John D. MacDonald On Writing

John D. MacDonald on writing: “If you want to write, you write.”

Even Stephen King Had to Start Somewhere (14-year-old Stephen King’s submission letter to Spacemen Magazine)

Even Stephen King, one of the bestselling authors of our time, had to start somewhere:

The Exorcist: The 40th Anniversary Revised Limited Edition Cover Artwork by Caniglia

As I mentioned a while back, Lonely Road Books will be publishing a special Limited Edition of The Exorcist: The 40th Anniversary Revised Edition by William Peter Blatty.  The book sold out just 30 hours after it was announced, which is excellent for the collectors who managed to snag a copy, and production is moving along smoothly.  In fact, today I’m extremely pleased to unveil Caniglia’s incredible cover painting for the book, which I absolutely love:

Caniglia is now working on the interior artwork and I’ll try to post a few more samples between now and publication.  Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments!

Q.R. Markham: The Plagiarist of Secrets and another example of why writing is hard work

So has everyone heard about “Assassin of Secrets” by Q.R. Markham (real name: Quentin Rowan), which was recently published by Mulholland Books, an imprint of Little, Brown in New York, and which was then very quickly pulled from stores because it contains some of the most blatant acts of plagiarism anyone has seen in a long time?

If not, here’s a New York Times article.

Here’s the James Bond message board where readers first discovered the plagiarism.

Jeremy Duns, an author of spy fiction, was left somewhat embarrassed by his involvement with Quentin Rowan and has written two posts on the topic. You can read them here and here.  They’re extremely interesting and well-thoughtout posts.

And be sure to read the “customer reviews” on Amazon where readers had more than a few choice words to share.

Here’s what Quentin Rowan had to say to The New York Daily News about why he was writing a spy thriller:

There was a bunch of books by people who were technically my peers that felt showy and one-note. Maybe I had to dumb it down… There was a huge literary swirl around me… I always felt a part of that and also apart from it at the same time. Paul Auster was in all the time… With the economy so bad, there’s no room for a writer to worry about selling out… People who were writing thoughtful short stories about suburban malaise are now writing vampire stories.

Mediabistro reprinted part of Quentin Rowan’s confession from the comments section of Jeremy Duns’ blog posts:

“Once the book was bought, I had to make major changes in quite a hurry, basically re-write the whole thing from scratch, and that’s when things really got out of hand for me. I just didn’t feel capable of writing the kinds of scenes and situations that were asked of me in the time allotted and rather than saying I couldn’t do it, or wasn’t capable, I started stealing again. I didn’t want to be seen as anything other than a writing machine, I guess.

You can read the entire email exchange on Jeremy Duns’ blog.

So why am I posting this?  Two reasons:

1) Like many who are interested in the publishing business, I’m intrigued when this sort of thing happens.  It took sheer, dumb luck for Quentin Rowan to get as far as he did with his ruse.

2) Here’s what I tell young writers who contact me and ask for my advice about how to get started in this business: Ultimately, I believe writing is about practice, learning the language and finding your voice.  It’s not easy.  Not everything you write, especially the early stuff when you’re getting your feet wet, needs to be shown to the world.  What you write and why you write it is your own business, and the writing has to come first.  But if you’re not writing, you can’t be a writer.

Like so many people in the world today, Quentin Rowan wanted to take a short cut.  He couldn’t be bothered to write his own book.  In fact, he felt authors like Jonathan Safran Foer were “showy and one-note.”

Well, Quentin, no matter what you think of their writing, at least they actually wrote their books.

Allen K’s INHUMAN MAGAZINE NO. 5 FALL 2011

My short story, “Among Us,” which I wrote in college, has been published in Allen K’s INHUMAN MAGAZINE #5.  This is a huge issue — more than 200 pages — and Allen Koszowski did a great job, as always.  If you want to read some good old-fashioned monster horror, this is the magazine for you.  I didn’t find the cover or Table of Contents anywhere on the web yet, so here they are:

INHUMAN MAGAZINE
NO. 5 FALL, 2011

new terrors

san diablo. Lisa Morton 4
soul-eater. Jill Bauman 13
lachesis . Monica J. O’Rourke 14
dragon people. Bruce Boston 23
homebody. Tim Waggoner 24
Dead Reckoning. Don D’Ammassa 35
Bernice. James S. Dorr 44
A Slow Corruption. Jon Hansen 51
Talent Does What It Can. Wrath James White 55
Donating. Pamela K. Kinney 60
mythos art gallery . 65
Mandy-Lu. Donald R. Burleson 73
The Lion of Orkahaugr. Christopher M. Cevasco 81
Love in a Time of Zombies. Darrell Schweitzer 92
Burden of Guilt 3: Growing Pains. James A. Moore 93
Scarecrows in the Nebraska Moonlight. Tim Curran 117
three barbers— No waiting. John Maclay 128
We Are the Monsters Now. Darrell Schweitzer 130
The Devil’s Vein. Ron Breznay 140
An Outsider. John Pelan 160
Among Us. Brian Freeman 173
The Carousel . Roman Ranieri 187
bloom where you’re planted. Cody Goodfellow 201

old horrors

Pick and Grim. Michael Shea 152
skinflowers. David Gerrold 181
Prowl. Barry N. Malzberg 197

departments

from the vault. Editorial by Allen K.

This Month’s Question: Why Horror?

As I mentioned the other week, my new feature called “The Question of the Month” over at FEARnet is a mix of “The Final Question” from Cemetery Dance magazine and also original content.  What I forgot to mention was that last month’s column ran before my blog was launched, so I’m going to post that content here today to catch everyone up.

The feature has a simple premise: each month I’ll ask a handful of horror/dark suspense authors to answer the same question and then I’ll publish their responses exactly as I receive them. In theory, this should give you some insight into how these authors think and where their work comes from.  Each month you can read the answers here on this blog or over at FEARnet.com.

This month’s question is: why horror?

Given the immensity of the gulf between what we desire and what we must live with, given also our own dread of what lies in us of both monstrosity and transcendence, horror was an inevitability.
— Peter Straub

Because there’s nothing so extreme — from there you can work your way back to courage, loyalty, community, tenderness.   Then there’s that old sex ‘n death thing….
Jack Ketchum

Horror is a genre in which I can throw characters into dire situations, strip away the veneers of their self-imposed personas, and then explore with them their most basic human emotions and reactions.
Elizabeth Massie

I misspelt “humor” on the application.
Kealan Patrick Burke

I read horror for the same reason I read any other kind of fiction. I want strong stories about interesting and sympathetic people. The bonus with horror, as with science fiction, is that the writer can conjure a world of his own to comment on our world. Ramsey Campbell and Christopher Fowler are two good examples. They twist reality into hyper-reality so that a visit to a pharmacy can become a horrific comment on the medical system. Their monsters are not only the great dark Them, they’re also Us.
Ed Gorman

Why horror? … Indeed. Because horror in all its manifestations says … and sometimes whispers … the deepest, darkest secrets about what it means to be human…. Horror addresses and, when brave, confronts the twin terrors of existence … and non-existence.
Rick Hautala

Horror! What a rotten name for an amazing genre. Because Horror’s great appeal isn’t just the screaming and the gore–it is a voyage into our spiritual natures. It asks questions about that “otherness” that’s so important in our lives, but which we cannot taste, touch, smell, see or hear.  Horror allows us to encounter that dimension, which we intuitively believe in, but lies just beyond our fingertips.
Simon Clark

Because, as–for instance–H. P. Lovecraft so deftly asserted, the greatest fear we can experience is, not the fear of the dark, or the fear of death, mutilation, rape by monsters, impregnation by para-dimensional abominations, or what have you, but the fear of the unknown.  No genre transfigures this fear more potently to the reader than the horror genre.  Even in great “literature,” I’ll contend.  True, great literature often exists on a much more important level than horror (though not always!) but it seems to me that horror must stimulate the reader’s mental pressure points more effectively and more consistently than other genres. It must!  And with that mental stimulus comes the provocation that makes us ponder our inner-selves.  Provocation is the key, and it can be just as legitimate in horror as any other field of creativity.  I very passionately appreciate the works of, say, Faulkner, Kafka, Sartre, Marquez, etc., and regard their literary contributions as paramount and more significant than even that of the most astute horror writers.  Ah, but horror is so much more fun, isn’t it? And the provocation of thought that it induces in us is just as functional.
Edward Lee

Haunted houses, bloody footprints, hitchhiking ghosts, and devil dogs–the stories I heard in the backyard as a kid were the first stories that made my imagination boil, and there was something about them I understood. Or wanted to, because those stories always left questions. Did that really happen? Could it happen to me, and what if it did? The tale became a springboard to an answer or conclusion that made the reader/listener reach, and that’s a very good thing.
— Norman Partridge

Why not?  Nothing wakes you up in the morning or lets you know you’re alive like a good scare does.
Brian Keene

It’s not that I made a conscious decision to write in the horror genre.  It’s just that when I wrote, what came out of me didn’t fit anywhere else.
Ray Garton

The Stephen King Library Desk Calendar 2012

I received my contributor’s copy of The Stephen King Library Desk Calendar 2012 from Book-of-the-Month Club and they’ve really hit a home run again this year.  The theme is The Dark Tower and the cover is a cool 3-D hologram, but this flat scan doesn’t really do the effect any justice:

Editor Jay Franco did another incredible job editing the calendar.  He’s always terrific to work with and you should definitely check out his blog.  (He wants me to mention that he’s an infrequent blogger, but I think that just means he puts more thoughts into his posts than most people.)

This year Jay brought together a great group of contributors and they really cover a lot of ground, which is impressive considering how BIG a topic like The Dark Tower is!  Contributors include Matt Bergin, Peter Brett, Justin Brooks, Myke Cole, Matthiew DeVirgiliis, Samantha Etkin, Jay Franco, Brian James Freeman, Robin Furth, Stephen Jewell, Daniel M. Kimmel, Fotini Marcopulos, Jon Oden, Micol Ostow, Tricia Pasternak, Rome Quezada, Jeff Somers, and Bev Vincent.  My piece is called “Why the Dark Tower Series Isn’t Finished Yet” and I discuss The Wind Through the Keyhole, the next book in The Dark Tower series.

Here is the official sales copy from the Book-of-the-Month Club:

If you’re a fan of Stephen King, chances are you avoid pet cemeteries, you have a healthy fear of clowns and when you think of the Man in Black, it isn’t Johnny Cash who comes to mind. But there’s so much more to the Master of Horror, and in our Club exclusive Stephen King Library Desk Calendar 2012, you get to spend a year inside his sinister universe. Packed with essays, juicy details and fascinating trivia, this year’s calendar is also full of excerpts from all the Dark Tower books, articles from professionals he has influenced and more. Plus, it features quizzes—like Mid-World Word Trivia, which tests your knowledge of High Speech—and notes on the future of the series. This calendar is packed with so much, it’s scary!

Read more on their website today!

Stephen King Library 2012 Desk Calendar Table of Contents

Preface:                        “What is Mid-World by Robin Furth
Dec. 26 – Jan1st:            Walking the Line/Introduction by Jay Franco
Jan. 2 – 8th:                        Excerpt 1 from The Gunslinger
Jan. 9 – 15th:                       A Dark Tower Release Roundup
Jan. 16 – 22nd:                    The Dark One Would Never Expect It by Jay Franco
Jan. 23 – 29th:                     Time Keeps on Slipping into the Future by Bev Vincent
Jan. 30 – Feb. 5th:               Excerpt 2 from The Gunslinger
Feb. 6 – 12th:                       Dad-A-Chum Yum! by Matt Bergin
Feb. 13 – 19th:                     Introduction to High Speech by Robin Furth
Feb. 20 – 26th:                     Coming-of-Age by Peter V. Brett
Feb. 27 – Mar. 4th:               Excerpt 3 from The Drawing of the Three
Mar. 5th – 11th:                     The Ka-Tet: A Closer Look by Jay Franco
Mar. 12 – 18th:                      Floating Doors by Jay Franco
Mar. 19 – 25th:                      High Speech Primer, Part II by Robin Furth
Mar. 26 – Apr. 1st:                 Excerpt 4 from The Drawing of the Three
Apr. 2 – 8th:                 Writing in the Dark: Stephen King, Terror and the Sublime by Micol Ostow
Apr. 9 – 22nd:                        Running Time by Daniel M. Kimmel
Apr. 23 – 29th:                      The Fiction Within the Fiction / Trivia
Apr. 30 – May 6th:                 Excerpt 5 from The Waste Lands
May 7 – 13th:                        Your #1 Fan by Jay Franco
May 14 – 20th:                      High Speech Primer, Part III by Robin Furth
May 21 – 27th:                       A Dark Tower Cycle by Rome Quezada
May 28 – June 3rd:                 Excerpt 6 from The Waste Lands
Jun. 4 – 10th:                          Blaine the Jeopardy Brain by Matthew DeVirgiliis
Jun. 11 – 17th:                       Jae Lee to Illustrate The Wind Through the Keyhole by Jay Franco
Jun. 18 – 24th:                       Faith and the Father by Samantha Etkin
Jun. 25 – Jul. 1st:                   Excerpt 7 from Wizard and Glass
Jul. 2. – 8th:                            High Speech Primer, Part IV by Robin Furth
Jul. 9 – 15th:                           Mid-World Word Trivia by Fotini Marcopulos
Jul. 16 – 22nd:            The “N.” Mobisodes & Graphic Novel: A Unique Approach to Adaptation by Jay Franco
Jul. 23 – 29th:                        Excerpt 8 from Wizard and Glass
Jul. 30 – Aug. 5th:                  The Dark Tower: Treachery, The Graphic Novel by Jay Franco
Aug. 6 – 12th:                         Tie a Black Ribbon ‘Round My Soul by Jon Oden
Aug. 13 – 19th:                       Making a Comic Book Stand by Stephen Jewell
Aug. 20 – 26th:                       Excerpt 9 from Wolves of the Calla
Aug. 27 – Sep. 2nd:                We, the Constant Readers by Fotini Marcopulos
Sep. 3 – 9th:                           Other Rolands by Bev Vincent
Sep. 10 – 16th:            Test Your Memory: Release Dates / Trivia
Sep. 17 – 23rd:            Excerpt 10 from Wolves of the Calla
Sep. 24 – 30th:            The Dark Tower: How Meta is That? by Justin Brooks
Oct. 1 – 7th:                 High Speech Primer, Part V by Robin Furth
Oct. 8 – 14th:               Of Knighthood and Nostalgia by Myke Cole
Oct. 15 – 21st:             Excerpt 11 from Song of Susannah
Oct. 22 – 28th:             Walking the Path of the Beam by Tricia Pasternak
Oct. 29 – Nov. 4th:                 Random King Trivia by Fotini Marcopulos
Nov. 5 – 11th:                         One Morning in Dallas by Jay Franco
Nov. 12 – 18th:                       Excerpt 12 from Song of Susannah
Nov. 19 – 25th:                       Cort: Man-at-Arms [A Brief Bio] by Jay Franco
Nov. 26 – Dec. 2nd:                The Ka of Villain Decay by Jeff Somers
Dec. 3 – 9th:                           Hey, Little Sister[s] by Jay Franco
Dec. 10 – 16th:                       Excerpt 13 from The Dark Tower
Dec. 17 – 23rd:                       Regis Ex Machina by Matt Bergin
Dec. 24 – 30th:              Why the Dark Tower Series Isn’t Finished Yet by Brian James Freeman
Dec. 31 – Jan. 6th:                 Excerpt 14 from The Dark Tower