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Judge A Book By Its Cover

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I was looking at this Victor Kalin cover from — what? The early 60s maybe? — and had a weird idea. Wouldn’t it be interesting to read a dozen books illustrated by the same cover artist from the same time period? It’s so much more typical (and sensible) to choose books based on the author or subject or genre. But you could probably have a hell of a lot of fun reading a stack of pulp paperbacks, where the only common thread is that they all have cover art by Kalin, or Robert McGinnis, or Robert Maguire.

Don’t know if I’ll ever do it, but I do like coming up with eccentric reading projects for myself. Ever given yourself a random reading mission?

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The Reason I Write

American rocknrolla Matthew Ryan pointed me to this remarkable poem by Leonard Cohen, titled “The Reason I Write.”

***

The reason I write
is to make something
as beautiful as you are

When I'm with you
I want to be the kind of hero
I wanted to be
when I was seven years old
a perfect man
who kills

***

Love that.

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June 2nd

The first episode of NOS4A2 airs on June 2nd, immediately after FEAR THE WALKING DEAD. And here’s the full trailer.

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FULL THROTTLE

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Out this fall, a new collection of thirteen stories that go FULL THROTTLE. This is my first collection of shorts since 2005’s 20TH CENTURY GHOSTS (STRANGE WEATHER was four novellas, which is something of a different beast).

The book features a pair of collaborations with the best writer I know: my dad, who leant his pen to both “Throttle” and “In The Tall Grass” (Netflix will soon release the latter as a feature). FULL THROTTLE also includes “Faun,” another Netflix-film-to-come. There’s a story here that will be the basis for an episode of the upcoming Creepshow anthology, on Shudder (I’m not sure I’m clear to identify which one yet). There are two never-published tales: “Mums” and “Late Returns.” Then there’s “You Are Released,” which was just nominated for a Bram Stoker Award, and which was selected for inclusion in Ellen Datlow’s Best New Horror collection. And there’s a bunch of other stuff besides.

You can preorder now from the usual suspects: https://bit.ly/2CGmroj 

If you do check it out, here’s hoping you have some fun with it. And hey, maybe I’ll see you on the road in October and scribble in yer book?

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Wheels Up: March and April Appearances

[UPDATED TO CORRECT THE DATE FOR THE EXETER LIT FEST]

The latest issue of Escape Hatch will be out later today and it has full rundown of my spring travel. But I thought I ought to have something up here on the blog for those incomprehensible few who haven’t yet subscribed to the newsletter.

AUSTIN, TX * SXSW FESTIVAL
ALAMO LAMAR
MARCH 11, 6:15 PM
w/ ASHLEIGH CUMMINGS, ZACAHARY QUINTO, JAMI O'BRIEN

I'm in Texas to show-off the very first episode of AMC's NOS4A2 with our heroine, Ashleigh, our villainous villain Zach, and our amazing show-runner Jami. Q&A to follow.

ANAHEIM, CA * WONDERCON
ARENA
MARCH 30, 11:15 - 12:45
w/ ZACAHARY QUINTO, JAMI O'BRIEN

I'll be at WonderCon with Zach and Jami (and mmmmmaybe Ashleigh?) with another chance to show off a killer first episode.

EXETER, NH * EXETER LIT FEST
EXETER TOWN HALL (upstairs gallery)
APRIL 5, 7 - 8PM
w/ BITTER PILL

I'll be in Exeter, New Hampshire, to read... something... do a Q&A and sign books, all to support the inaugural Exeter Lit Fest. Bitter Pill is going to bring the rocknroll.

TALLAHASSEE, FL * WORD OF SOUTH FESTIVAL
LYRIC STAGE
APRIL 14, 3PM

w/ MATTHEW RYAN
I'm so looking forward to doing an event with my pal, Matthew Ryan, rocknrolla extraordinaire. When my story "Dark Carousel" was released as an audiobook on vinyl, Matt provided a transcendent cover of the Stones' "Wild Horses" to go with it. Come on out and see us -- he'll play, I'll read, and we'll all have fun.

There are a few other opportunities to see NOS4A2 early. I won’t be at the screenings in Seattle and Chicago, but if you’re able to make it, I kinda think you’ll have a good time anyway. I’m real proud of our show.

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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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