Booklife, Predecessor, Shriek–Linkerage

(Me at Utopiales in Nantes a couple years back. This photo was taken after three days of epic food poisoning, and I was thinking please gawd let me die rather than suffer through another interview or panel. Shortly thereafter, I participated on a panel where the moderator asked me a question and I said I had no interest in the question whatsoever–next!–mostly because my brain had been scooped out of my skull by then. I keep this photo as a reminder of my least impressive performance.)

….I hope you’ve enjoyed the last week of posting. I’ve had fun digging into the guts of Derek Raymond’s work and posting about hiking, in particular. These entries make me no money and pull me away from the work I need to do to survive as a freelancer, but I find them so deeply satisfying that I’m willing to take the hit; doing such things contributes to my peace of mind. I’ve thought about putting a paypal donation button on this blog, but am not really sure I like that idea. So, if you enjoy the blog, consider buying one of my books, especially the stuff published in the last couple of years.

Speaking of them books, my post excerpting Booklife was picked up by Boing Boing, much to my surprise. That led to all kinds of linkage, including from Chinese and Swedish writer groups. Why was I surprised? I believe the advice I give in the excerpt is sound, but I deliberately picked the most obvious, least proprietarial section for the blog. That even this relatively “remember that the sky is blue” section could arouse such interest makes me believe Booklife is going to sell very well. (It looks like we’ll also be setting up Booklife retreats on the East and West Coasts–probably Portland and St. Augustine–among other cool things.) One thing that does make Booklife unique is that it doesn’t just present information–it presents it in a package that gives it strategic integrity. So, erm, go out there and preorder the hell out of the thing…

In other news, my short story “Predecessor” in the current issue of Conjunctions is beginning to make its way into reader’s subconscious. Dan Wickett at the Emerging Writers Network has a short post about it, as part of Short Story Month, that excerpts the opening. It’s the kind of story in which you just ride like you’d ride a huge wave as a surfer, and hope you don’t get drowned in the subtext–I woke from nightmare and ran to the computer and typed the rough draft. “We walked onto the porch and found there beside two large wicker chairs like decaying thrones the mummified remains of two animals the size of dogs but with skulls more like apes. They looked as if they’d fallen asleep attempting to embrace. They looked, in the way their paws had crossed, as if they had been attempting to cross the divide between animal and human.”

Also, Charles Tan at Bibliophile Stalker wrote a review of Shriek: An Afterword the other day that I really appreciated. Did I appreciate it because he liked the novel? Nope. I liked it because he understood the book. Specifically, he totally got the layering effects and the purpose of those effects. He also got that you can have characters who aren’t always particularly likeable…and like them. I’m not sure if it’s usually reflected in fantasy fiction that the people we like in our real lives–our friends and colleagues–are often people that, on one level, we also think are crackpots, eccentrics, idiots, and even jerks. Instead, we want this idealized, stylized thought in fantasy especially: the good guys are noble and consistent and never fuck-ups (except in that unrealistic sexy rogue way), and their friends are loyal and consistent and stalwart and all that crap. Anyway, if he’d understood the book but not enjoyed it, I would still have appreciated his review for demonstrating that he’s a careful reader. (It also, for some reason, makes me wonder what my core readers will think of Finch–a novel that is, on the face of it, not experimental at all…and yet, deeply at its hidden core, is experimental. It’s just that, having done so many overt experiments, I am no longer interested in overt experiments. I’m much more interested in devices that don’t draw attention to themselves, and in effects that surprise the reader because those devices have colonized their minds without them realizing it.)

And, Brad Moon at GeekDad/Wired just posted about Shared Worlds. If you have teens who are interested in fantasy and SF, you really ought to consider sending them. We’re creating a very unique experience.

Finally, one thing about blogging is that if you’re diverse enough in what you blog about, you invariably turn up new treasures. In blogging about Derek Raymond, one of those treasures took the form of Ray Banks, who commented on one of the posts (he’s currently got an interesting post up on the film Gomorrah). Ray, as it turns out, writes exactly the kind of thing I love, and I’ve now got a whole new series to look forward to…

(Tomorrow, a link to and further thoughts concerning my Washington Post review of Chuck P’s “vibrator mise-en-scene” novel Pygmy.)


  1. Ennis Drake says

    Great post; nice and forthright, and an interesting window you might not have intended. The hike did you a world of good, I take it. ; )

    When you’ve got something more concrete on the Booklife retreat in St. Augustine, please ping me.

  2. says

    Shucks, I haven’t been called a treasure in a long time. And won’t it be awkward if you hate the books …? But thank you.

    Seriously interested in what you have to say about Pygmy. Chuckie P’s been a little hit-and-miss for me lately.

  3. says

    Yes, it’s definitely going to be awkward. Luckily, you’re a continent away! LOL!!! ;)

    Yeah, Pygmy needed less vibrator humor…

    Ennis–window? Window?

  4. says

    I really believe that sooner or later, we are all going to have to pay for the wicked-cool daily online content we currently enjoy for free. And it will not be the worst thing in the world. Really. Would I pay a nominal fee for the pleasure of visiting Ecstatic Days on a daily basis? Absolutely. Just as I expect to pay (one day soon) for the Guardian and the NYT and CNN and Warren Ellis and a fistful of others, too. Free blogs (spaces where nutjobs—not you Jeff—manage to post amusing musings) aren’t going to go away. But the sites that regularly provide entertainment and/or news on a consistent basis have to survive in some fashion. Yes, of course, it’s going to be bloodbath, and some beloved sites will fade from our screens, ALAS. But that’s just the way it’s going down, troops. Anyway, I have a clear conscience, at least concerning this topic (I subscribe to the NYT, I’ve bought books, etc), but if you installed a paypal button tomorrow, I wouldn’t blink. ‘Nuff said.

  5. says

    I’ve got almost all your books, Jeff, in part because I enjoy Ecstatic Days so much, but mostly just because I want to read the books.

    You never mentioned when discussing your book tour whether you’d be coming to San Francisco. I live out on the Peninsula and don’t get into the city nearly as much as I’d like to, but I absolutely adore Borderlands Books, and there is no question I’d be there if you were in town.

    Did you, by any chance, take a look at my husband’s book while you were putting Booklife together? It’s called The Daily Writer, and it’s by Fred White. I’m using it now to try to shake my own creativity free (my left brain seems to have nearly total control, since I have to use it for my legal writing and have defined myself almost exclusively as a lawyer for 28 years now; switching over to fiction isn’t easy). I plan to buy Booklife when it comes out and see how it complements Fred’s book. From what you’ve said about your book, it’s more about the mechanics of writing, while Fred’s is more a book of prods to get you writing. I suspect they’ll work well together.

  6. says


    No, I haven’t read The Daily Writer. Booklife is a strategy book for your career and creativity. It’s not about the mechanics of writing or prods to get you writing. I will begin working on a craft of writing book in 2010.

    I’m not sure about Borderlands because I’m not just promoting Finch but Booklife, and Booklife is not a book for genre writers–it is a book for all writers. So I’m just not sure yet how that’ll pan out. I’ll be in San Fran, though, yes. And, of course, in San Jose as a GoH for World Fantasy.


  7. says

    Oh, cool. I just recently discovered that World Fantasy was in San Jose, and I’ve been bouncing with joy ever since.

    And it sounds more than ever like I need Booklife. Thanks.

  8. says

    Jeff, if my brain recovers enough from the past month’s traumas, I plan on reviewing that issue of Conjunctions this weekend or sometime next week. I did like your story (read it twice now) for that menacing, nightmarish quality (among other things), but I’m curious to know what you made of the issue itself and its purported theme. I’m still pondering that, as well as being slightly sad that this issue at around 350 pages was about 50-70 pages shorter than than the past few.

  9. says

    I am reading through Conjunctions now. I don’t think much of its purported theme, just as I didn’t think much of the New Wave Fabulists theme. So what I care about only is the quality of the stories. Still reading.

  10. swartzfeger says

    Jeff, what is #52’s purported ‘theme’? My first exposure to Conjunctions was #39, which I loved, but I haven’t followed it since, unfortunately. With Evenson at the helm and you, Carroll and some other writers I love it looks like I’ll be adding this to my must buy list.

    And call me crazy, but are you wearing a Czech Republic t-shirt in that photo?

  11. says

    Yeah–that’s a Czech Republic shirt. Like it so much I’ve got two. See above for my post on Conjunctions–it has a link to the introduction.

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