Friday, April 29, 2011

A Dark Harvest at Seton Catholic Central High (Part 2)

I'm back with a few more questions about Dark Harvest from Kevin Lucia's Creative Writing students... and thanks to Victoria for the Sawtooth Jack sketch!

Dominick: Is there a direct connection between the October Boy and the candy (stuffed in his guts and pumpkin head)?

Sawtooth Jack is the walking, talking embodiment of Halloween, so I guess the answer to that question is yes. Plus, I'm a third-generation Californian, so a little Mexican influence crept in. In other words, I remember swinging at plenty of pinatas as a kid. Only this pinata is alive... and the October Boy is just as dangerous as those who are stalking him with baseball bats and pitchforks on the night of the Run.

Clarissa: What inspired you to write this story?

Dark Harvest started out as a Halloween present for my wife (writer Tia V. Travis). I thought I'd surprise her with a short story for the holiday. But as soon as I wrote the first few scenes, I knew I had a novel on my hands. And that means it took a little while for Tia to get her present, but I think she'd say it was worth the wait (and, yep, you can insert a virtual wink right ).

Pat: Did an editor/publisher ask you to change any part of the story?

No. One of the great things about working with Richard Chizmar at Cemetery Dance is that he gave me the keys to the car and didn't ask for them back. Rich and I have a long-standing relationship -- he published my first short story in '89 -- and he let me crank up the story and drive it my way. Dark Harvest hit the page just as I wrote it. When Tor picked up the novel for paperback, things were the same way... so it was a great experience for me all around.

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That's it for today's segment. We'll take a little break this weekend, then check in next week for a few more questions.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Dark Harvest at Seton Catholic Central High (Part 1)

Kevin Lucia's Creative Writing Class at Seton Catholic Central High School in Binghamton, New York recently finished reading Dark Harvest, and the students shot me a few questions about the novel:

Mariah: Where did you get the idea for the unique structure and changes in POV in Dark Harvest?

The initial spark came from the campfire stories I loved as a kid -- tales of ghosts, vanishing hitchhikers, and hook-handed killers who prowled places that always seemed to be right around the corner... or just down the road. My dad told stories like that, and so did my brother and some of the older kids in the neighborhood. I've always remembered the immediacy of those tales, and how they captivated me on the summer nights when I first heard them. That's what I was aiming for in the opening sections of Dark Harvest. I wanted to grab the reader and pull them into the world I'd created the same way those stories grabbed me when I was a kid.

Once I had the reader, I used some other tricks to move the story along and move it from character to character. Some of the techniques came from film -- there are several tracking shots in the book, and those were a lot of fun to write. The one that carries the reader out of town on an October wind, past Rod Serling in the cornstalks and on toward the October Boy and the gang of teenage hoods stalking him was just a blast. I don't think I've ever had as much fun putting words on a page as I did writing that section of Dark Harvest.

Marieke: Did it take long to work it (structure/POV) out?

Some sections were easy, others were hard. The trickiest one was a little dance between the POV of Dan Shepard and all the fathers who'd come before him who'd sent sons out on the Run. The reader becomes a character in that section as well, so it was a challenge to write.

Pat, John, Marieke: Why black licorice streets?

Just a little Halloween poetry there... and a tip of the hat to a favorite writer of mine (Ray Bradbury).

Marieke: Did you intentionally use so many metaphors?

Yes. My aim was to provide a rhythm for the story, and for the voice I wanted the reader to hear in his or her head. It was also my way of painting a distinct picture of the town and the people in it. I wanted those metaphors to spark images in the reader's mind that were just a little bit different, images that (hopefully) would stick with them and (in some cases) grow stronger with repetition as the story moved forward.

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That's it for today. Next up, more questions concerning inspiration, motivation, and the October Boy himself.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Fight of the Century

Day off (actually: night off) from the joe job today. Was sitting on the couch reading a newish book about the first Frazier/Ali fight. Tia came in. Saw me sitting there. Said: "You know, it's not going to turn out any different this time."

I had to laugh. Always good to have a reality check handy (I'm still going to read the book, though: The Fight of the Century by Michael Arkush).

P.S. Just so you know -- In a world of Ali fans, I'm still a Joe Frazier Man. Smokin' Joe. He did his talking in the ring.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Three for Three, Part Deux

Thanks for the emails on my Year's Best three-for-three with "Lesser Demons." So far the only horror 3-fer a reader has identified is my buddy Laird Barron's "Proboscis," which made it into two horror Year's Bests and one for fantasy. So, not quite a strictly horror 3-fer... but, hey, always great to be shoulder-to-shoulder with Laird, and "Proboscis" is an outstanding piece of work.

Also, editors Ellen Datlow and Paula Guran emailed with a little history of horror's Best ofs. Here's a chunk from Paula's email (i.e. ring the bell, school's in, sucka):

"Prime did a Horror: The Best of the Year: 2006 (Wallace & Betancourt) and for 2007; Stefan Dziemianowicz was supposed to do 2008, but that didn't ever get published. So there were two years that there were three.

"Otherwise: Year’s Best Horror Stories was done by Gerald W. Page from 1976 to 1979, and Karl Edward Wagner from 1980 to 1994. Ellen's (and Terri & then Gavin & Kelly) Year's Best Fantasy and Horror ran 1988-2008, then her Best Horror of the Year started 2009, so this year is her third. Stephen Jones's Mammoth Book of Best New Horror started 1990 (with Ramsey co-editing first six). SO -- there were at least three or four years those three overlapped.

"Yeah, as Ellen said I think there have been stories that went threesies--maybe more... if you count year's best sf and/or f compilations. Of course I don't consider mine "horror"... it really is dark fantasy, but since I include non-supernatural stuff "horror" is in the title, too. Right now Strahan does The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy; Rich Horton does The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy and, of course, Gardner is still King o' the YBSF. Hartwell & Cramer still do Year's Best SF, and I think they still do YB Fantasy."

Of course, I like Paula's other comment best -- "However you look at it, you are singular." Which I guess puts the rubber stamp to the whole deal (i.e. you can't argue with a lady who's right; not even a little bit).

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Halloween, Edited by Paula Guran

Ace editor Paula Guran came knocking and I dropped a tale ("Three Doors") in her treat bag. P's compiled a great lineup for this forthcoming anthology... and I'm intrigued by the Lovecraft piece. I have no idea what that is.

Edited by Paula Guran.
Prime Books
ISBN: 978-1-60701-283-2
480 pages | trade paperback |$14.95
September 2011

Shivers and spirits . . . the mystical and macabre . . .
our darkest fears and sweetest fantasies . . .
the fun and frivolity of tricks, treats, festivities, and masquerades.

Halloween is a holiday filled with both delight and dread, beloved by youngsters and adults alike.
Celebrate the most magical season of the year with this sensational treasury of seasonal tales—spooky, suspenseful, terrifying, or teasing—harvested from a multitude of master storytellers.

The October Game, Ray Bradbury
Tessellations, Gary Braunbeck
Memories, Peter Crowther
Auntie Elspeth's Halloween Story (or The Gourd, The Bad, And The Ugly), Esther Friesner
Struwwelpeter, Glen Hirshberg
Pranks, Nina Kiriki Hoffman
By the Book, Nancy Holder
The Sticks, Charlee Jacob
Riding Bitch, K.W. Jeter
At the Reef, Caitlin R. Kiernan
Memories of el Dia de los Muertos, Nancy Kilpatrick
The Great Pumpkin Arrives At Last, Sarah Langan
On a Dark October, Joe R. Lansdale
Conversations in a Dead Language, Thomas Ligotti
Universal Soldier, Charles De Lint
Hallowe’en in a Suburb, HP Lovecraft
Pumpkin Night, Gary McMahon
The Halloween Man, William F. Nolan
Monsters, Stewart O'Nan
Three Doors, Norman Partridge
Hornets, Al Sarrantonio
Night Out, Tina Rath
Mask Game, John Shirley
Pork Pie Hat, Peter Straub
Halloween Street & Tricks and Treats, Steve Rasnic Tem
The November Game, F. Paul Wilson
Sugar Skulls, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Friday, April 15, 2011

New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird

I'm pleased to pass on word that "Lesser Demons" will appear in another Lovecraftian anthology, New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird edited by Paula Guran and coming from Prime Books in November. From the description:

“That is not dead which can eternal lie, yet with stranger aeons, even Death may die.”

For more than eighty years H.P. Lovecraft has inspired writers of supernatural fiction, artists, musicians, filmmakers, and gaming. His themes of cosmic indifference, the utter insignificance of humankind, minds invaded by the alien, and the horrors of history — written with a pervasive atmosphere of unexplainable dread — today remain not only viable motifs, but are more relevant than ever as we explore the mysteries of a universe in which our planet is infinitesimal and climatic change is overwhelming it.

In the first decade of the twenty-first century the best supernatural writers no longer imitate Lovecraft, but they are profoundly influenced by the genre and the mythos he created. New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird presents some of the best of this new Lovecraftian fiction — bizarre, subtle, atmospheric, metaphysical, psychological, filled with strange creatures and stranger characters — eldritch, unsettling, evocative, and darkly appealing . . .

“The Crevasse” by Dale Bailey & Nathan Ballingrud
“Old Virginia” by Laird Barron
“Shoggoths in Bloom” by Elizabeth Bear
“Mongoose” by Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette
“The Oram County Whoosit” by Steve Duffy
“Study in Emerald” by Neil Gaiman
“Grinding Rock” by Cody Goodfellow
“Pickman’s Other Model (1929)” by Caitlin Kiernan
“The Disciple” by David Barr Kirtley
“The Vicar of R'lyeh” by Marc Laidlaw
“Mr Gaunt” by John Langan
“Take Me to the River” by Paul McAuley
“The Dude Who Collected Lovecraft” by Nick Mamatas & Tim Pratt
“Details” by China Mieville
“Bringing Helena Back” by Sarah Monette
“Another Fish Story” by Kim Newman
“Lesser Demons” by Norman Partridge
“Cold Water Survival” by Holly Phillips
“Head Music” by Lon Prater
“Bad Sushi” by Cherie Priest
“The Fungal Stain” by W.H. Pugmire
“Tsathoggua” by Michael Shea
“Buried in the Sky” by John Shirley
“Fair Exchange” by Michael Marshall Smith
“The Essayist in the Wilderness” by William Browning Spencer
“A Colder War” by Charles Stross
“The Great White Bed” by Don Webb

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fantasy Book Critic on Vampire Lake

Fantasy Book Critic weighs in on "Vampire Lake," my novella in the forthcoming anthology, Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy 2: "One complaint I had about the first Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy was the anthology's lack of horror. As a result, I was pleased to see Norman Partridge in the new volume. After all, the author is considered a master of dark fiction, and after reading "Vampire Lake," it's easy to see why. Combining horror and fantasy within a gritty Western setting -- think Jonah Hex meets Preacher meets John Carpenter -- Norman Partridge's unapologetically dark, violent and bloody tale about a bounty killer, a blacksmith, a dynamite man, a preacher and a boy who possesses the second sight, and their suicidal quest to reach Vampire Lake and the vampire queen that resides there, is wickedly entertaining. Easily my favorite story in the anthology."

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Three For Three

Not only was my novella "Lesser Demons"the title story in my most recent Subpress collection, it was also published in S. T. Joshi's Lovecraftian anthology (Black Wings) pretty much simultaneously. Now comes the good news that my tale of a monster-hunting sheriff trapped in a (definitely) hostile environment has been chosen for all three of the genre's Best of compilations: Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of the Year, Paula Guran's Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, and Stephen Jones' Mammoth Book of Best New Horror.

Don't know if anyone has ever scored this kind of three-fer with the same story in any given year, with these editors or others who've edited Best of Horror anthologies. When I started out, Ellen and Steve each had a series going, and so did Karl Edward Wagner. Now Paula's the new kid on the block.

Anyway, it seems there have always been two or three different series going. Either way, I'm very pleased with this news... and if anyone knows if this is a landmark, shoot me an email and let me know. Or if other writers have done this with the same story, let me know that, too. I'm all about the esoteric knowledge -- send me some.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper

To the left we've got the classic cover from a favorite paperback of mine: Robert Bloch's Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper. I'm pleased to announce that another book of the same title is coming later this year from Subterranean Press (check out the details here). I had the pleasure of writing the introduction for this one, in which I had a chance to share my own tale of encountering Bloch's signature Ripper story for the first time, plus recount my adventure meeting the man himself years later. That was fun. So is the SubPress Yours Truly collection. This one features all of Bloch's Ripper fiction plus a pair of essays by the man himself. And yep -- it's also got Bloch's classic Star Trek script for "Wolf in the Fold," the Original Series episode in which Scotty is suspected of being a futuristic RedJack. Not to mention that the new collection will have a J. K. Potter cover. All that all adds up to a bucketful of cool, if you ask me.