facing the sinister unexpected

From here on out, whenever I’m asked why I insist on combing horror with history, I’m pointing people to this guest post I wrote for the release of Proseuche.

But the humanity of who we are is the same. That’s a constant. The petty thievery of politicians. The lies husbands tell wives, and wives tell husbands. The dreams children dare to dream about their future. The frustration we have with Them, whether that Them is the wealthy or politicians or annoying neighbors.

And the monsters. We can’t forget about the monsters. Even those that look and talk and act like us. Those are the same, too. The fear of the unknown. The pit in the stomach one feels at the sight of a deep, dark shadow. Though separated by millennia, the quiet terror that makes our hearts thump when faced with a sinister unexpected never changes.

This is why horror works so well in a historical context. This is why I’m driven to take my dark fiction out of the comfort of this contemporary Here and Now and toss it to the wolves of 3rd century Antioch or 1st century Jerusalem.

You can read the rest over here. Enjoy! :)

Who am I without my ghosts?

Blog tours can be tough.

On the one hand, you’re incredibly grateful for the opportunity to introduce your work to (hopefully) thousands of new eyes. On the other hand, you find yourself navigating the same questions in the same interviews time and time again. Or struggling to convince your tired brain — which is probably still in shock from writing eighty thousand words and then turning right around to edit and rewrite those same eighty thousand words — to come up with an awesome, amazing, incredible Guest Blog Post.

Well, I don’t always hit a homer, but this is one of the few times I swung for the bleachers and won. Here’s an excerpt:

For a moment, I’d forgotten who he was, this Martuk. Had forgotten about his birth in the sun-blasted Zagros mountains one thousand years before Christ. Had forgotten the centuries he’d seen. The bloody chaos he’d caused and the agony he’d endured. Reminded myself that this was a man who’d had a long life, a long immortality, even before something as unremarkable as a cup of coffee even existed.

I gave him a moment. “If I may, why the second book?” I said. “Why Proseuche? Was it something as simple as the story continuing?”

“Nothing’s that simple.” He finished his espresso in one final swallow, his finger raised to order a second. A small nod from me, and a second finger lifted to indicate two. “Writing doesn’t excorcise the ghosts. It emboldens them.”

“So why write?”

A moment of silence followed by a brief shrug. “Who am I without my ghosts? In this world that changes yet remains the same, they are one of my few constants. Their anger, their rage. Their fear and regret and sorrow. These things, I know them. They are familiar. Even here, even now, they walk with me.

“They are amaranthine. A word I now love, by the way,” he said with a grin. “Endless and forever and constant.”

Lesson? When in doubt, take Martuk out for coffee where he’ll most surely talk about Proseuche.

The World I Live In

You know that thing where I talk with SF Signal about the launch of Proseuche and what it’s like to write about an immortal in a genre full of sparkly vampires and stumbling zombies?

Yeah, that. Here’s an excerpt.

I don’t live in a world where sparkly vampires sigh like lovelorn teenagers, their emotional angst all but defanging them.

I don’t live in a world where zombies with endless appetites lurch and stumble, their ends often coming with a surprising thwack of a shovel.

No, where I live is truly monstrous. It’s dark and forbidding. A place where innocent lives have grisly ends and ghosts still sob. The world I live in is one of betrayal and mistrust. Where the line separating enemy from friend is cloudy and constantly shifting. A land where those who walk and talk like you and me share nothing of our humanity. The world of my immortal Martuk (as in “two” with a hard “k” at the end … Martuk) is one where monsters hide in plain sight, and the blood on their hands is steeped in consequence and regret.

Gaughran on Amazon v. Hachette

Still confused about the continuing kerfuffle ‘tween Amazon and Hachette? Even after I put in my own two cents? REALLY?

Okay, then this briefest of excerpts from an interview by author JJ Marsh with the always interesting David Gaughran might help:

Hachette can’t come right out and say they want higher book prices (which is the result if they prevail in negotiations and take back control of pricing and/or Amazon’s ability to to discount) so instead we get a narrative of a rapacious corporation versus a plucky guardian of our literary heritage. Authors should adopt a little more skepticism towards what is a concerted PR campaign from a series of vested interest.

 

It really is worth it to click on over to read the rest of his intelligent, well-informed take on what’s really happening and what’s truly at stake for writers like you and me.

 

Hangin’ with Hugh

In case you missed it, here’s an excerpt from a Guest Post I had the pleasure of publishing over on Hugh Howey’s site recently while celebrating Proseuche’s release.

 

Amazon opened the doors. Instead of hoops, Amazon offered opportunity. Seeing an industry denying undiscovered talent their chance to be heard, Amazon stepped to the plate.

Single mothers in the Midwest found their romance novels becoming bestsellers. Goth kids dressed in black discovered they’re not alone, their zombie books collecting earnest raves from their peers. Retirees who’d put their dreams of Writing on hold so they could pay the bills and raise a family reinvented themselves as novelists with a lifetime of stories to tell.

Head on over. It’s worth the read. :)

Dumb it down?

A friend of mine, someone with the best of intentions, said something the other day that nearly stopped me in my tracks.

“Maybe you’d sell a lot more books if you dumbed your writing down.”

Now, I had to think about that for a second because he wasn’t referring to my subject matter — the immortal Martuk slaying his way through a lifetime of endless centuries — but more to the way it’s written. It’s intelligent. It has a unique voice that still follows the basic rules of sentence structure and grammar. It’s ambitious but still accessible. The sentences are more lyrical than not. There’s character development and several story lines all spinning around a central narrative held together in a clever framing device. And this narrative is designed to not only stand alone, but stretch over a three-book series as well as an ongoing collection of short fiction.

Ah, you see? There’s the problem.

Publishing these days — and I’m talking about indie, single author, and the Big Five — isn’t as focused on quality as it could be. The mediocre is applauded. The abysmal is celebrated. Anyone writing anything that would be considered “normal” ten years ago — story, appropriate dialogue tags, realistic conversations from people who could actually exist – is thought of as an anomaly. Something new. Different.

And that worries me.

That the bar would be so low that the telling of a story would be thought of as something newsworthy is not a good thing. In fact, as I said in a recent interview, we, as Writers, should be expected to tell a story. Telling one should not be seen as something cool. It’s our feckin’ job, for Christ’s sake!

But so many have found success doing so little. Or doing so little so poorly that their attitude is, Well, people seem to like it, so why change?

Why change?

Because you can do better. Because your readers, whether they know it or not, want you to do better.

Because if you keep half-assing it, that will become the New Normal, you won’t grow as a writer, and there will be generations of readers who won’t know Good Writing from a hole in the ground. Though you know damn well at least the hole will have a backstory as to how it got there whereas your book will be a long series of events that end up leading to a big fat Nothing.

So, here’s the deal:

I’ll continue writing the way I write. That’s the little I can do to change the tide. And when readers tire of piss-poor writing revolving around non-existent stories peopled by cardboard cutouts murmuring, sighing, giggling, growling, breathing, whispering, moaning, laughing inane ridiculous dialogue no one would actually say, my work — and the work of hundreds if not thousands like me — will be there waiting for them.

‘Cause I’ll be damned if I’m going to dumb it down.