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Snowblind [Aug. 1st, 2014|09:44 am]
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SnowblindSnowblind by Christopher Golden

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A tremendous horror novel that brings to mind many of the best early works of Stephen King and Peter Straub. Golden understands that horror is more about the characters than the monsters, and SNOWBLIND is full of indelible characters you feel like you know intimately by the end. By following an interconnected group of townsfolk as they deal with the ghosts of their past, both emotional and real, Golden finds a way to remind us that horror is, more than anything else, the genre of tragedy, of loss, and ultimately of picking up the pieces afterward. An outstanding work that feels both classic in its structure and refreshingly new in its conversation with the genre. More books like this, please.

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Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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New Interview with Yours Truly [Aug. 1st, 2014|08:36 am]
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Hunt reissue cover

Hey, folks! There’s a new interview with me over at the Book Plank talking about Titan Books’ re-release of Hunt at World’s End. In it, you’ll learn all about how I came to write this volume of the adventure series, what it was like to work with mad genius Charles Ardai, and the character who got edited out of the novel entirely!

Check it out here.

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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Please Dress Modestly [Jul. 25th, 2014|06:14 pm]
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Yesterday I broke the Internet. Today it was my wife’s turn.

You see, we live in a pretty diverse neighborhood, Crown Heights, in which there dwells a very large Orthodox Jewish population. The Orthodox communities in New York aren’t exactly known for their tolerance of outsiders. In the past, they have forced women to sit in the back of public city buses, painted over bicycle lanes in the street because they deemed bicycle pants on women to be “immodest,” tried to gender segregate a public park, and so on and so on. Yesterday, a sign mysteriously appeared in our neighborhood, wrapped around a public utility pole. Alexa took a photo of it on her way home from work:

In case you can’t read it, it says, “Dear Resident, Guest, Visitor, please dress modestly. This is a Jewish neighborhood.”

Aside from the generally outrageous tone of the sign telling adults how they should dress, it is actually illegal to post private signs on public property. Furthermore, Crown Heights is not only a Jewish neighborhood. You can’t walk two blocks here without coming across a church, either freestanding or storefront. There’s a huge Caribbean and African-American population here, not to mention Caucasians, Hispanics, Asians, etc. etc. etc. It’s an extremely diverse neighborhood. The sign tries to “other” everyone who isn’t part of the orthodox community by claiming ownership of the neighborhood and addressing everyone else as merely residents, guests, and visitors. Fuck that.

So Alexa sent the pictures to a few places online. Failed Messiah and Gothamist both picked up the story and ran with it, reprinting not just Alexa’s pictures but also the email she sent with them. I’m so proud of her! I can’t wait for her to blow up the Internet again! In the meantime, the sign is still there. I wonder if it will be tomorrow.

In other news, I was quoted by the CBC in an article about those creepy dolls that were appearing on doorsteps in California. Everything’s coming up Internet!

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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HWA Votes to Allow Self-Published Works to Qualify for Active Membership [Jul. 24th, 2014|11:28 am]
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It’s been a long time since I’ve written about the Horror Writers Association, or HWA, on my blog. I left the organization years ago, disillusioned with how inward-looking and self-congratulatory it had become, especially when it came to the Bram Stoker Awards, which were increasingly starting to look like an award specifically for the honoring of HWA members. (Even after becoming a partially juried award, some of the results have made me wonder if this isn’t still the case.) I also left disillusioned from all the bad advice the HWA’s members were being given, despite myself and a small handful others frequently trying to counteract it.

Members were often told they didn’t need agents. There was a provincial resistance to the idea of opening our doors to writers of urban fantasy and paranormal romance, the two cousins of horror that are actually publishing robustly. Announcements of publishing deals with big, mainstream houses were few and far between, but when they occasionally happened they were all but ignored in favor of the announcement of yet another deal with the micropress du jour. Message board threads offering tips on how to actually make it in publishing were quickly subsumed by much longer threads about the latest horror movies. Any publisher, no matter how terrible or scummy or lacking in business sense, was celebrated so long as they published HWA members. No one wanted to criticize terrible publishers for their bad practices because they were worried it would affect their own chances of being published, which is itself a tortured bit of logic. I mean, why would you want to be published by a bad publisher in the first place? It became apparent to me that the HWA was not an organization for writers who were serious about their careers. It was, instead, a place where its members could stand in a circle and pat each other on the back.

I’ll admit, I’m sounding a bit harsh. I may still have a few raw feelings about the HWA, mostly because I wanted — and needed — it to be more than it was. Although, like many ex-members, my career only took off once I actually left the HWA, which I suppose speaks to the level of writing and publishing advice the HWA doles out. I also walked away from the HWA with the distinct and unshakeable feeling that its members don’t read much except books by other members.

Which brings me to this. A friend pointed me toward this announcement from yesterday:

I’m very pleased to say that the HWA Referendum that I help write with fellow members A.J. Klein and Michaelbrent Collings on including self-published work for membership qualification for both Active and Associate members has passed with a 78% to 28% margin in favor, with 2% abstaining from the vote.

Self-publishers who have generated $2000 in earnings within two years of initial publication date can qualify for Active (voting) status. Those who have earned $200 within two years of initial publication date can qualify for Associate status. More details can be found at http://horror.org/joining-the-hwa/ (please note the criteria have not yet been updated).

Let me be the first to welcome the HWA to the 21st century!

As you might imagine, I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, self-publishing isn’t necessarily the terrible business decision it used to be. The problem with the old self-publishing model was twofold. First, if you went with one of the publish-on-demand companies, they charged fees so high that authors were unlikely to ever recoup it from book sales. Second,  the books received no distribution, which further hobbled their sales potential and the ability to bring a wider audience to the author. More often than not, these self-publishing companies were nothing more than a scam to separate the gullible and the starry-eyed from their money. Snake oil for the literary set.

With e-book self-publishing, both those problems are fixed. For the most part, you can now self-publish for little or no money, and distribution is no problem because all the major online retailers carry e-books. Some self-published e-book authors have even been quite successful, and at a rate that appears to be higher than the number of successful self-publishers from the print days.

On the other hand, there has been very little change in quality of self-published books. Anyone can shit out a book with incomprehensible prose and tortured plots, upload it to Amazon and B&N, and call themselves a published author. And in the current paradigm, they would not be wrong to call themselves that. This is something of a slap in the face to those of us who actually put effort into our craft, those of us who work hard and pay our dues in the trenches of rejection and the classrooms of trial-and-error to earn the title of published author.

And that’s my problem with this new rule. Essentially, it changes the threshold for becoming an Active member — which also means a voting member — to nothing more than the ability to reach the end of a project and figure out how to upload it properly. Granted, they’ve added a sales requirement, which is at least a threshold of some kind, but even that is fraught with problems. The old requirement was about ensuring members were learning how to write well enough to ostensibly launch a writing career. This new requirement eliminates the writing element altogether in favor of how well they can sell a book online. Many self-publishers are already shameless and annoying self-promoters, clogging our social media and email with entreaties to read their latest work. This will only make it worse. Also in question is the fact that there’s no way of knowing if that money is coming from actual readers or, say, the authors themselves. The potential exists for people to buy their way into Active membership.

So yeah, mixed feelings. There’s no doubt that self-published e-books are here to stay. In fact, I think we’re going to see more and more established authors turn to self-publishing e-books. It may even wind up being the publishing paradigm of the future. I don’t know. Right now, though, it’s not. Right now, for many new writers, it’s a shortcut. Learning to deal with rejection is such a huge part of being a writer, and just uploading anything you write to the Kindle store eliminates that important lesson. Because these authors aren’t learning to handle rejection properly, we’re seeing more and more of them writing angry responses to bad reviews online and generally acting like jackasses in public. Learning to handle rejection eliminates that sense of entitlement. Avoiding rejection breeds it.

Combining authors who have an unchecked sense of entitlement with authors who can essentially buy their way into Active membership, and thus vote into existence more bylaws that favor them, could very well result in a membership base that is completely uninterested in learning how to write or how to deal with agents and publishers. This will likely drive away any remaining members who want to learn how to write well enough to be traditionally published and have lasting careers. The HWA runs the risk of becoming an organization concerned almost exclusively with how to better sell your self-published e-books.

I’ve long said one of the major problems with the HWA is that it focuses way too much on the H and not nearly enough on the W. This new qualification rule won’t change that. My concern is that it will make it even worse.

 

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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Necon 34 Report [Jul. 23rd, 2014|04:02 pm]
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Necon 34 was this past weekend. Believe it or not, this was my 14th year attending. I started going in 2000, and only missed one year — 2009 — between then and now. Making this an extra special year was the fact that I was one of the Writer Guests of Honor, along with Amber Benson and Michael Koryta, with my dear friend Jack Haringa as Toastmaster. The Artist Guest of Honor was Erik Mohr, who does all the amazing covers for ChiZine Publications’ books, including my novella Chasing the Dragon. All three of them — Amber, Michael, and Erik – fit right in at Necon. They joked around with everyone and gave as good as they got (there’s a lot of sarcasm and snark at Necon, but it’s all done with love). The same can be said of special guest Kasey Lansdale, Joe R. Lansdale’s daughter and a talented entertainer in her own right. She gave a knockout concert Thursday night in the courtyard, and stuck around all weekend.

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Thursday night dinner at the Lobster Pot with Kasey Lansdale, Amber Benson, Erik Mohr, and me.

For the first time in ages, the Necon goody bags were filled to the brim with books. Not just my own novel, Dying Is My Business, which St. Martin’s was kind enough to send, but there was a metric tonne of books donated by ChiZine Publications. I came home with something like eleven books, and that was after giving back the books I already owned!

The panels were their usual loosey-goosey shenanigans. Necon is very different from Readercon that way. But still, there were a lot of good topics being discussed and most of the time they were discussed seriously and knowledgeably. I very much enjoyed being on both the non-fiction panel and the erotic horror panel, even if the latter was at 9 AM on Sunday morning. But one of the highlights for me was definitely the Writer Guests of Honor interview led by Jack. It was scheduled for two hours instead of just one, and as moderator Jack made the time fly by with interesting and insightful questions. Plus, he only yelled at us a little.

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The Writer Guests of Honor interview with a blurry Jack Haringa, Amber Benson, Michael Koryta, and me.

The programming at Necon is always enjoyable, but the real draw is the people. When we describe Necon as a family reunion, we mean it. It’s one of the most welcoming, loving, non-judgmental atmospheres I’ve ever been in. I didn’t meet a single new “camper” this year who wasn’t enthusiastic about coming back again. This happened to be the first year since Necon founder Bob Booth passed away, and his family — Sara Calia, Dan Booth, and Mary Booth — did a fantastic job keeping it all flowing smoothly in his absence. His presence was missed, and yet he felt very much there.

Two events stand out the most for me from this year’s Necon. The first was an impromptu H.P. Lovecraft walking tour of Providence a few of us took on Saturday morning, including Brian Keene, Mary SanGiovanni, Jim Moore, and Bev Vincent. Charles Rutledge led the tour. Dan Foley “drove” — by which I mean he missed every turn and nearly took us to Maine. We saw the house where Lovecraft lived when he wrote “The Call of Cthulhu” and other seminal works, as well as the house that inspired his story “The Shunned House,” and the cemetery where both Lovecraft and Poe used to stroll while thinking about their stories. There was so much history there you could feel it.

The second standout event was, ahem, the roast on Saturday night. Chris Golden worked tirelessly to fool me into thinking we were roasting Jeff Strand, but it was all an elaborate ruse. I was the one being roasted! How my friends managed to keep this from me for weeks — especially Jack, whom I’d just seen the weekend before at Readercon — is beyond me, but they did a fantastic job keeping it on the low down. I was taken completely by surprise. I’m told the look on my face was priceless. If anyone has a photo of that moment, I’d love to see it!

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This picture pretty much sums it up.

I’m not supposed to repeat what was said at the roast, but suffice it to say they got me good. Especially Kasey Lansdale. Ouch! They even trotted out that old photo of me in the bikini top from the Hawaiian Shirt Contest back in 2002. Bastards. But just when I thought it was over, there was one last surprise…

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…a pie in the face from Ginjer Buchanan! I felt deeply loved and appreciated, despite the zingers and being unexpectedly covered in whipped cream with no clean pants to change into. I tried to give back as good as I got during my rebuttal, but it was already a long night and I didn’t hit everyone who had roasted me, just a select few. Then I went back to my room, changed out of my whipped cream-covered clothes, showered, and went out to join my friends in my pajamas.

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Post-roast with Bev Vincent, Kasey Lansdale, Mary SanGiovanni, Brian Keene, Shawn Bagley, John Goodrich, and the “man of the hour” in his pajamas.

Chris Golden retired that night from hosting the annual roast and left its future in the hands of Jeff Strand and myself. I know we’ll do him proud. And that’s another Necon in the rearview mirror. It’s always sad saying goodbye, but it was great seeing Amber again and making new friends with Kasey and Michael. I hope all of them will come back to Necon again. I know I will.

You can see more pictures from Necon 34 here.

Oh, and one last thing. Thank you, all of you, from the bottom of my heart…for your mediocrity.

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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The Scariest Part: A.J. Colucci Talks About SEEDERS [Jul. 22nd, 2014|07:00 am]
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Seeders (3)

Welcome to this week’s installment of The Scariest Part, a recurring feature in which authors, comic book writers, filmmakers, and game creators tell us what scares them in their latest works of horror, dark fantasy, dark science fiction, and suspense. (If you’d like to be featured on The Scariest Part, check out the guidelines here.)

My guest is A.J. Colucci, whose latest novel is Seeders. Here is the publisher’s description:

George Brookes is a brilliant but reclusive plant biologist living on a remote Canadian island. After his mysterious death, the heirs to his estate arrive on the island, including his daughter Isabelle, her teenage children, and Jules Beecher, a friend and pioneer in plant neurobiology. They will be isolated on the frigid island for two weeks, until the next supply boat arrives.

As Jules begins investigating the laboratory and scientific papers left by George, he comes to realize that his mentor may have achieved a monumental scientific breakthrough: communication between plants and humans. Within days, the island begins to have strange and violent effects on the group, especially Jules who becomes obsessed with George’s journal, the strange fungus growing on every plant and tree, and horrible secrets that lay buried in the woods. It doesn’t take long for Isabelle to realize that her father may have unleashed something sinister on the island, a malignant force that’s far more deadly than any human. As a fierce storm hits and the power goes out, she knows they’ll be lucky to make it out alive.

A.J. Colucci masterfully weaves real science with horror to create a truly terrifying thriller, drawing from astonishing new discoveries about plants and exploring their eerie implications. Seeders is a feast of horror and suspense.

And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for A.J. Colucci:

The scariest part of Seeders. That’s a tough one. It could be how six people are stranded on a cold, desolate island and start losing their minds. Or the decomposing body they find in the woods. Perhaps it’s the premise of the book — communication between plants and people, based on actual science — because in my book plants don’t just feel pain and emotion; they fight back.

However, for me, the scariest part of the story is what happened while writing the novel. I’d been working on Seeders during the winter months when the towering trees in my neighborhood were bare and loomed like angry giants, staring down at me with thousands of claw branches as I took my morning walks. Lost in my story, the trees seemed eager to attack, and frustrated by the roots that kept them anchored to the ground. I learned from my research that rootedness is their curse. And I did hours of research, every day, getting daily doses of plant facts. Trees and plants feel pain. They can learn and remember. They can signal insects and send chemical warnings to each other. Did you know the lovely smell of fresh cut grass is actually your lawn screaming?

However, as spring approached and their leaves began to bud, the trees didn’t look so frightening. I remember thinking the mighty oak seemed more content, less hostile in the warmth of a sunny day. It came time to tend to my garden, and I got the old snipping shears out of the shed to trim my four foot Japanese Red Maple. It has those droopy branches and its feathery leaves were beginning to touch the ground.

But before making the first snip, I hesitated. After all my research, was I really going to cut this tree? I knew plants, in their own way, felt pain. They reacted to trauma by becoming depressed. Simply cutting one branch would affect the entire plant for hours. Yet, not cutting the droopy branch was an invitation to bugs crawling on the ground. So I snipped it. All seemed fine until a couple seconds after the snip and I heard a squeal. I kid you not. It was a small squeal of pain. Of course, I thought it must be my imagination, but my heart kicked up and I stared bug-eyed at the tree. I held my breath. I tried it again. A second after the snip, I heard the squeal. Now my blood ran cold and my hand was shaking. I looked around to see if anyone was around, even though I was positive the noise came from the tree. I snipped once more, and two seconds later it cried out. I recalled the sound, sort of a high pitch whine and the release of a tiny breath. Like what you’d hear from a baby in a moment of discomfort.

With a tight fist I stood up, and then loosened my grip. There was that sound again. I looked closely at the shears, pinching them closed and letting them snap open. It was the shears, the stupid shears! They were slightly rusted and squeaked when they sprang open. Still, rusty shears or not, I cannot forget that feeling of horror. Thinking, knowing, the tree had shrieked. After everything I learned while researching Seeders, I know we can never be quite sure of what a plant is really feeling, or thinking.

A.J. Colucci: Website

Seeders: Amazon / Other sellers

A.J. Colucci is an author of science thrillers, stories that combine true, cutting-edge science with the adrenaline-rush of a thriller. Her latest novel, Seeders, was described by #1 New York Times bestselling author Douglas Preston as “Gripping and brilliantly original.” Her debut novel, The Colony, was given a starred review by Publishers Weekly, and Booklist called it “a frightening combination of well-researched science and scenes of pure horror.” A.J. spent 15 years as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor and writer for corporate America. Today she is a full-time author who lives in New Jersey with her husband, two daughters and a couple of adorable cats. A.J. is a member of International Thriller Writers.

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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Where to Find Me at Necon [Jul. 16th, 2014|02:37 pm]
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Necon 34 starts tomorrow! I’m very excited. I’ve been going to Necon regularly since 2000, only missing one year between then and now. This year, I’m deeply honored to be one of the Writer Guests of Honor, along with Michael Koryta and Amber Benson. Coincidentally, this year’s Artist Guest of Honor is Erik Mohr, the mad genius behind so many of ChiZine Publications’ amazing book covers, including the gorgeous cover for Chasing the Dragon! I hope he brings a print of it for the art room!

Necon announced their programming schedule a while back, which you can see here, but I haven’t had the time to blog about it until now. So here’s the rundown on where you can find me at Necon 34 (as you’ll see, the Necon panel descriptions tend to be short and jokey; quite a difference from Readercon!):

Friday

2PM   Somebody’s Gotta Tell the Truth: The Smart People’s Panel
We’ve pretty much devoted every other panel to talking about stuff people have made up (i.e. fiction); it’s only fair we give the non-fiction writers, critics, and reviewers an hour to talk about what they do, too.
Jack Haringa (M), Nicholas Kaufmann, Hank Wagner, Hildy Silverman, Sheri White, Tony Tremblay

[This may be the first time anyone has said I belong with the smart people!]

8PM   Meet the Authors Party

[I'll have a few copies of Chasing the Dragon and Hunt at World's End with me for anyone interested. Copies of Dying Is My Business will be available at the convention.]

Saturday

1PM   Guest of Honor Interviews (NOTE — Extended Panel)
We’ve got three amazing Writer Guests of Honor this year and let’s face it, try as we might none of us have ever been able to get Jack Haringa to shut up. As such, we knew an hour just wouldn’t cut it, so we’re scheduling this for two hours and promising a 10 – 15 minute break around 2PM.
Jack Haringa (Toastmaster), Michael Koryta, Amber Benson, Nicholas Kaufmann

9PM   The Infamous Necon Roast

[As usual, I'll be co-hosting with Christopher Golden. Who's getting roasted this year? Unless you're attending the convention, you'll just have to wait until afterward to find out!]

Sunday

9AM   Up and Coming: Genre and Erotic Fiction Do the 9AM “Walk of Shame”
Sex sells. Romance sells. Genre fiction sells (we all hope!). Combining the two would seem to be a “chocolate and peanut butter” no-brainer … but how do you do it right?
Sephera Giron (M), Peter Dudar, Hal Bodner, Mike Myers, Heather Graham, Nick Kaufmann

[I may not be known for my erotica stories, but I've had a good bit of success with them. Should be an interesting panel.]

And that’s it for my schedule. You should also be able to find me attending other panels, browsing in the dealers room, hanging out in the bar, or socializing in the lobby or courtyard. See you there!

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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Reading at Readercon [Jul. 14th, 2014|05:07 pm]
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Readercon reading

Here is the photo I mentioned in the previous blog entry, taken by Jack Haringa at my Readercon reading. Or is this me at a corporate board meeting discussing marketing strategies for the new cross-platform business paradigm? You be the judge!

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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Readercon 25 [Jul. 14th, 2014|11:12 am]
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I attended Readercon 25 this past weekend, and as always I had a blast. The programming is outstanding — there’s always something happening that you’re likely to want to see — but for me the real attraction is always getting to see friends I usually only get see once or twice a year: John Langan, Paul Tremblay, Jack Haringa, F. Brett Cox, Chesya Burke, Michael Cisco (who lives in New York but whom I usually only see outside of it for some reason), Duncan Eagleson, Shawn Bagley, Brett Savory, Sandra Kasturi, and a host of others. This year my friends Lee Thomas and Nate Southard made the trip up from Austin, too. It was a rare treat seeing them.

I hosted my first-ever kaffeeklatsch on Friday afternoon. I was nervous. I don’t enjoy talking about myself or my work, so I figured it would just be a bunch of people sitting in silence for an hour, staring at each other. If anyone bothered coming at all. In the end, the reality was much nicer. We had a nice-sized group and the conversation flowed freely and organically. I wound up sharing an unexpected number of “Tales from Retail” about my time as a B&N department manager and an independent bookstore owner, and also related the “Unfortunate Tale of the Dying Is My Business Misprint,” which is much easier for me to handle in hindsight than it was at the time. I would call the kaffeeklatsch a success and would happily do one again next year.

My reading Friday night was much better attended than last year’s, despite being scheduled during prime dinner time again. I read an excerpt from Die and Stay Dead, the same excerpt I read at the Hi-Fi Bar earlier this year. I think I flubbed all the funny lines, but otherwise it was well received. (Apparently, there’s a photo of me reading on Jack Haringa’s Facebook page, but I can’t nab it because I’m not on Facebook.) I stuck around afterward for John Langan and Glen Hirshberg’s readings, which were phenomenal. Indeed, one of the highlights of the convention was finally getting to meet and interact with Glen, whom I found delightful and look forward to spending time with again soon.

The Shirley Jackson Awards on Sunday was another treat. You can see who won here. Big congrats to my dear friend Veronica Schanoes on winning for Burning Girls, and to my friends Robert Jackson Bennett, Nathan Ballingrud, and Joseph Pulver on their wins as well!

My one panel appearance came right after the awards with “Horror for Diverse Audiences.” Moderator John Langan and fellow panelists Gemma Files, Shira Lipkin, Jennifer Pelland (who is also a belly dancer!), and Shveta Thakrar were all amazing. I think I did all right. I mentioned during the panel that as a white, heterosexual, cisgender (a word I only just learned recently!) male, I am not among the marginalized or the ignored. People on book covers tend to look like me. Even if the people in the book don’t, people on book covers tend to look like me! I talked about how I have to remain ever-vigilant in my own writing not to make use of the troublesome or insulting racial and sexual tropes that I’ve absorbed from our society and pop culture over the course of forty-plus years. I used the example of a demonic entity that I would be tempted to give jet-black skin to show how evil it is, and how I have to be self-aware enough to not do that and instead choose some other way that would not leave a bad taste in the mouth of my black readers. It was definitely the kind of topic that could have filled two hours, not just one. I especially wish we could have talked a little more about how hard it can be to separate the artist from the art when the artist has disturbing opinions about Jews or blacks or what have you, and how much easier it is to do so when the artist is no longer alive. Lovecraft is a perfect example of this. It strikes me as a fruitful discussion to have someday.

The ChiZine gang had a table in the book shop and nearly sold out of copies of Chasing the Dragon, much to my delight (and my surprise — the book is almost four years old now!). Unfortunately, none of the booksellers had copies of Dying Is My Business, though one, surprisingly, did have several copies of Hunt at World’s End, which, though it’s a reprint, is technically my most recent release. And speaking of the book shop, I managed to leave Readercon with a mere six books this time and no need to take out a second mortgage. Go me!

It’s always bittersweet to leave Readercon. It’s hard to part with such good friends and good conversations. But I’ll be back next year. I consider Readercon a not-to-be-missed experience, and I’m always very happy to be a part of their programming.

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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A Handbook of American Prayer [Jul. 9th, 2014|04:30 pm]
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A Handbook of American PrayerA Handbook of American Prayer by Lucius Shepard

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What an amazing, astonishing novel! So subtle, so beautifully written, every word choice the perfect one. Some of the references feel dated, it’s true — Larry King is no longer on the air; Sharon Stone is no longer prevalent in the public eye — but these details nonetheless help ground the story with just the right amount of realism for the sly, understated metaphysical aspects to have that much greater power. The plot meanders a bit in the first half, which I suppose is what happens when the narrator, Wardlin Stuart, is basically meandering through life, but it picks up considerably in the second. My only real issue with the novel is that the female characters are portrayed reductively: most of them are defined as sex partners of the male characters, or trying to become their sex partners; all of them manage to have their breasts mentioned in some way. If you tend to notice that kind of thing, which I do, it starts to stick out. Still, looking past this shortcoming, the novel blew me away. This is my first Shepard book, but I doubt it will be my last. I’m only sorry it took me this long to discover him, what with my friends raving about his work to me for years now, and that I did so only after his untimely passing earlier this year.

View all my reviews

Originally published at Nicholas Kaufmann. You can comment here or there.

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