Archive for November, 2012

Giveaway time! Chill your cocktail glasses, get out your shakers, bar spoons, and bitters, because I’m hosting a cocktail-based giveaway for Jesse Bullington‘s The Folly of the World, his latest giant book about swords, historical boys kissing and killing in equal measures, scrappy ladies, and serious goddamn Intrigue. Capital letter Intrigue, no less!

I’ve read a few drafts of Folly, and it’s seriously great. I’m tickled to be hosting this event of the century on my blog—even if the reason it’s here and not on Jesse’s site (apart from my excellent mixology skills and better-stocked bar) is that he’s been unable to stop a recent influx of spam comments which would make the premise of this giveaway nigh impossible. Which come to think of it, is apropos: Folly has a lot to do with floods, and he’s receiving a flood of spam … you know what, never mind.

Backstory: I’ve been working on perfecting a cocktail for a while, but had two versions that I could neither (a) find a name for, nor (b) decide which was better. Then I wised up and realized that having designed two delicious cocktails was not really a problem at all. It was then that the title “The Heavenly Twins” for the two drinks damn near suggested itself. I mean, right? They’re fundamentally the same, but different in interesting and intriguing ways, plus it’s cool to have an honorary cocktail for all victories relating to A Pretty Mouth.

The Heavenly Twins

(Both cocktails use this base)

1 3/4 oz cognac

3/4 oz bourbon

3/4 oz coffee liqueur

Then you can pick your poison! For the Chocolate Cherry version, add 2 dashes Aztec Chocolate Bitters and serve with a cherry in the bottom of the glass. For the Orange, use 2 dashes orange bitters and sere with a tangerine twist floated on top.

The results of your labor will either be a dark, seductive, cocktail on the sweeter side, with a lovely frothy top from the Aztec Chocolate Bitters, or a brighter, crisper drink that has a heady citrus nose and a fetching appearance if served with a delicate sliver of tangerine peel. Either will charm anyone you’d like to charm, I assure you, just like the Calipash heirs and whatnot.

Anyways! Upon witnessing (and sampling) the above triumphs, Jesse got to musing what a cocktail inspired by his writing would be. He came up with “The Grossbart,” which is a complicated but flexible potent potable that requires first stealing all of someone’s finest liquors … and then mixing them together so they’re all ruined and filthy. Since that’s not so much a recipe as a method, below you can see a reenactment:

Funny, sure. But the problem is … I really like Jesse’s writing, and so I thought this proposed beverage didn’t do justice to his literary stylings. Also I won’t let him actually steal all my scotch and ruin it.

Thus, to celebrate the release of The Folly of the World I’m hosting this contest so that you, dear reader, can try to best Jesse’s “The Grossbart” and come up with something a little more delicious. If you wish to participate, for the next ten days you can post in the comments of this post a recipe for a cocktail based on Jesse’s writing. Out of all the submissions he will pick 1 winner and 3 runners-up. All winners will receive a copy of The Folly of the World; the grand prize will have some sort of extra goody.

Rules:

1. All submissions must directly reflect in flavor or method a character or leitmotif from one of Jesse’s three books: The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart, The Enterprise of Death, or The Folly of the World. I’ve read ’em and he wrote ’em, so the more direct the association the better! Feel free to spice up your directions with references to his various works; open, abject flattery rarely goes unappreciated by writers, you know.

2. I have a modestly to well-stocked bar at my disposal, containing most common base-spirits and some fiddly liqueurs, bitters, and other bells and whistles. I’m willing to pick up some odder/uncommon ingredients but the likelihood that I’ll be able to perfectly reproduce your cocktail will be increased by your keeping the ingredient list sane. NB: Jesse has no dietary restrictions but he is allergic to beef, so if you get cheeky with Beef Jerky Flavored Tequila or something, you won’t actually get your cocktail tested. Also it would be disgusting, so there’s that.

3. All submissions must be sent in by 6 PM PST on December 10th 2012, which means you have two weekends and a lot of weeknights to test your recipe extensively. Winner will be announced on December 14th.

4. Winning recipes will be posted on this blog with a picture of the mixed cocktail and your method as you write it, so be prepared for fame.

Fanfic cocktails, my friends? Yes! Run out this afternoon and pick up your ingredients, spend some time working on your recipes, and send them my way! You can’t lose, because even if your drink doesn’t make it into the final three, you’ll be too schnookered to care.

Two things! Both Lovecraftian, both—interestingly enough—related to The Lovecraft eZine!

First: I’ll be doing one of those eZine chats this Sunday, at 6pm EST (4 my time here in the wooly wilds of Colorado). If you’d like to tune in, you can go to this link and there will be information. If you’d like to tune in but you’re busy on Sunday afternoon, it will be recorded and uploaded to youtube so the internet can see forever how awkward I am.

Second: I’ll have a story in the December issue of The Lovecraft eZine! “Herbert West in Love” is a Christmas tale to warm your heart. Over a bunsen burner. (Cue Crypt Keeper laughter.) I really like this piece; it was extremely fun to write. Also, I received my single favorite editorial remark of all time regarding the story, when Mike very politely messaged me to see if I would be willing to “remove the word ‘cock’ from “Herbert West in Love,” as it will be appearing in the Christmas issue.” I (of course) complied, as I’m America’s Sweetheart, and apparently the scene in question added a few Xes to Xmas, if you know what I mean.

Many, many thanks to the excellent Mike Davis for both opportunities! This will be a fun and busy weekend for me, starting tonight. Remember, if you’re in the Boulder-Denver area, Shaolin Hung Mei Kung Fu will be performing our dragon at both Parades this weekend! Denver’s tonight, Boulder’s tomorrow, so get your scarves and hats and now-cool ugly Christmas sweaters and come on out!

Tomorrow evening from 6:00 to 7:30 PM, I’ll be doing a reading with Stephen Graham Jones at Folsom St. Coffee, at the corner of Folsom and Canyon in Boulder, CO. So, if you’re around/in the area, please come on by! And maybe don’t bring your kids, I’ll be reading something with, inevitably, potty-language.

Also! If you’re in Denver or Boulder, Shaolin Hung Mei Kung Fu will be performing our dragon (nine or eleven-person, depending on how many people come!) this Friday and Saturday at the Parades of Lights. Denver is Friday night; Boulder, Saturday. I’ll be playing cymbals! So that’s awesome. Our new dragon is a real beauty, as you can see, and I’m proud to be part of the performance. I don’t have any info for Boulder but we’ll be, I think, 9th in line for Denver.

I usually don’t leave the house after sundown (except for kung fu class, of course) so this is serious business.

So Orrin Grey was kind enough to tag me as part of this whole “The Next Big Thing” thing that’s goin’ around the flippity-flappity intarwebz these days. And I know, given the title, that the premise is to talk about one’s NEXT big thing, but as my (hopefully) next big thing is still in agent-revision mode, I’m going to talk about my newest big thing. More below!

1. What is the title of your book?

A Pretty Mouth, which is sort-of a collection and sort-of a novel told via short story, just came out in September from Lazy Fascist Press. All the stories are about different generations of a degenerate, incestuous, aristocratic English family, and each piece is (to a certain extent) a pastiche of a popular literary style of the time.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

I wrote a story, “The Infernal History of the Ivybridge Twins” for an anthology called Historical Lovecraft that was being put out by Innsmouth Free Press. Somehow they accepted it! Anyways, at the time I envisioned the story as a standalone picaresque about incestuous twin necromancers, but when I was watching some Blackadder the Third on Netflix one evening, I got an itch to do a Blackadder-style treatment of the Calipash family. Thus, when Cameron Pierce contacted me (after the original “Twins” story was re-published in The Book of Cthulhu, ed. Ross Lockhart) asking if I’d thought about doing more Calipash Twins tales, I had a pitch oddly ready to go. Fate!

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Powell’s apparently shelved it under “Horror,” but I dunno? Lazy Fascist is a Bizarro imprint, and since that’s as broad as any other genre I’ll stick with that. But I shall note that there is a definite Lovecraftian streak throughout the entire work.

4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

There’s a zillion characters in the book, as it’s a collection! But some things are certain: The first story, “A Spotted Trouble at Dolor-on-the-Downs” is a Jeeves and Wooster tribute, and thus I would do my best to recruit Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie to reprise their roles in there, because they’re the best. Then I’d probably cast Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Alethea and Alastair Fitzroy as they already have an excellent rapport going as rich, entitled twins who like to sex up one another all the time.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

The tagline on the back is “The Secret History meets Re-Animator in this tale of sex and science” which sums up the title novella about as well as anyone could in one sentence! By which I mean, if that description makes you excited, you’ll probably like the biggest chunk of the book (and hopefully the rest!).

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Neither. A Pretty Mouth was published by Lazy Fascist press. As for my next book, I will take this opportunity to be all excited again about my recent signing with the delightful Cameron McClure of the Donald Maass Literary Agency. She now represents me and will be shopping my novel Come and Take the Cure, a weird Western, once I get her those aforementioned revisions.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Well, this isn’t easily answered as “Ivybridge Twins” was written in October of 2010, if memory serves, and the rest was written between, I think, November of 2011 and June of 2012.

Usually I write at a nigh-glacial pace but the novella I did in two weeks. The muse, she and I hung out for a while there, but she then moved on and I’m now back to pulling words out my brain like teeth from an exceedingly strong-gummed person.

8. What other books would you compare this to within your genre?

That’s tough as Bizarro is genre-spanning, and the individual stories within my collection, as I said, take some part of their from and content from time-appropriate literary genres. Here’s a brief rundown:

  • “A Spotted Trouble at Dolor on the Downs”: Wodehouse’s Jeeves stories
  • “The Hour of the Tortoise”: Victorian pornographic novels like those serialized in The Pearl; Gothic nonsense like Wuthering Heights
  • “The Infernal History of The Ivybridge Twins”: Tom Jones, The Memoirs of Miss Sidney Bidulph
  • A Pretty Mouth: Restoration comedy like “The Rover” as imagined by John Huges
  • “Damnatio Memoriae”: This story I mainly wrote to piss off Robert E. Howard’s ghost

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I have no idea, other than it was what I wanted to be writing at the time, so I did it.

10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

The cover. Just look at that shit. It rules, and it would make a lovely addition to anyone’s bookshelf, frankly. Buy it for everyone you know! Please!

Okay! Thanks, Orrin—this was a lot of fun. As for who I’m tagging, I’m only tagging one writer as she’s worth five at the very least: S.P. Miskowski, author of the Shirley Jackson Award-nominated Knock Knock, and the novella Delphine Dodd. Check out her blog this time next week for her Next Big Thing!

No, that’s not a typo.

So everyone who has encountered me likely knows about my penchant for the 1985 Jeffrey Combs-starring Stuart Gordon film Re-Animator. Herbert West is one of my all-time favorite fictional characters—I adore the film version and have great affection for Lovecraft’s original “Herbert West – Reanimator”—but today I want to talk about a different Dr. Herbert West. I want to talk about … Reaninator.

Dr. West, I presume?

I’ll be guest-lecturing on Lovecraft and the idea of fanfic/riffing/artistic use of his ideas/something for a class on Japanese Literature at CU this week (terrifying!). Whilst putting together my Re-Animator “case study” I learned about an anime called Demonbane (2006). The first episode is entitled “I am Providence.” Obviously I had to check it out, right?

I guess at one point Demonbane was one of those PC hentai games, then became a Playstation racing game (??) and then was serialized as a manga and an anime. Whatever; the important thing is that Demonbane has a bunch of weird riffing on Lovecraft (beyond just the titles of the episodes). For example, Our “Hero” Kuro Daijuuji lives in Arkham and was once a secret sorcery student at Miskatonic University. Also, through a sequence of events too insane to describe, in the first episode of the show he encounters Al Azif, the Necronomicon. She (yep, duh) looks like this:

INDEED! “Al,” as Daijuuji calls her, binds herself to him by kind of making out with him during a fight, because of course she does. Afterwards he can transform into Super Sayian Kuro Daijuuji and use a giant robot to fight cultists and stuff. It’s not all that important, really. Oh, and if you think Al Azif looks intriguing, you should definitely watch the show! The Pnakotic Manuscripts are also a subservient hot chick in a silly dress that seems designed purely to show flashes of panties! You know, I should really message Nate Pedersen about this. I haven’t seen a single reference yet to eldritch undies in The Starry Wisdom Library, but I guess it’s true that I haven’t read all the entries yet.

I’ve only watched the first four episodes so far, and it’s pretty much just fanservice and terrible CGI mechas battling each other for incomprehensible purposes. That said, the … let’s say 30% of Demonbane that isn’t fanservice and terrible CGI mechas is kind of cool. The main reason is that one of the minor villains is Dr. Herbert West.

As you saw above, this version of Herbert West is slightly different from other imaginings. I guess he is “Reaninator” as opposed to “Re-Animator” or “Reanimator,” but omg still. Yes, that is an electric guitar in his hand; he noodles on it constantly while talking immense amounts of shit, and the case also fires bazooka grenade things. That hot pantsless elf-eared girl by his side is his pet robot assassin. Her name is Elsa, she (in the grand tradition of EVERY ANIME) has a crush on Our Hero, and ends all of her sentences with “-robo” (included that detail just in case anyone wanted to quibble with my allegation that this show was essentially fanservice).

So yeah! Dr. West! Making robots! And guns? And not reanimating the dead, not at all, not once in four episodes! That said, he’s still Herbert fucking West. The source of Elsa’s crush on Daijuuji? He saves her during their first battle by snatching her out of the way of a missile, and she blushingly tells him that she’s never been held by a man before. Oh, Herbert. You would make a pantsless big-boobied gynoid elf-robot and then only use her for purposes of combat, wouldn’t you? Sure sure, long nights in the lab, not much time for yourself … whatever. We both know, and it’s okay, okay?

Anyways, the show is pretty amazingly terrible. If you want to go down the rabbit-hole, it’s on Youtube. Here’s Episode 3: Reaninator, but Dr. West does show up in the first episode. I’ll keep going with it, because despite my aversion to hokey nyuk-nyuk fantasy, I kind of love irreverent treatments of Lovecraft (as anyone who’s read my Lovecraftiana already knows). Have fun, don’t watch it at work probably, and enjoy!

 

I’m extremely happy to announce I’ve just signed with Cameron McClure of the Donald Maass Literary Agency. She’ll be representing me and my novel, which has been my baby for a while now. It’s a weird western set in 19th century San Francisco/Colorado. Hiking for research: Awesome. Drinking whiskey and watching westerns for research: Also awesome. The book’s about a 19-year-old half-Chinese ghost hunter who ends up hiking around the Colorado Rockies investigating the disappearances of a number of Chinese men who worked on the Transcontinental Railroad. It’s awesome.

So anyways, Cameron is one of the best editors, as well as one of the nicest people I’ve met in “the industry” to date, so I’m thrilled to be working with her. When I found out last week that all this was OMG HAPPENING as it were, I decided I had to celebrate. I bought myself a bottle of High West Rocky Mountain Rye, as it seemed thematically appropriate (and High West makes a mean rye whiskey). But as my novel is a weird western by way of, oh, let’s say Big Trouble in Little China or Mr. Vampire, I decided it was time to work on—and perfect—my variation on the Corpse Reviver #2 that I’ve been messing around with for a while. I call it the Chinese Necromancer, and I daresay it’s just as good as the original drink. It’s a strong, boozy but balanced sweet-spicy-sour cocktail, with beautiful cloudy pale yellowish-green color from the absinthe. Here’s the recipe:

***

Chinese Necromancer
  • 1 3/4 oz gin
  • 1 3/4 oz Lillet blanc
  • 1/2 oz ginger liqueur
  • 1/2 oz lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp. absinthe

Shake with ice, pour into chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a slice of ginger. Perfection.

Why not celebrate with me by making one tonight? David Lo Pan style!

Whee! Today, Alan M. Clark and I are doing a blog-exchange to co-promote our new titles, both out through Lazy Fascist Press! Alan’s here, and I’m over on his blog, “The Imagination Fully Dilated.” Pop on over there afterwards, why don’t you?

***

I met Molly Tanzer online after she read and commented on my historical fiction novel, Of Thimble and Threat: The Life of a Jack the Ripper Victim. This year Molly and I discovered that we were both writing within historical settings, and we agreed to serve as readers for each others’ developing work. Both Molly’s book, A Pretty Mouth, and my novel, A Parliament of Crows, are historical fiction, both inspired by real events within history. Both books tell dark, disturbing tales, hers an erotic horror, mine a southern gothic. A Pretty Mouth is sort of a novel in short and long fiction set in England during several different periods, much of it in the 1600s, and A Parliament of Crows is set in various locations within the United States between the time of the American Civil War and the end of the first decade of the twentieth century.

The fun of writing within historical settings is that it’s a bit like time travel. The period a writer chooses for a story will define the characters in it to some extent. Obviously, some experiences we have today are not possible for characters set within a time, say, 100 or 500 years ago. This can present real limitations unless the writer is willing to learn about the period and really open up the character’s world, discover the possibilities, and share that with the reading audience. That’s the time travel I’m talking about. No matter the period, the emotional characteristics of human beings are just as subtle and complex as those of human beings today. The everyday realities and events that shape their feelings and motivations can be very different, however. In creating characters, I try to take advantage of the similarities and the differences, setting up parallels and contrasts with what we know today to express something about human experience. If done right, a reader gets to time-travel too, experiencing a long lost world through the eyes of a character they can understand emotionally, even if the character’s feelings and outlook are shaped by a different time.

A Pretty Mouth was so well realized that it sent me back in time, and allowed me to view a bizarre and terrifying world through the eyes of fascinating, very human characters.

Another thing Molly and I discovered about our writing this year was that both of us were writing about twins.  A Pretty Mouth has a supernatural genetic line of evil twins. My novel, A Parliament of Crows, has one set of evil twins whose connection to one another has a supernatural aspect. I thought my twins could use a hint of long, dark genetic history, and suggested to Molly that we might create a connection. Adding more evil twins to her character’s lineage was desirable to her, so she agreed to creating a tiny link between the projects with one or two sentences in each. To get there, we traded messages via facebook “chat,” looking for a solution that was both minimal, but undeniable. I had fun, and I think she did as well. [I did indeed! –Molly] I could almost hear her laughing in her messages. The lines we added had to be of a sort that would not confuse and would not distract a reader from the story at hand, but would be an Easter egg for those who read both books. I’m curious to see who will be the first to notice.

—Alan M. Clark