Saturday, December 25, 2010

Best Oaf of the Year

The entire yard is like this, pretty much. Living with the missus is like being in a Clarke Ashton Smith story.

So, I've got a couple of hours to kill before we head over to my sister's house -- I'm giving 'em a collection of the Palomar stories from early Love and Rockets. They're going to Bermuda with my sister's pal Cintra, and I figure this will be something the whole lot of them can read in rotation. Now, I could do something productive, but I'm in a pensive mood, and it's freaking Giftmas. So rather than just kill time, I'm gonna take a quick look back at the last year of the blog, and hunt down all the stuff that's actually worth reading.


Well, that wasn't too bad. It is a little distressing to see that the blog has so little material in it that isn't interesting if you're not into the Sean show, but hey -- seventeen casual essays in a year is not at all terrible, right? Right.

So here we go with the cavalcade of fun!


The Watercolor Pad

Brass Knuckles

Sleazy Elephant

The Hayworth Principle

Flossing and Art

The Atheism Posts:

Green Chili Ratatouille

In Which I Lose Decisively



A Child's Garden of Serial Killers

Notes to a Fellow Writer

Helping Anonymous

Going by Appearances

Amazon is Amoral and Complicit

Woohoo! Road Trip!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ghost Rock Lives

So. I have a few pieces of work to do before I set in on the main task, but the time has come to start working on the hopefully-final version of the novel. I honestly do not know if this is the ninth, tenth, or whateverth draft -- there have been so many fucking fractional drafts it's a meaningless question. The collected manuscript would only have to be dropped about five feet to kill a mule.

The thing to keep in mind is that this novel is how I learned to write. It has been my schooling. And now it's time to finish it off. I am grateful for all the assistance, advice, and criticism I've received. But it's time to stop relying on on other people's opinions.

I write one draft, aiming for three thousand words a day. Write in the morning, revise the previous day's output in the evening. Do one draft, wait three weeks, give it a once-over, send it out to two readers, one last combing, and off. Be a pro.

This shouldn't be that hard. I've written the damned thing nine or ten or eleven-point-eight-three-four times already.

So. To prepare, there are a few things I need to change in the outline.

First off, I need to track all the major incidents in the plot and make sure the lead character responds appropriately to them. Some of the high points so far are his realistic reactions to events that are taken for granted in adventure fiction; I need to make sure that happens throughout.

I need to go through and show his feelings toward himself, and how they change in specific reaction to those around him. I need to show him working and preparing as an artist throughout the book.

Right now the most dramatic, important event in the book happens in the third chapter, and neither the reader nor the protagonist have any idea what's going on. That must change -- the big event goes to the end, and when it comes, everyone knows what it is.

I need to plot the changes in the supernatural world more visibly. I hint at things in the last draft that I need to state clearly -- things which will reinforce deep thematic issues. I'm going to try and and make a serious point about materialism in a seemingly supernatural situation by using the evolution of vertebral pneumasticity in giant cattle. Essentially, each time the protagonist shows up in the supernatural world, it will be as if that world is in a different geological epoch, with the environmental changes relating to plot issues. Fun times.

And I need to make the supernatural elements completely consistent. Right now, there are still some key events that seem to happen without reason. I need to fit them in or eliminate them. Which would be a bitch, because one of them is everyone's favorite scene.

Finally, once that's all done? I'm going to do a plot breakdown of the novel, analyzing each scene for its contribution to the story and making adjustments to smooth things out.

When the time comes to actually write, there will be a few fairly major changes in approach. I'll be going from first person, past tense, to first person, present tense. I'm doing this because the story is a stream-of-consciousness piece.

Given that, there won't be chapters any more. I'll hate to say good-bye to the chapter titles, but losing the artificial breaks and cliffhanger chapter endings will be a real relief.

Rather than the speed-loaded start from the last draft, I'm going back to a plodding, stolid, "Here is the man, this is his world," approach, letting there be a nice long stretch at the start where it isn't clear whether it's really a book about a crazy person.

I get to do some prose skylarking. I get to have a miserable, fucked-up protagonist. I get to be hard to understand.

Most importantly, this gets to be flawed. This is such a strange, twisted, inadvertent piece of work that there's no way to expect it to be perfect. It wasn't planned. It grew. Like a fungus. So it is going to be organic, gnarly, and weird. Most people won't be able to read it. It might not be as bad as, say, Pynchon. It might be worse.

That's fine.

I just want to get this over with!

Alert! Alert!

The Missus read this and she was very upset that I implied that the novel might be difficult to read -- "It's incredibly readable!" was her indignant statement on the subject. She's a big reader in the Holly Lisle/Robin Hobb/Mercedes Lackey section, so I figure the crossover potential is going to be through the roof.

Swill Is Here! Swill Is Here!

No more desperate evidence of my haplessness exists than this: I conceived and executed this cover with the intention of selling out. This, my friends, is Swill at its most commercial.


So this issue of Swill has been particularly grueling. It is late as hell and it is all my fault. Well, when you require art of a crazy person sometimes there will be a delay.

One thing should be made clear. This volume is, to a greater degree than any previous one, the product of cronyism. Nepotism seems to loom in our future. So let me make this clear to anyone who resents the fact that a lot of the people we publish are people we know.

First, the submissions go through Rob before they get to me. So we've probably rejected half my relatives and I haven't heard about it yet. And those who are closest to me can attest to the delicacy of touch with which I approach their creative efforts. Which means I'm kind of a bastard to them. Because this shit is important.

Second, do you think it is easy to find work that's worth publishing? Jesus, all the people writing, writing, writing, you'd think it would be crawling out of the fucking woodwork, but no --

(I don't suppose the fact that we're an obscure magazine that doesn't pay has anything to do with this.)

-- but no, I have to badger, beg, and bat my nasty little squint eyes to get some fucking proper fiction. Out of necessity, I only have friends and relatives who are decent stylists. Damnit.

This is borne out by the other thing that I need to make clear.

Best issue so far.

The last two were fascinating deviations, and it'll be interesting to see if the dice roll that way ever again. The work that came in was all of a piece, literary neo-pulp. I felt like I was doing a punk version of Black Mask or something.

This issue is like the first issue, done right. We have a much wider variety of fiction, a more diverse crop of writers, a finally-perfected layout... (I worked like a bastard on the typesetting this time around. A real designer would have no trouble, but that ain't what I am.) It's more well-rounded, more experimental, less relentlessly negativistic, and still appalling.

On to the contents.

Janine, by Warren Lutz. A perfectly sordid slice of naturalistic noir, this one places a journalist’s eyes and ears at the service of a deceptively lucid, fluid prose style.

Remind Me To Show You Your Face, by Elizabeth Eslami. Nice use of style to convey character, a look at the service side of the entertainment industry, and a good, solid, undependable narrator.

The Feld And The Veldt, by Sean Beaudoin. Now here we have part of the uncanny resemblance to the first issue. Just as someone else submitted a clown story in issue one, this time someone else has a Bush-era relic, and their fucking name is Sean. But at Swill, we do not give a care, because this one is a funny. It made me smirk, persistently.

The Quiet Type, by Chia Evers. Horror seen through the eyes of love, written with an approach that made me think of a hard-boiled Poe.

The Weight Of Fall, by Wendy Sumner Winter. So this is why you should let the editor decide whether or not they like the story. Based purely on light romantic content, you’d think I’d hate this one. Instead, I responded to it as though I was catching up with an old friend. But what really sold me? The footnotes. Which were a massive pain in the ass. But I knew the job was dangerous when I took it.

Jimmy’s Confession, by Sean Craven. This is the second-nastiest thing I’ve ever written. It’s ‘pretty dark,’ even by Rob’s standards. Please don’t actually read it as it will make you like me less. It was written at request for an anthology during the Bush years, but there is a whole other fucking story there.

By Himself, by Allison Landa. Stylistic risks are taken and rewarded in a tricky, crooked story with a painfully human core. Sometimes you need lateral approaches to go deep.

Crystal Vision, by Catherine Schaff-Stump. This one moves as directly as a bullet, with a payload of knotty family dynamics that keeps unraveling long past the ending.

Stomach Punches, by Rob Pierce. Ah, l’amour.

Unmoving, by Z.Z. Boone. One of the great rules of life is that there are some people you do not fuck with. This story reminds us that you can’t always tell who those people are.

Son Of A Goat, by Jasmine Paul. This one is just jam-packed with squealing goofiness, a midnight movie in print form.

blowjob; ferocious patter: fucking incoherent, by delphine lecompte. Rob can explain it to you some time, but delphine is the reason he founded Swill. Rob has tried in vain to get more fiction from her; these are selections taken from the ensuing correspondence. Effortlessly transgressive, sensually driven, and brutally absolute, she writes in a magpie chatter of compulsive verbal brilliance. She’s the saint of Swill.

Seven Views Of The Downtown Area, by Sean Craven. For the first four issues of Swill, I more or less hid the fact that I was the one doing the art. You might have been able to guess if you read the indicia, but what kind of freak reads indicias? This time around, I worked my fucking ass off on the illustrations. Every one of them is better than any prior interior illustration in Swill. I’ve posted them on the blog, but they were made for print, and that’s where they work best.

So click here and go buy some fucking Swill!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ten Thngs I Have Done That You Probably Haven't

In response to John Scalzi's taunting post, here we go.

1. Faced down a Hell's Angel after he rammed the car I was in with a pickup truck. (I didn't know he was an Angel at the time, he thought I was a deaf-mute channel for the Devil...)

2. Nursed a fledgling sparrow to maturity. Best part? When it landed on my shoulder days after I let it go...

3. Written Cockney dialog for Cockney actors and a Cockney audience, as broadcast on the BBC.

4. Debated Mortimer Adler to a standstill at age 14.

5. Befriended a baby elephant, who then tried to keep me.

6. Heard a fellow student shot to death while in my typing class. I'm typing now, if you notice.

7. At a friend's request, operated on his dog's ear to drain a hematoma; the vet who put in a drain later confirmed my diagnosis and praised my work.

8. Laid a brick path around a planter, starting in one spot, laying bricks as I went, and the bricks at the end slotted perfectly with the bricks at the beginning. A pal went behind me and mortared as I went -- we knew I could do it, even though I'd never laid bricks before. Artist's eye, motherfuckers.

9. Pushed a needle all the way through my thumb in fourth grade, for reasons only G. Gordon Liddy would understand.

10. Turned down work as muscle for a mid-level drug dealer.

And you?