Monday, July 21, 2014

NECON/INTERRUPTED

Left to right: Rob Davies, Myself, Jacob Haddon, Dave Thomas
This past weekend, I attended the 34th annual NECON - a speculative convention that is, in many ways, a Mecca for speculative fiction writers - in Bristol, Rhode Island. 

Sorta.

I rode up with Lamplight editor Jacob Haddon, and we talked about tons of stuff - writerly stuff, industry stuff, personal stuff - and the ride itself was almost worth the trip. Soon as we arrived, however, a slight monkey wrench slipped into the works.


I Skyped home to talk to my wife and the kids. I was expecting to see my daughter and son crowding the screen, jubilant and excited. What I saw, however, is the last thing any traveling husband wants to see: my wife, pale, sweating, in pain, and crying.

Long story short: she'd just thrown up twice, experiencing severe abdomen pain. Guesses ranged from appendicitis to gall bladder infection, and I was six hours away, having just arrived at NECON, and powerless to do anything.

Abby's nausea lessened, and the pain eased. Once I made sure her sister and mother were standing by to help her, we decided to wait until morning for her to visit our family doctor. I then went out and tried to enjoy my first night at NECON as best I could, and I managed okay.

The next morning, Abby woke with a moderate amount of pain. She made arrangements for the kids, then headed to the family doctor. I spent the morning finishing a short story, checking out the dealer room, watching panels, trying to enjoy myself as best as possible.

Around 1:30, Abby called me with the news that our family doctor believed it to be appendicitis. She then went to the hospital to await an official diagnosis. Meanwhile, I was stuck. Jacob was graciously offering to take me home, but he'd driven a total of 12 hours to NECON, and I didn't want to make him do that. Then, in the ultimate measure of grace, good friend Ron Dickie - from Canada, on a direct return path past my house - offered me his car.

That said, I then waited for a final verdict. Around 2:30, I decided not to wait any longer. If Abby called me with the news she DIDN'T have appendicitis, I could always turn around and return to NECON if the diagnosis wasn't serious. However, if I left before hearing and it WAS appendicitis, MAYBE I'd make it home in time for the surgery.

I packed off around 2:30. Around 4, Abby called me, confirming the diagnosis. I motored my way home and walked into the hospital waiting room at 8:30 PM. Ten minutes later, the surgeon came in to tell us the procedure was done, and Abby had come through it fine. She's resting comfortably now, and on the mend.

SO, how do I feel about all this?

Well, most importantly, I'm thankful Abby's okay. Also eternally grateful to Ron for the use of his car, and for the deluge of well-wishes and prayers offered on Facebook. Underneath that? 

I'll be honest and admit there's some emotional turmoil, though it's beginning to simmer down. I'd been looking forward to this for weeks, returning to NECON for the first time in almost four years, under special circumstances. So, I was pretty gripped by "I feel bad about missing NECON, but feel worse about feeling bad about missing NECON, because that makes me pretty selfish, right?"

Things are starting to get back to normal. Madi's got basketball camp, I've got a writing schedule to keep, Abby's mending, and soon, we'll be heading out to vacation. One thing I can say for sure: it was wonderful seeing everyone again, even if for only a short time, and I'm now committed to saving funds in order to attend NECON 35.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

NECON! And A New Review.

Aiming for the fence at NECON 31
So in about six hours or so, Lamplight editor Jacob Haddon will be rolling into my driveway, honking his horn, waiting to bear me away to NECON 34. I mentioned on Facebook that it's been two years since I attended NECON. I checked my facts, and realized it's actually been 3, so returning has been a long time in coming.

Of course, returning is mostly important to me, not to anyone at NECON. I'm not a name anyone is necessarily looking forward to seeing. But NECON was one of the first conventions I ever attended when I started getting out on the road five years ago.  I attended Borderlands Bootcamp, MOCON, then BOOM: NECON.

It was a fabulous time. I didn't know anyone, didn't now anything about time honored NECON rituals (for example, I totally missed mini-golf and the Talent Show that year), but even so, being surrounded by the greats of the genre, simply BEING there at NECON...

What a way to begin my convention experience.

The following year was even better, simply because I knew more people. I mini-golfed, went out to dinner with folks Thursday night, I mingled better, actually TALKED to some of the greats, instead of mewling in the corner like a pile of jelly. I wasn't a "name"  but felt like maybe, just maybe, I was on my way to becoming a NECON "regular."

Then, life intervened.

Bills piled up. Changes in my school summer pay left me, basically, unemployed and unpaid over the summer. One by one, conventions had to be ticked off the list. Unfortunately, NECON was one of the first to go.

Now, a confluence of fortuitous events has put NECON back on the map, and I couldn't be more excited. I'll be riding up with good friend Jacob Haddon and rooming with fellow Hiram Grange scribe and excellent fellow, Rob Davies, who has blogged about his first experience to NECON. I'll get to see some awesome folks, some of whom I haven't seen for almost a year, others longer.

And this time, I hope to make things stick. I've decided that, in addition to AnthoCon (which I work at, running the Readings), I need to focus on ONE con a year. Until World Horror gets a little closer to the East Coast, I'm going to aim toward saving my funds for NECON every year.

But, I'm not going to worry about that this weekend. I'm just going to bask. As Rob Davies mentioned, horror writers tend to be the friendliest, most laid back folks. Whether or not I can make it all stick, become a NECON regular or not, this year I get to go back, and I plan on fully enjoying myself.

And the weekend starts perfectly, with a new review for DEVOURER OF SOULS:
The stories are chilling, disturbing, and creepy without being weighed down by blood and guts, which makes for some fantastic storytelling on Lucia’s part. The characters are believable and you grow to care about them before the cruelty of their fates hits you like a punch to the gut. The writing is so compelling and well-done that I read Devourer of Souls in one sitting—I couldn't put it down.
I bold-faced the last sentence because, in the end, I feel that's the greatest compliment any writer can receive. I know for me, at the bottom of it all, I want people to read my stuff, and love reading my stuff. My favorite authors have made whole days disappear for me, and it's heady stuff to hear I've done the same for others.

And now, I'm off prep for NECON....

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

King's Thoughts on Short Stories, Deleuze and Framing, Why I Write Shorts Better Over Summer and My Short Story Blitz #1: "Out of Field"

It's summer vacation, which means a lot more blogging by me. As a teacher, I get the summers off, and my wife and I decided several years ago it would be easier for her to pick up more hours at work and for me to watch the kids. Which, of course, means more blogging time. Sometimes, daily. Would love to keep that consistent through the school year, but then I have time to get up and write fiction in the morning, and that's about it.

Anyway, you'll be seeing a lot more activity around here for the next two months. Would love to keep it that active all the time, but dayjobbery, y'know? Anyway, one of things I'll be talking about once a week will the be the short story I'm writing.

Because I've decided that this summer I'm going to blitz some short stories. It occurred to me several months ago, while lamenting my somewhat lack of success in placing short stories, that really ... honestly...I don't pursue the short form with the same intensity that I do longer forms. So it's no wonder I haven't been able to place them anywhere.

Why do I have this sudden urge to write in the short form? I'm not sure. Part of it stems for my growing love of short stories over the past three years. I've discovered how much power they have. While novels often follow characters along a developing arc, and may or may not offer closure and resolution, short stories can be like quick emotional jabs that leave us gasping for breathe. As my love for the short form has grown, my desire to produce that effect in a reader has also grown.

And I decided that this summer, I'd focus solely on the short form, for two reasons. One:
"...if you want to write short stories, you have to do more than think about writing short stories. It is not like riding a bicycle but more like working out in a gym: your choice is use it or lose it." - Stephen King, Introduction to Everything's Eventual
So this summer, instead of wishing I could make myself write more short stories, I'm going to make myself write more short stories. One a week. I've started one today. I will finish it by next Wednesday, regardless of whether it's "good" or not, or even really "finished" or not. And then next week, I'll start another one.

The second reason for devoting the summer to short stories is I think I've discovered a key: I need emotional immediacy to write these short stories. I need to blast them right out. During the school year, I have exactly an hour and half a day early in the morning to write. That's usually it. This lends itself well to plugging along on novels and novellas. But the last two short stories I wrote and sold - "Scavenging" and "The Black Pyramid" - I wrote (the first drafts, anyway) over several days last summer, because I have so much more free time.

Now, I'm not trying to "recreate" the effect. But I think there's something in that emotional immediacy. So, with no looming deadlines, with Billy the Kid cooling his spurs, I'm dedicating this summer to short fiction.

The first story I'm tentatively calling "Out of Field." Its inspiration comes from Gilles Deleuze's thoughts on "framing" in photography. I first encountered this in a graduate class, Film and Philosophy, an awesome class in which I loved the film part but struggled a little with the philosophy part.

Anyway, in my extremely layman's terms, Deleuze's ideas about framing involve the concept (poorly rendered by me) that when we take a picture, anything outside the frame of the picture still exists, is still occurring, is part of another reality. So, take a student from Webb Community College who's trying to pass a film class he hates, a class he thinks is a waste of time. He needs to produce a final portfolio reflecting Deleuze's ideas, so he spends the weekend shooting digital pictures in Clifton Heights...

Time to get working on that story. Hopefully, y'all will get to read it someday.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Release Day Follies, Free Stories, It's SUMMER! and Short Story Blitz

Yesterday was the release day for my second book set in Clifton Heights, Devourer of Souls. We had a cool little Release Party last night where shenanigans abounded and fun was had by all. I met some great folks, we chatted about writing and books and had a good time. That, and this morning I woke up to this:

Now, I know this whole thing is fleeting. By the end of the week I'll drop back down off the Top 100 list. I also know that, in reality, only a few purchases in a short amount of time temporarily boosts someone's ranking.  But it's nice to see, regardless. I promise I won't go crazy posting about it, but - not to branch into another topic - I've lost patience with stuffy folks who stick their noses in the air and complain about showy young authors always trumpeting their slightest successes. I'm happy, it's a small step, it was something I didn't have yesterday, and tomorrow is another writing day. When good things happen, I share it. End of story.

On that note, I've made several stories in Things Slip Through free. If you haven't yet visited Clifton Heights, now is the time to test the waters. They'll be free today and tomorrow:

THE GATE AND THE WAY: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00I1PO7NW

Also, I'm happy to report that school is officially over and summer is here. Which means one of two things:

1. More original blog posts instead of just "Yay me look what I did!" publishing news posts

2. A short story blitz

Yep. Now that I've sent my latest project, a serial novella for The Midnight Diner titled Suffer the Children off to beta-readers, I'm going to spend the rest of the summer trying to write short stories. I don't care if they're good, or if they're short stories or only just vignettes, I just want to try and bang them out, once a week. I'll even blog about them a little, starting tomorrow. 

I don't know if I'll be able to sell them or what, but it occurred to me just this past year, while lamenting my lack of success in selling short fiction that, in all honesty, I haven't pursued  short fiction nearly as much as I have long fiction (novels/novellas). This summer, it's time to do that. We'll see what happens.

Anyway, good things abound. A new book released to excellent reviews and Day One sales. It's summer. All the reading I can handle for the next two months, a serial novella in the bag, and a short story blitz. Can't get any better than that...

Or, can it...?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A New Story, a Review, a Party and a Guest Blog

SO, a lot has been going on.  The last two weeks I've been grading finals at school, our house has been remodeled (kitchen and bathroom), I've been busy disposing of the remains of the remodeling to save money, my daughter has graduated from 3rd grade,  I served as a Marshall for last night's graduation and oh, yeah: my new book, Devourer of Souls, will be officially released Monday in ebook and paperback. I've also guest blogged about five key horror authors all young horror writer should read, (and will be guest blogging about more things in the coming week), and there will be a release party, too.

Oh, and I sold a new short story. I'm VERY pleased to announce my Lovecraftian story "The Black Pyramid" will appear in Hazardous Press' Small Town Lovecraftian Horror collection Shadows Over Main Street. Check out the AWESOME TOC, cover and synopsis:

Chesya Burke, Mountaintown
T. Fox Dunham, Father or the Flesh
Brian Hodge, This Stagnant Breath of Change
Kevin Lucia, The Black Pyramid
Adrian Ludens, Estranged
Nick Mamatas, Χταπόδι σαλάτα
Rena Mason, Red Hill
Lisa Morton, The Ogre
Aaron Polson, Undergrounders
Mary SanGiovanni, The Floodgates of Willow Hill
Lucy A. Snyder, The Abomination of Fensmere
John Sunseri, Homecoming
Richard Thomas, White Picket Fences
Jay Wilburn, Boss Cthulhu






What happens when idyllic small-towns, and the simple folk who inhabit them, collide with inexplicable evil borne of a vast and uncaring cosmos? Imagine a series of stories set in a golden era of American life, where worldly troubles are regarded from a distance, if at all.

Hear the buzz of playing cards clipped in children’s spokes echo down quiet lanes. Smell the faint aroma of rich tobacco smoke from an old man’s pipe on a shady boulevard. Listen to the gossip of small towns where everyone knows everyone’s business.

Or do they?

Sometimes, deadly secrets lurk out in the barn. Sometimes, unimaginable evil awaits us in the root cellar. Sometimes, we fall under the sway of the Shadows Over Main Street.

Come inside and sit for a spell…

Additionally, a lot of great reviews have been popping up for Devourer of Souls. If you're on Facebook or Twitter you've probably already seen them, but on the off-chance you follow this blog and NOT my other Social Media Outlets:

Author Joe Falank weighs in: "...Perfect for summer reading."

Author Armand Rosamilia offers: "each story is unique and will keep you guessing until the 
next twist. Highly recommended!"

Writer/Reviewer Frank Errington sez: "If Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft had a bastard 
child, his name would be Kevin Lucia."

Reader/reviewer Dawn states: "It made me think of Dan Simmons 'Summer of Night' and 'A
Winter Haunting'."

Author Glen Rolfe writes: "Lucia is a great talent and a studious devouer of all things horror
(including souls!)."

And my favorite comes from Rising Shadows:


















My copies of the book arrived yesterday...and wow. All I can say is how blessed and fortunate I am to have worked with two great publishers in one year to produce such fine products. Again, if you're onthe social media, you've seen these before, but if not...




















Of course, as wonderful as all of this is, I'm still busy, busy. I'll soon be shipping my serial novella for The Midnight Diner, Suffer the Little Children off to beta-readers, and this summer I'm finally (hopefully) going to embark on my "Write 1 Short Story A Week" challenge. I'll definitely up-date folks here and on the social media.

Whew.

Good thing it's summer vacation, finally...

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Horror 101, Some Blurbs, and New Editor Position at The Horror Channel

A smattering of news bits this week. Friday the paperback edition of HORROR 101: THE WAY FORWARD went live on Amazon. I wasn't able to finish my essay in time for the ebook edition, but it's there in the paperback edition, entitled: "What Are You Reading?" 

I can't even consider myself a "seasoned professional" by any means, and I'm not sure if I'd ever be someone to take career advice from. But my essay is about the one thing I do feel comfortable talking about: how important reading is for young writers of all genres. Anyway, with a TOC boasting the likes of Ramsey Campbell, Jack Ketchum, Ellen Datlow and more, there are many others reasons to buy this besides my essay.
Secondly, I received my first official cover blurb for DEVOURER OF SOULS, another Clifton Heights book, due from Ragnorak Publications, June 30th, and I couldn't be happier who from: the wonderful Mary Sangiovanni. Her work has been very influential, she's a fabulous writer and a wonderful person, so I couldn't be happier. The full blurb is below:
With Devourer of Souls, Kevin Lucia offers a deftly layered, authentic, and original tale of cosmic horror.  Much as the monstrous otherworld of Sophan is neatly contained in a small black box, Lucia's story of lies and secrets, strengths and weaknesses, and the profound impact these things have on believable, endearing, achingly human characters is neatly presented to the reader in this one small book.  If you are game for some supernatural shivers and true monsters, you'd do well to give Devourer of Souls a read. - Mary Sangiovanni
Also, Bram Stoker Nominated author of SOLOMON'S GRAVE, Daniel Keohane left a great advance review on Goodreads. My favorite part is this:
Capturing the borderline world between innocence and adolescence in small town life, DEVOURER OF SOULS smoothly blends in dark, supernatural elements in a wonderfully honest way. I’m reminded of Stephen King’s early work. In a genre where fictional characters are too quick to accept the supernatural, here there is doubt, a fight against the inevitable badness that’s coming. 
Here's an updated cover with Mary's blurb. Once again, I'm fortunate enough to have an awesome cover...


Finally, I'm beyond pleased to announce my new Associate Editor's gig at The Horror Channel, working with fellow Borderlands Bootcamp graduate and editor/author Michael Bailey, working under the legendary Tom Monteleone. I'm looking forward to the work before us.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

In Which I Get Panned By Publishers Weekly, But It's Totally Okay

First, here's something to balance out the mood of this post, due June 30th from Ragnorak Publications. SHINY!

Sophan

An ancient game of chance and Fate. One boy's smoldering hate, another boy's need to make things right, and a father's ghosts of Vietnam past. These are the key players in this latest tale of revenge and reparation performed on the stage of the strange Adirondack town of Clifton Heights, NY.

The Man in Yellow

Tahawus is a small, isolated Adirondack town just north of Clifton Heights. A quiet place filled with simple people of an ardent faith, nothing much ever happens there...until the man in yellow comes calling. He knows your worst nightmares, and he can offer your fondest wish. All you need is faith...and a mouth from which to scream.




Okay, now that we've started this post off on a good note, let's get down to the nitty gritty...

It finally happened yesterday. I received my official Publishers Weekly review and critique of DOWN IN THE DARK, as part of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. 

And...

Ouch.

Suffice to say it wasn't kind. I still have to get my official scoring, but I'm gonna go out on a limb and assume that, based on PW's review, my run in the ABNA contest is soon coming to a close.

And you know what?

I'm totally okay with that. First of all, I just happened to finish a draft of the novel as the deadline for entering drew near. So I figured: "Why not?" Second of all - and most importantly - are the circumstances surrounding this novel. DOWN IN THE DARK came about through a series of pitches to a New York Publishing House editor. It initially began as something completely different. Through many changes, after it finally evolved into a weird western featuring Billy the Kid, the editor said those words all writers ultimately fear: "I love it, but the sales team doesn't get it."

BUT, because I had an outline, a workable idea, and a novel I could actually see through to the end, I decided: "Heck with it. I'm writing this." I'm not gonna lie; writing the novel hasn't come easily for me. At the time I felt that, published or not, this was an experience I desperately needed: to finish a novel.

And I did. The thing is, much as I enjoyed writing it, one little thought kept popping up in the back of my head: is this a "Kevin Lucia" kinda novel? A Weird Western featuring a demon-killing Billy the Kid is pretty far removed from anything I'd ever planned on writing. There's a story that before HEART-SHAPED BOX, Joe Hill wrote a 900 page fantasy novel he couldn't sell to anyone. That, and I've often heard it said that you really need to write a "bad" novel before you can write a good one.

Plus: this ain't supposed to be easy. It's supposed to be hard. This is probably the biggest beef I have with self-publishing and small small presses (another blog for another time) is that it's become far too easy to publish the very first thing you finish, which maybe shouldn't be published at all. Maybe this novel shouldn't see the light of day.

That, and I've spent the last two years hearing nothing but very nice things about my writing. Regardless of whether or not this review is credible...writers need to hear things like this, occasionally. Especially new writers like me. We can't get so used to hearing how awesome we are, all the time.

I'm not giving up on the novel, however. Folks have been very supportive on Facebook, and seasoned professionals have been very frank in sharing their perspectives regarding PW in particular, and reviews in general.  Their word carries a lot of weight with me. Plus, I spent two years and a lot of hours writing this sucker. I'm certainly not going to toss it because of PW's review

What I AM going to do is this: finish my solicited serial novella for The Midnight Diner (more on that later). Work on another novel I want to submit elsewhere. Then, go back into DOWN IN THE DARK, smooth some things out, and put it before a rabid pack of beta readers I've come to trust completely. I'm going to keep writing, as always. Keep moving forward, keep getting better.

 Because in the end, that's all you can do.