Wow, it’s August already? Summer is flying by and I’ve had a great time teaching my son how to swim this year, but August means two things for this writer:
1. I’d better wrap up the last of the short stories I owe editors and get cranking on the sequel to Red Equinox.
2. It’s almost time for NecronomiCon Providence!
Always a great convention, this year promises to be something extra special as it coincides with H.P. Lovecraft’s 125th birthday. Here’s a summary of what to expect, from the official press release:
NecronomiCon Providence is a celebration of weird fiction and its roots in the city of Providence. It is a four-day convention that features panels and talks by experts, authors, artists, and historians who are influenced by the life and works of H.P. Lovecraft. It also includes Lovecraft-themed gaming, creative workshops, art exhibits, films, concerts, walking tours, and special events.
Sound cool? It is. And there are still some tickets available.
I’ll be joining in the conversation on several panels throughout the weekend. You can also find me in between panels signing and selling copies of Red Equinox at the Lovecraft eZine table in the vendor’s hall, which is open to the public.
Talking about the nuts and bolts of fiction writing is all well and good (you can catch me doing just that in this recent interview with the Los Angeles Examiner) but when you write weird books, talking about weird shit once in a while is even more fun, and boy do I get to do that at NecronomiCon.
Here’s my schedule:
Friday – 2:30-3:45pm
AH-CULT! MAGICK IN ELDRITCH AND PRACTICE – Waterplace Ballroom, Omni Hotel 2nd Floor
“Magic” is a large part of Lovecraft’s writings even if it is not meant to be magic in the traditional sense. How did Lovecraft use the concepts of magic in his fiction? How close is it to ritual traditions? Is there a connection?
Panelists: Richard Gavin, Scott R. Jones, Justin Woodman, Douglas Wynne
Moderator: Anthony Teth
Friday – 5:30-6:45pm
INSANITY IS A SANE REACTION – Narragansett Ballroom, Omni Hotel 1st Floor
Insanity, or the seemingly inevitable path toward it, seems to be a common pattern in Lovecraft’s stories. How (and why) did Lovecraft employ this common theme, and what might this say about his own psychology? And, why does his writing appeal so much to society’s “outsiders”? This panel explores the aspects of Lovecraft’s fiction that set it, and us, apart.
Panelists: Joseph Zannella, Kenneth Heard, Shane Ivey, Damien Angelica Walters, Douglas Wynne
Moderator: Jack Haringa
Saturday – 1-2:15pm
FORBIDDEN KNOWLEDGE – Waterplace Ballroom, Omni Hotel 2nd Floor
We all know the scene: investigator finds ancient book of forbidden knowledge that unleashes evil and terror upon the world. Lovecraft created the most sinister of them all with the NECRONOMICON but there are many more as well. Enough to equip a library of ‘forbidden knowledge’. Do you know who created “Nameless Cults”? Or ‘The Book of Eibon’? Join us for a bibliophile’s delight, or NIGHTMARE, as we chart the best and worst of these forbidden tomes.
Panelists: Robert M. Price, Sean Hoade, Douglas Wynne
Moderator: Pete Rawlik
Sunday – 10:30-11:45am
ON LOVECRAFT AND PHILOSOPHY – Garden Room, Biltmore 2nd Floor
Just what is “cosmicism” and where does it fit into the philosophical realm? For all of his professed loathing of modernists, Lovecraft used his fiction to push some radically modern (if not post-modern) ideas. Panelists will attempt to tackle the “pessimism”–this is hardly an appropriate word–of Lovecraft’s cosmic horror, as well as place it within the greater context of the evolution of 20th-century thought.
Panelists: Michael Cisco, Andrew Migliore, Mike Davis, Sean Hoade, Douglas Wynne
Moderator: Alex Houstoun
Here’s the official site with the full schedule and more info. I hope to see some of you there!
I recently finished and sent off my latest short story. “Rattled” is a twisted coming-of-age tale set to appear in what’s shaping up to be a fantastic anthology alongside a full roster of writers I greatly admire. I can’t tell you how excited I am to be a part of this project. The cover art was revealed over the weekend, and the book is currently slated for a December release in both paperback and hardcover.
Here’s more info from JournalStone:
The Gods of H.P. Lovecraft: a brand new anthology that collects the twelve principal deities of the Lovecraftian Mythos and sets them loose within its pages. Featuring the biggest names in horror and dark fantasy, including many NY Times bestsellers, full of original fiction and artwork, and individual commentary on each of the deities by Donald Tyson.
About the book: Lovecraft’s bestiary of gods has had a major influence on the horror scene from the time these sacred names were first evoked. Cthulhu, Azathoth, Nyarlathotep, Yog-Sothoth—this pantheon of the horrific calls to mind the very worst of cosmic nightmares and the very darkest signs of human nature. The Gods of H.P. Lovecraft brings together twelve all-new Mythos tales from:
Cthulhu (Adam Nevill) – Yog-Sothoth (Martha Wells) – Azathoth (Laird Barron) – Nyarlathotep (Bentley Little) – Shub-Niggurath (David Liss) – Tsathoggua (Brett Talley) – The Mi-Go (Christopher Golden & James A. Moore) – Night-gaunts (Jonathan Maberry) – Elder Things (Joe Lansdale) – Great Race (Rachel Caine) – Yig (Douglas Wynne) – The Deep Ones (Seanan McGuire)
I was seven years old when I saw the first Star Wars movie and discovered that I wanted a lightsaber, the quintessential high-tech phallic symbol and power object of my generation. Later, when I was the quintessential slacker, I would study the lightsaber in great detail — getting to know the particulars of each prop hilt used in the films and the differences between them before I finally got around to channeling my geek creativity into writing books and indoctrinating my son into the galactic mythology of his people. I even collected a few replica lightsaber props along the way and eventually my interest in sword-like objects led me to study Iaido, the Japanese martial art of the samurai sword (cultural prototype of the Jedi weapon). Today my favorite lightsaber shares a stand with my katanas on the bookshelf beside my writing desk, collecting dust.
But now that I’ve seen the second teaser trailer for The Force Awakens, my interest in Star Wars has reawakened, and I’m giddy to see that they seem to have got the details right this time out.
There was a minor uproar after the first teaser trailer went online (bitch all you want about the so-called “cross-guard” saber in the hands of that villain—I personally think it represents a crude attempt to reclaim a lost craft with the side emissions serving as vents to balance an unrefined energy level) but the new trailer should give fans new hope for the film, and once again it’s a lightsaber sending the signal.
The original iconic prop from 1977 was an antique Graflex camera flash with the bulb and reflector removed and some rubber grips glued to the handle. The prop makers attached vintage calculator display bubbles to the clamp to resemble an exotic power switch and a belt-clip ring on the bottom. A quirky, yet elegant piece of gear that felt (like all Star Wars artifacts at the time) endowed with complexity, history, and functionality.
When the weapon reprised in The Empire Strikes Back, it had undergone a few changes: the calculator bubbles had been replaced with a circuit board and the grips were now studded with rivets, but it was still a 3-cell Graflex flashgun and for the fans who noticed the differences at all, it was easy to imagine that Luke had made a few upgrades or repairs.
Fans catalogued the variations, and for many years antique camera buffs hated us for driving up the auction prices on what should have been relatively affordable accessories. But hey, if Luke’s lightsaber wasn’t our holy grail, it was our Excalibur.
On screen, the saber was lost when Vader cut Luke’s hand off, and we didn’t see it again until it was shiny and new and hanging from Anakin’s belt in Revenge of the Sith.
Things got ugly for lightsaber geeks in the prequels. Now the hilts had big red buttons, as if a Jedi couldn’t find his dick without a neon sign. And George Lucas threw all regard for continuity out the window. I can point to at least two scenes in two films in which editing results in a character inexplicably holding the wrong lightsaber. But worst of all, the weapon that would pass from Anakin to Luke via Obi-wan, the object that should have been the key symbol uniting the two trilogies, was not a prop from the Lucasfilm archive but a new chrome and gold plated, machined hunk of metal in the shape of a Graflex with details suggestive of the hilt that Obi-wan hands Luke in A New Hope.
Plenty of filmmakers can let details slide, safe in the knowledge that the audience won’t notice, but Lucas let this stuff slide knowing that millions of toys were going to replicate the details and put them in people’s hands!
Now we see that saber again in the second Episode VII trailer and learn that it will once again be a symbol uniting the trilogies. As it should be, because it is the Excalibur of the Star Wars mythology. And, while we only get a glimpse in low light, it sure looks like they’re using a Graflex handle with rivets in the grips, just like the one Luke lost with his hand at Cloud City.
To me, that’s a signal that the filmmakers are geeks who grew up with a passion for the story and that they care about getting the details right. It also indicates that we are to some degree returning to the aesthetics of The Empire Strikes Back, the crowning achievement of the series. To quote Han Solo, “Chewie, we’re home.”
Winter has been brutal here in Massachusetts, but anyone with a TV probably knows that. At our house, the mountains of snow have overtaken the entire property, and digging out the mailbox has become my twice-a-week cardio workout. Between the arctic temperatures, school snow days, and a flu that keeps mutating and bouncing around our family, it has been hard to stay healthy and get any writing done. But the pressure to do just that is back on because I just signed a new 3 book deal with JournalStone!
Red Equinox has been out for a little over a month now and it’s catching on with a wider readership than I’ve seen before. My sincere THANKS to everyone who has bought the book, talked it up to a friend, or posted a review. It helps more than you know and enables me to stay in the game.
In the thick of the blizzards and flu battles, we managed to have a couple of great launch events at my two favorite indie book stores: Jabberwocky in Newburyport and Water Street in Exeter. Thanks to Jill Sweeney-Bosa, Christine Sadowski, Sue Little, and Dan Chartrand for making those a success. Exeter TV 98 sent a cameraman to the Water Street reading, so I might have a video link for that eventually if they bleep my f-bombs and upload it. I read the scene where Becca first encounters Moe Ramirez in the abandoned textile mill. Fun. Here are some pics…
Also in the A/V department, I did an interview with Adam xii on Radio BDC last Thursday. You can listen to the audio right here via Soundcloud.
The segment only runs about 15 minutes but we managed to cover everything from the pronunciation of “Cthulhu” to the connection between the Boston Marathon Bombings and the fictional Boston of Red Equinox. And if you haven’t had enough of my jaw wagging about the new book, next Sunday (3/1) I’ll be a guest on the Lovecraft eZine video chat at 6pm eastern with Mike Davis and crew. We’ll be giving away a few copies of Red Equinox to random viewers. Tune in and check it out if you get a chance.
I am writing this under an appreciable mental strain for Friday evening has arrived and the pressures of dark forces have accrued, but by the time I set down my pen, I shall be buzzed, for I have obtained the amber elixir.
The origins of the potion are shrouded in mystery. The formula is hinted at in the dread Necronomicon: honey from the hives of winged creatures that haunt lonely hills and whisper with voices that buzz in crude imitation of the speech of men. Hops from the meadows that border the river Oukranos where it winds beside the Enchanted Wood on its way to the Cerenarian Sea. Alcohol content calibrated to the mystic numeral seven. A potion shunned by pregnant women, for it is rumored to produce abominations.
The dark satanic mill from whence it came was founded in Rhode Island in the Yuletide of 1890, year of the nativity of our prophet H.P. Lovecraft. Whether or not the prophet himself ever ingested the earlier incarnations of the sacramental brew is a matter of some speculation. However, his writings predict the fate of the potion with oracular clarity.
At the end of Lovecraft’s tale “The Haunter of the Dark,” a superstitious doctor casts the gem of power known as The Shining Trapezohedron into Narragansett Bay, where it is believed to be lost forever. And yet, in the book Red Equinox, we learn that the gem was subsequently retrieved from the depths by descendants of the Starry Wisdom Church and its power once again tapped to fuel their dark rites. So too, the Narragansett brewery was once relegated to the wrecking ball but has since been resurrected to unleash the power of Lovecraft Honey Ale on the world in January of 2015, three days after the publication of the dread tome Red Equinox.
Great power lost, now tapped again.
Coincidence? I think not.
Some believe the potion is the Space Meade foretold by August Derleth, prescribed as a defense against interstellar travel. I hope they are right as I intend to serve small doses of it to the celebrants who will gather to hear readings from the red book at Jabberwocky in Newburyport, MA and Water Street Books in Exeter, NH on the evenings of January 30th and 31st.
The elixir, difficult to obtain, now occupies a glass upon my desk: a deep amber red reminiscent of the lost gem, topped by lacy golden foam. It flows smooth as the sea into Innsmouth harbor, bringing a scent of sweet honey and herbal overtones. And yet there is an underlying bitter note—a darkness befitting its origins—that courses through the sweet bouquet and lingers for a moment inspiring one to ponder the fathomless icy reaches between the stars.
I have acquired 24 canisters for my congregation. I may need more, for having sampled one; I am tempted to consume them all.
I’m trying to find my way into the next book, playing around with opening lines and paragraphs. Beginnings set the stage and influence everything that comes after because they set the tone for both reader and writer. Stephen King says opening lines are invitations. William Gibson compared them to handshakes or keys.They introduce us. They open the way.
And yet, sometimes, when writing the first draft, it’s more important to just kick in the door, any door, and get into the story. You can always figure out where the main entrance is once you’re inside. I did that with my latest novel. Scrapped the first chapter in draft two and found a new way in.
A handshake. A key. A fractal?
Let me suggest that the opening line, or paragraph of a book can be a kind of fractal. I don’t know if this would work for other writers, but it’s something I’ve noticed in my own work.
In Red Equinox my main character discovers fractal tentacles surfacing in the walls of abandoned buildings–images that are at first only visible in her infrared photography. It got me thinking about the nature of fractals and how (sort of like holograms) the part contains the whole. The smallest pattern at the tip of a fractal repeats and expands so that when we pan out and take in the whole, we see that same shape writ large.
Could the opening of a novel contain the fractal signature, the DNA if you will, of the whole story?
I think maybe I’ve intuitively done something like this three times now. Since I’m only really qualified to analyze my own work in this way, I hope you’ll indulge me a quick look back at those openings.
Billy Moon didn’t know exactly when he had sold his soul. There had been no pact penned in blood, no dusty crossroads. Maybe it happened that night on the bridge, the night he met Trevor Rail. Maybe his soul was tucked away in one of those paragraphs of legalese he had skimmed over hungrily in his mid-twenties—his eternal spirit leveraged against mechanical royalties and recoupable advances in a five-point font. I sold my soul, he thought, and it fit. Like a perfect chorus summing up the verses of his life, it rhymed with the rest of him.
—The Devil of Echo Lake
Billy Moon, a troubled, confused, burned out rock star is searching his failing (maybe repressed) memories for his identity, and the conclusion he reaches in that first paragraph is the fractal tip of his story, the shape of his past, present, and future. He is a man fighting to reclaim his soul.
There were at least three good playgrounds within a short drive of
the Ocean Road apartment, but on the day Desmond Carmichael
lost his son for a terrifying ten minutes, he had chosen one farther
away, the one they called the Castle Playground. It wasn’t Lucas’s
favorite, but the days when the boy would argue for a favorite
anything were behind them by then. Desmond figured that when a
child loses his mother at the age of three, pretty much every other
preference takes a back seat. He knew that he wasn’t Lucas’s
In Steel Breeze Desmond, a grieving widower wracked with guilt and regret, is about to enter a living nightmare in which he races to save his son from a pair of serial killers. It will take a few chapters for his life to spin out of control, but his grief and fear of further loss are all there at the moment we meet him, a fractal fingerprint on his character with ripples flowing into both the future and the past.
Now we come to Becca Philips, the photographer at the center of Red Equinox.
Death has a way of calling us home, and when it does we put on
our best. Becca Philips hadn’t been to Arkham in years, hadn’t
worn a dress in almost as long, and now here she was, stepping
off the train and feeling out of place in both.
I hope you might feel like you know her already after just two sentences. At least a little. She has left her home town but has been pulled back. She’s an escapee, but what was she running from? She’s a bit of a tomboy. Maybe she’s an outsider in more than just this situation. She’s uncomfortable but rising to the occasion.
And the story to come will continue to challenge Becca to “put on her best” in the face of death.
So there you have it: fractal paragraphs. Your mileage may vary.
* * *
With just one week to go until Red Equinox drops, you can now read the first two chapters at Tor.com. Tor is my favorite hub of geek goodies, so I’m thrilled to get a ride on Stubby the rocket! I hope you’ll head over and give the story a chance with your Saturday morning coffee. And if it hooks you, why not pre-order the book at Amazon? Thanks for checking it out.