Friday, July 31, 2009

Fun With Agents

I've been writing a long time. A loooooooooooooooooong time.
I'm fifty-two years old and I recall writing my first stories when I was in the second grade. So that's forty-five years of writing fiction. My first stories were silly beyond belief. I don't even recall what they were about, really. By the time I was in the third grade I was collaborating with my pal Billy Bridges on stories about Godzilla. Billy was a much more intense Godzilla fan than I was, but I liked the giant lizard dude enough to write these stories with my buddy Billy. Forty-four years later I don't know what happened to either those Godziller stories, nor to Billy. He moved away some time after that and I never heard from him again.

I continued to write stories all during my childhood. I tackled my first novel, a story about an Alaskan Brown Bear, when I was in the sixth grade. To show you where my mind was at in those days, this huge Alaskan Brown Bear was named "Fluffy". Following that I tried writing a novel about a bobcat (I've forgotten his name, but the tattered old hand-written manuscript is stored around here somewhere). Other animal stories followed until I discovered the works of HP Lovecraft. At which time I began to write horrid tales of adjective-laden supernatural angst.

Some time after I graduated high school I went through a period of several years wherein I wandered aimlessly and did nothing but pursue dreams of being a retail merchant. That ended badly. Around the age of twenty-six or so I got serious about writing again and started creating short stories. The first ones sucked ass, but the more of them I wrote the better they were. At some point I was sending them out to magazines and after a relatively short time I started selling them.

A few more years passed and I was regularly making professional sales. Everything from short stories to Weird Tales to comic book scripts to CLIVE BARKER'S HELLRAISER for Marvel Comics. Along the way I dredged up a novel plot that I'd written down when I was fifteen years old. Looking at it, I figured it had some promise and so I began writing my first novel as an adult. Every day I would come home from work and start hacking away at it on my electric typewriter. There were only a few people then who even knew about wordprocessors, let alone owned one. So in those days before common home computers I found that, in short order, I had written my first real novel, THE CRAG.

I sent it out to the biggest agent of whom I was then aware:

Richard Curtis.

I didn't expect him to respond. After all, he was a major agent with an impressive client list. Maybe he'd just send my manuscript right back, or throw it away. To my surprise, he liked the novel and agreed to represent me. I think I was 30 years old.

Over the next three years he came very close indeed to selling the book. At a couple of points we figured it was a done deal. Alas. When push came to shove, the editors always passed. When I delivered a second (admittedly awful) novel to Mr. Curtis, he cut me loose. I got the "Dear John" letter on my 33rd birthday in the midst of a high fever and nausea. That royally sucked dried dog turds, but I never blamed him. It was only business.

For a time after that I worked without an agent. This is a very tough thing to do. Most publishers won't look at your work unless it arrives via a literary agency. And most agencies won't look at your work unless you've already sold a novel. Yeah--a classic Catch 22.

Finally, I started calling some writer friends to see if they'd connect me to their agents. This was not a good thing to do, apparently. Some just flatly refused. Some told me that they'd mention it to their agent. Nothing happened, of course. Finally, I called a writer named Brian (last-name-redacted). He wouldn't give me his current agent's details, but he did agree to put me in touch with the agency from which he'd just fled. I was begging, so I couldn't be choosing.


I gave her a call. To make a long-ish story short, she agreed to agent my work. Then she went crazy and then she died. True fucking story.


There followed another long period wherein I worked without an agent, writing books no one would see and despairing of ever selling a novel. I even stopped writing fiction for several years. Finally though, I started writing again and shortly thereafter began trying to find a new agent. The writing went well, but the agency thing did not. No one would agree to champion my work. At last, when it seemed that I would not be able to do it, I found an agent who would try to sell my new novel, THE FLOCK.


She was an okay lady. I recall that she even took the time to line-edit the book and suggested changes and ways to improve it. Mainly, I agreed with her critiques and soon molded the novel to fit her criticisms. The book went out. No one bit. I suggested another novel that I had almost completed, but she didn't like it. She went totally silent on me. So I figured she just didn't know how to cut a client loose and I made the job easy for her by firing her with a "Dear Susan" letter.



A few months after that I began to try to sell THE FLOCK on my own. Unfortunately, I kept running into that same problem of old:

Publishers only look at manuscripts that arrive via reputable literary agencies.

Then I heard about an imprint that was willing to look at unsolicited manuscripts. I sent a query out to Five Star Books. They found the query intriguing and asked for the entire novel. I sent it to them. I'm not sure what I expected, but I was very pleased when I got an acceptance letter for THE FLOCK in late 2004. It saw print in 2006.


Since Five Star only publishes in hardback and oversize formats I began searching to see about selling the mass market rights. For this, I would need an agency. I sent out queries to many, many agents, thinking that it would be no problem at all to nab a spot on an agency's client list now that I'd sold a novel that had done pretty good in hardback. Haha. I was wrong. No agency would take me on. I kept telling them that it would make a killer movie--that I'd plugged all that into the book as I was writing it.


No dice. No agency would take a chance on me, not even a guy with a track record of more than fifty short story sales, hundreds of pages of comic book scripts sold, and one published novel.

I'd even had inquiries about movie rights, but none of the studios who'd inquired ever followed up with an offer. But I'd gotten enough of these to know that it might actually happen.


Then, in a bit of serendipity, I pissed off Don Murphy who glommed a copy of my book to see who I was and what I was about. Mainly so that he could tear me a new one in print by having been cool enough to first read my book. Instead, he saw what so many others had seen--it was a ripping good yarn! He made an offer to option the film. And did so, proving that while his reputation is as a prickly guy, he's totally honest.


And, then, after having sold a novel without an agent, and an offer of a movie option without an agent, here I was again without an agent. You might think that I wouldn't need an agent. You'd be wrong.


You still have to have an agent to get your foot in the door at all but a tiny handful of the smallest of publishers, no matter what you may have done on your own. It's just part of the way things are conducted in the publishing business. So, there you have it. James R. Smith was again in search of an agent. The seemingly endless quest.


I should write a novel about that some day.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Stir Crazy 101

As I have stated here probably about a hundred times, I go absolutely stir crazy if I can't get out of the city and into the wilderness. Depending on the stress of my job, I can go several weeks without going hiking or camping. But it's now been almost two months since I've been able to escape to the wilds and I'm very definitely feeling the pressure.

Generally, I can focus that frustration into my fiction and turn all of that angst into something other than sheer panic. But sometimes even the prose vent doesn't work. Or sometimes that stress will shut down my ability to write effectively.

Fortunately, we're only days away from heading off into uncharted territory. Well, uncharted for us. We picked a very strange location for our extended summer vacation. Initially, our plan had been to head to a western National Park--something along the lines of Yellowstone or Rocky Mountain or Crater Lake. But that would have taken in excess of two weeks to do up right (I don't like feeling pressured to pack on the miles when we're on vacation), and Carole couldn't get the necessary time off.

So we looked at some other spots we'd thought about and settled on one of the least obvious:

Missouri.


One of our very favorite things to do has been to hit the first and second magnitude springs in Florida. We love snorkeling and canoeing those amazing karst springs. But we didn't feel like heading down to Florida quite yet. And we'd read about the similar springs located in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri and Arkansas. In fact, the largest fresh water springs in North America are located in Missouri. In addition, I've always wanted to see the Ozarks. They're the little mountains of the USA. Somewhat like the country around my stomping grounds growing up in the southern section of Gilmer County in my home state of Georgia.

So that's where we'll be for two weeks--canoeing the Current River and Jacks Fork River, hiking some trails, and climbing a few Ozark Mountain peaks.

I hope to get recharged and rid myself of this city-spawned angst.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Crazy White Folk

I do a lot of hiking. Because of my very weird work schedule, I almost always do my hiking and backpacking solo. I've always found it very difficult to find companions who can tackle my outdoors activities when I'm free to go. And people who have normal workweeks can't accommodate me no matter how many times they invite me along.

When I talk about my rather tame outdoors adventures to folk who don't go hiking and backpacking at all, these people think I'm crazy. They think I'm mad for hiking many miles from roads. They think it weird that I would backpack into a wilderness to spend a night all alone with all kinds of "dangerous" animals around. These people tend to look upon as strange my tendency to hike up steep mountains and down into deep gorges and off into trackless woods.

But I try to tell them that my activities are really quite tame. I only rarely do anything even as risky as bushwhacking. I try to tell them that only a total moron can get lost in the Eastern USA (with the possible exceptions of some of our swamps and low country). I don't really mountain climb. I'm not a technical climber and even my most rugged trips only involved what is known as light scrambling. Yes, I backpack overnight into wilderness areas that are home to bobcats and bears and poisonous snakes. But none of that stuff qualifies as dangerous.

My son took this of an easy rock scramble I took at Alligator Back Rocks near Sparta NC. I started well down the gorge and all-foured it up to the top.

There, are, however, some crazy people who actually do dangerous stuff. People who climb sheer cliffs that require great technical skills and extreme physical conditioning. That's dangerous. And how about those dudes who free climb (without ropes and anchors)?

But the craziest dudes I encounter are the extreme kayakers. These guys are just daft. I don't care how much research they do when looking at a particularly dangerous stretch of whitewater. When you tackle certain stunts...well, you're just tempting the laws of physics. As far as I'm concerned, the following wackjob just freaking got totally lucky. He hit that waterfall at the right place at the right time and with the right amount of water flow.



But damned if it ain't totally cool. This is my "Crazy White Dude of the Year":


Monday, July 27, 2009

The Bleeding Edge (Repost)



I posted a while back about reconnecting with an old friend,
Jason Brock. Which resulted in me getting to spend part of a day with William F. Nolan, one of the great writers of my youth.

Subsequently, Jason and Nolan decided to co-edit a hardback horror anthology called THE BLEEDING EDGE. Jason partnered with James Beach at Dark Discoveries to publish the book. It's going to appear as a classic limited edition, both signed and numbered, and as an unsigned edition. These books tend to be expensive, and I've had fiction appear in such books in the past, but it has frankly been a long time since I was invited to submit to this kind of anthology.

Cover art by the startlingly talented Kris Kuksi.

The lineup of artists is particularly impressive, with new material by Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Joe R. Lansdale, and a host of others. I'm looking forward to the book, as it will also be the appearance of my first short story in quite some time. I got away from short story work some years back and I rarely work in that form these days.

I wrote "Love & Magick" because I felt many horror writers seem to have forgotten what a horror story is supposed to be. Most horror stories seem to be not horror at all, but rather moral fables in the Judeo-Christian tradition wherein the "horror" is represented by a bad person getting their due in a most unfortunate (but deserved) manner.


Some years ago I wrote a story called "An Embarassment of Witches". It dealt with a witch who had been murdered by her husband, but who'd used a spell on herself that enabled her to come back to life and continue her marriage as before, all the while slowly rotting away (her powers only went so far). It eventually saw print somewhere (I forget just where), but initially I had submitted it to an anthology being co-edited by a fine fellow who had, at one time, been preparing to be a rabbi. He liked the technical aspects of the story but rejected it because "I don't see where she (the witch) deserved what happened to her". Alas, he was locked into that method of horror stories being as I described them--comeuppance tales. But of course a rabbi would see things that way.

My story in THE BLEEDING EDGE would definitely not be the kind of story where the bad guy gets what's coming to him. It's something else entirely. I'm hoping that most of the stories therein will be of a similar vein. I can only wait to see. The book is supposed to appear within the next couple of months, and I am looking forward to it. The best limited edition books are works of art. I have high hopes for this one.
Here are details about the book and how to order:


BLEEDING EDGE PRE-ORDERS...


We're getting ready to head to the printer's very soon, so we're opening up pre-orders now for just the Deluxe Signed Edition. There will be only 75 copies of this for sale and with advance interest, we anticipate it will sell out very quickly. The Deluxe Edition features a special handmade binding with textured faux leather, foil stamping, a reading ribbon, individual signed colophon author sheets, 7 art inserts, and a color dust jacket.


This anthology features all-new/previously unpublished work from an amazing group of writers. Here's the lineup:


Cover and Interior Art by Kris Kuksi


Foreword - S.T. Joshi


Introduction - William F. Nolan and Jason V Brock


"Some Of My Best Friends Are Martians…" - Ray ..Bradbury


"Just A Suggestion" - John Shirley


"Love & Magick" - James Robert Smith


"Madri-Gall" [A short play] - Richard Matheson & R.C. Matheson


"Hope and the Maiden" - Nancy Kilpatrick


"The Death and Life of Caesar LaRue" - Earl Hamner


"A Certain Disquieting Darkness" - Gary A. Braunbeck


"The Boy Who Became Invisible" - Joe R. Lansdale


"Getting Along Just Fine" - William F. Nolan


"The Grandfather Clock" [Twilight Zone teleplay; purchased, but unproduced] - George Clayton Johnson


"Triptych: Three Bon-Bons" [Three short-short stories] - Christopher Conlon


"The Hand That Feeds" - Kurt Newton


"The Central Coast" - Jason V Brock


"Omnivore" [Screenplay excerpt; Illustrated by O’Bannon] - Dan O'Bannon


"De Mortuis" - John Tomerlin


"I, My Father, and Weird Tales" [Essay] - Frank M. Robinson


"Silk City" - Lisa Morton


"Red Light" - Steve Rasnic Tem


"How It Feels To Murder" [A teleplay] - Norman Corwin


"At The Riding School" - Cody Goodfellow


To order, follow the link to our special page we've set up for the book. The Deluxe Edition is on sale for $175.00 (We're offering $20 off for pre-orders). Shipping will be a flat $15 in the US for Priority Airmail with Insurance and Delivery confirmation. More for overseas.


Purchase here


There will also be a Trade hardcover retailing for $65 ($55 with newsletter coupon or pre-reserve). These will be unnumbered and 400 copies will be done. These will be signed by the editors William F. Nolan and Jason V Brock We're not taking pre-orders for these as the number being produced is much larger, but you can drop us a note via email or post to reserve a copy for you.


James R. Beach of Dark Discoveries Publications

and

Jason V Brock of Cycatrix Press.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Objective Villains

Objective Bad Guys.

When I was a kid, I always liked the bad guy on the Jonny Quest cartoon who was named Dr. Zin. I liked him because he was objective. He was evil and he knew it. He even introduced himself that way. "Yes, Quest! It is I! The evil Dr. Zin!"


You have to admire that. I mean, I doubt Adolf Hitler went around introducing himself as "the evil Chancellor Hitler". So, I liked this particular toon villain. Dr. Zin was honest about it. He was an evil, grasping, greedy, ambitious asshole, and he knew it. And more than that, he was okay with it. (Yes, there's the possibility he was just being a sarcastic jerk to Dr. Quest, but I like to think not.)


The Objective Dr. Zin.

And you have to wonder if soldiers on the "bad" side ever wonder about what they're doing. Yeah, maybe they have the best weapons and outnumber the other side. But what happens when they start to ask just what the hell they're doing on foreign soil laying waste to a culture they don't understand and have never encountered.


I guess all of this is one reason I don't bother too much with such bizarre concepts as nationalism and patriotism.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Nature Finds a Way

I've found some new images of various species of terror birds. Some of the more recently discovered species were truly enormous. The ones in my novel, THE FLOCK were the only North American version of terror bird yet discovered, Titanis walleri. These topped out at around 8 feet tall at the largest. But a newly identified species from South America was truly gigantic, topping out at over ten feet tall and having the largest known skull of any bird yet found in the fossil record. (That's the culprit in the sculpture here.)


As people like to say, Nature really did find a way. In this case, to bring back the theropod predators of the Cretaceous in a later age.

Today, the closest thing that we have to these amazing predators is the Secretary bird. Maybe Mother Nature will mold that creature anew into something resembling the tyrant beasts of 65 million years ago.

Whoa, dudes! Looks familiar!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Budd Root's Crib

I've known several comic book artists in my day. Most of them are very decent people. Some of them are exceedingly cool. But the nicest of the bunch has been Budd Root, creator of Cavewoman.


Today (07-22-2009)I was able to go to visit Budd and hang out with him for about four or five hours after he'd returned from his favorite comic book shop with a load of new books. We sat and talked about the current state of comic books and movies as we always do, and even delved a bit into politics. Budd and I have similar political attitudes, so that part of the conversation was pretty boring.

Bob: "Yeah, ****** **** sucks ass."

Budd: "Yes, I agree. ****** **** does suck ass."

As usual, Budd showed me tons of new comics to keep me appraised of the goings-on in today's comic book industry. I got to read THE INCREDIBLE HULK #600. Just like ****** **** it sucked ass. Not sure what Budd thought of it.

One of the best things about visiting Budd is getting to see new pages of CAVEWOMAN in the midst of being illustrated. Since the book features loads of well-endowed cuties, that's always a pleasure.


But another nice thing about the garage studio is that it's packed with ultra-cool stuff. Things that a person fed on Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazines and stop-motion animated movies find irresistible. I could just sit around the collection and pick through it for hours on end. And there are all kinds of models and toys and fantastic knick-knacks lying about. It's a visual and tactile wonderland of toys.

As you can see, there's a pattern evolving...

Monster mags, toys, King Kong,

comely babes, and movie toys.

Budd: "Ugo and Dave are wankers."

Part of a page from the CAVEWOMAN issue on which Budd is currently working. (I got to see them, and you didn't. Nyah.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Another Port City Slice.

My dad, despite having grown up in a virulently racist part of the nation, did not play that game. If he showed any racism at all, it was the condescending type. The old "Don't worry, my black brothers. I'm with you." kind of stuff that tends to grate.

But he would not put up with racist crap from anyone and was at all times a vocal proponent of civil rights for everyone in a time and place where that kind of talk could get you into trouble (at least) and could even get you hurt (it happened) or killt (in some cases).

He never said as much, but I have taken it that he was heavily influenced by his older brother John and by his dad. John Smith was even more vocal about civil rights than my dad, and at an earlier date, since he was older. But I would hear little clues in my father's stories that let me know that his own father must have been relatively liberal when it came to matters of race.

For one thing, everyone was welcome to shop in my grandfather's grocery store. He didn't care who you were or where you were from or what color you were. You were welcome in his store.

One cat my dad never could forget was this laborer who would come in every day on his lunch break. Once again, this would have been in the 1920s when my father was just a little boy.

The guy was a huge dude, completely bald, and he was the darkest-skinned man my father had seen (or ever did see, according to my father). His impression is that the fellow was from the Caribbean and my father recalls that the guy didn't take abuse from anyone, white folk included.

The man would come into my grandfather's store every day during summer. This was lunch time from the mill where he worked. He'd walk in and buy two items:

a pound cake that came wrapped in cellophane (this was the days before plastic) which was really big--not like modern portions--pretty much a meal unto itself. This would cost him a nickel.

and a small can of pure sorghum syrup. This would also cost a nickel.

Sorghum syrup is very thick, very dark, and very rich. It's made from sorghum sugar cane and people who have never encountered it either love it or loathe it. I grew up on it and I still feel it's an acquired taste. It is extremely powerful.

After purchasing the two items for ten cents he would leave the store and either go sit on the steps leading up to the store, or to a set of steps on another building nearby. Resting there, often in the full sun, the guy would eat that entire section of pound cake. As soon as he was finished eating the pound cake, he would take out a knife and pry open the top of the can of sorghum syrup and, turning it up, would drink down the entire can in one enormous gulp.

After that he would toss the wrapper and can into a trash can and return to work, packed with pure sugar energy. My dad never saw the guy drink anything other than the thick syrup. Considering he was a laborer in the deep South, he must have had water stashed somewhere. Because I'm a laborer in the deep South, and I could not make it through a summer day without lots of water. But my dad never did see the guy drink anything beyond that syrup.

He certainly made an impression on my dad-as-a-child. And the story certainly made an impression on me.

Nothing to do with Brunswick, but it's the right era (1923).



Like Tears in the Rain

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

In Honor of...

In honor of the moon landing and other shit.



This is what it would have been like if I'd been in Neil Armstrong's shoes that day. And my pals had been in Mission Control in Houston.

And then there's this, not for any other reason than that it's funny as hell.


I don't know who these cats are, but the BBC plays some interesting stuff.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Stories My Dad told Me

A Port City Tale
copyright James R. Smith
2009.

 
Now that I’m getting old, I think about the tiny little stories that my dad told me when I was a kid. Every once in a while, when he wasn’t raging about the injustice in the world and the evils of capitalism, he would tell me these sweet little bits of his youth. Here are a couple:

His father had been the local grocer in the place where he’d grown up. Apparently it was on the coast (southern Georgia), somewhere in the vicinity of the Brunswick city limits.

When ships would dock for an extended time, the sailors and crewmembers would often disembark to explore and to shop. They would, of course, end up in my grandfather’s grocery store. I recall that my dad said that the locals did not get on well with the Germans (apparently some German sailors went to the local swimming hole and went swimming in their underwear, thus shocking the local women, and the cops came in and chased their Kraut asses back to their ship.)

They did, however, get on famously with the Japanese sailors. The following as far as I know, is true:

Once there was a Japanese cargo ship docked in the port for some time. The locals liked the Japanese sailors. Very polite and well behaved. They especially liked the captain who, I was told, cut quite a dashing figure.

One day this Japanese captain was in my grandfather's store and he would ask the kids their names. This was part of his attempt to do a better job of mastering English. He pointed to my dad:

"What's your name?"

"Mark Smith," my dad told him. The captain nodded his approval.

"And your name?"

"Kohler Aiken," came the reply. And so on.

Finally he pointed to one kid.

"And your name?"

"Baby Goodbread, sir."

My dad said it took the Ship's captain about five minutes to stop laughing.

Not 1920s Brunswick, but it'll do.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Bleeding Edge

I posted a while back about reconnecting with an old friend, Jason Brock. Which resulted in me getting to spend part of a day with William F. Nolan, one of the great writers of my youth.

Subsequently, Jason and Nolan decided to co-edit a hardback horror anthology called THE BLEEDING EDGE. Jason partnered with James Beach at Dark Discoveries to publish the book. It's going to appear as a classic limited edition, both signed and numbered, and as an unsigned edition. These books tend to be expensive, and I've had fiction appear in such books in the past, but it has frankly been a long time since I was invited to submit to this kind of anthology.

Cover art by the startlingly talented Kris Kuksi.

The lineup of artists is particularly impressive, with new material by Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Joe R. Lansdale, and a host of others. I'm looking forward to the book, as it will also be the appearance of my first short story in quite some time. I got away from short story work some years back and I rarely work in that form these days.

I wrote "Love & Magick" because I felt many horror writers seem to have forgotten what a horror story is supposed to be. Most horror stories seem to be not horror at all, but rather moral fables in the Judeo-Christian tradition wherein the "horror" is represented by a bad person getting their due in a most unfortunate (but deserved) manner.


Some years ago I wrote a story called "An Embarassment of Witches". It dealt with a witch who had been murdered by her husband, but who'd used a spell on herself that enabled her to come back to life and continue her marriage as before, all the while slowly rotting away (her powers only went so far). It eventually saw print somewhere (I forget just where), but initially I had submitted it to an anthology being co-edited by a fine fellow who had, at one time, been preparing to be a rabbi. He liked the technical aspects of the story but rejected it because "I don't see where she (the witch) deserved what happened to her". Alas, he was locked into that method of horror stories being as I described them--comeuppance tales. But of course a rabbi would see things that way.

My story in THE BLEEDING EDGE would definitely not be the kind of story where the bad guy gets what's coming to him. It's something else entirely. I'm hoping that most of the stories therein will be of a similar vein. I can only wait to see. The book is supposed to appear within the next couple of months, and I am looking forward to it. The best limited edition books are works of art. I have high hopes for this one.
Here are details about the book and how to order:


BLEEDING EDGE PRE-ORDERS...


We're getting ready to head to the printer's very soon, so we're opening up pre-orders now for just the Deluxe Signed Edition. There will be only 75 copies of this for sale and with advance interest, we anticipate it will sell out very quickly. The Deluxe Edition features a special handmade binding with textured faux leather, foil stamping, a reading ribbon, individual signed colophon author sheets, 7 art inserts, and a color dust jacket.

This anthology features all-new/previously unpublished work from an amazing group of writers. Here's the lineup:


Cover and Interior Art by Kris Kuksi


Foreword - S.T. Joshi


Introduction - William F. Nolan and Jason V Brock


"Some Of My Best Friends Are Martians…" - Ray ..Bradbury


"Just A Suggestion" - John Shirley


"Love & Magick" - James Robert Smith


"Madri-Gall" [A short play] - Richard Matheson & R.C. Matheson


"Hope and the Maiden" - Nancy Kilpatrick


"The Death and Life of Caesar LaRue" - Earl Hamner


"A Certain Disquieting Darkness" - Gary A. Braunbeck


"The Boy Who Became Invisible" - Joe R. Lansdale


"Getting Along Just Fine" - William F. Nolan


"The Grandfather Clock" [Twilight Zone teleplay; purchased, but unproduced] - George Clayton Johnson


"Triptych: Three Bon-Bons" [Three short-short stories] - Christopher Conlon


"The Hand That Feeds" - Kurt Newton


"The Central Coast" - Jason V Brock


"Omnivore" [Screenplay excerpt; Illustrated by O’Bannon] - Dan O'Bannon


"De Mortuis" - John Tomerlin


"I, My Father, and Weird Tales" [Essay] - Frank M. Robinson


"Silk City" - Lisa Morton


"Red Light" - Steve Rasnic Tem


"How It Feels To Murder" [A teleplay] - Norman Corwin


"At The Riding School" - Cody Goodfellow


To order, follow the link to our special page we've set up for the book. The Deluxe Edition is on sale for $175.00 (We're offering $20 off for pre-orders). Shipping will be a flat $15 in the US for Priority Airmail with Insurance and Delivery confirmation. More for overseas.


Purchase here


There will also be a Trade hardcover retailing for $65 ($55 with newsletter coupon or pre-reserve). These will be unnumbered and 400 copies will be done. These will be signed by the editors William F. Nolan and Jason V Brock We're not taking pre-orders for these as the number being produced is much larger, but you can drop us a note via email or post to reserve a copy for you.


James R. Beach of Dark Discoveries Publications

and

Jason V Brock of Cycatrix Press.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Highland Tiger

My dad's people, somewhere along the way, hailed from Scotland. Maybe that's why I adore the Appalachian high country so much. It resembles the highlands of Scotland. But for whatever reason I've always liked looking at photos of Scotland and reading about the place.

A few weeks ago I began emailing various park and wildlife personnel there asking if they had any projects afoot to restore ancient Scottish ecosystems, and to bring back wildlife that's been extirpated. When I mention the return of wolves and bears, they think I'm daft. One reason is that Scottish National Parks are not like such parks in North America. There, much of the parkland is inhabited by people in the forms of farms and even towns that are included within park boundaries. So the idea of restoring large predators to the landscape is frowned upon by the average citizen who would have to live with them. (Yes, it's hard to believe my tough Scottish brethren are wussies, but it's sadly so.)

However, they are trying to bring back many of the small and medium-sized creatures that were exterminated by Mankind. Among them are otters, beavers, and even the European lynx. The only real pure predator left in Scotland is the famed Scottish wildcat. These are terribly endangered for a number of reasons. Some people still consider them pests and kill them on sight. They tend to interbreed with feral domestic cats and if this continues they will just breed themselves out of existence. And they suffer from feline diseases spread by domestic cats, both feral and pets.


So to try to preserve this last remaining icon of the Scottish landscape, there are movements to see that they will continue to exist. If you're interested (I was), follow this link to read about these efforts to save the Scottish wildcat from extinction.

The Highland Tiger.

And if you're a real mensch, donate some money to them.

The Scottish Wild Cat (Image by Terry Button)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Movie Deal!

It's my blog and I can post it again:

I had been limited to how much I could say about the sale of the movie option to my novel THE FLOCK. But the wheels turn very slowly and deliberately in Hollywood. However, here's what I can tell you now:

I sold the movie option to Don Murphy at his AngryFilms outfit. Don Murphy is best known as the producer of movies like NATURAL BORN KILLERS, FROM HELL, THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, SHOOT 'EM UP, and of course the two TRANSFORMERS films. Don then partnered with John Wells who produced TV shows such as ER and WEST WING, among others. The project is now in development at Warner Brothers.

It's all very exciting of course. I'll post more details as they come to me.

Here's a link to the article at The Hollywood Reporter.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cityscapes and Perspective

My friend Wayne Sallee is always taking kickass photographs of his hometown of Chicago. He uses little disposable film cameras and captures the most amazing damned images you can imagine. How does he do it?

Anyway, every time I look at his photos of Chicago I want to go out and take photos of the Charlotte urban environment. However, I have seen Chicago. I have walked in Chicago. I have driven through Chicago. And Charlotte, you're no Chicago.

Still, I need to get out and get some images of my adopted city. So, while I was standing on the roof of the parking deck at the hotel where the comic convention was being held, I snapped several shots which I stitched into this image.

Oh, well. It's a start. (Click to embiggen.)

John Ostrander

Years ago when I still had my comic shops, one of my favorite comics writers was a fellow named John Ostrander. His scripts were what I can only describe as "quirky and funny". Even the darkest stuff in his adventure series always gave you an out in the way of a chuckle or a nervous laugh at the most stressful junctures of the story.

In those days Mr. Ostrander was best known for creating and writing a book called GRIMJACK. It was a foundation stone property for the then-thriving publisher First Comics. I recall how popular that book was with my customers. It was one of the books that would cause a crowd of fans to gather in the shop so that they could all discuss the latest issue. I also recall a lot of laughing that would come from these groups of comics fans when they were perusing the latest issue of GRIMJACK.


Well, Mr. Ostrander has been suffering from glaucoma for a number of years. I used to frequent his message board, but I'll be damned if I can ever recall that he complained about this fact or even mentioned it. He'd talk about his latest projects (STAR WARS titles at Dark Horse) and talk freely to his fans there. But nothing about his failing eyesight.

Well, if you're a fan of John Ostrander's work, or just want to help him out (his eyesight is now fading fast), some of his friends have set up a website for contributions of money or for donations of items that can be auctioned. Because, this nation being what it is, John Ostrander is not adequately insured. The life of a freelance writer in the USA. We're the last major industrialized nation that does not provide all of its citizens with decent health care. It's a crime and a shame, but that's beside the point of John Ostrander's predicament.

So, please, if his work ever made you happy or you just want to help out, you can get the details at this website:

John Ostrander-A Call to Arms.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Movie Deal!

I had been limited to how much I could say about the sale of the movie option to my novel THE FLOCK. But the wheels turn very slowly and deliberately in Hollywood. However, here's what I can tell you now:

I sold the movie option to Don Murphy at his AngryFilms outfit. Don Murphy is best known as the producer of movies like NATURAL BORN KILLERS, FROM HELL, THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, SHOOT 'EM UP, and of course the two TRANSFORMERS films. Don then partnered with John Wells who produced TV shows such as ER and WEST WING, among others. The project is now in development at Warner Brothers.

It's all very exciting of course. I'll post more details as they come to me.

Here's a link to the article at The Hollywood Reporter.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Comic Books and Sech-like

I went to a comic book convention today. As a guest. I sold several hardback copies of my novel, THE FLOCK. And I had a really, really good time hanging out with other creative folk and talking to people, some of whom I hadn't seen in years. It was a lot of fun. I only bought one old comic book--an Amazing Spider-Man #39. I know I said I would never buy one that was out of Steve Ditko's run on the book...but since it was one of the major books of my childhood, I bought one anyway.

Here are a few shots from the show. More later.


Man, it is TOUGH being a Storm Trooper. Achtung, baby!

Who knew Storm Troopers were comic book nerds?!

Budd Root, creator of CAVEWOMAN, gives his highest recommendation to THE FLOCK, and thinks that Bob Smith, author of THE FLOCK is one of the world's finest living authors (if not, indeed, THE world's finest living author).

This was Budd's work space for the day. You HAVE to trust the impressions of a man whose work station is covered with ultra-cool dinosaurs.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Zoom


I love climbing up on a really high mountain and looking down and across and not being able to see a single sign of the hand of Man. Here in the eastern USA this is a very difficult thing to be able to do. There are a few canyons where you can do that and a few mountain valleys that I've found, also. And probably a couple of places where I've hiked in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

But by and large wherever you can climb to the top of a mountain you are going to look off and see roads and houses and businesses and even factories. I recall a few years ago climbing to the peak of what I thought was an isolated summit in the Pisgah National Forest. And once at the top I looked down to see a factory. Ugh.

Recently I managed to summit a relatively high mountain in Virginia. Once on the top I could look down and far off. Almost everywhere I looked I saw indications of human beings. Mainly I was looking at farms and fields and pastures. But I could see a lot of roads and even houses. This wasn't so bad, really. It was still rural area and there were no subdivisions and no shopping centers and little of what I would describe as urban sprawl.

Sometimes it doesn't gall me to see humans squatting on the landscape.

From Walker Mountain I looked down and saw a pale smear far below. With my telephoto lens I took this photo and realized it was a small farm with a couple of houses sitting close together. Likely an extended family? Hard to say, but I think so.

Then I zoomed in as much as I could. At least two houses. Looks like it. Classic farm stuff. Sheds. Trailers. Storage buildings. What looks like a recently plowed garden plot. I even saw some humans, like tiny bugs crawling across the green. It was okay.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Dr. Schiff and Dr. Wein

A Chapter from

THE LIVING END: A ZOMBIE NOVEL (with Dogs)

by James Robert Smith

Copyright 2009 by James R. Smith



Dr. Wein and Dr. Schiff exchanged a toast as they sat and rocked.


“Do you feel old?” Wein looked across at his associate.


Stu Schiff considered for a moment, raising the delicate glass to his nose and examining the scent of the scuppernong wine, recent vintage. He sipped. “Yes, I suppose I do,” he admitted. Although not much past forty, he’d experienced two years of almost indescribable hardship compared to his life before The Thing. “I think this last winter was rather harder on my joints than I thought it would be.” His brow knitted as he thought of things he’d seen in his yearlong struggle to get to Sparta. Unlike Dr. Wein, Stu Schiff was clean-shaven and his sandy hair was only now going to dark brown as he entered his forties.


“What do you think of this stuff about a standing army?”


“Bad news,” Schiff said. “It’s not really something we can afford. But, then, when has a standing army been something any nation can afford?”


Wein who’d been rocking slightly forward stopped dead in his chair, silence surrounding him as a slight breeze ran through his hair and even found its way through the tight darkness of his beard. “Nation? You think of this town as a nation?”


Dr. Schiff swallowed the remaining contents of his glass and poured it full again as he replied. “No. Of course not. It was just a remark. We’re no more a nation than that narrow-minded bunch of fanatics down in City of Ruth or one of those places.”


“But the way you said it…”


“Don’t read too much into everything I say. I’ll start thinking that you’re trying to muscle in on my territory.” In fact, Schiff was a Sociologist, but had some extensive training in psychology. Therefore, he’d been recruited to act—if not as a psychiatrist—then as a kind of advisor to anyone who seemed to be suffering from extreme emotional or mental stress. It was as if he was confidant to just about all of Sparta’s 3,000 and more folk. He was overworked, and truth be told, he was indeed feeling far older than he would ever admit to anyone. His joints ached and he found himself nodding off into deep sleep at the slightest opportunity.


“What do you think they’re saying about the two of us sitting here talking while the sun eases down and night comes on?” Wein raised his glass to hail three passing women who had been working in the nearby cornfield. He recognized all three of them—they were barracks girls who had been in Sparta for only a few months but were doing well.


“What would they say?”


“They might say—I don’t know—look at the two Jews. They’re probably conspiring.”


Schiff glared at his companion. “Do one another no harm,” he said. “We were all in on that. You know this place isn’t like some of the others. Don’t even talk like that. It isn’t healthy.”


“They’re probably talking like that in City of Ruth.”


Schiff nodded. “Most likely.”


“Speaking of Jews, though, any news from The Stetl?”


The sun was now gone from the horizon. From their vantage point on the wide porch of Schiff’s house, they had a grand view of the peaks to the north of town. High mountains fading off into the grand valley beyond and then up again into Virginia. They could see the dark pyramid of Mount Rogers, the highest point in the state-formerly-known-as-Virginia. It dominated the skyline in that direction. The night was cooling rapidly. It felt good.


“I don’t think we’ve had a signal from The Stetl in…oh, three weeks.”


“Wonder what’s going on there.” Wein had been the first to speak with the folk in that community. The fellows who monitored the short wave had heard the voices on that band early in Sparta’s confederation, but they hadn’t understood them. Finally, one of the fellows had recognized it as Yiddish and asked Wein to translate and respond. Turned out that an almost exclusively Jewish community had gathered at an old resort in the Catskills Mountains, pouring out of various cities and towns and trying to piece together a safe place. They’d had their troubles.


“I wish I could tell you,” Schiff said. “Maybe their short wave radio is on the fritz.”


“Maybe they’re all dead.”


“We may never know,” Schiff replied. He swallowed another throatful of wine and tipped the bottle again into his glass. “Let’s talk about something less morbid, shall we?”


“Let’s not. I feel the momentum and I want to talk about some things.”


Schiff sighed, admitting defeat. Almost everyone wanted to unload on him. From out of the falling darkness, they heard a scream. “Ellen Jarman,” he said, staring into the growing shadows, seeing a few lantern lights glowing yellow from windows in the town around them.


“Poor Ellen,” Wein said.


Ellen Jarman sometimes stood in the center of the street. She would have been doing something or would have been going somewhere. Generally, it was something useful or something quite practical. She’d been a nurse, they knew, although she would have nothing to do with the practice, now. But once in a while—sometimes once a week or, if things were bad, several times a day—she would freeze in place and just scream. Usually, it was a single, piercing scream. Other times, she would scream again and again until her throat seemed raw from it. And then, whether or not anyone had arrived to comfort her, she would suddenly stop and continue doing what she’d been about before being overcome.


“She was in…what was it? An orphanage?”


“No. A maternity ward.” Schiff squinted his eyes and tried in vain to blot out the visions of what he’d drawn out of Ellen Jarman during those times when he’d tried to help her, to get her to purge herself of the things she’d experienced. “They…they broke in there. While she was alone. She tried to save them. Probably a dozen newborns.”


“Goddamn,” Wein whispered.


In the darkness, Ellen Jarman had stopped screaming. They hoped someone was comforting her. Well, they knew it, but hoped it was someone she knew and trusted.


“Well, you’re ahead of me," Wein said, lifting the almost-empty bottle. "Do you mind if I kill the rest of this bottle? I don’t feel like pouring any more drinks into this dinky glass you gave me, you selfish asswipe.”


Schiff smiled. “Go ahead. I have two more bottles in the house. Let’s get bleeding drunk.”


“Two more?”


“Hell, yes. A lady from the south of town gave them to me for helping her son. He was having some real problems. No more Zoloft in this new world, you know. I’ve been able to talk him through some things.”


Wein was chugging down the contents of the bottle. He let the sweet wine slosh across his tongue, savoring the sugary-fruity flavor of it. His lips made an audible smacking sound. “She makes a good wine,’ he had to say.

For a few minutes the pair of them sat, chairs creaking against the wooden floor of the porch, the night all but hiding them, two shadows in the chilling air of evening. Out of the night there were no more screams, but they could hear voices drifting on the air, the sound of children playing, trying to wring a little more fun out of the faded day.


“What about this standing army, then?


“They want a hundred and fifty permanent men-at-arms.”


“They didn’t say ‘men-at-arms’, did they?” Schiff smiled in the dark.


“Yeah, I think someone said that. Killen? Not sure, right now.”


“Killen? Really? I figured he was through with that kind of thing.”


“What do you mean, ‘through’?”


The air was still now except for the rocking of the two chairs. Children were all in their homes. Voices were muffled by four walls. “You know as well as I do that he’s former military. Sure, he’s never confessed to just what he was in the real world, but he reeks of it. I can’t say what rank he was, but it was at least a Captain. Probably higher. For all I know, he was a fucking general.”


“Well, I never bugged him about it. All I know is that he’s against Sparta having anything like a regular army or police force. He thinks we should stick with rotating the job out with people the way it is. Everyone serving two or three weeks at a pop as a trooper.”


“Well, it’s all moot, now. After what that bastard from Ruth pulled. I just hope no one tries to kill the little weasel when he shows up again in a few weeks.”


“No. We discussed that. We’re going to confront him, and depending on what kind of reaction we get we may bar him from entering Sparta again. They’ll have to pick someone else to barter with us if he’s a hard-ass about it.” Dr. Wein stretched, felt his joints creak and his spine crackle with mild pain.


“What else? What kind of changes are we going to see?”


“Well, Roland Thompson is agitating for some kind of breastworks.”


“Get out of here!”


“No. It’s true. His argument that not only will it act as a defensive structure, it’ll help us out in case of a forest fire raging up from the valleys. He had some diagrams worked out. I think the fire thing swayed some people. He mentioned West Jefferson.”


“Shit. He would.” West Jefferson had been something everyone could see. It had been much like Sparta. It had not been situated as high as Sparta, but was still a mountain town, sandwiched between a pair of high ranges. Seven months earlier the horizon had been lit red and orange for two weeks while the town and everything around it had burned in a horrid conflagration. When it was over, they’d sent some scouts to check out the situation. There’d been some talk of trying to repopulate the little city if Sparta started bursting at the seams. On their return, one of the scouts explained what he thought had happened—spontaneous combustion of some type. And maybe a natural gas line had gone up and exacerbated the fire. At any rate, there was nothing left of West Jefferson but a vast charcoal gap between the mountains. It was gone forever.


“Yeah. He’ll definitely get his one hundred and fifty soldiers. And he might even get the breastworks. Who the hell knows?”


“We’re backsliding, Dr. Wein.”


Wein sighed. "It sure does look that way." He squinted into the night, seeing nothing. "Bring out those other two bottles."