Before and Afterlives Arrives

My first full length short story collection, Before and Afterlivesreleased this week! I’m sort of over the top excited by that, because since I was a teenager, I imagined my first book being a collection of short stories, something in the vein of Ray Bradbury or Shirley Jackson, but contemporary in style and setting. They were two of my favorite authors for the longest time, and I still feel their influences on me all these years later, after publishing a novel and a novel-in-stories prior to my adolescent-imagined short story collection.

barzak-before-and-afterlives_200x300

Before and Afterlives collects the majority of what I think of as my best and better stories from the last decade, the first decade of my life as a publishing writer. They are mainly stories of the supernatural, or contemporary fantasies (the word fantasy writers and publishers used to use for what is often now called urban fantasy, which is a term I think is too limiting in terms of setting). But there are several speculative fiction/scifi-ish stories included in the collection as well. In many ways, it’s the kind of mixed genre collection I used to enjoy as a young reader: in one story you’ll encounter a beached mermaid who is taken in by a woman whose daughter has disappeared, in another you’ll witness a haunted house destroy the lives of several different families over a century, and in yet another you’ll come across a young man whose lover has been stolen away from him someone who just might be an alien. There’s a girl who can call ghosts to her, and a man trying to survive the end of the world. There’s a contagion that causes people to vanish, little by little, and there’s a young man who makes his living by allowing other people to kill him for a fee, and to let them witness his remarkable ability to resurrect.

If I hadn’t written all of these stories, I would totally be wishing that someone else would have. I think that’s the writer’s impulse really. They’re readers who have become so obsessed by story that they are eventually moved to create their own stories, the ones they can’t find written by someone else.

It’s an odd thing. When I was growing up, short story collections were read as much as novels were, but times have changed. The poor short story has lost ardent fans the same way poetry has over the decades, and while I personally can’t understand why this would be–short stories are, to me, the perfect size to contain a narrative in its most distilled form, like strong whiskey–that’s how things are, regardless.

And on top of that, a lot of story collections are now published by smaller, independent presses, which have taken up the slack of larger, corporate publishing houses who specialize in producing novels. This also means it’s harder for those presses and authors to make people aware of their collections. My publisher, Lethe Press, went out on a limb to publish this collection, and I appreciate the efforts of the publisher, Steve Berman, and the beautiful interior design work done by Alex Jeffers, along with the awesome cover art made by Steven Andrew, in the production of this book.

So, dear reader, if you’re interested in helping me spread the word about mine, you can help in a variety of ways:

1.) Buy the book, and then review it somewhere. Like Amazon.com, or Barnes and Noble.com, or on Goodreads.com, etc. 

2.) Buy the book as a gift for someone you think might like it.

3.) Buy the book for someone  who is your frenemy and that you’re sure they won’t like it.

4.) Tell other people about it.

5.) Ask your local library to purchase a copy for the shelves.

6.) Ask your local brick and mortar bookseller to order it for their shelves.

7.) Have someone drive you down the street while you lean out the window with a bullhorn, announcing the title of the book and throwing candy at the youngsters lining the sidewalk.

8.) Blog about the book.

9.) Tweet or facebook about the book. Take photos of yourself reading it.

10.) Run for political office with the book as your main platform. Be sure to reference it in all of your speeches.

I’m sure there are other ways you can help, and I welcome any additional modes of promotion that I haven’t thought up yet to be listed in the comments of this post!

But in essence: new book is out! Thank you for buying, reading, reviewing (buying even if you don’t read or review it), and for being there, reader, both the ones who know who they are and the ones who don’t know just yet, but soon will be. 😉

Kindle edition also available here.

Being on Set for Jamie Marks is Dead

At the end of this past week, I took a spontaneous trip to upstate New York to visit the film set for the movie “Jamie Marks is Dead” which is based on my first novel, One for Sorrow. The director and script writer, Carter Smith, had sent me an email earlier in the week inviting me to come see things in action if I had the chance, and since it was Spring Break week at my university, I hurried to finish up some other tasks I had on my desk, then got in the car to head across the great sea of hills and endless highway of Pennsylvania.

viewer-1

It’s an interesting thing, visiting a film set. They’re another world entirely, in a couple of different ways. For one, it was a foreign thing to me, a writer, who is used to spending the majority of his life behind the screen of a computer in a room with his door closed. But beyond that, film sets are a created world, where personal assistants pick you up at the hotel to drive you to that day’s location, a double wide trailer in a rural area that has seen better days, much like my own hometown, and when you get to that location, there is a dead deer’s carcass hanging from a basketball hoop. Which, honestly, wasn’t really surprising, and seemed the perfect detail. The novel I wrote was set in a rural town like the one I grew up in, and though my dad, an avid hunter, never hung his deer from a basketball hoop, they did hang to drain out in our garage.

But there were no personal assistants back then like I had taking me to the set, where we had to wait outside on the front porch because they were filming at that very moment inside. When they were finished, a chain of command that originated somewhere deep in the house circulated the word “cut” through a variety of channels, mostly through audio receivers attached to various crew members’ belt loops, and the door was opened for me to enter into the living room of the doublewide, which was were I was given a headset and placed in front of a monitor to watch as they began immediately to film again.

viewer-3

In front of me, I saw two teenage boys, one standing up from his unmade bed to go over and discover that the ghost of a former almost-friend who had recently been found dead was half-naked and hiding in his closet. I knew those boys immediately, and the lines they were saying in that moment. They were words I’d written nearly ten years ago, as I worked on the first draft of One for Sorrow as a 27 year old, and hearing those words performed in front of me on the monitor, all I could do was stand there and feel my jaw drop open in shock.

I’d known, obviously, that my book was being adapted into a film for several years now, but knowing something and realizing something are two different things. One is cerebral knowledge, the other is knowledge incorporated into one’s integral reality. I was just then, seeing all of this manifest in front of me, realizing that my book was really being made into a movie.

When the scene was done a second time, a break was taken, and the director came out to meet me. Carter and I had spoken on the phone five or six times in the past couple of years, and had exchanged emails at various times between phone calls, so we had a passing familiarity with each other’s voices, at least. But it felt good to finally stand in front of him, this other writer and director who had read my book when it first came out in 2007 and loved it so much he became determined to make it into a film. We talked briefly, I smiled a lot, feeling a bit like a kid getting a wish made into reality, and then the filming began again.

viewer-4

Carter Smith and Madisen Beaty, who plays the ghost of Frances Wilkinson.

I took a dinner break with the cast and crew (which was actually their lunch break). They work 10-12 hours days, and take breaks every six hours like clockwork. Meals are served in what seemed like a horse camp’s mess hall, and I ate with Carter and the two main leads, Cameron Monaghan and Noah Silver, who play Adam McCormick and Jamie Marks respectively. They were all really welcoming, and we talked about the movie, the book, their work as actors. Noah wanted to know what my high school life had been like, because the story they were playing out is a bit, well, I guess intense? I laughed. I’m used to that question. My growing up was not as intense as Adam McCormick’s and Jamie Marks’, but there’s an emotional truth from what being a teenager felt like in the book that I was able to talk about. The ghosts and talking shadows and dead space of the novel are all, for me, metaphorical extensions of my interior adolescent world.

I spent the rest of the evening behind the screen of a monitor, watching another scene acted out over and over, from different camera angles. And no matter how many times I watched them do the same scene over, it was overwhelming for me. A lot to process. The second scene I saw made that night was the first time Adam gives Jamie a word, which in the magical logic of the book can help Jamie live a little longer, find meaning in his afterlife on earth for a little longer.

viewer

But at some point in the evening, Carter’s assistant, Robin, took me over to a side room with a laptop to watch a roughly edited scene they had finished the day before. It was a scene that had the majority of the main cast in it–Adam and Jamie, Judy Greer playing the character Lucy, who has paralyzed Adam’s mother in a drunk driving accident, and Liv Tyler, playing Adam’s mother. It was a scene that was both desperately funny as Judy Greer’s shadow said all of the things Lucy herself wouldn’t say out loud (very cool special effect) and desperately sorrowful, as Liv Tyler’s Linda calls over her son, who seems to have gone off the rails completely, to make sure he knows that he’s the most important thing in her world.

viewer-6

As I watched, I couldn’t help laughing, and then couldn’t help but tear up a little as Liv Tyler gave a gut-wrenching emotional performance amid Judy Greer’s darkly humorous ranting. Seeing that rough-cut, I knew that this film was going to be stunning, that Carter was making something magical with it.

It’s an adaptation, so there are some differences in the script from the novel itself, but that’s the nature of adaptations. But what I like about this adaptation so much is that even when there’s a scene that isn’t in the book itself (there are a few), Carter has taken dialogue or details from scenes original to the book and transplanted that material into the new contexts. So there’s something old and something new mingling together, the original and the adapted versions tied together. It’s smart and remains faithful to the novel in that way, even as it occasionally diverges from the novel’s sequences. I couldn’t feel like I have a more faithful and thoughtful adaptor.

I spent the night, then had breakfast with Carter the next morning, then headed home, though I could have stayed for longer. I was still a bit stunned by everything I’d seen the day before, and processing all of it, a little starry-eyed. Also, I had convinced myself I could find the set on my own and when it came time to find it on my own, it was trickier than I’d thought. Since I had a long drive home, though, I decided to turn the gps on and head in that direction, with my head still full of images from the night before.

I never thought I’d have a chance to be on a film set, let alone on the set for a book of my own being made into a movie. This life is surprising, even when you think it can’t surprise you any longer.

viewer

I’m home again, and now it’s time to get back to writing. One thing the set visit gave me was a spark of inspiration. I’m working on one of the last revisions of my next novel. And who knows? I can’t say now that someday, I might have the chance to make another visit to a different set for a different book of mine being made into a movie. I’ll say it’s unlikely, but I’ve already had too many unlikely things happen to me in this brief life of mine to say with any certainty that something strange and wonderful won’t happen to me. I’ve learned that it’s really stupid to say the word “never.”

If you’re interested in seeing photos from the film set, go to google and search the term “#jmid”. You’ll find hundreds of photos from cast and crew and the director hash-tagged online, on Instagram mostly, but also attached to twitter etc.

One for Sorrow AKA Jamie Marks is Dead

I have good news at the end of 2012. My novel One for Sorrow‘s film rights have officially been sold, and filming will begin shortly in the new year, from what I understand. This has been a long-term project for the director/script writer and the production company he has assembled since he first optioned the rights several years ago. To be honest, most book-to-film options never come to fruition, and I knew that from the beginning, so I never got my hopes up that I’d see my book truly made into a movie, and remained grateful just that there was someone out there who had read the book and resonated with it so greatly that he went so far as to pay money to option the right to make it, and to continue renewing the option until he had a production company in place to make it happen. Now, I’m kind of dumbfounded that it’s really going forward.

Here’s what I can tell you so far:

imgres
The director and script writer is the really well known fashion photographer Carter Smith. On top of fashion photography, he’s also a filmmaker who won a Sundance Film Festival Award for Best Short Film in 2007, for a film called Bug Crush. After that short film, he directed his first feature length film in 2008 called The Ruins, based on the novel by Scott Smith, for DreamWorks.

 

imgres-1Hunting Lane Films, from what I understand, will be producing the film version of One for Sorrow.  They’ve done movies like Half Nelson and Blue Valentine most recently.  The executive producer on the film is John Logan, who wrote the script for movies like Hugo, Any Given Sunday, and Gladiator (!!!), who also won the 2010 Tony Award for Best Play for Red, the Broadway play about painter Mark Rothko.

With a crew like this, I feel like the book is in good hands.

They are most likely going to change the title, however, to Jamie Marks is Dead .  There will also be some slight changes to the novel’s version of the story, but a film based on a novel is never the same thing as a novel–they’re adaptations–so I’m looking forward to seeing how the story of Adam McCormick and Jamie Marks and Gracie Highsmith plays out in this film version of the book.

I’m not sure who all they have cast yet, but I’ve been privy to hearing about possibles, and if I can ever confirm who will be in it for my readers, I’ll be certain to update here on my website as soon as I can.

However, I’ve been shown auditions by some of the hopefuls, which were incredible, and have also seen what seems like thousands of photos from location scouting. It seems they’ll be filming in several different upstate New York locations, small towns and rural villages around the Sleepy Hollow area, which somehow seems appropriate, this being a ghost story and all.

This has been something I’ve been sitting on for so long now, so I’m really excited to finally be able to announce it! I can’t wait to see what Carter makes of my story. It will be interesting and fun to be in the reader/viewer’s seat in these circumstances.

2013, here we come!

Before and Afterlives Coverings

I’m so excited to see my full length collection of short stories, Before and Afterlives, coming together in advance of its March 2013 release. Below is the pre-visualisation for the cover, front, back and spine, by the book’s designer.  It will of course later have a description of the contents added to the back and blurbs, but this is the general look. I’m really excited to see it out.  Can. not. wait.

You can click to make the image larger, of course.

The Birthday of Birds and Birthdays

Birds and Birthdays has officially released into the wild.  It’s been available directly from the publisher for the past couple of weeks, but will be appearing in other marketplaces now, like Amazon.com (where they say it’ll take 1 to 3 weeks to get the book, but that’s only because they’ve just recently placed orders for stock with the publisher themselves).

Surprisingly and already, the book has received its first review yesterday as well!  It’s over at Tor.com, and it’s a good one.  So if you can’t take my (very biased) word that the book is good, take this reviewer’s.

I’m excited to have this book made real.  For a long time, I’d thought it would be very unlikely to find a publisher for it, even a small indie press, who might be interested in a collection of three short stories and one essay, centered around the surrealist art of three women from the early half of the 20th century. But while that was a realistic doubt, it proved not to be true.

For the next few weeks, I’m going to be occasionally blogging here and in some other places about the book, its conception, the process I went through in researching and writing of each of the stories, the artists whose paintings inspired these stories, and how I went about organizing the book itself.  It’s a small book, just a little over 100 pages, which seems as small as a grain of sand in a world where hugely huge epic page-turners pound the pavement around it.  But I’ve always been fond of small things, the contained and hermetically sealed worlds of snow globes and dioramas, and I know there are folks out there who like things like this too.  So I’m hopeful this small book might reach their attention, despite the clamor and bustle of the giants lumbering around it.

If you’re interested in reviewing the book, contact me by email and I’ll see about getting a copy into your hands.  And if you read and enjoy the book, and feel so inclined, please help me tell other people about its existence.  Share links to it on your social networks, review it on Amazon or Goodreads or other places.  I appreciate any help my readers can lend me.

In a day or two, I’ll begin posting about the topics I mentioned above, but for now, if you want a sneak peak at one of the stories in the book, you can read the second story, “The Guardian of the Egg,” for free at The Journal of Mythic Arts, where it was reprinted several years ago. That story was written in response to a painting of the same name by the artist Leonora Carrington.

And be prepared for a giveaway soon, too.

Happy birthday, Birds and Birthdays.

Pre-viewing, pre-ordering, pre-mourning

There have been lots of pre-reviews of this anthology popping up in the past month or two, all of them positive. I’m happy to be included in this review as one of the reviewer’s “favorites”. If you go to Amazon.com right now, you can pre-order the book at an extremely reduced price.

Incidentally, this story is also a story thread of the YA novel I’m working on at the moment.  It’s been great fun to write so far, and I’m two-thirds of the way into it.  I’m actually pre-mourning the day it’s done.

Thank you

Still glowing with excitement to have had my book nominated for the Nebula Award this year, I’ve been thinking back to when I first started to be serious about writing.  I guess the nomination has put me into a bit of a mood to think about where I started as well as where I am in my writing life.  I can still remember exchanging letters with the writer Mary Rosenblum, who actually wrote me back when I sent her a fan letter, and encouraged me with my writing.  And going to a week long writing workshop in Cleveland one summer, when I was nineteen, as a decision to put myself into a situation that I didn’t feel like I could get so easily back home in Youngstown:  into the company of other people who are all in love with doing this thing, making stories up and telling them to other people, and trying to make them as well as they can.  I met Karen Joy Fowler there, and James Patrick Kelly, who asked me how a farm boy from Ohio decided he wanted to be a writer, and I said even I didn’t really know how it happened, it was just with me since I can remember, an urgent desire to tell stories, to live in my imagination for a part of every day of my life, and a love of language and the way it can be shaped into so many different forms and voices.   He told me he thought I could do this, and I’m pretty sure I looked at him like he must have something wrong with him.  Who would think that about me? I wondered.  Sometimes I still do.

It was Jim and Karen and then Jonathan Lethem, who I met the following summer at the same workshop, who encouraged me to apply to a six week long writing workshop for speculative fiction writers called Clarion.  I can remember trying to make excuses not to apply, because Clarion had such an amazing reputation, and I didn’t think I could possibly be the sort of writer who they would find to be worthy of being there.  Jim continued to politely remind me over the course of the next year, in e-mails, to apply.  Eventually, at the last minute, I did.  And was accepted.   And when I spent those six weeks in the company of writers doing nothing but writing and critiquing each others work, and talking about our favorite authors and their work, I really just knew it was where I wanted to be ever after.  If I could.

I started publishing short stories afterward, first in the little but mighty zine, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, which Gavin Grant and Kelly Link were just then starting up and it was already building a following of excited readers.  Soon after that, my first professionally published story was in the online magazine, Strange Horizons.  Terri Windling selected it to be included in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, and then Scott Westerfeld selected a story of mine for the Nerve issue of speculative fiction.  It was a very exciting time in my life, and in many ways this nomination for the Nebula Award has made me feel that same kind of excitement I had when I was first introduced and accepted into a community of writers and began to publish.  It’s reminded me once again how fortunate I am to be a part of the speculative fiction community, which has nurtured and helped me not only to grow as a writer over the years but as a person.  It’s become a part of my life, even if, as one of my early spec fic writing mentors told me, “You don’t really do this in a way that most people will be expecting, but that’s also a good thing.”  He was referring to the kinds of stories I write and the way that I tell them, but I was welcomed to the party all the same.  That kind of generosity is one of the most amazing features of this particular writing community.

So it’s been a wild ride, and I hope for it to be able to continue for as long as possible, and I’m pleased as can be that my little novel-in-stories is on that list with some of those Big Idea heavy hitters that have garnered well-earned praise in the past year since they’ve appeared.  It feels, in a way, like a milestone, and I’m honored to be among them, and all of the writers of SFWA, who have made the second part of my life a writing life, and one that has taken me places I might not have gone had I not met and been befriended by such awesome folks as these.

2009 Nebula Awards

The Nebula Awards Nominees for this year have been announced, and to my excitement and surprise, my novel-in-stories, The Love We Share Without Knowing, has been nominated in the novel category!  I’m very honored to be named among these other authors and titles.  Now I will go squee in private.

SFWA is proud to announce the nominees for the 2009 Nebula Awards.

The Nebula Awards are voted on, and presented by, active members of  SFWA. The awards will be announced at the Nebula Awards Banquet the evening of May 15 at the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront, just 20 minutes from the Kennedy Space Center in Fla. Other awards to be presented are the Andre Norton Award for Excellence in Science Fiction or Fantasy for Young Adults, the Bradbury Award for excellence in screenwriting and the Solstice Award for outstanding contribution to the field.

Short story
“Hooves and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela,” Saladin Ahmed (Clockwork Phoenix 2, Norilana Press, Jul09)
“I Remember the Future,” Michael A. Burstein (I Remember the Future, Apex Press, Nov08)
“Non-Zero Probabilities,” N. K. Jemisin (Clarkesworld, Nov09)
“Spar,” Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, Oct09)
“Going Deep,” James Patrick Kelly (Asimov’s Science Fiction, Jun09)
“Bridesicle,” Will McIntosh (Asimov’s Science Fiction, Jan09)

Novelette
“The Gambler,” Paolo Bacigalupi (Fast Forward 2, Pyr Books, Oct08)
“Vinegar Peace, or the Wrong-Way Used-Adult Orphanage,” Michael Bishop (Asimov’s Science Fiction, Jul08)
“I Needs Must Part, The Policeman Said,” Richard Bowes (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Dec09)
“Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast,” Eugie Foster (Apex Online, Nov09)
“Divining Light,” Ted Kosmatka (Asimov’s Science Fiction, Aug08)
“A Memory of Wind,” Rachel Swirsky (Tor.com, Nov09)

Novella
The Women of Nell Gwynne’s, Kage Baker (Subterranean Press, Jun09)
“Arkfall,” Carolyn Ives Gilman (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Sep09)
“Act One,” Nancy Kress (Asimov’s Science Fiction, Mar09)
Shambling Towards Hiroshima, James Morrow (Tachyon, Feb09)
“Sublimation Angels,” Jason Sanford (Jason Sanford, Nov09)
The God Engines, John Scalzi (Subterranean Press, Dec09)

Novel
The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi (Nightshade, Sep09)
The Love We Share Without Knowing, Christopher Barzak (Bantam, Nov08)
Flesh and Fire, Laura Anne Gilman (Pocket, Oct09)
The City & The City, China Miéville (Del Rey, May09)
Boneshaker, Cherie Priest (Tor, Sep09)
Finch, Jeff VanderMeer (Underland Press, Oct09)

Bradbury Award
Star Trek, JJ Abrams (Paramount, May09)
District 9, Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell (Tri-Star, Aug09)
Avatar, James Cameron (Fox, Dec 09)
Moon, Duncan Jones and Nathan Parker (Sony, Jun09)
Up, Bob Peterson and Pete Docter (Disney/Pixar, May09)
Coraline, Henry Selick (Laika/Focus Feb09)

Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy
Hotel Under the Sand, Kage Baker (Tachyon, Jul09)
Ice, Sarah Beth Durst (Simon and Schuster, Oct09)
Ash, by Malinda Lo (Little, Brown & Company, Sep09)
Eyes Like Stars, Lisa Mantchev (Feiwel and Friends, Jul09)
Zoe’s Tale, John Scalzi (Tor Aug08)
When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb Books, 2009)
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making, Catherynne M. Valente (Catherynne M. Valente, Jun09)
Leviathan, Scott Westerfeld (Simon, Oct09)

For more information, visit www.nebulaawards.com or www.sfwa.org

Amazon Top 10

The second volume of Interfictions releases today, and just tonight I learned that the anthology has been selected by Amazon.com as one of the top 10 SFF books of 2009!

You can see the whole list by clicking here.

I can’t wait to hear what readers think of the selection of stories Delia and I pulled together.  I think the book has great range.

Happy reading, if you give it a go.

The Ghost Hunter’s Beautiful Daughter

In the October/November issue of Asimov’s, on magazine shelves now, you will find a new story penned by me, entitled “The Ghost Hunter’s Beautiful Daughter”.  It’s set in Warren, Ohio, just a twenty minute drive from where I sit in my office on the North Side of Youngstown, an old floundering steel town with a richly beautiful courthouse square that serves as its downtown, and wonderful old mansions and churches from a time when the region was prosperous.  Every year in the month of October, a local community theater, along with a local church, puts on a Ghost Walk through Warren’s historic district.  When I was a teen in high school, a troop of friends and I would always go on the Ghost Walk, which is more history oriented than it is interested in horror and frightening anyone.  The lives of former residents in the historic district are recounted, at least those who have a bit of a thrill in their family histories.  It’s always something I look forward to each autumn.  For this story, I wanted to set a scene at the Ghost Walk in Warren, which seemed appropriate since I was writing a ghost story.

As an aside, this is the first time a story of mine has been published in Asimov’s, over which my teenage self, if he could know about it, would totally be geeking out.

You can get a taste of the story over at Asimov’s right now, actually.  Just click here. And, if you like it, go out and buy a copy to read the rest of it, or order it online.  I hope you enjoy it.