New Interview about Lurk – A Book and a Latte

How did you come up with the title?

Lurk began as a short novella titled “The Pictures Under Sunny Hill,” about a depressed college student who finds a box of Polaroids buried under his house that change to let him spy on his friends. I realized as I was writing that the story worked better as a novel, so I used the old name for Part One, and started calling my early drafts of the full-length story Lurk. I liked it, so it stuck. At one point an agent tried to get me to change the name to The Lurker… I didn’t end up working with her.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

My fiction tends to be about fringe characters, because they interest me. Lurk is a study of madness told from the point of view of an unreliable (and sometimes unlikable) narrator; you are seeing his psychological downward spiral through his own eyes. I knew when I was writing certain scenes that they would make many readers uncomfortable. That was deliberate. This book is an examination of a type of mentality that I see becoming exceedingly common in the age of internet and social media oversaturation, which can lead to us having unhealthy ideas about the lives of others. My primary goal in this story is to scare and entertain, but I also wanted to say something about one of the more dangerous pitfalls of modern life.

What books have most influenced your life?

My top three are The Shining, Blood Meridian, and Book of the New Sun.

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Read the rest of the interview here.

My Second Pro Sale

I just sold my second piece of short speculative fiction at a professional rate (more than six cents USD per word, according to the SFWA). My Escher-inspired time travel story This Door Is Locked will appear in an upcoming science fiction anthology later this year. The publisher has asked me not to discuss specifics yet until all the authors have been notified, but I am pretty stoked so I just wanted to share. One more this year and I can join the guild! 

Before the awkward prom pose.

In other news, I’m in Boston this weekend for GF’s graduation. She graduated cum laude and the newspaper featured her cap for the Star Trek decorations she put on it. I can’t drink alcohol right now because I have a hole inside my mouth from some dumb activities I engaged in at last weekend’s beer fest, which also means I can’t talk much, or play the didgeridoo. So she is celebrating for two. 

Lederhosen, not even once.

I also started writing book two of the Corruption Cycle. Back to the grind…

‘Corruption’ Is Out

Corruption (The Corruption Cycle, #1) is out today on Kindle.

There are a few loose thoughts in my brain that I want to get out there concerning the three-year journey it took to write this book. But first –

Celebration!

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What a celebration looks like in Bavaria. Also what every day looks like in Bavaria.

Thought #1: This wasn’t always an easy book to write.

I started writing Corruption back in early 2014, before I ever sold a story, when Lurk was still a twenty-page first draft kicking around on my old Alienware laptop. It took me about six months to finish the first pass on Corruption once I picked it up and really committed in late 2015, and almost a year to rewrite and edit it to a point where I was comfortable showing it to friends and family.

Corruption contains three nested stories: the story of Dan, an expat running from his past who flees America to find a new life in Eastern Europe; the story of the Night Country, a fallen, post-apocalyptic world where an evil king has stolen the sun; and finally, the fictional story of a good knight on a mission to save his kingdom in the epic poem Dan is translating at work.

Balancing these three story lines gave me some trouble in the early drafts. As usual, the best advice I received came from my dad. He was my first reader, and while he really loved the story once he got into it, he struggled with the big initial splash. So I rewrote Q1. Not completely. Mostly, I added a POV character that ended up being my favorite character in the book. I love me a bastardly villain, and the Ratkeeper (the guy in the spiral mask pictured below) is in some ways as bastardly as they come.

Thought #2: You can grow even from the harshest criticism.

On the subject of the cover… the second-best advice I received in the production of this book came from /r/selfpublish, who took me to task when I posted the crappy “cover” I made in Gimp, which in my tunnel vision looked awesome, but in hindsight, would’ve killed this book in the womb. Check out that side-by-side for reference. I tried to do this part myself, not for egotistical reasons, but because I wanted the challenge.

Wrong.

Dudes, we should only try to climb the mountains we are meant to climb. I am not a graphic designer and never will be. I scrapped what we will now refer to as the “mood-setter” cover (in real English, the shit one), and ended up working with J. Caleb Clark on the final cover the book has now. He was a godsend. He created an image that was not only beautiful and eye-catching, but also captured the essence of the story better than the best-case scenario I had in my head.

Lesson learned: don’t try to do everything yourself, and always trust your professionals.

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Thought #3: This book isn’t for everyone.

I have no illusions about the fact that Corruption will be a difficult book for some people. There are no Elvish musicals or handsome, square-jawed saviors. When I classify this book as “dark fantasy” I am not doing so in an attempt to ride George R.R. Martin’s diamond coattails. There is some graphic sex and violence – more of the latter than the former – but the darkness I chose to write about in Corruption is, if you couldn’t guess from the title, primarily of the social, human variety.

As with Lurk, I wanted to write about ideas and people that I find interesting, and those typically gravitate toward the fringes. The uglier parts of this story include hate, loneliness, dysfunctional relationships, mental illness, alcoholism, Eastern European geopolitics, weird internet subcultures, sex curses, a solar apocalypse, and beyond.

Is a fantasy novel the right place to explore these subjects? I don’t know. This is not the book that I thought I should write for other people; it’s the book I wrote because I wanted to read it. Art is always a mirror. Sometimes it is a mirror we hold up to other people, and sometimes it is a mirror we hold up to ourselves. To me Corruption is a bit of both.

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Thought #4: After three years, it is time to do like the homegirl Elsa and let it go.

Whether you adore Corruption, hate it, finish it, don’t read it, five-star it, one-star it, devour it in one sitting or nibble it to completion, fantasy readers of the world… Corruption is yours now.

Thank you to everyone who helped along the way, and especially, to Hannah.

I Moved to Germany

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Actually, this is Denmark.

It’s been a crazy month, but I am here and slightly settled. New country, new city, new job. I wasn’t happy at my last job. It felt an awful lot like spinning my wheels. I don’t think anyone ever loves their day job unless or until their day job and their pipe dreams finally convene. But that one was a pretty bad fit.

So about a month ago I accepted an offer from a company in Germany that I had been talking to about writing games for back when I lived in Boston. I packed my bags, said goodbye to my LA homies and Jiu Jitsu friends, took a road trip up the California Coast with my beautiful girlfriend, even squeezed in a snowboarding trip to Lake Tahoe, and then I moved abroad… again. This was the second time for me moving to Europe for a long-term job. Counting shorter-term gigs, it is actually the fourth (or fifth…? Who knows).

Driving up the 1.

Big Sur coastline, home of a rare specie of alpha predator man-eating squirrel.
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She’s Heavenly.

Anyway, I flew out of SFO and stopped in Denmark for a day on the way over. Copenhagen is awesome. I walked around, ate a bunch of herring, had a drink by some boats, and overall felt Danish as fuck. Hamlet was Danish and that guy was a way more badass white dude than Iron Fist. I have not seen Iron Fist but I hear it has martial arts and Loras Tyrell is  straight now. Whatever.

Beautiful Copenhagen.
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Home of gender-neutral metal vikings.

And gargantuan gingerbread.

I got to Germany about two weeks ago. I am in a nice city in the south with a beautiful old town, and a lovely crystal-clear river flowing through the city center with white, stony beaches where I plan on swimming and reading books every day during summer. There are a few Brazilian Jiu Jitsu schools I need to get my ass over to check out, and most of all, many delis serving the dankest of small sandwiches.

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Great city for biking.
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Or walking.
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Or ordering spaghetti with a schnitzel.

My first impressions of the new job are decent. My co-workers are cool and there is beer in the fridge. My last job had beer too, but they kept it under lock and key until the monthly sanctioned company happy hours, because having fun at work is not allowed in America unless you work in porn. I have never worked in porn, so it’s refreshing.

And on the subject of beer, this is where the famed German efficiency truly shines. I went to a beer festival the first Friday I was here. Hundreds or maybe thousands of people in traditional clothing dancing and stomping on tables and smashing liters of strong beer together was what it looked like at 8:30PM. You don’t want to know about closing time.

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Put on your dirndl, we’re going to get turndl.

Anyway, there is no real point to this post other than to say hello and give a quick update on what I’m doing. My next book comes out in two weeks. Be sure to check it out.

Also gotta say I really missed kebabs.

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Picture credit Google.