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The Sliding Scale of Difficulty

For this writer anyway, from easiest, to hardest:

  • comics

  • scripts (television)

  • scripts (film)

  • novellas

  • short stories

  • novels

  • personal essay

  • poetry

Not on the list: introductions. They’re generally difficult to write, but on the other hand, the pay is lousy.

This doesn’t say anything about what’s most satisfying to write, or what I take the most pride in. Perhaps because novels are the most challenging, they’re often what I feel most attached to, after the fact. But that can’t be a surprise — you live with a novel much longer than you live with, say, the script for a 22 page comic. Authors are always saying writing a novel is like having children. Actually, I’m pretty sure nine months of carrying a gestating creature around in your abdomen, and then ejecting it after ten hours of groaning labor, in a spray of H.R. Geiger fluids, is fucking noooooothing like playing make believe in your office for a couple hours every day. Still, maybe they are a little like pets. Sometimes they scratch, they take months to housebreak, they HATE baths (rewrites)… and some days they curl up into your lap and begin to purr and you feel awash in contentment. You can get attached to that last feeling. That can make all the hard parts worth it.

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I Wish Yesterday Was Tomorrow

Director Danny Boyle AND screenwriter Richard Curtis? Man, that’s the best team-up you’re going to find this side of Lennon/McCartney. I love a warm, big-hearted, good-humoured tale of fantasy and The Beatles are one of my guiding lodestars, so yep, this one is pretty much checking all my boxes. Can’t wait.

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Lost and Faun

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Been a pretty wild week. My thanks to Michael Sugar, Jeremy Slater, and the whole Netflix gang for taking a chance on my forthcoming short story “Faun.” There’s a lot of tales about delightful children finding secret passageways to fairy tale worlds full of orcs and dwarves and talking animals. I’ve been wondering for a while now what if someone not so nice found one of those doors… and how such a man might turn the discovery to profit.

If you don’t want to wait for the movie, you can find the story in an upcoming Subterranean Press anthology, At Home In The Dark, edited by a legend of the thriller world, Lawrence Block. The hardcover is pricey, but Sub makes nice limited editions, and this will be to their usual standards of quality. I believe there’ll also be a paperback and an eBook of At Home. Keep an eye out for it, ‘kay?

On a process level… “Faun” was a pretty cool concept that I did everything in my power to fuck up when I wrote the first draft. My wife, Gillian, basically pulled my fat out of the fire — she went over the story line by line and told me how it was supposed to work. I’m incredibly lucky to have her in my life, and not just because she’s a helluva an editor.

Although. Yeah. She’s a hell of an editor.

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HUUUUUUGE ANNOUNCEMENT

Just decided the next book is going to be titled HEAVY METAL MURDER ORGY and the whole thing will be published in Comic Sans.

All I need to do is start writing.

+++rubs hands together in excitement+++

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Flame On

One of the (probably silly) things I thought I’d do with the blog is use it as a warehouse for some of the video that’s spun out of the stories. Here’s the book trailer for 2016’s The Fireman, product of my U.K. publisher’s PR engine. Pretty cool, huh? Almost looks like it could be a cable series.

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The Devil of It

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The above image accurately depicts my response to learning that Toni Collette didn’t get a Best Actress nomination for Hereditary.

To me, best picture of the year comes down to Buster Scruggs or this one. Still, I dig that Hereditary — a bloody brain-smashing mindfuck of a film — probably wasn’t the kind of thing you’d expect to snag the big prize. But, c’mon, nothing for Collette, nothing for Screenplay?

I shouldn’t complain, Shape of Water won it all last year, which shows that sometimes even the horror guys get noticed. Besides, I’m ambivalent about the value of awards. In 1988, The Last Emperor won Best Picture, but you, and me, and practically everyone else on the face of this good earth would rather watch Die-Hard (released at the same time). It doesn’t matter how many prizes you’ve won; they won’t make anyone love you anymore. That’s not how emotions work. And in any one year, lots of good work will not only go unhonored… it will go unnoticed! Princess Bride? Bomb. Sean Lennon’s Friendly Fire? See below. As noted in Ecclesiastes, “the race goes not always to the swift, and Best Animated Film will go to Pixar even if their latest picture was duller then dishwater.” That’s in Ecclesiastes isn’t it?

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Aloft

What if someone dropped the best album of the decade and no one bothered to listen? Related: did you ever check out Sean Lennon’s second album, Friendly Fire, released in 2006? How was this not on everyone’s iPod Mini? Track-for-track it’s as good as that first self-titled album by Crowded House, or Woodface, which was probably the House’s career high. I think it also compares nicely to the stuff the Lumineers are doing right now.

Some make much of Sean Lennon’s parentage, but I think when you put the needle down on the metaphorical disc, the conversation becomes moot. Either you like what you’re hearing or you don’t… and in this case, the quality of the craftsmanship is so exquisite, it seems to me that disliking Friendly Fire would require a perverse hatred of melody.

Ah well. In the music business, it’s common enough for fine work to slip through the cracks. I’m sorry I didn’t discover this album sooner, but I’m glad I came to it eventually, and I know now I’ll be listening to it all winter. Why don’t you hit up Spotify or Apple Music and give the Friendly Fire album a listen yourself. Like it? Tell a friend. This is how good work eventually gets its moment, don’t you think?

On a side note, I wish I knew about Lennon’s “Parachute” while I was writing “Aloft.” They go together like a single perfect cloud in a bright blue sky.

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Don't Mess Around With Jim

Sweet little ditty by Jim Croce came on the radio and I was reminded all over again how much I love his romantic ballad: “I’ll Have To Say I Love You (With My Dong)”.

Welcome to my new blog.

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Resumes Transmissions

When did I last keep a blog? Has it really been five years?

I thought maybe I’d turn to a blank digital page and start up a new web journal. It would be nice to have a space to yak about current events and pop culture and occasionally make with the funny. I did a lot of that over on Twitter, but eventually decided it’s not a very healthy space for me (it might not be for you either, but that’s for you to decide, amirite?). So now the @joe_hill account primarily exists only as yet another channel to peddle my ass.

I also had a blog over on Tumblr, where I once posted a popular essay about the summer of Jaws and the slaughter of an unidentified woman outside Provincetown (How popular? This thing went more viral than herpes). But then Tumblr decided to wipe out “The Lady and the Shark,” presumably in their great porno purge of 2018. Although maybe they had some other reason for deleting it: the piece contained no nudity, and although I often use salty language in my writing, I think that one was relatively clean. It was a reminder though of how much control you’re giving away when someone else controls the medium. This never happens to John Scalzi on The Whatever.

I still have a copy of “Lady and the Shark,” of course, and was wondering what to do with it and suddenly it hit me I need a space for my random thoughts. It can be my space or it can be MySpace; something I own or something that belongs to Mark Zuckerberg. I went with me. So look for the Jaws piece to resurface here in the very near future. Among other no-doubt entirely essential musings.

One thing the blog won’t do is replace the newsletter, Escape Hatch, which you can sign up for by scrolling to the bottom of the main page. The blog is for the occasional single-focus essay and the drive-by comment. Escape Hatch will feature previews of upcoming work, pictures, promos, exclusives, and oddball analysis of stuff like the latest Liam Gallagher album. Escape Hatch is a mini-magazine; the blog is a cafe, and I’ve got a table in the corner. Get a cup of tea and siddown for a while.

There IS a comments thread for those of you who want to chime in. A conversation is, after all, more interesting than a lecture. That said, moderating the comments thread on a blog can turn into a full-time job if one isn’t careful and I need to be careful — I’ve already got a full-time job. Don’t be hurt, but I’ll only be leaving comments open for 24 hours after a piece is published. Get your say fast or don’t get it at all. Better make your say thoughtful, considerate, and kind, too, or I’ll blast your comment out of existence. Don’t like it? Hey, there’s always Tumblr.

Thanks for spending some time with me, folks. We’ll have some fun.

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