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Fresh Dirt Archives: Jan-March 2005

March 29, 2005
I'm holding
a new contest to give away an advance reader copy of The Home. All you have to do is sign up for my free newsletter and you're in the pool. If you've already signed up, don't worry, you're in.

If anybody out there wants to join The Inner Circle, I'll email you bookmarks to distribute to your local stores. I haven't tried bookmarks before but these look really good. Inner Circle members will get a signed cover proof of The Home. Just email me and say "I want to be a charter member of the Inner Circle" and give me your address. Offer good while supplies last. I'm not announcing this anywhere but here and in my newsletter because I want only the hardcore Nicholson fans to get these. I love each of you and I'm forever grateful for your support.

One of those interesting months, dipping into my reserve fund to make the house payment. I'll be walking the tightrope (or maybe running the gauntlet) until the next advance check. I don't know how full-time writers make it. Even with a day job, I'm barely surviving. Well, things will probably get better in a year or two, and tax season will be over soon. I do have plenty of stamps, though.

March 23, 2005
I received an issue of The Third Alternative #41, which contains my story "In The Family," as well as tales by Conrad Williams, Nathan Ballingrud, Chaz Brenchley, and others. The payment was enclosed in the magazine, and I believe it's the first time I've ever been paid in pounds, though I've had several other British sales. Kind of cool, except for having to pay exchange fees. The magazine is great, so check out a copy. US residents can order it through Project Pulp.

Well, it looks our Washington buddies are pushing ahead with plans to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Bush's cynical leadership leads to another big payoff for his buddies in the energy industry--go to war, drive up gas prices, win the legislative battle against the American people, and get pats on the back from Haliburton. The saddest part is, I'll own a piece of that pipeline, thanks to my own need for fuel. So I'm invested in the collective guilt. At least I feel enough sympathy for future generations that I HAVE some guilt. I 'm not sure the same could be said for many supporters of the Arctic drilling. Either way, I'll never vote for any elected official who supports this action.

I remember back in the late 1970s, when alternative energy was getting its first big push, thanks to oil embargoes and long lines at the pump. Most of the projects I've seen were built to "prove" that alternative energy would never work, such as the massive and poorly designed windmill NASA placed on a prominent peak near here. The thing was loud, inefficient, and, worst of all, messed with people's television reception. I was involved with some solar energy projects back then, too, although it seemed odd to me at the time that copper prices happened to escalate dramatically, through some strange coincidence that never could have been orchestrated by mere industrial giants. Oh well, that's one that I can't blame on Bush. Darn.

March 19, 2005
Race against deadline to get the novel done by the end of the month. After that, I'll take a breath and tie up some other loose projects: a limited edition novella, a handful of children's books, a couple of manuscripts I'm editing, and a couple of short stories. I also have a long-neglected screenplay that's half done that I'd like to get polished before the screenplay contest season.

Got some nice seeds at a local seed swap today, practically everything I was hoping to get for this year: kale, red peppers, collards, lettuce, mustard greens, several varieties of squash (including a blue squash originally grown here by the Cherokee), carrots, spinach, corn, pumpkins, bok choy, and a local tomato. Should be enough to keep my hands and knees dirty for a while.

Looks like gas prices will never again go below $2 per gallon. I live so far out in the country that cycling is not an option, though I sometimes have the option of not venturing beyond my front door. I test-drove one of those hybrid electric cars for a story and it was pretty cool. I couldn't tell where the gasoline engine kicked in (apparently it happens around 35 mph) but I think I'll wait a few years before some of the bugs get worked out, then maybe I can buy a used model. It will be interesting to see what happens to all these SUVs in the next few years.

I watched "Troy" last night. It was okay as epics go, though it seemed like the writer and director tried to cram too much in the story and never really gave us a real read on any of the characters. Orlando Bloom did not work at all as a heroic lead (though maybe that was intentional because his character was mostly a wimp) and the actress who played Helen of Troy wasn't the type of beauty who inspire warfare. She came off as brainless, not even shrewd enough to be manipulative and weak in the eye candy department. Brad Pitt was okay but the story forced him to be a "dark lite" character who was moody, bloodthirsty, vain, but ultimately willing to sacrifice his life for a woman who was essentially a one-night stand.

March 14, 2005
One of those fun days: got a raise at the day job, advanced reader copies of The Home showed up on the doorstep, my broccoli seeds have sprouted, went to the park with my girl, and I'm accelerating downhill on the ending for next year's novel. I wouldn't want to choose between all those for favorites, so I'll take them all and count my blessings.

My next public event is March 21 at the Wilkes County (NC) Library with Stephanie Simpson-Woods and Dale Bailey. I've also put up the preliminary page for The Home, though I'll soon be adding some ESP and group home links, and probably an original article or two.

March 13, 2005
Finished final page proofs for The Home tonight. Errors appeared to pop up in clusters. There were a number in the quotes section, where the publisher placed clips of reviews, then no text errors until page 90. Then six errors between pages 132 and 145. A couple more, then exactly 100 clean pages until the next error. In all, 17 errors on 349 pages. Not too shabby, though hopefully I didn't miss any.

I went through the typical dance while making the last read of the book before publication. After the first chapter, I thought it was modern horror's answer to Shakespeare. By chapter five, I was ready to flush the thing before everybody finds out I'm a fake. By chapter 20, I wondered if the torture would ever end. By the final page, I was grinning again.

Now I get to devote the rest of the month to finishing next year's novel, so the whole crazy process can start anew. And you wonder why so many writers blow their brains out with firearms.

March 8, 2005
Saw Elvis Costello last night. Many observations: He is a much better musician and guitar player than I'd ever considered. For some reason I tend to think of singer/songwriters as people who use an instrument primarily as a prop and rhythm tool. But he was innovative with his leads and his use of sound effects. I was surprised that the crowd was only about 2,000 people, especially because he said it was his first time playing in Charlotte. While the audience was mostly white middle-class people who probably spun his early discs on their dormitory turntable, a decent percentage of teens were among the audience. Another noteworthy aspect was the tight sound. Elvis, who I guess is around 50, rocked nonstop for two hours. Sure, there were some ballads sprinkled in, but all in all, it was four-on-the-floor, pump-it-up rock'n'roll. He worked in most of the songs from his first album and four or five from his latest. Great stuff. Nice to see a creative genius still performing at his peak instead of showing up and sneering at the crowd with the "I'm a living legend" attitude.

My flash fiction piece "Invisible Bullets" will be at Vacant Funhouse in March. The ezine is bi-monthly and looks to have some good planning behind it. I hope it succeeds. Oh, yeah, The Manor made the preliminary Stoker ballot, which means active members of the Horror Writers Association can vote for it if they want to see it on the final ballot. Many candidates offer free copies of their work to eligible voters, but I prefer that people buy my book. That's what professional writers are supposed to desire. I have plenty of copies and could mail them out, but I don't feel comfortable lobbying for awards. However, I enjoy the chance to get free books during the process, and that's how I discovered Stewart O'Nan and Thomas Monteleone, so I don't frown on others offering their work for free.

March 5, 2005
I admire Michael Crichton and have read a decent handful of his novels (including his first under the pen name of Jeffrey Hudson). I happen to think he's pretty smart and apparently researches far and wide. His non-fiction reflects a spiritual search as well as an intellectual search. But sometimes he's downright bizarre. I was reading through some of his speeches on his website and found his "Remarks to the Commonwealth Club" in 2003 when he made the bizarre assertions that second-hand smoke isn't dangerous, we're not running out of oil, global warming may be a myth, and human population growth isn't that big a deal. He's persuasive in claiming that the banning of DDT led to tens of millions of deaths, but then, maybe it's those very deaths that have kept population from exploding even more dramatically than it has.

I don't know about you, but I can take one whiff of a cigarette and know it's bad for me (as does almost any animal). And I smoked for seven or eight years, so by rights I'm due to soak up my share of the stuff for all I inflicted on others. I've heard theories that oil is still "making itself" underground and that we'll never run out because the Earth will deliver it faster than we can pump it out. And, of course, population may check itself through overcrowding that results in war, famine, mutation of killer viruses (viri, for you Latin purists) and all the environmental and psychological stresses that lead to reduced fertility. Oh, wait, I forgot. There are no environmental stresses. It's all in our heads. Personally, I think a little environmental panic is a good thing. Better to err on the side of caution than find out later we moved too slowly.

I have an article called "The Future of Horror and the next 'Steven' King" coming up Cemetery Dance Weekly. You can subscribe to the CD newsletter for free.

March 1, 2005
I'll be a radio guest on Destinies: The Voice of Science Fiction this Friday night (March 4, 11:30 p.m. EST). It will be my third appearance on Dr. Howard Margolin's show, and it's always one of my favorite radio shows. Margolin really understands the medium and prepares himself well. It's on WUSB, 90.1 FM In the Long Island area, and can also be heard live on the Internet at www.wusb.org.The show will be rebroadcast over the following two weeks as part of Cosmic Landscape's omnibus science fiction radio program.

Coming up on March 21 is a joint event with Dale Bailey and Stephanie Simpson-Woods at the Wilkes County Library in North Wilkesboro, NC. My article on horror sections in bookstores is slated for the next issue of Insidious Reflections.

Feb. 27, 2005
Watched the movie "Supersize Me," a Sundance documentary hit. A guy eats nothing but McDonald's food for 30 days and does a Michael Moore job on the fast food industry. What's scary is that, at the end of it, the guy looks about like I do now, pale and bloated, so I have made a concerted effort to get out and dig in the garden, do my push-ups, and forego that extra helping at the dinner table.

I started a newsgroup for the Virgin in the Church articles I did a few years ago, mostly to serve as a distribution means for the newsletters, writing sites, and others that wanted the columns. I was surprised to check in and find the number of subscribers had more than doubled, so I decided to open it up as an "Ask Nicholson" project. It's mostly geared toward writers but anyone is welcome to sign up and contribute. Just send an email to hauntedcomputer-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

In other news, I'm working on an interview with John Kenneth Muir for Red Scream Magazine. Laura Writes just published an interview with me. The article Nurture Your Inner Hack is now on the site, originally published in Writers Journal.

Feb. 25, 2005
I am in a frenzy plotting my garden for the coming year. I'm researching some exotic Asian greens that apparently grow well in this climate. In a week or so, I'll be starting some indoor plants: kale, broccoli, tomatoes, squash, peppers. This year I plan to keep more meticulous records of the garden, including my use of organic fungicides and pesticides. Two calves were born next door, so I get to watch them in their frolicking stage. The cute cow period doesn't last long--after a few weeks they start looking like hamburger with skins.

Brief observations: Bush goes on a reconciliation tour of Europe and manages to offend every non-European country in the process, and fails to win over any country but perhaps Germany, whose domestic social policies of the 1930's bear uncanny resemblance to W's own. Funny how everybody Bush included in his "Axis of Evil" suddenly had a craving for nuclear weapons. Thanks, Georgie Boy. At least you're losing your Clear Skies thing. The party's over, and this shift to the right has gone about as far as it can for this particular swing of the pendulum...Speaking of evil, the Pope declares gay marriage part of an "ideology of evil," as if he and Bush have the same speechwriters, then falls victim to the flu and has his throat cut. Message from God? No comment.

Feb. 20, 2005
One of my secret ambitions is to be a painter. I figure when I'm old and hopefully a successful writer, I'll take on painting as my evening hobby. I love to study certain areas, noting the play of light at different times of day, the colors of various seasons, the way rain casts everything in a glistening sheen. I've sketched on a sporadic basis, and I was an art major in my first go-round at the university, though my main instructor said I was better at etching than painting. I'll never forget his advice: "My paintings are ugly, so I make them BIG." I always picture the painting in Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, where the battle scene takes up the entire inside of a building. Wow, I read that book over 20 years ago, during a Vonnegut binge in high school.

Hemingway was my favorite author before that, and "The Old Man And The Sea" was my Bible of good writing. Many years later, I picked up one of the few Hemingways I'd never read, I believe it was A Farewell To Arms. I could scarcely get through the first chapter, and put it away. What appealed to the brooding teenager had no value nor inspired patience in the adult. At different stages of our lives, different works of art take on new meaning or change meaning altogether. The subjective experience. That's why I'll always follow a creative pursuit, even when it seems like a dead end or long shot. Writing often is both, when viewed externally, but it's still an intimate act that carries value even when the result is bad. The worst painting you'll ever see is better than a computer print-out, and the worst writing is still more expressive than your average day on the stock exchange.

Feb. 15, 2005
For complicated reasons, I write on two different computers, and have to keep my story files bounced around to both of them. Apparently I had lost a chapter in the middle of the new novel, and it was neither on my computers or on my back-up floppy. Fortunately, I had emailed it to my computer at work, which I do infrequently, so the world is safe. Not that I would mind writing another chapter; I'll probably have to go in and do serious revision anyway, especially as new plot threads develop. It's just that I love getting that first draft done so I have a lump of raw verbiage to shape and stomp. My goal is to finish the first draft by the end of March, which would give me a month to revise before deadline.

Reading: Redeye by Clyde Edgerton, The Illustrated Golden Bough by Fraser, and The Many Faces of Van Helsing, an anthology based on Bram Stoker's myth. Also trying to cram on my reading for Stoker Awards, and got to read some good stuff by Paul G. Tremblay, a really talented guy. I'm in awe of anyone who can keep up with all the material under consideration for awards, and generally groan and scroll down whenever I come across a literary awards list. But this year I've had a chance to sample more widely, and it's refreshing to see what's going on. I still think much modern fiction is hurried and weak (and I'm sure a lot of people would say that about my books), but there are always new writers emerging and veterans who have honed their chops and are reaching their peak.

Feb. 11, 2005
New blurb from Bentley Little arrived today, I don't know if there's time for it to be put on the new cover: "Scott Nicholson is my favorite new horror author. His books are entertaining, well-written, and most importantly, scary. I'm a huge fan. Nicholson, like Stephen King, has a true talent for terror." It's a big honor to be Bentley's favorite new author, especially since he's very knowledgable about the genre and is not grandstanding all the time.

It looks like the Stoker Award ceremony will be in LA (well, technically Burbank) this year. I like that city and hope I'll be able to go. Plus I'm dying to visit Dark Delicacies.

A new article is up, on a former
FBI serial killer profiler I interviewed recently for a newspaper article.

Feb. 10, 2005
Work continues on next year's novel, hitting the stretch run, though I hope to get the first draft done in time for a serious couple of revision passes. I've got ideas for the next two books, and the next may be an old-fashioned ghost story, with a psychological thriller to follow. In the meantime, I have a request for a novella that would come out as a limited edition hardcover. More details on that after contracts are signed. I've been eager to tap into the collector's market for a while, and have had a couple of discussions about limiteds of my earlier novels, but thus far no deal on the table. We've made progress on getting out a posthumous collection by d.g.k. goldberg, and right now we're making sure rights are cleared for the selected stories, with much of the legwork handled by Nick Mamatas. I'll be writing a tribute of sorts to go along with a handful of others.

Keep an eye out for an official fan club at the site, plus ways to win cool stuff. I'll be putting it together over the next few weeks and build it up leading to the release of The Home in August. If you have any suggestions for a club name, please email me. Some authors use "Street Teams" but I'd like something a little quirkier to fit what I do. I'll be working up some bookmarks this year as well. Pictured at left, me in classic reporter's garb. Click for full size with my co-worker and partner in crime Frank Ruggiero.

Feb. 8, 2005
I've moved my official message board back to Horror World, so stop by and say hi. I'll still keep up with the one at TTA Press. Maybe someday I'll set up a more interactive message board here at the site. Posted a new article Midlist Adventures, a revisiting of the Virgin in the Church series, summarizing some of the developments since that first novel. Finished an article on horror sections in bookstores for the next issue of Insidious Reflections.

Feb. 2, 2005
A new short-short story just went up on the Freefic page. "Carnival Knowledge" appeared last fall in Last Pentacle of the Sun, a book to benefit the West Memphis 3's legal defense. I've written about the case before and you can find out all you want to know by clicking on the link on the story page. The book has a lot of great essays and fiction by some really top names. It's not just a cause celebre, it's a damn good book. My review of John Kenneth Muir's Wes Craven biography is up at Really Scary.

Jan. 30, 2005
Award season is upon us, and one can scarcely turn without a wave of "Best of 2004" lists sweeping in on a tsunami of bluster and hype. Sure, awards are fun, and everybody has favorites. But at times they get a little ludicrous, like when an Oscar is awarded because some director or actor has toiled in well-paid brilliance for decades without ever getting "serious" recognition. The catch is the award is often given not for a monumental piece of genius, but just because it happens to be that person's turn.

I pay little attention to awards in general, unless they lead directly to cash, but it's near the end of the Stoker Awards nomination season so I pop in to see which of my peers and friends are on the doorstep of anointment. I also want to give a nod to those very few worthy new works that I happened to read in the past year. The nominations process is limited to members of the Horror Writers Association and the awards are given for superior achievement in horror writing, so join if you want to look. My own particular chuckle is to see my last novel "The Manor" has MORE nominations than new works by Peter Straub, Bentley Little, Thomas Sullivan, F. Paul Wilson (two books), Douglas Clegg, Simon Clark, Laurell K. Hamilton, Greg Bear, Joe R. Lansdale, and my idol Dean Koontz (two books).

Admittedly, I haven't read all these new works, but I have read work by each of these writers and fully acknowledge their mastery over me. Admittedly, not all of these would be classified as "Superior Achievement in Horror" because they are not horror (Hamilton is unbearably popular but her work always smacks more of tough chick-lit to me, and Lansdale is achieving huge popularity with his beautifully written crime fiction). Admittedly, if you are not a visible and vocal member of HWA you probably won't get as much notice in the insular horror genre. Admittedly, if you are selling tens of thousands of books, you could care less whether you win a little statue. I've won a few awards, and it's jolly good fun. But if as a creator you ever think you have accomplished something by being handed a piece of hardware, at that moment you are dead. So if I'm ever lucky enough to win another award, I'll grin like an Appalachian possum and mutter an inscrutably delirious acceptance speech, then slink off to my mountain hollow and peck a few more words that might actually hold some meaning for a distant stranger. That's where the magic is, and that's where the real award is given and received, outside the world's notice and in that private wonderland where two naked souls communicate. Hey, join me there sometime. Let's party.

Jan. 25, 2005
The cover for The Home arrived today. I really like the look of it, nice contrast. You can see the big version of it here, as well as the back cover. I like the synopsis used on the back, and the editor has trundled out an old Kevin J. Anderson blurb to go with some others. It's a little different from the typical "Scott Nicholson" brand used by the publisher, since my name is directly above the title instead of at the top of the cover. As usual, I just hope the book is as good as its package. There may be a new Bentley Little blurb for the front, but we're still waiting on that. The list price has gone up to $6.99 (my first three were $5.99) and it has 384 pages. And only six more months until release...

Jan. 23, 2005
One of my favorite books is "War of the Worlds" by H.G. Wells, and I know there have been several attempts to bring it to the screen lately. I had even toyed with the idea of writing a modernized version of it, but unfortunately the original book is still under copyright in England and a few other countries, so I thought it would be more trouble than fun. I was delighted when I read that Pendragon Pictures had been secretly filming an authentic Victorian period version of the story. When Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg found out, they fast-tracked their blockbuster epic, with skeletal trailers popping up for a summer release. Pendragon promises their film will be out in the spring, and it looks like the little guys will benefit from the Spielberg publicity machine. Since Spielberg-Cruise are doing a modern version, I certainly think there's room for both, but I suspect the characterization and story arc (two things I still need in a movie) will be far superior in the Pendragon one, while the big boys will win the box office. The backstory of how Pendragon pushed their production through is inspiration for all the indie filmmakers in the world.

I saw Howard Dean on a morning news show (the first one of those I've watched in years), and thought, "Why is it again that the Democrats ran Kerry over Dean?" I know the idiotic press (of whom I'm a member) got that "Dean is Mean" tag down early and often, but at least he seems thoughtful and energetic. In fact, most of the candidates besides Kerry seemed more thoughtful and energetic, including Bush. Well, David Bowie said artists should be apolitical, and Libertarians are like Taoists, they can't exist in their true form.

Good news on the Goldberg publications: my agent has agreed to look at Kelly's sequel to "Skating on the Edge" once we get it edited, assuming it's complete enough for publication. We also hope to get some sort of d.g.k. goldberg collection published as well. The collection would likely come out sooner rather than later. I'll be querying a few publishers once we get material gathered and decide on the scope of the project. Unfortunately, Kelly took down her website late last year.

Jan. 14, 2005
Received sad news today that my friend Kelly Goldberg died. I'd had several long conversations with her after she was diagnosed with cancer, though I hadn't been in touch since the holidays. The last time I talked to her, she was learning a voice-recognition program so she could finish up a couple of novels. Though her prognosis was grim, she never descended to feeling sorry for herself. In truth, her biggest worries were how her husband and son would be affected. She was a true talent, and beyond the purple hair, the black outfits, the occasionally outrageous con behavior, she was one of the most authentic people I've ever known. Peace, Kelly.

I have an interview posted here I did with her a few years back. It really captures her heart, wit, and personality, such as mere words can. There are links to some of her fiction at http://www.livejournal.com/users/scanner_darkly/109783.html.

Jan. 13, 2005
I'm deep in proofs for "The Home" and I feel a little better about it now that I've had a chance to trim a little. I also like to make all the corresponding changes into my original computer files so that if a book ever needs to be reprinted, my version matches the one that got published. A little extra work, but it also gives me one more chance to go through the manuscript. If you haven't subscribed to my newsletter, you'll miss being among the first people to read the "official" synopsis that went to the publisher. So sign up for the newsletter already! It will go out in a few days.

The Dragonpage interview is scheduled for the week of Jan. 17, and you can hear it anytime after that at the website if you can't catch it on participating radio stations. Ralph Gamelli sent me a link to a Bookslut review of The Manor that looks pretty good (I usually don't read reviews, though I like to know when they appear--better to be panned than ignored, right?)

Jan. 7, 2005
I have an interview coming up on the Dragon Page radio show, probably airing the week of Jan. 10. I just got back the copyedited manuscript for "The Home." As usual, not too many corrections to make. Except after the first few pages, I was like "This book is great," and then by chapter four, it's "Man, I'd better bury this thing before anyone gets a chance to read it." I suspect that's why publishers really compress the schedule once the book is finally in the pipeline, just so the writer won't do anything reckless (plus they count on the advance already being spent). I'll get through it fine, I'm sure, but I may try to cut a couple of chapters.

Saw "I, Robot" the other night. Not as bad as I feared it would be, but then I'm not a stickler for scientific detail or logic. Plus a Will Smith movie will never aim for above a ninth-grade audience so my expectations weren't too great. That, and the fact that I've never read the Isaac Asimov book that "suggested" the movie. My on-going movie review of cheesy horror movies is now posted at the Movie Page.

-- copyright 2005 by Scott Nicholson

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