Why do we write fiction? There are all sorts of mundane or usual answers to that question–to express ourselves, to tell a story, to entertain, to explore the human condition, to be well-known, to be known well, to be wealthy. But there are other answers that have more to do with the actual moment of creation. It’s perhaps a little more personal and therefore embarrassing or revealing to talk about–or revelatory. It’s the moment when you feel as if you are outside your body yet more intensely inside your body than ever before. It’s the spark, the shock that makes you keep slogging through endless days when all you’re doing is marching through pages and hoping that the rewrites, the editor in you, will salvage the material. Is it simply a matter of allowing the world into you like water poured into an empty glass? Is it a manifestation of something else entirely?


Every detail on the sidewalk, from a rage of red-orange leaves to a green meandering crack in the concrete, took on a binocular significance. It was a forethought of the awareness that overtook him when he wrote: the premonition of something moving through him and onto the page, the pen in hand become a blur and the heart so full, limbs aflame, body with fever. Like sparks burrowing into you until, finally conquered, you become vessel, container not containedtrapped and freeand all the little hairs on your arms rise, and you feel as if your own skin has been painlessly flayed back to reveal, beneath the perfect diagram of veins and arteries, the beauty and horror of the worldthe words like tiny mysteries and the combinations of words solutions to those mysteries, and yet more mysterious for the revelation…

60 in 60: #7 – Swift’s A Tale of a Tub (Penguin’s Great Ideas)

This blog post is part of my ongoing “60 Books in 60 Days” encounter with the Penguin Great Ideas series. From mid-December to mid-February, I will read one book in the series each night and post a blog entry about it the next morning. For more on this beautifully designed series, visit Penguin’s page about the books.

A Tale of a Tub
by Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)

Memorable Line (among so many that their full recital would require a full reproduction of the book, mirroring a prior situation, e.g. “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote”)
“Now, from this heavenly descent of criticism, and the close analogy it bears to heroic virtue, it is easy to assign the proper employment of a true ancient genuine critic, which is, to travel through this vast world of writings; to pursue and hunt those monstrous faults bred within them; to drag out the lurking errors, like Cacus from his den; to multiply them like Hydra’s heads; and rake them together like Augeas’ dung; or else drive away a sort of dangerous fowl, who have a perverse inclination to plunder the best branches of the tree of knowledge, like those stymphalian birds that eat up the fruit…These reasonings will furnish us with an adequate definition of a true critic; that he is discoverer and collector of writers’ faults; which may be farther put beyond dispute by the following demonstration; that whoever will examine the writings of all kinds, wherewith this ancient sect has honored the world, shall immediately find, from the whole thread and tenor of them, that the ideas of the authors have been altogether conversant and taken up with the faults and blemishes and oversights, and mistakes of other writers; and, let the subject treated on be whatever it will, their imaginations are so entirely possessed and replete with the defects of other pens, that the very quintessence of what is bad does of necessity distil into their own; by which means the whole appears to be nothing else but an abstract of the criticisms themselves have made.”

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The Shriek Limited Arrived!

Shriek: An Afterword arrived this afternoon. Signed, limited. Design by Coulthart. Cover by Templesmith. Including my short essay on the novel and previously unpublished sections of Samuel Tonsure’s journal. Not to mention The Church’s soundtrack to the novel on CD (which shipped directly from the label Friday).

Some highlights:

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Finchy Interlude

I’m still a little giddy after having gotten the initial reaction to Finch from my editor, Victoria Blake, earlier this week. She really really likes it–“remarkable”–and her initial notes for revision are spot-on and extremely insightful, so I feel blessed to be in great hands. There’s no better feeling than knowing you have a partner on a book–and an editor is a partner–who you can trust and who will help you make your book reach its full potential.

Here’s a brief description of the novel: A noir-thriller and visionary fantasy set in the failed state of Ambergris. The gray caps, mysterious underground inhabitants, have re-conquered the city and put the human inhabitants in camps. Remnants of the Resistance are scattered, most resigned, after six years, to a diminished, subservient life. Against this backdrop, detective John Finch and his partner Wyte must solve an impossible double murder. Trapped by his job and the city, Finch is about to come face to face with a series of mysteries that will change him and Ambergris forever.

In celebration, find below a little teaser excerpt, out of context. It’s not the final version, as I’ll be getting Victoria’s full list of line edits and structural edits in a couple of days. It contains no real spoilers, either. But it does give you a taste.


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Dec 15-20: 60 in 60 Week in Review

Visit Omnivoracious every Saturday for a summary of the week’s 60 in 60. This week, Seneca’s in the lead with Machiavelli hard on his heels. Marcus Aurelius has a comfortable lead over Montaigne, with Kempis and St. Augustine setting an idyllic pace in the rear, feeding each other sherbet…

AVP Forum: Ask Me Anything Squishy

I’m currently fielding questions about the Predator novel. I’m also reading Jonathan Swift’s A Tale of a Tub and working on “The Quickening,” a tale about a talking rabbit. No, I am not getting the bends.

Sample discourse: I really think if you wanted to even the odds, you’d have to have the Aliens and Predators settle it with thumb wrestling. Winner take all. Best two out of three. Queen against battle-scarred Predator Elder. Space Jockey can referee. Humans as snacks.

60 in 60: #6 – Montaigne’s On Friendship (Penguin’s Great Ideas)

This blog post is part of my ongoing “60 Books in 60 Days” encounter with the Penguin Great Ideas series. From mid-December to mid-February, I will read one book in the series each night and post a blog entry about it the next morning. For more on this beautifully designed series, visit Penguin’s page about the books.

On Friendship
by Michael de Montaigne (1533-1592)

Memorable Line
“Every day I am warned and counselled by the stupid deportment of someone.”

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Ian Miller’s Holiday Greetings

Had to share a couple of the cool images Ian Miller sent me recently (with permission). Check out his website–great stuff.

55 to Go, Gawd Help Me

As the Harvard University Press recommends, you should do it too…or just go look at some pretty and pretty unusual books at Dark Roasted Blend.

Bookspot Central’s Best of 2008

Check out these great year’s best lists just posted on Bookspot Central. Very glad Tom Piccirilli’s awesome The Cold Spot is on one list. I was also pleased to see that my novelette from PS Publishing, “The Situation,” made Brian Evenson’s list. Personally, I think it’s the best piece of fiction I had published in 2008. (The jacketed hardcover is sold out, but the less limited is still available–and you can also read it online at GeekDad.) I’m not much for pimping my fiction for awards and such, but I do hope this one gets some love. I will be podcasting it in January.