May Day this year elicits from me a triad of posts on the breaking of a circle. Of course, since nothing in my life right now makes it to completion easily, this will also take a while to complete.
Author P.K. Tyler is releasing her new book, The Jakkattu Vector.
This super cool spec fic writer has many books and hundreds of great Amazon reviews. I am so glad to have discovered her; her writing style is erudite and seamless and her ideas are fascinatingly unique. A breath of fresh air in the sometimes belabored sci-fi / fantasy genre. Indie Authors for the win!
You know what I think is a thrilling moment in film or literature? The moment when you experience something new. Something that hasn't been done before. Oh sure, it's all been done before, but every so often, an artist or writer or director come along and mixes it up in such a way that makes you stand up and take notice. Enter the new indie film Paint It Black, which I got to see at its premiere earlier this month. (Hooray for the perks of life in LA: an awesome city if you don't ever need get anywhere in less than twenty minutes, or turn left).
Paint It Black is the directorial debut of Amber Tamblyn, a plucky showbiz lifer who probably hates to be called "plucky." It's based on the book by the venerable Janet Fitch, who probably objects to the title of "venerable." (I assure you it means "well-respected" in this case, not "old"). Many people know Janet from White Oleander, which was made into a very good film starring Michelle Pfeiffer. Paint it Black, however, has been made into an exceptional film.
I'm a reluctant blogger at best, so rather than going into a lengthy background and description of the book and film and how they are similar or different, let me jump right into the three reasons I appreciate this author and this director.
Janet Fitch: 1). Her books feature strong and complex female characters who are delightfully unpredictable. 2). Like a scribe of the goddess Kali, she writes about female sexuality as a force of creation and destruction. 3). She isn't scared to be both poetical and profane in her writing; it flows from the mundane to the vulgar to the sublime with ease.
Amber Tamblyn: 1). Her directorial style in this first film is both visually striking and emotionally eviscerating, because she doesn't shy away from the in-between moments when the characters are lost within themselves. 2). She is a poet, and her film reflects that sensibility. Conventional writing wisdom says to show rather than tell. Paint it Black does neither; instead it suggests, symbolizes, and intuits. 3). This is a film that bypasses the cerebrum and hits straight in the subconscious. You can give it a fine intellectual analysis and debate it til' the cows come home, but its power lies in the unsaid and undefinable; the moments that wrench at your gut for no reason you can pin down.
In an era when writing has become frequently either maudlin or contrived, any work of Janet Fitch's is a thoroughly welcome change of pace.. And I can't wait to see what comes next from Amber Tamblyn, a young woman who is defying convention to bring us something real, visceral, and challenging. Congratulations to all involved!
I have finally had a moment to review the work of the wonderful Caitlin Doughty. If you don't know her, she's the founder of The Order of the Good Death, an organization designed to overturn the sad, uncomfortable notions we have of death care in our society.
Death has been medicalized, dare I say criminalized, to the point of ridiculousness. I'll have another post soon about my friend's loss of her dear mother - peacefully at home, mind you - and the three-ring circus it turned into.
In the meantime, check out my Amazon review, and pay a visit to The Order of the Good Death!
Caitlin is a great speaker who does some super cool events. Wish I could make it to Seattle!
I have to tell you, Christmas is my favorite holiday. But I don't mean that in the cheesy, commercial way. In my mind it's the darkest, scariest, and most pagan time of year. It just stirs my blood. I WANT TO SACRIFICE A GOAT. I am not kidding. Something about this season stirs the dark magic in my blood. I love it.
I'm fine with the Christian aspects, too. A holy birth in the dead of winter, of a mystical child doomed to die in horror? That's pretty messed up.
This holiday is a fantastical conglomeration of cultures and stories. I love the connection to the sun god Mithras, and the pagan traditions of the solstice, Yule and Saturnalia. Mostly, it just moves me in some primal way, to fight against the darkness of winter, to feast and be merry with those I love, because we might not all make it to spring. *Merry Christmas*.
Horrotica writer Eric Keys gave me the greatest interview. He's taking a break from blogging, so I'm posting it here. Join us as we talk sex, spookiness, and writing!
EK: First a few questions about your background. As a transplant (Boston to rural North Carolina) I am fascinated these days by place. You grew up in Maine - home of dense forests and Stephen King. How did that background effect your writing?
EJ: Mainers are required to read Stephen King. It’s an actual law. I encourage you to call Maine’s governor and ask about it, I’m sure he won’t mind. I went to school with the girl who played young Rachel Creed in Pet Sematary; it’s one of the few movies that was really filmed there. Fred Gwynn, (rest in peace) actually did a passable Maine accent too. It’s hard to explain, but Maine is just spooky. There were places in the woods that seemed absolutely magical. And there were places you just didn’t go. My brother and I never even had to talk to each other about those places, we just knew. My mother used to say “I can always tell when I’m in Maine, because the trees look like they could jump out and take over the road.” So it follows that I like to write about magic, mystery, and the natural world.
EK: Were there any places in Maine that had a deep impact on your writing?
EJ: Certainly the house I grew up in. It was an old farmhouse, built partly in 1860 and partly in 1790. It’s on ten acres of fields and woods. It felt alive. Every board in the house, every tree, every plant felt like it had its own personality and history and soul. I also lived in a number of places around Portland - that’s the real Portland, not that pretentious copycat in Oregon. A condo we lived in, an 1800’s brick building, had a dark, twisty basement with a dirt floor. I still have nightmares about that basement. I’m fairly sure it was an entrance to hell.
EK: Nightmares and dreams are often a big deal for writers. Personally, I have not received a lot of ideas from dreams but I have often tried to recreate what I think of as the feeling of a fever dream. Have dreams influence your writing much?
EJ: Very, very, very much yes. Absolutely. I have an unbelievably active, surreal, and lucid dream life. I have two sci-fi novels that have come to me as dreams; the events played out in my head like a movie. I could probably write innumerable horror stories from my dreams. And I may actually do a nonfiction collection of some of my dreams; it’s wild stuff.
EK: In Fresh Cut you write about a number of years you spent in Boston. How did that change of locale affect you?
EJ: It was my first big city, and it invigorated me. Brought out my wild side. (As if I needed any help with that). It’s a big college town, so there were a lot of people my own age. I think it made me more social, and it certainly started me people-watching. That’s an essential skill for any writer, or actor. It was still very “New England,” though; it had that sort of odd historical undercurrent, that strange sense of dark deeds long past. I think Boston has always been a city that’s very prim and proper on the surface and all kinds of dirty underneath.
EK: What are some of the places in Boston that you remember fondly?
EJ: Um...leaving it? I was just not a fan. No, really, though - those strange multilevel ramps in and out of the city, oxidized or painted to a bright green or orange, swirling above and below you like the rings of Saturn. Beautiful and offputting at the same time. Remember when they tore down the first wall of the Boston Garden Arena? On the way out of the city you could see inside to all the bleachers and nets and floors that the Boston Celtics had played on so many times. I hate sports, but I have to admit it disturbed me. It was like looking at an autopsied corpse.
EK: I remember the Garden fondly. I saw my first rock concert there – REM. And on that note, do you listen to music while you write? Does music play a big role in your writing process?
EJ: Well, my first concert was Huey Lewis and the News, so let’s hope that didn’t influence me too much - Although then I’d be American Psycho, which would be awesome! Actually, I’m way too into music to listen while writing. Since I’ve been a singer with a band, I always wind up getting pulled into that world instead. But certain pieces definitely come around to haunt me at times. And since I tend to view books as movies in my head, they’ll usually have a soundtrack. For Fresh Cut it’s a combo of 90s alt bands like Live and Blur, and wonderful modern melodrama like Muse.
EK: You moved to LA at the end of your memoir. What most stands out for you about the difference between New England and Southern California?
EJ: The weather, obviously, but truly, it’s the people. I remember one time in Boston I had to go out without a bra. I got yelled at by some guys on the street. In LA, no one would give a rat’s ass. If they even noticed with all the other bizarre behavior going around. Boston’s Puritanical roots are very close to the surface. LA is a city of beautiful freaks, and it’s easy to blend in. You can get a dude in a business suit, a homeless guy with dreads, a cholo, a goth, and a movie star all sitting in the same outdoor cafe.
EK: Not to make this interview about me, but you were one of the first people to write a review of my eBook: Grace & Blood. (Thank you for that, by the way.) What do you find interesting about erotic horror?
EJ: Ah, well, as Jane’s Addiction said: Sex is violent. Not always. I love the tender side, too. But I love that sexuality and violence are two of our most base animal instincts. How many animals kill each other in a frenzy over mating? They both come from a very dark place. And a very powerful place. It’s enticing to explore it. Cathartic. It’s not for everyone but it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it. In the movie Quills, Kate Winslet’s character says “I don’t think I could be such a good girl in life if I wasn’t such a bad girl on the page.”
EK: I’ve often felt that erotic horror has an effect on the human brain to churn it up into a state where you’re able to entertain ideas and thoughts that would seem simply impossible otherwise. Have you had a similar experience? How would you describe the subjective effect that this kind of literature has on you?
EJ: I think it can free the mind, for lack of a less cheesy phrase. I think all people, no matter how wholesome, have the capacity for violence and darkness; we’re hardwitred for it, deep down in our lizard-brains. Our sexuality lives there too, entrenched in the need to procreate for survival. When you really tap into the primal level of one, the other is right there at hand. The boundaries blur. It’s not something to fear, it’s just our nature. Personally, I love engaging with that primal sexuality. It makes me feel like a warrior-goddess of birth and destruction.
EK: Are there any other erotic horror writers you read?
EJ: I read a neat book by a fellow who calls himself the Dark Scribe. He did a vampire story the way it should be done. Screw that Twilight crap. Darla Hogan has a couple of collections with a heavily erotic bent. Some people on Amazon apparently found his style too much. Wimps. And my friend M.B. Vujacic writes awesome short stories that he’s had published in several places - including one inspired by my book! http://sqmag.com/2015/06/29/edition-21-florist-by-m-b-vujacic/
EK:Any places you won’t go when reading erotic horror? Any boundaries you simply will not cross? (And I may or may not be planning to use your remarks to plan future projects!)
EJ: Yes – it can’t be gratuitous. I have to feel like the author has genuinely gotten into the headspace of the character and isn’t just tossing out nastiness for shock value. If it’s horrific sexual violence and murder, it has to make sense for the character. Normally I prefer my stuff less murdery than your work, Eric – but you make it make so much sense for your characters that it works. I even went with you when you skated across the child-murder line, which is normally intolerable for me. You’re that good.
EK: Now, on to your book. Fresh Cut is not a horror story by any stretch of the imagination and yet it is a memoir that I think a lot of horror writers will enjoy. Has horror literature influenced your writing? If so, how?
EJ: I just love to explore the dark side of humanity. I’ve been a horror fan from the moment I could read. I like it when characters have to survive something dreadful - and you know, I liked that element even before my own life became dreadful. I just like the strength and humanity it brings out in people. Horror characters seem so much more interesting than the ones going through mundane troubles. And I like the feeling of the supernatural. I’m a rationalist, but doesn’t the world sometimes feel like strange things are occurring just out of the range of our senses? Horror writers tap into that. They make us feel like extraordinary things could happen, both good and bad. That’s definitely a theme in my writing - sinister, powerful things just under the surface.
EK: What are some lessons you learned in writing this book? What would you like to pass on to other memoir writers? And what lessons would you pass on to fiction writers?
EJ: Well, be careful. Delving into your own darkness can be really unsettling. That being said, be utterly ruthless with yourself. I really wanted to figure out how to make my life a good story, not just blather all my own crap all over the page. Too many memoirists do that, and it’s totally undermined the credibility of the genre. It may sound cruel, but I like to tell people “Be a writer first and a memoirist second.” Just because you have a story doesn’t mean you can write it. You’ve got to get some training and some practice, or you’ll kill your story. And your story is important - all of our stories are important - they deserve to be heard, and they deserve to be well written. For fiction writers...make your characters into people. Real people. Model them after people you’ve met. Too many fiction writers make their characters all sound the same, it’s excruciating. Let them come to life in your head and share their stories with you.
EK: I know you’ve become a mom since the days chronicled in Fresh Cut. I know the whole tone of my own writing changed after I became a father. Has motherhood affected your writing?
EJ: Yeah, I have lost most all tolerance for violence towards children. Can’t read it, can’t watch it. I am also perpetually sleep deprived. I have learned that I sometimes have to work in 15 minute increments. But I am more inspired than ever: these weird little critters make me want to work harder than I ever have before, and they give me tons of ideas. I’ll be writing my toddler into the next installment of my fantasy book as a changeling child.
EK: What are you working on these days?
EJ: I have a dark fantasy novel called Soothbound up for publication, the first in a series. It examines the consequences of religion and mythology colliding with a secular worldview. I have just started a more literary endeavor called World Between, which will have episodes of my own childhood dreams, nightmares, and fantasies woven into a coming-of-age story.
EK: Where can people find you online?
EJ: Sigh. Everywhere. I am so Google-able these days. But here’s a list:
EK: Where can they buy Fresh Cut?
EJ: Most every online retailer including Amazon, but publisher-direct is best:
EK: Any parting words?
EJ: Balenciaggaaaa! (Er, sorry. Just a little overexcited about the new American Horror Story).
It's happened again. I'm a fool in love. How did we not find each other sooner? But I won't be selfish. Everyone should join me in celebrating the sweet, dark love of Dirge Magazine. Just in time for Halloween, too!
They've got art, they've got culture, they've got artsy-culture, counter-culture, and Culture Club. (Probably. I haven't verified this. But I'm sure there's a picture of a gothed-out Boy George on there somewhere). They've got book talk, movie talk, sexy talk - there's something for everyone! Well, everyone who's a little bit morbidly-minded, that is. But you don't have to be a full blown card carrying Goth to enjoy this magazine. (I'm only part Goth, myself, on my mother's side). Their writing is smart and funny; their articles informative and eclectic. So let your dark side out to play! Enjoy a Dirge today!
(If someone's enthusiasm leads them to rhyme, you know it's got to be for real).
A few words about one of my favorite authors and people. And it's the same guy!
I’ve just reviewed Andy Peloquin’s new book Blade of the Destroyer. I’ll readily admit to knowing the author personally and to being a beta-reader on his work. But lest you think my warm, fuzzy sentiments are being bought and paid for, let me say this, somewhat controversially: I was not an instant fawning admirer of his work. I was a bit conflicted about his first book, called In the Days. It’s a tale of the Atlantis legend, and frankly, I found it a bit of a hot mess.
See, I’m a REAL stickler for continuity, plausibility, tone, style, and flow, and I found so many little nitpicks about this book that I secured the author’s permission to create a full document of them all. I mostly wanted to practice my own editing skills. I’ll tell you, I expected the guy to never speak to me again after seeing my notes. Instead he asked me to beta-read his next work. Because he’s just an amazingly cool, down-to-earth dude.
So what happened with that first book? Here’s the thing - I wanted to NOT like it. But I just couldn’t! It didn’t matter how many quibbles I had with the details, the overall book was just so much danged fun! It was fast-paced, witty, and adventuresome, and the author’s absolute love for the subject matter and writing process came pouring through the pages. With that much blazing nuclear enthusiasm, how could I not be won over? It got a 4-star Amazon review out of me, because it was ultimately a really fun read. And I got to know an awesome writer.
Watching Andy develop his next character, the chilling and enthralling Hunter, was a lesson in perfect writerly development, and a total inspiration to me as a writer. I can’t wait to see where his writing goes next. In the meantime, in case you haven’t seen it, enjoy this promotional video clip I did for him. Which sort of...turned into a roast. Sorry, Andy. Couldn’t help myself. But I strongly suspect you’ll get a good belly laugh. And then send The Hunter after me. So if this is my last post ever, everyone will know why...
My Review of Andy Peloquin's Blade of the Destroyer (The Last Bucelarii Book 1)
Once in a while a book comes along that gets under your skin and sticks in your head, until it’s become a part of your literary vocabulary: next thing you know you’re reading another book thinking “oh, this part reminds of when…” or “this character really needs get a visit from…” Blade of the Destroyer is just such a tale, and once The Hunter gets in your head, he’s there to stay.
The premise is not unheard of - A faceless assassin who holds a city in the terror of his grip. But the path it takes from there is surprising. Can a ruthless assassin with a soul-sucking blade really be the hero of a story? Yes, he absolutely can. He can be a wonderfully conflicted antihero whose behavior ranges from the almost-gallant to the utterly cringeworthy. As he starts to question his own past and purpose, you’ll find yourself searching right along with him, cheering him on in his battles, willing to forgive any sin to watch him conquer greater evils.
This book is a fast-paced, extremely visual read; wonderful description, terrifying violence, and moments of stomach-churning, eye-stinging sadness. But even as it rips your guts out you’ll be panting for the next installment. Lucky for you, it’s already written, because this author’s passion is only matched by his intense work ethic.Welcome the Hunter into your life, and follow his continuing adventures!
This haunting book hits the proverbial shelves tomorrow; don’t wait! Jump on Amazon or your other favorite online retailer and get reading!
Contemplating marketing, writing, and all the madness it entails...
Genre Confusion. It’s like gender confusion but without the cool clothes and support groups.Some of you out there on the magical interweb may have noticed a few threads linking me, EJ Bouinatchova, and a mysterious flower-faced lady with the unlikely name of Eve. A Floriste. See, when I started putting my writerly aspirations on the internet I was faced with a conundrum: do I market where I came from or where I am going to? I had taken a wee bit of a direction change in my writing. What had I written? A bizarre, contemporary memoir about sexuality, violence, and madness. What did I want to write? The same stuff I love to read: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Mystery, Horror. Yeah, that’s a weird mix.
I know one author that’s bridged this fiction/nonfiction gap successfully: Tony Bourdain. So, if I was mega famous and had millions of dollars and fans and TV shows, I think I’d just say WTF and write what I want, marketing be damned. But no, I sure ain’t him. Many writer’s resources that I read said that “Author Branding” was important. People have to understand what you’re about; send a simple message, don’t hit ‘em with too much at once.
After pondering this for a while, I decided I’d have to split my identity. So I now maintain two not-entirely separate social media and marketing profiles. You know what? It’s kind of fun! They’re both me. They just focus on different aspects of me. Then the worst thing happened. Someone wanted to publish me. (OK, it’s not really the worst thing, more like the “Holy Crap I’m so excited I could plotz!” kind of thing). So the question became, which “me” are they publishing?
My publisher’s head spun around a bit as I explained my situation. His feeling? “Just be yourself. You’re cool. F**k the marketing.” WHAAATT? How can I be me, when there’s so much me to be?(Ooh, that’s good, I’m gonna tweet that). But I thought about it, and said, you know what? What the hell. He’s right. We finally settled that I’d keep the separate profiles for a sort of first-look marketing approach, but not try to hide the fact that they are, in fact, one person. So there it is. I am a giant nerd who loves all things SF/F, and I have also been a crazed, hypersexual florist struggling not to self-destruct. Say, that sounds like it’d make an interesting book. Oh wait, look, it DID make an interesting book: Go check out the self-published, rough version of my twisted memoir, get ‘em while they’re cheap! Fresh Cut will be republished as a real, professionally edited book in June, by the amazing folks over at Open Books.
Reposted from previous site. Original comment:
"The Reluctant Blogger"
Very much of two minds about this blogging thing, in case you hadn't noticed. But there's so much wonderful geekery to share! Posting here about sci-fi, fantasy, horror, and more.