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Fresh Dirt Archives: Jan.-March 2006

Mar. 27, 2006
Gardening time. I may be the only horror writer in the world who is obsessed with squash. I think my head would look good inside a pumpkin. I've started some plants indoors, and I'm planning to plow up most of my property and turn it all into a vegetable garden. I don't mow it anyhow, so I might as well get something to eat out of the deal.

For those Defenders of the English Language (DEL), I heard three different announcers use a "th" on the end of the word "height" during the weekend's basketball action. More than three-fourths of the people I've heard say that word in the last year also use the "th" ending. Is this another one of those cases where we just surrender and let the idiots win? I've also noticed an alarming trend in the government meetings I cover toward the use of "statue" for "statute" and "physical" for "fiscal." And these are supposedly educated people who should know better. Well, in a perfect world, these would be hanging offenses.

Mar. 21, 2006
Long time, no update, huh? Well, one could always make excuses, and the excuses would probably be less interesting than the truth. Suffice to say, stuff happens.

Sold story "Dog Person" to Cemetery Dance, tentative for issue #57. This story was originally written for a Mystery Writers of America anthology, one I think was edited by Michael Connelly. Anyway, one bounce later and it finds a pretty darned good home.

Here's a picture taken on a local journalism mission. I was a bit perturbed when the photographer said, "You look way too natural." For the record, my biggest criminal offense (at least, one for which I have pleaded guilty) is a seatbelt violation. But, hey, the future offers endless opportunities, right?

Recently joined International Thriller Writers. Looks pretty good from here, since I'm one of those weird guys who falls between the cracks. Horror people sometimes say I'm not scary enough, thriller people believe ghosts aren't real, mystery people want Jessica Fletcher in a lesbian love affair with Elizabeth Peters. Well, who wouldn't want to have a lesbian love affair with Elizabeth Peters? Barbara Michaels, maybe?

Mar. 9, 2006
Found two William Goldman books on eBay: "Boys and Girls Together" and "Father's Day." There are maybe four others by my favorite writer that I don't have yet, but I'm not paying a hundred bucks for first editions, since I'm a reader and not a collector. I've been working on my author profile for AmazonConnect, so if you're an Amazon fan, look me up and let's be "friends."

Mar. 4, 2006
Darrin McGavin, best known as Kolchak: The Night Stalker, died this week. I clearly remember watching the original movie and a few of the episodes, back when I was first developing a taste for dark things. I contributed a few words, along with others in the horror industry, to an article at About.com. Just about finished final proofs of The Farm, I'll probably mail them out Monday. In retrospect, I should have trimmed it a little, but all in all it's not too bad. (Of course, what else can I say at this point?)

I'm also late on my Storytellers Unplugged Essay but it will be there by the time you click this link.

Feb. 27, 2006
Another Scott blurb is appearing, on Jonathan Maberry's Ghost Road Blues. A great thriller. Grab up all of them (it's a trilogy) as they appear beginning June 1. Really nice cover art.

Started a new short story, and the new novel has launched some real cool research. Writing is fun again, for now. I'm reading The Farm through, the last dry run, and this is the point I absolutely loathe. The book bores me. Really. It's torture, but I have to catch those final mistakes. I also realized I'm now writing chick lit. A mother-daughter relationship is the core of the book. Hmmm. And the cover says macho horror.

Feb. 24, 2006
I just finished "Room 1408" in the Stephen King collection Everything's Eventual. I don't get creeped out easily, but that story was hard to read at midnight. I think it's because there was no easy explanation of the evil, if it was even an "evil." Pretty good latter-day work by the master. I've not read anything new of his since Bag of Bones. I've read most of the early ones, though I still need to do Salem's Lot and It.

Great new horror site: Maximum Horrors. We'll be doing a giveaway soon of a signed copy of Thank You For The Flowers, so stay tuned there for more details.

Just got the galley for The Farm, must make the final run-through of the 394 proof pages. I'm not sure I can stand to look at those pages again. Maybe I can do it for the goats. Yeah...the goats.

Feb. 22, 2006
I've created a page for downloads for those who want to help with the hype. I have copies of my banner ads, as well as a full-color display ad, so please feel free to post them on your website. If you have a webzine or some other type of publication, I'm happy to trade content (my articles or fiction reprints) or a signed book for a contest or giveaway if you run my ads.

Continuing work on the Gorge novel, though its name will change. The characters are finally starting to find their voices. I have an ebay auction up, ending tomorrow, with Richard Laymon, Harry Shannon, Cemetery Dance, and a magazine assortment. My id is hauntedcomputer there if you want to make a last-minute bid.

Feb. 18, 2006
It's called Mamatas.

A relatively obscure but decidedly nonobsequious specimen, an aberrant genetic mutation. A quadruped that feeds at ground level, mostly on insentient humans and slow-flying insects, as if there were any difference. Omnivorous yet prefers spam. Resists easy classification. Wants a fang. Has a tongue.

The species' survival tenacity has been compared to that of Hitler's vociferous fighting on seven different fronts, all doomed to failure but never "wrong," though sometimes plagued by adjectives. Often compared to weasel and mongoose, despite reptilian demeanor and cold-bloodedness. Succeeding generations of the species seek larger territory. Scientists differ on whether this mutation represents evolution or intelligent design or a lost meatball from the flying spaghetti monster. Other descriptions hover between Moray eel and, as Dickens might say, a creature that bites its own tail to eat its own hat.

Mamatas. About it, dear Kelly Goldberg said, "If Mamatas did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him." Who on this fair Earth could ever dispute god or Goldberg? And Mamatas at its highest evolutionary arc bears an aching (although slightly green) resemblance to Robert Smith during the singer's "Fat Elvis" period. Or was that a question mark?

Mamatas. It's alive.

Feb. 17, 2006
The misplaced apostrophe is the bane of all who love language. Confusion between "its" and "it's" is so ubiquitous I believe the rule distinguishing the two will fall by the wayside in future dictionaries and style manuals. But I'm sure there are anglophiles who will not only fight such a change to their dying day, but will also watch their blood pressures rise as apostrophes expand, slop over, and infect until the mark appears before every "s" in the English language.

I was doing a story at a third-grade class yesterday, and while waiting for the class to change, I saw on the bulletin board: "Creative Mind's." I desperately fumbled in my coat pocket for a pen to scratch out the offending apostrophe, but, as happens far too often for someone who trades beans for words, I had no writing implement. I was tempted to scratch out the apostrophe with my fingernails, but I have no fingernails in winter, thanks to stresses beyond the power of tai chi and positive visualization.

I stopped by a pharmacy after that to do an interview about the health care debacle known as Medicare D. On the wall, in cut-out nylon letters above an office door, was "Hearing Aid's." Well, maybe the hearing belonged to the aid, or the aid possessed the hearing. This language is so inscrutable, no wonder we should all learn Espanol, Kilgorian, or Esperanto. Or Espresso. Or cheeky-monkey. Or cha-cha-chee.

Beat's making s'ense. For the sake of communication's. Or communication'ses' s'ake. Doe'sn't matter.

Feb. 13, 2006
Extremely busy with local election filings. It's one of the few times I really feel juiced at being a reporter. You can predict the election story lines a mile away, and (not that an impartial journalist will ever do this) you can set the stage for the year's debate. Look, folks. A reporter doesn't care who wins. We're like the umpire in baseball: we only root for a free hot dog and a fast game.

But there's a degree of pleasure in planting seeds, and seeing other seeds planted by the candidates. My favorite is, "I don't want to make this a negative campaign, but..."

In other words, you desperately want it to be negative, but you want somebody else to fire the first round.

In other stuff, I got a bunch of blisters and peeling skin from playing too much guitar. I feel like a virgin again.

Feb. 10, 2006
No child left behind at any cost, especially if we can dump some protected land in the process. A U.S. gummint plan to sell off national park lands to help fund rural schools sounds like good "bidness" to me. It's the family-level equivalent of mortgaging the home to buy Jill a computerized dollhouse. Hey, we all agree that today's children are already beyond redemption, right? So why cut a few trees just for their sake? My country, right or wrong.

What planet is this again?

Feb. 8, 2006
My moon sign must be focusing on domestic issues or something. Did laundry, placed my vegetable seed order for this year, dug in the garden. I looked around at the clutter on my floor (which is, by and large, art stuff) and asked Girl, "What are we going to do about this mess?" She replied, "It's not my fault. I just want to have fun."

Well, there's simply no arguing with that. So let the house be a work of art.

Feb. 4, 2006
I want to be gay, and I want Robyn Hitchcock to ditch his wife and come be with me. But I also want Natalie Merchant to carry my love child. You figger it out.

Here's some art by a guy I know and love. It's good stuff. Real. Like, comets and people you can trust. Unintelligent design. Unlike computers. Where are the B-52s when you need them?

New essay up at Storytellers Unplugged

Feb. 3, 2006
The circles of life are amazing, and I'll never believe that reality is a random series of accidents. Someone close to me forwarded me an email from five years ago and I realized how so many of the same worries have stuck with me. I could have written it yesterday. It was both sad and strangely affirming, because I realized that's not a type of circle I want to be in forever. Tonight, I opened an old book of song lyrics I wrote back when I was a fairly serious musician. One song fell out at me and I played it for about an hour, realizing the song I had written back then was meant for me to find now.

Richard Chizmar of Cemetery Dance took my story "Good Fences" for the Shivers V anthology, probably out in 2007. The story was sparked by a real-life incident: this strange old man up the road would come down and fix our fence post whenever it was leaning. It got so that we would deliberately tilt it just to work him into a frenzy. Of course, I exaggerated for effect, but hey, I never claimed I wasn't a liar.

Link of the week: www.supernaturalminds.com. You know you want to. I know you want to. Ooooh.

Feb. 1, 2005
Got a big bundle of book covers for "The Farm," which I'll be figuring out how to distribute soon. Also have a new banner ad (thanks, Karen Johnson). I'll be doing some type of promotion to trick you into posting it on your website soon, er, I mean, we will work toward a common goal for our mutual satisfaction. In the meantime, why not beat the rush and do it for no reason at all?

Jan. 28, 2005
The coast was wonderful. I learned the basics of brackwater fishing and putting out crab pots. I played a lot of guitar and did carpentry work. And, of course, got an idea for a book about a weird creature that crawls out of the sound and....well, it does something not too pleasant, I can assure you.

Received proofs for "Burial to Follow," my novella contribution to Cemetery Dance's Brimstone Turnpike anthology. It will probably be coming out this spring. Poe's Lighthouse looks like it has a firm release date in February. I got a postcard from Robyn Hitchcock, thanking me for the copy of "The Home" I sent him. Cool.

A few friends and I have been collecting photos of language mangling and I'll post here from time to time. I took this one at a local church. Sounds like God is a naughty little bugger after all. Ordinarily, I'd be a little kinder, but this church sometimes has the kind of hateful messages that other Christians should abhor.

Jan. 16, 2005
I'm about to embark on a long vacation in a tiny fishing village on Pamlico Sound (N.C. coast), totally wireless, no phone, so ha ha, no updates for a while! If you need to bug me, you'd better do it soon. Nothing goes but my computer and guitar, and if I had a dog, this would probably make a modern country song. I'll send out the January Scottnews newsletter before I go, so if you're in desperate need of a Scott fix (and who isn't?), then sign up at scottnews-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Here's a picture that appeared on the front page of the local paper, proof that photographers should actually look through their viewfinder before clicking. The beheaded mayor is presented by a Chamber of Commerce rep.

It's that time of year for Stoker Award recommendations and I look back over the blur of last year and all I can come up with is, best novel: Bentley Little, Dispatch; first novel: Therese Pampellonne, The Unwelcome Child; long fiction: Erik Tomblin, Riverside Blues; Short fiction: SS, Nathan Ballingrud. Looks like
Corpse Blossoms is getting some notice.

Jan. 9, 2005
Had a great chat last night at Message Board of the Damned. I've been to a few before, and I'm going to try to make it a regular stopping place, Monday nights at 8 pm EST.

Got a royalty check for The Harvest. Tonight let it be Lowenbrau--or, actually, meat on a stick. With rice. Also received contributor copies of The Corpse Blossom anthology and am starting to dig into it. I placed "The Endless Bivouac" with Surreal Magazine. It's a sister story to my Civil War-Andersonville prison tale "The Three-Dollar Corpse." Nearly out of stories. Must write more. I love my guitar.

Here are some cool pics of the Worcester State Hospital (the old term for "nuthouse") in NY. Looks like a great place to film a movie--like "The Home," maybe. Wes Craven, are you listening?

Jan. 2, 2005
I can't think of any reflections on 2005, since I'm still not sure that year ever happened, but here are some movies I've seen recently:

Death of a Gunfighter: western starring Richard Widmark as an irredeemable jerk sheriff who is pretty much above the law until the town finally takes him down. Good.

There's Something About Mary: Not as bad as I thought it would be, though some of the juvenile genital humor kind of got in the way of the story. And I can't abide Ben Stiller in any format.

Thin Red Line: Overly long war movie that tries to be too literary. Parts of it are great, and I've slowly become a Sean Penn admirer (perhaps Madonna is far enough in his past now)

White Zombie--Dark and slow, creepy at times, a pretty sexy heroine for the period, Lugosi loves to count. Worthwhile.

Did a seventh or eighth draft in the first half of "The Manor" screenplay. I think it's finally getting a little better. My friend Steph Boddington, a very gifted screenwriter, gave me lots of great feedback. I'm finally starting to see the thing in my head instead of just words on paper. Then I see how much better it needs to be and I just sigh.

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