5.31.2012

The Silver Coast and Other Stories




Collected here for the first time, The Silver Coast and Other Stories features eleven disquieting explorations of the human condition.


Retribution and reunion. Mutation and madness. Famine and hunger and war and disease.


These tales shine a light on the dark margins of human curiosity.


What really happened in Muhammad Ali’s last fight?


Does Florida’s skunk ape exist and, if so, what are its origins?


What lurks beneath that tattered slipcover in the side yard of that crumbling house at the end of the street?


Go ahead—take a peek! Satisfy your curiosity, and take a long stroll down the rocky sands of the Silver Coast…

Thanks very much for reading! I hope these stories provide an entertaining escape...

5.29.2012

Reading by Flashlight

What a tale of two weekends...

Saturday broke hot and sticky. The humidity was up, the sun scorching, and there was a palpable quality of mayhem building in the atmosphere. Things definitely intensify in the hours before a big storm. The humidity spikes, then plummets (seemingly without reasoning); the wind billows hard and fast for a minute, then every tree in the area becomes perfectly still; you can smell the storm clouds as they bunch up overhead, then the sky absolutely fractures with lightning.

On Saturday, Lyla and I went to the pool while Jeanne worked on graduation preparations at the high school. I hit the golf course at 5:30 (shot a personal best 82, which has been a long time coming, let me tell you!) and watched all of the above happen. I got back inside just ahead of the first bands of wind from Tropical Storm Beryl

Sheesh, the wind whipped pretty hard, and a lot of trees went down while the lightning put on a show. We brought Lyla into our room to sleep with us. I was enjoying a book when, around 10:00, the lights flickered. They did it a few more times and then died for good twenty minutes later, not to return until the following afternoon. I read for an hour with a flashlight, like I used to when I was a kid back in John Day, Oregon.

It was nice, for a short time.

We saved our fridge full of groceries with ice from Winn Dixie (had things gone south more quickly, it would have been the second time in less than a year that we lost a full icebox), and we had a nice morning without any electricity.

Still, there's something about Florida humidity in May that makes a person long for air conditioning. It's fine if you choose to be outside in it (which I often do), but it's kind of insufferable to be sitting indoors and just feeling sticky all day.

We had some branches come down in the yard, but no damage. JEA got the power turned on, and it's been fine since then (as I write this, it's about as dark as dusk outside and the rain is pounding down again), though this tropical depression is expected to drop another six inches on us by Friday.

It's funny. We were in drought conditions three weeks ago. All of the ponds in the area were down, and the golf courses were parched. Now, cars are washing away, businesses are flooding, creeks are popping out of their banks and my front yard is washing out into the street.

We've had seven inches of rain in forty-eight hours here in Brookwood Forest. 

Whew. It's nice to get the rain, but as Lyla said, "I miss my Florida sunshine."

5.25.2012

Kind Words on The Silver Coast and Other Stories

The greatest compliment I can pay a writer is that his or her work gets me excited to hit the word processor each day, so it was a huge thrill to read this review of my forthcoming collection, The Silver Coast and Other Stories.


Thank you, Meaghan, for taking a look at the collection. I'm glad you enjoyed the stories!


(It's a special circumstance for me as well, because my family is from Baltimore. My aunt still lives there, and my folks both graduated from Bel Air High School. And the Orioles are in first place!)

Educating Our Young People One Song at a Time...



Just listen to it, and dance around...

5.23.2012

Somebody Finally Did It...

An adult slapped an unruly ten-year-old kid that was chatting through a film and throwing popcorn at other patrons. 

Wow. 

Like Shawn Levy, I agree that whacking a kid is a bit too much. Still, that little punk needed to go home, and I certainly understand the slapper's angst. 

I recently tried to attend an 11:45 showing of The Cabin in the Woods. I chose that time specifically to eliminate the "talks-to-the-screen" crowd, which is typically made up of younger folks whose smart phones light up two dozen times an hour.

I figured that, because it was a school day (and the middle of the day, to boot!) the theater would be filled with adults.

Not so. There was a line of high schoolers stretching out to the parking lot. Seriously, how do these kids skip so much school? It's no wonder only one in two kids earn a traditional high school diploma in our city...

I'm fine with shaming idiots that can't behave in the theater. I'll buzz the tower with a piece of candy, or simply tell the offender to shut up. Folks don't like to be called out, but it's on them for inviting such ridicule.  

There is a system of etiquette in attending a film. Sure, you may have paid for your ticket like everyone else, but that doesn't give you the right to be a distraction for those around you.

Stop talking to the movie.

Stop talking on your cell phone.

Stop bringing your misbehaving children to films that aren't age-appropriate.

Stop being a jackass.

Sit still and shut your mouth and enjoy the film like the rest of the people that paid to listen to the audio without your hilarious wit augmenting the soundtrack...  

5.22.2012

Coming Soon...


Revenge is a dish best served cold?


Not this summer. 


Torched, a follow-up to the thriller Frozen, will be available shortly...   

5.21.2012

Hard Days at the Top of the World

Mount Everest presents one of humanity's greatest challenges, in more ways than one. Sadly, three climbers lost their lives recently in the Death Zone, and a pair of others have not yet been located.

The climbing season, by virtue of its short length, presents climbers with a classic dilemma: push hard against the prevailing wisdom of the climbing community and the elements, or risk not ever getting to the top at all?

Many of these climbers take six months off from their jobs. They train like Olympic athletes for months and years, and they often spend tens of thousands of dollars for thirty minutes at the top of the world.

When weather conditions offer only brief glimpses of the brass ring, human nature leads individuals to create the conditions that led to these deaths. If somebody has sacrificed so much for a chance to reach the summit, common sense often takes a back seat to desire. 

Take a look at the story of David Sharp if you'd like more context on the type of atmosphere that exists at the top of the world. It's a completely different world up there, and not just in the obvious ways...  

5.18.2012

Sociology 101

I enjoy meeting new groups of students, and I had a delightful week at the college getting to know three new groups. Regardless of whether the class focuses on literature or rhetoric or just plain ol' fundamentals of writing, race, gender, sexuality and ethnicity are topics that come up repeatedly throughout the term.


For those of you out there that might not have read this short essay already, I encourage you to read it (preferably both carefully and critically) and then settle in for an hour to read the reactions in the comments section.

I like John Scalzi's fiction, by the way, but I love his essays.


By his own admission (there's a good follow-up post on his blog), the metaphor isn't perfect. In places the discussion derails, but for the most part there is some serious intellectual wrestling with a complex series of topics there.


I've mentioned it before, but if it needs repeating, it's pretty clear to me that advantages abound for certain population groups in America.


That's the reality of the situation, at least as I see it (your mileage will, undoubtedly, vary).


Are things improving for all of the players in this game we call life? I think they absolutely are.


America is becoming an increasingly diverse country, and meaningful discussions of social justice and equal opportunity for all Americans (when coupled with action, of course) will lead us down the path to a stronger democracy. 


At any rate, I like Scalzi's attempt to elevate the discussion of these issues, and I think this is a useful starting point (particularly for college students) to get the ball rolling...

5.15.2012

Reasons 149 and 258 to Love Northeast Florida

I spent Friday afternoon at Sawgrass, watching The Players Championship. I've attended this tournament every spring since moving out here in 2005, and I'm still amazed by the quality of the event and the electric atmosphere of the venue.

I walked about ten miles on Friday, and I had the chance to catch a really hot round of golf by Charlie Wi. He blistered the course, striking his irons over and over again to just a few feet, then icing the putts. It was funny that Kevin Na took so much heat for his slow play, because Charlie was just as bad. He slow-played his partners (John Rollins and Francesco Molinari) to the point where I think Francesco actually became so frustrated that he three-putted 16. 

Molinari dropped the loudest f-bomb I've ever heard on a golf course, by the way.

Slow play became the story of the weekend. A tiny minority of drunken idiots, and I'm really disgusted by this, treated the poor kid terribly. To his credit, he owned up to his playing issues and admitted it was frustrating for him.

Look, this is a problem all over the place. These professionals are taking six hours to finish a round. We're talking fifteen minutes a hole. It's often even worse on your neighborhood municipal course. I play ready golf, but I also like to mark and putt, so I see both sides of it. Still, in my book, a round of golf should take about three hours.

All that said, what can you do? If there are slow players in front of you, getting mad isn't going to help you any. You still have to make your shot, so simmer down and concentrate.

I've seen people spit at the volunteer course attendants. I've seen grown men shout at seven-year-old kids playing a four-hole junior golf tournament (where a great many of America's millions of golfers got their start, by the way). I've seen people run their carts into each other in anger, and threaten each other with violence.

It's no surprise that stuff like this happens (and look, those jackass kids on the bachelor party should have let them play through, but that sucker that attacked them is just ridiculous).

But all that stuff about slow play aside, the tournament lived up to the hype in every way. What a tremendous Sunday battle, and what a great champion in Matt Kuchar. Nice guy whose parents live five minutes from the course. We've had four inches of rain in the last forty-eight hours, so it's good that they got that tournament in before the gullywashers came through!

We took our daughter camping at Ft. Clinch over the weekend. It was her first time, and she loved it. We saw a deer and caught some fish and hit the beach and did some shelling. We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows and slept in a tent for the first time.

We also joined a tour of the fort at dusk. It was simply awe-inspiring to see the moon rising over a Civil War fort, the bastions and replica cannons lined up against the starry sky. Lyla was tired and cranky, but we all had a good time overall. It was a candlelight tour, with no flashlights or lanterns, and the atmosphere was perfect.

In other news, I'm back to a full course load at the college, and I'm gearing up for my transition to UCF in August. I'm completing some professional development activities for UCF while I'm also participating in a pilot for a new learning management system at the college. All of this means I've been up to my ears in work, but I hope things smooth out soon and I can get back to some writing.

The long and short of it is that Northeast Florida is home to some great events and places. If you want to see the real Florida, the one that doesn't include a wannabe actor in a mouse suit and a two-hour wait to ride, then fly into Jacksonville and point your rental vehicle up A1A to Fernandina Beach.

Or come out for The Players next year (just make sure you pack your sunscreen). Either way, you can't go wrong...

  

5.08.2012

Harlequin Doesn't Appear to Be a Good Business Partner

I don't know much about the publishing ins and outs of the romance genre (and yes, I do think, for better or worse, that there are different industry norms depending on which types of books a writer creates), but I do like Joe Konrath (both as a writer and a sharp businessman), and I found the post on his blog today to be really sad.


It's instructional, in a horrible way, but more than anything it's just sad. 


I feel for writers whose books are held hostage by unscrupulous publishers. Harlequin's practice of licensing rights to a subsidiary of its own business is shocking. Like Joe, I'm not sure about the legal ramifications of that practice, but it just doesn't seem right.


Content creators don't always get the largest slice of the pie. It's been true for painters and musicians and writers and animators and directors for a long time...heck, as long as there are artists there will be predators with the business acumen to take advantage of them.


But Ann Voss Peterson's situation is just sad. 


Go ahead and read the post, and then take a look at the comments. A slew of Harlequin authors have left the company, with many of them making more money bringing their books directly to consumers than they ever did as a Harlequin writer.


This much is clear: in the rapidly changing world of publishing, rights are king. They always will be, so be damned sure of what you're doing when you sign a contract...


I just downloaded Pushed Too Far, by the way, and I'm excited to start reading it!

5.07.2012

Writing Updates

When I first started putting some time aside to write, I pined after positive reinforcement. I have a hard drive filled with lots of misshapen (but earnest and heart-felt) stories that never even took a breath out there.

It wasn't for a lack of trying, as I submitted often, and I received loads of rejections. Hundreds and hundreds. 

And back then, I had lots of time (or so I thought). I had time to check Duotrope daily, to scour the web for writing advice, to blow hours reading agent blogs and industry news. 

But my writing wasn't very good, and my stories didn't find homes.

I kept at it, and I spent more time writing and a lot less time thinking good things were going to happen while I waited for them to show up at my door. Not coincidentally, I'd like to believe, the form rejections slowed to a trickle. Some stories were shortlisted. Others were published.

I wrote even more, and I stopped reading all but a few blogs. I had a daughter, and now I have even less time to write.

I mention all of this because I have a number of students at the college that are good writers. They are waiting patiently to start seeing their work published, and I can only tell them that it's all a process. It takes time, and it's funny how your priorities shift through the years.

On to some actual writing news.

Yesterday, I finished the edits on a Lovecraftian horror story that will soon be published by Buzzy Mag (thank you, Elektra, for the help on improving the story!).

Also yesterday, I had a Southern horror tale accepted for publication in Q & W's Old Weird South anthology.

I have a middle-grade campfire story coming out in Cool Well Press's Campfire Tales anthology very soon.

I made another sale at SFWA professional rates a few weeks ago that I'll wait to announce until I sign the contract.

I have three other stories under contract to be published in 2012, and I finished the first draft on what I thought was a pretty good sci-fi terrorism novel. My agent is reading that one, and we'll have a conference soon to decide what to do with it.

My second collection, The Silver Coast and Other Stories, will be released on June 12. The collection is out on the review circuit, and The Horror Fiction Review had some nice things to say about it (you'll have to scroll down the blog a little ways to read the review).


I've had a productive time off at the college, writing more than 70,000 words in four months. Sadly, in that time, I've written just one short story. My novella Frozen continues to post some good sales figures, and I'm working hard on the follow-up to that little thriller.

Good things are happening, and I write this post in acknowledgement of how frustrating that waiting game can be early on. It was torture for me as I struggled to improve. I'm not the writer I'll be in six months or six years, and that's a good thing, because I can keep working toward better stories.

Every writer can, and that's the beauty of what we do. I don't see Albert Pujols picking up much bat speed in the next few years but, thankfully, that's not a writer's dilemma. Stephen King's stuff has improved quite a lot in recent years, and that's a real source of inspiration.

Keep writing, and keep working at improvement, and thanks for dropping by this little ol' blog from time to time...




5.02.2012

Uh...tanning?

We've long had a fascination with technology and its daily impact on our lives. Generally, we like to believe that improvements in technology make our lives easier. We cling to the notion that these comforts are good for us, but human nature dictates that there's another side to that coin, and it's natural for us to indulge in storytelling on the dark aspects of technology as well.


That's why, if you were a kid in the '80s, you probably remember seeing some of these clips of the Gremlins getting blended and microwaved. This follows, of course, on the heels of the classic urban legend of the microwaved pet, which communicates a certain disdain for the elderly and their relationship to common household appliances. 


So it's natural to take these stories and advance them through time, which inevitably swaps a human being for the pet and a microwave for a tanning bed.


But then you see a story like this.


Look, far be it for me to say what good parenting is, but if these allegations of child abuse are true, then I really feel for that poor child. 


Sheesh. Watch that video. Is there even a bit of irony in her comments at the :43 mark?   

5.01.2012

The Meat Grinder is Primed and Ready...



Santorum and Gingrich are out.

The focus is off of the GOP primary and onto the general election.

Stephen King is mad as hell and he's not going to take it anymore.

The rhetorical fires have been burning for months, but things are about to get really hot.

Here comes seven months of partisan political turmoil in this country that will make for a spectacle I doubt any of us have ever seen before. With the Supreme Court paving the way for these super PACs to throw their heft behind their candidates, this is going to be about as contrived as a Wrestlemania ladder match.

Get ready for Obama/Biden versus Romney/Rubio. I hope Rick "The Model" Martel doesn't show up at one of the debates spraying the smell of arrogance around the studio (like the place would need it)...




Uncovering Original Ideas

There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope....