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-whole-fucking-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

Great Moments in Failed Cover Art, Part 1

That poor, poor woman! Is that the world’s biggest skidmark, or a mutant Nazi-spawning fart cloud? I’m not sure I want to get close enough to find out.

This is another jewel from Pulp Covers, which I followed from the Google+ link. As for the book itself, it went through three covers—judging by the changes in design, from mid-60s (seen above) to early 70s kitsch (TRIGGER WARNING: topless white chick with Afro and automatic weapon), Assignment: Budapest was in print for a while. Not bad for a single entry in an action-adventure franchise.


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 crap 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. Think we can do that?

That this man is playing banjo to Slayer and doing it exceptionally well implies that possibility.
This photo is an old Internet Classic by itself.

A Night in the Life of My Twitter Feed

Seriously, though—what the blue blazing fuck, Walt Whitman! Where did you see these corpses rise? You’re saying they had super-quick self-healing powers and super strength? Holy shit!

The GS in GS Elevator Gossip refers to Goldman Sachs, and these tweets are remarks supposedly overheard on the job there by an anonymous employee. 

The HootSuite tweet at very bottom was too hilariously ironic not to include. 


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 homey don’t play that. 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 (you sick fucks! what is up with that psychoshit?), but the experience says a bit 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 goddamned 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 weird and 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 your sweet bippy I’m throwing out everything except the first chapter. I am not letting the old get in the way of the new again.

She says, giggling maniacally.
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.

Well, hell. 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. Fuck that. I bring enough on myself as it is.

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 (this doesn’t seem to be nearly as huge as Shirley Temple’s passing one dozen Tuesdays back) 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—a billionaire basketball team owner doesn’t like black people! swoon!—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?

So what have we learned new? Nothing, really. The media peddles bullshit and propaganda that barely resembles the reality outside our doors, and we shouldn’t be surprised at their omissions.

The only news here is H.R. Giger is gone. Also, 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


Sunday, May 11, 2014

State of the Apocalypse, Five-Eleven-Fourteen

State of the neglected blog...yesterday’s pulps, today’s e-books....

As the days bleed into one another and my blog coasts, I notice a lopsided competition between my two top-rated posts, “First Friday Blues” and “Zombie Vagina Thursday.” It’s as if there are rival groups of viewers looking to boost the views of each. So far, “First Friday Blues,” featuring a photo of a young and pretty Carrie Fisher in the surf, is far and away number one. 

It’s nice to know pretty trumps ugly, but “Zombie Vagina Thursday,” which features a photo of a young woman with the image of a cyanotic vagina tattooed on her lower back, has its fans. Every now and then it gets a surge in pageviews. Even at number two on the charts, it still has over twice the number of pageviews as number three, “Old Dead Man’s New Year’s Sucking Eve.”

Every now and then I have to resist the urge to delete these posts. They’re not exactly representative of what I’m trying to do with this blog. Whatever that is.

Whatever brings ‘em in the door, say my more dominant (if not better) angels. If I don’t like this, I can knuckle down and make a post people want to look at more than young Carrie Fisher or undead vagina tattoos.

Like everything else, it’ll have to wait until I get Grace Among the Dead put to bed. Meanwhile, “The Anarchist’s Commencement Address” is doing much better than I’d thought it would—better than my zompoc novel excerpts.

Oh, Internet! You so crazy!

“Trapped in a Nazi Hell-Hole With One Thousand Man-Hungry Women”? There are worse ways to go. First, though, I need to know what these women look like. Also, that “man-hungry” business is metaphorical, right? You can’t be too careful in these situations.

I found a new favorite site via Google+, Pulp Covers: The Best of the Worst. The proprietor is good enough not only to share his collection of lurid pulp magazine and book covers with us, he makes the large versions of them downloadable. I’ve already got a few tucked aside for wallpaper/screensaver duty.

Friday, 9 May was the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. The details of the publication, in which Austen was able to negotiate 100% royalties upon paying “expenses” for the book’s publication, already had me thinking about today’s bookselling world, in which much is done via e-books, either self-published, or arranged through a third party.

All of this together makes me think of the disposable fiction we see in 21st century e-books. (Calling it “pulp” gives this fiction a dignity “disposable” naturally throws away.) Before e-books there were the pulps, and well before them were the “penny dreadfuls,” so named because these tales came cheap and were dreadfully written and edited (if edited at all). For those who complain about self-published e-books (hi, Bob!), it was always thus. Our problem as 21st century genre e-pulpsters is the really bad crap is sharing virtual news stand space as the rest of us.

If you read the PastNow article on Austen’s publication of Mansfield Park, you’ll note part of her contract had her paying publishing expenses. It’s not something you hear of today—unless you’re self-publishing.

Of interest to people who are all about “the branding” is how Jane Austen credited her book Because women simply did not write books, according the 1814 custom, Jane Austen could not use her (now) famous name. She had to credit it as “By the same author of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and SENSE AND SENSIBILITY.” Once again, Content is Dictator for Life. Austen couldn’t use her name—but she still had bragging rights on novel titles we still know today, 200 years down the road.

Just write a book people like, and the rest should follow. They don't even need to know your name. Only that the same person who wrote a Known Good Work wrote it.

I cleaned my desk for the first time since, oh, last year. My God, it's beautiful!


Thursday, May 08, 2014

One Week into May, Assessing the Damage

The anarchist’s commencement speech in the last post took me by surprise, too. I’d scheduled that while drunk the last night of February, meaning to write up the introduction, clean up the text, etc., between then and the day before yesterday. I should have killed the thing altogether. It seemed like a funny joke at the time, having a genuine anarchist delivering a heartfelt commencement speech. Now, not so much. For one thing, it’s too damn long. 

In my defense, it still beats that tired-ass “Wear sunscreen” pabulum that was so popular at the turn of the millennium.

The hell of it is, it’s been over a week and I’ve been going nuts trying to come up with a post. I’d open a New Post window, look at it and think, “Oh, no! I really need to fix that chapter and blast through to Act 3! It’s May already! The blog can wait!” And whaddya know, Prince Kropotkin turns up. D’oh!

So I’ll never drunk-schedule another thing again. Especially this far into the future! February seems like a year ago already.

I almost did something idiotic for that idiotic “Star Wars Day” last Sunday, namely, the above graphic paired with a rant on why I liked Star Wars at first, and now merely tolerate it, because Return of the Jedi was dumb, Star Trek is better, etc. Oh, for God’s sake!

I could have gotten really pissy and bitchy and depressing talking about how 4 May is really Kent State Day. Four dead in Oh-hi-oh, man! “Star Wars Day” is grossly frivolous horseshit wallpapering over a day when U.S. troops turned and fired on unarmed U.S. citizens engaging their right to peaceably assemble.

Like anyone gives a shit. Judging by some of the comments I read on a recent article in which tape analysts supposedly isolated the order to fire on a recording made during the incident, most people are perfectly fine with what happened. Buncha dirty stoopit hippies and all that throwing rocks; they had it coming! They didn’t even give a shit anymore once the draft was ended in 1973! Etc. 

Just walk away, son. Walk away.... 

There was this hilariously morbid photo that came out during Spaghetti-Os unfortunate Pearl Harbor Day ad campaign that I was looking forward to use, though. Might as well whip it out. I don’t know if anyone will get it on the 45th anniversary of the massacre next year.

In New We Can Use, as of last night I smashed through the barrier that was Chapter 9, emerging with a new, entirely sympathetic secondary character. It’s been a hard couple of weeks, with days of me just staring at the copy, wondering where the hell to go with it. One section got rewritten about five or six times. It went from nearly a page to a short paragraph.

Protip for you aspiring writers out there: whenever you can take a long thing and make it shorter, whenever you can make a complicated thing simple, or forego the cute flashback to a previous book altogether, you do it.

Why did it take so long to do such a simple thing...well, look. It got done, all right? The bad times are behind us. Let’s get on to the Next Thing, namely Chapters 10, 11, and 12, and see how quickly we can bring on the alpha zombie attack that closes out Act 2. (I’m talking to the voices in my head here. We’re taking far too many meetings, by the way....)

With this behind me, I can take my shower and dig in. Meanwhile, I should knock out some more Drive-by Reviews. At least carve out some time to get away from my project, get some fresh air. I’ve even let my exercise slide. It never fails; you let one thing go, it all goes.