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UNHOLY COMMUNION

Posted on 2006.04.26 at 04:37
Unholy Communion

Art is about sheathing dreams in flesh, the bloody, painful miracle of birth, but without perseverence, the word incarnate will strangle in the birth canal. I never imagined that months and years would go into the gestation, never anticipated the anxiety, the self-doubt, the incapacitating powerlessness I would feel after I delivered my manuscript.

Fortunately, I've been blessed with an unholy communion--something I didn't have three years ago, and never imagined I would need. In my arrogance, I didn't think a community of writers had anything to offer. I could read and read and pay close attention to how the books that I enjoy are written, which is ninety percent of how one becomes a decent writer, and remain blissfully ignorant of the people behind the books that shape and move me.

I was dead wrong.

During this waiting game, it's the writers who have taken this road before me, beating the dirt path hard as sun-baked clay, that have kept me sane. Several years ago I met Mark Clements, one of the most gifted horror writers ever to come out of San Diego–Hell, out of any city this side of Nod. He wrote four amazing novels, and I admired him from afar. Then through my dear friend, Hodge (an as-yet-unpublished, but incredibly talented writer with a razor-sharp sense of humor), Mark became a close friend, an encourager, and a man who could empathize with the unique, neurotic trials of a writer's life. Through Hodge I also met Howard Hendrix, a very talented hard SF writer with a formidable intellect, and we too cultivated a wonderful friendship.

Then just a year ago, I became part of a new family of writers. Justine Musk came into my life, after Mark Clements introduced us. (Thank you, Mark!) Justine had participated in a fiction workshop that Mark ran several years ago, and she'd just sold her first novel, BLOODANGEL. Mark asked me to read the galley for BLOODANGEL, and help promote it at the Uber-bookstore where I work as a merchandising manager. Her brilliant prose and riveting story blew me away. Justine has a lucid, powerful imagination. Justine and I have since become wonderful friends, and through sharing in her struggles and triumphs, her anxieties, insecurities, dreams and victories, I've grown so much as a writer. I've learned to become more comfortable with those uncomfortable places. Justine's just sold the sequel to BLOODANGEL and received several offers from publishing houses for her YA novel, STRANGER. Congratulations, my friend!

About the same time that I met Justine, I wrote a review for one of Doug Clegg's horror novels. Though Doug has won a trophy case full of Bram Stoker awards, he doesn't get the same readership that Stephen King enjoys. But Clegg deserves that level of attention. He's that good. Much to my amazement, Doug wrote back to me, and in the two years since we first corresponded, he has offered me support, encouragement, hard truths, and wisdom. He even offered to be there if I ever needed anyone to talk to when I reached a real low point. Doug, thank you--you are a gentleman and a hero to me. Doug's conquered the mm horror market, and now launched an epic Vampire fantasy series set in a medieval world. The first novel, PRIEST OF BLOOD is already out through ACE, and his double-barrel shotgun blast, THE ATTRACTION just came out in mm from Leisure press.

I met my friend, Andrew Fox, at a Del Rey dinner in San Diego, the same night I met the editor who later asked me to send him CRUCIFER.  As with Doug, my relationship with Andy grew out of a review I wrote on one of his novels, a gritty, comic horror novel called  FAT WHITE VAMPIRE BLUES.   The trade paperback original will soon hit bookstores as a mass market.  Like, Doug, Andy was kind enough to write a response to my review.  Andy's not only been through the burning hoops of publishing horror, he's worked directly with the same editor that accepted CRUCIFER.   Andy's given me the inside view of the insider's view, and encouraged, warned, cajoled, and beaten some reality about the publishing world into me.  Andy's not only written horror, he's lived it--he and his family barely escaped the worst of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, which ripped open his home city of New Orleans.  And it just goes to show how the rain falls on the just and the unjust in equal measure (Andy's one of the just, in case you were wondering).   He and his wife have dedicated their lives to helping the urban poor of the Big Easy, providing critical health, food, employment and educational services.   He's one of those genuinely good men who gives far more back to this world than he takes out of it.  He's also a very gifted writer.  His 450 lb vampire, Jules Duchon, is one of the most original characters to leap into the banquet hall of horror literature.  Think Confederacy of Dunces stewed in Dashiell Hammet, with a dash of  James Burke and Anne Rice.  "Mad! " you say--but there's a method to his madness, and the absurdity and profundity come together in a rich jambalaya of a story.    And for a second helping there's his BRIDE OF THE FAT WHITE VAMPIRE.  You'll definitely want the second course.

In the month since my last post, I've been honored to have two new friends join the horror posse–Brian Keene and J.F. Gonzalez. Brian's the mastermind behind THE RISING and CITY OF THE DEAD (yes, THOSE fucking brilliant zombie novels). His new Lovecraftian novel of watery apocalypse and slithering horror, CONQUEROR WORMS comes out in mm May 2nd. Brian read my last blog, HORROR 101, and was generous enough to mention it on his own. Now I'm thrilled to be hosting him and J.F. Gonzalez (whose most recent novel of terror, snuff, and revenge, SURVIVOR, makes the movie HOSTEL look like a sugar-frosted Disney dream) at a book signing in San Diego. Though I still haven't signed a contract for CRUCIFER, which was accepted by an editor at Ballantine many months ago, these writers haven't once treated me like a fanboy, quite the opposite. They've offered insight and respect, given me an insider's look at what they go through, and now we're paving new friendships.

I share in the joy of all these gifted writers' triumphs, buckle down when I hear stories of the trials that they've gone through, and am inspired to NEVER GIVE UP THE DREAM. 

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Time to give thanks for a special friend, a woman who has constantly encouraged me, and taught me more about publishing than any other person–Colleen Lindsay, aka La Gringa. This amazing publicist, has seen writers come and go, launched many an author's career, and knows the reality of the Big Ass Publishing world. She helps me keep a realistic perspective, makes me laugh until I can't breath, kicks my ass when needed, and offers spiritual support. I was so blessed when she opened her arms to me in friendship.

Then there is my mentor and dear friend, Richard Prestwood, who while not a professional writer, is the most gifted man I know in the intricacies and absurdities of the English language. Were it not for him, I wouldn't be a tenth of the writer I've become. When I fail, it's because I haven't paid enough attention to his advice. Richard, my life is so much richer because of you.

D.C.--You have always believed in the dream.  Always been there for me.  Thank you for twelve years of love, support, and being there through my moments of insanity.  We walk this road of life together, and I'm so thankful you've chosen to travel with me.  You are my anchor when I reach out for chaos.  Were that I were as constant or as noble as you.  I love you.

And last--my beloved Kelly Vardiman, aka Mistress Muerto. What would I do without you?  You are my soul of souls, who sees my strengths and helps me build upon them; my weaknesses and loves me in spite of them. Every day is worth the waking because you're in my life.  M.M. has suffered through reading so many drafts and offered keen advice.. Were it not for her honesty, and gift of discerning the meat from the gristle of a story, nothing that I write would be worth reading. Because of her I'm a better writer and a far better man. M.M., I love you.

For those of you bored to tears, I ask for your forgiveness. For weeks I've been in a dark place of discouragement and self-doubt. My soul's been unquiet. I just needed to say thank you to those of you who have helped me get through these long, dark nights, when the dream of getting CRUCIFER published seems so far away.

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