Friday, November 19, 2004

Still fussing...

Sorry. World, I'm sorry. I voted the right way. My friends did...all but two. I worked for the right guy. I even went out of state--to one of those teetering on the verge of doing the right thing and slipping into idiotry--and it came through. We came through here at home. The rest of the country, maybe 50 percent of it (after the recounts are in and adjusting for the votes we know were shuffled, tossed, missed, misplaced, stolen or otherwise missappropriated) went the wrong way and thus... Sorry. World, I'm sorry. It's not just for the next four years, its for he next...well, who knows. Maybe forever. We're slipping. Going into the void, folks; slipping into that pit we've seen countries descend into before. This is a little different. This time, I fear, this time it's forever. This time we're going into the permanent hands of the corporations world-wide; we seem to forget that once this country was about an ideal, not just safety.

Oh well.

Sorry world.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Taking time to work on rejections...

My apologies to all who have had to wait for their response from us at Feral Fiction ( We're just getting around to answering the bulk of the submissions. I'm at that now!

Friday, October 01, 2004

Writing and Professionalism...a discussion with myself

If anyone ever comes to this site, I hope you’ll read and post comments about this.

I’m still working in Bluffton and I wonder why.

Look: I’m a writer who has published a bit here and there; had a bit of success–two Bram Stoker nominations from the Horror Writers Association (one for a Bluffton story, “God Screamed and Screamed Then I Ate Him”)–but not enough that I’ve become a “name.” I’m not A-list, mid-list or even listed as an author. You’ve probably only heard about me on the HWA board, through the Chicago-based Twilight Tales reading series or heard me at a convention or two. I’m not one of those people who can sell anything he writes based on the drawing power of my name.

That’s enough for now on how unknown I am. We’ll come back to it.

Twenty-three of my stories are set in Bluffton, a fictive small town in the bluff-country of the upper Midwest--in the so-called “Driftless Zone.” I’ll explain what that is at another time and point you to some sites where geologists meditate on why glaciers from the last ice age missed this part of North America. Okay?

Okay. All 23 Bluffton stories interconnect...more or less. They share location, characters, story lines. You can read some of them and get a full story, but you really need others to complete and flesh out the picture. One story’s central figure might be a supporting player or an extra in another; a subplot of one tale become central to another. A piece of extraneous conversation, something overheard casually in one tale, puts forth the plot of a subsequent piece. You can’t, for example, appreciate the Ruth Potter stories without reading them in sequence. You can’t read “Lightning Harvest” without also reading “The Eephus Pitch and Hanging High Fly of the Consolidated Catbirds” and “The Ninth Goddamn Kid.” You can! But each is much better when you’ve had the experience of the others!

This makes them a hard sell.

But I keep writing them; keep making those internal connections, building in the links that make each Bluffton story unsalable by itself. I could leave them out, make the tales more desirable as stand-alones. I don’t. I want them in. They are better stories that way.

This is unprofessional of me -- Jesus, am I unprofessional -- and arrogant, too.

Luckily (or unluckily, depending on how you look at it) I don’t have to depend on fiction writing for my living. I make decent money and get great benefits by being a writer for the City of Chicago. Writing at that job, doesn’t seem to diminish my urge to do the fiction when I get home, in fact, it seems to encourage it.

If I made my living from my fiction, I’d probably have to write what the market wants.

Years ago, when I was in theater, I saw actor friends turn down dream roles in good plays because they conflicted with shooting a commercial or doing a piece-of-crap part in a hack film. They had to. They were professionals.

Nobody made us become directors, actors, writers. Our parents didn’t nudge us into it, society didn’t need us to go forth and write.

We did it because something in the doing captured us. The thought that we could scribble out some pages and our friends would laugh or giggle or shudder or...

...that we could stand on a stage and make people cry or...

Get the idea. We got into theater, writing or whatever...because something in us needed to do that thing!

Become a professional at it, though and, unless you’re at the top of your field and able to choose your next project or sell anything you write, you’re trapped by the market. It’s the quandary in which the non-A-list worker finds him or herself all the working day: Doing what your heart tells you, doing the thing that propelled you into the life in the first place or make your rent. After all, the landlord’s not going to wait for the rent. What? Is he supposed to loose money?

No. No, of course not. No one should have to loose money. Right?

So: is it just my arrogance that keeps me writing the Bluffton stories? Do I do it because I just love the place, love hanging out at the Wheel and watching the weekly punch-up between the Sons of Norway and Lanesboro Grange, love sitting out a thunderstorm under Bunch’s bridge with him and Vinnie the Cop? Do I love slipping into the library and getting Ruth Potter to send me back to a Bluffton that was but never was? Yes. I do. I love being there.

And am I supposed to loose money at it? I guess.

More later...

Thursday, September 23, 2004


I write dark fantasy, a little horror and a lot of near-mainstream fiction. For a living (a few make their living on fantasy, horror and near-mainstream fiction, but I'm not one) I write for the City of Chicago and do some non-fiction free-lance scribbling that keeps me in DVDs and other toys.

As an adjunct to writing fantasy, etc., I am an Active member of an organization called the Horror Writers Association (HWA).

Every year HWA has a banquet and gives out the "Bram Stoker Awards for Superior Achievement in..." well, in various categories. The categories include Novel, First Novel, Long Fiction, Short Fiction, and a passel of others. Among the passel is: Poetry Collection.

The Stoker awards, as I understand the concept, is the HWA membership applauding a few people within the horror-making industry who have done superior work that year. You don’t have to be an HWA member to win, but you do have to be to vote.

There is a current movement afoot within the organization to eliminate some of the award categories. Poetry Collection is among them.

I support maintaining the award category--and all the other categories now being considered for dumping. I’ve written poetry but I'm not a poet. I’ve published a few poems but my support of keeping this category has nothing to do with my support for the writers I’ve published.

Here’s the thing: I cannot imagine an organization of and for writers–whether they write dark and fictive things or not--whose leading lights avow that its membership has ‘shown disinterest at best’ in recognizing the efforts of some of their fellow members who write poetry.

That is the reason most frequently given for eliminating this and other categories: Disinterest.

These Stokers? They’re not the Academy Awards. The world does not await, breathless, to see who will win what Stoker award? Getting a Stoker does not catapult one into an international pantheon of eternals. Having one doesn't mean a huge readership suddenly develops for your work. Editor's do not become weak-kneed when your work swims before their ken. A Stoker doesn’t mean that one’s novel or collection or whatever gains new life in the marketplace; publishers do not campaign for Stokers as producers and distributors do for Oscars or Emmies (I was told a few years ago by a reputable editor/publisher in the field that “Bram Stoker Award Winner” or “Stoker Nominee” on the title page of a book, in fact, produces a drop in sales. No. I won’t document this. You’ll have to trust me. It’s hearsay but true!).

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to win one (I’ve been nominated twice and was happy for the honor) (See? I'm bragging about it!) but my happiness is of the “You LIKE me” sort: a release, the three percent upside to life in an industry that’s ninety-five percent solitary rejection and two percent money. Knowing my peers and friends and, yes, competitors, have said "Pretty good, Larry" that makes me happy to have been nominated, makes me want to have one of those little brown houses (the award looks like a dark haunted house–pretty nice, actually!) on my mantle. IF I could afford a mantle.

We live in a world that’s increasingly about sales. Worse: it’s about being sold to! We live in a country where you don’t simply buy a can of pop, you join a Club of Happy Drinkers. Every product is sold to us as something that will make us part of a group. As though we can't be happy being quirky, unique.

Okay. That rant is part of something else, but it ties in.

The HWA leadership seems to feel it has to sell itself to the world.

As if they could.

They seem to feel that even their personal in-house back-pats have to serve some greater good, some larger agenda.

HWA should be about ‘community?’ Isn’t the award a way to say within that community, “well done!”

See? This isn't about having a Poetry category. It's about NOT having one.

We’re not supporting horror or poetry. HWA members are supposed to be supporting each other. We're about helping each other. We're about growing as artists and as people. Disinterested is what we are in first grade when faced with the complexities of the alphabet as laid against our natural urge to be on the playground. Many of us get over it.

Too many, apparently, do not.

Monday, September 20, 2004

A place to rest...

In case you wondered: Bluffton is a place where I frequently go to rest after having written something I’ve agonized over for a month or more, after I’ve had a rough few days at work, when I’m cranky and feeling sorry for myself. It’s a place where I feel comfortable with the ground and enjoy breathing the air. The people are quirky, creepy, curious and quaint. They’re also magical and powerful and amazingly dumb; they’re loving and hateful and utterly oblivous. And I know them. When they’re too cantankerous, I can punish them; when they’ve been really nice...I can punish them some more! I can also hand out rewards with equal parts willy and nilly.

I’m God in Bluffton but nobody prays to me or begs me for anything and expects me to do anything. I can sit anonymously in the Wagon Wheel and watch the Sons of Norway get pasted at Thursday night darts with the Grangers from Lanesboro. I can eavesdrop on Doc Mouth’s latest maundering from the outskirts. I can go check up on Bunch, up under the old bridge out on County H. I can go see Ruth at the library and, if I’m polite, I can visit a moment in Bluffton’s past–can stay as long as I like, do anything I want without worrying about mucking up the future.

Bluffton is a place where I make things happen and don’t even feel I have to share them. I’ve written 20-some-odd stories set in and around the town and published only a handful. I’ve not even tried to publish most of them. They gather like treasures on the Kiddorf Banks. (The Banks is the place downstream from town where the Rolling makes a hard turn at the old drive-in theater. All manner of stuff that’s been flushed out of the hills gets deposited at this place) Someday maybe I’ll pack them up and send them out as a book.

I don’t know.

Good Morning...

Monday, September 20, 2004. Feral is up! Finally. Just wanted to leave that here and get along to something else.