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on writing

This is going to be a short post, but I couldn’t go without mentioning that the incredible M.S. Corley has been so kind as to take inspiration for his latest Carnacki pin-up from one of my own stories:

The story is “The Reading Room,” which first appeared in Bound for Evil¬†from Dead Letter Press, and which will be reprinted in my collection Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings. It’s a favorite of mine, so I was really thrilled when Corley decided to use it as a point of departure for his latest Carnacki drawing.

If you don’t follow me on Google+ or Facebook or other such places, this may be the first you’ve heard of Corley’s version of Thomas Carnacki. Basically, Corley has been drawing his own version of William Hope Hodgson’s famous paranormal investigator in a series of incredible pin-ups, some of them drawn from Hodgson’s own Carnacki stories, some from other classic weird tales, some just from Corley’s own imagination, and, of course, one from my own tales. To say that this was a big thrill for me would be the worst kind of understatement. If you’ve not seen Corley’s earlier Carnacki pieces, you can see them all here.

I’ve talked before about the uncertainties I have when it comes to genre designations. What I write is horror, almost certainly, but horror is a big country, and I’m far from the first person to wonder where exactly my flag is planted in that dark territory. This isn’t really a post about that, not exactly, but it provides an interesting segue.

I recently read Spook Stories by E.F. Benson, about as charming a collection of ghost stories as you’re likely to encounter. I got it from the library, and the edition I got was a hardcover put out by Arno Press as part of a book line called Supernatural & Occult Fiction. There’s a list of all the books in the series here. I’ve heard of several of them, of course, and others are completely new to me. I’m definitely going to start doing some research, and adding some of these volumes to my to-read queue. Based on the titles alone, if nothing else.

But, I dunno, something about the name of the book line really struck me. Supernatural and Occult Fiction. It’s so simple and scholarly-sounding, almost antiquarian, as befits most of the recognizable titles in their stable. Yet it’s also evocative. The minute I see those words, it makes me want to read those books on a gray rainy day, or on the proverbial dark and stormy night. So, is this a useful subgenre distinction? Supernatural and Occult Fiction? Probably not. But it does sum up most of what I write decently well, and it’s definitely got a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

A few years ago, Norman Partridge saved my life.

OK, so that’s probably putting it a little strongly, but I was going through a rough spot in my writing when I first read The Man with the Barbed Wire Fists, and it did a lot to help rejuvenate me. Partridge has all the energy of the pulps and drive-in movies that inspired him, along with a tight handle on themes and characterization. But what mostly struck me was how in love with everything he seemed. There was enthusiasm dripping off every page, every sentence, every word.

Lesser Demons didn’t hit me quite as hard as The Man with the Barbed Wire Fists, but it’s still got that same enthusiasm, that same energy. In his afterword, Partridge says that he’s the kind of writer who doesn’t like writing but likes having written. From reading Lesser Demons (or any of his other work), though, I’ll say that you certainly can’t see it. Reading Norman Partridge feels like reading somebody who is completely in love with what he’s doing, and it always reminds me of why I fell in love with writing–and with this genre (whatever it might happen to be)–in the first place, and I hope that when people read my stuff they find at least a little bit of that same enthusiasm bleeding through.

I didn’t write any fiction for most of the month of February. I had started a regimen where I wrote every day, or most every day. I was going along pretty well. I was working on a longer project that, with hindsight, probably never would have worked out, but I was writing, at least, and that was something. Then I hit a setback. It wasn’t anything big, I don’t guess, in the grand scheme of things, but it took the wind out of my sails, and I stopped writing. Anything.

February was a busy month, anyway, and I was doing a lot of stuff with Monster Awareness Month. It’s not like I was swimming in free time, just staring at the ceiling. But I also, very consciously, wasn’t writing. (And when I say “writing” here, I again mean fiction. I was writing lots of stuff for Monster Awareness Month, and blog posts, and etc.)

I’m finally getting back into it. I’ve got a calender at home with pictures of posters from old-fashioned magic shows on it, and I put a black X through every day that I write more than a couple-hundred words. (250 is my current minimum.) So far I’ve put an X through every day in March. It’s all just been fragments, things that will never even coalesce into anything. Just my attempts to get back on the bike. But I’ve done it every day, which, again, is a start. That’s the first step.

I spent some time trying to come up with something for IFP’s forthcoming Future Lovecraft anthology. I’ve realized that I don’t have any affinity for science fiction anymore, but I think I may’ve finally come up with something that I’m interested in writing that still meets both criteria of being Future and also Lovecraft. Whether or not it’ll actually fit the bill of what they’re looking for, only time will tell.

Still, though, I’m working again. Regardless of whether it’s any good or not, or going where I plan for it to. I’m doing something. And I’m making plans. Both of which are things that didn’t really happen in February. February felt like sort of a fugue month, a fallow period in which, Monster Awareness Month notwithstanding, nothing really happened. March has already started to change that, which is a good feeling. And I’m making plans for the future, which is another good one. So here’s to March, and to hoping!