Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Who Knew?

The jounal Science reviewed A FIELD GUIDE TO SURREAL BOTANY in their 12/19/2008 issue(!)

That's a place I was not expecting to hear from. I'll have to get a copy and post a summary.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


How do you come up with a title for a story?

I've been reading Dean Koontz's book on writing best=selling fiction and he has a chapter on this. He has an intriguing method where he plays around with word pairings and comes up with something that really grabs a readers attention and makes them want to read the story, then he uses that as the seed for writing the story itself.

It's a logical idea, but it does assume that you don't already have a story. My problem is that my stories generally come first, and coming up with a title for something that already exists is a different proposition. It's great if there's an important word or phrase that just leaps out of the story, but that doesn't always happen.

I'm npt always happy with my story titles, but like them much better than my sermon titles. I publish those a month in advance, when I haven't really started to do any serious work on them. I've chosen the scripture at that point, and have a general idea of where I want them to go. That's generally enough for a decent title, so I come up with something. The problem is, when I really do some serious study of the text, and get into the creative process of writing, something much better than the original idea begins to form. I usually go with the superior sermon rather than the sermon that fits the title best.

Of course that means there are often a couple of people who ask "...but what did that have to do with your title?"

When it comes to stories, I've come up with titles in a number of ways. The closest to Koontz's method I've done is probably "Snake Oil" which was written for FRONTIER CTHULHU. The anthology asked for horror stories in the tradition of H.P. Lovecraft set in the American frontier. I had a vague idea that I wanted to use Lovecraft's serpent god Yig, and that seemed to fit with the western archetype of the traveling peddler selling snake oil as a cure-all. All manner of snakey goodness seemed to fall into my lap after that.

I guess "Clown Fish" which was published in HIGH SEAS CTHULHU has a similar story. I had an image of what I wanted to do and the title fit that perfectly. I don't think the title is a great hook, and it doesn't make much sense until you finish the story, at which point there's a nice "aha" moment.

"City of Masks" is (IMO) a nice, mysterious sounding title. I wrote it for an anthology set in a future where zombies have become commonplace. In my story the undead are used for labor and are masked so that people don't have to be bothered by the faces of deceased loved-ones. With this one, the title came about the time I was finishing the story.

"Closing Time at Galaxy Video" is a story about a pair of aliens who drop into a video store at closing time. It's such an ordinary sounding title that I thought it would catch someone's eye seeing it in the contents of a science fiction anthology. The hardest part was thinking of an appropriate name for the video store. I came up with the title about half-way through the writing.

"Nano-Domini" is a favorite title of mine. I wrote a story for the upcoming anthology ROBOTS BEYOND that has medical nano-robots in search of meaning. It's the most overtly religious story I've ever done and I wanted a title that suggested that without beating people over the head with it. The working title was "In the Details" which is based on the proverb "God is in the Details" and the idea that nano-robots are tiny little details themselves. (Interestingly, there's also a proverb that saiy "the Devil is in the details"). I think that was an okay title, but when "Nano-Domini" literally popped into my head a few days after I'd finished the first draft, I liked it much better.

I got tothinking about this because of the vampire story Bobbie and I are working on. What might be a good title for that?

"Truck Stop...of Death" :p

Maybe a wait-and-see policy is better for this one.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Weather and Writing

Nice moody weather this week in Illinois. First there was the snow and the odd mix if brutality and wonder it brings. Hmm...I like the idea of creating a creature that can be at pitiless and as beautiful and serene as a snowstorm at the same time. I'll have to file that idea away.

Tonight I went out for a bit and there was heavy fog, which really added to the mystery and wonder of the snow. Of course it didn't add to the driving skills of the other people out and about so my chances to really enjoy it were more limited than I would have chosen. Still, it was very nice. I will not miss the cold when it goes away, but I will miss the trappings of winter.

And what am I writing in this? Well, I just finished a first draft of an SF story called "Closing Time at Galaxy Video". It's cold and damp in the story so maybe the weather crept in a bit. On the other hand, the story I'm working on with Bobbie (and finally have a little free time to get back to :-)) is set in early summer in New Mexico, which is a whole 'nother kind of weather.

It's set at a truck stop near Santa Rosa, and the pictures I've been looking at for research make me yearn for those open, arid spaces again. Some of that may just be my chilly bones yearning for a little warmth, but there's more to it than that. There's a severe kind of beauty in the desert. Like the snow, it is pitiless, but it will take your breath and capture your imagination at the same time. I hope we can catch that feeling for the story.

Monday, December 22, 2008

More Snow

I was out again tonight (on my new tire:)) and saw something I haven't seen in years. As I was walking into the library I could see the air sparkling around me.

I could feel a few pin-point stings of cold on my skin and I'm guessing this was a form of snow, as if there were tiny ice-crystals, too small to be seen until they caught the light just right. it was amazing and magical, whatever it was. the air seemed cold and clear otherwise, and I could only see the sparkles our of the corner of my eyes.

It made me think of another snowstorm I was in a few years ago. I was driving up to Flagstaff and came through an area where the big puffy flakes were falling thickly. But the western sky was clear and the sun was setting and it painted the falling snow a vivid orange. it was like driving through falling specks of fire.

It is amazing to see, even under the most prosaic conditions, and sometimes, it outdoes all else for mystic beauty.


It's very cold up here in the midwest! On the one hand, that's kind of nice. I grew up in the southwest and I think I remember one or possibly two white Christmasses.

Here in Chicagoland there is a lot of snow, more this year than ever. It's beautiful and it always makes me think of how exciting snow was when I was a child in Albuquerque. It's beautiful and kind of magical in my mind, and it always seems odd whenI hear long-time midwesterners complain about it.

On the other hand, I have some understanding...

Last night I decided to go to a local bookstore. There aren't any in Lickport but there's a freeway that can get me to Barnes and Noble in about 15 minutes, so I braved single digit temperatures, nasty winds and snowy streets.

Everything was fine until a tire blew out on the expressway. Unpleasant but decided to handle it philosophically. I pulled over on the shoulder to consider my options. The good news is that I am a AAA member... the bad news is that, for the first time in months, I didn't have my cell phone with me. Oh well...

I checked the tire; the entire sidewall was shredded. Fortunately, I have a spare and I know how to use it. Unfortunately I didn't have the foresight to have gloves along. :(

Changing the tire in the bitter cold was hard, but not that bad. Not until all the streetlights on that section of the freeway suddenly went out. Unscrewing lugnuts is tough when you can't see them, and worse when your hands are so numb that you can't feel them. (I've got blisters today on a few of my fingers, so I'm guessing mild frostbite.) Still, while I couldn't feel my hands that was compensated for by the lancing pain in my sinuses from the cold wind, and the sudden nearly-irresistable need to pee.

I got the tire changed eventually and made it back home without further incident. I think I have a better understanding now of why so many misdwesterners dislike snowy weather.

I still love it. But my next trip out will be to get a good roadside flashlight and a heavy duty set of winter gloves!


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Off to Gryphonwood

A friend (thanks Bobbie!) tipped me to the fact that Gryphonwood Press's next anthology has re-opened it's doors for a 2 week reading period. the anthology is titled You Don't Know What You've Got.

The theme is loss and it seems perfect for "City of Masks", a story that I first sent to The World is Dead anthology. It seems appropriate because the character in the story loses his vocation, his girlfriend, his freedom, bits and pieces of his body and ultimately his humanity.

It's the first zombie story I've ever done and is set in a dismal dystopian future. Kind of bleak stuff, but perhaps it's balanced by the story I'm working on now, a fantasy/western romp called "the Sad saga of Tyrannosaurus Tex".

(Bipolar much?)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Drop Dead Gorgeous

I'm posting this for Wayne over at Permuted Press. I haven't read the book yet, but can attest that he is a talented and clever writer. Check it out.

Wayne Simmons' living dead novel Drop Dead Gorgeous is now available for purchase from many stores including:

* Permuted Press - Free shipping on any 2 or more books!
* Amazon US
* Amazon UK
* Amazon Canada
* Barnes & Noble
* Many Others

As tattoo artist Star begins to ink her first client on a spring Sunday morning, something goes horribly wrong with the world... Belfast's hungover lapse into a deeper sleep than normal, their sudden deaths causing an unholy mess of crashing cars, smoldering televisions and falling aircraft.

In the chaotic aftermath a group of post-apocalyptic survivors search for purpose in a devastated city. Ageing DJ Sean Magee and shifty-eyed Barry Rogan find drunken solace in a hotel bar. Ex-IRA operative Mairead Burns and RIR soldier Roy Beggs form an uneasy alliance to rebuild community life. Elsewhere, a mysterious Preacher Man lures shivering survivors out of the shadows with a promise of redemption.

Choked by the smell of death, Ireland’s remaining few begin the journey toward a new life, fear and desperation giving rise to new tensions and dark old habits. But a new threat--as gorgeous as it is deadly--creeps slowly out of life’s wreckage. Fueled by feral hunger and a thirst for chaos, the corpses of the beautiful are rising…

Friday, November 21, 2008

Tales of the Shadowmen

The latest in Jean-Marc Lofficier's anthology series, Tales of the Shadowmen will be out to the public in January, but I get to peek at a contributor's copy the week after Thanksgiving. (Yay!)

Jean-Marc's idea has been to tell new stories about the heroes of French popular culture that he grew up admiring. This includes very famous characters (D'Artagnian, The Phantom of th eOpera, etc.), reasonable well-known (Fantomas, Arsene Lupin, etc.) and obscure but fascinating (Fascinax, the Nyctalope, Irma Vep, etc.) Along the way a few British, American and others in th epublic domain may put in an apprearance.

The series has attracted some well known writers, including Brian Stableford, Kim Newman and Michael Moorcock, and has provided a place for obscure newbies like me as well. My first published story was "The Mask of the Monster" in TOTS volume 1. I've been fortunate enough to have a story in every volume since.

The latest outing features the following:

Matthew Baugh: The Way of the Crane
Michelle Bigot: The Tarot of the Shadowmen (an art portfolio depicting various heroes and an villains as the Major Arcana of the Tarot.)
Christopher Paul
Carey & Win Scott Eckert: Iron and Bronze
G.L. Gick: Tros Must Be Crazy!
Micah Harris: May the Ground Not Consume Thee...
Tom Kane: The Knave of Diamonds
Lovern Kindzierski: Perils Over Paris
Rick Lai: All Predators Great and Small
Roman Leary: The Heart of a Man
Alain le Bussy: A Matter without Gravity
Jean-Marc Lofficier: Madame Atomos' Holidays
Randy Lofficier: The English Gentleman's Ball
Xavier Mauméjean: The Most Exciting Game
Jess Nevins: A Root That Beareth Gall and Worms
John Peel: The Dynamics of an Asteroid
Frank Schildiner: The Smoking Mirror
Stuart Shiffman: The Milkman Cometh
David L. Vineyard: The Jade Buddha
Brian Stableford: The Vampire in Paris (Part IV of The Empire of the Necromancers)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Quantum of Solace

I saw this last night (seeing a movie the week it opens, or even the month it opens is a rare treat) and thought it was both good and bad.

I've had mixed feelings about Bond through my life. When i was an idealistic kid I saw the Sean Connery movies I hated them. it wasn't that they weren't exciting, but the heroes I loved made a point of not killing, and they were a lot nicer to the women in their lives too. (Well... couples like Superman and Lois Lane have their own version of a messed up relationships, but at least Superman didn't treat women like they were interchangable or disposable.)

The first Bond I really liked was Roger Moore, who seemed funnier and more charming than Connery (looking back, I wonder what I was thinking). Timothy Dalton did a decent job, though the movies were terrible. The Pierce Brosman films were fluff, but high quality fluff. The Daniel Craig Bonds are something else.

At some point in my college days I decided to read the original novels by Ian Fleming. I was surprised how much I disliked the character I found. Fleming's bond is not a nice man, not really even a good man. He is an efficient agent, a ruthless killer, a man who will use anyone or anything to accomplish his mission. He's not the sadistic monster that his ememies are, but Fleming had to create some real monsters to make 007 look good by comparison.

This dangerous aspect of Bond is something that Daniel Craig captures better than anyone else ever has. He is, as the last movie, CASINO ROYALE says, "a blunt instrument". He kills without hesitation or regret, and out of a grim sense of necessity. He womanizes in the same sort of way, effeciently seducing when it suits his purposes, or to seek solace from his inner demons (being a ruthless killer is hard on a person). This isn't a jaded hedonist, like Moore's Bond or even Connery's, there is a human killing machine with a vulnerable human core buried deep inside.

I like Craig's portrayal, and the cast in general. Bond's relationship with M (Judy Dench) is very nicely handled here and in the last movie. The plot is over-the-top in some wyas, but still grittier and more believable than any other Bond since the days of FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE.

My biggest complanit were the action sequences. In what seems an attempt to keep them feeling gritty and real, the film uses a lot of quick cuts, unusual angles, and extreme close-up shots. Occasionally this works but usually it just creates a sense of condusion about who is doing what to whom.

There was a brilliant fight/chase scene in CASINO ROYALE which manages to combine over-the-top stunts with the strong sense that this could all be real. It was done with excellent stunt work rather than special effects and editing sleight of hand. By comparison the opening car chase, and the fight/chase with a rogue agent when the prisoner is freed are muddled and confusing. Gimmick has been allowed to overwhelm storytelling.

Still, thse are lapses in what is otherwise a well-written, well-acted movie. I enjoyed this one quite a bit.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Doctor Syn Rides Again!

I just learned that tomorrow is the release date for Disney's new DVD release of "Doctor Syn, Alias the Scarecrow" which IMO is one of the best things the mouse has ever produced.

Doctor Syn is a favorite character of mine, an 18th century English clergyman who is the model of Christian love and charity by day. By night he dons a mask and dresses like a scarecrow to lead a band of smugglers. The two occupations aren't as different as they seem at first. The smuggling is to help the poor people of the marshlands of Kent who are being crushed by cruel taxes and victimized by press gangs who kidnap their young men to serve in the navy. Syn is appalled by this injustice and, as the Scarecrow, uses his wits rather than brute force to fight back.

It high adventure in the tradition of Zorro, but is much spookier. The Scarecrow costume is wonderfully creepy (hmm... I have a sudden inspiration for next Halloween!) and Patrick MacGoohan is perfect as both the gentle, intellectual parson, and the macabre Scarecrow.

This isn't just something I am a fan of. One of the extras tracks features an interview with MacGoohan, and I was lucky enough to suggest some of the questions used in the interview. I had written an article a few years ago about the character as he was originally presented in the novels of Russell Thorndike (I've got a soft spot for masked avengers, and one who was a minister in his secret identity was irresistible)! As a result I became--maybe not an expert, but very familiar with the character. This led interviewer Larry Green (a very nice guy) to ask my opinion about a few things, and I leaped at the chance to help.

People think that knowing huge amounts of information about neat but obscure characters is a waste, but I am living proof that geekdom is good! :-)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Future is Dead

My story, "City of Masks" didn't make it into the anthology. :-(

No worries though, these things don't bother me.

(The fools! The blind fools! When will they understand? They will rue this day, I tell you! The time is coming when they will regret that they did not appreciate my genius, but then it will be... too late. Ah, I'm getting out of hand. Igor, bring me a sedagive.)

aHEM! I feel better now.

I have some ideas for improving the story, then it's off to a professional horror magazine with it.

In the meantime I'll be pulling for Bobbie and Rakie and a few other Permuted Press friends who made it past the first round.

Good luck guys!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I've got a few feelings about the election.

1. I'm excited about the fact that we've done something that would have been considered unthinkable when I was a kid. We've elected the first African American president ever!

2. While there are bound to be frustrations and disappointments ahead (there always are) I think we've chosen someone who will be an excellent leader.

3. Just a note, I'm celebrating Obama's victory, NOT McCain's defeat. I hope we can really come together and do some good. IMO good people can hold very different opinions and still find ways to work together for the common good.

4. For all it's flaws, the process of American democracy in action is awe-inspiring. I feel very proud.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Knock Me Over With a Feather!!!

I was mentioned by Ellen Datlow in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, 2008!!!

I haven't seen the citation yet but my friend Richard Dean Starr found this yesterday. It's on the blog of Dark Wisdom editor, Chuck Zaglanis.

Stewart Sternberg and I had our names mentioned a couple of times in The Year's Best
Fantasy and Horror.
We were both given honorable mentions for our stories in
High Seas Cthulhu. Other writers in the anthology whose work interested editor Ellen Datlow were: Matthew Baugh, Tim Curran, John Shire, and Lee Clark Zumpe.
Congratulations to everyone involved.

The story that caught her eye must have been "Clown Fish", a pirates vs. elder horrors romp that was a lot of fun to write.

This is exciting!

Not bad for a Cat-Frightener

I just got an advance copy of SHANGHAI MOON, the latest installment in the amazing Bill Smith/Lydia Chin series by S.J. Rozan S.J. has a series of questions on her blog and was giving advance copies to her favorite answers. She said mine made her laugh, which startled the cat.

This is a fantastic series. The locations from New York to Shanghai and various other places are vividly described, the characters (down to the walk-ons) are so well characterized that you'd swear you know them. Finally the detective heroes feel like old friends. They are deeply flawed yet admirable people. You want them to win (they probably will) and you want them to solve their personal issues (not a chance) and get together. (Honestly, the series has managed to maintain a romantic/sexual tension between these two for nine novels now, and it's still working!)

Bill is the more typical of the two, a big, white, intellectual, tough-guy detective with a checkered past. Though he's the more familiar character type of the two, he's anything but a stereotype. Lydia is small, young, Chinese-American, and Bill's opposite in practically every way. The novels are written in first person and alternate voices. This time around Lydia is the narrator. Something remarkable that Rozan does is that Bill seen through Lydia's eyes is still recognizably Bill, but he's also very different from Bill through his own eyes. The same goes for Lydia in the two POV's. It's brilliant because it's so true.

Anyway, if you couldn't tell, I am eager to devour this one! I've dipped in enough to find that it revolves around an obscure but fascinating bit of history (did I mention that S.J. is also a teriffic researcher?). It seems that when the Nazis first started driving the Jews out of occupied Europe, many of them ended out in Shanghai, which was one of the only ports that would accept them.

I don;t know where the novel is going from there, but I'm goign to love finding out.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Avenger Chronicles

I got my contributor copies from Joe Gentile today!

Joe and I share that we read this series when we were young and loved it. The Avenger is Rivchard Henry Benson, a pulp hero who is the combination of super athlete, super inventor, and super detective (think Batman without the spiffy costume). His wife and daughter were presumed murdered by criminals and he vowed to protect others from the same sort of loss. The terrible shock of losing hs loved ones also turned Benson's hair and face white and gave him an odd paralysis that allows him to mold his flesh like clay. This makes him a natural master of disguise.

I haven't read the stories yet but an impressed by the talent they have brought in. I'm excited to have my story "In Forgetfulness Divine" (many thanks to Richard for the title and overall help with this one) alongside the sotries of such talented authors. The list is:
Tom DeFalco
Win Scott Eckert (an old friend!)
Joe Gentile (A newer friend!)
Clay and Susan Griffith
Ron Goulart (Who worked on the Avenger paperbacks in the 70's!)
CJ Henderson
Howard Hopkins
Paul Kupperberg
Max McCoy
Christopher Mills
Will Murray
Mel Odom
Gary Phillips
Martin Powell
Robert Randisi
James Reasoner
Richard Dean Starr (A friend and colaborator with all kinds of Moonstone projects!)
& Dan Wickline.

It's strange and humbling to work on a character I loved as a kid! It's amazing to see it out in print.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Sad Day

I just heard that Tony Hillerman passed away yesterday.

If you don't know him, or the many books he wrote, you're missing something special. Mr. Hillerman was a mystery writer of rare talend. The vast majority of his stories Took place on in the Navajo Nation and the surrounding areas in New Mexico and Arizona.

I was born in Phoenix, grew up in Albuquerque, and worked for 8 years at a churhc in Sedona. The Southwest is my favorite part of the country, the closest to my heart. Tony Hillerman was able to capture it like no one else I've ever read. He knew what it is about those austere landscapes that makes them so compelling. He painted them, and the people who live there, so vividly that reading one of his books always felt like a piece of home for me.

For a lesser writer, creating a mystery series with a tribal policemen as the detective/hero could have been a gimmick. Not for Tony. He wrote about people, and cultures, that he know intimately. He never lost the humanity of his characters, or the cultures they came from, in romantic stereotypes. He showed us beautiful, fallable, human beings struggling to make sense of their lives in a changing world.

It seems to me that Tony's earlier novels focussed more on the mysteries, and the rich cultures of the Navajo and other nations served more as a backdrop. These features Joe Leaphorn, a Navajo policeman with a knack for mysteries. His desire to unravel the chaol and restore harmony to chaotic situations grew from his spiritual roots, but found practical applicationin his work. He had his big map on the office wall stuck with colored stickpins as he tried to perceive the underlying patterns. Joe was also a tragic figure, a man deeply in love with a wife who was slowly dying of cancer.

After a time, the stories seemed to shift. The mysteries were still first rate, but seemed to take a back seat to the personal struggles of a man trying to live in two cultures. Jim Chee was much younger than Leaphorn, but also much more traditional. He was a policeman who doubled as a healer. A lot of people have tried to portray the struggle to hold on to Native American traditions in the modern world. Their efforts are usually well-meaning, but hokey. Not Tony! The struggle he showed us through Jim Chee was painfully real, especially as the character's love life mis-matched him with women he loved, but who he could not find a way to be with and be true to himself.

The stories were told with wit, with an insightful eye, with a deep sense of compassion, and with a sense of the beauty of life that always shone through. From what I've heard his writing is a good indication od the man himself. Everything I've read says that he was warm, kind, generous, honest, and that his eyes twinkled with life.

I will miss Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee (who Tony finally gave a happy ending) and I will miss the man who created them.

Rest in peace, Mr. Hillerman, and (as the Navajo people you loved so dearly might say) may you be surrounded in beauty.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Max Payne

My wife wanted to go see "Appaloosa" this evening, unfortunately we got to the theater after it started, and she decided we should see "Max Payne" instead. In case you're not familiar with the movies, "Appaloosa" is a based on a novel by Robert B. Parker (a writer I admire), "Max Payne" is based on a popular third person shooter game.

I'm going to sound like a real snob (maybe I am), but no apologies for this one. Max Payne is awful.

It's not universally awful. Beau Bridges as B.B. is good (at least until the climax when he has to spit out a lot of ludicrous lines), and I was pleasantly surprised by Ludacris as the Internal Affairs officer investigating Max.

Other good points...

1. I learned that no matter how gigantic your gun of preference is, it's fairly easy to conceal it on your person if you just wear a jacket.

2. I was impressed that Mark Wahlberg's character could shoot more accurately firing over his shoulder while falling backwards than any other character could shoot while standing up and aiming (even with a laser aiming device). I suspect that the character's amazing willpower (demonstrated by the fact that his face never changed expression) accounts for this.

3. The movie was one of the loudest I've seen in a long time. This is a useful feature, it helps the viewer to fend off occasional drowsiness.

4. Mila Kunis is a pretty actress. Even excessive makeup, a lack of intelligent dialogue, and the excessive flourishing of a ridiculously big gun failed to completely obscure this fact.

5. The visual effects were spectacular, and sometimes even clever.

6. The occasional references to Norse mythology were interesting, and hinted at greater depth. Unfortunately they were also inaccurate, and were ultimately red herrings.

The final lesson I learned is that I probably shouldn't watch movies, let alone review them, while I'm in a terrible mood. It's a good thing that tomorrow is another day.

("Tomorrow is another day!" That's a good line! Maybe they can put that in a movie someday. It'd work great right before the climactic gunfire, explosions, and helicopter crash!)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Iron Man

I finally got to see this on DVD this week and enjoyed it tremendously! Robert Downeyt Jr. was perfect as Tony Stark, the hero who moved from self-involved arrogance to idealistic heroism without ever losing his engagingly irresponsible attitude.

The rest of the cast was also very good, especially Gwenneth Paltrow as Stark's long-suffering personal assistant. I've heard criticism that Jeff Bridges as the villainous Obadiah Stane wasn't as good a villain as he could have been. I actually liked him a lot in this. He may suffer by comparison to Heath Ledger's tour de force as the Joker in Dark Knight, but everyone this summer will suffer when compared to that.

There was a lot to like about the movie, but there was one scene that made me really think. Disillusioned by the fact that his weapons are being used to kill innocents, Stark develops the Iron Man armor and travels to Afghanistan to take on anyone misusing his weapons.

Iron Man is technologically superior to anything operating in the country. He only has a few rough moments in slipping past the U.S. forces and overpowering the insurgents. When they resort to using human shields, Iron Man activates a special weapon that targets all the hostage takers and knocks them out without a single innocent being harmed.

It's a fun scene, but it made me a little--uncomfortable might be too strong a word--but it made me think. It reminded me of the claims we heard in the Gulf War, which have been repeated in the war in Iraq. And the truth is that the U.S. has as huge a technological advantage over the rest of the world as Iron Man has over the real world. Despite that, war is still messy, collateral damage is still high, and innocents still suffer every day.

I recently listened to an NPR interview with an expert on the recent wars who said that the highest civilian body counts by far in Afghanistan these days are caused by U.S. air strikes. He blames poor communication between U.S. forces and international peacekeepers, and also the very different rules of engagement between air and ground forces. The lack of coordination leads to a chaotic situation that no level of technological superiority can sort out.

In the movie, Tony Stark decides that the armor he develops is too powerful to be trusted to anyone else. It needs to remain in the hands of a lone highly responsible individual. (Well, actually a reckless individual with a heart of gold, but you get the point).

That's perhaps the essence of the superhero myth. It's not superior power that ultimately makes the hero. It's courage, compassion, and wise decisions that define the hero. In the world of a movie or a comic book, those things are fairly easy to come by. In real life it's much messier. We can, and should, strive for the ideal, but we're a long way from being Iron Man.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Edward Monkton

I just heard about htis guy today. He is the most amazing greeting card writer of all time!!! (That deserves more ! but three is my limit).

His cards have messages like:

Live Your Dreams
Except for that one about being EATEN by as giant SPIDER


DARE TO BE DIFFERENT...but not so DIFFERENT that you become a Menace to Society and they have to take you off to the HEAD HOSPITAL and conduct experiments on your BRAIN.That would be just too DIFFRENT, OK?

This is too cool!

Et tu Brutarian?

Horse Latitudes is fresh back from Brutarian. This one wasn't bad as rejections go, in fact the letter was positively friendly, and the response time was excellent. I'm going to ask a friend to kick the tires and listen to the engine, and then it's off to Realms of Fantasy.

Leah and I are doing some retuning on Panzersloth as well with a publication called Daikaijuzine in mind. There's something kind of fitting in sending a giant monster story to a magazine that has the Japanese word for giant monster in the title.

And (with fear and trembling) The Beauty Thief goes in the mail to Cemetery Dance tomorrow. I've looked at some of the names that have published there and it is daunting. The flip side is that getting published there would be a huge coup (and they pay money, which is always nic).

So fly free little stories! Find good homes, and don't forget me.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Currently Reading

It's a bit of a mix.

PLATO AND A PLATYPUS WALK INTO A BAR which my sister Allison sent for my birthday. It's the history of western philosophy told with jokes. Very clever and insightful. I could have used this when I was a college freshman.

THE PHANTOM CHRONICLES - Another of Moonstone's stories mixing first rate authors with classic characters. I've had a soft spot for the Ghost-Who-Walks since I read his adventures in Charleton Comics as a kid. I've only read one story so far, by Richard Dean Starr. I'm hoping the rest are as good.

JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL - I actually haven't started this yet. From what I hear it's going to be a lot of fun!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Handling Rejection

What do you do when you spend many hours on a story, shaping and polishing it into something special, only to have it rejected? After the wailing and gnashing of teeth, I try to pick out the errors that the editor has (hopefully) pointed out, show it to a couple of beta-readers, and send it back out there.

Only, this one keeps coming back.

"Trail of the Brujo" has come back (again) from a market not to be named here with a very blunt rejection letter. The letter says that I need to become "a much more careful writer". After wailing and gnashing a bit I looked at it and say that there were two (2) big errors on the first page. I'd changed a line I didn't like and had missed deleting the original. The effect was that I had the same idea twice in the first paragraph. I'd also removed my contact information when I workshopped the story and had forgotten to put it back in befure submitting the story.

My bad, and it's easy to see a rejection for those two things alone.

The other comment was more cryptic.

...having a witch not believe in shapeshifting shows that you do not know the
subject you are writing about.

I can see how this could be a valid point. I'm puzzled by the fict that the witch/brujo character in the story, never says he disbelieves in shapeshifting. In fact, there's no discussion of shapeshifting anywhere in the story.

Color me puzzled.

Still, O best beloved, it is not wise to argue with an editor. I have made the corrections I could and sent the story on to a new market.

I may be getting better at this rejection business. There was on;y a days-worth of wailing and gnashing of teeth this time. (That will probably help with the dental bills too.)

Friday, October 3, 2008

My Stories To Date

A friend recently asked about what I had in print and I realized I wasn't sure. Record keeping isn't exactly my best thing. It made sense to do something about that, and the blog seemed a good place to do it.

Many thanks to Win Scott Eckert for helping me to figure out how to make the cool slideshow feature work on this blog! I’m insufferably pleased with it!

For anyone who is curious, here is the tally for the moment:

"The Legacy of the Fox" (essay) MYTHS FOR THE MODERN AGE
"The Mask of the Monster" TALES OF THE SHADOWMEN – VOL 1
"Ex Calce Liberatus" TALES OF THE SHADOWMEN – VOL 2
"The Heart of the Moon" TALES OF THE SHADOWMEN – VOL 3
"Captain Future and the Lunar Peril" TALES OF THE SHADOWMEN – VOL 4
"Fool’s Gold" HELL’S HANGMEN
"The Cold Comes South" “In Lovecraft’s Shadow” Issue 1
"Mysterious Dan’s Legacy" ARKHAM TALES
"Snake Oil" FRONTIER CTHULHU (Origin Award Semi-Finalist)
Enemy of My Enemy (With Mike Bullock) TALES OF ZORRO

"Le masque du monstre" LES COMPAGNONS DE L'OMBRE (Tome 1)
"Ex Calce Liberatus" LES COMPAGNONS DE L'OMBRE (Tome 1)
"La voie de la grue" LA SAGA DE MME. AROMOS (Tome 4)

"The Way of the Crane" TALES OF THE SHADOWMEN – VOL 5
"In Forgetfulness Divine" THE AVENGER CHRONICLES
"Decently and Quietly Dead" “In Lovecraft’s Shadow” Issue 2

Friday, September 26, 2008

Another try

Intergalactic Medicine Show wasn't interested in "Horse Latitudes" so I'm sending it off to another market. I need to sit down and really study the markets sometime, but Brutarian looks like a good possibility, so it's off.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Da Link!
or, if you want to go straight to th eorder page:

And the correct title (which I keep getting tangles) is A FIELD GUIDE TO SURREAL BOTANY.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Reviews for "Handbook of Surreal Botany"

Jason Erik Lundberg posted these reviews for us to look at. I'm glad (though not aurprised) that it's getting such good notices. It was a great idea and the production looks first-rate. I can hardly wait for my copies to arrive!

"I could go on and on about the excellent work here — about all the care put into making the entries read as authentic but the sly hints and literary winks that let readers know they are in on some cool joke with the writers. Lundberg and Chui show with A Field Guide to Surreal Botany just how many wonderful things can be done when you lavish care and attention on a literary project. This is a small press title that exceeded all of my expectations and has easily become one of my favorite reads this year. It's a delight; irresistible on every level. Fantasy fans will enjoy it for sure but if you are looking for something special for the plant lovers in your life (especially those with a sense of humor) then you should buy this book. It will be completely unexpected and wholly adored."—Colleen Mondor, Chasing Ray

"Science fiction is usually defined as a story that incorporates elements of science, but rarely does scifi actually take the form of a scientific paper or research volume. That's why Janet Chui and Jason Erik Lundberg's A Field Guide to Surreal Botany from Two Cranes Press is so startling and pleasurable to read. This slim, beautifully-illustrated volume is an anthology of 45 fictionalized plant species — it's fiction written to resemble science, and which comes out sounding almost like poetry. [...] It's a strange and detailed book, rather extreme in its interpretation of what science fiction can be, and therefore most welcome indeed."—Annalee Newitz, io9

"Yes, Two Cranes Press have really got it right, totally, totally right with this one. Gorgeously designed and printed, and yet (appropriately, given the subject) dirt-cheap, A Field Guide to Surreal Botany gets it right every way. [...] Printed on thick, slick, matte, faux-faded paper, it literally oozes quality, to the point where you might be tempted to lay it on a lesser volume and hope the process of osmosis will work some sort of 'magick.' But I think most readers will be loathe to lay it down anywhere. It's a compulsively readable and ultra-cool book."—Rick Kleffel, The Agony Column "A Field Guide to Surreal Botany is a superb book, production-wise if nothing else. Various contributors showcase fictional plants that take on supernatural (even science fictional) aspects, each one as bizarre and ingenious as the entry preceding it. The book has a consistent format but don't let that fool you: the various authors own up to their entries, infusing it with their own sensibilities. [...] This is certainly a book that'll stick out and make a fine addition to anyone's library--and perhaps a book you might want to pass along to your friends."—Charles Tan, Bibliophile Stalker

"I can't think of a better gift than this book. It can be kept in a shelf and be consulted for inspiration, or be left over the coffee table and serve some flash fiction along with fine biscuits. Or it can be read cover to cover and appreciated as a fine salad, with green leafs that tastes like dreams."—Jacques Barcia, Post-Weird Thoughts

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Post-Apocalyptic Rats

I finished off a short chapter and sent it to Leah for her review. It's part of THE GIRL WHO WALKS THROUGH WALLS and tells the touching story of a young girl trapped in a storm drain with an intelligent rat from beyond.

Will Rene DeTritus be able to save Amelia? What part will the Vicarmat-1280 play in his efforts? And just what was the Chorch of England thinking when they shifted all of their clerical positions over to robots, anyway.

For those, and many other answers, you'll just have to wait for chapter 3.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Right Now

I'm reading a mystery called, THE WINTER QUEEN by Russian author Boris Akunin. It's set in Moscow in the 1870's and looks clever and funny so far. Akunin is a big deal in Russia and a friend who reads a lot of international stories recommended it. I'll post a review when I'm done.

I'm still chipping away at chapter 2 of my project with Leah. It involves talking rate, a little girl trapped in a storm drain, and the Vicarmat-1270 which is an automated representative of the Church of England. At some point in the story it'd be fun to have Vicarmat malfunction and begin shouting "Cake or death?" (maybe not, but it's fun to think about.)

I am so looking forward to my real vacation at the end of November!

Oh, FRONTIER CTHULHU did not win the Origin Award, but it was an honor just to be nominated. (Seriously! I can now list "Origin Award Noninated" in my resume. Very cool!)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Big Update

I am not so great as a blogger :(

Since our last thrilling episode a few things have happened.

1) TALES OF ZORRO is out! Yay!
2) FIELD GUIDE OF SURREAL BOTANY is out! I'm eager looking forward to getting my copy.
3) My story was accepted for THE AVENGER CHRONICLES.
4) I wrote something experimental for HAUNTED LEGENDS. It was rejected but I have hopes it can make it in another market.
5) My story for MORE TALES OF ZORRO wasn't approved, but the hints seem to indicate it could work with the right sort of re-writing.
6) I wrote something I feel pretty good about for THE WORLD IS DEAD. That's an anthology of zombie fiction edited by Kim Paffenroth who is a professor of religion and horror author. (I feel less alone in the world).

I'm also at work on a project with my friend Leah Clarke, it's kind of Charles Dickens meets H.P. Lovecraft in the post-apocalyptic future. I just read Leah's first draft of chapter 1 and it's fantastic! (It's good to colaborate with talented people like her, they make me look good by association. On that note I'm looking forward to colaborations with Micah, John, and Bobbie in the near future.)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Origin Award Nominee

The good folks at Flames Rising have posted the nominees for the 34th Origins Awards and FRONTIER CTHULHU is listed!

The full article is at

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Various & Sundry

Nano-Domini is in! The final TOC for ROBOTS BEYOND is up and I'm in it. That's fun and it's great to be in an anthology with so many friends. Bobbie and Leah didn't make it, which is too bad, but they are both up about finding good markets. Given the quality of the stories, I think that's justified. Richard was hopeful about the anthology too but the deadline came too fast.

Here's the final TOC:

1. Brannan/Electric Crown
2. Wong/The Last Protector
3. Sexton (as Holton)/Franchise Hell
4. Stiles/Burning Down the House
5. Lynn/Tinman
6. Carl/Crocus
7. Bishop/Narrative Device
8. Dunwoody/Other Dreams
9. Reynolds/The Strange Affair of the Artisan's Heart
10. Riley/Surveillance
11. Mosses/Primero
12. Donahue/The Cure
13. Lynch/Hothead
14. Oliver/How Coyote Made Robot
15. Sutherland/Again, Iabrochium
16. Adamson/Be Swift, My Soul
17. Jones/A Robot Named J35U5
18. Baugh/Nano-Domini
19. Wojtowicz/Are You Lonesome Tonight?

Rats! Looking at this I see there are no first names :(

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A day late and a doller short...

Ah well. I thought I'd have until the end of the month to finish working on a submission for Gods and Monsters. I neglected to notice that the guidelines said, "04/30/08 or UNTIL FILLED".

That's too bad. I had a nifty little story of Mysterious Dave meeting werewolves and Nordic gods in the Old West. No big deal though, I can still finish that and shop it around to Fantasy and Science Fiction or Cemetary Dance. It's time to crack the big markets. :)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Have You Ever...

Ever written something and thought... "Well, at least I'm done" and then gotten back an amazing response?

I finished my most spiritually ambitious piece of writing this week. "Nano-Domini" is the story of a medical nanobot and his developing relationship with the scientist whose body he shares. It's meant to parallel the relationship of God and humanity from an unusual perspective.

I was worried about it being too preachy (it might stll be just a bit) and it felt clunky as I was writing it. I ran it past my writer's group thinking I would probably get some kind words about how not every story can be your best.

The responses I've gotten back have been better than to anything else I've ever submitted there(!) I'm floored and surprised (very pleasantly so) to get the comments I'm getting, and from people whose opinions I really respect and value!

Something went right and I'm really tickled about it! Now I get to be nervous about my story making the ROBOTS BEYOND cut.

Leah says that things look hopeful for her story (a wonderfully creepy/funny Lovecraftean tale with robots) and I got an advance look at the rewrite of Bobbie's Civil War robots story (which was very good before and is amazing now). It would be so cool if we all made it!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

New Projects

I'm in the Holy Week crunch at church (easily the busiest week in my year) and desperately behind. I'd still like to write something for the ROBOTS BEYOND collection. I've got enough friends in there that it'd be a treat to be published alongside them.

Doug Wojtowicz, John Oliver, Thom Brannan. I suspect Lane Adamson's nifty robotis take on John Steinbeck will make it too and have my fingers crossed for two very nice stories by Bobbie Metevier and Leah Clarke.

I'm taking a couple of days off next week. With any luck I can do a robots story, do some major plotting for a Stargate novel Richard Dean Starr and I are hoping to get accepted, then there's another mysterious Dave story I want to finish for Gods and Monsters and some mythology research for the novel I'm planning with Leah(!)

How is it I'm sugddenly working on two novels? I'll need a miracle to get it all done.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Avenger

I'm doing a couple of other colaborations for Moonstone's THE AVENGER CHRONICLES with Richard Starr. These weren't meant as colaborations originally. Richard was pressed for time so I helped him with his story "Tides of Justice" and he returned the favor with my story "Images of Yesterday".

I'm looking forward to this collection with great anticipation! I'm also enjoying all the opportunities that Moonstone is talking about coming up. They're publishing new adventures of many of my all time favorite characters and that's very exciting to be involved in, plus Richard and Joe have been great to work for. :)


I'm doing my first intentional colaboration on a short story. "Panzersloth" will be a submission for the Giant Creatures anthology that Permuted Press is putting together. I'm working with Leah Clarke who is a delight to work with. (Note to self: Choosing a writing partner who is very talented, has a compatable sense of humor, and is fun to work with is a good strategy!)

The story involves a giant pangolin (that's a rare mammel that looks like a cross between an anteater and an armadillo) that attacks Chicago. It's (mostly thanks to Leah) the funniest story I've ever worked on.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Frontier Cthulhu Review

The estimable Matthew Carpenter who posts lots of reviews on Amazon has weighed in on Frontier Cthulhu. His review cam be viewed at and scroll down the page a bit.

Here's what he had to say about my story:

"Snake Oil" - Matthew Baugh has been busy with stories in Arkham Tales,
High Seas Cthulhu (the excellent "Clownfish"), Hell's Hangmen and In
Lovecraft's Shadow issue #1. I wonder if Dave Mather, descendent of Cotton
Mather, will become a fixture in Mr. Baugh's stories? Dave Mather is a
deputy marshal in Nevada who gets mixed up in some mysterious goings on. As
you might surmise from the title, this is the Yiggiest story in the book.

(It's nice to be the Yiggiest)

One small correction. My story is set near Las Vegas, New Mexico. I think Mr. Carpenter (understandably) thought of Nevada when he saw the name.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Note to self

Looking at today's entries I see I should always do a spell check.

You can't go back and edit on this blog. :(
Here are a couple of gorgeous images from the upsoming "Handbook of Surreal Botany" coming out sometime this spring.

The flower to the left actually won't be in the book but artist Janet Chui posted it as an example.

I don't know the name of the fruit down beliw but it is amazing to look at (note to self: working with talented artists is good!)

My own contribution is the fire lily, whose bloom is actually a flame. I haven't seen it yet but am very excited!

Viva Las Vegas!

I got to visit Las Vegas over Thanksgiving 2007. Not the Vegas you're probably thinking of though. This Las Vegas is situated in the mountains of Northern New Mexico and is filled with old west history.

My folks and I went doen for the day and I browsed the library for research on gunfghter days. We saw the building where Doc Holliday owned a saloon. We didn't get to see Doc's dentist office (Las Vegas was the last place he practiced as a dentist) but we did go by the Old Sytone Hotel. Jesse James stayed there once under the name of 'Mr. Howard.' He was looking for a place to settle when his bank robbing days ended. Billy the Kid can through the town as least once, and there's a story (probably invented) that Jesse took Billy to lunch and tried to talk him into coming back to Missouri to rob banks.

I've wanted to go there ever since I started to write stories about Mysterious Dave Mather.
Dave was a deputy in Las Vegas and his most famous adventures took place there. Sadly, the 'Close and Patterson's Variety Hall' where he fought and beat four desperate men in a gunfight is no longer in existence.

Still, it was great to walk those streets...