It’s a Mistake

Tropical Storm soon to be Hurricane Nate is out there, drawing nearer by the minute and moving pretty fast across an incredibly warm Gulf Of Mexico. I slept very well last night–woke up a few times, one of course being the daily five a.m. purr kitty lying on me and kneading my chest with his paws, but was able to fall back into a restful sleep every time. It’s gray out there this morning, and the storm seems to continue shifting eastward (sorry, Biloxi!), and they’re now saying we’re going to get tropical storm strength winds. The west side of a hurricane is usually the dry side, too, so we won’t get as much rain. I have to stop by the grocery store today to get a few things, but I imagine it won’t be quite the madhouse it would have been yesterday when STORM PANIC mode was gripping the city. I also don’t need water or bread, so am not too worried about the few things I need to get. I can’t imagine there was a run on cat food, for example.

Paul had some late afternoon/early evening meetings last night, so while I waited for him to come home I read R. L. Stine’s The Lost Girl and started reading Colson Whitehead’s Zone One. It’s a zombie apocalypse novel, so I figured it fit with my Halloween Horror reading for this month. It’s also remarkably good, and while it is not my first zombie apocalypse novel (I’ve only read Michael Thomas Ford’s Z, which is really good and vastly under-appreciated), it’s not like how I imagined any zombie apocalypse novel to be (I still have one of Joe McKinney’s in my TBR pile, but I don’t think I’ll get to it this month).

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What I remember most about that afternoon was the shimmering scarlet and yellow of the sky, as if the heavens were lighting up to join our family’s celebration. The sunlight sparkled off the two-day-old snow at teh curb, as if someone had piled diamonds in the street.

I think I remember everything about that day.

Running all the way home on the slushy sidewalks from my weekend job at the Clean Bee Laundry. The smell of the dry cleaning and the starch still on my clothes and my skin. I remember the blood thrumming at my temples as I ran and the feeling that, if I raised my arms high, I could take off, lift off from the crowded sidewalks of the Old Village, and glide easily into the pulsating colors of the sky.

The Lost Girl is a Fear Street novel, one of many R. L. Stine has published, set in the small city of Shadyside where Fear Street is located, where the ruins of the old Fear mansion, which had burned to the ground decades earlier, remained…only now, in this relaunched Fear Street series, the ruins have been cleared away and it’s a vacant lot. Stine built quite an empire with the Fear Street books, but his scary books for children, Goosebumps, were what really made him an industry. They were adapted into a TV show, and movies, and as the Goosebumps took off, the Fear Street books became less and less important and disappeared eventually. A quick glance at his Wikipedia page shows that there are, to date, 166 young adult novels written by Stine; the majority of them having something to do with Fear Street. I read a lot of those books in the early 1990’s–he and Christopher Pike and Jay Bennett, and those are the books that gave me the idea to write young adult novels in the first place–Sara, Sorceress, and Sleeping Angel were written in first drafts during that time. The Fear Street books were also what gave me the idea to link all of my y/a novels in some way; not all being set in the same town because that didn’t seem realistic, but linked in some way. I did manage to do that.

The Lost Girl is an entertaining enough read–it took me about two hours to get through it before I moved on to the Whitehead–and it’s very much what I remembered of the Fear Street books; very likable protagonist caught up in something terrible and awful through no fault of his own…loses some friends to the supernatural force, but eventually figures out how to bring it all to an end. It was a pleasant way to spend the evening while I waited for Paul to come home, and that was kind of how I read Stine back in the day; I always kept a few of them around on hand to read when I had some time to kill but didn’t want to get into anything truly heavy.

Stine is also a very nice man; I met him at the Edgars several years ago, and he was a Guest of Honor at Stokercon in Vegas, so I got to arrange his travel and email back and forth with him a few times. He’s very gracious, very kind, and it was kind of a thrill for me. Since I was representing Stokercon and the Horror Writers Association, I couldn’t gush and make a fool of myself the way I probably would have otherwise–which is probably a good thing.

And now, back to the spice mines. I want to find some more markets to submit my short stories to, and get some of this mess cleaned up.

Have a great day, Constant Reader!

Heart to Heart

Gah, it’s Wednesday and the week is half over and I’ve not scratched many items off my to-do list. Heavy heaving sigh. Although the weather seems to have turned here and it’s been lovely the last few days. I worked in the storage unit for about an hour yesterday; got a few more book donation boxes together and threw some things away, which was progress of a sort. The primary problem, however, is discovering that almost everything in there appears to be cases of copies of my own books, or my kids’ series–the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, etc.–that I will never get rid of; so I think my next move is to swap out boxes of books in the attic (or decoratively hidden around the apartment), books that I want to keep (copies of books written by friends, etc.) for the cases of my own books; it only makes sense to have easier access to them in order to donate for charity auctions or for book events where they don’t have copies of my books or aren’t able to get copies of my books. Or to sell myself. I do think from time to time I should resell my used books and make some money off them, but it also seems like an incredible pain in the ass and I barely have time to keep up with everything I need to get done, let alone adding another chore.

We’ll see.

I am one step closer to sending out the query letters. With the assistance of some amazing friends, I think I had a damned good query letter put together that just needs a tweak here and there, and has also helped me figure out what tweaking, oddly enough, needs to be done in the manuscript itself. So, the goal is to send out a wave of query emails by the end of the week, work on Scotty, finish the final revision of a short story to get sent out there, and make those manuscript tweaks.

I also put another book in the donation pile this week that didn’t pass the fifty page test, and am about to start reading R. L. Stine’s The Lost Girl. I read a lot of Stein and Christopher Pike novels in the early 1990’s–which helped inspire me to write the drafts that became Sorceress, Sara, and Sleeping Angel–so I am interested to see some of his newer work. I met him, not only at the Edgars one year, but at Stokercon in Vegas, and he is a lovely, very nice man. My original thought with those y/a’s was to link them all together at some point, the way he’d linked the Fear Street novels together, and in a way, all of my young adult novels are sort of linked together–Sara is set in a small town in Kansas; that town is where Laura, the main character in Sorceress is from; the town in California Laura moves to is where Sleeping Angel is set; and Scotty’s parents in Lake Thirteen are from the small town in Alabama where my main character in Dark Tide is from…and the town where Scotty lives now, in the suburbs of Chicago, was where Glenn in Sara moved to Kansas from. All connected. I sometimes forget that my young adult books all are in the same world and are all connected…

And on that note, I’m not going to finish my to-do list by sitting here thinking about getting things done.

Today’s Hump Day Hunk is actor Aaron-Taylor Johnson.

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You and Me Against the World

I am very tired this morning. I did bar testing last night, and today feel like one of those extras on The Walking Dead about to get macheted by Michonne. I am so tired at this point getting macheted sounds almost preferable.

As my month of writing about horror continues, I had intended to talk about Stephen King today, but since I am so tired and incapable of much coherent thought, I decided to talk about the inspiration behind my novel Sara.

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I’ve written about this book before, but while Lake Thirteen is a ghost story, and there are some serious paranormal elements to Sorceress, Sara is the only novel I’ve written that could be described as horror. It’s also my least successful novel; and by that, I mean the lowest selling. Trying to figure out why a book didn’t sell is literally just asking for it; the downward spiral into depression and full-on crazy. But Sara was different than anything else I’ve written; as I said before when talking about it, it was my “get even with everyone I went to high school who was mean to me” book; and when I first wrote it, that was really my mindset, sadly. Fortunately, I am more evolved now than I was when I wrote the first draft of Sara back in 1991, and when I was revising and rewriting for publication, I had to change/remove a lot of that; I was clearly in a very bitter place when I was originally writing Sara…

Stephen King’s Christine is one of my favorites of his; I know people make fun of it–the haunted car and all that–but I loved that book. It was high school as I remembered it; I knew kids like the kids in the book, and the book affected me deeply. I still think of Christine (as well as Carrie) as two of the best young adult horror novels ever written and published; I may talk about Christine more later in the month.

When I first decided to write Sara, it wasn’t intended to be written as a young adult novel any more than Christine was written as one. Sara was my first attempt to write a horror novel for adults; as I have said before, in the 1980’s I decided I wanted to write horror. I wrote a lot of short stories from about 1985 through the end of the decade (through 1992, most likely) that I never did anything with; but it was around 1991 that I decided to take the plunge and write the novel. Sara was originally inspired, not only by Christine, but by getting the invitation to my ten year high school reunion three years earlier. (That invitation also inspired my short story “Promises in Every Star.”) I thought an invitation to a high school reunion would be a great way to start a book, and when I started writing Sara, I decided to frame the story the same way King did with Christine; with the point-of-view character looking back at the things that went on during his senior year, then having them play out, and then end back in the present day with him remembering…and being afraid.

I was about five chapters into the book, and struggling (it really amazes me to remember how little I knew about writing a novel and so forth back then; particularly given what a spectacular mess I was making of my life. It’s a wonder I wrote anything at all, frankly.) when I discovered Christopher Pike and R. L. Stine. In my stupid, immature, addled “don’t know what I am talking about” way, I decided that it would be easier to write Sara.

I know, I was younger, much more foolish, and incredibly arrogant in my foolishness.

But on the other hand, I’m not sorry I did make that foolishly arrogant assumption; I wouldn’t be writing young adult fiction now had I not had that “epiphany.”

When I was rewriting Sara for publication, I dropped the framing device and re-set Sara in the present day; in the original, Glen wasn’t gay because that would have never worked in a book being set in 1978; which was, really, the major hole in the story. Had I indeed made him gay, bullied for being gay, in denial for being gay–AND had it set in 1978, it would have worked so much better, I think.

I do think Sara is a good book, though.

And now, back to the spice mines.