- Flesh by Richard Laymon
- Level 26: Dark Origins by Anthony Zuiker
- Bestial by Ray Garton
- The Bone Factory by Nate Kenyon
- Zombie Bukake by Joe Knetter
- Far Dark Fields by Gary Braunbeck
- The Shore by Robert Dunbar
- Sacrifice by John Everson
- Urban Gothic by Brian Keene
- Dead Tide by Stephen A. North
- Death Mask by Graham Masterton
- Unabridged, Unabashed, and Undead by Eric S. Brown
- The Golem by Edward Lee
- Zombology edited by Rebecca E. May
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
- Preditors and Editors - Bar none, the most important site for a writer. This site tells you in no uncertain terms who the good publishers and editors are, who are just out to scam you, and who actually pays and /or makes sales. Good things to know.
- Writer Beware - Warnings about hucksters on the internet. Before you sign any contract, check with these guys first.
- Duotrope - A cool database in which you can customize your search for someone who wants to publish your work.
- Ralan's - A constantly-updated listing of who publishes what.
- Query Tracker - A free database of literary agents all over the world, and a way to keep your queries organized. And to track them.
- Writers Market - The old standby, and still one of the best.
- Agent Query - An absolutely HUGE database of agents and how to get hold of them.
Friday, August 21, 2009
- "It's" vs. "Its" - This rule has stumped people for a long time, and it's really quite simple. Unlike most of the rest of this silly convoluted language we call English, the apostrophe doesn't show possession. It only shows the contraction of "it is." For any other use, "its" is the appropriate word. Example: It's going to take a lot of work to bring its purpose to light."
- "There" vs. "Their" vs. "They're" - Sure, they sound alike, but the three words have distinctly different meanings. "There" indicates a place. Example: It's neither here nor there. "Their" indicates ownership. Example: He took them back to their car, where he killed them. "They're" is the contraction of "they are." Example: They're not going to like it when they find out. So to put it all together: They're going over there to find their car.
- "Here" vs. "Hear" - "Here" is a place. "Hear" is one of your senses. You "hear" someone breathing under the bed. You call your mother and ask her to "come here and see what's breathing under the bed."
- "Damn" vs. "Damned" - If you see something written that reads "take your damn hands off her," it's wrong. Just plain wrong. "Damn" is a verb, plain and simple. To "damn" something is to condemn it to Hell. "Damned" is an adjective, or modifier if you will. Whatever you put that word in front of, you're telling the world that it can go to Hell for all you care. "Damn" can also be used as an expletive, by the way. So you can say "Damn, nature, you're scary!" or you can say "Get your paws off me, you damned dirty ape!"
- "I could/couldn't care less" - Too many times, people say "I could care less" about any particular subject. But read that sentence carefully. By saying you could care less, you imply that you do, in fact, care. The proper phrase is "I couldn't care less," because if you don't care, there's no lower level of caring for you to go to. Therefore, you really couldn't care less.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
- What stage of development is it? Genesis? Pre industrial? Highly industrial?
- Planet composition - Is it iron core? Is it carbon based? What's the atmosphere like?
- Dominant species - Creationist or Evolutionist, you still have to figure out how the dominant species on the planet became so.
- What rules of chemistry, physics, or other odd bits of science do you need to know in order for your species to survive, and for your planet to function?
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
"Horror!" I exclaimed.
"Oh," they said. "You write genre fiction." Then they turned up their noses and walked away.
I'm going to be in San Antonio signing copies of my books and mingling with the stars on August 27-30, at the Alamo Draft House! Come by and see me, buy some books, and have a blast! Guests include Bill Johnson (Leatherface from TCM2), Tony Moran (the first Michael Meyers), Ari Lehman (the ORIGINAL Jason Voorhees) and more! Oh...And I'll be there too. In case you were wondering. There will also be a whole bunch of movies screened (Like I said, it's a film festival) and much more! If you can make it out, you really should!
Saturday, August 15, 2009
- If everyone can use it, it isn't magic. It's science. - Okay, that may come across as inflammatory to some people, but lets look at it for a moment. "Magic" is unknown. "Magic" is a mysterious power. Most important, "Magic" is special to only the few who can use it. That's why it's called "Magic." Fire was once called "Magic," but we've gotten past that because a majority of the world walks around with little portable fire-starters (lighters) in their pockets. What a computer does is, to many people, still quite magical because those people still can't understand how a hunk of plastic and silicon can create so much interesting stuff. But, chances are, if you're reading this, you own a computer. Just like most other people in the world. It's not magic to you. It's technology. If you build a world in which everyone, down to the last little person, uses magic, doesn't it stand to reason that it would lose a great deal of its mystery, and would be commonplace, and would therefore be taken for granted? If you have a world where everyone can do some extraordinary thing, would they think it was extraordinary? No. They'd find it normal. Magic isn't normal, now is it?
- Magic isn't a catch-all - Too many times, I've seen young writers come in and explain away an incredible amount of unbelievable events with the byline of "Magic." He's being attacked. Magic. His friends are falling. Magic. His room is messy. Magic. In fact, many times, the characters use so much "Magic" that the reader is left wondering why there's any conflict at all. If the character can just magic his way out of everything, why isn't he living high up on a mountain somewhere living the good life and using magic to suit his every need? A character that can do absolutely anything through magic is boring. It's trite. And it's also wholly impossible for a reader to relate to them. If he's so all powerful, he would be a god. Instead of having your character use magic to get out of every little thing, make them use their brains. Make them make choices. Make them living, breathing creatures that have to struggle to overcome odds because that's what makes a story interesting.
- Magic has a cost. - Magic is energy, or the manipulation thereof. Ask yourself this: Where is that energy coming from and how is it directed? If it comes from inside the person or elsewhere, it's still being directed by the character. That's all fine and dandy, but guess what? Your character is now a conduit. Let's put it in terms of electricity. Your character is a wire, electricity is the magic. The source of the magic is, let's say, a 9-volt battery. Hook up the battery to the wire and let it go. Eventually, the energy will run out, just like magic. But then let's say you hook up a car battery to the same wire. What happens? First it gets red-hot, then it melts the casing off, then the wire melts, then you're left with a dead wire. The same thing applies to the theory of magic. Your character's body is the wire. The energy coursing through him is using him to travel, much like the wire. Too much energy going through him will burn him out. If the energy is coming from inside him, what happens when fatigue sets in? Or if he uses all of his energy? The energy runs out. Your character dies. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, really. But what I am saying is that, no matter what, you have to show that there is some cost to using that energy. Does it make him tired? Does it hurt? Does it strip away a piece of his soul whenever he uses it? What is it that limits the magic? What makes a superhero so interesting? Is it is powers, or his weaknesses? I'm putting my money on the latter.
- Learn the Rules - Magic, like everything else, has limitations, laws, and rules. Especially if you're working with an established system of Magic (like Wicca, for example). If you're writing a story about a group of witches, learn about the philosophy of Witchcraft, Druidism, Vodun, and every other religion that uses magic (Catholics, though they won't admit it) so you can write about it like you know what you're talking about and don't come off as a tool. If you're creating your own system, fine and dandy, but figure out where the limitations of your system are before you go writing and making it up as you go along. The readers may never see your "rule-book," but they'll get the idea when you start showing those laws.
- Learn your Terminology - If I say "Witch," what do you think of? How about "Satanist?" How about "Druid?" The fact of the matter is, most of us have been spoon-fed media-slanted half-truths our entire lives, and only the truly intelligent question it. For example, I know quite a few "witches," and absolutely none of them are green, have warts on their noses, or wear black peaked hats (except on Halloween, and then as an inside joke). They're not evil, don't put hexes on people, and generally believe in being as good to each other as possible. Satanists? Guess what...They don't sacrifice babies. In fact, true "Satanism" doesn't particularly believe in the concepts of good and evil, nor do they get up every day saying they're going to dedicate their lives to Satan. They're more hedonists, and pretty much leave everyone else alone. However, screw with them, and their doctrine says they have every right to destroy you. The name "Satanism" came from a loveable little kook named Anton LeVey, who chose the name just to be controversial. Ever hear about pentagrams and candles being referred to as part of a "Satanic Cult?" No...That's not really true. The Pentagram isn't an evil symbol, and candles are used everywhere. Nine times out of ten, the "Satanic Cult" that people are looking for are bored teenagers lashing out at their parents or another hopelessly deluded individual who believes what he sees in movies. You, as a writer, should be smart, educated, and should strive to not fall into such bullshit. You must be more intelligent than that, lest you offend the wrong groups or, worse, the people who actually do know what's what will cry bullshit and tell everyone that your work is sophomoric, idiotic, and pandering. And we wouldn't want that, now, would we?
City of Demons is my newest novel, released in July from Library of the Living Dead press. It also is kind of an experiment, in that it's the bloodiest thing I've written, and I wanted to try to write something in the "noir" genre made famous by Dashell Hammett and Mickey Spillane. It's about a cop who tracked down a serial killer that almost killed him, but left him with a curious and terrible ability: If he touches a person, living or dead, he experiences the last few moments of that person's life. Sights, smells, tastes, everything. Imagine reliving the last few moments of a victim of a brutal killing, and you'll see why this is such a problem.
The Divine Madness of Absolute Clarity:
An Introduction by Gary A. Braunbeck
I’m not going to tell you a damned thing about this novel you’re holding in your hands right now; I’m not going to tell you how Scott Johnson creates an atmosphere of almost unbearable tension that starts with the very first paragraph and never lets up; I’m not going to tell you about the emotional layers he uses in creating the all-too-real human beings who populate these pages, nor am I going to go on at length about how the shifting dynamics of the characters’ relationships ring so true that often-times you’re going to feel like you’re voyeuristically eavesdropping on the most private and intimate moments of someone else’s life; I will avoid discussing how Scott Johnson understands the difference between genuine tragedy and the merely tragic – something that all too few horror writers seem to grasp (or care about) in this age of the Rampant Zombie Boogie – which, with the exceptions of a small handful of writers’ work, cannot end quickly enough for me; I’m not even going to get into the beautifully-orchestrated set-pieces that, combined with the excellent characterizations and the authenticity of fear that lies at the core of the story, propel City of Demons to a level of near-operatic grandeur in the final third; I won’t discuss his menacingly poetic narrative voice, nor how his dialogue is as crackling and literate as anything penned by Rod Serling, Richard Matheson, or Charles Beaumont; and rest assured that I will not waste your time or mine by describing the jaw-dropping, epic, and beautifully grotesque imagery that reads like Johnson has taken Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights and transposed it to modern-day Houston, Texas; I’m not going to discuss any of that. Instead, I want to tell you a little bit about Scott Johnson himself.
Picture, if you will, a demented leprechaun. Add about sixteen inches of height, a sharply-trimmed goatee, and give it a voice that falls somewhere between Richard Burton and Tommy Lee Jones, and … you might have some idea of what to expect if you ever meet him in person. Yes, he’s a bit on the small side, but so is a vial of nitro.
You can feel his energy for his work, and when he discusses his love of the craft, you cannot help but listen.
And then there are his eyes. Go on-line and look at his author’s photo on his website, or photos taken of his readings at any convention, and you’ll note immediately that there is a barely-contained creative insanity lurking In There. This is a man who does not see the same world the rest of us do. I do not mean he sees the world differently than us – he sees a completely different world, and that mad sparkle in his eyes tells you that Scott Johnson is warped in the best of all possible ways – the embodiment of what Oscar Wilde called, “… the divine madness of absolute clarity.”
Scott Johnson’s clarity of vision is absolute. I have had the pleasure of seeing him evolve from a damned good writer into one who displays the range and control of the truly gifted. There are several sequences in City of Demons (especially its bravura finale) that very easily could have tipped over into the absurdly over-done, piling grotesquerie on top grotesquerie for the sake of shocking or grossing out the reader, but like a good actor who knows that the quality of a performance is best measured by the control which he or she orchestrates in peeling back the onion layers of a character’s psyche, a good horror writer knows that terror, heartbreak, and revulsion are their most effective and affecting when the reader is given just enough of a glimpse of the horror to know they don’t need or want to see anymore; a telling detail, a small line of blood trickling across the floor from behind a closed door, a terrible sound from somewhere behind … it can more than enough when the writer knows when and how to exercise control, and – just as importantly – when the writer trusts in the intelligence and imagination of his or her readers.
Scott Johnson trusts his readers, he respects their intelligence, and knows they are sharp enough to fill in the blanks for themselves, thus making their reading of his work all that more a personal and intimate experience – because, let’s face it, take away any and all blurbs, words of praise, the bells and whistles of word of mouth, Internet publicity, great cover art, all of it, and it boils down to this: terror is arguably the most intimate of individual human emotions, and to provoke that reaction with mere words on a page requires that the writer and reader both agree to step into that dark alley together. The writer knows what’s back there, but you don’t, and as a reader you accept that, trusting that the writer does indeed know what lies back in those shadows between the dank brick walls. And he does – just look at his eyes. He sees what you can’t, but also knows that half the joy in this process is making the reader believe that he’s in the dark as just as they are.
That’s where the control factor really kicks in. There are many writers who are so impatient to get to the punchline of a sequence, so determined to get to “Z” that they forget to go from “A” to “B” and so on. Not Scott Johnson. This is a writer who, here, is in complete command of the English language and in total control over his story. Scott loves horror, and that comes through. He knows that story is king, and he its humble messenger.
A good writer also knows when he’s worn out his welcome, so allow me to make a quick and (hopefully) graceful exit with this last thought:
What you hold in your hands is, in my opinion, an almost perfect horror novel; and the only reason I qualify it with the “almost” is because Johnson hasn’t written his next one yet.
So climb into the cruiser with the nightcrawlers and hold your breath as the real nightlife of Houston, Texas comes out to play.
Gary A. Braunbeck
Lost in Ohio
June 4, 2009