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Fresh Dirt Archives: July-Sept. 2006

Sept. 27, 2006
Artist Tom Straub came up with the cover mock-up for my next novel. Now I just have to write it. "Delphus Fraley pulled down his longhandles and settled his moonwhite weight over the mysterious, dark hole, unaware of the squishing, gurgling sounds rising beneath him. He reached for the corn cob to wipe when, of a sudden, some consarned creature decided to do unto others as was done upon it. A mighty big calamity followed, ending in one of those situations that folks around here leave untalked about."

And the end.

One of the never-ending message board debates centers on whether one should write for love or money. Well, with this project, I can do both. I love to make fun of hillbillies and I love to make money. And we all live happily ever after.

Sept. 26, 2006
Since I've started a
Myspace site for my next novel THEY HUNGER, I may as well unveil the cover here and let you go explore the synopsis and links at the Hunger page. I like the cover. It is honest and a bit aggressive. much like the story. Of course, the humans are the predominantly weird things in the book, but you'll have to decide that for yourself when the book comes out in April. The cover is a definite departure from the brooding Gothic art of the previous novels, and the plot and pacing is definitely a change-up toward more action.

Dysfunctional universe #1: While browsing vampire Goth people on Myspace, I encountered a 20-ish "Creature" whose bio said, "I embrace the darkness and worship the night, except I don't like those icky bugs and mosquitoes." Whoa. A bloodsucker who fears the smaller bloodsuckers. Talk about an unflinching gaze into the abyss...

Dysfunctional universe #2: I live near the Blue Ridge Parkway, a narrow, 469-mile national park that is essentially a long scenic highway. A group just received a federal grant of about $120,000 to erect signs proclaiming "This is a Scenic Byway." Next will be a grant for signs that say, "Next sign, 500 feet."

Robyn Hitchcock has a new album out. I guess I'll have to sell some blood so I can buy it.

Sept. 22, 2006
Yahoo headline: War price on U.S. Lives Equal to 9/11--I'm not even linking to it because it's a totally stupid non-story that does nothing but perpetuate the fallacy that 9/11 had anything to do with the Iraq War. It didn't. Sorry. If we had gone after terrorists everywhere instead of one sad, contained little dictator, maybe we'd be safer today.

Signing books tomorrow at the Kraut Creek Festival in Boone. Hopefully the weather will be fine, as I'm not sure there were any provisions for an indoor event. Either way, heck, my books are waterproof.

I'm scheduled to be on the Lou Gentile paranormal Internet radio show on Oct. 18. I believe I'm supposed to talk for two whole hours--not sure how I can pull that off, even talking about me me me. Now if I can only figure out how to sign up for the site...

Sept. 21, 2006
We had our first frost last night--it didn't seem serious enough to do a lot of damage to the garden, but I went ahead and picked most of the tomatoes that were left. I also picked some peppers (three kinds of hot peppers and two kinds of sweet peppers), as well as the squash and pumpkins. I still have to dig potatoes and deal with seeds, but I should be getting turnip greens, collards and broccoli for a while yet.

I took part in a peace day event today. It was pretty cool. I was covering it as a reporter and when I got finished with my notes I decided to join in. Beating drums, strumming guitar, doing chant circles. And a teepee. Don't forget the teepee.

I've been busy with Horror Day and we now have a bunch of great prizes and are trying to round up some celebrity judges. Between that, serving on ITW's publicity committee (sign up for our free newsletter!) and getting ready to help Deb LeBlanc as she guides HWA into the future, I'm finding it hard to get a consistent writing schedule. Actually, I haven't had one for quite a while, but things should settle down soon. Plus it's winter, so that limits one's choices for distractions.

Sept. 17, 2006
When did it become acceptable for women to wear men's undergarments but not vice versa? Of course, women make up their own rules anyway, especially regarding a man's most prized possessions, but this one seems a little strange. Don't ask why I brought this up, and it's none of your business to know about my own encounters in frilly lace and sultry satin. Maybe it's because the elastic finally wore out on my Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer underwear (and, come to think of it, there's probably a treasure trove of Freudian symbolism in that particular design).

It's official. As of yesterday, I am vice-president of the Horror Writers Association. The news comes at a sad time, though, as genre giant Charles Grant passed away after an extended illness. (We are allowed to use that gentler euphemism in real life, though journalists must say "died." Grant was known for his "quiet horror," something of an anomaly in a field where the authors generally shriek like banshees, generally about their own overblown talents. A true gentleman, to be much missed. Fortunately, I still have a couple of his books in my boxes, and can go to them now with reverence and appreciation. The words live on.

This morning I'm working on my children's project "The Monster and the Pig." I'm writing it as a book from the improvised puppet show, then I'll script the puppet show a little more closely for my Oct. 13 Horror Day event at the library. The Horror Day prize list is getting impressive, so if you haven't joined, then check it out.

Sept. 15, 2006
Things I'm grateful for: a house, all my fingers, Girl, a good job, a fun creative life, a guitar, a garden, just enough money to never go hungry but not enough to buy my way into real trouble, a beautiful world, kind people, today, and hope.

Great essay a couple of days ago at Storytellers Unplugged: Brian Hodge talked about moving away from the horror genre and that he'd been disappointed in the results after publishing numerous novels. I understand. I feel that way myself. After six novels in the genre, novels that I feel straddle several genres, I don't find the same appeal as I once did in the supernatural. Primarily, I feel such books get second-class treatment by the publishing and book-selling industries. I also feel readers, the ones not instantly repelled by the H-word and who associate it with Freddie Krueger and gore, often overlook any theme or plot in the book in a rush to get the chill fix. Now, I am grateful for all my readers and I am touched by the insight they show when they write me, often having a better grasp of the story than I have. Unfortunately, the horror audience is very small in the grand scheme of things. It's really not even on the radar anymore, and I am one of the last people to have "Horror" printed on the spines of my books. That's ironic since I am probably the least horrific of anybody who has bore the title.

This is not a criticism of my publisher. I'm sure it's selling books the best way it knows how and has been doing it far longer than I have been writing. I have been treated fairly and given an opportunity to reach thousands of readers. Many of them have returned for subsequent books and I hope they follow me wherever I head next. In truth, it was probably easier to break in as a horror writer when I did and so I managed to get books out there when I might otherwise still be unpublished. What many people don't know is that I have written three other novels that are not supernatural or horror and that they haven't been marketed, aside from the first novel that I sent around before I'd really polished it. Two of those, I feel, are among the best work I've ever done. I also think, looking back, that THEY HUNGER is the best supernatural work I have written so far, so I hope you give it a try in April.

Secondarily, a few times I've felt people in "real life" think I'm somehow deranged because I write supernatural fiction. For a children's event at the library, I'm dubbed "Scary Scott," and that makes me uncomfortable because I don't feel scary at all. I'm actually kind of goofy. I rarely introduce myself as a writer, and almost never as a "horror writer." It's just no big deal. It doesn't matter to me. Just a bunch of words.

I'll keep on with the words because that's what I do and that's who I am. I wonder what kind of label will stick next.

Sept. 13, 2006
Started the new novel I've been wondering about. It's already veered from the course I wanted it to take. Danged novel. What nerve. Defying its master like that. It ought to be horse whipped.

I've taken up swimming again. I was hardcore about it a few years ago, but it was also more convenient because I could walk to the pool at lunch time. Now I have to drive, change, shower, swim, shower, change, drive. Plus I have to pay now and it was free before. But if I can do it once or twice a week and keep playing tennis, maybe I can put another 20 years on this slab of mortal meat. I don't really care to live to a ripe old age. I wouldn't fight it, assuming I was healthy, but longevity for its own sake really doesn't matter in the long run. Of course, knowing me, I never want to leave unfinished business, so I'm sure there will always be a pressing reason to want that next breath.

Sept. 10, 2006
A friend asked me what I was waiting for, as referenced in yesterday's post. Simply, an eclipse. Those slowly moving objects that block the sunlight of the spirit. Sometimes they are self-created, sometimes they are beyond immediate control. They always pass, whether you sit still or change your own orbit.

Took Girl to Tweetsie Railroad, the local Wild West theme park, yesterday. I always find myself watching the people more than the attractions. I am amazed by the perception of "experience," how people seem more intent on convincing themselves they are having an experience instead of actually experiencing the thing. In one dramatic case, a father took a digital picture of an event and nudged his young son and showed him the tiny captured image while the event was still going on! They missed a portion of the event because they were already storing it away in some "good memory" vault. Okay, I know I suppress my own senses and inner light, so I should not rush to judgment, but I had a great time myself--two rides on the carousel without my horse bucking me.

Hummingbirds are cute. No doubt. I filled up my feeder for the first time this year, but they spend all day fighting over it. One sits in a little branch nearby and guards it, flying in to buzz any poor little flitterbug that tries to steal some sugar water. Why should I nurture conflict right outside my window? Let 'em starve. No more refills.

We don't have many great American artists. I was flipping through an overview and most of our art falls into two categories, both reflective of our national attitude: the sprawling nature scene and the glorifying of political and social structures. Sure, there's a seamy underbelly, as reflected in the lurid genius of Thomas Hart Benton and Charles Burchfield, but most of the "famous American paintings" feature George Washington or some white explorer pursuing manifest destiny. Of course, most of our artists go to Europe at some point, so there's little purism, and we have occasionally tried to feel cultured by celebrating lesser lights like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. Maybe our role in the world is to disseminate mass media, to reduce creativity to its lowest common denominator. I believe, with the proper satellite network, that Parisians can vote for "American Idol."

Sept. 9, 2006
Great Tom Petty song that goes "The waiting is the hardest part" (well, he nose-whines so it sounds like "way-uh-aye-uh-ting). Sometimes waiting is hard, when you expect something or want something. Sometimes, in waiting, you overlook the things you already have or miss the things you could have had that were probably more valuable. Picked up some Cash yesterday: Johnny Cash's "The Man Comes Around." I like the old Johnny Cash stuff, the authentic country music, though as an outlaw I think his biggest offense was probably jaywalking. Then he became cool so I had to wait a few years for the hype to die down, but I like the "American" series he did leading up to his death. So many of his songs deal with faith, recovery, despair, and hope. The real stuff.

Spent too much time playing guitar today but I did manage to log some laptop time in the coffee shop. I used to think people who wrote in coffee shops were pretentious but sometimes it's the only place you can get a wireless connection and a legal buzz at the same time.

Sept. 5, 2006
It's been such a good day, I received the cover proof for THEY HUNGER and it wasn't even the most interesting thing to happen. Good people. Good things. I'll be posting the cover and synopsis on a special page for the book, so if you want to be one of the first to get the link, please subscribe to The Inner Circle--the fan club they don't want you to join.

Click here to join scottsinnercircle
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The cover pretty much reflects the subject matter, if not necessarily the thematic content, of the novel. What the heck is a theme? Who am I kidding? It's a cheesy munchfest that reeks to high heaven! Sex, blood, and double-crossing. Everything you need to make your life complete. And you only have to wait eight more months!

Sept. 3, 2006
This morning, revised a review of Bentley Little's "Dispatch" and wrote a review of "Don't Murder Your Mystery" for
FeoAmante.com, an entry for the Storytellers Unplugged blog, and an article on Stephen King's "Needful Things" for a French book--all before breakfast. Now I get to write a newspaper article on infant mortality reports and get back to the Crossed Ex's screenplay. The script is stuck after a chase scene so I'll have to "watch" it in my head to see where it goes. It probably only needs a half-dozen more scenes and the climax is more or less mapped out. Maybe I even need to write that part first--though I rarely write out of order just because it seems a little more contrived and cerebral than my small mind is capable of grasping.


Cool site:
Between Your Sheets. No, it's not porn, it's about romantic, erotic books! Personally, I've always found stuff billed as "erotica" to be a bit froo-frooey for my tastes. If I want porn, I'll get porn, not some watered-down, palatable and socially accepted version. Though I've heard it said, aptly, of porn: "After five minutes, I want to do it; after 15 minutes, I never want to do it again as long as I live."

Sept. 2, 2006
In the past few days, several people have emailed me or told me in person that I am an "inspiration" to them. Usually this comes from aspiring writers, who comprise a vast majority of the population. And I think that's a wonderful thing. Everyone has a life story, everyone has a unique experience, everyone has individual relationships with other individuals and God. So I encourage everyone to be a writer, or to have some sort of dream, whether it's a creative or artistic pursuit or some other hobby or passion, providing, of course, no other people are damaged in the pursuit.

I'm not sure I'm a fit role model or inspiration for anything. I look back and see nothing but mistakes and shortcomings, but I am making peace with some of the accomplishments. Sometimes I think my tenacity and willful striving to get published has been nothing but a symptom of my major character defects--supreme ego couched in obscene insecurity. I couldn't take "No" for an answer because I had to prove the world wrong and, damn it, wasn't it plain what an obvious genius I was? Well, I've learned I'm not so smart at all. The Scott way has been the wrong way in almost every instance. When good things happened, it was in spite of me and not because of me. I accept that many times I had good intentions, but a lot of the intentions basically arose from selfishness. I'm a big fan of Carl Jung and his theory of a collective unconsciousness. On an intellectual level, though, it's very hard to submit ego to a greater, larger force. On a practical level, it is surpassingly easy. Everything I have has been a gift, and everything I have lost has been because I tried to grab it my way, or treat it the way I thought it needed to be treated.

Writers, especially in the modern landscape, are taught to self-promote to the point of excess, with all possible energy and diligence. That flies in the face of most spiritual principles that teach passiveness and surrender. Perhaps a healthy balance is in there somewhere. My deal is that I believe in the things I have created, which came through my hands from a place beyond me, and so I have no problem encouraging others to share the experience by reading my books. I'm not even worried about getting 50 cents from the royalty. Checking my books out from the library or getting a used copy at a rummage sale for a quarter is fine with me. So please forgive me for the times I shout, "Buy my book!" Really, there is plenty enough noise in the world already. I wouldn't want to leave that as my legacy or my example. Read the books if you'd like, or tend your garden or your loved ones instead. It, as they say, is all good.

August 31, 2006
I was about to fall asleep when I got this idea for a song. I had already been working on the melody and structure but the concept just jumped into my head and I had to cut on the light, find my glasses, and write it down. I used to get resentful of ideas, and figured, "Well, if it's so good, it will come back to me later." Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't. The prevailing theory was I already had more ideas than I could deal with, and I believe almost any idea is workable and sustainable (I sometimes hear other creative types talking about how an idea simply didn't have legs, whereas I tend to suspect they failed to look at it from every possible angle). So one idea is as good as another, at least on the surface, and therefore usually not worth getting out of bed over.

Even better is to cross two ideas to come up with a completely new concept. That's when the wheels turn and doors open onto new and unsuspected rooms. Sure, there's a lot of serendipity, magic, and just plain luck involved, but many mysteries are yet to be revealed. Crack a walnut and find a Styrofoam peanut.

Looks like I'll be back with the Killer Thriller Band to play at Thrillerfest in New York next summer, July 12-15. There is a convention in Toronto in the spring I am seriously considering but I'll have to look at funds. Usually one big trip per year is all I can manage. But Canada, now that is tempting.

August 30, 2006
Dear Jon-Benet groupies:

Thank you for giving that nutball the attention he so desperately craved. Otherwise, he might have gone out and hurt somebody to get it. This way, no innocent people were injured, and only the law enforcement authorities and the media were duped--but they were hogs at the same trough anyway, so let them choke on their mutual swill. I'm sure the creepy-eyed S.O.B. already has an agent and a book and film deal. Thank you, idiots.

On a lighter note, my hero Zlad! is back from Molvania with another classic rock classic.

August 28, 2006
I shall be a painter. First I'll make bad studies of geometry, then bigger and more obscure pieces, over and over, increasingly confusing to the viewer. I once had an art professor who told the class, "My paintings are ugly, so I make them big." Cool concept. You can't really do that with fiction, though I suspect some go in for flash, gore or perversion because they sense a fundamental weakness in their plotting or characterization. Or maybe it's just more fun!

New article Take the reader inside.

August 26, 2006
I am incredibly blessed. I was sitting on my front porch in the sun this morning, strumming guitar, wearing nothing but shorts, thinking how free I am. Sure, I still have obligations and work and deadlines, but I have a lot of flexibility in how I choose to spend my time. I am lucky because I can use music as therapy, and I can even use fiction as therapy. Music has always provided direct release--there's no blues that some metal strings won't cure. Writing isn't as immediate, because it's more cerebral and a little more self-conscious because words must be chosen, but I've found it can serve the purpose, too. In fact, when I'm really focused and reduced to a mere conduit for the Other, for God, for Light, for the universal Ism, that's when I am most relaxed and doing the least damage. I think the same is true when making love, because at its best the act is pure selflessness. Of course, that goes directly to the other person, too. Mutual conductivity.

It's the time of year when I wonder why I bothered with such a big garden. I have hundreds of cherry tomatoes and I don't have time to pick them and I don't have any way to store them. I usually go down and eat some until I'm tired of them, then gather all the other crops. I'm freezing a big batch of corn and I froze some more tomato sauce. I probably should have canned some but that's a whole extra level of work. I wonder if, when the End Times come, people will be able to relearn how to preserve and raise and capture their own food. When you think about it, almost all of the modern food storage techniques rely on electricity at some point, either in the preparation or the storage itself. Hmmm. Hopefully we'll never have to find out.

Finishing up "Fear Goggles" for Monster Noir. Should be ready in the morning. Also worked on my puppet show "The Monster and the Pig" for my Horror Day children's event. Wrote a song. Tomorrow I might hook up the recording equipment and have a go.

August 24, 2006
Some of my friends are troubled that Pluto is no longer a planet. It doesn't bother me. Pluto is exactly the same as it was before, except of course for the millions of miles it has traveled through space since the human determination was made. Pluto doesn't care, God doesn't care, and not a thing in the universe really changed but a few future lines on paper and some textbooks that will have to be reprinted.

I had to do a major raid of the garden, since I have been home after dark for the last three days. Looks like the summer squash are finally fading and the tomatoes are getting down to the wire. I got a bunch of tomatillas with which to make salsa, maybe this weekend. The corn was a little disappointing this year. I think it needs far more nitrogen because of the large plants. Everything else has done pretty well. I think it's about the right size. The only thing I'd expand next year is pumpkins, since they need a lot of room but take care of themselves. I'll probably grow a couple more varieties of tomatoes as well as more onions and garlic. And spices--I have some chives but spices are so expensive in the store when one rosemary plant can provide a couple years' worth of leaves.

Writing stuff: I'm reading Irwin Shaw, who was the hero of my hero William Goldman. I guess the way it works is you keep reaching back through the realms of influence until you get to Shakespeare and Chaucer and Aristotle and Homer.

August 21, 2006
Now that my mind is a little clearer, I can work on several projects at once--the screenplay, and a new scene for They Hunger. My editor said I could slip the pages into the copy-edited version--a scene I thought of when reading some Dean Koontz advice. I think this one little scene will make a big difference in the climax.

The screenplay is pretty much a no-brainer. It's unrolling itself pretty easily, which probably means it is flawed to the very core. I have two other novel ideas, and I guess I'll work up some outlines for those and see which one my agent thinks I should work on next. One is more of a straight-ahead thriller and the other has potential to go in several directions, probably more of a "suburban Gothic" as opposed to the rural Appalachian Gothics I was writing. I've decided I want to do some books that move a little more, have a little faster pace, and a leaner and meaner story. In They Hunger, I used a technique where I actually left out small segments of the action, little set-ups that can pretty easily be imagined by the reader. I think it helped the pacing a lot and probably saved me 20,000 unneeded words, which can be important in the era of rising paper prices and shrinking typeface size.

Aegri Somnia banner--this anthology has my story "Heal Thyself":

August 19, 2006
As a kind of follow-up to yesterday's post, a friend gave Girl an Olsen twin video, I guess from the late 80's, judging by their persnickitiness and the juicy synthesizers in the songs. The twins can't sing, can't act, and aren't even really that cute. What's great is all the co-stars are white, even the obligatory black girl. One would hope, with all that money, they could afford dinner, but I guess it doesn't matter when you're vomiting afterward.

I always wonder about the "stage moms" who push their kids in that direction. I have no doubt Girl would be a great model and actress and if she showed interest, I'd let her, provided it was full-clothed, regular advertising for wholesome products. But I'd never farm her out for my own ego or wallet.

Our friend gave her nothing but Christmas videos--so of course she had to decorate the ficus tree, make more paper ornaments, and begin plotting for an obscenely long list of Santa demands. Okay, I've already burned two pancakes while typing this--three and I'm out of the kitchen for good, condemned to a life of Barney reruns.

August 18, 2006
Is it just me, or is it slightly sickening that the public takes such a prurient interest in the Jon-Benet Ramsey case, and that another opportunity comes for the "mainstream" press to trundle out the perverted beauty pageant and bathing suit photos of the dead girl? Oh, it is just me? Okay. I'll shut up and close my eyes now.

August 17, 2006
Fade In:

There's this real jerk (his name is "Jacques" in the script, but it may as well be Scott as played by a younger Jack Nicholson) who screws over two women in a stolen art deal. The two women team up to go after him. So does the double-crossed dealer, the cops, and the original owner of the painting--but, wait, the painting is actually a fake. And then the women rob a pawn shop for guns and...cut. You'll have to see the movie to find out the rest.

Yes, I am back in scriptland again after a long hiatus. The break was basically imposed by the reality that I always have book deadlines so it's hard to justify the time spent on an unsold script. The thing is, I know I'll have to write 10 of them just to figure out how to do it. When I was younger, no problem, but these days I need more than just learning experiences...I need real experiences!

Learn from your mistakes? If so, I should have been a genius long ago. In everything. Words are bad enough, but handling people is a whole 'nuther matter. I have this new, simple prayer that should last for a while: "God, please help me see things as they are." That one is so simple even I can't mess it up. Now to spend another year memorizing it.

Another good day--three hours not drinking in the bar of a Mexican restaurant, playing on the laptop. Word of the day is "serendipity": the gift of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought. Coincidentally, the word itself is a "found" word, invented by a writer. We writers, always making up things, usually lies!

August 14, 2006
Wow, is it still Monday? A nice, long day, lots of fun. Finished the novel "Disintegration" this morning. As previously reported here, it will take some serious work in the middle--it kind of jumped space and time there for a 150 pages or so. Plus I need to work on the plausibility of events and maintaining suspense in a book that keeps twisting back in on itself like a snake swallowing its own tail. But I like it despite its flaws. I have a story to write for a
Steven Savile anthology--Monster Noir. Should be fun.

Played some guitar at an amphitheater near town--a big, empty place with nice sound. Killed some time between meetings, adding a couple of back-up parts to some songs. It was either that or the laptop and I'd forgotten I'd already written early in the morning.

My friend Alexandra Sokoloff has a new novel The Harrowing coming out Sept. 1--make yourself useful and go order a copy, or better yet, ask your local library to order it. Another friend, RH Stavis, has staggered into the wondrous online maze known as myspace. So add her if you have a site--she's lost in there. And add me while you're at it!

August 13, 2006
I love Sunday mornings. I always have. It's a whole day, usually full of stuff to do, but a day when I can do most of it on my own schedule. Make coffee, sit by the big window with the sun coming in, not having to get dressed (okay, you perverts, don't peep in the window--you know who you are), catch up on computer stuff, write some, hit the garden, play guitar, do laundry--hmmm, well, the day's already shot! And I still have work to do!

Usually I try to do too many things at once because I look at all the work I've neglected. I guess the most important stuff always gets done somehow. I don't know how I'd manage if I had any serious, time-consuming hobbies. I interviewed a TV star yesterday for my newspaper--it was weird, because it was arranged for us to meet outside a cafe in a little entourage. I was there with Girl, waiting, and it was raining so we got under a shelter. A woman brings a baby out of the restaurant and is standing there soothing the baby. We talk about kids--she has a five-year-old. Then my radio friend comes up and introduces hersel to the woman--I have been talking to the TV star and didn't know it. Well, she had beautiful eyes, so I should have figured, but I don't watch TV so I don't know anybody. And I didn't have to admit I didn't know her, and she was probably relieved to not have to be a celebrity all the time. I actually never interviewed her; I got the radio tape for my story. So all is well that ends well and I got to keep my ignorance to myself.

August 12, 2006
I think I'll need to write outlines from now on. I found big holes in the 2004 novel and now I'll probably have to write some bridge scenes to plug them. I like the way the twists come in--but it seems more like I was "surprising" myself instead of setting up a rational course of events. It's just an endless series of pulling the rug out from under the readers' feet without having a floor underneath the rug. It's fun but it's not fair--it cheats the reader.

I can just see myself going, "Oh, no, he's really going to do that, isn't he? Gosh, he's such a heartless bastard." And then he goes ahead and does the despicable thing. The other problem is parts of the plot are compressed over the course of a couple days, then an entire year passes in the space of a chapter. The pacing is all messed up. I'm going to go ahead and finish this one and it probably will need a third draft--and, like a dummy, I'll have to write a retroactive outline so I can figure out where to fix it. At least I'm smart enough these days to know I'm a dummy.

That's okay, because I need to start another novel anyway. I pretty much know what's going on with the next one, and it will be more action-oriented. I think They Hunger was successful because of its brisk pacing. The early novels, the Gothics, got a bit stodgy in spots because I had to build structural history. After 10 years of doing this, I think I've figured out how to do everything at the same time the way you're supposed to--plot, character development, description, backstory and theme all at the same time, in every paragraph.

August 10, 2006
Took Girl for first day of first grade today. She showed me around the classroom, then said, "Okay, go now." So much for the clingy, needy child scene. When I went to pick her up in afterschool, she moaned, "No, Daddy!" Didn't want to leave. Well, she loves school and I suspect always will. I'm way boring compared to that, even when I have promised kiwi fruit.

I saw a teacher at the school who reads all my books. She said she loved The Farm and couldn't wait for the next book. I told her when They Hunger was coming out, and I was thinking, like I always think, "Those books aren't me." And I was talking like they were someone else's and I didn't care much about them and they were not a big deal. Then, walking away, I thought, "Well, dammit, they ARE mine. That's not all I am, but I did those. They're not a big deal but they are real, and they came from me." It was a weird revelation, or maybe just a sign that I'm starting to assimilate all these strange fragments into a whole. Like a "normal" person. Hah.

Making soup out of things from the garden--had too many tomatoes so they went it. Green beans, blue potatoes, zucchini, Chinese mustard greens, some onion from the grocery store. I didn't plant enough onions. I usually don't eat that many but the past year or so I have eaten more. I've planted some stuff like collards, beets, and broccoli that will do well in cool weather. August is the muggiest month here but already signs of fall seep into the threads of nature's tapestry.

Here's a photo from the Fourth of July float, where we were playing patriotic songs (all two of them.) My friend Marie, who took the picture, refers to it as "Hot Scott." Whatever. Quite a few more gray hairs between that one and this one.

August 9, 2006
Beware false idols and cults of personality. Sound and simple advice, sure, but it seems every good idea is not enough by itself. Someone always needs credit, someone has a burning need to place sacred value on an obvious thought or commonplace object, others (sometimes numbering in the millions) find their own need to put the thing on a pedestal. And when you look behind the curtain, there's just some greasy guy in coveralls, a wrench and a bottle of cheap whiskey in his pocket. And in the front of the curtain is the ticket taker, the one who allows access to the wonderful and powerful "magic"only in controlled doses. And everyone has a vested interest in maintaining the carefully constructed illusion--both consumers and dealer. The best and most horrible part about the whole process is the sacred thing itself was already free and readily available for all who wanted it. No money-back guarantees for that one, friend.

Working on some guitar stuff and then going back and forth on the writing. A refreshing change. I guess I'll work one or two habits into the rotation (trying to find some chess partners) so I can avoid being obsessive. Not that obsession is a major problem for me. Boredom is more likely.

There's some development going on around me. It doesn't bug me like it once did, because it's not my reality, it's theirs. One of the development team is an utter hypocrite: made his career selling paintings of scenic, rural mountain farms, took the money and bought those old farms, and bulldozed them to hell and back for rich Floridians. Now that's what I call "preserving a tradition." Again, it's his reality, and his deal with his creator. I don't have to look at his corny paintings or his dirty land if I so choose. And I choose.

August 7, 2006
It's a beautiful night here in the holler--a gibbous purple moon with a monk's tonsure of wispy hair. Crickets, a distant dog barking, the whirr of the computer. Maybe I'll slide in a CD. In a minute.

The "new" novel (I won't give it a name yet because publishers often change them) that I'm revising from 2004 is actually pretty decent. I think at the time I knew it wasn't part of the horror books I was contracted to write, it was "mine" and I could do what I wanted. I haven't had to throw much of it out yet and I should have it polished up in a couple of weeks of steady work. Of course, all the characters are deceptive, heartless, and despicable. Hopefully it's therapy instead of autobiography!

Listening to a novel on tape by a hugely successfull thriller writer. I'd never read this person's work before. It's very odd and I can't really grasp the popular appeal--the story takes place on a global stage, lots of political intrigue and subterfuge, but the characters are absolutely cardboard. The author knows how fast a certain brand of jet flies and how much it costs, knows foreign maps down to the specific street name, knows the initials of every federal agency. But I don't care. I can't root for any of the people, or even loathe them. The men are all manly and the womany are womanly men. All are the best at what they do, flawless. Which is where this bores me to tears. I love fatal flaws, human failings, moral weakness--because then there's something to overcome.

And the whole tone is so conservative, in every avenue. I guess I have this strange notion of fiction as free-spirited, expansive, and liberating instead of seeking to reaffirm masculine notions of duty, honor, and capitalistic status quo. What's the point of getting the prize or the jackpot or the priceless artifact (or the romantic object, but there's no romance in this book, as if the two genders interact in a vacuum) if it doesn't affect the characters at all? It's like watching two computers play chess--intellectually stimulating for maybe five minutes or so, then you're ready for a cup of coffee. I'll probably finish it for educational purposes, but I can never write a book like this, even I was promised it would sell a million copies.

Well, on second thought...I'd do ONE. And the bad guy would win--AND get the girl!

August 5, 2006
I thought I'd take the day off but then remember writers never get a day off. The brain keeps working. I took Girl to the library and the puppet place is one of our favorite areas. So I did "The Monster and the Pig" and it's great--I'm going to do a book on it and also work up the puppet show for when I read to kids at the library in October. Say what you want about kids being brain dead and only watching moronic cartoons, but if you ever watch their faces at a puppet show, you know there's a magic going on they can't get from electronic media.

I got another children's book idea right after that. I haven't heard back from my agent on the other five or six I sent in, but I have an artist friend who may take a crack at illustrating. I wish I could draw and paint so I could do them myself. I can sort of see the images in my mind but I have nowhere near the skill to put them down. And, in the past, when other people have visualized my ideas, they brought them to life far better than I would have, adding an extra dimension and depth.

We were at the coffee shop before the library, waiting for the post office to open. Girl knocked over my coffee and slogged it all over the laptop, where I was learning to burn CDs. What's funny is we'd even talked about it yesterday, she asked, "What would happen if something spilled on the laptop?" and I said, "I'd probably get mad." I didn't get mad when it actually happened. I said, "Gosh--" mostly from surprise, then I swabbed it up and asked Girl if she was burned. Everything seems to work, though one of the video card slots might be a little sticky--I doubt if I'll ever use that one anyway. Later, she said, "You said you would get mad if that happened." I had to explain the difference between being mad and being upset. If I had spilled the coffee on it, I would have been mad. Anybody else, I could deal with it, because that's out of my control. Or maybe my new friends are helping me not be mad anymore. Thank you, friends.

August 4, 2006
Hmmm. I could have sworn I updated this thing recently. One of those weeks, I suppose. I got in a weird schedule, getting up early (6ish) and revising, doing the day stuff, then starting again about 10 at night, usually working until 1 or 2 in the morning. Yeah, if you do the math, it doesn't look good for sleep, but I don't feel tired except for a severe energy dip in the mid-afternoon. As long as I don't drive onto the sidewalk and kill some pedestrians, I'm okay with it. It's not like I have any higher-functioning purpose in life or anything--no brain surgery patients counting on me, no jet passengers, no starving masses.

"They Hunger" is all boxed and ready to be shipped off in the morning. For all you who complained about the teeny print in The Farm, you can rest your eyes. This one is only 450 pages in manuscript instead of 630 or so. Collating the final draft and then printing it out is a chore in itself. I spent about eight hours on it today (finishing as I type this, trying to beat midnight). Usually I just send off a file for each chapter, but this time I did one big file with all the chapters in it, struggled through all the weird formatting stuff the laptop put in without my permission, and ran it to the printer 50 pages at a time. Not cheap, either. Figure two packs of paper, one-plus printer cartridge, and about $20 postage to mail a copy to both agent and publisher. Over $50.

Horror Wench at Horror-Web told me she "hated to do it" but really reamed The Farm in a review. I told her I didn't mind, and I don't. I didn't read the review. I don't read the good ones, either, unless they are significant ones that my agent or publisher can use, like Publishers Weekly or New York Times. I used to round up links to the reviews but it's kind of pointless--if you're at my site, you already know about the books.

Things are going really well right now, turning some stuff around. Is it the Monkees that sing the song "I got a feeling I'm into something good"? Yeah. You know the one. I have that feeling. Yeah.

July 31, 2006
Finished "They Hunger" Sunday night (well, Monday morning at 2 a.m.) after a 15-page typing blitz to finish. It's good. Real good. And I can say that with complete humility, because I had absolutely nothing to do with it but the typing and the occasional bit of lazy research. I'll send out more info on it soon, probably through the
newsletter. It will be out in April from Kensington Books.

Met some musician friends and had a good time actually playing some tunes with people besides myself. Hopefully it will become a regular event, though I'll need to spruce up my equipment and get a few odds and ends. I think I fried the P.A. amp but I'll check it out sometime this week. All of my equipment, except my acoustic guitar, has pretty much been stacked away for a decade. A couple of times I tried to sell the stuff, but it never worked out, so I guess I'm meant to keep it. Besides, the joy I get out of it, and other people can get out of it, are worth much more than whatever the money could buy.

Next project look like finishing up a very nasty novel I was writing before The Farm. I only have about four pages to go but every character was so despicable that I didn't have the stomach to write the ending. Now I think I can, and it will be okay, even if the book never gets published. Also, I have a screenplay that is within kissing distance of being finished--racing into the last act. Too long neglected, like a lover in the morning, or something poetic like that.

The neighbor's cows are getting on my nerves. The herd was separated into adjoining fields, and I think one of the bulls lost his moo mama, because he squeals and yelps and pretty much begs to be converted to sirloin. So if you see me dribbling bits of raw meat from my lips, you'll know...

July 27, 2006
Wow, has it been four days since the last update? A lot has happened since then. I hope
you'll join in with Horror Day and help spread the word so we can build it to a tidal wave by Oct. 13. I'm already scheduled to read scary library books to children on Horror Day, and I'll probably do a bookstore event. If you are a Myspace person, you can also hit me up for an add at Myspace/Hauntedcomputer. If you want a press release to use for your own area of interest, there's one available on the HWA website--probably the first bit of non-Stoker news I've seen there in years.

It looks like Deborah LeBlanc and Shaun Jeffrey are squaring off for HWA president, while I seem to be unopposed as vice-president, with RH Stavis as secretary. I think there are eight people running for four trustee seats. I'm also on a publicity committee for International Thriller Writers and I was supposed to be doing something with MWA's publicity but haven't heard back from the committee. I swear, committees are the equivalent of social frontal lobotomies--they seem to stupidify everyone who touches them.

The Farm appears to be doing well, though The Manor looks like it's headed for the out-of-print list. Amazon reports it ships in "1 to 3 weeks," like The Harvest, which means they are on back order. I don't know if the publisher plans to send the first three back for additional print runs. If not, well, you might have a limited collector's item on your hands. So buy 10 copies! Right now!

July 23, 2006
A major thunderstorm washed a gully in the gravel road in front of my house, so I went out yesterday to move some of the gravel back uphill. While I was shoveling into my rusty, all-steel antique wheelbarrow, Girl ran up to the house. She came running back after a minute, stood behind me, holding up the stop sign she'd cut out and marked. She also had cut herself a paper vest, and even had drawn the seams around the outside edges. This road gets maybe five vehicles a day, but I felt so much safer. How could I not want to spend as much time with her as possible?

I'm going to start talking more about other writers here, because sometimes when I'm proofreading the journal, I seem a little bit self-centered and self-focused, though I think it's because I don't get out of the house much. Today's creature feature is on W.D. Gagliani, who has a nice web site and is author of Wolf's Trap. Also, check out my friend, talented songwriter Amy Steinberg. She told me she was a musician and I was thinking, "Yeah, right, I've heard that before, just like everybody I know is a writer or going to be." But she's really good, with spiritual, insightful songs and a warm presence.

July 22, 2006
As previously announced here and in HWA outlets, I am running for vice president of the
Horror Writers Association. Here is my candidate platform:


Folks,
We’re on a ghost ship. And all we can do is gaze at the tattered sails as we take on water, throw one or two people to the sharks as we drift in aimless anxiety, and sing shanties of long-gone times when Koontz, Lansdale and McCammon were on board and hoisting the skull and crossbones.

This genre is dead. Absolutely. I’ve talked with my agent and others in the industry about it. That’s unfortunate, but it’s not the real problem, because genres rise and fall all the time. Horror will rise from the grave, but the next few years will require courage and faith. And I have to wonder, as a long-time member, how much HWA’s failure has contributed to this sorry state of affairs.

Some say we have a bad reputation in the horror community. That we’re the Mickey Mouse Club with fangs. I’m less concerned about that than I am the fact we have no reputation where it matters, in the major publishing industry. I am an advocate for, participant in, and consumer of the small press, but we need more than that as writers. We need New York and Los Angeles.

This organization is failing at almost every level, from top to bottom. I have witnessed it firsthand, beginning as a goggle-eyed newcomer who thought it was cool to have Peter Straub’s mailing address and became excited about getting that third pro story sale. As I “grew up” in the organization and began tackling volunteer roles, I realized the apathy here is stunning. Several years ago, Robert Weinberg proposed collecting used horror books, buying a table at the San Diego Comic Convention, and giving away books to thousands of potential readers. I supported it fervently. It died without a whisper.

Last year, I spent a good chunk of my summer negotiating for and organizing a free HWA table at DragonCon, where 20,000 or so creative arts fans gather every year. Only after I had done a ton of legwork, rounded up eight or ten volunteers to staff the table, and began working out final details, did the DragonCon administration come back and say, “Hey, wait, HWA owes us money from some years ago. No table.”

The HWA administration, which knew of and approved my request to pursue the table beforehand, responded, “Oh, yeah. That.” No one thought to bring it up before I’d invested the personal time equivalent of 100 manuscript pages. The worst part was finding there was no institutional will on our part to resolve the problem. I was told, “You’re not an officer. Stay out of it.”

Well, I became an officer. And I saw why this ship has more holes than Scarface’s corpse. No one wants to volunteer, no one has the courage to face problems or admit failure, no one is willing to take a risk or alter course. Not just in the administration. Try getting up any broad, organized effort and see where it gets you. Believe me, I have energy to spare. I am active in two other organizations, Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers. In both, I was volunteering within a month of joining. They have enriched my life and career, and I hope I’ve offered something in return.

How many people come in here asking how they can help? Not many. I hear, “Where’s my mentor? Why are you punishing affiliates? Don’t you know how hard it is to get professional credits? Where’s my Stoker already?” I know it’s not easy, and I have about 700 rejection slips to back my position. But the other thing I’ve noticed, those who are successful, those who are the busiest, those who have real careers and realistic ambitions, are the ones most likely to pitch in. The average member probably has no idea how close we came to having no officer candidates at all this year, which I guess would have meant taking down the tent and shutting down the circus.

No need for happy Zen mantras like “You get what you give.” All you have to do is look in the mirror and ask what you have done to help HWA, the genre, and the entire world of readers and writers. I have not been a perfect foot soldier myself, and I have not been as timely in addressing issues as a trustee as I would have liked. But, you know what, I’m there, in the trenches, taking the occasional bullet. I’m not on an ego trip, I have no Machiavellian motives. I don’t sell books here, I don’t campaign for Stokers. I get everything I need as a professional from other organizations. Every year, just before I write my dues check, I do a reality check and a gut check. It’s not an automatic reflex. I question its value.

The sole reason I am running for vice president is that I heard
Deborah LeBlanc had been nominated for president. I am more than confident she can do the job. She has real-world experience, she is a fine writer, travels with manic intensity, has a pleasant and calm disposition, and harbors positive energy to spare. She also embodies some of the things HWA desperately needs:

1) We need more female members, and we need to get back those we have lost. We need to shatter the illusion of HWA as a male-dominated club where the power is brokered in a dimly lit, smoky back room. It’s a ridiculous notion. There is no power behind the throne. There is no throne. We need more females not because of some misguided grab for political correctness, but because it’s reality. Women constitute the overwhelming majority of book buyers and a majority of its writers, editors, and agents. Women have a historic place in this genre and a prominent place on today’s bookshelves, in quality and quantity.


2) We need to cross genres. Few of our members seem to have organizational experience or professional interest beyond our narrow confines. We need to reach out and recruit those marketed as paranormal romance, psychological thriller, contemporary suspense, dark fantasy and even, yes, vampire chick lit. They don’t need us. In fact, I’m quite sure most of them don’t know we exist. We need them.


3) We need some means of promoting our members, our organization, and the genre beyond spending $1,000 a year to send out Stoker press releases. I rarely see these releases published outside the horror community, in the real world we really need to target. Under our IRS status, as our legal counsel has explained at length, we can’t engage in promotion that can be judged to benefit some members over others. If we accept this advice, then we should consider either entirely restructuring, so we can engage in this basic function the way our fellow professional organizations do, or else pursue creating a separate arm or organization for that purpose, even if it’s a for-profit entity or cooperative. Even in a genre where spirits run wild, invisibility does not become us. We should figure out how we can have tables at major book shows and publishing industry events, where we can be seen by the people whose perceptions shape reality—how can we expect the industry to hold any other opinion than that horror is a worthless, shameful genre when we ourselves treat it as such?


Those are philosophical points. On a short-term, practical basis, I support pursuing an alliance between the World Horror Convention and our Stoker Award ceremony whenever possible. This will free up money to do other, more worthwhile things. We need to make our web site a frequent stopping place for fans of horror and dark literature. Right now, it’s far too static and boring. We have been lucky to have skilled web designers but have not provided them with content or purpose. The newsletter has improved dramatically over the past year, but it’s still mostly an exercise in navel gazing. We need to provide content for the world, not just a couple hundred people who have some free time at the day job.

The anthology market is dead, especially at the mass market level, but if elected, I would be in charge of the publications committee. I have approached one “big name” and have means to approach another with ideas about anthologies, but it’s pointless unless everyone involved gets professional pay, the stories are judged by a committee and not somebody who wants to publish only friends, and we have a real market and a guarantee writers will get their money. Trustee Steve Wedel has proposed forming an HWA imprint to put public domain works between covers and in print, getting horror treasures back in circulation in libraries and schools. I fully support this, even if it loses money. A number of us in the genre have launched a
“Horror Day of Action” for Friday, Oct. 13, asking all lovers of horror to reach out and touch a reader, a bookstore, a library. The current HWA administration (again, of which I am a member) has as yet shown little interest in leading this effort, while my compatriots outside HWA have gleefully jumped in with both feet. These are the broken bricks on which we new candidates have to stack our precarious platforms.

Lastly, I encourage you to look closely at the officers and trustees you elect. Don’t just rubber stamp a name, even my name. Question everything. Challenge the candidates. See which people have been true cheerleaders and advocates for HWA and the genre. Decide whom you’ll trust to spend your dues money wisely. Decide whether this is a vessel worth bending over an oar for, even at the risk of a lash across the back. If you don’t want to row, please take the nearest available life raft, and good luck to you. Otherwise, you are dead weight that will only cause the rest of us to disappear more rapidly beneath the waves.

I may choose to write about the unreal, but the astute reader will catch my theme here: Reality. This is the HWA reality, my friends and fellow writers. A world where we don’t care about ourselves, much less the genre and the outside world, despite all our lip service to the contrary. We have the words—indeed, the world is far too full of words. It’s action that’s lacking.

I realize I have been a bit harsh and perhaps overly honest, but this organization needs a major housekeeping effort, if not a good old-fashioned ass kicking. The good news is, there’s a core membership that really cares, we still have some high-profile members, and this genre has spawned a new generation of dark fiction writers who have no allegiance to, or scars from, HWA’s past. We’ve actually taken some baby steps in the last few years: raising our recognized professional rates, toughening our own standards, and improving communication between officers and members by publishing meeting minutes and treasury reports. The other good news I share is, again from talking with people in the industry, everything is cyclical and horror will soon awaken from its slumber and return to prominence. We all know in our hearts it never goes away, it just changes masks, forms, and labels. When it does return, I ask you: where will you be, and where will HWA be?

Respectfully,
Scott Nicholson
Candidate for vice-president

July 20, 2006
Somebody said something the other day resembling, "You must be proud to look at your shelves and see all your books." The truth is, I don't have my own books out on a shelf. I'm sure there are a couple scattered here and there among the "regular books" I read, but I haven't arranged them in any sort of admirable, worshipful fashion. Tucked away in the attic is a box containing all the early anthologies I was in, and my storage room has three or four boxes of mixed titles for when I'm at an event where I'll be selling my own books. I guess I still don't see any real accomplishment yet. Not that I'm overly humble; I'm arrogant to a fault, like any writer. I suppose I just never was much interested in that kind of measure of progress. My writing awards are all tucked away in a closet somewhere.

When I was packing up copies of each book to send to a French editor, I did go, "Hmm, there's a lot of these now." A lot of words. A lot of copies in print, running into the six figures total now. Some get stripped and pulped, but lots of people have copies of my books. I hope you have a couple. That's pretty cool, when you think about. People. Books. Yeah.

July 18, 2006
An interesting day--sat down with a former FBI behavioral scientist,
Al Brantley, who has gone over a portion of my next book, checking my FBI characters for accuracy. He gave me some great material. I handed him sections that contained the characters, and he went through them today, so I'm meeting him tomorrow and dropping off sections of my "bad guy" so he can be made psychologically consistent. We've talked about doing a project together, but first things first.

Then I called up the Washington Post book editor and pitched an article I'd written. I left a message, so I'll have to follow up tomorrow, but I would never have dared do something like that before. I guess I just figured I had little left to lose. Or some things in life were changing for the better.

My newspaper editor, Jason Reagan, had a bicycle accident yesterday, with some head and dental damage. Apparently his chain jammed and threw him head over handlebars. Don't know the whole story yet, but speedy recovery, Jason.

July 16, 2006
I hope to have the next novel done by next weekend. It's getting to that breakneck point where everything's either going to collapse or all come together in the most beautiful, melodramatic fashion. Oh, of course it will be the latter, otherwise I'd never inflict it on you! I have a few details to fix in the rewrite, but those can be done pretty easily--now I have a handle on the characters.

Thanks to all who bought The Farm (still makes me chuckle to say that) and who helped spread the word. It appears to be doing very well and has helped my older titles a little bit. I appreciate your support.

Most of dinner has come from the garden: yellow squash, broccoli and onions in the stir fry (technically, it wasn't my onion, but I could have pulled one of mine); beet greens with vinegar, which I'd never had before, and like--they are bit like spinach with a little extra tang on the afterbite; green beans, which I hadn't noticed until I sprayed my vinegar-garlic-hot pepper insecticide; and beets with chives--I'll have to experiment with ways of cooling them so they don't explode red juice all over the microwave. I know, the meal needed grains and I should have dug up some potatoes, but I already have too much food in the fridge.

July 15, 2006
Interesting thread at
Shocklines about the "health of the horror market." Interestingly, a parallel discussion is going on in the HWA message board (which is private). The general gist, as I understand it, is that horror elements are getting broader acceptance in other genres (vampire romance, psychological thrillers, telepathic detectives) while books labeled "horror" are stuck with a narrow set of perspectives and expectations. And, oh yeah, nobody buys horror anymore, neither the publishers nor the readers. The bar is so low it's not worth picking off the ground. Well, since I'm writing an article on the subject, I won't add more than you can read in my message board posts, but I'm sure the article will eventually find its way to the site.

New interview up at
http://www.hellnotes.com. Zombie love story "Constitution," up in the Free Fiction section. In other news, I'm now part of the publicity committee for the International Thriller Writers. Writing article "The 'N' Word: Dealing with Rejection" recently posted and also sent out through the Ask Nicholson yahoogroup. Offsite, check out Thrillerfest pics.

I have tried a lot of different online marketing approaches for this new novel, a change from my usual "Blitz the newspapers and do a lot of store signings" approach. One interesting thing I've noticed from tracking my web stats is very few visitors come to my site from traditional horror websites and sources. Most of my visitors come from left field, all over the place. The perennial most popular article is the one on our local FBI profiler, who worked with a couple of serial killer cases. He's also advising me on a couple of FBI characters for my next novel. So I guess the lesson is, more people would know me if I became a serial killer, and I'll bet my books would sell better. And I'd have plenty of time on death row to write after I got caught. Hmmm...

July 13, 2006
New interview up at
Bloody Disgusting. Thanks, Elaine! First French publication coming in Tenebres 2007, an anthology put together by Benoit Domis. He wanted the story some years back for a magazine, but it folded before the story came out. He remembered it after these many years, so hopefully it will be okay this time, oui? Okay, that's all the French I know!

Working on an article called "The Last Horror Writer In America," based on my recent visit to Barnes & Noble, where it seemed I was the only author with "horror" on the spines of his books. Interesting phenomenon. If you see any mass market books in the chains that have "horror" on the spine (as a marketing category), please drop me a line and let me know, as I didn't have time to look through the whole store to test my theorem.

A guy from the Winston-Salem Journal came to my house today to do a piece. It's the first time someone's actually looked at my life instead of just doing the "horror author" interview. Should be out this weekend.

July 11, 2006
It's amazing the difference people can make. I had my first (and maybe only) store signing for THE FARM today. Robin Greene at the Hickory, NC,
Barnes & Noble did a great job promoting the event. In fact, all the books she'd ordered sold out before the event, so she had more sent overnight. Great atmosphere, great staff, a good vibe to the whole store. In the same town, I stopped by a couple of places that mostly dealt in used books. I even saw a copy of one of my books. Though they didn't sell my new books, the clerks/owners were happy to talk to me about the "writing life" and the "book-selling life." Contrast that with the other chain store I stopped at, name withheld to protect the guilty who might stop carrying my books.

I told the clerk about my new book, she immediately went to the computer, punched it up, said copies might get there Friday or the Friday after that. A couple of weeks after the official release date. That didn't bother me too much, because the Fourth holiday seemed to have messed up shipping, and I have yet to receive my author copies. But the clerk had no interest in the book itself, or my status as a small-time yet "local" author who gets a lot of media coverage in my region. Instead, her sole reality was the computer--put Tab A in Slot B. She might just as well have been selling spark plugs of different sizes for all the passion she showed. Which caused me to multiply that attitude by the number of this chain's stores across the country, then take the square root of indifference and how that projects to the customers. No wonder "pirate" merchandise and Da Vinci-related books take the front of the store, because they are easy and the promotion has already been paid for with fast-food cups and cereal boxes. (At least the Da Vinci craze has gotten his great art and ideas out before the public again, though the dude did have an obscene obsession with weapons of mass destruction.)

The morning interview on WHKY with Hal Row was great--and Hal and his wonderful technical director Susie helped give me a great idea for a novel, combined with bits of an interrupted radio broadcast I heard going off the mountain. Accidents will happen, as Elvis the C. says, and often they are happy accidents.

At the signing, I met some wonderful and interesting people--I am not very outgoing, but this time, instead of worrying about selling books, I focused on getting to know the people who stopped by my table. I met an out-of-work law officer who drove an hour to meet me, a woman and her husband who had cleaned the store out of my books, a young man who wants to pursue dreams of art and writing despite his family's pressure to "get a real life," a younger man who owns a multimedia company, a guy who screwed up the old joke about the waitress and the customer who asks for a quickie (before he told the joke, he asked if I knew what "quiche" was), a fifth grader who sought out my book because she loves to read and whose supportive mother encouraged her pursuits. Hooray! People still read. People still dream. People are really cool.

July 10, 2006
My first stop on the Barnstorming tour is tomorrow at
WHKY, the First Talk show with the wonderful Hal Row as host. An interview with the delightful and always challenging Ellen Pfirrmann will be airing at around 8:20 a.m. EST Wednesday morning on WNCW, 88.7 FM in western North Carolina, 100.3 FM in Charlotte, or 97.3 in Greenville SC, but you can listen live on the Internet as well.

Garden news: Reaped my first yellow squash yesterday, and had a stir fry with garden broccoli and onions, augmented by my first Peruvian potatoes of the year--they are a thick-skinned, cool-weather potato that does well in the mountains (hence, why they are grown in the Peruvian mountains), though they tend toward the smallish size--from tennis balls to golf balls and the occasional marble. Best of all, they have purple skins and purple streaks inside them, making them much fun for soups. Many greens are coming in--a Chinese cabbage that is a bit "hot" that seems related to mustard greens, mustard greens which are now bolting, kale which doesn't like the heat (though it's been in the 60s much of the week), spinach, and lettuce. And, my favorites, turnip greens.

My first Thrillerfest report is at
www.feoamante.com. More to follow in Insidious Reflections and the HWA newsletter. Currently reading: Creepers by David Morrell, A House Divided by Deborah LeBlanc, and Atoll by Mario Mastro.

July 7, 2006
Due to the proverbial "circumstances beyond my control," I wasn't able to embark on the Barnstorming tour today--I'll be doing it Tuesday instead, and perhaps the weekend after. The Farm seems to be doing well and thank you to all who bought or hyped the book. It looks like it didn't get out in big numbers in the chain stores, so if you're thinking of getting it, I hope you do it soon so those little "reorder" commands can kick in on the computer systems.

The news may be slowly making the rounds, but I am running for vice-president of the Horror Writers Association, riding shotgun for presidential candidate Deborah LeBlanc. Judi Rohrig is running for secretary, and it looks like we'll have quite a full slate of trustee candidates (of course, I'll be resigning as trustee so another slot will open up.) It looks like there are a number of highly qualified female candidates, too, which is important because some women have felt there is a "good-old-boyz" network in many of the writing organizations.

I'm running the Farm hype giveaway through the month of July and added a few more books and magazines, so if you like free stuff and want to help me out, drop in on the contest page. Thursday's chat is archived at http://lostdamned.com/board/viewtopic.php?t=395.

July 5, 2006
Taking a page from
JA Konrath's book (actually, two of them), I'm planning a "Barnstorming Tour" this weekend--dropping by stores to sign stock in Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Durham, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and points in between and around. Tuesday, I'll be hitting Charlotte, Gastonia, and maybe Spartanburg, but those will be squeezed in around a morning radio show and an evening signing in Hickory. I don't know the times, or even the stores yet, but look for signed copies in those areas.

Also got to play guitar in the newspaper's parade entry yesterday--we played only two songs, "America The Beautiful" and "Yankee Doodle Boy," but we probably covered them in five different styles each. Let's see, I should be promoting THE FARM more, but, wow, a lot is going on. And I need to finish the new novel!

Another Thrillerfest memory: There was a serial killer attack about four blocks from the conference hotel, apparently the fifth victim. Such a yawner that it merited a one-inch teaser on the front page, and on the local section, the story was a single column, below the fold. How casually we take murder these days.
Killer Thriller band rehearsal: (L-R) Me with bass, F. Paul Wilson, John Lescroart, Alexandra Sokoloff, Heather Graham, Harley Jane Kozak, and David Simms.

July 3, 2006
More memories from Thrillerfest. Breakfast with
Joe Nassise, lunch with Nickolas and Kim Cook. And the hotel...it was so upscale, they charged for toilet paper by the sheet. J.A. Konrath stopping by the room to chat for a bit. Sandra Brown being incredibly gracious. Barbara Peters, owner of the Poisoned Pen Books, working so hard for her customers and the writers--a sense that we are all on the "same page" after all. Gayle Lynds, working tirelessly to make sure everyone else had a great experience. James Rollins, Jeff Buick, Gary Braver, more people I'll remember later, after I recover from jet lag, who made it a great event. And Deb LeBlanc, who continues to amaze me.

But the biggest news is a couple of horses got in my garden while I was away. Ate some squash and corn. The funniest part: my mom, who is 64, and my lovely neighbor Lillian, in her 70's, went out with sticks and brooms to drive the horses away. Talk about ladies with class.

Mom made her first-ever visit to my house, watching Girl while I was away. She is so intuitive about things. The most natural person I've ever known. One of her phrases: "I never wanted to drink. I just wanted to kick ass."

Mom cleaned my house, weeded my flower bed, washed all my dishes, folded clothes (I'm not sure an item of clothing has been folded there since I bought the place in '04), and in an amazing display of stamina kept up with Girl for three days. I know what you're thinking-- my mom wants things to "be nice." And I'm slightly embarrassed to be this old and let my mom clean for me. The truth is, she has so much energy she doesn't want to sit still, and she fights for "her boys" with every breath.

In my younger days, I liked to help Mom in the kitchen. I learned to cook, sew, and wash dishes. And sometimes even do laundry. She once got pissed when I scorched her bra--(hey, how many sons can say that without fear of misdemeanor charges?)--by pouring straight Clorox on the load before I hit the knob. Hey, what did I know? I could barely reach the knob, even on tiptoes.

I am so lucky to have such a great woman in my life. I have a lot of luck. I hope you do, too.

July 2, 2006
Great night at
Thrillerfest. A good awards ceremony and an "all-star" jam. Nice line-up: John Lescroart, David Morrell, Michael Palmer, Harley Jane Kozak, Alexandra Sokoloff, Daniel Palmer, David Simms, F. Paul Wilson, Nathan Walpow, Heather Graham, Blake Crouch, and yours truly. Clive Cussler won a grandmaster award, though I didn't get to hear much of his speech. I'll have more updates later and a full report at www.feoamante.com.

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