Very Thankful...

Frozen has been doing very well over the last few days both here in the United States and in the United Kingdom. Thanks very much to those who have picked up copies and dropped me a note on the story!

Torched, a sequel to the novella, will be out later in the year. Speaking of hot weather, I just took a jog on the beach and we hit ninety degrees today. Dang it feels nice out there! 


Through Shattered Glass

David B. Silva is a damned fine writer. Through Shattered Glass is filled with emotional, imaginative tales. Silva explores the depths of loss and regret and fragility with grace in these stories. His voice is smooth and clean; the tone of these tales is clearly melancholic, but there is a hint of redemption there as well (I detect a hint of Ray Carver in these little gems).

"The Calling" and "Dry Whiskey" are among my favorites. It's a fine collection, and well worth your time.


You, um...you like reading? READ THIS!

Inspired by Brian Keene's post on his favorite writers of all time, I must also create a list. Why? Shoot, this is what storytellers absolutely love. Where do stories come from? Of course they come from the strange things that happen to each of us on a daily basis (on Monday, my daughter barfed twice on the way to school, our television bit the big one, and my truck was the unfortunate victim of a hit-and-run at the college), but life is also an echo chamber.

My wife hears my old man's laugh in my chuckles. For that I'm very proud, by the way, because he is a damned good man. 

But it goes far beyond that. 

Everything that we read and everything that we enjoy informs our sense of taste. Simple and true and obvious, but that's it. What we read comes out in our writing.

These are my favorites, in no particular order (except for maybe the first three):

1) Stephen King
2) Ray Carver
3) Joe Lansdale
4) Robert McCammon
5) Ray Bradbury
6) Cormac McCarthy
7) Ernest Hemingway
8) Willa Cather
9) Jeff Ford
10) Charlotte Perkins Gilman
11) Shirley Jackson
12) Neil Gaiman
13) Ursula Le Guin
14) David James Duncan
15) Jon Krakauer
16) C.S. Lewis
17) J.R. Tolkien
18) Jack London
19) Madeleine L'Engle
20) Tom Robbins
21) Rod Serling
22) John Bellairs
23) Laird Barron
24) Elmore Leonard
25) John Grisham

This list will change. I tried to consider each stage of my reading appetites in compiling it. Tolkien and London will probably never vacate their spots, as they so captivated my attention during a certain period of my youth. But the fact is that when I was a kid, I chewed through books like a piranha. I read them all. I have my doubts that L'Engle's stuff will be as great when I read the stories to my daughter, but I'm hoping they'll be as good. I've re-read Tolkien and Lewis many times, and they transcend both age barriers and genre boundaries. The surprising thing is how good Lewis's short fiction was, and how scathing his non-fiction could be.

That man was not shy with his opinions.

King and Carver will always be there as well. Their ability to captivate has provided me with hundreds (if not more) of hours of entertainment. I've spent more time with Carver and King than I have with anyone outside of my close friends and my family. I doubt they are going anywhere soon.

Ray Bradbury and Rod Serling. Hard to mess with those two.

As I compile this list, I'm fortunate to say that I've recently begun to sell a solid quantity of books. I'm also placing some stories (some of which, I hope, are pretty good) with really good magazines and anthologies. All of this is gratifying. It's nice to have your stories enjoyed. I include this paragraph only to say that every writer on the list I made above has been an important factor in my own ability to tell stories. I hope that at some point, my own stories will inspire folks to enjoy quality narratives. 

Artists create so that people can enjoy good art. If you like your art filled with mastery and wonder and intrigue and adventure and anxiety and dread and anger and magic and terror and nature and treachery and...well, litigation, then you need to feast on the books by the people I listed above.

There and Back Again...


Hopped on an airplane many moons ago and flew to Seattle, only the airline didn't have their act together and we were delayed in Chicago. Stayed at the airport hotel and flew in the next day, then spent three great days with Jeanne's folks. We drove over Snoqualmie pass (snow) and into Pendleton and had three great days with my folks. 

Man, my nephew Riley is some kind of a great kid! He'll be one in a few days...

It snowed on us as we left town, then we hit snow twice more on the way to the Oregon Coast. You could see the snow in the hills from the beach, so it was falling down to just a few hundred feet above sea level, which is unusual (and even more so, given the fact that it was late March!). We had two great days and then shot back up the road to Seattle, where Lyla met her great grandparents. We flew home the next day and arrived at our house at midnight.

Sheesh, what a trip! 6,000 miles in the air, and over a thousand in the rental car. Lyla was a trooper. She was incredibly patient for a girl that just celebrated her third birthday.

That little girl loves her family. She had a wonderful time playing with her cousins and grandparents, and we are blessed to have such good people in our lives. I played some golf with my dad and with my buddy Kris. We had a lot of laughs and ate some great meals. We relaxed and put our feet up and recharged our batteries.

It was a great time, and now I feel refreshed to finish the spring term up well and to get back to some writing projects. Here's to hoping that spring has sprung where you are, and that the flowers are opening up and the days are growing long and warm...


An Interview...

I'd like to thank Al over at Big Al's Books and Pals for allowing me a chance to talk a little bit about my writing and my work with FSCJ! 

Al does a great deal for the reading and writing community in keeping that website filled with interesting reviews and interviews, and I certainly appreciate his efforts to support writers (across a wide variety of genres) in his work there...


Is Winter Over in Northeast Florida?

I played golf yesterday after work and had a really nice time on the course. With the time change, we kept the light until 7:30 p.m. and I had the place to myself for the last ninety minutes. They'd just mowed the course and it was about eighty degrees--just about my favorite time of the day, when the shadows get long and the sky turns pink and orange.

Today, I took my jog out at the beach. There had to be 10,000 people between Bay Street and the pier. There were hundreds of surfers bobbing around out there on the waves, red-faced kids and their heart-surgery-scarred grandparents, girls with orange skin that smelled like coconuts, tattooed Kevin-Federline-looking guys sipping cold drinks out of solo cups, fisherman and kite fliers and even one punk-ass, middle-aged jogger in a yellow Oregon Ducks tee-shirt weaving through all of it while listening to golf commentary on the ol' headphones.

It was hot, and it was nice. We'll be back up to ninety before too long.

I'm no Matt Zaffino, but I did take meteorology at Linfield College and, given the irrefutable facts of what I saw on the beach today, I'm confident in stating that winter is officially done up here in Duval County. 


Silent House

While The Artist garners all of the critical praise and blockbuster awards, another (mainly) silent film has captivated audience attention in the last week. Silent House had enough unsettling moments to make my wife consider walking out of the theater. This film is brimming with suspense, and the claustrophobic atmosphere and surreal setting, coupled with a star-making performance by Elizabeth Olsen, mark this as one of the better horror films I've seen in the theater in a long time.

Roger Moore and Roger Ebert both discussed the fact that audiences seemed encouraged to interact with the film. It is that kind of movie, and we saw the same thing happen when we attended. A loud group in the back of the theater contributed more dialogue to the proceedings than the writers of the film, and that kind of sucked, but it didn't detract too much from the film.

The first two acts are excellent. That shot of Olsen running outside of the house was pure frenzied release. Awesome job of visual storytelling.

And her performance was chilling. She emoted in such fierce terror through a few scenes that my heart broke for her. She sustained the intensity, and did a great job throughout the film. 

The story slides into pure allegory in the third act, and I called the ending at least thirty minutes before the tone of the film shifted. It's pretty telegraphed, but that doesn't lessen the emotional impact any. The monsters here are real, and those final shots made my heart break all over again. The film stops being scary at that point, and it starts being just...just very sad.

I like this as a solid 'B' and I would recommend that horror fans take a look at it in the theater. The walls will creep in on you, and the water stains in the ceiling will begin to look remarkably like toxic mold... 


After the Apocalypse

There are some really great stories in After the Apocalypse, by Maureen F. McHugh. It's a 3.5/5 for me, so I'll round up in this case. "The Naturalist," "Special Economics" and "After the Apocalypse" were my favorite stories. These tales each had a sense of urgency, a narrative tension that begs the reader to work quickly toward the pay-off. That's a double-edged sword with McHugh's writing, though, because there is some serious beauty in her prose. She's a keen observational writer, and she turns a phrase well.

In "Useless Things," she effectively pegs the circumstances attendant to the financial meltdown in America. She uses setting to effectively add dimension to her characters:

The suburbs are full of walkaway houses--places where homeowners couldn't meet the mortgage payments and just left, the lots now full of trash and windows gone. People who could went north for water. People who couldn't did what people always do when an economy goes soft and rotten: they slid, to rented houses, rented apartments, living in their cars, living with their families, living on the street.

But inside Sherie's parents' home it's still twenty years ago. The countertops are granite. The big-screen plasma TV gets hundreds of channels. The freezer is full of meat and frozen Lean Cuisine. The air conditioner keeps the temperature at a heavenly seventy-five degrees. Sherie's mother, Brenda, is slim, with beautifully styled graying hair. She's a psychologist with a small practice.

Indeed, one of the charms of this collection is the variety of crises explored throughout the stories. The apocalyptic narratives run the gamut, from disease to zombie problems and financial ruin. 

A few stories didn't quite deliver on the promise set up in their first acts, sometimes grinding to a halt in their focus on scientific minutia, which took the spotlight off of the characters. 

Still, this is a good collection and well worth the attention of fans of speculative fiction and post-apocalyptic stories.


Peyton in Jacksonville

With the news that the Colts are parting ways with Peyton Manning, I wonder if Peyton might think about coming down to dirty Duval to play with the big cats? How about this, Gene Smith?

  • We don't know what the cap will be yet, but let's say the Jaguars have $46 million to spend. Bring Peyton to town on an incentive-laden four-year deal. Let's say he counts for $18 million against the cap. You sign Robert Meachem to stretch the field ($4 million) and you re-sign Jeremy Mincey, Dwight Lowery, Matt Roth and bring Rashean back. You focus on making Robiskie the player we thought he'd be two years ago and he can settle down in the patterns and go across the middle. You put Mike Thomas back in the slot and mix Dillard in for twelve snaps a game. Rashad Jennings will be back to spell Maurice Jones-Drew, and Marcedes can't be as bad as he was last year. 
  • Draft the best available player with the seventh pick. Don't draft for position need--just take the best available player! We've missed on too many first-round choices, and we need dynamic players. You can look at the last three years and count dozens of players taken after Monroe, Tyson and Blaine. Don't take Quinton Coples, though. Dude has baggage, and we can't miss on another one of these picks. Hopefully, Justin Blackmon is still there.
  • Give Blaine a chance. Doing this would preserve the Jags' investment in Blaine by allowing him the time to mature behind Manning. Worked for Aaron Rodgers, it can work for Blaine. In three years, Blaine will be twenty-five. Twenty-five! He could play for the Jags for another dozen years after Peyton hangs them up for good.
Come on, Mr. Kahn! Now is the time. You take the league's best running back, one of the best defenses, a great kicking game and add a hall-of-fame quarterback and this team is loaded for a serious run. 

Let's do it, Jags! Come on down, Peyton. We have some long days and pleasant nights down here in Big Cat City!


A Day on the Water

Spent the afternoon on the water today. There were ospreys, turkey vultures, redfish and trout, dozens of lizards and hermit crabs, a few big blue crabs and a human gardener. Fish are jumping and the days are getting warm again. We ate some ribs with Lyla at the picnic table in the backyard and drank some good stout Oregon beer. This is the best time of the year in Northeast Florida, without a doubt...


The Walking Dead Season Two

I was a little skeptical of the direction this show was taking in the early portion of the season. There seemed to be a little too much repetition in the ideas (that whole "Dale took away my choice" thing among the most tedious plot points) that were floating around, and it seemed like they were going in bizarre directions with the Carl shooting.

Then Shane started going a little nutty and the Sophia subplot developed and they stumbled across Hershel's farm and my interest picked up. Things seem to be moving forward nicely now, and there's a sense of continuity to their struggles that was lacking a bit when they were just moving from place to place. 

Frank Darabont seems to really like the idea of toying with natural selection (everything is food for something else), depicting raw human power struggles (Shane and Rick and Lori and Andrea) and debating the utility of perseverance in the face of tragedy (suicide has been a recurring theme in the show).

All in all, I'd say that season two got off to a rough start but is now really bringing the goods after last year's promising debut. The actors appear more comfortable in their roles (I still don't like a few of the casting choices, but I've grown to tolerate them) and the story seems to be building toward an explosive conclusion for this year.

And that doesn't even bring to bear two of the more intriguing story angles from last year: what happened to Daryl's brother, and what will become of the father and son that Rick was trying to stay in contact with early on in the show?  

You Know When It's Good

If you spend any real time at the word processor, you understand that sometimes the writing flows and you just know in your heart and in you...