Saturday, May 28, 2011

War Comics for Memorial Day

(This is Memorial Weekend in the US, a time where we remember all the real life heroes that have secured our freedom and liberty. I know our non-US readers have similar holidays. As such, I'm reprinting a review I did about one of my favorite comic book anthologies. As a kid, I loved war comics. It was only when I grew up and became a historian that I learned the true nature of war. My generation never had to discover the answer to the question "What would I do if I went to war?" Previous generations--and the current generation--answered that question. Because they went, I can live the life I do. Because they found the answer, I am free. And to them, I give my heartfelt and eternal thanks.)

Flash: World War II lasts forty years! The war ends in a whimper in the 1980s!

Those headlines are not true, of course, but you could believe it if you only read the war-related titles from DC Comics. And some of the finest are collected in 1979’s “America At War: The Best of DC War Comics,” edited by Michael Uslan. What’s ironic is that this anthology emerged at the twilight of the great war comics. Just a few years after its publication, the comics this anthology touts would fade to memory.

Uslan offers a nice introduction giving a brief history of war comics from DC. He points out that in 1939, DC published a new book, All-American Comics, that featured Hop Harrigan, America’s Ace of the Airway and Red, White, and Blue. What’s fascinating is that the cover and lead story featured the original Green Lantern. The editors at DC didn’t know if the books would sell if outright war characters graced the covers. They soon found their answer. Harrigan became an instant hit, eventually spawning his own radio show.

Even in the early years of World War II when America was not at war, we knew who the enemies were: the Germans and the Japanese. And the stories and featured characters—Blackhawk, The Boy Commandos, etc.—started fighting America’s true enemies rather than spies on the home front. But after V-J and V-E day, in real life, our soldiers returned home. In the comics world, they kept fighting. And, in 1952, DC issued its first all-war title, Our Army at War. Its success spawned more and more, eventually giving birth to Sgt. Rock of Easy Company, Gravedigger, The Haunted Tank, and the Unknown Soldier. Even through the divisive Vietnam years, war comics thrived mainly, I think, because they focused on the “good war” of WWII and, occasionally, Korea.

Uslan highlights many of these characters in his nice anthology. He makes his apologies in the forward stating that he’d selected nearly 600 pages of war comics that he had to edit down to 250. That must have been agonizing. As such, we get mere tastes of these titles and characters, enough to whet our appetite and cause those who like this material to seek out and find old issues or reprint editions.

The book is divided into decades, starting with the 1940s and ending in the 1970s. The 1940s offerings showcase Blackhawk and his origin story (he was a crack pilot who was shot down over Poland only to discover his family had perished), the Boy Commandos (created by Jack Kirby), Hop Harrigan, and a couple of Superman stories. The funniest piece here is the day Superman failed his Army physical. Originally published as a newspaper comic strip, Clark Kent is the perfect candidate for a soldier except he flubs his eye test. You see, his X-Ray vision caused him to read the chart in the next room, not the room in which he currently stood. Humorous. Later the same year (1943), however, in the comic book version of Superman, Kent goes undercover in the Army Air Force to dispel the rumor that the training program is too timid. It’s subtle propaganda but propaganda nonetheless.

The 1950s is where the real action begins. And there was no hero larger in DC war comics than Sgt. Rock. Uslan doesn’t include Rock’s first appearance. Rather, he includes the first time artist Joe Kubert illustrated one of Rock’s stories. Kubert is one of the best artists out there and his take on Rock and other war comics are all but definitive. In this issue, a new member joins Easy Co. and questions why Rock is called “Rock.” One answer is this: “’Cause that what he is. ‘Cause when the goin’ gets so rugged that only a rock could stand, he stands.” On a different level is Gunner and Sarge in the Pacific. This story has Gunner temporarily blinded and, with the help of a “seeing eye dog,” takes out a tank and saves Sarge. We jump back to Europe and follow an adventure with Mademoiselle Marie of the French Resistance. It’s during the 1950s where my favorite war-comic illustrated word—the words like “Pow” and “Bang” to denote some action—comes into its own: “Budda budda” is the written method to characterize machine gun fire. Heck, I still make that sound.

The stories from the 1960s demonstrate a wider range of creativity and, frankly, bizarreness. Uslan includes the first Haunted Tank story. In this one, the ghost of Confederate general J.E.B. Stuart watches over a light tank commanded by one of his descendants, Jeb Stuart. At key moments in his battles, the ghost Stuart renders aid to the tank commander Stuart, usually with a happy ending. The key is that Jeb Stuart is the only one who can hear the ghost. Enemy Ace does a 180-degree turn, spotlighting a World War I German flying ace instead of the usual American characters. “What the Color of Your Blood” is a 1965 Sgt. Rock tale that speaks to the civil rights movement of the time. Having been captured by Nazis, a black American soldier fights a white Nazi with the Nazi trying to force Jackie (Robinson?) to say that his blood was black. Only in the end, when Jackie offers his own blood in a transfusion to save the German’s life does the Nazi man see the color of Jackie’s blood. Uslan includes one story from the 1960s—where a PT boat comes face to face with dinosaurs (yeah, really)—that would eventually become Weird War Tales. We get one Vietnam-era story from 1966 before the nature of the war changed. It’s a straight-up tale featuring Capt. Hunter.

Tellingly, there is a break in the chronology from 1966 to 1971, the height of the Vietnam-era protests. Uslan’s first 1970s story is “The Glory Boys,” a Civil War-era story that speaks directly at the less-heroic and tragic nature of war. By 1971, the horrific stories to emerge from Vietnam—My Lai, the mentality that our soldiers had to destroy the town to save it—spilled into Sgt. Rock stories. In “Head Count,” a soldier named Johnny Doe loves to kill, and forces Rock to an agonizing choice. The last panel includes two things. A closing quote from Rock and a little seal that states “Make war no more.” Rock’s last line of dialogue echoes the sentiments of that seal: “Was Johnny Doe a murderer—or a hero? That’s one question each of you will have to decide for yourselves.” Lastly, Uslan includes one of the best war titles from DC, an Unknown Soldier story. An American soldier, whose face is so severely burned that he goes around with bandages on his head, becomes an indispensable spy specializing in disguise and stealth. In “8,000 to One,” the Unknown Soldier infiltrates the Gestapo in order to sabotage the Nazi plans to transport 8,000 Jews to a concentration camp. The Unknown Soldier must confront the inequities of war that force men to choose one life over another.

As I mentioned earlier, in the 1980s, the war comics just withered and died. The last issue of the Unknown Soldier hit the newsstands in October 1982. The following summer, Weird War Tales—which showcased one of the coolest creations in the 1980s, the Creature Commandos (think Frankenstein, Dracula, a werewolf, and a robot fighting the Nazis)—ceased publication. G.I. Combat, the only war title to get DC’s Dollar-sized issue treatment, lasted until March 1987. As you would expect, Sgt. Rock outlasted them all until, in July 1988, he, too, faded into history.

The irony in the death of war comics is that they died when new found realism invaded the superhero comics. With The Dark Knight Returns (1986), Watchmen (1986-87), and others, comics and graphic novels became less the entertainment of the young and more an art form equal to novels. This type of medium would seem to have been a suitable outlet for more adult war stories. You could have even tagged the books with a “Intended for Mature Audiences” label like the one-off issue of Weird War Tales in 1998. And, yet, it hasn’t come to pass. I just wonder why it happened.

In recent years, Sgt. Rock, Blackhawk, Enemy Ace, the Unknown Soldier, and others are getting the archive treatment from DC so we’ll have nice hardbound versions to keep and re-read. But if you want a nice anthology that you can dip into and read a little bit of everything, you can’t go wrong with Michael Uslan’s “America at War.”

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Spirit of Fuck That

By Charlie Williams

I am writing this on my way home from my New York BEA trip. That may sound vaguely jet-setting, until you hear that I am on the final leg - sat on a dirty train in the West Midlands. The fact is, I forgot about this guest blog slot until now. Yes, it was me who suggested doing it and yes, I should think myself lucky that Russell agreed to step aside for the day. But hey, I'm putting my hands up. What with this and that and the exertions and diversions of travel, and the fact that I was reading Jack Ketchum's OFF SEASON (signed by the man
himself only a couple of days ago - yay!) on the plane, DSD just slipped my mind. But here I am, flagging and jet-lagging and feeling kind of trippy with sleep deprivation, but still writing this.

Is that dedication to the cause or what?

Actually, no, I don't think it is. When I was standing on the station platform back there and I remembered that DSD was depending on me (sort of), it wasn’t some kind of sense of noir duty that made me root my laptop out of my luggage, it was more the whiff of a challenge. Don’t be stupid, I could hear my sensible side saying. You’re exhausted. You haven’t even thought of what you could write. You’re in the Birmingham New Street Station, FFS – the spiritual home of non-inspiration. Face it, Charlie, whatever you come up with for DSD is going to be SHITE. So do the honest thing: tell Russell you can’t possibly do it, then go to bed. OK, Sensible Side, you’ve said your piece. Very eloquent, etc. But do you know what I say?

Fuck that.

You heard that right, people. And before you go and defend Captain Sensible, remember this: it was him who tried to

Tell those NASA guys that flying to the moon would be far too dangerous, that they should employ this guy called Kubrick to stage the whole thing instead. It was Capt. Sensible who said to a beleaguered Winston Churchill, “Nice speech, Winst. Not bad for a first draft. But take my advice – leave out the bit about
fighting them on the beaches, eh? You know what Brits are like - one sight of sand and they’ll be pissed out of their minds, sunburnt to fuck and dancing to Agadoo.” It was Capt. Sensible who tried to dissuade Scott when he struck out for the North Pole. And was he right?

OK, so maybe he had a point with Scott, but not in the other cases. No! You know where we’d be if NASA and Churchill had heeded his words? Living in a global Nazi state, that’s where. And with ZERO lunar colonies. Wait...

The Spirit of Fuck That says I’m not going to listen your words of caution. It says I’m going to go ahead and implement this ostensibly insane idea anyway, because it’s my idea and not yours and it excites me. The Spirit of Fuck That gives Capt. Sensible the finger and says watch me, el Sensio. Watch me pull it off.

I’m going off on one here. What I was trying to say, in my unfocused way, was that every writer worth any amount of salt needs to have a bit of that spirit. I don’t like trashing the genre I love, but I’m going to come right out and say that 80% of it is shit. 80%? I’m being optimistic, right? The crime shelves of our bookshops (the ones I go into anyway) are groaning with stuff that often sells well but is just plain bland. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m just the crabby guy who is always looking for what isn’t there any more – something brilliant that will startle me with its style and disposition, while powering me through a story of such noirness that I feel like I’m on a shopping trolley in the Express aisle through hell. I’m imagining the kind of impact that Jim Thompson had on readers who had their eyes open back in the day. Or the outrage that Erskine Caldwell kicked up with Tobacco Road and The Bastard. Both those guys were masters of their craft, but they also had the balls to plough right on
through when they hit the bits that another writer would step back from. And I know I’m not looking for something that’s gone, because every now and then I’ll see it. Commercial success or no, people can still make an impact on this genre. And those people have the Spirit of Fuck That.

Train ride over. I’m home. Time to get my head down.

And rant in my sleep.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Price Wars or Why My Book Costs 99 Cents

Damn it. I'm wading back into the Kindle argument again.

I wasn't going to talk about this, but I've seen it a lot on Twitter in the past few weeks, so I figured--since I have stake in this, I might as well make my thoughts known.

Basically it's the new price war for authors who are putting their books up on Kindle. Do you want to go 2.99 or .99?

Now the argument I've seen from people sort of in the publishing world on Twitter is: You need to value your work. Price it at 2.99, because it's worth at least that. By pricing your book at any less than 2.99, you are devaluing your work. You're showing the world you're not proud of it and you're not confident in it.

I think that's what they're saying.

Here's where I disagree. Supply and demand. And what I want to get out of having my books up on the Kindle.

There is a major influx of writers sticking their books up on Kindle. They're trying to get find readers. And, guess what? A lot of them are posting their books for .99 cents.

I want to find an audience. I want to find readers. That's my first goal. To get readers.

So, I'm going to keep my book posted at 99 cents. For a while the book was the number 1 New Release for Hard Boiled Kindle Books. I was really happy about that. More readers.

So, in my opinion, I'd rather price my book at .99 and reach AS MANY PEOPLE as possible while at the same time making some money--not a lot, but enough to buy some beer. Maybe fill my gas tank.

I'm not looking to get rich quick.

But the feedback I've gotten. That's been awesome. I'm getting readers again. I've heard from people who've said they were going to pick up my other two novels because they liked WITNESS TO DEATH so much. And those are priced at 9.99. I have 8 wonderful reviews online and more in my email box.

Think of me like a drug dealer. First one's... almost... free. Check it out.

Then see if you want to check out the others.

That's why I price my book at .99. I want readers. I want people to enjoy my work. If enough people do, I'll be very happy.

And I'll probably pull in some cash too. But my side of the story isn't as much about money. It's about finding people to read the books. If people keep finding my stuff, the money'll come.

Feel free to disagree in the comments.



On your Kindle US.

On your Nook.

Or your Kindle UK.

But if you like those... then give the rest a shot.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


John McFetridge

It means, “the erection of hairs on the skin due to cold, fear or excitement,” according to the dictionary feature of my iPad. I had to look it up as I was reading Stephen King’s Under the Dome . At first it seemed odd that I’d have to look up a fancy word for goosebumps in a Stephen King novel, usually he’s a master at getting across so much with the use of simple, everyday words, but after reading forty or fifty novels of his I don’t mind interrupting one for a trip to the dictionary. I know I’ll be right back to the book.

Most people I know have a Stephen King story about how they were affected by his books. Here’s mine.

It was the late 70’s and I was working as a night shift security guard in an office building in downtown Calgary. There were so many construction cranes in Calgary then people called them the official city bird. Almost everyday someone said, “This will be a great city when it’s finished.” The place was in such a hurry that the office building I worked in wasn’t even finished, half of the fourteen stories were still under construction, but the other half were already in use.

All I had to do was sit in the lobby from 11:00 pm to 7:00 am. I had a little desk, a chair and a phone. I guess if someone smashed the windows looking out onto 4th Street S.W. I was supposed to phone someone. And once a night I had to do my rounds; ride the elevator to the top floor, look around and then walk down the stairs, stopping to take a look around on each floor. Simple enough, and even kind of fun. The top couple of floors were finished and I could sit behind the big desk of what I figured must have been the president of the company and look out to the great view of the city and the Rocky Mountains to the west. I really liked the view of the city because there were so many buildings under construction that looked like giant skeletons of buildings. You could see right through one to another.

And the floors that were still under construction were just huge empty rooms with wires coming out of the ceiling and tools and equipment strewn on the floor wherever the workers seemed to drop them at the end of their shifts.

So, of course, for most of the night I just sat at my little desk in the lobby and read books.

One night I started to read The Stand.

A car crashes at a gas station in rural Texas and before I knew it there I was with Larry Underwood crawling over dead bodies and crashed cars trying to make it through the Lincoln Tunnel in the dark.

By the time I took my first look up out of the book it was a couple hours past the time I was supposed to do my rounds so I rushed to the elevator, rode to the top floor, walked down the hall, saw my reflection in the window, freaked out, ran back to the elevator in a panic and got in. But I didn’t push a button so the elevator didn’t move. Then, you know, I laughed at how silly I was for being so scared and pushed the button to open the door and walked back out onto the empty fourteenth floor.

But then I decided the fourteenth floor was probably just fine, and certainly the thirteenth was, too, so I went to the elevator and rode down to the twelfth floor where the elevator doors opened and I stepped out into the shadows of the dark unfinished room – wires hanging form the ceiling, tools scattered on the floor, some kind of scaffolding – and all around the outside walls the windows looked out on a city that had clearly been destroyed. The buildings all looked bombed out, skeletons of buildings, the streets were empty, no cars, no people, nothing.

And there were no sounds, the whole place was silent; the twelfth floor, the building, the city – for all I knew the whole world. I was in the middle of The Stand.

Holy crap, talk about horripiliation – all over my goddam body.

Then behind me the elevator door closed.

And let’s just say I took the stairs back to the lobby. In a bit of a hurry.

I grabbed The Stand and slammed it into the desk drawer and swore I’d never to look at it again.

Of course, a few minutes later I just had to get the book out and start reading it again. I had to know what happened next.

But I never did do rounds of the building again. I got fired a few months later for letting a homeless guy sleep on the couch of the company on the third floor and forgetting about him when I left in the morning, but that’s a different story.

What’s your Stephen King story?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

More on Violence in Crime Fiction

Jay Stringer's computer hates him, so we're going with an ENCORE EDITION -- this one playing off Steve's post yesterday about Writing Violence.

By Jay Stringer

I wrote a few weeks ago about violence in crime fiction. At the time, I was looking more at the difference, if there is one, between male and female writers. But I want to return to expand on a different point. I like to get into an idea and dig around.

Violence is key to crime fiction. It really is. There are a number of different branches within the crime family, the cosy, the mystery, the crime, the noir, and the yadda yadda. Something that unites them is that they would all have some form of violent act in there, somewhere. And what separates them is how that is dealt with.

It might not be extreme violence, and it may not be on screen, but it’s there. Five minutes before Miss Marple walked into the room and saw the local doctor lying dead on the floor, someone hit the poor quack over the head with a vase.

Something I’ve often found with crime fiction is that too many writers are more interested in the act itself than the consequences.The physical rather than the emotional. I touched on this aspect again a while back when I talked about grief.

I read two books recently that really impressed me with their handling of violence. The first was Hell To Pay by George Pelecanos. There is a lot of violence in and around the edges of that story, but very little of it is really described. There’s a horrific event about halfway through the book, and it is touched upon. But Pelecanos invested much more time into showing the aftermath. We see the funeral; we see the family’s grief. We see the shockwaves that go through the community and then the speed with which modern life forgets. It was an act that we didn’t really need to see, our brains are well capable of detailing it, but what we did need was all that followed. In fact, for those of you who've read the book, think abck to that incident and even as it was happening, Pelecanos took us inside the mind of one of the victims to show us a simple and heartbreaking last wish.

Likewise near the end of the novel the main character stops an act of violence, something that was about to happen ‘off screen’, and this simple moment carried a lot more weight than it might have in the hands of another writer. The character got into the emotions of the scene, and thought through the consequences that would have followed, and intervened.

I find that kind of writing far better than any number of grisly descriptions of murder or autopsy.

The other book I’m thinking of is The Lost Sister by our very own Russel D Mclean. There is a lot of violence in there; we know this because we don’t see it. We see the blood and the pain that follows. We see the weight that the violence leaves behind rather than the weight that went into the punch. Naturally I won’t go into spoilers here, but there was a key scene where something important happened, and rather than show the act Russel chose to show the aftermath. I was really struck by that decision, largely because it showed that sometimes the best thing a writer can do is not write.

It can be far more effective sometimes to leave a scene rather than to explore it.

There’s a camera move in the film Dr No which has always stuck with me. James Bond is about to be beaten up by some of the henchmen, and as they start hitting him the camera drifts away to focus on something else. We hear the violence but we don’t see it. Now, in terms of the film this may have been to do with ratings. But a trick that might have grown out of compromise became one of the most effective parts of the film.

In this month’s issue of Detective comics, written by Greg Rucka, there is another such moment. The scene shifts from the usual third person P.O.V to first person, so that the reader is seeing things through the eyes of the main character as she and her family are kidnapped. The thing is, the main character has a bag over her head, so all we can ‘see’ is the sound of her mother and sister begging for their lives. We hear, rather than see, the violence. We feel the lump at the pit of our stomach as her family fall silent following gunshots, and then we are left with the mess as the bag is pulled from our eyes.

Rucka, and the artist J.H.Williams could have chosen to show the act in graphic detail. But they decided that showing the aftermath would have a far bigger impact, and it does.

And so it is with crime fiction. Do I need a detailed description of a woman being raped, or the places a snake can be fitted into? Do I need to see or read an autopsy, the cold clinical examination of a corpse or a victim? Do I need to know what sound a madman makes as he kills someone? Nope.

I need to know what the affect is. I need to know what makes this act of violence important, and that is measured by the wake that it leaves.

And so that’s where I find myself as both a writer and a reader. Don’t try and impress me with your hyper-violence. I don’t care if you can blow something up in slow motion, describe the trajectory of a bullet, or prove to me that you’ve done a ton of research on anatomy.
I just want to know that you understand the emotions behind what you’re doing. And I want to see how people deal with the mess that’s left behind.

The most important lesson I’ve learned from all of this as a writer is that sometimes what you don’t write is far more important.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Writing Violence

By Steve Weddle

Exciting. Necessary. Tense.

A good fight scene in crime fiction is tough to beat. One guy takes a swing, the other ducks. A fist full of rolled up quarters into the Adam's apple. A knee to the chin. The tearing sound a jaw makes in novels.

I was working on a story recently in which the main character finds a couple of jackasses logging on his grandmother's property. I don't know how it is where you're from, but around my neck of the woods that's liable to get you killed. Of course, dudes with chainsaws tend to think they're pretty tough. Here's where I was:

“No problem, pal. Mind telling me who the fuck you think you are?” He ripped the chainsaw chord and it smoked and squealed in that high-pitched sound you get when you cross a motorcycle with a farm pig.
He walked towards me and I turned back to my truck. He laughed, said “That’s what I thought, faggot.” Then the other guy laughed. Then I reached under the tarp in the bed of my truck and pulled out an axe handle.
“Just so there’s no confusion,” I said, “that was me being nice a minute ago.”
The guy with the chainsaw took too long closing the ground between us, so I stepped his way. I didn’t have a whole lot of experience fighting against chainsaws, but it looked damned heavy to try to move around like he was doing. He lifted it about shoulder-high coming at me and I spun around like I was winding up to send one over the fence. Then I popped his right knee with the axe handle. He went down and the chainsaw didn’t kill either one of us, just fell blade-up, then flopped away like a headless chicken. He yelled at me and I’d gone from being gay to being a mother fucker. Didn’t need him biting my ankles as his pal came towards me, so I put a steel toe into his mouth and felt his teeth slide up into his head.
The other guy pulled a little pop gun from his back pocket. I stepped in close, held his gun arm under my armpit and put the back of my head up through his jaw. I pushed him down and pulled his arm out of socket. Then I put my heel on his shoulder and spun his arm around in the socket until he got tired of kicking


That was fun. I've never been attacked with a chainsaw, but I'm fairly convinced it would make an awkward melee weapon. Sure, it's loud and scary and all, but it's designed for a set purpose and is weighted in a certain way. If you've never worked a chainsaw, you might not know what I'm talking about. But it doesn't provide for mobility or flexibility. I'm not talking about the kind you need an extension cord for so that you can trim off a couple of limbs in back yard, thereby protecting your satellite dish before the oncoming ice storm. I'm talkin them big, heavy frackers real mean and women use to destroy a forest, er, make money for a landowner.

Of course, I'm sure you can write scenes in which chainsaws are great brawling weapons. Only takes one well places spin of the chain to turn a fighter into flank steak.

But here we're talking an all-out onslaught on the senses. No Holds Barred. Throat punches and ice picks to the eyeballs.

Which is just the idea Benjamin Percy and Aaron Gwyn take up in the recent POETS AMPERSAND WRITERS magazine. Their stated thesis (hello, ENGL 101 students) is this: "While explicit cruelty has its place in literature, violence may be more cunningly crafted by allowing the reader to wander into the dark corners of his own mind."

They make particular use of Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find" in which the bad guy takes people off in the darkness to kill them. Joyce Carol Oates. Cormac McCarthy.

The article contrasts the work of those writers with authors such as Chuck Palahniuk and Brett Easton Ellis -- "a special kind of CGI meant to sour your stomach." A Michael Bay film in which those experiencing the story say "What great special effects...marveling at the way computers can create the illusion of a casino exploding."

Their article is pertinent and persuasive, shining a light on the type of books I've been reading, the stories I've been telling.

I'd encourage you to track down the May/June issue of the magazine for that article alone. (Also a nice article on writing contests in there.)

The idea Percy and Gwyn really do a nice job kicking around is whether violence works better in the story when the author fills the page with blood or lets the reader imagine the violence, moving the overt horror from the ink on the page to the reader's own imagined darkness?

So what do you think? Does overt violence in a book add or take away from the story? Do you enjoy reading a good fight scene? Is a knuckle-buster in Bucksnort, TN bar just special effects? Would some stories have been better off with the violence left off the page? Would some have been better with more overt violence on the page, more choreographed fights?

And, in case anyone gives a damn, here's how I'd revised the logging story. Nice when you decide to go one way and then read an article making an article in your favor.

“You lost, pal?” he asked me. The other one leaned his elbow out of his truck’s window and looked back my way.
“No,” I said. “Mind telling me who gave you permission to cut back here?”
“No problem, pal. Mind telling me who the fuck you think you are?” He ripped the chainsaw chord and it smoked and squealed in that high-pitched sound you get when you cross a motorcycle with a farm pig.
He walked towards me and I turned back to my truck. He laughed, said “That’s what I thought, faggot.” Then the other guy laughed.
“Just so there’s no confusion,” I said, pulling an axe handle from under the tarp in my truck bed. “That was me being nice a minute ago.”
At the church's homecoming picnic the next day, I walked to the end of the table, put down the tray of deviled eggs, minus the three I’d just swallowed. Then I went to have a chat with the pastor's wife.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

It's the end of the world....or not

by: Joelle Charbonneau

Despite all the hype, the rapture didn’t happen. The world is still spinning. Which mean I have to start thinking about gearing up for my next release.

I find the pre-release process to be both exciting and scary. Last week, I finished proofing the typeset pages of SKATING OVER THE LINE, which was lots of fun. For those who haven’t been through the process, this is the last step in which I the author can make any changes before the publisher waves his magic wand and turns the pages into a real life book. Yippee.

This is only the second time I’ve had to go through this step and each time I held my breath hoping to God I’d still like the book after I was done reading it. So far, so good. Although, I am well and truly baffled as to how so many typos that weren’t in my word document version of the book (I know this because I am anal enough to go back and look) ended up in the typeset version. Something tells me this mystery is a lot like the sock going missing in the dryer and will never be solved.

Now that the pages have been proofed and the corrections sent back to my publisher, it is time for me to start working on pre-release publicity and all that entails. EEEK! So, I now am embarking on setting up a blog tour, getting copy ready for some advertising opportunities and scheduling signings and conference appearances. (Now do you see why the end of the world was looking so attractive?)

So, I am now asking for your help. Tell me – what are your favorite blogs to read about new books? Do giveaways and other novelties draw your attention? Do short stories in magazines grab your notice and make you want to pick up the author’s longer fiction? In short – tell me what you think I should be doing to get the word out about my books. And if the rapture folks got the date wrong for the end of the world and it ends before I respond to your comment – thanks for the help! I really appreciate it.