Thursday, February 24, 2011

The United Monster Talent Agency

Great short from FX guru Greg Nicotero -- I always wondered how Universal kept those monsters in line. (And bonus points if you can spot David J. Schow in this one!)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Editors John Langan and Paul Tremblay have popped the cork on a forthcoming anthology, releasing the Table of Contents for Creatures! Thirty Years of Monster Stories. The nitty gritty runs like this: twenty-six tales, 150,000 words, coming at you in trade paperback from Prime Books ($14.95). I don't have a release date yet, but will let you know when I get word.

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to this one. Hey, it's got a Jeff Ford story I haven't read (an Island of Dr. Moreau piece, at that), plus a Creature from the Black lagoon tale. That's enough to get me to dig in, right there.

Godzilla's Twelve-Step Program Joe R. Lansdale
The Creature from the Black Lagoon Jim Shepard
After Moreau Jeffrey Ford
Among Their Bright Eyes Alaya Dawn Johnson
Under Cover of Night Christopher Golden
The Kraken Mike Kelly
Underneath Me, Steady Air Carrie Laben

Rawhead Rex Clive Barker
Wishbones Cherie Priest
The Hollow Man Norman Partridge
Not from Around Here David J. Schow
The Ropy Thing Al Sarrantonio
The Third Bear Jeff Vandermeer

Monster Kelly Link
Keep Calm and Carillon Genevieve Valentine
The Deep End Robert R. McCammon
The Serpent and the Hatchet Gang F. Brett Cox
Blood Makes Noise Gemma Files
The Machine Is Perfect, the Engineer Is Nobody Brett Alexander Savory
Proboscis Laird Barron

Familiar China Mieville
Replacements Lisa Tuttle
Little Monsters Stephen Graham Jones
The Changeling Sarah Langan
The Monsters of Heaven Nathan Ballingrud
Absolute Zero Nadia Bulkin

Monday, February 21, 2011

At The Only Diner In Hell...

You'll find one of these in every booth.*

And a jukebox that always plays Jerry Wallace's "If You Leave Me Tonight, I Will Cry."**

And a Vietnam vet sitting at the counter whose dead buddies are just outside, closing in...***

* Mystic Seer from Richard Matheson's classic Twilight Zone episode, "Nick of Time."

**"The Tune in Dan's Cafe" from Night Gallery.

***Dead soldiers courtesy of Robert R. McCammon's masterful short story "Nightcrawlers," adapted for the eighties Twilight Zone reboot. (Bonus points: Exene Cervenka is your waitress!)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Hold Your Horses

After I accidentally hung up on my five-year-old niece and apologized to her dad about it (see last Sunday's post), I traded some emails with my brother-in-law Blaise. In one of them Blaise sent me a link to a cowboy song of his own making (sung by the Mysterious and Talented Elaine). I love cowboy songs, especially spooky ones, so I was moved to write Blaise a fan letter, which I think is even better than the apology I wrote last week:

Dear Blaise:

"Hold Your Horses" is my new favorite song. I like the singing. I like the Western guitar. In fact, this song makes me want to polish my Colt revolver and ride into Tombstone wearing black. I would bring a sawed-off shotgun with me, of course, and a Bowie knife, too.

If you were there, playing "Hold Your Horses" in a saloon, I would listen to the song and applaud.

Then I would yank my Bowie knife and carve the scalp from your skull, so it would be just as clean and white as a fresh-laid egg.

Your fan,


Friday, February 18, 2011

We Are Controlling Transmission

My buddies John Scoleri and Peter Enfantino are the guys who brought you A Thriller A Day, the great blog celebrating Boris Karloff's Thriller series. Now they have a new blog that gives the same treatment to the classic Outer Limits TV show, and you can click on over and join the fun at We Are Controlling Transmission.

Anyway, John and Pete know everything (and what they don't know they can ask David Schow about), which is another way of saying that the blog is definitely a keeper. I'm backtracking through it, as the official debut slipped off my radar. And since I'll be contributing a piece about one of the second-season episodes, I'd better grab control of the horizontal and vertical and kick things into gear... because I've gotta date with a Megasoid!

Thursday, February 17, 2011


When I started out as a writer, Charles Grant's Shadows anthologies were textbooks for me. Like Grant's own work, the stories in Shadows showed how to do quiet horror right, and it was in his anthologies that I encountered the work of some very fine writers for the first time -- Ramsey Campbell, Avram Davidson, T. E. D. Klein, Steve Rasnic Tem, and Al Sarrantonio to name a few.

Sarrantonio's short stories have long been favorites of mine (i. e. if you don't have a copy of his masterful collection Toybox in your library, you're missing some essential reading, pard). Al's also gone on since the Shadows days to become one of the premiere anthology editors in the business, and now he's introducing his own compilation of horror tales on the quiet side: Portents.

And what a lineup of writers he's got: Gene Wolfe, Joyce Carol Oates, Ramsey Campbell, Joe R. Lansdale, Brian Keene, Kit Reed, Melanie Tem, Steve Rasnic Tem, Kealan Patrick Burke, Neal Barret, Jr., Elizabeth Massie, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Kim Newman, Michael Laimo, Jeffrey Ford, Tom Piccirilli, and Alan M. Clark. Plus, I'm proud to say that the lead story in Portents is a new piece by my talented bride, Tia V. Travis. "Still" is a Canadian ghost story with the hard bite of a prairie wind, and you won't want to miss it.

Portents won't be available in stores. You can't grab it on Amazon. Copies of the 1,000 copy limited edition are only available from Al himself. It's $30 (plus $5 shipping and handling), and you can pre-order it now from Al by contacting him at Flyingfoxpub @ aol dot com. From all reports it looks like the book should be shipping soon, so don't snooze if you want a copy. With the roster of talent above, my bet is they'll go fast.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mako and McGavin: Made-for-TV

Been trading emails with a buddy about my Best of The Green Hornet post, and "The Preying Mantis" episode with Mako duking it out with Bruce Lee (as Kato). That reminded me of a Made-for-TV movie with Mako and Darren McGavin called The Challenge, a great slice of early seventies Cold War paranoia in which two superpowers each send a single soldier to an island in order to avert a nuclear war (i.e. last man standing wins).

God knows who they'd stick in a movie like that these days, but they wouldn't look like the two guys above. And Mako and McGavin were just the top of the cast list for The Challenge. You also had a couple of TV stalwarts in Broderick Crawford and James Whitmore, plus a young actor named Sam Elliott. Anyway, I loved the movie as a kid -- even though I knew (like a lot of TV Movies) that it was really just a budget-conscious riff off a big-screen idea (in this case, Hell in the Pacific, in which Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune fight WWII all by their lonesome while stranded on a jungle island). But any way you figure it The Challenge was a pretty dark slice for Network Prime Time -- hey, the U.S. was still knee-deep in the Vietnam war when it was first broadcast -- and like a lot of Made-for-TV movies, it shouldn't be forgotten today. I wish I could see it again.

McGavin was in more than a few TV movies. Most notably: The Night Stalker as Carl Kolchak, a wise-guy reporter hunting a vampire in seventies Vegas. While I loved McGavin as Kolchak in that movie and the inevitable sequel, the eventual Kolchak series stretched the reporter vs. monster concept too far for me, and it too often slipped into comedy. Still, the first two movies were gold, and I can still remember going to school the day after The Night Stalker first aired and finding that everyone was talking about it -- even the teachers and the blue-haired ladies at the lunch counter. That was something. And it was the same with a lot of other TV Movies (stuff like Duel, with harried commuter Dennis Weaver dodging a homicidal truck driver for an unbelievably tense ninety minutes courtesy of writer Richard Matheson and a young hotshot director named Steven Spielberg).

Yeah. Those little movies were something special (and nope -- they sure weren't Megasaurus vs. Crocozilla, starring your basic discarded pop stars). Those were different days, with three big networks beaming into most households each night. While America didn't quite have a hive mind, we certainly had a kind of universal consciousness going. It made for some universal excitement on a slow weeknight. It also made for some interesting conversations the next day.

And I miss that. Sparking up ideas with guys who loved the kind of stories I loved, and guys who were only thinking about them because a story got to them on TV the night before and they weren't even sure why. Talking about what you'd do if you found out there was a vampire sucking Las Vegas dry, or how two guys would settle a war on an island, or how you'd survive if a crazy truck driver chased you down a deserted strip of desert highway.

Saying, "Wow! That movie was something, wasn't it?"

And knowing that yep, damn straight it was.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Writing Advice

I've had some emails from folks asking for links to my recent posts on writing and marketing a first novel. Glad to oblige:

First Novels and Micro-Runs, Part 1

First Novels and Micro-Runs, Part 2

Putting Your First Novel To Work

The Magic Bullet

If you found those articles useful and would like to check out some other writing tips, try these older posts:

Young Writers, Young Publishers

A Town Without Pity

The Roller Coaster's Heartbeat

Early Influences: Frank Frazetta, Creepy, and the Cover Story

And, yeah. I really should learn to use the tags feature on this blog. Now that American Frankenstein has been around (almost) a year, that'd help sort things out. Or, as Rod Serling might have said: "Doesn't hurt to have a signpost up ahead when you're sending pilgrims into The Twilight Zone, buddy."

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

From a girl who's a little bit Sinead O'Connor and a little bit Audrey Hepburn and a whole lotta Nevie Rose. Our little girl hopes you and yours have a great holiday... with chocolate, of course.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Nice Guys Finish Last

So... last Saturday was my little girl's first birthday. That morning, I hung up on my five-year-old niece. I didn't know it was her. Really. Everyone in Calgary thought it would be cute if Miette called her American cousin to wish Nevie many happy returns. Only we were on the way out the door, and I thought I was talking to a Munchkin when I picked up the phone. Or an old lady who was sucking on a helium tank. One who was asking for someone named "Denise."

"No Denise here," I said. Click.

Oh, well. Who knew?

Once we figured out what happened, Tia said I had better apologize to my brother-in-law right away. For me, right away is in the same ballpark as next Sunday. And just so you know, my brother-in-law's name is Blaise. Blaise is the only guy I know who has a space station in his basement. He's also an artist and filmmaker. Buy his stuff. He begs you. It's crazy, and financed in part by the Canadian government, so you know it has to be good.

Anyway, here is my apology:

Dear Blaise:

I eat old corncob pipes for breakfast. In a cereal bowl. With no milk.

Everywhere I go, I carry a grapefruit spoon. I keep the serrated edges very sharp. The leaves on citrus trees quiver when I pass by. They sound like castanets played by dead men.

I take out the garbage every Wednesday night. Sometimes it's so late there's not even a moon. You can't see anything out there. But somehow that cat you gave us always gets back in the house.

I hang up on at least one little girl a week. Especially if they call long distance. Like from another country. Long distance costs a lot of money. Especially in Canadian dollars. What's the point of Canadian money, anyway? I mean, why do you guys bother?

Peace and love,

P.S. Who's Denise, anyway?

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Magic Bullet

My conversations with first novelists almost always run the same way. They've got lots of questions. Before the sale, they want to know how to find a publisher and snag a book deal. Once they've got a deal, they want to know the best way to market their book -- how to get reviews, attention, and (ultimately) sales. And, hey, that's no surprise. Every writer wants his or her first novel to be success, and every one of them is looking for a way to guarantee just that.

What they're after is a diagram of a sure thing, or a career blueprint with an express elevator to the penthouse level. What they want is your basic All-Purpose Dirty Harry Magnum Force-Sized Magic Bullet.

Look at the problem one way, I'll tell you that there's no such thing. Simply put, there are no shortcuts or sure things in writing. Sure, there are a thousand ways to improve your odds of commercial success... and if you do your homework you'll figure them out. I'm a big fan of doing your homework. But there are no magic bullets.

Except one. And (surprisingly) that bullet isn't something that comes up in most conversations with first-time novelists. It seems like it should be the first thing that comes up, but it very rarely does. Fact is, sometimes it's barely mentioned at all.

That thing is the novel itself. And it's the only thing that counts, really. It's also the only thing you really have control over. After all, it's your book. What your first novel amounts to is completely up to you. How high you set the bar is up to you. How hard you work on your novel, and push yourself through the rewrites, and bust your ass to make it as good as it can be is up to you. The rest of it -- the sale to a publisher, the promotion, the book as a finished product ready for market -- that's all another battle... and an important one. But none of that will matter if you haven't done the hardest work of all to front-load your odds for success and set them in your favor.

That's your biggest battle, and you fight it on the page. Not glad-handing at a convention, not on Twitter or Facebook, not texting with that editor who bought you a beer. No. You fight that battle alone, at your desk, writing. As I've said before: a keyboard is built for one. That's how the real work of writing gets done. It's the misery of the job, and the joy. And it's how your novel gets to be as good as you can possibly make it... which is as close to a guarantee as you'll ever get.

So there you have it. Your novel is your magic bullet.

What it turns out to be is completely up to you.

So close the door, turn off the phone, and shut down your email.

Now you're ready.

Fire away.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Putting Your First Novel To Work

So, last week we were talking about selling your first novel, and some things you'll want to look for from your publisher (and some things you might want to avoid). Either way, if you're ready to go into the trenches with your firstborn, there's a lot you'll want to think about. And once the dust settles with the writing and the rewriting, one of the things you want to kick around in your brainpan is the idea of how to make your first novel work for you.

And, really, whether you're working in the small press or with a NY publisher, your basic approach to that question isn't going to be that different. Neither is the publisher's, surprisingly. Because the truth is that most first novels don't get a whole lot of support from their publishers when it comes to advertising, or a push from the sales reps, or any kind of real-deal game plan as far as publicity goes. In most cases first novels are more like sacrifices to some pagan god. Think King Kong, for example. A whole lot of books get marched outside the gates of Skull Island and roped up on that platform facing the jungle primeval. And not to be too graphic, but just around 95% of them don't have anything approaching a happy ending no matter what the author puts down on the page. Nope. They're just offerings to a king-sized remorseless god, which means they make a quick trip down a hungry monkey's gullet and torpedo their way through his lower intestines on their way to oblivion. Sorry, Charlie, but that's the way of the publishing world.

So you can count yourself lucky if your first novel turns out to be the literary equivalent of Fay Wray, the kind of book that can tame a monster, bring him to his knees, and be the beauty that slays the beast. There are a lot of variables to that kind of success, and it's a wide spectrum that stretches all the way from dumb luck to jaw-dropping talent. Of course, expecting that your first novel will be a huge success is, well... kind of like expecting that you can slay a giant mythical gorilla without so much as a .22 in your hand and look like a million bucks while you're doing it. It's probably not going to happen. Really. I'm not kidding. (Don't give up on the dream, though.)

To kick the extended metaphor aside, what I'm saying is that there's not much you can bank on with your first book. But that doesn't mean there isn't plenty you can work toward. Your novel is the tool you're going to use to do the job. Here are a few ways you can use that hammer:

1. Get your book out there. I mean pre-pub. Push your publisher to do Advance Reader's Copies, and get them into as many hands as you can. Traditional review markets, high-profile bloggers, genre websites... all are good. Of course, there are no sure things and it's a mistake to attach any expectations to the ARCs you send out. By this point you have to trust in your work and let the chips fall where they may.

2. Get out there yourself. If you do the social network thing, get busy. Facebook, Twitter, blog. Do some interviews. Let people know about your book... and you.

3. I'm not much on writers' conventions myself, but jump in if you're comfortable. You may just end up blowing a grand flying off to some city and seeing notmuchofit but some Marriott by the airport, but depending on your personality you just might do well -- making connections, meeting editors, moving forward. (Of course, you could always end up sitting in your room and watching cable, too. Fact is, I've been to a couple of cons where that was the best-case scenario.)

4. If you've met editors who have expressed interest in your work (or, even better, bought it), give them a copy of your novel. Don't shove it at them at a convention, unless they ask you for it. Offer to mail them a copy. Odds are better they'll actually look at it, and not leave it in a hotel room to terrify the maid.

5. Once the book is out, put your author copies to work. Send them to writers you admire and professionals you've met (or the editors mentioned above). If you have a nice first-class hardcover, show it off. Hey, it'll make a better impression than an ARC will (on first glance, anyway -- what really counts is what's on the page).

6. Lastly (and this may be the most important advice of all): BE PROFESSIONAL. Don't be an annoying, pushy jerk. If you're smart, you probably already know the difference. If you're not, I could write a dozen posts about how to conduct yourself as a pro and you wouldn't figure it out. I'm figuring you're smart, so I'll leave it at that.

Beyond that... well, there are always new whistles and bells. There's always some flashy new form of ePromotion, or networking, or whatever. But my advice is to trust in the tried and the true methods -- especially #1 and #2 above. You get your work out there, you act like a professional, you trust in your book, and (as I said above) you wait for the chips to fall where they may.

In other words, when it comes to marketing your first novel there is no magic bullet.

Well, maybe there's one.

Tune in Friday and I'll tell you about it.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

If You Don't Care About Football... can always spend the day reading John Saul's Creature, the most amazing "I can't believe he wrote this straight up" tale of a genetically engineered high school football team going mutant that ever hit the paperback racks back in the booming days of the horror glut. Forget steroids... watch out for these guys (and their evil coach with the unlikely name of Phil Collins!).

Otherwise, you can do what I'm going to do, and watch NFL great Jim Brown make the best grenade-tossing, Nazi-killing run for glory ever seen on the screen in The Dirty Dozen.

Either way, enjoy the day... and enjoy the game if you're a football fan. And go Pittsburgh (my dad was an Ellwood City boy, and he liked the Steelers).

Thursday, February 3, 2011

First Novels and Micro-Runs, Part 2

If you want the whole Slippin' Into Darkness story, click on over to my website and check out my essay, "The Care and Feeding of First Novels." For our purposes here, let's just stick to the short version of the tale -- the limited CD run of Slippin' sold out in just under three weeks, which was a lightning-quick sell-through in the pre-Internet days of 1994.

So what accounted for Slippin's success? There were a few reasons.

First, Rich Chizmar didn't confine Slippin' to the usual small-press audience. Instead, he broadened his sales approach and sold it just the way a New York publisher would. He printed a boatload of ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) and sent them out to mainstream review markets. As a result, we scored great reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, even a handful of major newspapers. That earned a lot of sales -- in fact, Slippin' was already sold out by the time the orders rolled in from major distributors. We could have easily sold double the run, but we didn't have the books. All publishers and writers should have that problem.

Second, in addition to hitting the mainstream review markets, Rich used the Cemetery Dance mailing list, focusing a niche marketing approach aimed at Cemetery Dance/Norm Partridge readers. These days Rich's list is the size of a small European country, but back then it was still in the early growth stages, mostly built from his subscriber list for the magazine. Still, a lot of the orders for Slippin' came to Rich direct from customers, so that cut out the middleman and made it a better deal financially for him. Also, it helped build an audience for both the CD book line and myself. The price was low enough that readers of the magazine took a chance on Slippin', and fortunately for both Rich and myself they liked what they got for their money.

Third, I wrote a pretty good first novel. I like to think so, anyway (and, yes, you can insert a virtual wink right here).

Anyway, that's what we did to sell the book. Fast-forward fifteen years, add in some bells-and-whistles thanks to the Internet, and this is still the basic approach most small publishers are taking now to first novels... only they're a much tougher sell in today's market.

Why? Again, I've got a few reasons.

First, the market is more crowded today than it was in 1994. Like: mucho crowded. For publishers, it's easier to produce a book (or eBook), so more people do. For writer's, it's easier to get published, so more people do. To paraphrase one Southern gentleman: There's a whole lotta shakin' goin' on. To grab a phrase from another... well, you know what Mr. Faulkner had to say about sound and fury signifying nothing. Shake that up in a bag and it doesn't equal an easy sale for anyone. What it equals is a very solid chance that your book will get lost in the shuffle if you don't watch yourself (and your publisher).

Second, many small press publishers have given up on a broad-based sales approach. They ignore the old school review markets; some don't even issue ARCs. Instead, they focus on the niche approach to sales, aiming at the small pond of horror collectors and readers. Which is fine in some respects -- hey, it's great to have an audience of rabid readers. On the other hand, when you take this approach in publishing a first novel the phrase "preaching to the choir" comes to mind. That's one reason I don't like it. The way I see it you don't want your first novel locked up with the usual suspects; instead, you want to give it the best chance possible to expand your audience and your career horizons. That's not going to happen with a publisher who only wants to print a hundred copies of your book and sell it to the same hundred folks who've bought all his other books. Or, as my first generation Weird Tales reading granddad might have said: "Publishing a hundred copies of a horror novel is like serving up seafood to the Royal Order of Dagon, and it's a lead-pipe cinch that those boys have already eaten a whole helluva lot of squid."

Third: Forget mining a niche market for customers, we're now entering the realm of the micro-run limited and what I like to think of as "stranglehold publishing." This the land of small print runs and high prices. Some publishers like this approach because 1) they won't get stuck with extra copies they can't sell, and 2) they hope to fan the collector's market flames and earn themselves a quick pre-publication sell-through (i.e. "I have to buy this now! Stranglehold Press is only publishing 100 copies! I don't care if it cost me two weeks' groceries! I'm sure I'll be able to sell this puppy on eBay for big bucks in five years!"). This means Stranglehold Press will publish runs as low as 100 - 150 copies, which (you guessed it) instantly jacks up the cover price into the $60.00 - $75.00 range (and that's the low end). Forget the author signature and production values, that's a lot of money to shell out for a first novel -- even one by a writer who looks like a comer. And even if you're an established writer, doing a short-run limited can be a gamble. After all, your fan base may resent it if a collectible edition has a limitation so low that it prevents a good portion of them from buying one of your books. But if you're a first novelist, you're a couple miles down the road and across the state line from that kind of problem. What you need now is readers, not collectors, and I can almost guarantee that Joe Average Horror Fan isn't going to take a chance on your novel if it's wearing a $75.00 price tag... unless he's also your cousin or something. Add that to my comments about seafood and the Royal Order of Dagon above, and you'll see why you should avoid a micro-run on your first novel if you possibly can.

Remember: As a first novelist you're after readers, not collectors.

Plus: You want to give your book the best chance possible to do you some good.

Next Wednesday, I'll have some tips about how you can do just that.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

First Novels and Micro-Runs, Part 1

As I mentioned last week, I get email from young writers looking for advice. Some of them have even done their homework. Meaning, they know that back in 1994 I published my first novel, Slippin' Into Darkness, in the small press with a fairly new outfit called Cemetery Dance.

Of course, I was a pretty new writer back then, too. By '94, I'd been publishing short fiction for five years, with my first story appearing in a magazine called (you guessed it) Cemetery Dance. CD publisher Richard Chizmar and I had built our resumes on parallel tracks, Rich moving from doing a dot-matrix magazine to slick hardcovers by the likes of Joe R. Lansdale and Ed Gorman, me graduating from publishing my stories in small press magazines to cracking anthologies out of New York and scoring a few sales to Year's Best compilations while I was at it.

For me, the next step on the ladder was publishing a novel. For Rich, the next step was publishing a book that wasn't a reprint, and he had his eye on a few young guns he'd been working with looking for an original project. (And just so you know -- I had already taken my own advice from last week's entry and tried to market Slippin' in New York; I had more than a few rejections from agents and publishers; most of them mystified concerning the prospects of marketing a very dark novel that mixed noir and horror. I'm sure on his side of the fence, Rich had been trying to get an original novel from an established name, which would have been a surer thing for him -- at that point, he probably just couldn't quite afford it yet. So it was time for both of us to do a little thinking outside the box.)

Anyway, doing Slippin' Into Darkness with CD seemed like a natural. Rich liked the novel a lot -- it was exactly the kind of "dark suspense" story his magazine was becoming known for. Plus, CD had already built a solid mailing list of customers (in those pre-internet days), and a lot of folks who followed Cemetery Dance followed me, too -- my stories made regular appearances in the mag and were popular. We figured we had a good shot at selling out a limited run, which in those days meant doing 500 copies. Doing a run that size, Rich figured we could keep the price at $35.00 for a slipcased hardcover, plus toss in some extras -- the book would be signed by myself and artist Alan Clark, who'd also do interior illustrations. Not a bad deal, even in those days.

Of course, we both had our worries. Rich had to front the production and printing bills -- not a small investment, and a risk considering I was a first novelist who hadn't proven myself in the limited market. From my side of the fence, I had to worry that the limited market would put a straight jacket on my novel -- no one would notice it outside the small pond of horror fans, and (if those fans didn't like it) it could easily tank... meaning I'd probably have a much harder time selling my second novel than I had selling my first.

So, going in it was a toss-up. There were more than a few unknowns, but we did our best to make sure we'd have at least a shot of making Slippin' work for both of us. Of course, we had to hold our collective breath a little bit, too... which is what I'm going to ask you to do right now. But tune in tomorrow, and I'll let you know how we made Slippin' Into Darkness work, and how we sold out the print run in just under three weeks.

I'll also let you know why you probably won't see something like that happen today.

Best of The Green Hornet

Next to the original Wild Wild West, The Green Hornet was probably my favorite TV show as a kid. It didn't last long, but boy did it make an impression on yours truly. As with Walt Disney's Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, I loved the fact that Van Williams' Hornet played the bad guy to do good... and it didn't hurt that a young actor named Bruce Lee was along for the ride as his sidekick, Kato.

Several years ago, Hollywood churned out a misguided Wild Wild West movie. I doubt anyone much remembers it now. Anyway, I avoided it like the plague. Nothing against Will Smith -- who I thought was great in I Am Legend -- but there was only one James West for me, and only one Artemus Gordon. So I stuck with Robert Conrad and Ross Martin when that movie came out, and I'm sticking to Van Williams and Bruce Lee at present. To tell the truth, I haven't even seen the trailer for the new Green Hornet movie. I'm avoiding that the same way I'd avoid a bucket of smallpox. If other folks enjoy the movie, fine. For me, I just don't want it messing up the memory of a show I really loved.

Recently, I had the chance to reconnect with the original episodes. That was great fun for me, and my opinion hasn't changed about the series... or about the episodes where the Hornet plays the stone-cold badguy to get those who've done wrong. Lately the series has turned up on SyFy for a couple of marathons, and you may be able to catch it that way. Or, like me, you can join the long-suffering crowd waiting for a spiffed-up off boxed DVD set from official sources, and (as the Hornet would probably do) gaffle your action and enjoy 'em where you can find 'em in the meantime.

And while I'm at it, here are six of my favorite episodes. Watch for 'em!

BAD BET ON A 459 -- SILENT: Crooked cops plug the Hornet; he's in bad shape. He and Kato have to fake a hit on newspaper editor Britt Reid (the Hornet's secret identity) to cover up the gunshot, then catch the bad guys while the Hornet's bleeding like a stuck pig! Probably my favorite episode, and the scene where Kato appears with a pistol in the offices of the Daily Sentinel is definitely a series high point.

THE RAY IS FOR KILLING: For my money, this is the best episode featuring the Black Beauty. It pits the Hornet's rolling arsenal against a laser beam. Lucky for the Hornet, the Sentinel's science editor is up on the latest NASA technology... it ain't quite bug repellent, but rather a kind of Laser Beam Off backed by throwaway science so flimsy you'd only buy if you were nine when you saw this episode. Which I was. In fact, I still remember sitting there as a kid with my jaw hanging in my lap as the Hornet and Kato raced into the storm drains under LA with the Black Beauty smoking, its hood melting... and a fistful of bad guys dead ahead behind a murderous laser beam, all of it playing out in living 26" Magnavox color with Al Hirt's great Hornet theme song blaring across a tinny speaker the size of a teacup.

TROUBLE FOR PRINCE CHARMING: This episode moves like a bullet -- a fun story with a little bit of a sixties Princess Grace riff going on and the usual court intrigue double-crosses. In short, it's an episode with a lot of kick... and the last two by Lee are definitely one his best moments in the series.

THE HUNTERS AND THE HUNTED: Native spears, poison darts, jungle snares... the baddest big game hunters ever outfitted by Banana Republic are after the biggest game of all -- the Green Hornet and Kato. Yep, it's "The Most Dangerous Game" in less than thirty minutes... with the best Fred Flintstone wannabe gangster ever along for the ride!

THE PREYING MANTIS: The famous martial arts episode. Kato vs. Mako in a Chinatown rumble! Kato's darts! Iron fans! Three-section staffs! The Hornet calls out Mako with an old school smackdown that puts a nail in the all the talk, and then Kato steps in and goes to work as only Bruce Lee can.

INVASION FROM OUTER SPACE: Cheeziest episode EVER, but fun. Watch out for Jiffy Pop aliens, especially if they're after an H-Bomb!