Tuesday, April 29, 2014

#748: Submit!

I just sent a really silly horror-comedy short story to website Tor.com, who pay 25 cents per word if they publish your short story. This is the first piece of fiction I've submitted to a professional publication since about 2001. I'm a little shaky.
The story's called "The Coffee Maid," and it's a silly, awful piece about a haunted coffeemaker, and there's not a chance in hell that Tor will publish it. But it makes me laugh, so what the hell.
Tor says they'll get back to me in 3 to 4 months. Hey, if they'll pay me 25 cents a word, I can wait. The story's just over 5,500 words long. How much is that in real money?
I'll keep you posted, but I'm not holding my breath. I don't think the story's quite funny enough or scary enough. Definitely weird enough, though -- and I've read lots of horror short stories that had LESS reason to live. So.... Here we go again.

Hey, my blogging buddy R.S. Crabb over at Crabby's Record World has decided to hang this blogging stuff up, at least for now. I'm bummed by this -- Crabby has been one of the greats to follow since I started doing this stuff 5-1/2 years ago, plus he's made more comments here than ANYBODY ... in addition to turning me on awhile back to some of the strangest music I've ever heard (Cromagnon's CAVE ROCK, etc). So swing by Crabby's place, check out his latest stuff and beg him not to quit, like I already have. And then eat your heart out 'cause you didn't give him enough feedback before.
2000 Man, looks like it's just you and me, now....

Must be something in the air. All the late-night talk-show hosts are giving up, and last night my hero Craig Ferguson announced he's hanging up THE LATE LATE SHOW at Christmas. He's the only one of 'em I'll miss! The man is NUTS! That's why he's worth watching -- you never know what the hell you're gonna see. Perfect for night owls like me. So if you haven't checked out the crazy Scotsman yet, you've only got eight months left to get with the program, you cheeky monkeys! And see that you do!
Craig says he's hanging it up before he gets stale. Maybe Crabby feels the same way.
Course I'm more from the school of Do what you can until you can't do it no more.
I'm not goin' anywhere....

Monday, April 28, 2014

#747: Writing spooky stuff

I'm about 10,000 words into writing what I hope will be a horror novel.
But I woke up Thursday morning, stumbled into the kitchen for my morning gallon of coffee -- and was suddenly smacked upside the head by a silly, irresistible idea for a dumb horror-comedy short story....
And as of an hour ago, I've finished a 5,000-word rough-draft of it, the first short story I've managed to write to the end of in ... probably 10 years.
Of course the idea is really dumb, and it made me laugh. That's why I decided to try writing it up.
The story also uses some of the stuff I've been through in the last few years as background for the really silly main idea.
And it was so simple I couldn't NOT write it.
I think this is what writers are supposed to do.
And I think it's a sin NOT to write something when an idea just comes to you out of the air, like that. I've already thrown away tons of ideas when it comes to short stories, and wasted lots of ideas that I somehow couldn't knuckle down and get to the end of....
And even though I've only got a rough draft, I'm already thinking about where to send it.
I've been thinking about Tor.com -- the website for the science-fiction/fantasy/horror book-publisher. They pay 25 CENTS A WORD for short stories. Holy crap, that's unheard of. Course you've gotta be really good, and I kind of doubt this story is going to reach that level. But what the hell.
I was also shocked to find out that WEIRD TALES is only an open market part of the time these days. FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION pays 7 to 12 cents per word, but surprisingly they don't accept e-mailed submissions. And I don't have a printer these days. Plus, they've gone bi-monthly over the past few years. And they always were a tough place to get published -- very high standards. Which means they've got twice as many good stories already waiting to get printed.
There are plenty of on-line markets out there, if you want to get paid a penny per word. Or not get paid at all, just do it for the glory, or whatever. I'm a little bit beyond that.
So, I'll keep you posted. I don't want to let on what the story (or the novel) is about, until I get it finished, or I'm far enough along that I'm pretty sure it's going to work and I'll be happy with it.
If I do end up sending the story off, it will be the first one I've submitted since the early 2000's.

Been reading some spooky stuff -- Stephen King's OK "The Road Virus Heads North," Dennis Etchison's "The Late Shift," about zombies pulling graveyard shifts at the local convenience store -- a great idea I could really relate to, although I wish he'd gone farther with it. Also read Douglas E. Winter's rather good 1985 collection of interviews with horror writers, FACES OF FEAR, and a few other things. I'll be reading more spooky stuff in the future. I'm studying up.

Been awhile since I've heard any new music, and I've pretty much given up playing music at work, other than the radio. SOUND OPINIONS the past two weeks has featured a look back at Abba(!), and an hour of songs that made the rock-critic hosts cry -- in a good way. Best thing I heard in that whole show was Clarence Carter's "Patches," a real classic that I hadn't heard in YEARS -- and they only tossed it in at a station break....

Life is OK here. How are you?

Monday, April 21, 2014

#746: A legend in his own mind

I'll tell you one thing about this e-book-writing stuff:
It ain't makin' me rich.
Not that I was expecting it to.
I feel better just DOING it. Or knowing that I did it. I don't want to be lying on my death bed moaning "I coulda been a contenda...."
But I was hoping for more feedback.
In terms of feedback, so far this book stuff has worked out about like blogging has:
Only about one in 100 people comment.
And that's flattering. But I'd hoped for more.
Especially if you paid money for this stuff. Especially if you're disappointed after paying cash. Then you should be responding.
Ghod knows I've expressed my disappointment in reviews at Amazon.com, and here. That's how I was taught this game was supposed to be played. You pays your money and you gets your shot.
When almost 100 people downloaded free copies of THE CONFESSOR awhile back, I was thrilled. But I was hoping to hear from some of them.
More than 40 people got free copies of GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC!, too. At least half a dozen more bought the book. Haven't heard from most of them, either.
So far, the only person who's read THE GAS NAZI! is my girlfriend -- she thought it was hilarious. She was laughing all through it. But for some reason, Amazon wouldn't let her post a five-star review. Probably because she's a little biased.
Anyway, if you're out there and you've read the books, feel free to let the good folks at Amazon know what you thought. Or let me have it here.
See, the thing is, I THINK the books have a lot more going on in them than just my ego. I think they're a lot more than just a me-fest. I figured if I laughed at some of these stories, you'd laugh, too. Or cry, in some cases. And I thought that'd be enough.
I have this secret fear that the books might actually be crap, that I might be bullshitting myself.
Which is why the next book's going to be fiction -- probably a horror novel -- so I can back away from this memoir and memoir-disguised-as-a-novel stuff. And see if I can maybe still be Stephen King when I grow up ... sorta.
One thing I'm not gonna do is STOP. Not now. It took me 40 years to get this thing going seriously.
So if you read the books, lemme have it.
You can still download the first 20 pages of any of them for FREE.
And thanks for listening.

#745: The places

Well, I didn't do anything for Record Store Day -- my nearest used record store is 30 miles away in Tacoma, and I had to work. But reading stuff like Crabby's recap of Record Store Day (at Crabby's Record World) got me thinking about some of the places I've looked for music over the years.
I wrote a whole book about the first record store I remember ever walking into, because I ended up working there. (The book's called GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC!, and you can find it at Amazon.com.)
But there have been a lot of others along the way. One of my favorites -- in Boise, Idaho, where I grew up -- was The Record Exchange, which started as a hole in the wall on Orchard Ave., right next to one of the world's oldest McDonald's restaurants.
When it opened, the store was just wide enough for one long table-rack full of vinyl and some room to move around the outside. There might have been a couple more tables along the walls and in the back. I found some great stuff there -- the Incredible String Band's folk-comedy album THE HANGMAN'S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTER, among others.
The Record Exchange caught on and expanded. The owners moved it to a store three times as big on West Idaho Street in downtown Boise. I remember being in there at least a few times in 1982 after I quit the record store. There were so many albums in there that you could get lost for DAYS. Don't I wish I could go back there with what I know now....
About the only thing I REMEMBER buying from that store was an imported copy of England's GARDEN SHED, a sort-of Genesis/Yes hybrid, an album I'm not absolutely sure I ever played all the way through....
The Record Exchange continued to expand -- at one point they opened a huge, flashy-looking store on Boise's west side near the Towne Square Mall. I remember being in that store once when I was home on leave from the Air Force. But maybe they over-expanded for their market, because the last time I was home, the Exchange was back to their one store on Idaho Street downtown. The next time I'm back home -- this summer, I hope? -- I've GOT to get in there.
I left Boise and ended up in San Antonio, thanks to the Air Force -- and found lots of great used book and record stores. The best was Half Price Books, which was housed in what seemed to be three or four houses slammed together, just north of downtown SA. Though you could wander for days in the store's library/labyrinth, the music section was right out front. There I FINALLY picked up a copy of Fairport Convention's FAIRPORT CHRONICLES best-of, and found the keystone of British folk-rock. First heard Sandy Denny's haunting vocals and Richard Thompson's great guitar. Still have my copy.
In another dusty, hole-in-the-wall store in SA, right next to a dry-cleaner's, I found a copy of Nick Drake's BRYTER LAYTER and Amazing Blondel's FANTASIA LINDUM, two more classic pieces of British folk. Plus I finally heard the Grateful Dead -- by picking up a copy of TERRAPIN STATION. Why'd everybody think The Dead were so spacey? TERRAPIN almost sounds like progressive rock!
There were some OK second-hand stores in Wyoming, too. One good one in Cheyenne was in the Pioneer Mall -- but in those years I was put on a pretty strict allowance, because my ex-wife knew I'd spend all the rent and food money on books and music if I had a chance.
When I returned to Wyoming after two years in Turkey, Worland only had used books in a section of the local Ben Franklin hardware store. Still found some good stuff there.
When I moved to Raymond, Wash., the small town's only used bookstore had a TON of good stuff. But business wasn't that great, and the store closed. The only other decent second-hand store in town was taken out by a fire that ate up a whole city block -- before I even had a chance to check out their books and vinyl.
Where I'm at now in Port Orchard, Wash., there's a very good used book store about a mile down the road, called Book 'Em (free plug!). Swing by there and drop my name -- they know who I am. I've bought a ton of stuff from them over the years, traded off even more, and been shocked by some of the great stuff they've had on their shelves.
There used to be a narrow little hole-in-the-wall record store in Tacoma, just behind the B&I on South Tacoma Way, that reminded me a lot of the original Record Exchange -- tons of music, period posters all over the walls, cool clerks, etc. I scored a good amount of stuff from them -- but they disappeared without warning sometime before 2008.
I wish the other used record stores were closer, though. Tacoma used to have a whole line of great used record stores on 6th Avenue, but I don't think I've been to any of them since the economy went down the toilet. I wonder if any of them survived? Might be time to go check them out again ... as soon as I get paid....

#744: The best Who best-of

Well, there isn't one. The best Who best-of package I've seen is their four-CD box set, THIRTY YEARS OF MAXIMUM R&B, and even it has gaps. I mean, completists must have screamed because "Athena" wasn't on it, and that was even sort of an actual hit. Though I think it's forgettable enough.
The thing that surprised me about the set was, I thought I knew these guys pretty well, that I'd heard a lot. But I was wrong. I LEARNED a lot. I still think MAXIMUM R&B is the best box set ever. The only REAL mark against it is there weren't enough liner notes from Pete Townshend, and he's written more about The Who than anyone, including Dave Marsh. Pete just decided he didn't feel like writing about the band anymore, that week.
Then awhile back I got a couple notes from Crabby and 2000 Man about how they didn't quite think The Who had enough great tracks to fill up a good best-of. I would most respectfully like to argue with that. I think The 'Oo have more than enough good stuff to fill up a best-of. It's just that MCA or whoever hasn't done justice to them.
To me, a decent Who overview would have to include:

I'm the Face
I Can't Explain
Anyway Anyhow Anywhere
My Generation
The Kids Are Alright
Happy Jack (for completists)
A Quick One While He's Away (ditto)
I Can See for Miles
Armenia City in the Sky
Mary Anne With the Shaky Hand
Magic Bus
Little Billy
Call Me Lightning
Pinball Wizard
See Me Feel Me/Listening to You
The Seeker
Let's See Action
Pure and Easy
Baba O'Riley
Behind Blue Eyes
Going Mobile
My Wife
Gettin' in Tune
The Song is Over
Won't Get Fooled Again
Join Together
The Relay
The Real Me
I'm One
Bell Boy
Doctor Jimmy
Love Reign O'er Me
Long Live Rock
Slip Kid
Blue Red and Grey
Dreaming From the Waist (live)
Squeeze Box (for completists)
Who Are You?
Music Must Change
You Better You Bet
Daily Records
Athena (for completists)
Eminence Front

...OK, that's almost 50 songs, enough for three CD's, and I'm sure I've probably forgotten something. Tried not to leave out the hits and the obvious classics that HAVE to be in there, even if they've never done much for me (I Can't Explain, Anyway Anyhow Anywhere, My Generation).
So if I can do this off the top of my head -- keeping in mind that I'm weak on their early stuff -- the question is why can't MCA do it right?
And the answer has got to be -- because if you DO pull together a best-of that accurately reflects a band's entire career, what reason is there for anybody to buy any of that back-catalog stuff? The marketer -- by doing his job the way it SHOULD be done -- has just shot himself in the foot.
So, to guarantee future sales, you've got to slop the hogs instead. Toss in a little trash with the good stuff: Decent outtakes, OK live cuts, rare B-sides. Forget to include the band's most famous songs -- like Atlantic failed to include "From the Beginning" on the first (vinyl) ELP best-of. Like Bob Fripp leaving "Schizoid Man" off of the first Crimson best-of. (Only in that case I didn't know what I was missing.)
Anybody else have an opinion in this area? I think The Who's got lotsa classic stuff, much of which the radio never plays. I just think their record company hasn't done them justice.
BTW, I played this same game while waiting for The Moody Blues' TIME TRAVELER best-of set to be released. I also came up with a four-disc set in my head -- but with a lot better song choices.... And yet still Decca/Polygram isn't trying to track me down for my expertise....

Monday, April 14, 2014

#743: Songs it took me years to like

What was I thinking?
Ever have songs it takes you YEARS to learn to like? I've got a bunch of 'em.
But then it's often taken me years to catch on to stuff. It took two years of continuous, daily infliction before I was willing to admit that The Cars' first album had some good stuff on it. It took me a decade to decide that Madonna was an Artist. (Still not convinced? Track down her "The Look of Love.") I'm still not sure about Prince....
Here's a list of rock/pop/soul classics I've only finally decided I liked in the last year or so. And the list is getting longer....
* The Temptations: "Papa Was a Rolling Stone," "Get Ready," "I Can't Get Next to You," "Ball of Confusion," "I Know I'm Losing You," "Cloud Nine," etc. -- OK, some of this involves getting used to the in-your-face production style of Motown's Norman Whitfield. I HATED "Papa" when it came out, thought it was a great example of everything that was wrong with AM radio in 1972. I was an idiot. The lyrics are amazingly direct and brutal, the vocals are phenomenal. And the groove could go on for 30 minutes and I wouldn't care.
I thought nobody could top Rare Earth's version of "Get Ready." Wrong. That ascending-vocal chorus gets me every time -- one of the best 10 seconds of group singing ever. And I've really started to love the Tempts' late-'60s stuff: I thought no one could top Rod Stewart on "I Know I'm Losing You." Wrong again. Love the motivation of "Can't Get Next to You." And how 'bout those chaotic, revolutionary singles "Ball of Confusion" and "Cloud Nine"? They still sound like the late '60s. "Ball of Confusion" sounds like TODAY.
* Stevie Wonder: "I Wish," "Sir Duke," "My Cherie Amour" -- Hated most of Stevie's stuff from SONGS IN THE KEY OF LIFE at the time -- don't know what I was thinkin'. I guess it was just TOO POPULAR. A nostalgia nut like me shoulda ate up "I Wish." And "Sir Duke" is a lot of fun -- Stevie almost always has a lot of fun. About "My Cherie Amour" I don't know what to say except I think it's beautiful, but it took me years to figure that out. Still, I think some of Stevie's mid-'60s stuff is kinda cheezy: "For Once in My Life," "Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday" -- where'd they rent that choir from?
* Undisputed Truth: "Smiling Faces Sometimes" -- Norman Whitfield again. Did this guy have paranoia issues or what? And it's taken me 40 years to figure out some of the lyrics. Weird how the words are getting clearer as my hearing gets WORSE....
* Marvin Gaye: "Trouble Man" -- Didn't exactly HATE this when it came out, but thought it was quite a few steps below "What's Goin' On" and "Inner City Blues." Man, was I wrong. The breezy orchestrations are a great backdrop for Marvin's relaxed vocal style, and at one point in the middle Marvin goes into a sort of winding vocal rap that is an absolute joy to hear and sing along with. Shoulda been a bigger hit.
* Contours: "Do You Love Me?" -- I can't dance. I sorta thrash and writhe around instead, so this song never meant that much to me. But then I got Motown's DOUBLE GOLD various-artists best-of, and man does this thing MOVE! They're screamin', they're shoutin', it's nothin' but a party, and I don't even mind the fake ending. Watch me now! Huh!
* Tommy James and the Shondells: "Crystal Blue Persuasion" -- For years this was way too relaxed for me -- it don't rock like "Mony Mony" or even bounce along like "I Think We're Alone Now" or "Mirage." Don't know why I didn't notice the shimmery guitar and Tommy's laid-back vocals. Is it really about drugs? At least it's a nice, relaxing trip....
* Eric Clapton: "Blues Power" -- I'm a sucker for a lot of Clapton's early stuff, back when he was passionate ("Layla," "Bell Bottom Blues," "Let it Rain," "Badge," etc). I thought "Blues Power" was just some thrown-off second-rate blues ramble -- at least the live versions I'd heard over the years seemed like that. But this past weekend at work I heard the original studio version for the first time in YEARS, and it actually sounded to me like Eric had some FUN with it, like he was sort of laughing at the whole idea of anchoring your career, your whole life-outlook on a firm grounding in the blues. Well, I thought he was laughing....

#742: Part of the chorus

Because I can't play a musical instrument, maybe I hear things differently than some music bloggers out there (Crabby, the late lamented Groove Sandwich, etc). Maybe it just means I'm ignorant when it comes to writing about music.
I tried to learn how to play guitar and drums when I was a kid, but I didn't have the discipline to stick with either. I gave up without even trying to learn the piano. I just wanted to make some noise.
So I riff on a computer keyboard instead. My kids were born with all the natural musical talent, and I'll bet they hear things differently than I do, too. When it comes to musical ability, I have a tough time getting the CD player turned on correctly, sometimes. I like to think I've gained SOME discipline with my writing, but that took years, too.
In that autobiographical rock group novel I tried to write, I had myself playing bass because I thought it would be unobtrusive -- because I could hardly ever hear it, or at least never noticed it. But I've since learned that the bass is supposedly one of the hardest rock instruments to master. I'm sure any instrument that requires rhythm would mean I'd be starting from two steps back.
That's why that rock group novel will be FICTION, if it ever gets done.
Though I've been known to play air-guitar and air-drums and even air-keyboards if I've got some good music playing while I'm working, I think the most I could ever hope for in Reality would be to become a backing vocalist -- part of the chorus. I think I blend in OK, vocally. I'd never want to be a lead singer -- I don't actually think I can carry a tune with a fleet of wheelbarrows, and besides I have ZERO charisma. But I think I blend OK, and I enjoy vocal blends more than a lot of other aspects of music. Something about a bunch of people's voices blending together....
I find the vocal blends that attract me in a lot of the music I grew up on -- from Kansas's "Miracles Out of Nowhere" to Yes's "Your Move" and "Wonderous Stories," from Caravan's "Memory Lain" and "Surprise, Surprise" and "All the Way" to just about anything by the Moody Blues. Or the almost-surreal vocal blends of the middle-period Beach Boys. The Beatles, of course. Even the Turtles and (Ghod!) the Association and (yeezus) even the Fifth Dimension sound pretty great to me, vocally.
The Association's "Everything That Touches You" is sort of a little piece of heaven for me, no matter how uncool it might be. The Turtles' "Sound Asleep" and "We'll Meet Again" and "Lady-O" and "She's My Girl" are all, like, vocal masterworks. And Fifth Dimension's "Carpet Man" soars vocally, no matter how "straight" it might sound these days. To be part of an ensemble like that would be ... pretty cool, I think.
Course I'd want some killer guitar and some dynamite keyboards to go with it, too.
I thought Crosby/Stills/Nash/Young had a pretty good handle on this kind of stuff for awhile -- with stuff like "Deja Vu" and "Carry On" and "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" and "Wooden Ships." But they wore it out pretty quick. The Byrds were masters of this kind of stuff, too -- the vocal blend and the musical muscle. The Temptations -- I've come to learn as I get older -- were masters of group vocals and dynamic instrumentals ... course, they had a ton of Motown producers pulling it together for them. Jefferson Airplane/Starship was always real good for great group vocals and solid instrumentation: "Good Shepherd," "All Nite Long," "Save Your Love," anything on FREEDOM AT POINT ZERO.
And Phil Spector, of course. He could make anybody sound like the Hallelujah Chorus. I'm sure my weakness for Spector is why I'm also a sucker for Bruce Springsteen's earlier, more epic "teen-opera"-style stuff ("Born to Run," "Rosalita," etc).
Just woolgathering here. Hell, I don't REALLY know how badly I sing. And I'm not sure I WANT to know. I've never even done karaoke. But whenever I dream about being on-stage, it's always off to the side, with the backup singers. Where the lights aren't quite so bright.
Anybody know any bands who could STAND me auditioning for them? Not as a soloist. As a blend. In a vocal GROUP, man. In a group.

#741: Rest in peace....

Too many writers are dying these days. A couple of recent shocks, within the last month or so -- Lucius Shepard and Michael Shea. Shepard was 70, Shea was 67.
Shepard was a Big Deal in science fiction in the '80s. He had a ton of short stories published, then made a big splash with his first novel, GREEN EYES. He was a forceful, passionate writer -- his stuff sometimes seemed to burn off the page with its intensity.
But for awhile I remember wondering what all the fuss was about. I seemed to somehow miss the point of his stories, though I could see he was urgently trying to get SOMETHING across.
His first story to really grab me was "The Man Who Painted the Dragon Graiule," which I thought was really beautifully imagined. Some of his other short stories were almost hallucinatorially intense and visual, even if they didn't always completely work for me as stories -- "R&R," "Fire Zone Emerald," "Delta Sly Honey," "Only Partly Here," etc.
Later in his career, Shepard published a really creepy zombie-rock-band piece called "A Little Night Music" that really showed off his strengths in his control of mood and ominous atmosphere. An early story, "A Spanish Lesson," to me wasn't much as a STORY, but the last few pages were a passionate moral lecture of the kind NOBODY writes anymore, and it was memorable just for that. If you want lots of Ray Bradbury-ish atmospheric mood, try to find "Journey South from Thousand Willows" -- it was printed in one of Terry Carr's UNIVERSE anthologies back in the early '80s. "How the Wind Spoke at Madaket" is a memorable sea-going horror story with lots of foreboding, creepy mood.
I tried to read his novels -- I got halfway through GREEN EYES before I gave up. It was intense and vivid, but something there just didn't grab me. It's still on my bookshelf for when I want to try it again. I got all the way through THE GOLDEN, which at the time I thought was the most boring vampire novel I'd ever read. Written in a dated style to reflect the setting (late 1700's), I could never re-read it now -- though a review of the book by John Clute convinced me awhile back that I'd probably missed the whole point. I tried to get through the stories collected in LIFE DURING WARTIME ("R&R," "Fire Zone Emerald," etc.), but couldn't get to the end.
Shepard was always passionate and deeply engaged in moral issues. It was clear that he'd seen a lot and was burning to write about it. He put together more big novels and HUGE short-story collections in his later years, and it always seemed like he was destined for major success, though I don't think that ever quite happened for him. His books are still out there.
Michael Shea was a fairly big deal in SF & horror circles in the late '70s and early '80s. "The Autopsy" is a TRULY creepy science-fiction horror story that you can find reprinted in David Hartwell's huge horror-overview collection THE DARK DESCENT. "The Angel of Death" is equally creepy, and "Fat Face" is ... ugh ... somewhere beyond creepy. Shea also had a wicked sense of humor -- some of his shorter stories show off that side of him.
I could never get into his award-winning novel NIFFT THE LEAN, though I've read rave reviews of it. Could be that kind of medieval-heroic-fantasy just wasn't meant for me. But Shea wrote other things too, like Jack-Vance-ish science-fantasy, and other horror-style adventures.
It bums me that some of my writer heroes from my childhood are dying -- first Ray Bradbury and Algis Budrys and Thomas M. Disch and John Brunner from awhile back, then Frederik Pohl last summer, and now these two. And there've been others along the way. I feel pretty good, myself.
I'm currently reading Douglas M. Winter's FACES OF FEAR (1985), a collection of interviews with horror writers -- about half a dozen of those folks are dead now, too. But the interviews are pretty great and pretty detailed -- I don't remember seeing the pieces on Peter Straub and T.E.D. Klein and Alan Ryan anywhere before. I got a couple of really nice rejection slips from Ted Klein back in the days when he was editing TWILIGHT ZONE magazine and I thought maybe I could write spooky stuff. Well, not quite.
Even the Stephen King interview has some new stuff in it. Worth tracking down if you're a horror fan.
More soon....

Monday, April 7, 2014

#740: It's over

THE GAS NAZI!: TEN YEARS IN A CONVENIENCE STORE is available now at Amazon.com's Kindle Store. It's $2.99, as are my other e-books. It's around 190 Kindle pages -- right at 59,000 words.
I think it's worth it, just for the comedy and outrage.
I missed my April Fool's Day deadline. I wanted to get the book out on April Fool's Day so that if my co-workers ever read it, maybe I wouldn't get fired. Maybe if they could take it as a joke or as fair comment and criticism, maybe the heat would be off. We'll see....
Anyway, the extra week's delay in getting the book finished was partly because I had to mess with it a bit. Because I'm paranoid. Because the gas station is a job I still have, I decided the best way to protect myself and sort-of guarantee my continued future employment was to cast the book as a "novel," as a piece of fiction. Even if everybody knows it's really just a memoir in disguise. My hero Brian Aldiss showed me how that's done last summer, when I read his BRIGHTFOUNT DIARIES and the lightbulb went on over my head about how easy this book-writing stuff could be.
So. All the characters' names have been changed, all the place-names. The rest is as real and detailed as I can remember it. And I left in all the comedy and outrage that comes from dealing with The Public.
I think the result is as funny as GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC! and as twisted as THE CONFESSOR -- sort of a cross between the two. And it's not like I had any choice. This is the stuff that wanted to come out.
You'll get not just the weirdness and stress and overwork, but also the comedy and the outrageous stuff  no one would ever believe if I hadn't lived through it.
You'll meet the store-owner who couldn't stop screaming! You'll meet the old man who exploded in the restroom! You'll meet the drunk guy who threw burger parts at the store! You'll meet the hyper guy who threw Twinkies everywhere! You'll meet all the people who screamed as gas prices went through the roof! And more.
If it's any help, the week's delay in getting this thing done gave me time to think of more stories that should have been included in the book. The more I wrote, the more I thought of. Each day I thought of a few more things, and as soon as I finished getting them down, something else would pop into my head. The result was that in the last week the book suddenly became 6,000 words longer -- until I had a night at work that seemed like a perfect way to finish the book.
And now I'm gonna take a break from this book-writing stuff for awhile. I've written three of them since the middle of last August, something like 550 pages, and I'm starting to feel a little thin. I still have a half-finished Guide To Strange Music that I want to get done, and a memoir about growing up fast with my wild-ass step-brother that only needs a long phonecall to complete.
But I need a break. Maybe I'll blog here more. There's an idea. Thanks to those of you Out There who've put up with my absence the last few months....
And if I should get fired for writing this book, I'll keep you posted about what happens next. After talking to all the area media about it, of course....

Currently reading Ramsey Campbell's PROBABLY, a collection of essays the horror writer has written over the last 30 years. It's WONDERFUL. To me it's much funnier and much more human than his novels and short stories.
Some of it's laugh-out-loud funny, which is a totally new experience for me when reading Campbell.
Some of the pieces are reviews of other authors' works, some are forewards or afterwards to his own novels and story collections, and there are several long, very revealing pieces about his childhood and about what it's like to be a best-selling horror writer. It ain't all free drinks down at the pub! ...There's also a long piece on English schoolgirl-spanking videos that has to be read to be believed....
Only drawback is it's a little pricey, a limited-edition book that's a little rare -- but if you're a sucker for Author's Notes like I am, it's pretty great....

Heard some great work by a heavy rock band called Pelican on SOUND OPINIONS last night -- loud, ominous King Crimson-style instrumentals, no vocals. The SOUND OPINIONS guys called Pelican "heavy metal," but to me they sound just heavy enough. The first music in awhile that's opened my ears. Might work for my continuing need to hear some LOUD guitar sounds.... I'm gonna have to check them out as soon as I finish typing this.
More soon....