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6.28.2011

The Timucuan Portal

My story "The Timucuan Portal," a piece whose genesis first began on a boardwalk running trail through a dark canopy of mangroves and cypress trees, is now available in Dead But Dreaming 2. I wrote this story in a white-hot blaze. I put it down on paper after having a supremely unsettling encounter out there in the woods (not the first I've had, and very likely not the last, given the amount of time I spend off trail).

I've been fortunate that, in my short and unremarkable writing career, I've had the honor of working with some of the best editors in the speculative field. Working with Kevin Ross has been just another of those great experiences. This is a handsome book, and I'm honored to have a story in it, right next to a number of mythos writers I've been reading for years.

It's nice to be published, but to have the story treated really well is always a blessing.

6.27.2011

Book Review: Best New Zombie Tales, Vol. 1

James Roy Daley did a great job in collecting this first volume of zombie fiction. It's a large book (110,000 words and nineteen stories) that's filled with all sorts of narratives: shocking humor rubs elbows with more mundane existentialism in these pages. It's a nice break from the "run, scavenge, fight" school of zombie fiction (although fans of that type of thing won't be turned off by this book, either).

Best New Zombie Tales, Vol 1 was in the first batch of books that I purchased for the Kindle, and it has some formatting issues. Many of the paragraph indents didn't make translate for a few stories. It's a minor deal and wasn't a distraction. There were some pretty glaring typos, strangely enough, in just one of the stories (which is a little strange).

Still, minor stuff...

I enjoyed all of the stories to some extent, though a few clearly stood out. Ray Garton's "Zombie Love," a chilling story of the occult and the sorrow of lost love, was a fantastic way to begin the anthology. Mrs. Kobylka is the star here, a finely drawn character with veiled intentions. Keith, our protagonist, is a sympathetic character; the scenes in the third act, when the horror of just how far his love for Natalie has pushed him over the edge, are chilling. I think I honestly flinched while reading them.

Oh, and then there's Baltazar. Balty is a trip and, even though we see it coming, nothing quite pulls at the heartstrings like the thing Balty says to Keith in the third act.

Scary and compelling, this was a great tale among a bunch of fine work.

"Feeding Frenzy," by Matt Hults, was an interesting, frightening story. It felt like a mix between some Lovecraftian dimensional horror with a little bit of Serlingesque Twilight Zone on the side. Oh yeah, and it takes place in one of my favorite horror locales--the bizarre country diner. Scary and well written, this one will stick with you...

"The Man Who Breaks The Bad News" and "On The Usefulness Of Old Books" were really strong, polished tales that excelled in world building and delivered the chills with a dose of caution and morality.

My favorite tale, and one that was echoing through my mind a few days after I read it, was Simon McCaffery's "Connections." The relationship between father and son was very nicely rendered, which made the heartbreaking final act all the more difficult to take. McCaffery writes well--clear, concise prose that slowly ratchets the tension up until our characters' lives are literally crashing down all around them.

It's a nice collection--one a zombie lover will enjoy, but also an anthology that fans who like a little bit of attention and care in their narratives can appreciate. Exposition is accentuated in many of these stories, to good effect, and the authors took their care with plot. And a majority of the stories shared, at their core, some interesting discussions on the nature of human experience in the face of harsh conflict.

Very satisfying collection--I'll be taking a look at volume two down the road...

6.24.2011

These Strange Worlds: Fourteen Dark Tales

Supernatural narratives represent an important component of our storytelling heritage.

These stories—including fairy tales, urban legends, penny dreadfuls and modern pulps, among many others—leave a resonant echo throughout popular culture. In These Strange Worlds, Daniel Powell’s first collection of dark short fiction, these influences collide in fourteen startling and entertaining stories.

The lone survivor of a worldwide flu epidemic grows strangely attached to her parasitic partner…

A malevolent London rental has a voracious appetite for rock stars, and it’s building one hell of a band…

A wealthy oil trader is offered a glimpse into another dimension, but is the cost more than he can possibly bear?

From Satanic salesmen to zombie Ponzi schemes; from murdering murals to alien invasions, and other curious encounters along the way, These Strange Worlds takes readers on fourteen excursions into the realm of the uncanny. A mixture of new and previously published short stories, Powell’s first collection embodies the spectrum of imaginative possibility that is the hallmark of compelling speculative fiction.

Available for purchase in the following formats:

Friday Roundup...

I shot a 43 on the back nine at Mill Cove yesterday before a serious maelstrom rolled onto the course and I had to retreat inside. I had a couple of pops at the nineteenth hole and emerged none the better, shooting a danged 51(!) to complete the round. Suck...ass...


Still, only one three-putt on the whole day. I'll take that any time.



I became bombastic at the bar last week and I now find myself embroiled in a barbecue cook-off with a pair of restaurant chefs. I think those boys are in for it. I'm going to pick up my specially trimmed spareribs in about an hour, and then begins the process. 6:00 p.m. tomorrow evening, it's on! Pop by Mudville if you want to try a bone. I'm bringing loads for everyone...



Lyla has been enjoying the summer, and reveling in her mom's relaxed hours with work. Jeanne is just putting in about five per day, registering students for next year. She'll work next week, then have six weeks off, during which my girls will basically live at the beach! It's going to be a sandy house this summer.



I've been enjoying Master Chef on FOX. I'm pretty impressed by these amateur chefs and their abilities. The other day they had to prepare French cuisine. It occurred to me that I have no clue, whatsoever, what that entails. So I'm using my birthday gift certificate (thanks, Kathy and Dennis!) to purchase a French cookbook.



J.K. Rowling is self publishing her back list. Good for her. It's a wise choice.



Had some alligator tail with citrus dressing last night. Dang, we like that tasty reptile around here!



The hope today is to go see Super 8 with Jeanne and then bring Lyla to the zoo tomorrow. These wildfires have been crazy, though, so I'm not sure if the air quality will be conducive to seeing the "draffs." Still, we'll give it a shot!

6.15.2011

The Kindle Reading Experience

I like it.

Okay, I'll elaborate. I really like it. When I received one for my birthday (mmm....banana cream pie!), I was excited. There's much to like about going digital, not the least of which is the impact on the environment.

That said, I felt a little anxious too. I thought about books, and the fact that reading is one of my favorite things to do. Books have been such a large part of my life. From the time that I was able to read, I have always had one going. I love the TBR pile, and the stack of stories waiting on my nightstand.

Heck, I love the smell. You know you do to!

I love bookstores and libraries and browsing for gems at sales.

But I was shocked at how much I enjoyed the experience of reading on that little baby. I picked up a copy of Stephen King's "UR" (not very good; a solid Amazon ad, though) and dove right in. I found the ink highly readable and the formatting nicely suited to the 6" screen. It's essentially a lighter paperback in my hands, with some really neat scrolling features.

I can see myself becoming pretty attached to it.

I was happy to see the formatting on These Strange Worlds made the transition well (though I need to fix a spot here or there and make the table of contents searchable).

Overall, it's light years removed from the sterile reading experience I had suspiciously conjured in my mind. I'm going to grab a little cover for that sucker and load him up with books. And, even though I have the Kindle, I'm not turning away from print. In fact, I'm taking Lyla to the library tomorrow.

Happy co-existence, folks. It's all about the happy co-existence (although that's a bit of a far cry from this article)...

6.13.2011

Kind Words on These Strange Worlds

It's been a humbling month.

I'm very fortunate to have a support system of family and friends that encourage me often in my writing. Staring at the blinking cursor can sometimes be a daunting proposition, but the positive regard I've had from those who have read These Strange Worlds has been overwhelming.

I sincerely appreciate the support.

The collection has had a strong month, and reviews are starting to come in. I'm particularly thankful for the opinions of others in the speculative writing community, so I was very excited to read this review penned by writer and illustrator Lavanya Karthik.

Thanks, Lavanya, for looking at the stories. I'm glad there were a few that struck a chord with you!

6.10.2011

My Daughter the Naturalist

Lyla and I were driving down Merrill Road the other day after visiting the YMCA. We're bopping down the road in the truck, a little Bruce Hornsby on the stereo, having a fine old time.

"Look, Daddy! Piggies!"

"Yeah, sure Lyla. Piggies."

"Daaaddd-eeeee! Look--piggies!"

Sure enough, I looked over and there were two enormous, hairy hogs trotting along the side of the road.

We've seen bunnies, geese, armadillos, gators, turtles, horses, bass and snakes in the last few weeks. Most of those are just in our neighborhood.

The other day we were headed out to the beach and Lyla shouted, "Big monkey, Daddy! BIG MONKEY!"

"She's always saying that," Jeanne remarked. "I have no idea what she's talking about."

I looked over and saw a huge inflatable gorilla at the car dealership.

Big monkey indeed, Lyla. Big monkey indeed!

That girl's got a good set of peepers on her. Jeanne's celebrating graduation tonight, so the kid and I are thinking about going out for ribs. You should see that thirty-pound sucker attack a rack of babybacks!

6.09.2011

Exceptional Fiction

There have been some tremendous works of fiction published recently in great online magazines. "In Search Of," by Will Ludwigsen has been reprinted at Apex Magazine. It's a fantastic story, a collection of haunting answers that blend the big stuff with the personal stuff to arrive at the human core of a character. It's a fine achievement, and one I'm going to chat with the author about over a couple of pops next week.

Chris Miller's story "An Infallible System of Roulette," published in Redstone Science Fiction, is another skillfully rendered look at the complexities of what it means to simply "be." The writing is fluid and accessible, and I appreciate the scope of the story's subject.

Heck, I really appreciate that both of these writers tangled with the subjects of reality and truth. That they both brought some narrative clarity to such confusing topics is a testament to good storytelling.

If there was ever any stigma out there in the greater creative writing community about publishing stories on the Internet, it surely has to have been erased by now, hasn't it? There are many markets out there that pay well, that respect the material, that present stories professionally, that publish frequently, and that keep the material accessible for readers almost in perpetuity.

What's not to love about that?

Oh, and if you're interested in a great speculative read on your Kindle, take a look at this story...

6.08.2011

The Great Balancing Act

Just typed "The End" on only my second short story of 2011. It feels good, but I have to say that I'm not encouraged by my output at the word processor this year.

That's not necessarily a bad thing.

The pair of stories I've written this year are long. At least there's that.

One checks in near 8,000 words, the other at 6,000. In addition to these tales, which both feel like some of my strongest writing (though not my sharpest storytelling, which is a post for a different day) to date, I've put down roughly 13,000 words on a novel.

If my last three years have been any kind of reliable guide, I'm at about 50% of where I should be. In most years, I compose between fifteen and twenty short stories. I'll be happy to write five of them this year (in addition to getting that novel delivered to Bernadette).

So where does the time go? Well, Lyla was up this morning at 4:30 with nightmares (no more Tales from the Darkside with breakfast for us). The three of us still tried to get some rest, but that was pretty much the start of our day. Logging the daily word count on five hours of sleep is hard. Call me a pansy, a wuss--whatever--but it is.

I've also been teaching myself the principles of book design. It's an ongoing process that is enjoyable for those with a DIY ethos, but it definitely gobbles the hours.

I like to cook and exercise and spend time with my wife and daughter, and that's the lion's share of the rest of the day. Also, I don't want to let my students down or suck at my job, so there's loads of hours there.

I read at night and try to turn in at a reasonable hour (I've only watched the first quarter of two of the NBA finals games--THE FIRST QUARTER!), so there you have it.

But it's a good schedule for me. This is fine, and I don't feel like I'm rationalizing here. Being with Jeanne and Lyla, maintaining my health, and learning things like book design (teach a man to fish and all that) are foundational to the writing. Skimping in these other aspects of life would only make the writing process more difficult.

The one thing that every publishing "expert" seems to crow about that I really haven't made much time to dabble in is social networking. I'm not on Facebook or Twitter, and I only write sporadically in this web journal. My presence on Goodreads or Kindleboards is scant. I just don't have the time to do it, and I doubt that will change in the near future.

Alas, it's all a balancing act, and one I'm happily reconciled to. Now, off to revisions and submissions.

Have a good day, those reading this, regardless of what you're doing (hell, watch some Price is Right and think kindly of me, if you will...)!


6.04.2011

Survival


The year is 2209, and the hour has grown late for the human race.


Famine and disease have drastically compounded the misery of a warming planet.


With many billions scrambling after the Earth’s depleted resources, a multinational agency known as The Authority has instituted a population-control policy known simply as Labor.


In an effort to stem the tides of procreation and instill a measure of gender equality in the birthing process, men must survive a deadly twenty-four-hour gauntlet of chaos and destruction in order to earn the privilege to become fathers.


The Authority regulates every aspect of the birthing process, from ensuring that male subjects abstain from alcohol and prescription drugs to delivering each man a quota of sleepless nights.


Such is the case for Bryan Norton, whose wife’s due date has just fallen into testing range. Very soon, they will experience the joy of the birth of their son.


Norton has endured the year-long process of qualifying for Labor. He has sacrificed his health and comfort for the chance to become a father.


But the greatest test still lies ahead, and the chances are slim that he’ll ever hold his son in his arms.


Daniel Powell’s new dystopic novelette “Survival” poses an enduring human question: How far would you go to be with your family?


Drawing upon influences as diverse as Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game,” Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron” and Stephen King’s The Running Man, “Survival” is a chilling narrative on the nature of parenthood in turbulent times.

6.03.2011

The Vagaries of Capitalization

In sorting through some revisions on a novelette I've been working on the other day, I encountered a tricky editing conundrum.

How should one treat capitalization for titles in the case of replacing proper nouns.

In accordance with the excellent handbook Rules for Writers, Sixth Edition, I always follow the rule as it adheres to family members and high-ranking officials. The text indicates we should capitalize in any instance other than possessive relationships.

For example:

I enjoyed my afternoon at the beach with my dad and mom.



or



We spent the afternoon at the beach, and Dad caught a nice fish in the surf.



Seems simple enough, right? I had an exchange between a father and his son, and that stuff was pretty easy to correct. It gets tricky, though, when we substitute other terms (often nicknames or personal endearments) for proper nouns.



In this case, I opted to leave the terms in the lower case (there was no conclusive discussion of treatment in Rules).



For example:



You tried, kid. That's all we could ask.



or



Thanks for thinking of us, sweetie. That's very kind of you.



An exception would be a nickname that replaces a proper noun through long usage (The Sundance Kid).



It's confusing, to be sure, and one of those nebulous areas of English mechanics that often boils down to house rules. As I read, I pay attention to how publishers deal with these variations, and they certainly lack uniformity.



Just as The New York Times and the Oregonian have their own style sheets, so too do various publishers. It makes it difficult, on occasion, to teach these lessons. That said, the best advice is to adopt a position on the usage and stay consistent.



And I'm one to talk. My novel An Autumn Harvest has been out there in the world for a while (awhile is nonstandard, though not corrected by spell checkers) and I know it needs a brush-up in a few of these areas.


For further discussion of the subject, try this link and this link...