situation through moral failures as well. A
strange night. Eventually the guy backed off after about
a half-hour in which he all but threatened Kelly with
violence. Yes, my friends, there is one in every crowd.
I bought a neat
limited edition print by Deborah Woods. It's part of her "Baby Dragon" series, although the one I have isn't
posted on her website. The art at the convention was
excellent. The artists always seem so much more laid-back
than the writers. I guess the artists get an instant
reaction without having to pester someone into reading
I met indie film
maker Mark Barinowski and his wife, actress Ryli
Morgan, who is Joe Bob
Brigg's favorite B-girl. They are cool people who live in
Charlotte, NC. I bought one of their videos, a thriller
called "Sin By Murder." I'll give a report on
it at some future date.
May 29, 2004
Children receive signals
on frequencies grown-ups don't even know exist, similar
to the upper audio frequencies that only dogs can hear.
My four-year-old daughter, exposed to an episode of Dr.
Phil, said, "In Dr. Phil's world, there is no God.
There is only Dr. Phil." While I have no doubt of
the truth of that statement, I wonder how I missed the
message myself. Sounds like I'd better keep her around to
inform me of all the other bits of wisdom to be gleaned
from the reality stream.
I'll be at ConCarolinas in Charlotte, NC, next week. I'm looking
forward to seeing some friends, though I've found cons
aren't efficient places to promote books. My strategy
these days is to just go and enjoy them and try not to
spend much money. I'm itching to get back to New York
because I was unable to visit the Met
Museum last summer and
now I'm drooling over the permanent collection. Two dozen
Renoirs, some Van Goghs, many of my favorite artists. No
Magrittes, however. If I ever become madly wealthy, I
think buying art pieces would be exceedingly cool.
Some new articles
on Appalachian folk beliefs are up on the Manor
page. I wrote them for a newspaper several years ago. For
short story writers, there's "Don't Sweat The Short Stuff."
May 26, 2004
I saw a couple of good
movies recently. "The Bunker" is a quiet
British film that reminded me of "Session 9" in
its treatment of psychological horror that was implied
rather than splashed about in the old buckets-o-blood.
"M" is a classic Fritz Lang picture with a
young Peter Lorre as a child murderer. It's a play on
morality, mob mentality, and honor among thieves.
Right now I'm
reading Watchers by Dean Koontz. I've heard good
things about his new novel, The Taking, so I'm
looking forward to that one as well.
May 21, 2004
The first chapter of The Manor is now posted online and the front page
of the site should be up soon with the graphics.
I received a box of
advanced reader copies for The Manor and now I have to
get organized to send them out. Some people who are aware
of my promotional efforts must think I am
hyper-organized, but the truth is I'm a bit
scatterbrained and pretty much have to start over again
with each new book. My interview tonight is live at 11:30
p.m. EST at http://www.wusb.org with the knowledgeable Howard Margolin.
Should be lots of fun. You can also catch it over the
next few weeks at Cosmic Landscapes.
In organic garden
news (which is coming to dominate far too much of my time
but is so good for mental health): corn, cucumbers,
spinach, broccoli, cabbage, and a local heirloom bean
have joined red, yellow, and green banana peppers. About
six varieties of tomatoes, two of which are yellow, my
favorite kind and less acidic. Pumpkins are starting to
come up. Three kinds of squash. Believe it or not, the
garden is pretty small right now and I don't know how
much I can handle, but it should take care of itself once
it gets established. Slugs and bugs have made a few dents
but I planted enough for all the critters to get a
nibble. I am still undecided on the goats. I'm afraid
they'll eat the trees.
I did a story on a
local agritourism effort at Maverick Farms in the NC mountains and now I want to
get into exotic spring greens, though it's probably too
late for this year. Maybe when the weather cools a little
in the fall.
May 18, 2004
I'm reading a novel by
Cornell Woolrich, a noir writer from the early
part of the last century. His style is a little slow and
he uses an omniscient viewpoint that's a little dated,
but he has good insight into human relationships,
especially between the sexes. I almost gave up after the
first few pages but now I'm glad I stuck it out. It's
called "Waltz Into Darkness." Also finishing up
"The Thief of Always" by Clive Barker, a young
adult book that uses an idea I like-- Evil defeating
The Manor is
available for preorder at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble,
BooksAMillion and other online booksellers. If you're a
regular shopper at those places, then please consider
placing an order if you like my work. I encourage you to
buy it through your local bookstore if possible. Not only
does it help keep a store in your neighborhood and the
money in your community, you may find another interesting
book you might never have crossed otherwise. Books are
one of the few purchases that actually make your life
May 13, 2004
Since I don't have a
television or phone, I am woefully and proudly out of
touch with world events. However, the Nick Berg incident
was such a topic of conversation that I had to check it
out, including-- yes-- watching the gruesome video. I
have a cynical streak (gasp) due to being a reporter and
my first thought was here was a guy who had been warned
to get out of Iraq and who had to have known he was
literally risking his neck by being there. I figured he
was there hoping to get kidnapped so he could escape and
get a book deal and five seconds of fame. But no one
deserves that kind of treatment. The saddest thing is
this kind of violence goes on throughout most of the
world every day. My friend Marie
and I were talking about how in Rwanda such violence is a
fact of life, only no webcams are around to record it. We
both agreed that Americans are a little spoiled in our
complacency, despite the sensationalistic news media and
our violent entertainment fare.
I have a number of
crops planted: several varieties of tomatoes, three kinds
of squash, pumpkins, peppers, and cucumbers. I need to
add just a few more. I like my garden. It's an oasis of
sanity in a land where the choice is between Bush and
Kerry. I saw a great bumper sticker the other day. I'm
not a bumper sticker person but I'll look for this one:
Enough is Enough-- Vote Libertarian.
May 9, 2004
I just read an article in a
psychology magazine about the link between creativity and
madness. While obviously not all "crazy" people
are creative, an analysis of noted artists, writers and
musicians shows they are much more likely to suffer from
manic depression, mania, or depression. One study
suggested they are 18 times more likely to commit suicide
than those who are unafflicted. The question remains
whether it's the disorders that lead to the creativity or
whether the creativity is an attempt to ward off the
troubling emotional effects. Do we write because we're
crazy or because we're trying not to be? The article
points out the disorders aren't pretty, but they also
afford an array of emotional views and a complicated
series of thoughts that might contribute to new ideas. I
have never been diagnosed with anything of the sort, but
certainly there are people around who would vouch for my
insanity. Maybe it's just a case of "You don't have
to be crazy but it helps."
I have an interview
coming up on May 21 on WUSB. It's live at 11:30 p.m. EST
and you can hear it on the Internet at www.wusb.org.
May 6, 2004
Paperwork always seems to
come in flurries, so a week after closing on my house, I
get both the final galley proof of The Manor and the
contract for the next three books to read over. The
contract is much the same in details, though there seem
to be a couple of obscure new clauses that bear
researching. Indemnification is of particular concern,
with more and more publishers seeking to protect
themselves in case an author is sued for some reason or
other. While I'm not likely to be sued for works that
obviously require a "suspension of disbelief,"
we all know anybody can sue anybody else for anything. So
I have to make sure the publisher faces enough liability
that it has an interest in fighting frivolous suits
without being given the full right to settle with outside
parties and then sticking me with the bill
I got my tomato and
pepper plants yesterday and today I picked up my squash
seeds. Broccoli and corn will probably round out this
year's crop, since I'm not going to have enough time to
break ground on a new garden. I basically use hand tools,
so it's more exercise than anything else. We went from
frost two mornings ago to mid-80's yesterday, so I guess
we call this spring in the mountains.
May 4, 2004
I just got through one of
those gluttonous, all-you-can-eat deals, a fund raiser
for the local Habitat for Humanity. It was a chance to
sample the food of all those restaurants that are too
expensive otherwise. Of course, the tastes all slopped
together after a while. After the second variety of
artichoke dip, there's really nowhere left to go. Still,
a full belly is always a thing of comfort. And all I had
to do was take pictures for the newspaper.
I started sketching
last night and I'm getting interested in art again. I
can't really justify the time for it, but somehow that
makes it even more alluring. The full moon rising over
the mountain, with the soft light spilling onto the tops
of barns and shadowing the cemetery on the next hill,
just called to me to try to capture it in some form or
fashion. Maybe I'll try a crayon sketch tonight, then
move on to pastel crayons. I'll post one on the site as
soon as I get something not too embarrassing.
May 2, 2004
I've been moving into my new
house over the weekend so the updates will be sparse.
I've got a little breathing room out in a little
community 13 miles outside town, very rural with lots of
pastures, horses, and cows. I should be able to break
ground on my garden today. My ambitions aren't that great
for this year, just getting out some of the basics like
tomatoes, squash, and cucumbers. The house already has a
number of flowers and shrubs that I'll have to learn
about. A nice row of tulips popped up during the last
The community is one of those farming centers that used
to be a thriving railroad stop along the river, with a
general store over 100 years old. The profile is diverse,
with wealthy seasonal residents beginning to buy up
property among the traditional farming families. I pass
three Confederate flags on my way in to work, and one
statue of a black-faced boy fishing in the creek. I
wonder what those people would say if they knew their
descendants would just have likely been Union as
Confederate, since the N.C. mountains had mixed alliances
during the Civil War. But as long as they keep their
sentiments restricted to their property, I can live with
April 26, 2004
Got the new issue of
Cemetery Dance magazine today. It has an interview with
Stewart O'Nan, author of a couple of my favorite novels.
There's also a good review of The Harvest, pretty much in
line with what most reviewers said-- enjoyable B-grade
horror with a fast plot and a few flaws.I'm curious as to
how people will react to The Manor, as it's different
from and little more sophisticated than my first two
novels. And better, I think.
I taped a radio
interview Saturday that will air on a local talk station
in a couple of weeks. It was fun and informal. Sometimes
the radio interviews get a little too wild and it's
difficult to be coherent, but this one flowed pretty
well. It's finally spring here in the mountains and
almost time to set out tomato plants. A short growing
season but a lot of things will grow well here--
particularly cold-weather crops like cabbage and
broccoli. And zucchini, which grows anywhere.
April 23, 2004
The award season is upon us,
and it seems like every writing organization in the
world, from the three-member group that meets at the
local library to the largest international professional
organization, is in the midst of patting itself on the
back and giving applause all around. In my job as a
reporter, I must attend a number of political and civic
events that I refer to as "clapfests." It's the
kind of self-congratulatory fare that I suppose boosts
the self-esteem of some people, but I don't see much
practical benefit, since I believe in self-motivation for
its own sake, not the promise of eventual rewards. In
fact, if the applause was eliminated from such functions,
I'd be home in half the time and have more time to spend
on my own writing.
I don't condemn the
awards process, but I do think organizations spend far
too much energy on them, and they often seem to be the
dominant business of the group. Since I've garnered a few
minor awards in my time, I can report they are strokes to
the ego, but I'd still rather have the satisfaction of a
wide readership any day. A direct link between awards and
commercial success has never been proven. Often, the
opposite is true, in those instances where an otherwise
worthy work is overlooked because it was too widely
embraced by the masses, who presumably wouldn't know true
talent if it jumped up and bit them on the wallet. The
organizations, of course, believe the annual awards are
their showcase event and a chance to grab 15 seconds of
the spotlight in a world where fame is as fleeting as the
commercial break of the latest reality show. So care
about the awards if you care, and ignore them if you
don't care. The awards themselves won't even notice.
April 20, 2004
Still working on the
screenplay. I'm on the middle third and I like where it's
headed. I think there's enough complications to carry it
the rest of the way but then again I always run into
surprises near the end. I know writers are supposed to be
in complete control but often I'm flying by the seat of
my pants. The story is about Renoir and relationships.
Funny, even though I'm contracted to write three more
horror novels, most of what I've done lately has nothing
to do with the horror field. It's been a refreshing
change. Spiritual reasons.
April 16, 2004
New on the site is the song
file Popsicle in the Sun. My article "Don't Sweat the Short
Stuff" was just published in Hellnotes Newsletter. I've bought a house a bit
deeper in the country so we'll see if the birds drive me
batty and if the cows turn out to be sacred after all.
I'm going to be flat broke for a year or so, but I should
scrape by if nothing major goes wrong. But I guess we're
all day to day, huh?
The children's book
project is moving along. I've got two rough scripts down,
although it looks like we'll jettison the rhyming scheme
for the planned series and do a couple as stand-alones.
My friend has some sketches for the series characters, so
hopefully all of it will come together.
April 9, 2004
It's not signed in blood
yet, but I have agreed in principle to a three-book
contract with Kensington Books, likely under their
Pinnacle imprint. Look for The Home to be released in the
summer of 2005 as the first book of the deal, after this
September's The Manor.
I'll have the same editor and presumably there's a
commitment on both parties to build an audience together.
It's a good move for where I'm at in my career and the
stability is welcome. The money is a step forward and
about on the track that I feel is appropriate. It looks
like the books will be coming out one per year or so, and
my pledge to you is that if you keep reading them, I'll
keep writing them. Until my fingers fall off.
Regular Fresh Dirt
visitors will note how slack I've been about updates.
There are several reasons, but suffice to say lack of an
Internet connection and the purchase of a new house are
the culprits, not any weakening in my desire to tell you
of my adventures. So be patient and I promise to soon
flood you with news and witticisms regularly.
April 2, 2004
The winners in the boxes of
books giveaway have been notified. Thanks to the many who
participated and I hope the books have found a good home.
I'll be doing more giveaways in the months ahead so check
back here often.
I've got my new
computer up and running. It's the first computer I've
ever had that says "Please" when it gives
instructions. A nice touch. Saw "Dawn of the
Dead" today. It was pretty good, though a little bit
gory for my tastes. I prefer my thrills be a little drier
and less red.
We're working on a
new book deal with Kensington and I've started a new
screenplay. More on that news as it develops.
-- copyright 2000 by Scott
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