I just received the Russian edition of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries book in the mail. There are some interesting drawings in this edition. If I owned a working scanner, I’d slap a few of the drawings up here because they remind me so much of the original Holmes drawings. They’re very well done. Here’s the cover:
Simulacrum and Other Possible Realities by Jason V. Brock
(Hippocampus Press, 2013)
Review by Lois H. Gresh
In his preface to this fine collection of stories and poetry,
Jason explains that he steers away from the “standard tropes” of science
fiction and horror and that “most writers these days seem to have run out of
interesting ideas.” Giving the accolades from his good friend, William F.
Nolan, coupled with Jason’s proclaimed worldview, I flipped to the first story
in this collection expecting a near-mystical experience.
In “What the Dead’s Eyes Behold,” which kicks off the book, beautiful
Calliope trolls for strangers online and ends up with a guy who prefers his
girls dead. He’s a serial killer artist, who makes disturbing dioramas
featuring his victims. Nobody knows that his art is based on crimes he commits.
The premise reminds me faintly of Ramsey Campbell’s novel, Secret Story, in which nobody knows that a lackluster writer bases
his stories on crimes he commits. But there the parallels end, for Ramsey’s
novel is a dark comedy – hilarious, actually – and Jason’s story is dark and
utterly disturbing. Precision prose throughout – one might say it’s “dead-on
beautiful” just like Calliope -- with an ending that’s predictable yet written
with the sharpness of a stiletto.
The second story, “The Central Coast,” opens with a scene of
carnage, then takes the reader into the past on a journey of spontaneous fun for
the director Alex and his wife, the porno starlet Jordan. Unfortunately, spontaneity
leads them to purchase a rare wine called Absentia Anima at a rare place called
Sotanos Negros del Diablo. Draw your own conclusions.
In “One for the Road,” a young woman encounters what many of
us fear when we pull off the road at a remote rest stop. The story whirls from
loose to tight, until at the end, it’s as compact as the tip of a tornado. I
love the ending of this story.
“The Hex Factor” features a world-class lawyer whose claim
to fame is that he’s one of the best defenders of the undead. Vampires, yes, but
also werewolves and zombies, not to mention others who specialize in the
undead, such as necromancers. A calm
pattern of prose enhances the humor, and while the ending isn’t sly or wicked
like a curve ball, it fits the tone of the overall piece.
I read the rant, “Valve: The Heart as a Metaphor for
Postmodern Blight” several times, and I may read it a few more times. There’s a
lot of truth in this rant. It’ll make readers think twice about the endless
consumption of meat.
“Object Lesson” is a beautifully written story about keeping
people alive well past their time. Should we hook them up and keep them going,
or should we let them die with dignity? As with “Valve,” this piece is worth
reading a few times.It’s perfect from
start to finish.
The collection also includes novella “Milton’s Children,” an
adventure story in which scientists explore uncharted Antarctic islands. It
opens with a discourse about being a vegetarian, then shifts full-tilt into classic
adventure complete with new species, bizarre insectoids and flowers, and
Overall, this is a fine collection with some stunning pieces
that look at death from different angles. The best stories explore the moment
of death and delve into the meaning of death.
People wonder why I write pop culture books and (now) new adult paranormals in addition to dark/weird fiction. It is a wide array. Re books, I have thrillers, pop science, pop culture, young adult fantasies, horror, dark/weird fiction, and science fiction. Re short stories, I have mysteries, dark science fiction, dark fantasy, dark humor, weird fiction. So why don't I stick to one genre, and do I switch around on purpose?
My ideal is to create something unusual, strange, and dark. I prefer to read fiction that's different in prose, style, and voice. I like experimentation when it's pulled off well. I like poetry. So when I write short stories, I lean toward the unusual, strange, and dark; and I prefer to use my natural style and voice.
When I write the pop culture books, such as the forthcoming Mortal Instruments Companion, I immerse myself in the material and let the analytical side of me run wild. This is tremendous fun, actually, because I learn a lot about many subjects along the way, and I get to study some excellent novels: how they're put together, how great authors structure scenes and develop character relationships. For Mortal Instruments, I used more than 50 research books, as well as online materials culled from the local university's library system. Some of these books are ancient - and very cool!
For my current novel project, I'm in the research phase right now. This means I'm immersing myself in the material -- again, more than 50 library books. After I immerse myself sufficiently in the background material, my head will be cemented in the world I'm creating, and the plot and characters will take off. This current novel will be different from anything I've written in the past, and I'm very excited about it.
So back to the questions, why don't I stick to one genre, and do I switch around on purpose? I like too many subjects to confine myself to just one genre, such as dark fiction, young adult fantasy, new adult paranormal, or pop culture. And yes, I do switch around on purpose. If I could split myself into five Lois', each one would be writing books and stories in several genres. There's not enough time in a day or a week (or a life) to write everything that I want to write.
There you have it. I love the act of writing, the craft of it, the unfolding of the stories. This has nothing to do with marketing or what's selling today or tomorrow. It has to do with something much simpler.
I read a dead-on post from Brian Keene about a month ago, in which he discusses what it's like to be a full-time horror writer. Specifically, he talks about how to earn a living and cope with the external world. For writers in any stage of their careers, his post is well worth reading.
I'm also a full-time writer. I'm not in Brian's league. I don't hang out with The Big Name Boys of Horror -- although I do hang out with some of The Big Name Girls of Horror, and that counts, too. I haven't made my living writing horror novels. Instead, I've made my living writing an assortment of novels and pop culture books in various genres, one of which is horror.
Still, what Brian says rings true for me, as well. I won't comment much about what he says because I think it's worthwhile for you to hop over to his blog and read it for yourself. But I will comment about what it's been like for me as a full-time writer.
First, I have no job other than writing. This means if I don't write and sell material, I don't earn anything. Some years have been tough. For example, I had no income during 2000 other than an advance for a Star Trek book. My son and I lived on this income all year. We cut napkins into quarters. We didn't replace light bulbs when they burned out.
For three solid months, I spent all of my time in bed, eating Fritos, watching Star Trek episodes from early morning until late in the evening. I took well over 200 pages of single-spaced notes. And this part -- "the research" as I call watching endless Star Trek, playing video games, reading 50 zombie novels, reading 400 comic books, etc. -- is the upside of being a fulltime writer because the money sure isn't all that grand. It felt good to say to my son all the time, "Hey, I'm getting paid to watch Captain Kirk! I'm getting paid to play Quake! I'm getting paid to read Fantastic Four comics!" And of course, he made out well because our house was stocked with everything he liked.
This was way back in 2000, when writers could get "big" advances. Things have changed -- at least, in my world, they've changed.
The year after Star Trek, I wrote five books. A boom year! On New Year's Eve, as December 2001 rolled into January 2002, I turned in my fifth manuscript and collapsed. The next morning, I had to stick my head in a sink full of warm water to pry open my eyelids. They were glued shut from exhaustion and too much computer screen glare over the course of the year. I think it was 2001 during which my stomach finally started complaining about all the coffee and the two all-nighters I'd been pulling every week. The kicker was that my daughter went to college, and now that I had this "huge" income, the college forced me to hand it over to them! So my son and I went back to the quarter napkins and the single 60-watt bulb in our house.
Of course, this was back in 2001, and things have changed.
Today, writers are lucky to get reasonable advances for novels. You have to be with a big publisher, and even then, don't expect an advance that enables you to splurge and use whole napkins. And the e-publishers? Most don't pay advances, and they take a huge percentage of your sales... so what's the point? Agents? Do writers still need them? I know a lot of established professionals who no longer use agents. Otoh, I know writers with fantastic agents, and these lucky folks are selling to big publishers for decent advances -- yes, in 2013.
Perhaps "luck" is the keyword. You can land a decent agent. You can get a decent advance.
Or you can self-e-publish and make out very well on your own. Sometimes, I remember 2001 and the five books I wrote in one year. Then I think about all the self-e-published authors who crank out ten books per year. How do they do it? Do they sacrifice quality? Are the books unusual, interesting, creative, written well? If I had to write a book every month, I'd be forced to sacrifice quality...or I'd simply croak from the effort.
Newcomers to the business are lucky. The options are vast compared to what we had twenty years ago. Back then, it was very bad form to self-publish or self-promote. You sold to traditional publishers. Period. Today's new authors can write what they want and e-self-pub it (and self-promote) without any repercussions. Indeed, many huge sales are made this way.
Times are changing. Are they better? For most authors, I think so, yes. As long as you can change with the times, that is.
Forbidden love, yearning desire, and seduction in this breath-taking New Adult paranormal romance. Born from an ancient voodoo priestess clan, Alexandra Leveau falls in love with sexy vampire Vadim Blerinc. But these two are a dangerous match, and making love could literally kill them.
And then local townies begin to die. Can Alexandra and Vadim save the people around them? Can they overcome the curse that has hung over their families for centuries? Can true love conquer bad blood?
WHY IT'S NEW ADULT:
Heroine is 22 and just graduated from college, work is scarce, returns to her hometown to find her uncle in trouble, stays to help him, falls in love, but... it's literally bad blood.
REVIEWS OF NIGHTFALL
"Top Pick! A wild tale of love, lust, reincarnation and a bit of mystery. A sexy, romantic, forbidden romp of love and lust...a must read!"
--Night Owl Romance (5 stars and a Top Pick)
"A very good story that flows well, is a vividly descriptive and interesting read with endearing characters and a great story. One book you Need To Read."
--You Gotta Read Reviews
"Fantastic vampire novel. The way [the author] introduces the characters and the scene captured me immediately. I know PVN readers will love it!"
--Patricia's Vampire Notes (PVN)
WHAT REVIEWERS SAY ABOUT LOIS H. GRESH’S PREVIOUS BOOKS
--The New York Times Book Review
"Rapid fire action"
"Fast-paced action, a likable protagonist, a suitably nasty villain...a fine thriller."
--Science Fiction Chronicle
"Vampire fans are in for a treat! If you're hoping for surprisingly quirky takes on reality combined with cleverly worded fiction, you're in the right place. Lois Gresh always surprises me. She's one of the cleverest writers out there."
--Nancy Kilpatrick, editor of Evolve: Vampire Stories of the New Undead
"I found this book to be a hoot from beginning to end."
--Dean Koontz, New York Times Best-Selling Author
--Peter Straub, New York Times Best-Selling Author
"A fun, fun read."
--F. Paul Wilson, New York Times Best-Selling Author
"Riveting stories with mind-bending ideas, intensely creative!"
--Catherine Asaro, Nebula-Award winning author of The Ruby Dice
The cover of The Mortal Instruments Companion just popped up, along with the book description, on Amazon.
Isn't this a fantastic book cover?
Here's the official book description:
The Mortal Instruments Companion, a must-read guide to the wildly popular Mortal Instruments series, is a terrific gift for the millions of fans both young and old—especially with the Sony Pictures film version of City of Bones, the first book in the series, hitting theaters in August 2013.
Written by the New York Times bestselling author of The Twilight Companion and The Hunger Games Companion, the book takes fans deeper into the world of the Shadowhunters created by Cassandra Clare—a gritty urban fantasy world full of demon hunters into which Clary Fray, a Brooklynite previously unaware of the magical world, is suddenly and inexplicably pulled.
The Mortal Instruments Companion includes fascinating background facts about the action in all seven books, a revealing biography of the author, and amazing insights into the series’ major themes and features—from the nature of evil and the Downworlders, to the power of the Sight, to the Mortal Instruments themselves. It’s everything fans have been hungering for since the very first book! This book is not authorized by Cassandra Clare, Margaret K. McElderry Books, or anyone involved in the City of Bones movie.