Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tag, You're It: The Cosmicomicon Joins in the Electronic Parade of The Next Big Thing

cover art (c) by Arnaud de Vallois
Author, screenwriter, devoted Star Warsian, and fellow Weirdo Angelino Edward M. Erdelac was kind enough to tag me into The Next Big Thing on his blog posting last week, in which he discussed his most recent novel Terovolas, which is available now from JournalStone Publishing.

Here's a synopsis taken from his excellent blog Delirium Tremens:
"Following the events of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and his killing of the nefarious count’s vampiric wives, Professor Abraham Van Helsing commits himself to Dr. John Seward’s Purfleet Asylum, suffering from violent recurring fantasies, where he is diagnosed with melancholic lycanthropia. 
Upon his discharge, seeking a relaxing holiday, Van Helsing volunteers to transport the remains and earthly effects of Quincey P. Morris back to the Morris family ranch in Sorefoot, Texas. But when he arrives, he finds Quincey’s brother Cole embroiled in escalating tensions with a neighboring outfit of Norwegian cattle ranchers led by the enigmatic Sig Skoll. 
Men and animals start turning up dead and dismembered. Van Helsing suspects a preternatural culprit, but is a shapechanger really loose on the Texas plains, a murderous cult, or are the delusions of his previously disordered mind returning? He must decide soon, for the life of a woman may hang in the balance…"

In turn, I tag the following Filthy Five:

Matt Cardin
Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
Jeffrey Thomas
Brian Sammons
Peter Rawlik

As now one of the It, I will answer the ten stock questions below, and then pay this hot potato forward.

Hope you enjoy.

1)    What is the working title of your next book?

I Am Death, Cried the Vulture, a joint collection of short fiction by me and my wife - author, editor, essayist, and intergalactic heartbreaker Ives Hovanessian.

2)    Where did the idea come from for the book?

My co-author.  My co-pilot
I was offered a short fiction collection deal last year, and then Ives and I were offered a joint collection deal at the beginning of this year.  While both sounded great, and were huge honors, it seemed as time wore on and various issues arose, it made more sense to cut out middle management, fold my solo collection into the joint collection, and put out our debut joint collection ourselves (which was a goal of ours all along), allowing us complete control of cover, layout, format, platform, paper quality, binding, length, story selection, release timing, print run, deluxe editions, marketing, etc.  Not to sound like control freaks, but all of those things matter to us, as we take the tactile and sensory experience of reading a timber and ink book very, very seriously, while also realizing the importance of having an eBook version available for those who prefer it.  Moreover, as long time book buyers, we are keenly aware that the smallest things can be make or break when it comes to finding (and most importantly, keeping) a potential reader unfamiliar with your work, that only has a cover and a few blurbs to go on when deciding if they want to spend their hard earned money.  That window is very narrow, and you need to grab an interested party immediately.  Hence, we're going to publish it under our own banner, with I Am Death, Cried the Vulture serving as the launch release for SlaughterHaus Press, a boutique small press that will focus on writers and projects that we find exceptional, published with an eye on aesthetics and quality, respect for writers and artists, and a celebration of the enduring legacy of the physically printed written word.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Weird fiction, as a sub-genre.  Horror if viewed more broadly.  Anything from cosmic horror to ghost stories  to tales of murder.  The uncanny, the monstrous, the brutal, even the (twistedly) whimsical.  This is dark stuff, with lots of range and plenty of genre blending.  I think it has something for everyone who enjoys a wide swath of modern speculative fiction rooted in the Classics.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Hmm... As this question is most likely aimed at those participants discussing a novel, this might get a bit convoluted for raft of short stories.

Ben Foster - Poster Boy for Insanity
That said, throwing out a few of my stories that will be included in my portion of the collection, I think Casey Affleck would make for an interesting Boyd in "The Screamer."  Chris Evan could play the nameless protagonist in "Transmission."  For "Flutes," I'd love to see Ed Harris or Harvey Keitel play Assistant Director French, while Ryan Gosling, Cillian Murphy, or Ben Foster would be an interesting Dansby.

For "In the Cave, She Sang," I think Christian Bale could do a bang-up Charles Manson traipsing through Death Valley on the eve of a very momentous decision.  I think Mandy Patinkin would be a great father in the story "Twinkle, Twinkle," while James Caan and Susan Sarandon would be fantastic as the vacationing Vahlkamps in "Something We Ate."  Robert Duvall and Gene Hackman as the fishing buddies in "Beer & Worms," and James McAvoy in "Corpus Arcanum."  Daniel Day Lewis for my story "Old Whiskey," or any story I've ever written, will write, and would be forced to write if he said he wanted to play one of my characters.

 5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A collection of Weird fiction tales by T.E. Grau and Ives Hovanessian spanning the cosmos, the underground, and various shadowed places in between.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Neither of us have sought out representation as of yet, and although we could have relied upon a publisher to put out I Am Death, Cried the Vulture, we both opted to do it ourselves, for the reasons listed above.  DIY is the only way to ensure total satisfaction in the finished result.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Tough to say, as it's a collection of short fiction from two people, and is ongoing.  In the end, it will cover our writing from the last three years (2010-2013).  With our hectic schedules, various gigs, and penchant for rewrites, we're not the speediest scribes on the planet, but we do put in the work every day.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I dub "The Screamer" as an example of Lovecraftian Noir.  Ives' story "Dog Will Hunt" has been compared to Lansdale, and is a Weird Western with a streak of wrathful black running through it darker than most anything else going.  These are our two anchor tales, as they have received the most feedback.  Our other stories pretty much run the gamut of fantastical and supernatural fiction as noted above.  As for parallels to other books or authors, I think the collection will appeal to those people who read Richard Gavin, Matt Cardin, Simon Strantzas, Laird Barron, Landsdale, M.R. James, Bradbury, T.E.D. Klein, Ligotti, Lovecraft, Machen, Blackwood, etc., as the stories seem to twirl in those same wheelhouses, and have drawn thematic comparisons to many of the above from reviewers, readers, and peers.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The book was always going to be written, it just arrived sooner on the docket.  But what inspired us to  publish it ourselves was our goal of making a book interesting and worthy of purchase, and especially the time invested reading our book.  In every phase.  Inside and out.  A customer - and especially a reader - is worthy of that respect and extra care, as they are investing days/weeks/months with our words and world.  Because of this, we want to make the experience as wonderful as possible, as a way of showing thanks.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?

Picking up I Am Death, Cried The Vulture is a chance for a reader to experience two writers in one book, who have differing styles and stories to tell, but are bound by a love of the unsettling, the terrifying, and the beautifully macabre.  A split collection, or an anthology of two.  It will also provide the opportunity to pick up what will (hopefully) be the first of many books to come by Ives and I, mostly individual.  We have plans for another joint collection, titled Dark Tales for Bright Children - which we will rename slightly, as people seem to think it's a kid's book, when in fact it is a very adult book about very bad things done by and to children.  Cheery stuff, right?  Welcome to Grau Haus...

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Happy Thanksgiving, all.  Eat, drink, sleep, drink, eat, and be very, very merry.  Life's too short to not celebrate the lovely times.

Please keep an eye out for the responses of the above-named Now Its this coming Wednesday, November 28th.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

All Hallows Eve 2012: The Cosmicomicon Goes Hoody, Hunkers Down Local, and Celebrates Dia de los Muertos With Fellow Angelinos

Instead of our usual Euro-centric celebration of All Hallow Eve here at The Cosmicomicon, this year we've decided to do something a little bit different, and focus on a holiday that not only treads heavily on the Dark Plane, but jovially embraces the idea of Death much more than Halloween ever dared.  This ain't about Stingy Jack.  This is about something far more eldritch...

Trick-or-treating in nearby South Pasadena on Wednesday night aside, for our annual TC holiday posting, we've traded hollowed-out gourds for sugar skulls.  Scary rubber masks for skeletal makeup (rendered exquisitely by Ivy, as per usual).  October 31st for November 1st and 2nd.  We're going New World Old(est) School.

For 2012, The Cosmicomicon is giving a nod to the Aztecs, and celebrating Dia de los Muertos, known to us pasty-ass Anglos as Day of the Dead.  This practice of honoring - indeed, celebrating, in a refreshingly jovial way - the dearly departed was discovered by Spanish explorers (invaders) round about 500 years ago, and was deemed by the staunch Catholic interlopers as a heretical practice by the newly arrived Culture Marms.  Although his work is under lock and key, give Octavio Paz some love here.

Culturally, what followed is pretty standard - the attempt to systematically wipe-out a purportedly "pagan tradition" that had nurtured the incredibly advanced Aztec people for over 3,000 years.  Various forms of Dia de los Muertos (obviously named something different in the Aztec tongue) had been observed by millions of adherents in the Western Hemisphere whilst East Hem Europeans were pissing in caves and trying to grasp the concept of proper clothing and agriculture.  Didn't matter.  Once the Europeans arrived, this horrid tradition had to be stomped.  They tried.  So many died...  But the tradition survived, somehow, thank the gods....

With such a vast gulf of historical time, The Day of the Dead immediately conjured images of Egyptian and Sumarian death rituals that reenforces my shakily supported contention that the exceptionally advanced rise of Mediterranean (Atlantian) culture during the B.C.'s had offshoots in the Western  (and Eastern) Hemisphere, belying contact betwixt the two far flung land masses.  But I digress...  Prehistorical alien interaction, and all of that....  Someday the TC will go there, but let's stay on topic, shall we?

The Gawking Dead: Ives, T.E., Fish, shopping for terminally expired trinket
 Instead of trying to sound intelligent and well versed in Dia de los Muertos lore, I'll cut and paste from the cultural think tank that is Day of the Dead page on Wikipedia:
Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de los Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and around the world in other cultures. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. It is particularly celebrated in Mexico, where it is a national holiday, and all banks are closed. The celebration takes place on November 1 and 2, in connection with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. They also leave possessions of the deceased.

Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl. The holiday has spread throughout the world: In Brazil, Dia de Finados is a public holiday that many Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries and churches. In Spain, there are festivals and parades, and, at the end of the day, people gather at cemeteries and pray for their dead loved ones. Similar observances occur elsewhere in Europe, and similarly themed celebrations appear in many Asian and African cultures.

This embrace of a Aztec/Mexican celebration of death is only fitting, as Grau Haus perches on a sturdy, palm-shaded cliff on the far northeast corner of Los Angeles, home to a mostly Latino population (currently weathering a slow onslaught of hipster gentrification).  This is Brown Town, and us interlopers are just paying rent.

I'd die for these two stunning Dead Girls.
So, as Ivy is a child not born but stripling-raised in the heart of Hollywood, and as Fish is truly a hatched and bred Angelino (with my red Nebraska ass playing piggy back), we decided this year to venture out and experience a true Los Angeles (which is majority Latino) festivity that was alien from our understanding of Halloween.

Just across town - about 20 minutes on the 101, sans traffic - nestled under the shadow of the damnable Siren Sign on the hill, is Hollywood Forever Cemetery, the final resting place for the human remains of Rudolph Valentino, Peter Lorre, and Douglas Fairbanks (as well as a grip of well-appointed Armenian, Russian, and Jewish folk).  This is the spot where Ives, Fish, and I (and various family and friends) spent most of our last two summer Saturdays, frolicking amongst the carefully interred dead, enjoying amazing DJs, popping corks, and watching an array of interesting films via Cinespia.

Anyhoot, let me stop clacking, and bust forth with the Day of the Dead pictures, which are far more compelling than any of my blathery verbiage.

Thank you for reading so far.  Let the gallery begin:

Wrasslin' with The Serpent.  Adam ain't got shit on me.  I even took off my jacket.  That's commitment, folks.
It's probably just an octopus (and delicious ceviche ingredient), but to me, it's most definitely You Know Who.
The Tourist (in the oddly bunched jacket) and the Resident.
The Shambling Mound (of Yarn).
St.. Bruce Lee, Deliverer of Death With a Single Blow, Patron Saint of "All Good Cretins Go to Heaven."  The first poster I ever tacked to my wall was of this man.
Soul Sister of Ives.
When I saw this, I immediately thought of my favorite Atheist S. T. Joshi... and the bones of finches.
Grinning Angel of Death.  The epitome of Day of the Dead.
A Gathering of The Ancients
Escorting the Bride of Death down the aisle to meet her Groom.

A beautiful embrace of the roots.
A Portal, melding the new with the profoundly old.
Posing with a monger of dead cuties.  Fish picked out a Burtonesque zombie kitten.  Of course she did.
Mausoleum winds beneath my wings.
Partially enveloped in in the Eternal Mysteries.
Guardian Angel and respectful Seeker.  Leg cocked to stay off hallowed ground.
A relative, hanging with the nuclear family.
Bro time with a true Nightmare.
The Girls of Grau Haus, posing with a Ghoul obviously hiding his giddiness under his sombrero.
Very few things are forever these days.  Zales (and vast, cutthroat South African gem interests) says it's a diamond.  Possibly.  But I know for certain that Hollywood will be forever, as with Death, and the Day we celebrate those who have passed on to the Great Unknown.  May they be happy, content, and pop in from time to time, to sip a cocktail and nibble a nice snack left for the those who have departed this mortal coil, but who will never be forgotten.

Happy Dia de los Muertos, my Mexican/Mestizo brothers and sisters, and all those getting up to speed (like me).  Hail the Dead.  Hail the Living.  Hail the Living who honor the Dead and those who are unafraid to look into the Ultimate Abyss and smile, unafraid of the adventure to come.  May I be one of those brave souls someday.

BTW, Ives, Fish, and I have tentative plans to set up an Alter Site at the Hollywood Forever Day of the Dead fandango next year.  If we have the time and gumption (read as: time between ever-present deadlines), trust that it'll rep all the best of Weird fiction, Lovecraftiana, and a beautifully rendered (have you SEEN Ives' design work?) tribute to the sad beauty of those persons, places, and things that have shrugged off this plain and stepped boldly into the mysterious environs of the Great Beyond.

(please explore Nobel Prize winner Octavio Paz for a) amazing poetry, and b) some damn fine background on Dia del los Muertos)