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Category: Reading


You know, I really like Alan Moore’s comics, and I really like the Cthulhu mythos (hell, just yesterday I bought the quite pricy boardgame The Doom that Came to Atlantic City, mostly because of the lovely resin figurines of the Great Old Ones, though I look forward to playing it, too). So when I saw Moore’s police procedural Lovecraft graphic novel Neonomicon at the library on Thursday I thought, “Oooh, been meaning to read this,” and eagerly picked it up.

Then I read it, and I kinda wish I could excise large portions of it from my brain. I liked the overall concept, actually — taken as a Mythos short story, it has a clever twist at the end and some cool moments, and I like Johnny Carcosa and the bits with the mural and the banter between the FBI agents.

But… it’s a four-issue miniseries, and the bulk of one of those issues involves graphic depiction of a woman being repeatedly raped by a Deep One (this is after she was raped by cultists in the previous issue). I just… I could have done without the graphic fish-monster rape, is what I’m saying. For purposes of plot, some fish-monster/human sex had to happen, but pages and pages of monster fish cock terror… I think “gratuitous” as a criticism is generally overused, but yeah, that shit was gratuitous. It just went on and on. The art, by Jacen Burrows, is pretty good — which makes it that much worse, honestly. It’s meticulously-drawn nightmare fuel.

I get that Moore was trying to make the “sex is gross and vaginas are scary” subtext inherent in Lovecraft’s work into over-the-top text, and he definitely did that, but I barely made it through the comic. (Let me calibrate this for you: I actually like Garth Ennis’s ultra-gratuitous, grimmer-than-grim, circus-of-depravity, all-kinds-of-violence-including-sexual superhero series The Boys – and those issues of Neonomicon made that series seem tame.)


The busier life gets, the less time there is to chronicle my life, so the only time I seem to reliably write about what’s happening to me is when there’s not much happening to me. I’m not going to pretend that I’m breaking the cycle, here — this post will go up and it will doubtless be weeks before I manage another. Mostly when I feel the need to crack wise or bloviate, I do so on Twitter (or facebook), but occasionally it’s fun to go on at greater length than 140 characters, so here we are.

The weekend was cool! My wife, the lovely, talented, and all around wonderful Heather Shaw, entered a haiku contest and won, getting us VIP tickets to Outside Lands, the big music festival in Golden Gate Park. We went this weekend, and it was awesome. Paul McCartney was hilarious and played wonderfully, Nine Inch Nails was badass, and we also saw some good other bands, some comedy (the latter in a Spiegeltent! As Eugene Mirman said, “Comedy is best performed in a hot wooden tent in the middle of the afternoon”), and lots of drunk/high people having the time of their lives. (I was only moderately drunk.) Also there was lots of good food and booze. I ate a lamb burger and sweet potato fries topped with bacon and marshmallow sauce and drank good beer and a great rye manhattan. Huge thanks to our friends Drew and Nicole, and to my sister-in-law Holly, for the heroic acts of overnight babysitting that allowed us to stay out late dancing in the misty rain.

I’ve got a book due in September (another Pathfinder Tales novel, I think my best one yet, unless I blow it before I finish writing), so I had to do some work over the weekend, too. I managed to get a decent number of words in on Saturday before we hit the park, and I didn’t go to the festival on Sunday (my wife went with her sister instead). I was solo parenting and watching my nephew on Sunday, but in practice that meant the kids played together and entertained themselves, so I got a ton of writing done — I managed to write about 12,000 words for the weekend, which is more than I’d gotten done in the previous two weeks. The plot is really starting to click along now, too. I’ve gotten to the part of the book when all I want to do is write. Which is good, since I still need to get a lot more pages done in the next three weeks.

I read and enjoyed Scott Lynch’s new Gentlemen Bastards novel, Republic of Thieves, and am almost done with Daniel Abraham’s new Dagger and the Coin novel The Tyrant’s Law. (In which bankers are a force for good in society! So you know it’s a fantasy novel!) I recommend them, though in both cases you should read the previous two books in the series(es) first.

To write my story “Antiquities and Tangibles” (about someone who finds a little magic shop and tries to buy happiness there, with predictable levels of success), I did a lot of research about happiness, from the philosophy of the ancients to popular self-help to theories in neuroscience to sociological studies. Since I’ve got a personal interest in being happy, too, as a human being, I took note of things I thought might help my life. There’s broad agreement that social connections are key to happiness, and since I spend a lot of my life sitting in my house alone making up stories about imaginary people, I decided to overcome my essential introvert-ness and at least try to see people in the real world more often. After a few months of that, I’m willing to call the experiment a success (though I’m spending more money on beer than I used to). I’m still an introvert with hermit-like tendencies, but going out once or twice a week and seeing people, or having people over, has improved my outlook on life significantly. There were a few years there when I felt like my life was nothing but work-write-parent-repeat, and having things start to open up again is good for me.

Other things of note!

The Kickstarter to revive our ‘zine Flytrap was a success! We’ll be opening up to submissions soon, and our first issue should come out early next year. We’ve already got some great art and non-fiction lined up. Details will be along.

There’s a trade paperback of my gonzo historical novel The Constantine Affliction, out tomorrow, technically, but it looks like you can get it today at your favorite online bookstores and possibly even places in the physical world as well.

As part of the Kickstarter rewards for Bride of Death, I promised to do a monthly advice column from my main character, cranky sorcerer Marla Mason. The first installment of Auntie Marla’s Good Advice is up now. I think it’s pretty funny, but then, I would, wouldn’t I?

I think I mentioned this before, but I started a tumblr to collect various quotes/dialogues/etc. from my son (known to twitter as officeboy), just to have them all in one place: The Officeboy Dialogues. The initial flurry of posts has died down as I’ve posted most of the best stuff, but I’m still updating it as he says new hilarious/smart/weird things. Like yesterday when he made some insightful comments about my hair.

Regarding Certain Fictions

Here are some things:

I sold a story! “Ghostreaper, or, Life after Revenge” will appear in a future issue of Eclipse Online. I’ve admired the stories editor Jonathan Strahan has published in the magazine (and in the anthology series before that), so I’m pleased to be part of it. The story is a novelette about a modern guy who gets a magical spear from a trickster figure of uncertain intentions and proceeds to mess up his life in interesting ways.

I also sold a story, “Secrets in Storage,” co-written with Greg van Eekhout, to a Lovecraftian anthology. About five years ago Greg wrote an opening and asked me if I could do anything with it. I added a bit, and we batted it back and forth, but it stalled out and never came to anything, sitting unloved and unread for years. Then, when I was asked to do a Lovecraftian story, I realize how Greg’s opening could be a launching point for just such a piece, and dragged it out of cold storage, worked on it, made Greg make it better, and sent it off. A dead story, resurrected (but, of course, that is not dead which can eternal lie; that goes for old story fragments as well as elder gods).

We’re down to the last few days for the Glitter and Madness Kickstarter. Take a look! It would be a fun anthology. My story will be set in the abandoned ice skating rink in Berkeley, a bit of decaying real estate called Iceland (which is also a portal to a Hell of ice, a la The Inferno), at a monster skate party, of sorts. Give ’em a little if you can. They’re still a bit short of hitting their goal.

My own Kickstarter, for novel Bride of Death, is going beautifully — it’s nearly 150% funded with 20 days to go. Another $665 and we unlock original cover art by the great Lindsey Look, who did the cover for Grim Tides. And if it goes over that level, I’ll come up with additional incentives. (And, you know, buy my kid extra souvenirs at Disneyland when we go for his spring break.)

I’m reading Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic: The Thirteenth Rib by David J. Schwartz (one of my favorite writers; hell, one of my favorite people). It’s a serialized novel, and you get all the installments for a mere one-time $1.99 payment. Pretty sweet deal.

Lately I’ve ripped through the Spellman Files series by Lisa Lutz — quirky mysteries (sort of) set in contemporary San Francisco. They’re charming books, driven by a great narrative voice, that of thirtyish former juvenile delinquent Izzy Spellman, who works for the family business as a private investigator. The PI details are pretty realistic, which means the stakes are way lower than you find in most mysteries — in reality, PIs don’t investigate murders; mostly they follow cheating spouses and do background checks. So most of the drama comes from the interpersonal relationships, among a group of chronically nosy, secretive, suspicious people with boundary issues and a willingness to use blackmail and other means to achieve their goals — but who nonetheless love one another very much. Not the sort of thing I usually read (I prefer my mysteries bleak and violent and hardboiled), but great comfort reading.

Stolen by Xmas

On Monday I didn’t write. (We had the boy with us at work all day, since his school was closed, and though he was very good, it was still way more exhausting than usual, and I could not drag myself to my laptop in the evening.)

And while I did write on Tuesday, I didn’t work on the novel, so the word count hasn’t increased. My wife and I have a holiday story due for a certain podcast magazine, and we’d been trying various approaches to our central idea (which my wife created, and which is insanely clever), coming up with amusing scenes but never quite nailing it. Then, yesterday, while I was taking yet another stab at writing an opening, I found the perfect way in, and the story opened up and revealed itself to me in its entirety — in such a way that we can even use some of the material we’d written previously, which is nice. So: productive, but not novel-productive. That’s okay. I’ll take it.

In other literary news, I caught up on reading the most recent collections of Locke and Key by Hill & Rodriguez last night, since the final arc of the series launches today. It’s such a great series. And I’m enjoying Red Country by Joe Abercrombie, which finally appeared in my “hold” pile at the library. (He’s popular enough among reviewers at work that there wasn’t a spare copy for me to read pre-publication, and we’re trying to be frugal in preparation for the holidays so I didn’t run out and buy it when it came out. Waiting to read things is BRUTAL.)

Booze, Bullets, and Books

How is it already mid-to-late September? This mystery is impenetrable.

I have not been doing much, apart from playing with my kid and generally hanging out and recovering from the previous eight months of endless work. Though because I’m terrible at not writing I started a novelette last week — I think it’s called “The Fairy Library” — and it’s going quite well, up to about 4,000 words now. It’ll be one of the originals in the new collection.

I did a reading last Saturday at Other Change of Hobbit with Nick Mamatas (I was his opening act; his book Bullettime is excellent, my favorite of his novels). There was booze that tasted like cough syrup (by design) and brownies and a surprisingly great turnout for a Saturday night. Nick and I have the smartest and most beautiful and discerning fans. Look, Nick posted photographic evidence!

Otherwise, I have been reading a lot. Mur Lafferty’s The Shambling Guide to New York City is fun and adorable; Salvage and Demolition by Tim Powers is as awesome as he always is at novella length; The Mark Inside is entertaining con-artist narrative non-fiction; Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis is dark and good and I’m eager to read the second in the series; Etgar Keret’s stories remind me of Donald Barthelme’s or Aimee Bender’s (which is a good thing).

I’ve played some Arkham City, and lots of Plants vs. Zombies and other casual games on my Fire. And I’ve been watching Revenge (it’s The O.C. meets The Count of Monte Cristo!). Playing lots of Candyland, War, and Connect Four with my kid, who already shows signs of being bitten by the gaming bug (when he’s a little older we are going to play all the games all the time).

I have also been eating less and exercising way more, after the horror of seeing my highest-ever weight on a scale back in July. I’m down 15 pounds since then. Let us hope this trend continues for another, oh, fifty pounds or so.

Autumn is coming. Soon it will be time to make the first chili of the season. Life is good.

21 and Done. Or, Alternately, Sweet Sixteen.

Another Monday, another chapter of Grim Tides! Go read “Jaws” for more murderlicious funtimes.

I had a busy weekend. A pleasant one. Friday night our dear friend Susan, visiting from New York, came over for a few hours of conversation and take-out food. So nice to see her! It’s been literally years.

Saturday, my wife and son took off for Tahoe so the kid could play in snow for the first time. I wish I could have gone! But I am in a world of deadlines. So I stayed home and wrote a large number of words instead. So many words. But I did not finish the draft of my novel in progress, and indeed, I soon realized I was writing a whole lot of words I would have to throw away, because my climax was stupid and terrible and all wrong. I could feel it, but I just kept on writing my way through, figuring I could get some of the falling action right, at least.

Sunday morning we all headed for Mama’s Royal Cafe to have brunch with Susan and our friend David and his girlfriend Meredith (who impressed my boy with her origami skills). Yumminess and good talk ensued, and the kid was very well-behaved, which is impressive considering we had a long lingery meal. I took the boy away afterward so Heather and Susan could hang out.

The kid wanted to see a new playground, so I found one online we hadn’t been to yet, and we drove up. It was a pretty decrepit old playground, really — swingsets with no swings, a nearly 80-year-old clubhouse all boarded up, blocked off, and in dire need of repair — but it had some really pretty trails, too, and nigh-infinite numbers of steps switchbacking along the path of a creek with lots of little waterfalls. We hiked up and down and all around until we got bored, then drove over to Codornices Park, home of a giant concrete slide. My kid has done the slide many times before, always with me, sliding down together. This time, he wanted to try it on his own. And, lo, he went down the slide a bazillion times! We also stomped through some creeks and went through the tunnel to the rose garden and so on. Good clean exhausting fun.

Once we got home, I wrote some more, completing the falling action and figuring out how to fix my crazy broken climax, then going back and writing that. So that’s the draft of my 21st complete novel. It’ll be my 16th published novel in seven years. (I’ve got four trunk books that will never see print, and another that’s still out on submission. I have a few books under pseudonyms that aren’t listed on my website. My bibliography is best described as “it’s complicated.”) It’s been a busy almost-decade.

I also read Stephen King’s The Wind Through the Keyhole, which is very enjoyable. It’s The Dark Tower 4.5, an interstitial book that has no bearing whatsoever on the series as a whole, and it’s actually a story-within-a-story-within-a-story. The most deeply-nested story is an awesome standalone short novel, and the rest of it is pretty pleasant too.

So that was my weekend. Not too bad at all.

Vacation: Day Four

The day began with dolphins. There’s a dolphin lagoon here, and for exorbitant sums one can swim with the dolphins. Heather booked River for a short meet-the-cetaceans session, and he got to go with her and a trainer into shallow water, meet four dolphins, feed them fish, pet them, and so on. He found it delightful, of course — who wouldn’t? One of the dolphins steadfastly refused to do any of the tricks the trainer prompted her too. I was very proud of that dolphin. (I have mixed feelings about the whole captive-dolphins-dancing-for-our-amusement thing, obviously, but River thought it was magical, and the trainers seem to love the animals, so I can’t come down squarely against it.)

Checked my e-mail. It had bad news. The day before, my e-mail had stressful news. I resolved to stop checking my e-mail on this vacation, and I haven’t looked at it since. I’ll deal with whatever additional crap the world wants to shovel onto me when I’m back in Berkeley. I was stressed out most of the morning, though.

The wind has finally died down here, so we rented a paddleboat and pedaled around the lagoon. River was the captain, directing us to and fro, under bridges, near the fake waterfall, over to the pool where the mullet hang out, the huge fish often leaping a few feet into the air. Most pleasant.

We spent most of the rest of Wednesday at Hapuna Beach, one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline around. Perfect for playing in the sand, building sand castles and sand cities, and great for swimming. Not terribly exciting for boogie boarding (very gentle surf) or snorkeling (the water’s very clear, but there are only a few places with coral and lots of fish, as it’s mostly sandy), but immensely pleasant all the same, and perfect for River, who was disappointed in Tuesday’s rocky beaches.

We left to get dinner near sunset, choosing a place on a whim and some Yelp reviews, and it turned out to be awesome (if rather fancier than we’d realized): Roy’s Place. River was very well behaved (never a given that late in the day, when he’s tired), and the food was amazing. Heather got a “mixed plate” sampler of three different fish dishes, and each portion was big enough for a meal. I got the meatloaf, and it was easily enough for two dinners. (I did eat it all, but skipped dessert. That kind of restraint is rare for me, but I was stuffed.) The booze was first-rate, too, yummy cocktails and generous pours. After eating too often at the painfully mediocre and even more painfully overpriced resort restaurants, a great meal at a restaurant no more expensive than a similar place would be back home? A revelation.

Then it was back home, for reading and lolling around and digesting. I re-read Carroll’s Land of Laughs. I always remember it as being creepy, but I always forget just how creepy.

As the evening progressed, my wife felt sicker and sicker. That would prove to be a theme for Thursday. But I’ll tell you about that next time.

Surf’s Up

NaNo: 2138 words written yesterday. The book’s total stands at 33,411, of which 23,512 have been written since November 1. The goal is to get to 60,000 words by the end of the month. (The book is due in February. I could knock out the last 30-40K in December, and have January to revise. This plan may not survive impact with reality.)

Yesterday I went to work, and worked, mostly laying out World Fantasy Convention photo spreads. Drove home in the rainy black dark. Once home I played with the kid a bit, and otherwise… mostly wrote, as you may have gathered. I also read Ken Bruen’s Headstone, the latest Jack Taylor novel. Just as bleak and brutal as always.

Today is the boy’s fourth birthday party! We rented the Kindergym at the YMCA, so a bunch of his school friends and he can run around like crazy for an hour, then gorge themselves on cake in the party room. Heather outdid herself decorating the cake. The kid wanted a Mickey Mouse cake, and we’re going on a beach vacation later this month (a trip which looms large in his mind), so we got cake toppers including Mickey on a surfboard, Minnie laying on a beach towel, plastic palm trees, etc. Heather baked a cake, frosted it with blue icing artfully swirled to resemble ocean waves for Mickey to surf on, and then created a “sandy beach” of atomized vanilla wafers for Minnie to lounge on. The kid will love it.

Crawl Before You Can Walk

It is a cornerstone of my personality that I don’t like to go places or do things. (This is not entirely true; I like going to brunch, and Hawaii, and I enjoy doing readings occasionally, but mostly, I’m hermitlike by nature and action.) So this was a very eventful weekend for me. On Saturday I did a mini-panel discussion with recent Clarion West grad Mark Pantoja at CIIS in San Francisco, talking to a class of writers and artists about Kickstarter (the professor has been talking to the class about “autonomous practices” for artists lately; basically now to succeed outside the existing publishing infrastructure, engage with readers directly, etc.). It was a good class with smart questions, and we had an hour and a half, so it was even possible to move beyond the very broadest strokes and get into nuances a bit.

After the class I came back home to give my wife a little childcare break. (She heroically took the kid to a farm/pumpkin patch for many hours in the morning.) The boy and I spent most of our time exploring the back yard, playing “archaeology” (burying toy dinosaurs and digging them back up again), looking at spiders, and so on. Four years old is a great age. (Well, he’s actually still three, but only for three more weeks.)

In the evening I hopped on a train back to San Francisco to see a bit of LitCrawl. I hit Borderlands and saw Richard Kadrey, Thomas Roche, and Naamen Tilahun read (alas, Ray Garton was ill, and couldn’t make it). The store was packed and hot as a blast furnace, but the readings were good. Afterward I headed next door to the Borderlands Cafe, which I had never seen before (see above re: not going places or doing things) — what a fantastic space! It’s gorgeous. Specialty store + awesome cafe = Tim Pratt’s Ideal of Heaven.

Best of all, the spot where we read had open windows, through which a cool breeze blew. No monster-heat! My fellow readers were Steve Boyett, Seanan McGuire, and Kirsten Imani Kasai, who all did wonderful work. By the implacable rigors of alphabetical order, I read last, and rather than subject the audience to a fragment of my new novel, I read a bunch of short pieces — “Scientific Romance,” “Bacchanal,” “My Night with Aphrodite,” “Soul Searching,” “Ghost” — lots of fun, and the audience seemed to like it. I’d vaguely intended to go to the afterparty, but ended up hanging out at the cafe talking to my friends Chris and Maggie for an hour instead. It was immensely pleasant, and probably the right choice, as the alternative would have almost certainly led to me being hungover Sunday morning.

Of course, all that socialing meant falling behind on my writing for the weekend. I did manage to do what I think is the last revision pass on the Christmas Carol/Ghost Finder mash-up story co-written with Heather Shaw, and responded to editorial queries on my new story “Ill Met in Ulthar”, but I had to knuckle down and buckle down on Sunday to work on Grim Tides. My mad goal is to have a complete draft by Halloween, which means producing 30 to 40K words in the next two weeks. So, uh, that’s what I’ll be doing.

The Iron Wood

Life is quiet and good.

As I may have mentioned, my wife and I recently had our sixth wedding anniversary! (On October 1.) I got her this necklace, and she got me a very cool natural lodestone. (The sixth anniversary gifts are, traditionally, iron, sugar, or wood. We usually do variations on the traditional themes, because we think it’s fun, and we figured “metal” and “magnet” were close enough.) The real gift is this weekend, though — we’ve got an overnight babysitter for the kid, so we’ll go out on Friday and have a wonderful dinner and an evening all to ourselves. Should be delightful.

We’ve been trying to eat better lately (that is: not order so much take out), and have made some really yummy meals lately. Wilted arugula with balsamic fried eggs; marinated ahi with roasted tomatoes; green salad with peaches, grilled chicken, almonds, and blue cheese; omelets with good bacon and fresh tomatoes; and so on. Simple, quick stuff we can make after work, mostly, but when you start throwing around phrases like “balsamic reduction” it feels nice and fancy.

Otherwise, I’ve just been writing, and reading, and watching TV. Books lately include some of Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol comics, and The Death Ray by Daniel Clowes, Matt Ruff’s next novel The Mirage, and assorted short stories. We recently watched the first season of Boardwalk Empire, and now that fall is here, the Tivo is full of new things every night. (We have a 3-year-old; we mostly can’t go out at night; TV is our entertainment mode of choice, apart from books.) We’re watching Ringer, mostly out of residual affection for Sarah Michelle Gellar. Persons of Interest is potentially interesting. We have that dinosaur time travel show saved but haven’t watched it, and mostly we hear bad things, so I dunno if we will. And there are various returning shows we watch, too. I’m sad that House won’t be set entirely in a prison this season (so many potential bad puns! The Jail House! The Big House!) but you can’t have everything.