Saturday, August 28, 2010

Gordon Lightfoot Gold

A few weeks ago Christine thumbed  the newspaper and noticed Gordon Lightfoot's tour was swinging into our region. We've checked his schedule occasionally since we're both fans, but there'd never been a convenient date and location.  

Until now. He was making a stop in Hot Springs, AR. 

My parents honeymooned in Hot Springs, back in the first great age of car trip vacations, and it was an occasional stop years later when I came along, and we hit tourist venues across the Southeast. (In Biloxi, MS,  you used to be able to buy a conch shell with a Last Supper miniature inside.) 

Christine and I took a long weekend in Hot Springs 15 years ago,  but we actually live a little closer now, with access to a route that doesn't zig-zag quite as much like the trip from Central Louisiana up through Central Arkansas.

So, we juggled work schedules and bought tickets and were in the audience Monday night when Gordon walked on stage in a red velvet jacket.

It brought a flood of memories. Gord's gold was on the radio the first summer I really began to listen to music and could recite the Top 40 from memory as played on K Dixie radio.

"Sundown" and "Carefree Highway" were the soundtrack for that summer punctuated by mowing lawns and installing black light in my bedroom.  

The troubadour's voice isn't quite as strong as it was in the seventies, but it was still a thrill to see him live, and to travel through his repertoire from "Don Quixote" to the more recent "A Painter Passing Through." 

Tunes from "East of Midnight" took me back to a late night eighties drive, heading home from a visit to my cousin in Monroe, LA.

Mid-set, when he did a "Sundown" rendition that had Bic lighters ignited, I was back under the AC in my parent's house, watching my black light gleam off the abstract poster I'd crafted on aluminum foil with fluorescent crayons I'd scored at a five and dime called Wacker's.

The baritone was as it used to be for "Sundown" and "Carefree Highway." " They sounded like they did on the album," and "Edmund Fitzgerald" brought a tear like it always does. 

Then there was a moment, as he strummed his 12-string, completely immersed in his music, delivering magic, that made now and then one.

It was 1974, and 1985 and 1998, and  "the thing that I call livin' is just bein' satisfied."

It was quite a night.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Ouroboros - A New Book That Intrigues Me

They really had me at "small coastal town," when the announcement from Dark Regions press hit my in-box.

Ouroboros, co-written by Michael Kelly and Carol Weekes, is coming out in trade paper soon, and it's going on my wish list.  

It's set in said small coastal town, and revolves around  "an ancient force" that  "stirs, drawn by the cumulative power of life and death, grief and sorrow, and ultimately, endless love."

Coastal towns, those post-card-familiar places, have always seemed perfect for tales of fright. Maybe it's because one of the first scary stories that captured my imagination was "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," title story in a Scholastic book club collection, though Captain Company in the back of Famous Monsters of Filmland had teased me with H.P. Lovecraft
titles for some time before that.

It was OK with my parents to order from TAB, The Teen Age Book Club, if not from Famous Monsters back pages.

Dark Regions reports Ouroboros  is the tale of Tom Christiansen whose wife of 35-yearshas passed away. As he grieves, the lines blur between real and unreal, and a strange, pale girl shows up in his back yard.

Sounds like a perfect autumn read, so maybe I'll get it for my birthday

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Writing Prompt Idea

When I did a creative writing teaching practicum last fall, I was always in search of writing prompts. I pulled story starters from writing textbooks and magazines, and I looked around for other ideas to stimulate creativity and imagination. I didn’t have a room full of speculative fiction writers, but one of my more successful prompts involved a surreal painting.

In the middle of one class, I sprung the picture on them and gave them a half hour to create a story. Character studies and other imaginative efforts developed from the image of a woman adjusting a seascape from which real water spilled onto her hardwood floor.

Now that I’m out of school and assimilating into a more normal existence, I’m gradually finding the strength to think about writing new things. With that in mind, I found a way, sort of, to duplicate the prompt exercise for myself.

I’m harnessing settings on my laptop, though I guess  technology’s not really required. 

My computer allows for the cycling of desktop wallpaper, so that’s easiest for me. With scores of great wallpaper sites just a Google search away, I’ve snagged a number of images randomly and stored them.

With my wallpaper set for a 15 minute refresh, whenever I’m weary of editing or stuck, I can minimize and see what’s waiting behind Word. I’ve got one shot of a girl with blue lips and crumbling features that gives me a jolt every time she's there.

We’ll see what comes of it, but so far it's been a nice way of self-inspiring in what’s a pretty solitary game. Writing, above all, is a game with the self, one of motivation and energy.

The qualifier
I think it’s important to use imagery only as springboard and not just to interpret or imitate the visual artist’s work, but letting pictures raise questions as cornerstones seems interesting and promising for getting unstuck if not for generating a full blown story or narrative.

The idea is to force synapses to connect in new ways.

I’d say it’s not limited to surreal images, though I like their effect.

Nature scenes, old photographs for steampunk inspiration and anything you might find on a Google image search could prove useful.

It doesn't have to be a surprise on the desktop if your computer doesn't have the random feature, though a screensaver slide show that kicks in when you're idle might me a good idea. Otherwise it just needs to be something slightly unexpected so you're not anticipating.

Save several images in a folder and click one. Print several and select from a bag or envelope and see where things go. Or just shuffle the stack.

It might even make for an interesting exercise to get started each day, just to get the electrical pulses inpopping.

A few sites:

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Pulp Abounds - New Pulp Fiction

A press release from a friend of a friend announces the release of a new pulp-style thriller with a  little bit o' Lovecraft, The Green Lama - Unbound by Adam Lance Garcia.

The synopsis provided reads:
"When Jethro Dumont’s friend, Jean Farrell, disappears on the small Greek island of Samothrace, he and associates fly off to rescue her.   Upon their arrival, they discover the forces of evil have gathered in this out of the way place in search of the Jade Tablet and the unholy grimoire known as the Necronomicon.  It is the book of rituals that will allow the Nazis and their allies to call forth the Great Old Ones, led by the demon god, Cthulhu. 
Now it is up to the Master of the Mystic Arts, the Green Lama, to uncover the mysteries of those ancient rites and thwart the powers of chaos.  But before he can do so, he will have to use all the unique skills at his command at the same time rely on the bravery and loyalty of his friends.  THE GREEN LAMA – UNBOUND  is a non-stop pulp thriller that explores the Green Lama’s past, detailing for the very first time elements of his origin never made known before."
Looks like fun for readers who enjoy the high energy style of Doc Savage and The Shadow plus the Cthulhu mythos, and it's part of a larger line of books from the specialty press Cornerstone, all with similar slam-bang themes. 

Interestingly, they seem to be utilizing the Lulu print-on-demand service for publishing and distribution. 

This new era keeps expanding in interesting ways. I've run across some small press magazines utilizing Lulu, but this the first instance I've seen of an established publisher harnessing it, though I'm sure there are others.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Return of Blood Hunter

Blood Hunter e-edition
Just a few thoughts as a new edition of my third novel rolls out.

Almost every writer with a slightly darker tone has probably read Stephen King's Danse Macabre. I did, even before I turned from a desire to mimic Ross MacDonald and Raymond Chandler.

It was certainly in the back of my mind when I settled down to write Blood Hunter. In DM, King categorizes monster archetypes, and shape shifters get a good deal of attention.

Blood Hunter is my werewolf novel, after a fashion. Or it's my shape shifter novel.

It incorporates European legends of the werewolf into its internal mythology. Though the monsters in the story aren't wolves, they do reflect the beast within.

Blood Hunter then.
It seemed like appropriate territory coming on the heels of my vampire novel, Night Brothers, and it melds a few threads of mystery and thriller fiction.

I don't know that I set out to do that consciously as much as it reflected the kinds of things I liked as a young reader. Chandler, Ludlum, King, Koontz.

I wrote purely from intuition and instinctively in those days, driven by those books I'd read and enjoyed and fueled also by a feeling that the world was losing a sense of mercy and compassion. I tried to weave that notion into the tale.

I don't want to sound lofty, however. Blood Hunter was written as entertainment first, and I strived for action, twists and shocks.

Splatterpunk was on everyone's lips in those days, pushing things to extremes, so I wasn't given to restraint.

The New Version and Secret Origins
In the foreword to the new ebook version, I note the story started as a screenplay. When I was a young reporter--I wrote late at night, casting about for the stories I wanted to tell and the medium as well.

For a while I tried screenplays, and an early one was called Ghouls. This was before Edward Lee's Ghouls, which led me to submit to Pinnacle Books.

In my screenplay, a reporter and photographer had an automobile break down near a strange sugar plantation. They sought shelter at the plantation's main house where a grim father and his sheltered daughter resided. Awaiting help, the journalists got to know the daughter better and began to uncover the dark secrets her father concealed. People got eaten by monsters too.

I expanded the story a little after talking with my editor of the day, setting up an investigation and shifting genders and motivations a little for the main characters.

Re-editing the text for the new edition from Crossroad Press after almost 20 years afforded about as cold a reading as is possible. It was kind of fun to get reacquainted with the imagination of my youth.

Then and now
Is Blood Hunter the book I'd write today? Not quite, but when I received the electronic manuscript, I tweaked mostly the prose of a young man hunched feverishly over a Commodore 64, striving to tell a fast paced tale and meet a deadline.

Crossroad Press publisher David Niall Wilson and I talked about possibly giving the book a new title, returning to one of the suggestions the original publisher passed over or coming up with something new. Spirit of the Beast came to mind.

But I decided no.  Let it stand. And let the characters run.

Monsters are in those woods on the wonderful and moody new cover by David Dodd.
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