Tuesday, March 31, 2009

GASLIGHT GRIMOIRE is nominated for the Prix Aurora Award!

Late last night Edge Books editor Jeff Campbell informed me that Gaslight Grimoire: Fantastic Tales of Sherlock Holmes, an anthology which contains my "Sherlock Holmes in the Lost World", made the short list for the Canadian Prix Aurora Award for the Best Work in English in the speculative fiction genre. The Aurora Awards will be presented in Montreal at the 67th World Science Fiction Convention August 6 -- 10, 2009.


This is very exciting news, and I feel very honored to share word-space in such an excellent book with so many esteemed writers. I also received news that our anthology will soon be translated into the Italian language, under the title Il Grimorio di Baker Street.

Very cool, indeed.

I want to sincerely thank editors Jeff Campbell and, especially, Charles Prepolec for inviting me to be a part of the book. Of my nine adventures of the Great Detective, "Sherlock Holmes in the Lost World" became my personal favorite long before I finished writing the last page. A very good time I'll remember always.

Thanks guys.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Now Part of the Gang

I'm sure my fellow dinosaur enthusiasts recognize this magnificent fellow, as depicted by classic paleo-artist, Charles Knight . In fact, Triceratops is one of the best-known of all Cretaceous dinosaurs, with more than fifty specimens discovered.

Until very recently most scientists believed that these thirty foot long three-horned reptiles were anti-social, solitary creatures that wandered and forged alone. An exciting new discovery (to me, anyway) has some paleontologists convinced that they may have been quite wrong in this assumption. Certainly no shame in this. Paleontology is always evolving and reassessing itself; that's how science works, or, at least, how it should work.

Three juvenile Triceratops have been excavated in the ancient Late Cretaceous bone bed from the famous Hell Creek formation in Montana. The condition and position of the fossil skeletons seems to indicate that the young dinosaurs possibly drowned together as a result of flooding, common in this location laced at the time with flood plains and river channels. As dinosaur news goes, this is pretty major stuff.

The fact that the Triceratops trio died together lends evidence to a fairly new idea suggesting that some teenaged dinosaurs were gregariously social, possibly living in herds for protection from predators such as their fearsome contemporary Tyrannosaurus rex. With the exceptions of crocodiles and alligators, both actually distantly related to dinosaurs, no other known reptiles live in social groups.

The more we discover about dinosaurs, and their astonishingly long reign, the more complex and remarkable they become. Little wonder that they were the most diverse and successful terrestrial animals ever to live on the planet.

And, as a writer, creatively speaking, I'd be nothing without them.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Lucky Friday the 13th

I'm among those few people who always seem to have good luck on Friday the 13th. The stage was set yesterday while I was walking in the neighborhood and encountered a beautifully sleek and friendly large black cat that attempted to follow me home. I've long been that I have a secret superpower to charm cats. All I know is that I've always felt a certain pull toward them, and they toward me. Maybe they're just hoping I'll drop dead, so they can eat me. Don't know. We got quite a few odd looks from people along the way, man being stalked panther-like by a big black slightly sinister cat on Friday the 13th. Really though, everyone should be used to the strangeness that surrounds the weird writer in their neighborhood by now.

Ihad a fabulous night planned, very appropriate for the special date. The New Parkway Theater in Minneapolis is running a 3D Film Festival , from March 3 to March 19, and I was looking forward to a dazzling double-feature. As I purchased my ticket, and was handed the cardboard 3D glasses, I felt a nice little thrill as if I'd stepped back into the 1950s.

Parking had been a bit of a problem and the first feature, Gorilla at Large, had already started as I made my way into the old dark theater. Suddenly, a giant three-dimensional ape swung at me, clinging to a jungle vine magically suspended somewhere above and beyond the screen. Doesn't get much cooler than that. The movie was good corny fun. The gorilla suit looked great, practically bristling right in my face (and Anne Bancroft's legs were a special effect in and of themselves). During the intermission, while they changed reels, a boy about nine years old run up the aisle saying,  "This movie is so cool!", so excitedly that he was shaking.

When the lights dimmed for the second feature, House of Wax, the audience actually broke into applause when Vincent Price's name loomed at us from the dramatic opening credits. I confess to becoming a bit emotional, thinking quietly of Vincent and wondering what he'd think about still having such affectionate fans almost a decade into the 21st Century. Will movie crowds be cheering the names of Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise on the screen fifty years from now?

Next Wednesday I will return to the Parkway for 3D screenings of Vincent Price in The Mad Magician and Alfred Hitchcock's Dial 'M' For Murder. I'm especially looking forward to experiencing Grace Kelly in three dimensions.


Last evening will always be a special memory at the movies for me. I love these old films. There's something wonderful about looking back at a time when movie stars were bigger than life, before excessive gore replaced story and performance, when a guy in a gorilla suit was supposed to be scary. Somehow I really like that.

What makes me feel even better is that excited nine-year-old. I could tell the kid was having the time of his life, and that this would probably always be a special memory for him, too. At least, I sincerely hope it will be.

Suddenly, at least for the moment, I don't feel like weeping for the future.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Who's Reading These Days?

Suddenly I'm even more appreciative toward my female readers!

This clipping is from a recent profile of the novelist Ian McEwan in THE NEW YORKER:

Three years ago, McEwan culled the fiction library of his London town house, in Fitzroy Square. He and his younger son, Greg, handed out thirty novels in a nearby park. In an essay for the Guardian, McEwan reported that “every young woman we approached . . . was eager and grateful to take a book,” whereas the men “could not be persuaded. ‘Nah, nah. Not for me. Thanks, mate, but no.’ ” The researcher’s conclusion: “When women stop reading, the novel will be dead.”

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What Big Eyes You Have...!

Thought maybe I should get around to promoting another book. This one is a favorite of mine.

In the early summer of 2007 I had just completed a graphic novel adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles for Stone Arch Books, a publisher of fine children's literature. They had assigned me the book based on my long association with Sherlock Holmes. Shortly after turning in the manuscript, Michael Dahl, the acquisitions editor, asked me to meet him for lunch.

I had suspected that Michael was possibly going to go over some revisions for The Hound, when he surprised me by starting up a conversation about Fairy Tales. We discussed Hans Christian Anderson, L. Frank Baum, and the Brothers Grimm, at quite some length before Michael asked me if I was interested in re-imagining one of the classic stories for Stone Arch. After I enthusiastically assured him that I was, he offered me a choice of either Rumpelstiltskin or Little Red Riding Hood.

I have a great fondness for both tales, but I knew I didn't need to think about which one I really wanted to write. Anyone who knows me well would have immediately guessed the answer, and gotten it right. Besides red being my favorite color--I've always loved wolves, even when they're Big and Bad.

Michael seemed a bit surprised, and somewhat relieved, explaining it was the one story nobody else had expressed any interest in. That made me want to do it even more. It's also probably the best-known Fairy Tale in the world. The classic versions were already so multi-layered and so rich with metaphors, the story practically howled for a new treatment.

We finished lunch and Michael told me he'd have the contract sent out right away. Getting home to my desk, I immediately started research for the book by reading every version of Little Red Riding Hood that I could hunt down. The library was full of them, so was the internet. Apparently the story has its origins in ancient China, over two thousand years ago, although that version involved a girl and a wicked fox.

Stone Arch graciously offered me full creative license in re-telling the tale for a 21st Century audience, so in many ways this was a dream project. From the start I knew I wanted to do two new things with the story. First, I dropped the "Little" from the title, thinking that it sounded a bit demeaning. No kid wants to think of themselves as "little" once they're talking and walking, and in such a lightning hurry to grow up. Second, I wanted my Red Riding Hood, whom I named Ruby, to solve her own problem. I sensed that some badly needed "Girl Power" should be an interesting mix into the legend, and that no rescuing hunters or protective fathers would be necessary. Red Riding Hood herself would be the hero of her own story.

Arriving in the bookstores last summer, this was my first published Fairy Tale, and it remains a sentimental favorite of mine, toward the top of the list of my many books. The artwork by Victor Rivas, a sort of cross between Edward Gorey and Tim Burton, is wonderfully atmospheric and utterly charming. (Victor's haunting forest road to Grandma house oozes with primordial menace, and his werewolf villain has a grin like a bristling crocodile.) The hardcover edition, especially, is a real thing of beauty and feels wondrous in my hands.

I love this book.

Although I'm much better known for writing mysteries and pulp adventures, I was delighted that my Red Riding Hood was so fabulously received both by my familiar readers and many new fans. I sold my entire box of comp copies last autumn at Saint Paul's FallCon, and Stone Arch has since hired me to give new spins on Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and, yup, even Rumpelstiltskin, among others that I can't yet reveal.

You're likely to find my Red Riding Hood at the neighborhood library, or if you feel so inclined you may order the book by clicking on the link below. Thanks very much for your interest!


Tuesday, March 3, 2009


As everyone in the comics industry should know, March 1st through the seventh is "Will Eisner Week", celebrating the remarkable accomplishments and special genius of this true innovating pioneer.

Do yourselves a favor, make a point to read a Will Eisner story this week, especially if you never have before.

Mr. Eisner had a profound impact and influence on my own chosen career...but more about that later.

For now, what're you waiting for? Go grab that Eisner book!