Thursday, May 29, 2008

Joe Hill's Heart-Shaped Box

I don't know what I expected from this novel. I had rather low expectations, to tell the truth. The idea of a man buying a ghost off the Internet seemed silly to me—a story begging for write-out-of-a-corner plot twists and cheap cliches.

Instead, Hill pulls off a genuinely scary story about Jude Coyne, an aging rock star who possesses a weird collection of articles of the dead. In addition to his drawing of the Seven Dwarfs from John Gacy, he owns the skull of a trepanned peasant and a three-hundred-year-old confession signed by a witch. He even owns a snuff film. So when an offer to buy a suit with a ghost connected to it comes along, he takes it.

It turns out to be a mistake, for the ghost is the stepfather of his girlfriend-before-last, the second latest groupie girlfriend in a series whom he names after the states they are from. Florida suffered from depression, and after enduring months of watching her walk around in a fog, he kicks her out and sends her back home to her family, a move that touches off a series of events Jude comes to regret.

The real beauty of this novel is that it's satisfying on a literary and emotional level as well, because we see both Jude and Georgia's (his latest girlfriend) develop from stock metalhead Goths to people who, underneath their veneer of apathy, care for one another deeply.

Novel and Stuff

Okay. So I know the novel is set in Chicago. I know Fat Man is loosely based on Al Capone. I know this hit man, the MC, was raised on the streets of Chicago. Well, not raised. He raised himself. And he started working for Fat Man at the age of 15.

I may get skittish about this post and delete it later. That's my problem with this blog. I always feel like I'm revealing too much, and I wind up posting, only to go back later and delete what I wrote.

Job hunt is still going; there's more action than there was last week, but nothing concrete yet. I did start a new student, but this one is off of craigslist, and those situations are always sketchy at first. We'll see what happens. I hate this constant feeling of nervousness about my near future.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Oh dear

Don't you hate it (and love it) when you're working on a story (in this case, a novel) and you discover that one of your characters is actually a historical figure? It's great because it adds a new layer. But it sucks because suddenly you realize you need to do a little more research . . . and a little more . . . and a little more.

As if I need more things to slow me down.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Okay, so buying a used version of the Garritan Personal Orchestra didn't work out. Damn thing wouldn't load because of a disc error. Thank dog I met with the guy at a coffee shop (Dunkin' Donuts—hey, I'm no snob) to download it instead of him having him send it to me. Some guy was over in the corner, watching us intently, and of course I got it into my head that he was an undercover FBI agent just sitting in a Dunkin' Donuts waiting for unsuspecting downloaders of pirated software to walk in (kind of like something out of A Confederacy of Dunces?), so I stared at him until he became alarmed and got up and left.

Not that I had anything to worry about. No transaction took place. And I felt bad, because the guy selling it to me really looked like he could use the money.

So . . . long story short I ordered a legit copy from Musician's Friend. Anxiously awaiting my purchase now.

Nothing else is new. Spent all weekend working on an article for Helium, only to miss the deadline by a few minutes. Damn damn damn. Hoping I'll be able to salvage the thing by submitting elsewhere. If anyone knows any legit sites similar to Helium, I'd be grateful for the info.

But my rebate came, and my Fundable check came, so all is not lost. Not to mention, I actually wrote a few paragraphs to the prologue of my second draft of one of my novels that didn't make me want to delete it in the morning. So, I may indeed be crawling out of this writing abyss.

I'm also considering becoming Unanonymous—that is, using my real name for my blog and on other blogs, such as Evil Editor. We shall see. If I do decide to do that, I can only hope those of you who have worked in law enforcement don't take my pot jokes too seriously. Or the completely fictitious account of the above incident.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Regarding the controversy of Lisa Manchev's story, "The Stolen Word" over at Dark Fantasy: Read the comments. I did.

Many comments were of the "Oh, get over it. It's just a story" variety.

Ah, but stories are powerful things. People scratched their stories on stone back in a time when writing couldn't hope to earn anyone a living. People have felt compelled to tell stories since Homo sapiens crowded out the Neandrathals. Stories are so powerful they now fuel a couple of multi-billion dollar industries. That's one power they have.

Another is their ability to make us examine our principles, our prejudice, our ignorance. Just read or watch Schindler's List if you think they can't.

Edit: comment I left at the Swivet in response to another comment: One of the most interesting ideas I found in the comments was a criticism of people for taking a fantasy story and looking at it through the filter of real world problems. In my experience, spec fic authors all live in the real world. We are all shaped by the real world. The best spec fiction is, if not aggressively allegorical, at least grounded in the psychological and sociological structures of humanity.

Not only that, but I was surprised (and a little revolted) by the number of "oh, it's just fantasy" comments by people who read (and possibly write) fantasy.

The whole point—I thought, anyway—of writing a story is to tell the truth. And the only way to tell the truth is to examine your own prejudices and ignorance. I don't think the writer really did that here. I think she changed what she thought she needed to in order to not offend, and failed because she refused to acknowledge she was ignorant.

I don't think the author of this story really examined it thoroughly at all. But I'm grateful for stumbling across this controversy before being published. One because it has made me examine my own thoughts about the power of the story, and two because it has made me examine my own ignorance.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


I know this has nothing to do with books, but I'm excited about something.

Today I buy my first sound sample library, the Garritan Personal Orchestra. Now, this is the least expensive sound sample library I've been able to find, and East West Quantum may be better (it's certainly more expensive, and no doubt I will have to add that to my sample library eventually), but it's paired with Finale.

My pipe dream has always been to be a film composer. I am working on a film right now (a documentary), and if this sound sample thing works out, I can start sending ideas to the director and she can hear mockups of the music before I send it on to the musicians, all with realistic sounds. I can also make a demo to give to other people. And and and . . . I can start submitting music I've already written to music libraries as early as tomorrow (but more likely toward the end of the week. I expect problems. There are always problems. I just pray they won't be problems that set me back a few more months. I'm already way behind on the Life Plan.)

Okay, this may be why my writing is at a standstill. But not for long! For Neil Gaiman has lots of good advice about second drafts, which has come at a time when I sorely need it.

And by the way, where the hell are my beard pictures?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Chicago Bookstore

Everyone knows about Powell's, but the weekend of Free Comic Book day, I visited a cool little bookstore called Quimby's. It's only an eeny meeny bookstore, and I don't like their website much, but the store itself is cool.

If anyone else has any cool bookstores they like—in any city, not just Chicago—send them along. I'm going to be adding a sidebar feature of links to bookstores on this blog.

Now, if you have any pics of attractive men with beards, like this one, please send them. My beard fetish is in full swing.

Monday, May 5, 2008


Trying out a new template. I think I like it.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Free Comic Book Day - Belated Post

How many people participated in free comic book day? Raise your hands.

I spent so much time participating, I didn't have time to blog about this. My roomie and I managed to pick up nearly every title available. Although I must say there was one "shop" we stopped at that wasn't a shop at all, although all signs prior to walking in pointed to This Is A Comic Book Shop. There was even an inflated Incredible Hulk on a real motorcycle outside the door. We walked in and there were about twelve guys—comic book guys, if you get my drift—sitting at rectangular tables playing some sort of twelve-man card game. There were no comic books to be seen, except for a few dusty, limp back issues in the window. After a few seconds of looking around uncomfortably, we left.

What was the use of that? Well, now I have a new story idea.

Yes, I'm a recent comic book convert. Bona fide geek now, and proud of it. Damn proud.


I've added a searchable widget to my blog from Librarything. I've experimented with several different places on the page. Above the posts seems to work best, even though it moves the posts down when you search.

I should disclose that any books you buy from Amazon via my widget makes me a little cash.

Edit: Moved it.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Will Work for Food

By end of day Monday, I shall no longer be commuting two and one quarter hours to work. I shall be—how shall I put it?—out of work.

I hope it won't be for long, as I've already exhausted the patience of the Illinois Department of Employment Security when I last applied on a "just in case" basis. (Not that the IDES has a "just in case" basis, mind you.) Our conversation, in a nutshell, went something like this:

Me: I applied for unemployment benefits.
IDES: Were you fired from your job?
Me: No. I quit to go to school, and wound up not getting the grant I needed. I'm looking for another job; I just need to make sure I have enough to tide me over for a month.
IDES: We don't need your life story. So you got fired?
Me: No. I quit.
IDES: So you were fired.
Me. NO. I told you, I quit.
IDES: Well, we can't give you benefits, since you said that you were fired when you really quit.
Me: ARRRRRGH!! I never said I was fired! I told you I fucking quit! Fuck it, never mind. I found a job.
IDES: Still no benefits. But we've already filed an appeal on your behalf.
Me: What?! Why? I don't—
IDES: Well, we assume you still want our $277 a week.
Me: But I told you I wanted the appeal dropped.
IDES: Sorry. Talk to the judge.

So I guess I need to find more freelance work. Soon.

People in the Cafe! *waves*

Apparently some people are strolling by here once in a while, and I let a couple of comments languish in moderation purgatory for a few days. Oops. I plead hellish work hours and a hellish commute.

Comment moderation has been turned off, so feel free to comment with impunity!