Saturday, May 31, 2014

GRACE AMONG THE DEAD Is with the Publisher

It’s a quarter of five, Saturday morning. At 11:09 the previous evening—a little over five and one-half hours ago—I sent Grace Among the Dead to my editor at Severed Press. Two hours later, he sends back an e-mail saying “Great. How about a cover with two exploding zombie heads?”

I’m up now because, a) my head’s stopped up, as usual, and,  b) I’m due at one of the odd jobs I take on from time to time at 7 a.m. so we can make the bills. Might as well get caffeinatin’. If I survive this, I’ll just crash right when I come home. I’ll get my schedule righted over the next week.

Now the real work starts. I have podcasts to plan, promos to do, and another book to write. The as-yet titled book (working under “Project Apotheosis”) will be blocked out entirely on a very detailed beat-sheet before I even think to begin writing. I’ll give myself a week for that blocking out. Hell, why not two?

Finally whipped it! Art Copyright © 2014 by Matt Dixon.
He’ll sell you this print if you like it enough. Buy one, and tell him
Roy from Colorado sent ya! 
I’m hoping a solid beat sheet will enable me to get my next book out in a more timely manner than one-year-plus-a-couple-of-days since the last one. I don’t want to make deadlines I have no intention of honoring (the book is done when the book is done, and not a minute before), but I would like to have this one out by November. It was on 4 November 2011 when I wrote that first scene which opens Grace Among the Dead, which, as it turns out, was the first thing I ever wrote for my Dead Silencer trilogy.  If I can get the third book out by my third anniversary, it jibe nicely with my rule of threes—that I should be into something for three years, and then I’m done with it. It’s a life pattern I was into even before I married into the military and three-year duty stations. 

Which is a blog post for another time...meanwhile, I’ve got caffeinatin’ to do.

Anyway, my apologies to all who have been waiting so long. My effusive thanks to those who actually dropped some coinage my way via PayPal.  (If I don’t credit by name that’s because my default is always on anonymity. Seems a foul thank-you to expose someone to all the world unless they specifically ask. The Internet is a weird and mean place at times. A little paranoia is good safety sense.)

It’s in the proofreader’s queue now. I’ll be doing my own proofing at home, maybe in a week when I can get sufficient psychic distance. Let’s hope we can get this out on an the streets in time for peak summer reading season.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Banjo Metal Apocalypse for a Brighter Day

This video actually inspired and energized me. It helps that this guy knows how to shoot and edit a video. Stick around for the crescendo — with spoons.

Frankly, I’ve never been a big fan of metal. I respect the technical prowess required for a proper shred, but it all seems like thin soup to me: bang your head to the shred, that’s it. The lyrics remind me of the wannabe edgy stuff I wrote in my notebooks in high school, and that’s never a good thing. I need a song to carry me through the day, “sounds that recognize the pain in me,” as the old ‘90s pop song goes.

Here, I’ll take the sharp, calculating intelligence and raging energy I recognize in this and make the most of my day. Forget Throwback Thursday. Let’s move forward for a change. 

This photo is an old Internet Classic by itself.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

UPDATE: Now with 30 Chapters

GRACE AMONG THE DEAD Stats as of 1325 MDT, 28 May 2014:
30 chapters; 268 pages, 95,439 words.  The numbers went up a smidge, which almost never happens when I'm editing.

I finally got going on the read-through the night before last. I was up until 6:15, the sun already warming the earth as I wrapped the pillow around my head and lapsed into unconsciousness.

I did something I sorta-kinda suspected I was going to do, but didn’t think would happen: I wrote Chapter 30. It was only three pages and some 900 words, but it tied off some loose ends, pointed the narrative towards its sequel, and amplified the tone I wanted to set. 
It was getting a little kumbaya-corny at the end of Chapter 29, and we don’t go riding off into the sunset in my books. We disappear into the night. Or into an approaching storm.

Last night I found myself writing a scene into the penultimate chapter. Something of a love scene, involving choking. Not that kind of choking (what is up with that degeneracy?), but the experience sets the stage for a relationship that will be central to the third book.

With those two strokes the book feels almost really finished. That is not to say I was lying when I first said Grace Among the Dead was finished. It is. I could email the manuscript to Severed Press right now and it would still be a better written zombie apocalypse adventure the 95% of what’s out there.

Right now, I’ll say it’s better than 97%. I’ll give myself until the end of the day to beat the 99%. After that, it’s ready or not, off you go. I’m stoked to start my untitled third book and that’s a very, very good sign.
About time y’all caught up.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Four parts. Twenty-nine chapters. Two hundred sixty-three pages and 93,695 words.

I had to look to be sure. No, I could delete this last paragraph and let the one before it stand as my closer (with a little tweaking, of course). I looked at the time in the lower left hand of my screen. 1:59 a.m. 

Writing a novel is very much like herding zombies.
Once bitten, of course....
So it was on a Monday morning, 26 May—Memorial Day in the USA—that I concluded Grace Among the Dead. It took me two days longer to do than Bleeding Kansas, mainly because I thought I could write on top of the original story.

Now pay attention, because this is where things get twisty: the original story was my actual first novel, The Roiling River of Dead, which I’d completed in May 2012. Bleeding Kansas was to be the prequel. So I wrote that prequel. 

Evolve or d—okay, I don’t know what the moral
 to this is. Or if there even is one.
But in the course of writing that prequel, something wonderful happened—and that’s aside from being picked up by Severed Press when I’d only just finished Chapter 17—I’d developed my skill set to such a degree that The Roiling River of Dead reads like a middle-school play compared to the dark adventure of Bleeding Kansas, and a paper-hat pre-school skit compared to Grace Among the Dead.

Although Grace Among the Dead follows the basic plot of Roiling River closely, the characters changed tremendously over time. Pastor Bryce was a demented bad guy in Roiling River, Deacon Walsh even slightly more cynical than he proves to be in Grace

Derek Grace himself was a no-name character full of blackest misanthropic rage—the readers who found him abrasive and unlikeable in Bleeding Kansas would have been aghast at his prototype in Roiling River of Dead, who deliberately and with malice aforethought knifed a woman in the gut who had betrayed him. 

I should write a full history of how this series came to be, if only to center myself for the third book in the series. Incidentally, I wrote the entire first act for that book two years ago, and you can bet I’m throwing out everything except the first chapter. I am not letting the old get in the way of the new again.

If there’s a big takeaway for you here, other than my nifty sequel to Bleeding Kansas being finished at last, it’s don’t try and write on top of your old stuff. That way leads to madness and delay and despair. Throw that old and busted stuff out—and if you wrote it over six months before, it should be old and busted. You should be getting better at this, not holding steady.

The story of Grace Among the Dead is one of how my first novel became my third—and it would be out there already if that’s how I’d treated it from the get-go.

Live and learn. On to the next thing, then.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

H.R. Giger, Dead by Tuesday

I was born on a Tuesday. So that means I’m so many weeks old today. I could calculate the exact number and make myself really depressed for all the time I’ve wasted. 

Hans Rudolf (“Ruedi”) Giger won’t celebrate any more birthdays. He died either yesterday or today (the accounts are maddeningly unspecific) as a result of a fall. He was 74 years old.

I expected him to be older. It’s a neat fact of life in A.D. 2014 that you don’t expect people to die in their 70s anymore. It seems young. Once you’ve made it to 80, sure, you’re a dead man walking. But to die at 74? Must have been an accident. And so it was.

I realize this still puts Mr. Giger in his early-to-mid 30s when he did the work I remember him most fondly for, the elaborately painted and die-cut cover for Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s 1973 masterpiece, Brain Salad Surgery.
The cover opened from the middle to expose more blue-metal bio-mechanical art. H.R. Giger’s design is one of the classics of the form once known as Album Cover Art, meant to be enjoyed while you listened to your LP.

Giger was nearly 40 when director Ridley Scott approved his design for the monster in Alien—a design that was one small part of a larger design called Necronom IV, which Giger had published as part of a book called Necronomicon in 1977. For better or worse, this would define the artist’s career for the rest of his life.

What’s left out in all the brief accounts of Giger’s life and death is how badly Giger ended up being treated, how he was denied royalties for use of his designs in later Alien movies (I remember the “Alien Insurrection” banner on Giger’s Web page when Alien Resurrection came out in 1997, urging viewers to boycott the film). 

By all rights, H.R. Giger should have been Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles rich. He did okay; he didn’t die destitute. Still, when you consider all the outrages we’re supposed to be outraged about, it’s remarkable to note this outrage of theft which actually hurt a man and his family, denying them the remuneration that that is rightfully theirs, isn’t brought up. 

That sorta-kinda tells ya something, doesn’t it?

H.R. Giger is gone. He left behind a fair-sized body of work outside the Alien franchise that’s worth checking out. As of this writing, I couldn’t get on to but maybe you can by the time you read this.

R.I.P., Hans Rudolf Giger.
This photo and the one at top of Giger with the Xenomorph egg were pinched from