Instead, I feel that it's good to recall Percy Dovetonsils, the worst of the Earth's bad poets, creation of the late, lamented Ernie Kovacs.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Instead, I feel that it's good to recall Percy Dovetonsils, the worst of the Earth's bad poets, creation of the late, lamented Ernie Kovacs.
Monday, June 29, 2009
HAW! HAW! HAW! I can't stop laughing! What an illiterate dumb ass! They say his wife is his "intellectual equal". What does that mean? That she spells on a fourth-grade level?! HAW! HAW! HAW!
Sunday, June 28, 2009
There have been a few others over the years like Liss Gap. I generally stumble on these bits of geography once every five years or so.
But two in one weekend? Yeah. It's true. I'll write more about them later. Just now we need to unpack the truck. Here are a few shots I took at these places.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
So it was with my love of the books of Cormac McCarthy. Many years ago I discovered his work when an acquaintance casually mentioned one of his novels--BLOOD MERIDIAN. I'm not sure how early on in his career this book was written, but surely one of the first half dozen or so. I went out and bought a copy blind, on my pal's recommendation.
The writing is pretty much as good as it gets in modern English. It's high art. The chapters are all like the best of what humanity has to offer in the way of displayed skill. McCarthy is probably the finest writer around, to my way of thinking and in my experience. To this day, BLOOD MERIDIAN remains one of my favorite works of art.
Subsequently, I went out and found his earlier work and consumed them in quick order. THE ORCHARD KEEPER, OUTER DARK, CHILD OF GOD, SUTTREE...these were works of wonder for me. It didn't hurt that they were also set in my native South and I recognized both the geography in which they were set, and the folk who lived in those worlds. Here was a writer to be admired and to be ultimately respected and especially not imitated. To attempt to parrot the style of Cormac McCarthy would be to invite disaster and well deserved contempt.
And then everyone else suddenly discovered McCarthy. He changed direction and moved his settings from the deep South to the West. Like America in its early days, he was moving off in a different direction. The newer novels had become exceptionally popular. The masses were on to him. He was my secret, no longer. And not that he had ever been--it just seemed that way to me. And then, of course, the folk in Hollywood found him.
ALL THE PRETTY HORSES ensued as a film. I didn't see it, but of course even a lousy film has the tendency to increase the sales of the books from which they originate. McCarthy was suddenly a hot property and now when I mentioned his name everyone knew who I was talking about. Good for McCarthy, and I hope that he's a very wealthy man, these days.
And then came NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN with an excellent cast and directors and screenwrights who seem to understand the book. More fame. More followers of the author. Now comes THE ROAD...a really good book, and I've seen the previews and I find it hard to believe that the makers of the film understood the novel at all. But it doesn't matter. It has an A-list cast and "the buzz". McCarthy will be even more famous than before. His books are everywhere. They have stacks of them, mountains of them, displays dedicated specifically to them in almost every one of the book superstores I visit.
Like a great swimming hole or a waterfall that only you know about, it all seems different when it's discovered by the crowds. You go one day to take a look and enjoy the sounds of the falling water and you peer down and there are footprints beside the pool. You look again and there are people filling the water. You listen and all you can hear is the squeal of the crowds as they soak up your special place.
I swear it is.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
A Chapter from FAMILY
a novel by James Robert Smith
Copyright 2009, James Robert Smith.
Isaac came into the room. As always, his presence stunned everyone and cowed them all. No one was immune. He was the embodiment of the alpha male. His mass filled the doorway from side to side, and he had to half turn to enter since his torso was so great, his shoulders so broad. He was, as always, wearing a heavy jacket and his dark hat—the current one was a Stetson. His great arms hung easily by his sides and his hugely knuckled hands were like knots of bone and leather dangling from impossibly thick wrists.
One and all of them could tell that he was not the happy man just now.
His eyes scanned the room and finally fell upon Nina, as everyone had known they would. Isaac stood there in the semi-darkness of the threshold and glared at the girl. For the first time all of them seemed to notice just how small she was. How had they ever considered that she was anything but a tiny female? The huge, gnarly figure loomed over her and his eyes burned on her cowering form. Yes, Isaac was a very angry fellow.
“You,” he said, simply.
Nina stared at the floor. None of them had ever seen her reduced to that state. If Isaac was certainly an alpha male, Nina had been something akin to that when he was not around, despite her sex. She had been able to cow them all and keep them under her thumb, somehow. And, now, here she was reduced to a very scared teenaged girl.
“Come with me, Nina,” Isaac said. His voice was rougher than usual. They always had the impression that he found it difficult to speak, and even though his words were clear, there was an edge in them that indicated that he was having more trouble than usual making himself understood.
With only the slightest hesitation, Nina went to her master. She still could not bring herself to look up, to meet his gaze, but she did as she was told. There was no pity for her in the room—everyone was too frightened for their own skins to spare any pity for this bully. But later, perhaps, thinking back on it, some of them would feel sorry for her. At that point, though, they were all as afraid as Nina. Not a one of them moved forward to stay what they feared might come, and none spoke up. They were each of them scared children.
Before Nina could say or do anything; before she could make excuses or dig deep enough to lie, Isaac struck.
His hands seemed to leap up, quick as a thought, and his gigantic, tanned leather hands were gripping Nina’s face, cradling her jaw in such a way that her head seemed nothing more than a fragile egg. “Look at me,” Isaac commanded. Nina’s eyes locked on his own gigantic stare and no matter what she wished, she could not tear free of that gaze.
There was silence in the room. They could all hear one another breathing—seven young people and one impossibly old creature who ruled the lot. There was not even the casual scrape of soles on floor or fabric against flesh. They all seemed to be standing frozen, holding their breath, their tongues. Not one of them could stop looking at what was happening.
“I told you that I would not warn you again, Nina. I will not have this. You didn’t understand, so now I’m going to make you understand.” His eyes bored into her. He saw past her shields and facades. He looked beyond the surface that this unfortunate had erected for everyone to see, to keep them from spying what was really there.
At first, Nina did not respond. She seemed to squint, as if trying to close her eyes. But very quickly she stopped this, and uttered a very short bleat, almost so brief that the rest of them thought they’d imagined it. If she tried to turn her gaze away, she made no physical sign that she had done so. At any rate, Isaac’s impossibly strong fingers and arms had her tight and there was nowhere for her to go unless he allowed her escape. And he was not in a forgiving mood at that point. He had something to prove.
Isaac’s eyes had become glassy in the rage that they communicated. They weren’t exactly red, but might as well have been. His body seemed to radiate heat and hatred. And Nina had to stare into those eyes, into those twin globes that had become mirrors that reflected exactly what Isaac beheld. Nina’s eyes widened, even as she wished to close them. Her lids were trapped in a rictus that would not allow her to do anything but look into Isaac’s mirror eyes. With an almost super-human act of will, she managed to squirm, just briefly, just slightly, her frail shoulders hunching almost imperceptibly, the bright yellow sun dress fluttering against her back.
Nina looked and saw. She saw what Isaac saw. The frightened, pale, slight, plain girl looked back at her from those twin mirrors. Hatred and worthlessness looked back at her. Selfishness and malice were like squirming maggots trapped on a bare stone. There was nothing of love and nothing that was worthy of love to be spied in the soul that was revealed in reflection of Isaac’s seeing eyes. Nina saw herself, without the façade that she’d built up not only to fool others, but to protect herself from what truly lay within her. Isaac was showing Nina what she was, what she had been, and what she would always be. There was nothing to coat or cloak what was, in fact, a monstrosity, a lack of compassion, a creature.
Isaac released her and she fell forward, collapsing in a small heap on the dry floor. As they all watched, she tried to rise, coming up on all fours like a beaten dog. She coughed and vomited.
“Don’t force my hand again,” he told her. “You deceitful bitch.”
And without settling those rage-filled eyes on any of the rest of them, he turned and squeezed out of the room. No one made any effort to lift her to her feet or to help her clean the mess she'd made. Not a one of them did anything at all for her.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
The bear population in that part of the state is extremely heavy. There are as many (or more) bears there than in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. And that's an impressive number. Understanding that, we were always very careful with food and garbage. We stored all food in the back of our truck, and garbage went into the bear-proof receptacles located all around the campground.
This was our site (#13) at Standing Indian Campground in the mountains of North Carolina. This was probably the day before the bear raided us.
However, a bear who did not know this raided our campsite one night. He was quite the large fellow and proceeded to smash things apart and make himself the resident alpha male. I scared him off, initially, by coming out of the tent during his midnight raid with a flashlight and yelling, "Go away, bear!". He did go away, for a short while, but came right back to finish what he'd started. I wasn't going to try facing him down again, so we retreated to the cab of the truck. When I started the engine, he finally fled for good.
Well, not quite for good. He showed up again within thirty minutes, but was happy to harass the campsites adjacent to ours and leave us alone.
We really had the tent camping thang down to a science. We had everything we needed. Alas, the bears scairt us!
Well, that was our last tent camping trip. After that we shopped around for a few months (two months to be precise) and bought our treasured Casita trailer, which we've named ZOLOFT, due to the fact that I refer to it as our fiberglass sedative.
At any rate, here are shots from that very last trip with our tent set-up. (Which was pretty nice, I have to say.)
Ah, the luxury of our little travel trailer. Now we can play in the sun all day, then retire to the trailer and eat ice cream from the freezer and feel safe inside our solid fiberglass walls. Just don't tell the bears that they can probably break in without much trouble.
Monday, June 22, 2009
So Carole and I are going back. We'll probably go tubing in Wilson Creek one day and take it easy and relax as much as possible. I'll take the laptop with me and get some writing in, but probably not as much as I did when I was there alone. I'm currently at work on the new novel, FAMILY, and I'm doing a good job of keeping the words flowing. This will easily be the most productive year of my life as far as fiction writing is concerned.
We've got the trailer just about ready to roll. We've cleaned it up from the last trip and I'll be taking the generator again, since the campground of choice doesn't have hookups. There are some waterfalls I want to hit while we're there and at least one peak is on my list to bag. Unfortunately, we'll only be there for three days, and that's not enough time to really sink my teeth into the maze of trails that are available. I foresee many more trips to Mortimer Campground.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Highest on our list of park systems is most certainly the State of Florida. It’s not just that their parks are made around places of stunning scenic beauty and high recreational potential. It goes far beyond that. Florida has LOTS of state parks. They’re everywhere. It’s hard to drive more than twenty or so miles without seeing at least one road sign directing you to a nearby park. They’re everywhere. In addition to that, Florida spends a great deal of money ensuring that the parks have adequate facilities for people who are visiting the parks.
Do you like to scuba? Many parks for that. Hike? Trails everywhere. Camp? Not only do most of the parks have campgrounds, those camping areas have great bath facilities that raise the comfort level quite high indeed. Also, the State of Florida has been, since the early 1970s, slowly buying up formerly private parks that were centered around unique natural areas and turning them into public parks. Most of the first and second magnitude springs that were once in private hands are now public. That’s socialism at its finest! So for many, many reasons, Florida goes to the very top of our list of state park systems in the East.
Second on our list is West Virginia. Now, West Virginia does not have nearly so many parks as Florida. Historically, West Virginia has been among the poorest states in our union. The lands were long ago denuded of their native forests and the streams polluted almost beyond recall by coal mining and natural gas drilling. The entire place was put up on the tables of the filthy corporate pigs who raped the land and stole the people blind.
How, then, did West Virginia end up with a fantastic system of state parks?
Well, a lot of the credit can go to FDR’s socialist program of the Civilian Conservation Corps. When the program was established, the various areas of the nation cast about for viable park sites where the newly hired laborers could be put to work restoring the woods and streams and building an infrastructure to enable the public to enjoy these newly acquired locations. Once again, this was socialism at its finest. The state took possession of raped ecosystems and slowly, bit by bit, saw to it that the earth was reforested and the streams cleaned up. Cabins were built for overnight stays. Campgrounds were established in secluded spots on ridges, in valleys, alongside streams, beside canyons. Trails were built—engineers laid them out and laborers carved the routes out of rock and dirt. Today, those trails will take you to great views, secluded swimming holes, amazing waterfalls.
While not as impressive as the park system of Florida, West Virginia has shown that a park system can be constructed on a shoestring budget. The main thing is to leave Mother Nature alone and allow her to repair the damage done by the goddamned industrialists and the stinking, greedy, corporate monsters who seem to almost always rule our nation.
The third best system of state parks that we’ve so far encountered on the east coast is that of Virginia. Once again, the state seems to have gone to decent lengths to spend money buying land, building infrastructure, and repairing old damage inflicted by the capitalists who did their best to suck the place dry. They bled it well, but the places have recovered, and the State of Virginia has built a very impressive system of parks. Again, there are not as many parks as I would like to see, but Virginia has a decent number. They haven’t had the will to declare eminent domain where it needs to be applied, for fear of having to go toe to toe with the institutional money. But they’ve done a fair job of it. Each geographical section of the state has a good number of parks, so it’s easy to find a good place to spend your time without having to drive a ridiculous number of miles to do so.
Now then, I have to say that many states we’ve visited have a piss-poor record of having established and maintained a decent state park system. Among these states are my native Georgia, my current home state of North Carolina, the state of South Carolina, and…well…basically most of the rest of the eastern and southern states. Georgia and North Carolina in particular gall me to no end for their truly lousy state parks. Yes, there are a few jewels in their tin crowns, but by and large those systems are nothing short of a crime.
Georgia is the largest state east of the Mississippi, and yet it doesn’t have very many state parks. Also, they seem to have allowed the best of their lands to remain in private hands and inaccessible to the general population. Georgia should be ashamed of its state park system. Yes, the parks that it does have are composed of relatively decent sights and have some great recreation and nice facilities. But too much of the state’s special places are in private hands or lie fallow and inaccessible to those who would love to see them.
Lowest of all on my opinion of state parks has to be North Carolina. This place has some of the most beautiful and stunning geology and geography in eastern North America. Here in my current home state we have thermal springs, 6,000-foot peaks, vast barriers island, Piedmont rivers and streams, gigantic cliffs, temperate rainforests, and a dizzying array of native plants and animals. And yet…many of these places are not under the protection of a state park system. And many more of these places are ruined and encroached upon by land development and industrial works. The people of North Carolina should be ashamed of the pathetic state park system with which they must live. (Hey, North Carolina: Hot Springs—declare eminent domain, you fucking cowards!)
Still and all, even the states with mediocre (or lousy) state park systems have much to offer. We can largely thank FDR’s mildly socialist policies for these parks and the trails and buildings that grace many of them. Let’s stop being scared spitless of the money elite who rule over us. Take the unique lands away from them, and put them back into public ownership where they belong.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
In addition, I do a lot of research for my novels online. I still do some from reference books, but mainly if I need some information I'll look it up on the Internet or get in touch with a friend via email who is knowledgeable about a subject I need to investigate.
Also, I've always done a good amount of networking online. This was most fruitful in the earlier days of the various online communities. In those times it wasn't unusual to open my email and find an invitation to submit a short story to a magazine or anthology; or to find an offer to make a pitch to a comics company. Such days, alas, are over. Most of the print magazines are dead, and I don't know any anthology editors these days.
But the networking continued, even though it did me precious little good and sometimes some harm. In recent months I've had accounts at MySpace and Facebook. Then there was Twitter. I drew the line at Twitter. I've heard of it, but I'm determined to let it go no farther. For personal reasons I canned my Facebook membership. I'm seriously considering doing the same to the MySpace account. I still have a group of friends and professional contacts with whom I communicate online, but I tend to do these things via direct emails and on my personal blog.
That's where I think it will end up, though. I'll keep this blog for one very good reason: it keeps the creative juices flowing. I tend to write more and write more effectively when I've been most active on this blog. So I'm very close to shutting everything else down and leaving just this one online presence standing. We'll see.
But no more online instant messaging boards. No more palsy-walsy fellow professional writer websites. Goodbye to all that.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Frankly, I don't care what you do with yer dangly bits, as long as you're honest about it. And as long as you don't browbeat and scapegoat others for what you are basically doing yourself.
It reached the point where, when someone says, "I'm a Republican." My response is, "So. When did you realize you were gay?"
Not that there's anything wrong with that. It's okay to be a gay politician. Just don't create havoc for the gay community while humping your way up to the top of the political meatpile.
Gay. Straight. Bi. Neuter. I don't freaking care. And guess what? Neither do most Americans!
David Vitter is a hypocrite sack of shit. He claimed to be this upstanding pillar of Christian morality, all the while he was paying hookers to fuck him. And I don't care if he was paying diseased hookers to let him stick his wee willy winky in their nether regions. It does not matter. What does matter is that he's a stinking hypocrite and I only hope he didn't bring home a communicable disease to his unknowing wife. (Mrs. Vitter, check for any lesions or lumps that may have appeared in recent months.)
Yes, there are plenty of politically progressive folk who similarly can't keep their tallywackers in their proper places. But they don't, generally speaking, make an issue of browbeating others over the sexual things they do in private. Lefties are pretty much open about their sexual orientation. Or, if they're not open about it, they don't try to pass legislation scapegoating their fellow gays and lesbians and horny straights.
The bottom line is this---go ahead and be a Republican and screw to your heart's content. Do it with same-sex partners. Do it with the opposite sex. Do it with your best friend's spouse while he/she isn't looking. Hell--bang ducks, for all I care! As long as you don't create problems for those in society who are doing the same damned thing you're doing, then no one will care when they find out you do it, too! (And they will find out! Oh, be assured of that!)
Human beings are probably the most sex-loving bunch of mammals that ever crawled up the evolutionary ladder. We do it all the time. We do it with wild abandon. The planet is heavy to overloading with BILLIONS of us because we screw so often and so well. Here's some advice Republicans:
It's okay to screw!
Just don't go around claiming that you don't. (And please, for the sakes of Mrs. Vitter, Mrs. Craig, and Mrs. Ensign...wear a condom!)
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Strangely, Killer is also not the villain of either story. He's a strange critter, Killer. He has motives that are neither noble nor pernicious. But his motives are his own, and there is good reason for them. But I'm not telling too much. I hope to sell these two novels, and I'm only 20,000 words into the first one. Probably 80,000 more words to go before I can write "The End" on it.
It's called FAMILY. As the word implies, it'll be fully dysfunctional.
Here's a bit of fiction about Killer, by way of introduction.
Copyright 2009 by
James Robert Smith
The cell phone went off, an almost silent beep accompanied by a modest vibration. Although he carried the cell with him pretty much everywhere he went, Killer never used it to call out. And only one person had the number. Of course, he’d known the call was coming. He was special that way.
“Hello, Agent Nobody,” Killer said, his voice as cool as the opiates running through his blood made him feel.
“We have something for you to do,” the agent told him. The agent’s voice was not quite so cool as his own, owing to the fact that the gentleman on the other end wasn’t high on heroin. Killer had met the fellow on a few occasions, and he seemed as humorless as a hangman. Which is, really, exactly what he was. The only difference was that the agent didn’t use a rope—he used a cell phone, and someone else pulled the trap door for him—and they knew who that was.
“What is it, this time?” Killer asked. He reached out with a pale left hand and retrieved his coffee cup. It was filled with heavily creamed coffee and lots and lots and lots of raw sugar. Quite often, this was his breakfast of choice. He knew that he should eat something more substantial, but...well...who was going to bother an assassin about what he ate for breakfast?
“I’ll need to see you about this one. It’s a special case.”
“Aren’t they all?” He smiled, although no one was in his house to see him smile and he supposed the agent on the other end could only imagine that he’d smiled. However, he liked to think that his voice had conveyed the image through the ether that connected them across so many miles.
“Well, this one is extra special,” the agent said. And Killer did not need to see the man to know that he was smiling. He knew that the government man did not like him. It was possible that the agent even found his station in life to be distasteful. Killer wasn’t sure about that. After all, he wasn’t a mind reader. All he could do was tell the future.
“I figured as much,” Killer said. “I just had a feeling.”
“I wish you’d volunteer more about these feelings of yours,” the agent said. Then he sighed, and immediately regretted the remark. They’d done all that they could back in the halls of government to figure out what made Killer tick. Everything short of hacking him open to see if there was something inside him that made him able to do what he did. And there had been those agitating to do precisely that. But cooler heads had prevailed. An assassin who could tell what was going to happen before it happened was not something to be wasted like a vivisected rabbit.
Killer, however, did not wish to pursue that old line of conversation, and he was quiet barely long enough to make the agent a little bit uncomfortable. Finally, he spoke. “What time, exactly, will you be coming to see me?”
“As soon as I can,” the agent said. “Just wait for my next call. When it comes, I’ll be very close indeed.” And there was dead air.
Killer closed the little red cell phone and put it in the loose spaces of his front pocket, pausing for just a second to mock the agent. "Close indeed," Killer squeaked. As if his talent would allow him to be surprised by a pisher like the agent. He knew pretty much when the agent would arrive. The threads he’d followed that morning in his first waking minutes had all included the agent. Each of them led him pretty much without incident to a drugstore at the corner of Darling Road and Carole Avenue. Each of them had the pair sitting at the last remaining drugstore lunch counter in that entire side of the state, both of them eating hamburgers and fries and drinking chocolate shakes, the glasses frosted with the cold.
But he didn’t know what the agent was going to say to him, exactly. And he didn’t know where he was going to end up. His talent didn’t work quite that way. Sometimes he had to wait to see what was going to happen and which thread he had to follow and which ones to ignore. And which ones to avoid at all cost, of course. He sighed, took a sip of the wonderful white coffee and wondered why his special ability had not kept him from injecting that first hit of heroin into his arm fifteen years before?
“The world is a mysterious place,” he said to the house, empty but for him.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
"1111". The old "Double Hockey Sticks" as they're called.
So after hearing about the "curse", I began to think about the important dates and addresses and encounters in my life. I could think of no obvious encounter, either for good or bad or neutral, with the curs-ed double hockey sticks. I told Wayne just that.
The next morning I walked into work. When you do the routine it all becomes robotic. So it is with me at my USPS job. Wake up. Shave. Brush teeth. Get dressed. Drive to work. Go inside. Clock in. Walk to case...
And there it was, staring me in the face as it has for several years.
My route number.
Route 11. Zone 11.
In no less than three places on my work station, the double hockey sticks. They've been there since the day I took over the route and I just had never taken a second look at them.
The only problem is the "curse" aspect. It's a pretty good route, all things considered. Much easier on my knees than previous routes, so I can't complain along those lines. My current management team allow me to do my job (well and efficiently, I must brag) without a lot of interference. So it hasn't been much of a curse, at all.
Unless, of course, one thinks of having to show up and work eight hours a day as a laborer. But I'm not complaining.
The job has allowed me to feed and clothe and house my family. It has allowed me to take decent vacations. It has allowed me the leisure time to write novels, one of which I've sold, and one of which has been optioned to the movies.
Well, not so far.
But there you are. The influence of Wayne Sallee's double hockey sticks.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
I never was a musician. Tried it and realized early that I had no talent in that direction. But like almost all human beings, I developed a love of music. I liked a lot of pop music. Everyone has their favorite type of pop music, I reckon. But I developed a keen affection for rock-a-billy and ska. Relatively disparate types, I know, but I would switch easily from one to the other as I listened to the records on the turntable. (Yes, the old turntable.)
And so, in the early years of my marriage and during the days of raising our son, the music was just something that I never bothered with. Not for ages. Me musical brain was stuck somewhere in the late 80s. I passed through the decades and to me the "new" guys were still folk like Madness, Squeeze, Nick Lowe, etc.
I was, as they say, behind the times.
Eventually, though, I started listening to music again. One reason was the late, lamented Napster. Jove, I do miss that website. I could nab all of the tunes I wanted and all it cost me was time on the www. Alas, it's gone.
So here are a couple of my favorite musicians. Well, groups, I guess. I like them because they understand an older, established type of music, and they have reestablished and embellished that older type. I never get tired of true love, I guess.
And, yeah, they're old news. I know that. But so am I.
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones.
The Great Dave Edmunds.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Most of their novels were of the zombie variety. Which is, in a way, rather strange. For decades there had been only a small number of such novels--and most of those having been adaptations of the Romero "Living Dead" films, and their spinoffs.
And here was Permuted Press. I was so interested in this small company that I sought out the publisher and asked him if he'd grant me a brief interview for my blog. He was kind enough to accept the request, and here it is, the only interview I've so far seen of the instigator of one of the horror genre's most vigorous new publishing houses:
James R. Smith: First of all--who are you? I only know the company as Permuted Press. I don't know anything about the man (or people) behind the company.
Jacob Kier: My name is Jacob Kier and I'm the owner of the "little apocalyptic book company that could" Permuted Press. At this point I'm sort of a hybrid of acquisitions editor and office manager. I do most of the novel submission reading as well as coordinate everything that goes into publishing the books. I make sure the editing, layout, cover art, submission to the printer, and all the other little odds and ends get done. Besides myself I have a great, skilled team of freelance editors and artists who I call upon to work on Permuted books.
JRS: The first books I saw from Permuted Press were zombie novels. Why did you choose to run with this genre?
JK: Permuted Press grew almost entirely out of my love for zombies and apocalyptic literature. I started out with the intention of publishing just one book--our zombie anthology The Undead--and things grew from there. It certainly doesn't hurt that the zombie genre is experiencing a renaissance, but the whole project began with what I personally enjoy.
JRS: What is your fan base like? As a fan of the zombie sub-genre, I'm always curious about the other folk who read these books.
JK: I supposed hardcore fans of the zombie genre are a lot like hardcore fans of anything else. They're continually seeking out new and exciting projects within the genre they love. Beyond their love of all things zombie, I don't think you can easily classify them. They're young and old, blue collar and professionals, men and women. Fans of the living dead cut through the whole spectrum of society.JRS: Did the indie success of Len Barnharts REIGN OF THE DEAD influence your decision to publish similar novels?
JK: No, to be honest I wasn't even aware of Reign of the Dead when I started Permuted. The growing success of zombies didn't have anything to do with it. In fact I'd have to say I wasn't even aware that zombies were really starting to take off. The seed came from my own personal interests. Leading up to starting Permuted I'd just read Brian Keene's The Rising and Simon Clark's Blood Crazy. Around that same time period I learned about print on demand printing technology and thought "Hey, it would be really easy and fun to put out a zombie anthology!" I know now that thinking it would be easy was quite naive, but it was indeed quite fun (and addictive).
JRS: Do you see a big increase in the interest among readers to be attracted to apocalyptic horror? If so, what do you think is behind the appeal of such tales?
JK: There definitely appears to be a big interest in the apocalyptic genre right now. I think there's a couple of things going on. That big mystical cycle of social interest seems to currently have turned everyone around to focus on the Apocalypse. I think for many people currently interested in the genre it'll be no more than a passing phase. But, you've also got the more devout fans--myself included--who now have a great avenue in the internet for finding an almost never-ending stream of the apocalyptic entertainment. If you love something you can hit the Internet and find websites and forums filled with like-minded people who can point in the direction of what you want. For those folks this zombie/apocalyptic interest isn't a passing phase, they'll continue to be there soaking up apocalyptic material even after the rest of society moves on to the next big thing.
JRS: What has networking among horror and fantasy writers and publishers been like? Has any such network been a great aid to Permuted Press?
JK: My networking among horror publishers and non-Permuted writers has been fairly limited. From early on most of my networking and information exchange took place in gatherings of print on demand publishers/authors, not small press horror publishers/authors. That network was definitely helpful early on for learning some basics. Probably the network that's aided Permuted most is the community of zombie fans. They've been nothing but gracious in allowing (and helping) us to spread the word about our releases.
JRS: What are your top selling titles? And what are you looking for these days, if anything?
JK: J.L. Bourne's Day by Day Armageddon and Z.A. Recht's Plague of the Dead are our two top selling books overall. I'm always open to zombie tales, especially when they're not just a rehash of Dawn of the Dead or The Rising. Doing something unique with the living dead is more likely to get my attention these days. Beyond that I'd love to get into more apocalyptic stuff that doesn't involve zombies. Give me the world ending in a way that's interesting, has great characters, and isn't stale and I'm there.JRS: Is there a specific author among your stable of writers who seems more popular with the readers?
JK: Definitely J.L. Bourne. He's done a great job of cultivating a fan following on the web, and his works continue to pull in many new readers.
JRS: Have you been happy with the reception of your anthology titles?JK: I'm personally happy with the reception. They've always been received well critically and performed well in stores.
JRS: Any plans to move into graphic novels?
JK: No plans for anything other than prose fiction at this time.
JRS: Has there been any interest from Hollywood for any of the titles that you've published?
JK: There's been talk at various times about films and TV shows of various books. The only thing that's become official is a movie version of David Wong's John Dies at the End directed by Bubba Ho-tep director Don Coscarelli.
JRS: You guys seem to have a great attitude toward the creator's rights of your authors. Many small and medium sized publishers do not take this attitude toward respecting such rights. Who influenced you in this? Or are you just into dong the right thing?JK: I don't recall there being any particular outside influence, I guess we're just doing the right thing. I don't see the point in trying to be restrictive just to be restrictive.
JRS: What does the future look like for Permuted Press? (Feel free to tell us about any surprises or big news items that have been waiting in the wings.)JK: Overall we're going to continue working to put out the most entertaining apocalyptic fiction around. Specifically we've got many versions of the end of the world lined up for the remainder of this year including Dead Cage by Anthony Giangregorio, The Estuary by Derek Gunn, The Zombie Chronicles: Escape by James Melzer, Down the Road: The Fall of Austin by Bowie Ibarra, Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines, The Hole by Aaron Ross Powell, The Dead by Mark Rogers, and Empire 2 by David Dunwoody.
Beyond that there are some big wheels turning in the background and potentially very exciting news coming within the next couple months. Nothing is official yet, but keep an eye on the Permuted blog for details.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
We were planning on heading to West Virginia for my birthday weekend to go whitewater rafting. But now we're thinking that we'll just stay closer to home. There's a good possibility I'll head back to the Wilson Creek area and camp out at Mortimer again. Lots of great trails for me to hike and Carole and I will probably go tubing down the creek if the hot weather holds up.
Carole and I do a lot of canoeing, but now we're looking into buying a pair of kayaks. We won't be able to do any of the extreme stuff like the guys in this set of photos I took on Wilson Creek, but maybe up to Class II stuff.
There were quite a lot of kayakers on the creek taking advantage of the high water on May 31, 2009. From what I've been told, this is the first time in over two years that kayakers have been able to negotiate the river. The previous three years drought had reduced Curtis Creek to a small stream that was not navigable at all--not even by kayak.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Friday, June 12, 2009
I spent three days there trying to put the finishing touches on my novel while managing to fall off a waterfall and hurt myself. (Went to my physician yesterday so that he could examine the persistent knot on my upper thigh--it's a severe hematoma and should heal within the next two weeks).
As Jack had warned, I did pretty much fall for the place. It's just a really wonderful spot to camp, and the hiking trails that are nearby are phenomenal. And when I needed peace and quiet to write, it provided me with that, in spades.
So, here are some parting shots of my last few hours at Mortimer Campground last week.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
It may have something to do with the fact that my imagination is always working in overdrive. This has ever been the way of it, even when I was just a very little kid reading comics, watching movies, or pursuing novels. I reckon I can blame it on Jack Kirby, Willis O'Brien, and Ray Bradbury.
Having a crappy memory leads to a lot of social problems. I tend to forget faces, names, appointments...that kind of thing. But the worst of the social crimes of which I am guilty is that I cannot recall any birthday or date, no matter how important those birthdays or dates are to other people. Is it that I'm an asshole? Well...I'm not vindictive that way. I just can't recall birthdays--not even my own.
Maybe this has something to do with the fact that for many years my parents had my birthday on the wrong date. When your mom was the mother of eight kids (plus two miscarriages), then I can understand how it's super-difficult to keep up with something as mundane as a birthday. In my case, they only had it wrong by a few days, but wrong it was. Finally, when I was nine or ten years old, they dragged my birth certificate out of the box and realized that it was June 28, 1957. I think that they had the year right...it was just the day that they kept getting wrong (when they recalled it at all).
There have been times when I don't even remember my birthday myownself. Many have been the years when, around the second week of July or so, I will suddenly recall..."Hey! My birthday was two weeks ago!" No one else remembered it, so I was left to ignore it, too.
It's no big deal.
But from time to time over the years I've had people make a deal out of my birthday. My wife, sometimes, and my sister, sometimes. But I can't recall their birthdays, at all. When are those birthdays? If you told me, I might know. The only reason that I can remember to mark my wife's birthday is that she constantly reminds me as the date approaches. There are occasions when I'll remember to do something nice for her on that day in March. (Don't ask me what day...I can't recall. She'll remind me again starting in January.)
Unfortunately for those around me, my head is constantly ringing with ideas and plots for novels and short stories and scripts that will likely never see the light of print. Is this selfish? I don't know. It may be. It's definitely compulsive and not something that I can help. The world, apparently, would be much poorer if not for folk who suffer this malady. Without them, there would be no novels or movies or paintings or sculptures or comic books. Well...maybe some how-to stuff.
At any rate, that's the way it is with me. I apologize for the troubles and bruised feelings it's caused over the years. I've tried everything: notes of reminder, calendars, bulletin boards, what-have-you. The trouble is that I tend to lose track of such things. (Of course!) What good is that notebook reminding you of someone's birthday if that notebook was misplaced ages ago? Alas.
So here I sit, wondering about it all. I've just finished writing my latest novel. Ben Whitaker and Amy Braun and Sheriff Brace and Billy Sothern and Ghost Boy Tommy and the bad seed are all in their places in 108K words. I've consigned them to their fates. I spent a lot of time with them--almost as much time as I've spent with real humans over the course of the writing of that novel.
And now I'm at it again. There's a nameless assassin whose precognitive abilities aid him in hunting down chemically altered berserkers escaped from a corporate prison. The personalities and actions of these folk will fill my head for the next few months. There's nothing I can do about it. They talked to me one day while I was daydreaming and their voices were loudest and foremost in my mind. I can see them. The color of their hair; the cut of their clothes; how they react to the heat, the cold, with being afraid, happy, alone, on the run...it goes on endlessly.
My 25th wedding anniversary is coming up. I'll have to ask Carole the exact date. I keep getting it mixed up with my birthday and my son's birthday and Father's Day and some Holiday that falls around that general time period.
But the 25th anniversary. Damn. I'd best not forget that one.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Just a little bit of polishing and I can send it on to my literary agent.
It stands in at 106,000 words just now. That's 6,000 words longer than my previous novel THE LIVING END. And it will probably increase a couple thousand words or so by the time I'm finished editing it for inconsistencies and to add a bit of background.
I thought it appropriate that I publish this artwork by Bernie Wrightson, one of the greatest comic artists of the 1970s. This illustration is, as far as I'm concerned, the best werewolf pictorial of all time. He captured the feel and horror of the monster like no one else. I think it subconsciously stayed with me all through the writing of BEAUTIFUL BOY.
Now it's time to start working on the next novel. For the first time since THE FLOCK, I won't be writing a straight-up horror novel. And since I haven't sold anything since THE FLOCK, maybe this is a good thing. The plot's already roughed-in. I even have about 17K words written that will feature prominently in the book. No rest for the wicked writer...