|Fresh Dirt Archives: October-December 2004
Dec. 30, 2004
It's time to start accumulating all the paperwork and start calculating income tax. The worst thing about freelance writing income is that you essentially earn about half of what you make, after taxes and agent commission. I try to keep good records and I don't mind that end of things, but it would be nice to earn enough to hire an accountant.
After a lifetime of neglect, I'm finally reading Stephen King's "The Stand," and the "author's preferred" version at that. I wish I had read the edited version instead--life is very short and those middle-era Stephen King novels are long.
Dec. 20, 2004
I'll soon be adding an addendum to the Virgin in the Church series, something to the effect of "Everything I've Learned Since Then." I look back on the publication of "The Red Church" and it almost feels like that was something a different person did. But the words were mine and the feelings were real at the time. If nothing else comes out of my writing career, I hope each of my books captures a little bit of my real life--which will happen whether I try to insert it or not.
I'm not a big Christmas type of guy. In fact, I am offended by the commercialism of the holiday season, but I also think it can be a spiritual time of year despite all the negative aspects. I wish all of you peace and happiness, the two most valuable gifts in the world once you get past the big word LOVE.
Dec. 13, 2004
I eventually had to scan in those early manuscripts so I could put them on a "real" computer, but I miss those simple, carefree days. I didn't have a web site to maintain, no e-mail correspondence, no promotional activities. I learned of story markets by subscribing to print magazines. I was in blissful ignorance of the state of modern publishing and the horror genre. I compiled my publishers' and agents' list by going to the library and checking out books like the Literary Market Place and scrawling down prospects with a pen and paper. It all seems so terribly old-fashioned now, but I didn't become a daily computer user until about four years ago. Now I would probably go into withdrawal if the power was out for longer than two days. But in some ways, I should seek to simplify my life and get back to all the fun I had when I didn't know what I was doing. Ah, well, the wisdom of old age...
Saw "Jacob's Ladder" the other night, starring a young Tim Robbins. It was a pretty tight psychological thriller. Recommended. I'm currently reading some history essays and Dean Koontz's "Odd Thomas." I recently received royalty checks for The Red Church and The Harvest, very nice mail clutter for the holiday season. Both still seem to be selling pretty well, and it's satisfying that both books earned out their advances, meaning everybody along the line made money. I hope readers will come to the older titles as the new books come out, both to keep the books in print and to give everyone a broad range of my interests, because I certainly don't expect any two of my books to be much alike.
Dec. 6, 2004
I've never been a notebook type of writer, in that I don't jot down interesting notes or story ideas as I go through the day, but recently I've taken to writing down quotes from geniuses. Shakespeare will have some pages. Currently reading "The Rape of Lucrece," in which Shakespeare casts doubt not only on the rapist, but the victim and her husband as well. In a remarkable study of human nature, Shakespeare turns a multi-faceted mirror onto the key players: the husband's boasting that first ignites the seed of desire in Tarquin's soul, Lucrece's role as the chaste wife in which she obsesses over her own virtue, and Tarquin's own lust which is as much to blame on Nature or the night as it is to the man himself. Combine a God-given gift of the music of language with a startlingly empathic view of human nature and you get the "best-selling" and "most popular" writer of all time. And forget the theories that Shakespeare was a pen name for Ben Johnson; Johnson had a tenth of the talent and Shakespeare was far too prolific to have been a side project.
Recommended movie: The Experiment (Das Experiment). This movie is loosely based on the Stanford Prison Experiment, in which volunteers are randomly assigned to be either prisoners or guards. While the actual experiment was shut down after six days due to the frightening results (human nature being what it is, and absolute power always corrupting absolutely), the movie prolongs the idea to one logical conclusion. Harrowing, and amazingly void of all the nasty things that should lead to an "R" rating. This movie had my guts tight and is the most intense movie I have seen since "Session Nine."
Dec. 2, 2004
Today I bought myself a Christmas present: 101 horror movies in a bulk package deal from horrormovies.com. Some of them are actual classics, but a lot of it is unprocessed cheeze. Like "Sorority House Vampires in Hell," billed as "Death, Demons, D-cups." I plan to write a couple of low-budget scripts next year, and figure if I can see the worst then I can try to aim higher, or at least steal the parts that look like they'll fit.
Currently reading "The Six-Day Horror Movie" that's a basic guide to independent guerilla filmmaking. I'll probably have a review posted somewhere soon. I'll also be working up a feature on John Kenneth Muir, a prolific writer on cinema and pop culture.Here's a photo of me (on the right) with author Dale Bailey at our November workshop at the Gastonia library.
November 27, 2004
Of course, this is the country where all our five-gallon buckets carry warnings that a baby may accidentally tip its head into the bucket and drown. A conservative might blame lawyers for all the warnings, but let's not forget the tobacco industry still argues that their product isn't necessarily linked to cancer and where energy company lobbyists claim that global warming is just a theory.
I'll be a guest at Trinoc-Con in Durham in July. Literary guest of honor is Joe R. Lansdale, a gifted writer and one of those "unique individuals who marches to the beat of hisown drummer." Nuff said.
November 20, 2004
I'm busy with house plants right now, trying to get some green in the house. I have five at the moment but will probably add some hanging things. I've never been interested in them before but I think gardening this year has caused my green thumb to swell.
November 17, 2004
Work continues on
the novel in progress and I recently finished a short
story to submit to the Mystery Writers of America's
"Relationships Can Be Murder" anthology.
Actually, I have several stories that could work for
that! Another short story is in the works that may end up
being a long story, set in the world of small-town
journalism. Plus I have to expand a novelette into a
novella, but that may have to wait until after the
Here's a photo by Marie Freeman of Randy Jones (best known as the Cowboy
from the Village People), me with my ever-present
notebook, and director Don Cosentino from the set of
"A Tale About Bootlegging." If you missed it,
you can read about My Life in the Movies at the site or my article in the Watauga Democrat.
November 13, 2004
I have a heat pump and also a small oil-filled electric radiator that seems to be efficient. An energy company official (who wasn't trying to get my business) told me the heat pump was more efficient than propane, which I find hard to believe, despite the jump in propane prices. I guess I'll use all of them this winter and see what happens. I don't have a chimney or I would be burning wood. I like flames and the busy work of keeping wood stocked.
My interview with George Olsen for Public Radio East went well. George always manages to ask some unexpected questions and does a thorough job of editing. It should air soon on a handful of eastern N.C. public radio stations and be available to other NPR affiliates. I'll post an exact air time when or if I find out.
November 9, 2004
I've never aspired to be a "personality," though if you read my books you'll know more about me than even some of my close friends do. All experience gets filtered through the blurry eye of my fiction and tossed back out to the world. That doesn't mean my life is boring, or that I occasionally won't come out with some reckless comment (such as, many of us horror writers aren't really that good), it's just that I've had some weird incidents and encounters already that suggests there is wisdom in a little reserve. The clues are there if you have nothing better to do. But I'm betting you DO have something better to do.
Currently reading a manuscript from Kensington that looks promising, by Terese Pampellonne. Should be out next year. Looking at M.C. Escher and listening to Rolling Stones. Hey, being out of character is perfectly in character for me.
November 4, 2004
Saturday I'll be at the Gastonia (NC) Public Library with Dale Bailey at 2 pm, so drop in if you're in the Charlotte metro area. I'll be interviewed Monday for Public Radio East, which covers the coastal region of North Carolina. I'll post a link soon for those Internet heads who like to listen to computer audio.
I haven't mentioned elections here because I think everyone is very tired of it all. Let's just all get along and do good work within our own small realms of influence and let those efforts expand outward.
Forgot to mention a new article at the site, All Hallows Pagan Rites, a little late for the Halloween season but if you're interested in Wiccan or pagan beliefs, or are just a general Halloween fan, here it is.
November 1, 2004
The Manor got a great review in the Greensboro News & Record yesterday. It's the state's third-largest paper. I was also in the fourth-largest paper a few weeks ago, not as enthusiastic a review but still intriguing. So it feels good to be noticed a little bit, especially since I shared the Greensboro review with fellow writer Stephen Mark Rainey, who is a long-time editor in the horror field and a gifted writer to boot.
Reading: The Laughing Corpse by Laurell K. Hamilton; The Boxes by James Sleator
Tomorrow I'll be covering local elections. All I can say is, I don't care who wins at this point, let's just get it over with.
October 31, 2004
Here's a picture of my neighbors. They are good folk, I scarcely ever have to ask them to turn the music down. They like to come over when I cut the grass but other than that we get along fine. I finally have an image editor on my new computer so I'll be able to share more photos soon.
October 23, 2004
My Raleigh trip was great. I'll post some pics soon of my event at The Achievement School in Raleigh. You can read a little about it here, including the interview for the school paper. At the Barnes & Noble signing I got to meet authors A. Leigh Jones and Jack Crosswell. Both were very entertaining. Over the three events, I sold somewhere around 140 books. I wish I could do that every day!
Shot some pool with my friends in Durham where I stayed during the book trip. Needless to say, I won't be a "road agent" playing for money anytime soon. I'm not sure what I'm doing for Halloween besides taking a tiny "Puss In Boots" door-to-door to beg for candy.
October 17, 2004
October 16, 2004
I'm reading my first Laurell K. Hamilton vampire hunter book and I'm enjoying. It's easy to see why her voice makes her so incredibly popular. Listening to Paul Westerberg today while I paint the laundry room.
October 13, 2004
I received my contributor copies of Last Pentacle of the Sun today and I'm really looking forward to reading it. I had time to browse some of the work and it's inspiring.
October 10, 2004
New developments in the West Memphis 3 case just as a benefit anthology Last Pentacle of the Sun is about to come out to benefit their defense: a key witness has recanted her testimony. I contributed a story to the anthology because I wasn't sure justice had been served in this case. The anthology has art from Clive Barker and writing from Peter Straub, James Morrow, Poppy Z. Brite, Elizabeth Massie and more.
October 5, 2004
A guy at work asked me if I'd canceled my subscription to the Winston-Salem Journal. Since I don't subscribe, I answered in the negative. He said there was a bad review of "The Manor" with some positive things mixed in. I found a copy and it was a lukewarm review, all in all, but as I told my friend, in two weeks nobody will remember the review but they might remember the book cover if they see it in a store. The things the reviewer didn't like might be the very thing a potential reader is looking for. And I'd take a bad review in a 110,000-circulation Sunday paper over a good review in a small magazine any day.
October 4, 2004
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