Columns and Editorials

Column: Macabre Ink

It's been said many, many times in recent years that writers need to learn to embrace the changing world of publishing. I've not really been a proponent of jumping in with both feet in the past, as many of you may remember. I don't believe physical books are going anywhere, but I'm absolutely certain that the dynamics behind them are going to change. I don't believe anyone really has their finger on that pulse yet, so I'm sitting back, carefully trying new things, and waiting.

One thing did occur to me though, and I decided it was time to take a shot at figuring it out before someone else beat me to it. There are a lot of places online where you can download e-books. There are a few, like the Horror Mall, offering short stories, and doing fairly well. tried it with their Amazon Shorts program, but sadly they let that founder—and though I won't get into it, they were less than a pleasure to be involved with. Now they have their Kindle store, and Barnes & Noble has their version. There's Mobipocket with it's own format, the Sony ebook reader—you can even read books on your mobile phone. I'm part of a European experiment in that direction where novels will be available to download from kiosks all over the place onto Iphones and mobile readers.

That's not what I want to talk about. What I want to talk about is Macabre Ink Digital Publishing, and why I started it. It's actually pretty simple, and after thinking about it, it makes me want to crack myself in the head.

The normal plan for authors of short fiction has been a simple one. You write short stories and find a single market for them, or you find a market, and write a story slanted at that market. Once the story has been published in...

The Times, They are a Changing

Every now and then I get the urge to speak my mind. Those of you who read this column are probably aware of this. I’ve talked about books and publishing before, but looking back I think a lot has changed since the last time I did so, so I believe I’ll take a stab at the state of things, as I see it . . .

The economy is in the crapper. There’s no doubt of this, and while it doesn’t seem to stem the flow of Blackberry Storms, iPods, and Macbooks, it has certainly put a crimp in the traditional publishing world. As usual, when things take a nosedive, about a million gurus have popped up with "the solution" and "the revolution," and—also as usual—most of this had led down short roads to nowhere. I am all for innovation, and I can see as well as the next person that publishing is evolving. What irritates me is how most of the "solutions" are just attempts to reinvent the original model in a new format. Instead of finding ways to spread words far and wide, people are still trying to attach the same levels of insular control to the new formats and venues as they did to the old. "E-zines"—rather than having constantly dynamic content that gives people a reason to visit daily try to emulate the monthly and quarterly models of print. (Yes, Brett, even Chizine (lol))—while interactive sites that change daily, like some of the top blogs, get thousands of legitimate hits daily and are great venues for actual advertising dollars.

Devices like the Sony E-reader and The Kindle are revolutionizing digital content. They’ve come a long way from the downloadable e-book. People are buying them and using them. These new devices and formats are, in other words, not going away. This doesn’t mean...

Column: Season of the Storytellers

I love October. It’s my favorite month for a number of reasons. For one thing, my birthday is in October, and though I’m reaching that point in my life where birthdays are losing their “sheen” I still like the notion that I have a spot on the big wheel I can reach up and high-five in passing. It’s also time for Halloween, which brings out the supernatural, spooky dark side of everyone around me. Television shows lean toward dark fantasy and horror; movies like “Zombieland” appear and make me smile. Pumpkins taunt me from roadside stands, waiting to be stabbed and sliced and recreated.

I’m also looking forward to November. November is the famed tumble of words and ideas known worldwide as Nanowrimo —or National Novel Writing Month. Forget for a moment that I participate in this every year, and that I’ve had great luck selling the books I’ve written in November. Forget me—in other words—and look at what this month has come to symbolize. Writers of all stripes are polishing off outlines, purging old stale projects, arranging their schedules, blogging, twittering and talking about writing. Books become more important, if only for a short period of time. Writing a novel is something more people are willing to attempt, and while many of those attempts will stagnate, fail, or produce crap that no one will ever read, it’s an incredibly energizing experience.

Most readers of this column have experienced conventions. When I leave a convention, where I’ve immersed myself for several days and long nights in the thoughts of fellow writers, books I would otherwise have never known about, panels and questions and...

Screaming Mimis

Screaming Mimis by Ian Grey

For me, it started with a blond. A German, muscled and pretty in that hard way you get working in the underground. And make no mistake—metal that isn’t Metallica is a real underground, a place of indigenous rituals, rights and lingo, where selling 25,000 copies world wide is considered a smash hit.

But back to that blond. She has a feral grin that suggests a delight in viscera-ripping when on stage with her ass-battering band Arch Enemy, but when facing interviewers, a softer smile emerges that when coupled with her athletic body makes you imagine her as a ski or gym instructor. Her name is Angela Gossow, and good fucking Lord Odin, the sound that comes out of that unlikely mouth when howling with the ol’ Enemy.

It’s a shriek, an Orc’s death howl run through the woodchopper in Fargo. On CD, there is no way to tell Gossow from a metal dude. And so I imagine those not familiar with Gossow cupping crotches in scared unison when they first encounter this true screaming Mimi (or SM for short).  

I mean, there have been women in rock for ages but rock isn’t metal (the yawning differences between music styles will be the subject of another column. Sorry.)  But thanks to the mad success of a lousy heroine we’re enjoying an increasing awareness of a worldwide explosion of female-fronted metal, from primal doom groaners to arty prog-metal shriekers to black metal rasp merchants, and finally, to a band whose singer may have the best singing voice in all of popular and unpopular music. And no, I’m not fucking kidding.

But onward, Until the '90s, there was no real history of femme metal partially because artists appeared and disappeared...

Column: Green and Twitter ? Rediscovering the Fun in Writing

Most of my writing career has followed a particular pattern. I write what pops into my head, and I write a lot. Some of it sells, some of it makes people go ?huh?? and some of it wins awards. Still, I generally have gone into projects with at least a general idea what I thought I?d do with the final product, at least in recent years. It seems, if not an exactly logical process, a workable one.

Sometimes, however, things change. For one thing, the way you interact with the world, and with people. You can live in a bubble, or you can expand with the world ? and contract with it, as well. Our world is much larger with all it has to share, and much smaller with how simple it has become to reach out and interact. I have always been a forward leaning sort of person. When something new and shiny comes along, I play with it... at least when it comes to Computers. I was an early adopter of message boards, online services, the Internet, E-mail, and now I enjoy the magic and madness that we call Social Media. While I?m still not sold on Facebook, I?m active on the micro-blogging service Twitter, and have been slowly building a network of contacts, followers, interesting characters, and shared thought.

Knowing that some among you, as usual, are clearing your throats and saying ?Get to the point, Wilson,? I will do so. The point is that the changes in the Internet and in my world have now had a profound impact on my career. At least, it?s potentially profound, and to cause the shift in my habits and my outlook, all that?s required is the potential.

Last February I found myself in the very hotel where I?m sitting as I type this, getting ready to open a branch office for my company. I had a book to work on, and I had all the files carefully...

Column: IN THE TRADITION OF... And Other Signs of Reflected Light

It has occurred to me lately that TV programming is a great way to explain what I consider to be one the biggest problems with books, the public, and publishing today—if not the biggest. The epiphany came to me first while watching the new program The Mentalist which is about a psychic turned detective who lost his wife and family to a serial killer he'd insulted on a live television broadcast. The problem is a very deeply rooted one, and I'm pretty well convinced that it's not one that can be fixed—but I think, at the same time, we need to remain aware of it.

I won't even try to guess which came first, but let's put all these shows in a row and see if something clicks. Monk, Psych, The Mentalist, Life—and I guess if you wanted to you could add in the main protagonists from the CSI shows and the profilers on Criminal Minds. What we have is a formula that works. We have a character with the super power of being able to observe a situation and catch details that other people miss. In one show it's a detective pretending to be a psychic, in another it's a retired psychic being a detective. All of these shows are interesting, entertaining, and popular.

Here's the problem. One person, a long time ago—probably around the time Arthur Conan Doyle began penning his Sherlock Holmes stories—realized that just paying attention to detail could give one an almost magical advantage over others. Doyle wrote this ability into a protagonist who has been raised to the level of icon and held a dominant spot in popular literature, media, and Western culture in general for decades.

The rest are clever reworks of the same idea, not even really changed very much, and so...

Column: Just Because There are Dead, Horned Babies, It Doesn't Make it a Story

At one point or another, I think everyone who works in a creative field turns to their dreams for inspiration. It seems like such a natural source of stories and images on the surface, but much like alcohol and chemical reality enhancement, it comes with its problems, pitfalls, and disappointments.

I thought this time out I’d look back at one of the times I wrote bits and pieces of a dream into my fiction—how it worked, how it didn’t, and why. It’s a tricky business bringing things back from the land of Morpheus—most of the time bits and pieces get left behind, or when you stick the images against a backdrop of plot and reality, their “power” is lost.

When I was younger I had a recurring dream. In this dream, I started out in a huge basement store-room underneath some sort of larger store. I was an exterminator, though I had no equipment for that work. Someone was after me, so I ended up back against the wall behind the rear unit of lines of shelves. It was very dark; the only light was from the helmet I wore. I came to a set of shelves I kept moving quickly behind the shelves toward large doors at the far end of the basement where trucks backed in to load and unload.

One set of shelves was blocked by dark clumps of something. When I got closer, it began to look as if it was a pile of realistic baby dolls. There were flies. I got closer, and I saw that it was piles of dead bodies. All of them were babies… but there was more. They had horns like devils. Some of them had wings, or tails. There were skulls, half-rotted bodies, and some that seemed fresh. For some reason it occurred to me at that moment that there were no rats near me. Whatever had done this—whatever left that gruesome pile behind the shelves,...

Column: It's The End of the World as We Know It... Is That Bad?

Every year when Brett reminds me I have a column due at year's end (and beginning) I get the urge to do some sort of retrospective. Then I feel bad because in most cases it seems like a cop out on writing something real. Then I end up with some sort of amalgam of topics culled from the retrospective and the oddly chambered brain where I store it. I guess I'm doing that again. You lucky people.

This was the year, for instance, when the bottom started to fall out of the ridiculous real-estate market. Houses that were $150,000 five years ago have jumped to $300,000 or even $500,000 for no reason other than that banks got the brilliant idea to loan too much money to people who couldn't afford to pay it back with shady arrangements on interest and balloon payments fueling the fire. People started defaulting on loans. Banks stopped making money. Banks now have to stop LOANING money at ridiculous falsified rates, and now no one can sell a house. Or buy a house—or, if they bought it during the boom period in the last decade, pay for it. This is American stupidity at its prime time best. The bottom line before everything…take the money and run. Get out before the bottom drops out. (sigh).

In my neck of the woods (and all over now), the next crunch of this stupidity is hitting. Tax re-assessment time has come to the valley, and despite the fact that no one is selling houses for the inflated prices, those have now become the assessed value. In my county, the average house taxes went up 85%. That's a lotta green, folks…a lot of folks already barely able to make their mortgages are now joining the huge ranks of the screwed.

Then there's oil. Wonderful, slimy oil. This is the year we saw that fat jowled bastard retire with NINE FREAKING...

Column: Jesus Tombs and Empty Rooms and Gospels All In a Row

So, I'm sure you've all been following the trials and tribulations of James Cameron and Simcha Jacobovici as they try to convince the world that a tomb unearthed back in the 1980s in Jerusalem is actually Jesus' family crypt. There are a lot of lessons to be learned in a debacle like this, and there are infinite plot lines for future stories and novels, so pay attention. First I'm going to tell you why I believe they never intended to prove anything. Then I'm going to tell you why they never had a chance of proving anything even if they wanted to . . . then I'm going to offer alternate theories. I've offered some in my own journal, and they were well received, so I think rocking the boat further is a good way to spend a few more words. It gives me a chance to get some closure on this silliness, and we all NEED our closure.

My favorite idea for solving the whole mess is to take the ossuaries and chain them together, then dump them into the crater of Mr. Lusi ? the volcano spewing mud all over Surabaya. If this doesn't help stem the flow of mud, maybe a goop geyser will spit them all into Heaven, and we'll have a real ascension. At least we won't have to worry about scraping the silica patina for DNA.

Anyway . . . to the promised points.

James Cameron and his buddy never intended to prove to the world that this was the Jesus family tomb. Cameron intended to stir up a hornet's nest and make a bunch of money. Jacovici seems to have seriously wanted people to consider the possibility, but like Cameron, as long as the money keeps flowing and he gets a moment in the sun, it's all good. They are intelligent men, and there is no way they don't see the flimsiness of the whole theory. They are also talented (much like the religious leaders...

Column: The Superior Beast? A Look at the Human Species

All my life I?ve heard statements like that?s what separates us from the dumb animals used as a means of rationalizing reality. I took every one of those statements in, repeated them, and considered them gems of philosophy for years. Then, one afternoon I went running with my son, and I started thinking. Then I started talking. I knew from the looks he gave me that it would be a while before he caught up to my logic. I might as well have been a talking aardvark trotting along beside him, but it didn?t matter. My mind was on a roll.

Let?s look at our so-called superiority. Let?s start with the fact that I was running. I was running to try and get my aging, flabby body back into some sort of fighting trim. I was also after some weight loss, having let a sedentary lifestyle and too much ice-cream overwhelm my waist line. Compare this to one of those dumb animals.

Humans are the only creatures that have to force themselves to exercise and remain fit. It is true that there are fat cats, dogs, and even ponies, but where did they pick that up? It happened after we took them in and subverted them. They don?t exercise, and they don?t diet, they take things like fitness, strength, agility and speed as a given. In other words, chalk one up for the dumb animals.

I won?t pretend that animals don?t share some of our worst traits. They will fight, maim, and kill one another at the drop of a hat. They have one advantage in that arena, though. For the most part, they fight when there is a reason, and they quit fighting when the conflict is resolved. They don?t run conspiracies behind one another?s backs. They don?t slip around and cheat on one another. The bigger, stronger, faster and smarter among them lead, and generally they...