Friday, June 25, 2010

STG Update

So, word from the editors is that Succumbing to Gravity, the novel based on my short story in Nossa Morte will be out in the next few weeks. It will be available through reliquary press, amazon, and When I have the ISBN and such I'll be sure to post.

Also, keep an eye out for an opportunity to win a free copy of your very

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


If you look up lists of noir, or hardboiled fiction (and I do), you often run across Sara Paretsky's name. Dr. Paretsky writes a crime series featuring a private invesitgator named V.I Warshawski (Vic); Chicagoan, whiskey drinking, mustang driving, butt-kicking lady.

In all I find her writing certainly competent and entertaining, and recommend it. But I do have an observation for you to take and do with as you will. In previous posts I have mentioned differences in writing audiences. Manly-not manly. Much of the hard-boiled or noir fiction, the really edgy stuff, is geared toward men. Then there are the 'cozies', Agatha Christy type 'crime' books that you can cozy up with that I usually see women reading. There is a large body of crime fiction that is pretty gender neutral (to me). Paretsky's work is that body of noir that I don't see as appealing to the strictly knuckle-dragging crowd. To me, the thing that keeps me from really engaging in Paretsky's work to the degree that I do with others, say Robert Parker for instance, is in the details that I will gender-biasedly call manly details.

Compare and contrast a Sunny Randall book with a VI Warshawski tale. Different.

It's in the details.

When Vic pulls a weapon out, it's her 'colt'. The gun she keeps in a tuck holster. But what kind? Colt has made 100s of guns in the last century....

When a noir (anti) hero slides his (or her) weapon from the leather (or nylon) shoulder holster, it's a 9mm Glock 17 with pacmyer grips, laser sight. Heavier in his (or her) hand than the Glock 19 and redolent with the smell of cleaning fluid and old gunpowder, or better yet, cordite.

Accessory or life partner? This isn't to say crime fiction written from a manly viewpoint wouldn't also assume that a gun is just a's just not the manly crime fiction I read.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Rest for the wicked

I polished off two very different books this past week; Paul Tremblay's "No Sleep till Wonderland"and Joe Hill's "Horns". Both held my attention until the end but neither really did it for me, even though they are both 'dark fiction' writers (which I also aspire to be).

First, Tremblay. He's a high school teacher and published a number of short stories in anthologies and magazines. This story falls into a "flawed Private Investigator, duped by girl, crime" sort of story. He did a good job of writing and I usually like these, but Tremblay has made the character so irredeemably flawed that I couldn't really embrace him. The protagonist is Mark Genevich, a narcoleptic attending group therapy or his mother will kick out of his rent-free apartment. It reminded me a lot of a cleaned-up Chuck Paluniuk. I think the part that kept me from embracing it was that the first person account was very internal. The protag editorializes everything, all the time, in a wisen-himer manner. I expect this is needed as Mark is facing some serious internal issues and we get a real sense of what it is like to live with the disease. But still...
The constant use of tough-guy talk and overly involved metaphors was sometimes entertaining and sometimes distracting. The other thing that threw me off was the use of present tense.
So, in short, a clever take on the detective novel, competently written, but I didn't love it- but then there is no accounting for taste.

The second book was Joe Hill's "Horns". I was really looking forward to this one as I enjoyed his debut novel, "Heart-Shaped Box" very much. It was an updated, edgier, and faster-paced Steven King. Ummm... if you didn't know, Joe Hill is the pen name of Steven King's son. And in that first book you could see the lineage. This one too, but not in a good way.

You see, I like King. He writes these genre-busting novels. But the thing I don't like about his writing, especially in his later work, is that he seems to meander through the story. Think Lisey's story... Dooma Key was an awesome book, but for me it was 30% too big for the story it told. I think his work certainly matured and progressed, but I haven't liked anything he's written as much I liked the shining. But this isn't about Steve, but rather Joseph Hillstrom King. Hard not to do though, isn't it?

Anyway, I didn't really like Horns as much as I had hoped I would. First, the theme, a guy turns into a demon. This didn't overly offend my Christian sensibilities, but the author's several rants about the Devil being the first superhero and God generally being a no fun blowhard didn't sit well. The characters are devoutly Catholic, but Hill really trivialized the mechanics of being religious, and being Catholic in particular, which made me feel it a bit unrealistic. The other part I didn't really like (and I confess, I actually skipped over text- which I try never to do) was that the flashbacks and the 'present' of the book seemed really unbalanced. If that makes sense. Time is moving along in the book, big flashback to explain something, short present, long long long flashback, repeat. Otherwise, he can certainly tell a story. Writing advisors tell you to not be easy on your protagonist, and the poor protagonist in this story went through hell. Which in the end seemed to be the place he wanted to go after all.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Sacrifices of Automated Tabulation

I mentioned that I have a new story in Steampunk Tales, The Sacrifices of Automated Tabulation. I also promised that I would tell you where the story came from and what Steampunk is.

There are lots of different ways to cluster fiction, stories or novels with similar conventions, tropes, etc are in the same genre. (Western, Romance, Mystery etc) Genres can in turn be split into subgenres. 'Steampunk' is a subgenre of science fiction. There is an adequate definition on the wikipedia page, but the name comes from 'Steam' the primary motive force of the Industrial revolution and 'punk'. From punk. Like punk rock. It was a play on a subgenre of the early nineties known as cyberpunk, 'edgy new fiction' where people would plug right into computers, or have augmented neural pathways; cybernetics.

In general steampunk stories are science fiction placed in the past or in an alternate present where steampower and antiquated weapons are the rule of the day. There are a number of essays out there on the steampunk movement (there are steampunk bands, bars, retro-future steampunk devices, etc) but to me it is fun when it reminds of the Jules Verne novels I read as a child or the Flash Gordon serials I would watch late Saturday night, just before the stations signed off for the night (that was before infomercials). Old-fashioned people, with old-fashioned equipment, setting off into the future. You see its influence a lot in contemporary scifi, look at Stargate Universe...the ship is old, cranks, clicks..

There are those that would then split Steampunk into more discreet clumps. Were I to be such a splitter I would agree that my story, The Sacrifices of Automated Tabulation, which, did I mention, is out in the latest issue of Steampunk Tales (click on the name) anyway, TSoAT would fall into the Steampunk genre 'Gaslight Horror'.

So where did it come from? Well, I wanted to try a Steampunk story, I had been thinking about it for a while. And I thought how well the story arc of my first published story, Outsourcing Blues would fit. Man against machine. The age of computers harnessing the power that haunted the dark outside the camp-fire light. That sort of thing. So, I did it. I kidnapped Toni and slipped her into the wayback machine and sent the story from 2008 to 1890, with all the associated changes in norms, theme etc. Antonia Farragolo is given a complete body makeover, but her kick-ass attitude just wouldn't leave. Oh, and for once the graduate student wins out over the thesis advisor. That NEVER happens in real life.

I hope you enjoy it. Steampunk Tales, the iPhone app and penny dreadful for the 21st century. How cool is that?

Steampunk Tales , Lucky Number Seven

My first Steampunk Story is now out in the latest issue of Steampunk Tales, number 7. The magazine bills itself as a 'penny dreadful for the twenty-first century', and is sold as an iphone ap! (Or a pdf for those of you not so enamored with all things Mac.) I've never been an iphone ap before...hmm.

The story is 'The Sacrifices of Automated Tabulation'. Check it out, and in my next post I'll discuss both Steampunk and where the story came from. I'm also behind on a few book posts so I had better get to those too.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

More Manly books

I finished in rapid order (thanks to a transatlantic round-trip plane flight for work) two books. Robert Parker's Appaloosa and Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe's Siege.

Very different books, but certainly the type to appeal to guys. I've mentioned Parker before, a writer of contemporary crime fiction who decided to try his hand at a Western. I think it came off well. Tight, hard-boiled-ish, gun fights and cool no-nonsense heroes.

Sharpe's Seige on the other hand is much like the Alexander Kent book I described earlier. Rather linear, manly. Cornwell is one of the best writers of historical fiction out there, writing of the exploits of Major Richard Sharpe in the Napoleonic Wars. As Kent and others write of the British Navy, Cornwell writes of the British Army. Infantry in fact. While the majority of British Infantry was armed with the venerable 'Brown Bess', .75 caliber, smooth bore musket, Sharpe is a rifleman armed with the 'Baker Rifle', a .625 caliber rifle. (Note: a rifle is a long arm where there is 'rifling' or spiral grooves inside the barrel that cause the bullet to spin- makes them more accurate at greater ranges, but also takes longer to load).

The average sailor in the 19th century British Navy probably wasn't the most reputable person, but the Infantry soldier was down-right disreputable. Sharpe is an officer that was raised up from the ranks (prior enlisted). So he comes across as a bit of a hard-case. I like spending time with him.