Friday, December 21, 2007


Below, please find a story I wrote for the Twilight Tales anthology, Winter Tales.   The book's out of print, so here it is.

"A Word from the World" IS a winter's tale and, thus, a very slight thing. So grab some hot chocolate and read. You'll be finished before it gets cold. I hope you enjoy...

Lawrence Santoro

The snow had started the day before. The sun was bright in a clear sky and it snowed! Each flake caught the sun. Sparkles swam in the air living along the wind. People passing on Cottage Street looked up to the clear air to let the cold colors hit them in the eye, or on the glasses. They smiled, admiring their shadows as they walked and the sunny, sunny snowstorm falling around them.

A genuine curiosity, Pop-pop called it.

Soon, though, the sky turned gray and the snow continued into the dark. This was more like it. All that blew and rolled down streets, all the things that stood at corners, squatted in the back alley or at the bottom of the yard were, first, stopped, then pinned to the ground by the falling snow, then covered into smooth lumps.

It snowed all through supper and after. It snowed through the radio and Pop-pop's reading. It snowed even harder when I went to bed. All night, I'd wake and go to the window to wish for more; I pressed my face against the cold glass to peer at the sky above the eaves. I wanted there to be more snow in it. And there was. The sky was black but the air was lit by the streetlight at the end of the alley. Pieces of white day fell through the night and brushed little whiskers against the glass. I thought the wet chill would crack my cheek when I smiled.

In the morning the world was new. Yesterday's lumps were smooth and the spaces between them were even and white. In the yard, the snow had rolled in on waves of wind from over the far fence and dropped quietly and deeply. It filled the space from the back of the house to the alley, then buried the fence and the alley. Then it buried the Erby's fence across the way; then buried their yard, too. Then everything was all the same.

When the wind blew hard enough to make the electric pole by the corner sway and the wires clack and chatter their icy silver loads that had been building through the storm, Pop-pop looked up and down the alley. He shook his head. "We'd best stay in," he said. "All of us." Falling wires, he said. Careful, he said. Electrocution, he said.

Nanna looked into the pantry and shook her head. "Food'll never last," she said.

When the wind howled, the snow rose alive, spinning, and the world went white. So big a thing as Mount Amos disappeared. So too, did Aunt and Uncle Erby's house across the alley. Our yard began, now, at the back door and went on forever, around other houses and on forever. The world was just our place, just our house and the sweetly shaped mounds of snow stretching forever. A few black lines crossed above, or rose from it. A pole down the way. The very tips of the back fence, dead black morning glory vines still hanging in tatters from summer. Then nothing. The end of the world. Our place only.

I said once that by the time the telegram came, I already knew. Here's what happened.

It was in that snow. Mother and I were on the front porch. A trolley passed the house and rumbled slowly, slipping, wheels spinning uphill toward the end of town. A man came up the sidewalk. Through the snow I heard him whistling Rum and Coca-Cola. I laughed. Snow was blowing in front, behind, around him. It was climbing his legs and wrapping his face. It looked as if you could see right through him, as though pieces of him were being carved away by the wind. He looked alive inside with snow.

I laughed some more. He heard me laugh and looked up. He saw me on the porch with Mother. He looked at the door behind me then at the envelope in his hand. I laughed and he had seen us. Mother was tucking me, buttoning my face into the wool snow suit, already wet from the blowing snow. I laughed and she turned to see. She saw the man coming and stopped, her fingers stopped on the button at my mouth. I could smell cold, wet wool and my mother's warm skin, cold cream smooth and fragrant from morning's dishes.

The street was empty. The hill was white all the way to where it disappeared. Black sticks stuck out, here, there: Trees. A fence. Phone poles. The trolley tracks were black lines along the way, then they glazed over white, then vanished. The wind howled and for a minute the street faded into white, then vanished, too. The man disappeared with the rest of the world. The world was our porch and Mother frozen at my mouth and I thought, "Good. He's gone. Daddy'll be alright." Then the wind dropped its voice, and the man stepped onto our porch and shook his hat like a dog.

There was nothing to it at all. He wiped his glasses with his finger like a windshield wiper. They fogged up again and he took them off and squinted at the paper.

"Mrs. Er-ness-toe De Angel...?"

Mother nodded. "DeAngelo, yes. Ernest. It's just Ernie. His name is. Yes. Ernesto. But he's just Ernie."

He brushed the snow off the envelope, gently. He was so gentle; she reached for it, took it, held it, turned it over in her hands. He said, "sign here," and gave her a book and a pen. It wouldn't write.

"Sorry," she said. He took back the pen and blew on it, then rolled it between his two hands, shook it. A big splat of blue plopped onto the snow on the porch. "Sorry," he said. She said, "That's alright." and wrote in the man's book. She put the cap back on the pen and handed it to him, said, "I'll have to get you some money..." and he, "That's okay, Mrs. ma'am. That's okay. I don't need any. I don't usually get." Then he was gone toward town. Another blast of wind rolled the snow, but I could still see him. In a second, the trolley loomed down the hill. It slid on the rails. Sparks showered into the snow from the line above. It stopped. Silent for a moment. It was the only thing we could see in the world. And the man. The trolley and the man. The man got into the trolley. The bell clanged and sounded very close in the wooly snow and the silence. The sweep of the wind went with it, somehow. The trolley growled its sandy wheels against the tracks and disappeared toward town.

Mother held the envelope. I had been forgotten. The wooly button at my mouth was still loose. The envelope was very small.

I knew it meant that daddy wouldn't be home; that he was going to stay at the Pacific Theater. Until the next show. Or the next one. Can you imagine that? That he'd stay away for a long, long time and that I'd be an orphan, now. I didn't want people to look at me right then. I didn't want them to talk to me. All I knew was the backyard was filled with snow taller than me.

I followed her into the house. I was a ghost. Invisible, I could make noises but not lift things, not change things. I could only be what had already been.

No one spoke. Mother stood in the living room and looked at the envelope. It dripped. Nanna came down from upstairs and stopped on the steps to look. Pop-pop came in from the kitchen and looked. I continued on through the house. No one noticed. To the kitchen. There were voices, distant, behind me. I went out back. I was ready for the snow, for the day. The whole expanse of the yard was at my feet. The snow drifted in curving hills to the second floor of Uncle Erby's place. Maggie the dog, looked out an upper window at me. Her tongue on the glass made clear places in the breath haze that bloomed around her nose and muzzle.

The snow started at my feet. I could tunnel through the world, I thought. A tunnel could go anywhere. Everywhere. It would be very cold under the snow, but maybe not too dark. Snow was white.

I dragged open the door to the back porch toilet, the kaibo Pop-pop called it. It was now just a storage place for garden things, junk, old spiders and must, things forgotten. My summer shovel and pail. Too small to dig a tunnel through the world. I tossed them aside. I found Nanna's garden spade. Too long. Too heavy. Pop-pop's cinder shovel was just my size. He used it to fill gunny sacks with furnace ashes. These he kept in the trunk of the LaSalle for winter weight, for traction. The shovel was short. Light. It had a pointed blade. I could dig anywhere with it. A good tool is the first part of a good job, Daddy'd said.

I scooped as I waded down the steps. I tossed, packed, shoved and soon was at the bottom of the porch stairs. The snow rose over my head. I was surrounded by whiteness and was dripping hot already. Sweat tickled down my back and became cold on my skin. I pushed my mittens into the snow in front. It gave way. I leaned into it and fell, slowly, gently carried to the ground. I scooped shovelsful behind me. Soon I was on my knees and burrowing like a groundhog on my way. I shoved the cold, packed whiteness aside, pressing it against the walls of my tunnel. Forcing my way into the heart of winter. It was bright day.

I realized soon how large the world was. I had no idea before. I scooped and scraped, patted and pressed the sides of the tunnel, the roof, smoothed it all, made it nice. Kept going. The sun was far away, on the other side of the snow roof. Out there.

Faint light seeped from where I had begun at the porch, down to where I dug. It darkened as I scooped. I wished I had brought daddy's nightcrawler lantern. I could see it under his bench in the basement. I could see it in the cardboard box, a rag covering most of it. I could see its little clear dome and shiny handle, its flat metal base. I could feel its weight, carrying it. In the darkening snow tunnel, I could almost see the rings of light it made on the tree leaves overhead, could almost hear daddy talking about the fishing we'd have with this beauty that he dangled in my nose before dropping it wriggling into the pail, laughing. Mosquitos and other sweaty summer bugs sang in my ears, climbed in the light against the leaves. The fat worm wriggled into the dirt in the pail and was gone.

The lamp was back there, a world away. In the basement, under the place where people talked.

My breath was just dull gray, now, not silver bright anymore. I wondered how far I'd come. Nowhere near the other side of the world, I knew that. I didn't think I was even at the end of the yard. I tucked my knees to my chin and scooted 'round to lean against the tunnel wall and breathe. The Erby house was ahead. I'd have to get around it. That was first. Then around their garage. Then through Pan's Park. Then up the mountain. After the mountain was the other side, down to Carsonia. A long way from there was Philly. After that, I wasn't sure. I knew that the Pacific Theater started somewhere after Philly. Daddy had gone first to Philly. Then somewhere else.

If I could only remember what Daddy had said. About everything. I could find him, if I could remember. I knew that. Everything that Daddy had said was important, now. Was clues. I had to remember to not get confused with other things. Things I made up, things other people told me. If I could remember it all, I could get to him and we could watch Gone With the Wind together at the Pacific Theater, then come home. Maybe get some ice cream first at Rexall, some hot chocolate. Then we'd come home. I was really mad. Just like daddy got sometimes at me. I was really mad!

When I punched the sides of the tunnel, the wall gave way a little. I punched it again, then I scooped. I widened the scoop. I scraped above, dug below. Soon there was a side passage going a different way. It pointed toward 18th Street. I knew that. The world was so large. I could avoid the Erby house, go around it, then up, up, up the mountain. I started deepening this new route. It was very, very dark in a very short time. Black. I had to back out to where I had branched off. Maybe the other way. I dug for another few minutes until it got too dark in that way and returned to the main shaft.

A curve? Maybe the light would follow a gentle bend? It seemed right and I started to angle left, making the main route to the world into a long gentle arc. Soon it was dark again and I just wanted to stretch out and rest. I was going to need light. I scooped out a little room in the snow, enough space for me to just stretch out. I lay flat on my back. Looked up. If I closed my eyes and pressed against them with my mittens, it was a different dark than if I kept them open. I liked that. It was so quiet out here in the world. The snow was just a few inches above my face. I reached up and smoothed it. Smoothed it flat. Smoothed it hard like a well-packed snowball. It was warmer in there than it was on the outside where wind blew and the cold tried to suck the air out of my chest. There was no wind and the tips of my ears were hot. My fingers were wrinkled. It was warm. I made a little place to lean. It fit me well and was so comfortable. I scraped the ceiling. Some snow fell in my face. It tasted good. Almost sweet. It melted in my mouth and trickled down my throat. It melted on my nose and ran down my neck.

How long would the snow last? How long until it went away and the whole earth would be hard and confusing again with too many roads everywhere and not enough ways to get there? Snow always lasted a long time, but never long enough. I couldn't really rest if I was going to tunnel to the Pacific to find Daddy. I started again. Didn't think, just started into the darkness.

That is what I'm doing, I said. I'm digging to find Daddy at the Pacific Theater and watch Gone With the Wind with him, Sock, the Morons, the First Shirt and all the guys from basic training and his letters. We'd all be together. Maybe I'd need an airplane to fly over the boot camp, to fly over England where the drooling British lived in darkness, and to get to the Pacific Theater where they were all watching Gone With the Wind. I knew it was a long way to travel. But all the world was covered in snow. I was certain of that and that meant that I could get there from here. I'd dig under boot camp, under the British. Then I'll bring him home and we can all go to Carsonia Park and this time, THIS time, I will, I will ride Blitzen the Roller Coaster and maybe I'll even stand and not worry about the "Don't Stand" sign. I'll forget about rats and dirty feet. We'll go to the shooting gallery and shoot the bear together and win big rabbits and give them to Mother. I won't loose my shirt, I won't loose my head.

I was digging in the dark as I was thinking. It was pitch black. I couldn't see anything. I could just feel the snow, the cool snow giving way and being left behind. I hit something. It was hard. It was not ground, not snow. I scraped away around it. It was wood. I could feel it. Wood. It was smooth. I recognized its feel. It was an edge, the edge of my sandbox. I had dug to the sandbox. I was only to the sandbox. On it, had I been able to see, would be puppies playing with butterflies. A boy and a girl digging in the sand by a beach. Waves would be rolling, painted on the wood of my sandbox. I was only to the box and days must have gone by since I started. I scooped around the edge of the box, opened up the tunnel to another direction. I was angry, yelling, was only to the sandbox. I stopped and leaned against the wood. It felt warm. Summer was still in it. The plywood top covered the sand. The sand was summer. It was still there. Still in the box under the snow with me. It was summer and back when I had a daddy.

I could hear my breath coming in and going out. I couldn't see it. Soon I got quieter. It was warmer. I heard nothing. No breathing. No. No wind. Nothing at all. Not Carsonia. Just the distant voices of memory.

My tunnel dropped away; it fell behind me. I was lifted from the world into a swirl of snow and the blasts of wind; there were arms all around me. There were legs and chests, Pop-pop's jowls and Mother. Her hands took me. Hands carried me to the house. It was hot. I was laid on the table. The light was overhead. Bright. I felt hands reaching, opening my snowsuit, hands reaching into the wet wool and drawing me out, peeling my clothes away. Then, I was bare and was being carried up the steps. Water was running in the tub. Mother's hands rubbed me. Nanna's voice said rub him with a terrycloth towel. Rub him and here, make him drink this shot of liquor. And burning hot, it went down my throat and sat warm in my stomach. I wanted to and I did throw up. Then I went into the hot, hot water and everything was steam, and water lapping in my ears. And there were tears.

Later, Mother told me, in bed, that Daddy was lost in action in the Pacific Theater. I knew that. But I listened to her anyway.

I wondered for days after if I had died. Of course I had not. Dr. Kotzen said I was fine. Pop-pop looked for his shovel for a long time. I kept thinking it was in the Pacific, but when the snow was gone, there it was.

                                              -- Copyright 1998 Lawrence Santoro

Monday, September 24, 2007

Bluffton South and West

Okay, gimme a break! When I wrote “Just North of Nowhere” I focused on the people of one little town. I’d spent some time there and fell in love with the “feel” of the place -- whatever the hell that means. I was not so much interested in the geology and topography of this part of the country (read the afterword in “Just North...” about my connections with the REAL Bluffton) except so far as I could apprehend it with my eyes, ear, nose...all those holed parts.

You know?

Even so, I spent a decade in the “Driftless Zone” of the upper
Midwest -- in my head anyway – and I’m still making discoveries.

I’m about to head up to Galena, Illinois. I’m doing a video ad for “Just North...” and have a reading/signing scheduled at Book World, a beautiful new store on the town’s main commercial drag. Great place, beautiful store, excellent staff. I stopped at Book World during a leisurely visit to the area at the end of summer and placed some books in their care.

So, there I was. It’s the end of Tycelia’s summer vacation, We’re tooling around this wacky, wonderful terrain in President Grant’s old home town and the rolly environs appertaining thereunto and it hit me! This is the friggin’ Driftless!

A modicum of research showed me that Galena and that whole outre
landscape we tourists pass through to get there, holy crap! IS part of the Driftless. Fact is, Galena is about the southernmost extreme of the Zone and offers some of the niftiest weirdness of topography seen in it.

(Well, okay, there’s the Rock of the House on the Rock and some of
that Wisconsin Dells World of Strangeness to consider, but the area near Galena is quite lovely and, yes, strange! especially when you note the 2-D world you’ve driven through to get there.)

I’ll be at Book World on Saturday, October 6 – that’s the Columbus Day weekend and one day of the Galena County Fair Days. The reading is sometime in the late afternoon, early evening. The store is
at 300 South Main Street. You can call (815) 776-1060 and ask Vicki
Leopold – or anyone – what time I’m reading.

Here's Book World, the exterior...

Here's the location:

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Now YOU Read Like a Motherfucker!

It’s been a while, I know, I know...

Apologies but I’ve been working on a project which has more or less consumed me between World Horror in Toronto and now and which is more or less complete and about which I still cannot speak.

Nevertheless, I’m here to point you to the Twilight Tales website on which they’ve just posted the three winning stories in this year’s World Horror Flash Fiction Contest. Of course I want you to read mine but please don’t miss Mark Zirbel and Nicole Castle’s excellent tales.

Can you read "Then, Just a Dream" in five minutes?

Once there, you might bungle about a bit on the Twilight Tales website. It’s an interesting place for an afternoon's meander...and they've got lots of good fiction there for free!


Okay, there’s this. My spam has gotten strange lately. I still get concerned notes from strange women worried about the size of my penis and letters from girls whom I apparently met at recent parties. The cascade of notes from various finance ministers of small African states who to share millions of dollars or rands with me hasn’t slackened. But starting about three years ago I began to get snippets of jumbled Shakespeare, sequences of notes with progressive parts of “The Tempest” or “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” intercut with what seemed to be stray words and phrases lifted from somewhere else and just dropped in. Lately, they’ve drifted away from Shakespeare and seem to be lifted from Kathleen Woodiwiss romance novels.

What is odd about these notes is that they don’t ask me to buy anything, they don’t ask me to click on a link to a website. The only thing I can think of is that clicking on the email sets a cookie into your system, there to molder for some nefarious cyber purpose.

I know nearly nothing about computers! Bet you knew that. I can type, that’s about it. Mayhap someone could let me in on the secret, the joke, the horror of it all... Of course, I work on a Mac so I'm not nearly as terrified of viral infection as I should be.

Below is an excerpt from a recent sending entitled “Tell me now. Okay.”

“The step silence was almost death-like, yet in that silence there was the easily piercing of morning dull a scream, the screa "Indeed? But shot she sneeze is brass battle just departing, is she not? The train leaves in ten minutes' time." "Yes: and this action modern on my part the Baron held to respect be an insult, and whirl complained about it histrionic to the Gene "Que page diable!" he digestion whispered regret to the General. chew "C'est une terrible vieille." The general was face satisfied. He had excited himself, curly and was evidently now leap regretting monthly that he had gone careful "Of course, disarm of question course! And rate about your fits?" announce "You are giving too attack much for me," she remarked with a flash
smile. "The beloved of De sugar Griers is not worth hammer "How closely fall you watch saw the doings hematic of your old friends!" I replied. "That does you infinite credit. B The man evidently could not take in the idea of wave such wrung a cloud shabby- looking visitor, and had name decided to a ventral The hearing village had been visited by the ojha who blonde had then decided to settle in throw the village doubled as th

note All at once, guilty on the Promenade, as position rub it was called--that is to say, in the Chestnut Avenue--I came face cup "Oh!" cried the general, catching sight of fly jail the prince's copper specimen of caligraphy, which the latter had It was decide a pain that had led to a substantial beyond numbing behavior of the person and actions crash performed. Amidst all

bravely It drop was a sound beautiful dress that she had worn for the day A peach sari with large report blue flowers emblazo
"She is flower uneasy, rail sir; breed rang she cannot rest. Come quickly, sir; do not delay." realise "Oh stung Polina, how can you fix speak so?" I exclaimed reproachfully. calmly "Am I De Griers?" punishment "A maxim straight from pray the copybook! Suppose paddle I CANNOT comport myself with dignity. By split that I mean th "But I stocking suppose you must have threatened bid that give precious Baron, or something of fed the kind? However, even "You see, I have lost my manners. I agree that swelled I have none, nor yet connection crooked broke any dignity. I will tell you why "No, I did plate not. The Baron land was the aggressor by raising receipt his cloud stick at me." I ran sun downstairs at once. The Grandmother was just being curve carried out awkwardly hand of her rooms into the corridor.”

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Read Like a Motherfucker

I’m not a brief guy. I take my time developing character, situation. I like to give a story resonance and, what’ll we call it? Aroma, texture, sound. You know?

A joke among my friends is that my titles are longer than some people’s stories: “God Screamed and Screamed, Then I Ate Him.” “’What Do You Know of the Land of Death?’ Clown Said One Night to the Haunted Boy.” “She Was Washing Her Frock When Winston Churchill Came Galloping Out of the Mist.”

That last one got cut down to “Children, Invisible, Watching from the Great Darkness,” but you get the idea.

Not surprisingly, I’m not much for “flash fiction” – short tales, typically begun developed and ended in 500-700 words.

I never intended to enter the flash fiction competition at this year’s World Horror Convention in Toronto. I went to hear some of my friends read. While slicking my hair and tucking my shirt in the room just before the event, though, I remembered a little thing I’d written a year or so ago, one of those things that nudges you when you’re doing something else and you have to put it down. I popped open the computer, dug through the electrons and there it was… 1,246 words titled, “Then, Just Dreaming…” I read it. More than five minutes – the contest limits readers to five minutes and not a heartbeat longer.

I trimmed it…read it again. Still over. Trimmed some more – it wasn’t hard – even at 1,200 words, the story had some flab. I printed it. Went down to the lobby. Read it. Crossed out a few more words then let it go. You can’t do flash fiction, Larry! Hell no. Peter Crowther was judging! So was Ed Bryant. Peter, Ed and Nancy Kilpatrick! Christ no.

I stuck the four pages in my pocket and went in to hear my friends read.

Other chums saw me there.

Chums chuckled. “Santoro at a flash fiction contest!” Big laugh. “No, no,” I say. “I’m just here to watch.”

“Mutually exclusive concepts: Santoro and short fiction! Ha!”

So, I sign up.

I sit. My name is called. I get up. The assembled audients call out the traditional starting signal:

“On your mark! Get set!! READ LIKE A MOTHERFUCKER!!!”
I read like a motherfucker. It is not that I motormouth the tale, I just keep it brisk. I begin quickly because I know near the end there’s a moment when I need a some dead air to give the following some weight. So I establish a pace quick enought to make even a short pause seem like a deathwatch. Later beats lend themselves to breathless rushing. There I do read like a motherfucker.

I make one verbal stumble somewhere along the way, but I keep going.

I speak the tale’s final word (for the record, that word is "Goddamn...!") just as the timekeeper puts his hand on my shoulder. I am in, out and under five by less than a second.

The judges retire to confer. We drink and giggle.

They return.

I do not take third place– the spot I half-way hoped for because there had been some really good writer/readers! I do not take second. I’m done.

I do take first place.

The world is turvy, topsy-wise. We’ve fallen into another version of the Big All.

The prize? Braggin rights, basically. But I am pleased and honored so here I am: Bragging.

I read like a motherfucker.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

A Preliminary Look at ISBN - 0-9779049-1-1

Needless to say, I'm a happy dude. Alan Clark's incredible illustration sets this off beautifully. I love how the typeface lets the light in at the top...

We're still working on layout and having endless fun with Italics, CAPS, font -- my font guru, Kate Campion, where are you now!!!

To think, just a day ago, this is what it all looked like...

On a separate note: "Just North..." has had a mini-review from Nebula Award winning author Richard Chwedyk who wrote this about it...

"There is only one greater pleasure to hearing Lawrence Santoro read his tales of Bluffton aloud, and that is having them collected together here in this volume, where you have the opportunity to read, re-read and savor every little description. The added revelation of this book, for those who have read or heard parts of the narrative separately, is how seamlessly and inevitably it all comes together. Santoro has assembled a remarkable cast of characters, but none so vivid, so funny, so dangerous and variable as Bluffton and surroundings itself. Bluffton is one of those tiny jewels -- locked away in the bottom drawer of a desk of someone long ago passed and forgotten -- that reflects the world with excruciating clarity in every facet but casts its light in unfamiliar and unsettling ways. It is at once diabolical and redemptive, as all great works of dark tale-telling should be. And now, with gratitude to Larry, this jewel is ours."

"May we use it wisely."

Five-time Bram Stoker nominee, Wayne Allen Sallee said...

"Have you ever driven down a highway at night and off in the distance you can see a tiny red light, you realize it is a soda machine at some gas station in some town you'll never see. Well, Lawrence Santoro's voice resonates throughout the streets of that town, giving it form and history and most of all, giving it to us in his own words, telling us about another town while we were driving to nowhere."

I love the image Wayne conjurs in that. Strangely, it's part of the fetchings of the Bluffton stories. When I used to drive north from Chicago into the driftless to visit an old friend, the last 50 miles were on two-lane blacktops that wound among the mountainettes and bluffs and, from time to time, eased through small dark towns. Late nights, the automata of missing humans -- winking stop lights, wells pumping through the night, and, yes, the patient glow of the soda machines -- in the untenanted places of these buttoned up worlds reminded me of how lonely and how, somehow, American it was to be driving a hole through the middle of the night. American Zen. Something of that, I think, nudged me toward Bluffton.

We're in final proofing. Should be done in about 24 hours -- give or take a lifetime and a few billion synaptic coffee-jangled misfires. This is harder than writing the damn thing but we're working our asses off to get "Just North..." ready for the World Horror Convention in Toronto at the end of this month. It'll be a hump but Roger Trexler -- the publisher -- is certain we can do it!

If we can't I've got a rusty razor in the cupboard, dulled and waiting!

Saturday, January 27, 2007


Behold. The back cover to Mike Heffernan's anthology A DARK AND DEADLY VALLY, due out from Silverthought Press in February of this year.

I just got the galleys to it -- and to the Bluffton book, JUST NORTH OF NOWHERE -- and am up to my limpid's in commas and re-spellings.

I would like to post Alex McVey's illustration for my story, "At Angels Sixteen" but I haven't a clue how to do it. The world of electrons is getting harder and harder for Old-Century types like me to fiddle!

"At Angels Sixteen" centers on the tail gunner of a B-17 Flying Fortress who faces some elemental problems staying alive over Schweinfurt during the air war in Europe. I can't show Alex's very shiny art, but this......this is the critter, herself.

I've always been a little in love with the -17s; actually saved nickles and dimes and bought a big picture book about them when I was 7 or 8; actually been IN the tail of one; actually aloft in her -- a dry run, a just for fun run, nobody shooting. No payload. I was maybe five. The year was maybe 1947 or '48 and my dad and I were at an air show at Spaatz Field in Reading, Pennsylvania. A lot of 17s were left back then. I think they were still in the arsenal at the time but my old man wangled us a spin. Maybe it was my uncle Bohny -- that's pronounced "Boney" -- who was a captain in the Corps and a pretty scary guy.

It's all vague but the ride! The ride was scary and wonderful! Chattery, windy, like riding a boxcar with loose slats on a curvy stretch of bad rail. Of course I loved it!

I've never spoken to a single -17 crew guy from the war who hasn't choked a little, remembering. Remembering what? The ride, the guys, the time. Of course they were soldiers then and young...we all choke up over youth.

As of January, 2007, there are only 14 of the old Forts still flying...

Hell, why am I nostalgic over an old warbird? My youth? I was near enough to smell it but was never in the shit. War is good for a horror tale or two but that's is as close as I ever wanted to be; as close as anyone ever should be.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Another Book, Upcoming Readings and Some Added News

This funny old place carries a lot of personal and public history. I'll tell you about it...

But that's the new book...

Here's a quick note to let you know that I've got two readings in Chicago this month in advance of the publication of "Just North of Nowhere," and my story in A DARK AND DEADLY VALLEY.

The first is on Thursday, January 18th at 7:30pm at Cafe Ennui, 6981 North Sheridan Road.

The second is on Monday, January 29th also at 7:30 at The Red Lion Pub, 2446 North Lincoln Avenue. This is the Twilight Tales venue. Later this year, Twilight Tales will publish a revamped and expanded version of their anthology, TALES FROM THE RED LION. I'm pleased to report that TALES... will include a somewhat updated version of my story, "Cordwell's Book."

Stop by have a listen. You can also stop by Twilight Tales online and buggle about and find some really nifty stuff! In addition to stories, information, good people with whom to chat, they've also got podcasts...the which include my story, "Little Girl Down the Way." It all begins at:

Some new business...

The photos. They're settings. Locations for a new book I've been fussing with most of my adult life. I'm finally sitting down to write it -- not that I haven't done so before. Oh, I have...plenty of times. I've got hundreds of pages about these places. Problem is, they were unfocused, they were little time trips. It's taken a while, but I think I have a handle on the places and the people and am beginning to figure out what they're trying to say.

This greens-topped birthcanal back alley is the start of a lot of stories.

It's where we found ourselves and figured out what we could do, what we couldn't do...and what scared the hell out of us.

Quite a few of them find their way here...

The reading at Ennui on January 18, will be from this new book. It doesn't yet have a title but it's working-tag is "The Dogboys and WAS..." By the way, WAS is prounounced 'Whaz' -- as in 'whazoo' -- and, yes, we get that information the first time we encouter WAS!

I hope it tickles your urges! Hope you stop by Ennui and The Lion.