Tuesday, May 31, 2011

And More Updates

Abercrombie Zombie will be released in mid-August.

The Zero Knot, my coming-of-age WIP, now looks like it could top 55k words. I still haven't decided where to submit it.

One of the genre's most talented and accomplished authors, and a guy for whom I have enormous respect, left an incredibly flattering comment on my Facebook wall (is that what it's called?) about Visible Friend. Blew me away.  I never dreamed he'd read my stuff.

I could go on and on about magnanimous authors who take the time to praise the work of their peers when they have nothing to gain by it. There's a huge difference between this kind of support and specious or self-serving flattery, both of which exist in abundance in Bookworld. Sincerity is hard to come by. That's why I value it so.

Inspired by the photo below, I'll be writing a free story for the M/M Romance group on Goodreads.  It's not as if I'm the only person writing a free story.  A full trainload of authors are writing free stories based on pictures submitted by readers, and the whole batch of fics will be assembled into a "Hot July Days" anthology.

That is going to be one big-ass, Atlas Shrugged-size collection; I think the number of contributors stands at 110.  o_O  Getting through it will require the patience of Job, so I suspect most people will cherry-pick pieces that appeal to them.

Given the nature of the picture I chose and the ideas it's given me, my story will likely be short on sex.  I'm in the mood for something like that. And since I don't have to worry about "writing for royalties," which I pretty much suck at anyway, I'm not concerned about displeasing heat-seeking readers.  Besides, I have a strong feeling there'll be more swinging dicks in this antho than in the entire Chinese army. Readers will likely need some kind of breather so they don't pass out.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Big Surprise

Thanks to the incredibly thoughtful A.J. Llewellyn, I just found out that the site Seriously Reviewed has designated Bastards and Pretty Boys one of their "Seriously Unforgettable" Best Stories of 2011.  (Click on the post title if you don't believe me.  Hell, I don't believe me.)  I think B&PB was published in September 2009, which accounts for my shock.  (Now, if I could just figure out how to get people to read Visible Friend.  Hm.  Maybe I should rewrite it with some slave-boy kink added to the drug addiction and convince DSP to reissue.  Heh.)    

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Doldrums

I am in them.

Can't seem to make any real headway in this biz.  I think I fall into some substance category between wheat and chaff.  Dust?  Hell, beats me.  I'm feeling kind of swallowed up in this genre, and confused about readers' standards.  It's getting pretty depressing.  I don't know how to write what lots and lots of people will like.  And talk about.  And remember.  Just don't know how.

Don't.  Know.  How.  And maybe can't.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

He's back!

Our pileated woodpecker was right outside my office windows today, knocking at a tree stump.  He's large and robust (stouter than the bird in this photo) and determined -- a real joy to watch.  I love me wild birds!  (Did I ever mention how uneventful my life is?)

Monday, May 09, 2011

My Vinyl Comes Out of Hibernation

Almost a decade ago, following my murder of my second husband divorce, I was forced to sell my lovely old farmhouse and most of its contents.  But I couldn't give up my collection of classic LPs.  Since there was no adequate place to store them at my new residence, which happened to be the home of my Dutch friend, "Ready" Freddie, ol' Jerr was kind enough to let me keep them in his basement (a nice, dry basement, thank goodness).  As I've said before, Jerry was a sweetheart. 

Anyhoo, after Jerry's passing, JLA and I went over to his house to retrieve my records before the two females living there -- one, a thief just released from prison his kinda-sorta stepdaughter; the other, a drunken slut lost soul he took in out of sheer kindness (because dear Jerr was that way) -- somehow made my albums disappear.  Getting them back was like a happy reunion.  Or like Christmas.  Most of all, it was a relief.  Although I've been able to trust Jerry and most of the strays he's taken in over the years, I didn't feel too comfortable having anything in his house once he was gone.

One of the many treasures I rediscovered was African Sanctus by David Fanshawe, far and away one of the most incredible pieces of music I've ever heard. It's beautiful in sound and in spirit and invariably gives me goosebumps.

Dr. Fanshawe was a British composer who, in the late 1960s, traveled to north and east Africa and recorded mostly tribal songs and chants in Uganda, Kenya, and Sudan (although he also captured a haunting version of the Islamic Call to Prayer in Egypt -- and to hear it interwoven with Christian liturgical music brings tears to my eyes). Dr. Fanshawe then masterfully mixed chosen pieces with portions of the Latin Mass and Anglican liturgy, some of which he "recomposed" a little to fit seamlessly with the more primitive-sounding African music.  The video below is only a brief sample of African Sanctus.  Believe me, the whole thing is well worth listening to.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

An Excerpt from Something New

"Something New" is not the book's title.  ;-)

The Zero Knot is, and below is an excerpt from it.  This story also takes place in the town of Cold Harbor, the setting for most of Visible Friend.

I suppose it could be classified as a "coming of age" tale.  The central characters were childhood pals.  They're now 18 and trying to determine the paths their lives will take.   So The Zero Knot is about growing up, growing together, and growing apart -- and, most important, about forging identities and the values that define those identities.

Of course, shit happens along the way.

The section below features Jesse, one of the 18-year-old protags, and his 15-year-old brother, Jared (or "Red").  Just minutes earlier, the kid accidentally let it slip that he's seen the gay porn magazines secreted in Jesse's bedroom.  It's a turning point in their relationship, because it forces Jess to discuss his orientation -- something his parents and older brother still aren't aware of.  (The "Mig" who's mentioned is one of Jess's friends.)

* * * * *

Now it was time to set a few things straight with the resident punk.

Without bothering to knock, Jess barged into Jared’s room, grabbed the kid by the front of his camo green T-shirt (which proclaimed, ironically, I DIDN’T DO IT), and flattened him against the nearest wall. Red was growing fast—was only a couple inches shorter than Jess now—but had all the muscle mass of a pole bean.

With his forefinger a millimeter from Red’s nose, Jess said in a low, ominous tone, “Stay the fuck out of my room, you shit-stirring little twerp.”

A sea of crimson buoyed Red’s sparse freckles. “Hey…”

“Hey nothing. Keep your nose out of my business.” Jess firmly pushed the tip of that nose for emphasis.

He remembered an observation their mother had once made while she was reading some urban fantasy novel: that Jared’s freckles, when he blushed, looked like “vampire tears in a sea of blood.” Jess loved his mother, but Jill Bonner was one of those in-the-Zone-alone people. She’d always been creative…and more than a little dingy.

Red was temporarily silent.

Jess released him but kept his finger in Red’s face, his narrowed eyes locked onto Red’s wide ones. “I’m not playin’ here. Get it?”

“Okay, okay. From now on I won’t go near your room, and I won’t say nothin’ to nobody.”

Point made, Jess turned toward the door.

“FYI, dude, I don’t care if you’re gay.”

Jess stopped in his tracks, spun around.

Red put up his hands. “Chill. I’m an enlightened guy. Live and let live and all that crap. I’m just bummed you’re not the best source for dating tips.”

Jess hung his head and started chuckling. Why couldn’t he stay mad at this little prick?

“You okay?” Red asked warily. “You’re not spazzin’ out, are you?”

“No. This is just so anticlimactic.”

“It’s what?”

"Never mind."  Jess shuffled to Jared’s bed and dropped onto it. The walls in this room were like a bad acid trip, posters and artwork plastered everywhere at every imaginable angle, including sideways and upside down. Jess spotted a recent addition—a doctored picture of Justin Bieber with an arrow through his neck and a mischievous imp (that looked suspiciously like Jared) perched on the arrow’s shaft. “So, it was the magazines that tipped you off?”

Red sat beside him. “Well, duh. Dongapalooza.”

Elbows resting on thighs, Jess lowered his face to his hands and rubbed it. Maybe this wasn’t so anticlimactic after all. The thought of his little brother paging aghast through queer skin magazines…

“You really get off on that stuff?” Red asked, suspended in a stew of disbelief, distaste, and curiosity.

Jess tilted his head and looked through his fingers. “Well, duh.”

The kid’s eyebrows went up, down. “How, um…how long have you known you’re like this?”

The house seemed unusually quiet. It wasn’t, of course. The old man had simply turned off the TV and gone to bed. Same drill every night.

Jess dropped his hands and loosely linked them between his knees. “As long as I can remember.”

Red scraped his upper teeth over his lower lip. “What’s…you know…what’s that kind of stuff…?” He paused. A wince tugged at his features.

“What’s it like?” Jess said with a sympathetic smile.


“For me it’s just right.” As Jess turned a bit more to face his brother, he caught a glimpse of the custom-made T-shirt he’d ordered for Jared’s twelfth birthday. Red Rum, it warned in jagged scarlet lettering. The kid had long since outgrown it, but he kept it hanging on the outside of his closet door.

“Remember your soapbox derby car?” Jess said. “The one Dad helped you build when he was still in Oshkosh?”

“Sure I do. I wanted to live in that car. We fit together perfect.”

“That’s what it’s like.”

Red looked puzzled. Then his face relaxed and he nodded.

As more questions formed in his addled mind, Red nibbled the inside of his cheek. He always had to do something when he thought hard—chew a fingernail, toy with some object.

Patiently, Jess waited.

“You got, like, a boyfriend?” Red finally asked.

“No.” And bam, just like that, Mig was in the room with them.

“D’you want one?”

Jess’s stomach squirmed. “Someday.”

“You gonna tell Dad you’re gay? Or Mom? Or Joel?”

The squirming increased. “Someday.”

Red resumed nibbling. The questions clearly weren’t over.

“Do you ever, like…shove stuff up your butt?”

Jess wheezed into laughter. “What?”

“Umfy Randall says fa—” Another blush surfaced with volcanic speed. “He says gay guys like sticking things up their butts.”

Dare I ask? But it was too delicious to resist. “Such as?”

Red shrugged. “Root crops, small animals, grooming aids.”

Snorting, Jess fell back onto the mattress. He lay there, both arms thrown over his face, as his laughter spiraled and his eyes spilled tears. For one thing, he didn’t think Umfy Randall, who was dumber than a drumstick, was even familiar with phrases like root crops and grooming aids.

Abs cramping, Jess rolled onto his side and folded his legs. Oh, Christ.

“So…it ain’t true?”

The kid sounded serious, which made Jess laugh even harder. “Of course it’s true. If it came from Umfy Randall, it must be true.” He gasped for breath and tried to control his hooting. “In fact, I’m packing a blow dryer, three parsnips, and a litter of newborn weasels as we speak.”

Stony-faced, Jared regarded him. “Dude, weasels are dangerous.”

Jess curled in on himself. His gut was ready to split.

If only coming out to everybody else in his life could be this much fun.

* * *

~ From The Zero Knot, copyright © 2011 K. Z. Snow 

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Of Fugly and Funerals

It's a weird coincidence that after I wrote this post, I got a message from Elisa Rolle informing me that Fugly was among her top ten "referrals" (I think that means click-throughs from her site) for April.  A good cover truly is a gift that keeps on giving.

Anyway . . . this post is a downer.  Don't read it if that will upset you.  I just needed to vent.

I went to Jerry's funeral yesterday.  Rather, I went to the visitation and realized I couldn't do more.  But who, or what, was I visiting?  (Oh my, it appears I've read too many blurbs!)

I cringed when I found out Jerr wasn't going to be cremated.  All our other friends who've taken their final journeys over the past few years -- and there've been too many -- have been incinerated and their powdery cremains put in attractive containers.  Ashes to ashes.  I don't have a problem with this kind of exit, especially when the containers are surrounded by photos of their contents when those contents were intact and vital and happy.  Flowers are pretty, too.  The whole setup can help make an otherwise painful event tolerable.  Poignant, yes, but not repugnant.

When I wrote Fugly, I did a good deal of research on behind-the-scenes mortuary practices: embalming, cosmetizing, "presentation" --manipulations of the dearly departed that most folks would rather not think about (and who can blame them?)  The research didn't particularly bother me. Writing the Todd and Gabriel chapters didn't particularly bother me.  Maybe that's because I was more focused on the characters and their developing relationship than on their work environment. I was focused on the "happily," not the "ever after."  Know what I mean?

BUT.  I couldn't do any focus-shifting yesterday, and I couldn't stand seeing those practices applied to someone I cared about.  The realization hit me hard. I didn't want to see Jerry as a worked-over stiff.  It was bad enough walking into that delicately scented, mauve-hued room and catching a glimpse of his frozen profile.  Bad, bad enough, knowing he'd been propped just so on a satin pillow, his face artificially colored and artfully lit, his hands crossed unnaturally instead of gripping a Pabst can or pool cue or remote control.

JLA was with me -- a mixed blessing.  (Let's just say he isn't a very emotional or even empathetic person.)  I immediately told him, "I can't go up there [to the casket]. I don't want to see him that way."  JLA, tough guy that he is, had no such qualms.  He went up there. However, he did change his tune after he'd made the short trip. When he came back to my chair, he murmured, "Yeah, you're better off staying here. Really."  Later, he was on the verge of telling me precisely why I'd been better off keeping my distance, but I abruptly said, "I don't want to hear it."  Because, I inferred, whatever the results of all that embalming, cosmetizing, and posing, they couldn't have been pleasant.

I don't understand what Jessica Mitford called, in her 1963 classic of the same name, "the American way of death."  I honestly don't know why a deceased person's loved ones would willingly subject themselves to the whole hideous ritual of a full funeral.  Closure?  I don't even get it in that context.  I want to remember Jerry laughing or tending his pumpkin patch or cooking his secret-recipe barbecue sauce; I don't want to remember him as a creepy mannequin laid out in some tricked-out ride to nowhere.  What the hell kind of final image is that?

I didn't go the cemetery.  Couldn't.  I recoiled at the thought of witnessing that part of the ritual too -- the massive, gaudy, environmentally unfriendly capsule descending into the dank earth, where it would sit for decades upon decades doing nothing but taking up space, leaking chemicals into the ground, and inhibiting a process nature wants to take place.  It seemed like yet another desecration, disturbing and pointless.

As far as I was concerned, Jerry had left the building four days earlier.  He'd done so while he was in his own house, on his own couch.  It would've been much more appropriate if he'd been left alone and that piece of furniture buried or burned with him on it.

Shit, what a day.