Redwood Mountain Grove of Giant Sequoias, Kings Canyon National Park, California. February 2015.
The #SixteensBlogAbout topic for the month of February is how and why we started writing, but I can’t answer that question. I don’t remember how or why I started writing. I was only a kid and it probably wasn’t a terribly momentous occasion.
I do, however, remember the first story I wrote. It was about alligators with pink eyes who lived in caves in the hills. At twilight their eyes would glow. The narrative was only a few sentences long and somewhat lacking in plot or character development, but I remember the setting being very important: those dark hills, those shadowy caves.
I like to think I’ve improved as a writer a bit in the intervening decades, although I will admit that I still secretly believe that properly communicating the ominous feel of dark hills and shadowy caves is often more important than pesky little things like plot. I wrote that story about the pink-eyed alligators when I was about seven. I don’t remember why. Why does a seven-year-old do anything? My father read to me and my sisters all the time, and he wrote his own stories, mostly dark fairy tale retellings in which nothing ever ended well for anybody, especially not frogs, so the possibility of putting words to page was always there.
I don’t think it’s that important, what I was thinking when I was seven. What is important is that once I started writing down my glowing pink-eyed alligators, I never stopped.
I still have nearly all of the stories I wrote as a child and teenager. They are amazingly bad. I love them for how bad they are. Mostly they consist of strange scary things happening right before people die horribly, which is exactly the kind of story I’m still writing nearly thirty years later, so I guess it’s true that you ought to start as you wish to go on.
The Sixteens Blog About topic for the month of January is reading resolutions for 2015. Now, I think we can all agree that reading resolutions are the best kind of New Year’s resolutions. It’s so easy to resolve to do something you want to do anyway. A few years ago, my reading resolution was to read more books. Last year, it was to specifically read more books by female authors. As far as New Year’s resolutions go, these are kind of on par with “eat more chocolate” and “pet more kittens” in the level of personal hardship they require, but I am not ashamed, nor shall I hesitate to make the exact same kind of resolutions this year.
For this year:
1. Sometimes maybe instead of always buying new books, I will read the ones I’ve already got on my bookshelves. Now that my books are out of storage and delightfully alphabetized all over the apartment, it’s time to start working through the multi-year backlog of “books I am totally going to read someday.”
2. And that means the nonfiction too! Read more non-fiction in general. I like learning things. I like books that help me learn things. I always enjoy nonfiction when I read it. I have a metric fuckton of unread nonfiction books on my shelves. I should read it.
Corollary to 2. Expand my nonfiction reading horizons a little bit. There are in fact nonfiction books out there on topics besides the history of science and people dying horribly of plagues and/or during polar exploration, but you would never know it from looking at my bookshelves.
3. Reread Patrick O’Brian’s entire Aubrey-Maturin series. It’s time, and now I actually have all the books in my possession. When I purchased the last one I was missing (The Nutmeg of Consolation which, let’s be real: greatest title or greatest title ever?) the man at the used bookstore and I agreed that not understanding any of the nautical chatter is part of the experience. You just let it wash over you, like the ocean. Like the Southern Ocean in the Roaring Forties while you’re being chased by a 74-gun Dutch ship-of-the-line and about to hit an iceberg. Like that.
4. Make all of my fellow Sweet Sixteeners send me their books so I can read them before the rest of the world gets to read them and taunt people who haven’t read them and feel very smug.
5. Slow down and pay more attention. Just… slow down. Pay more attention. The books aren’t going anywhere. I’ve done the thing where I read like all the world’s literature is going to burst into flames if I don’t pack it into my eyeballs as fast as possible. Now I can try the thing where I slow down and savor and contemplate.
These are my reading resolutions for 2015. It’s going to be a good year for books. I know it.
I have a new short story out in the Lovecraft-themed totally-not-fake-occult-books anthology The Starry Wisdom Library (ed. Nate Pedersen), now available from PS Publishing. It’s a beautiful little hardcover book filled with weird and wonderful contributions from a ton of great writers:
Scholars and book collectors across the country have long pondered the intended fate of the infamous collection of rare occult books left to rot in the Church of Starry Wisdom in Providence, Rhode Island, after the Starry Wisdom cult dispersed to parts unknown in the late 19th century.
The recent, shocking discovery of a previously unknown book auction catalogue issued in 1877 offers insight into the myriad mysteries of the cult. Entitled “Catalogue of the Occult Library of the Recently Disbanded Church of Starry Wisdom of Providence, Rhode Island,” and issued by the notorious Arkham firm Pent & Serenade, the catalogue reveals the long-suspected fact that the Church intended to sell its library to finance its removal from Providence.
The sale, of course, never materialized—as later events make obvious—but the book auction catalogue informs us of the cult’s original intent and leaves for us an enormously valuable and fascinating piece of ephemera detailing the infamous collection of rare occult books in all of its dark and foreboding glory.
The Sweet Sixteens blogging topic for the month of December is our favorite books and authors, but this post is not really about that. That’s too vast a topic. That list is infinite, and I’m too lazy to narrow it down. Instead this post is about my favorite books by my favorite author when I was a teenager.
Writers are always talking about their deepest influences, their idols, the words that got under their skin in their formative years. We remember the stories that hit us hard. We love to remember them. And for me, there’s a collection of books that towers above all else in the dusty library of my teenage memory. I’m not talking about classics. I’m not talking about great literature. I’m not even talking about good literature.
I’m talking about Christopher Pike’s homicidal telepathic zombie immortal incest dinosaurs.
This is the first in a series of interviews the Sweet Sixteeners are doing with our counterparts from 2015, so there will be many more debut authors and their books featured over the next several months!