May 032011
 

It is a grim, gusty and rainy day here.

I’m writing this as we near one week since the devastating tornadoes and storms ripped through my home town and my home state.

I wanted everyone to know how much I appreciate your well-wishes and voices of concern. I was out of town when this happened. My family is fine. My home is fine. Everyone I know made it through. But I wanted to post some pictures and talk a little bit about what I’ve seen, what I’ve felt, and what I think.

My God. Why?

Like you, I saw the destruction from a distance. I saw it in the news media. The worst of the storms hit at least an hour away from where I live. Tuscaloosa, of course, was mangled beyond recognition. Other small communities, like Pratt City, have been nearly removed from the map altogether. But when I got home on Saturday night aroung 10:30, I undeniably felt the silence of the shock. It was an eerie feeling that even a horror writer cannot describe. It was the edge of something. It was the end of something. It was awesomely and horribly final.

I pulled into the parking lot of my apartment complex and found huge logs piled up. I found crushed cars, as you can see in the photographs. Evidently fifteen or so massive trees went down, and many cars were demolished. My place is absolutely fine, no wind damage at all. And this is the weirdest part, and the random nature of destruction: I left two cigar butts in an ashtray on my balcony, and in all this maelstrom from Hell and the falling of trees those cigar butts did not move one inch.

This morning I took my camera and went out. I could have taken hundreds of pictures like the ones I’ve posted. These were taken in the parking lot of my complex and within two miles of where I live. Old trees were uprooted and the root systems eight and nine feet tall. Roofs were shattered. Cars slammed down so hard their tires exploded. Tangles of power lines fell to the earth, and had to be reeled out of the way so people could get to these communities to help…and let me tell you, guys, that if you don’t believe in miracles you need to wake up because the death count was way low from what it might have been and should have been in all this destruction.

Interesting picture from a local church. “Was God In The Storm?”

I will not begin to set myself up as someone who could answer that question. All I know is, for all this suffering and death and broken hearts and broken bodies…people are still moving forward with hope, even in the silence of the shock.

 

As I understand it, people staggered into local hospitals carrying dead children, and with their own arms and legs broken. People are still missing. The atmosphere has changed. Cell phones are not working correctly…the signals are erratic, and the voices float in and out as if you’re speaking to someone underwater. In an instant, lives were forever changed and destinies altered. And remember…I am an hour away from the main scenes of horrific carnage and absolute destruction, where entire blocks…and neighborhoods, really…were scooped from the earth and scattered before the storms.

Last night I lay in bed and listened to the wind. A soft breeze, then. In it I could distantly hear a siren. I wondered if someone’s heart had not finally taken too much, and stopped beating in the silence of the shock.

I understand also that many, many household pets are missing. Just gone. And many pets wander the streets searching for houses and masters that are no longer there.

Please pray for the people of my home town and my home state. We are suffering here, in so many ways. But in so many ways also we have come together and are starting to dig out of this. Things are forever changed, yes…but people move forward because there is no going back.

I will remember this for the rest of my life. This, again, is beyond the ability of a horror writer to describe. There are no words for this. There is no way to adequately express this, even between people who have seen their homes destroyed and their children and loved ones taken from them in an instant.

There are no words.

There is only silence.

God bless you for your help.

Rick.

 

(Click on the images to view larger versions.)











 

 

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Ring the Bells

 Robert McCammon update  Comments Off on Ring the Bells
Dec 302010
 

Back from my Christmas trip to Cozumel, Mexico. Guys, I can’t say enough about this place. It was fantastic. I stayed at a resort called the Fiestamericana…yes, I know it ought to be the “Fiesta Americana”, but it’s the way it is. Anyway, it’s a great resort with fabulous people. I told the manager that I thought the biggest plus about the resort was that the employees had the gift of making guests feel like family…and it was so true. So if you have a vacation coming up or you just need to get to a place that’s sunny, where the sea is beautifully blue and clear and the atmosphere just as sparkling, then the Fiestamericana at Cozumel is your place. Believe it!

I wanted to check in with the arrival of the New Year. But first…I can’t resist talking about Cozumel just a little bit more. You know, I want to thank everyone for the greetings and well-wishes. I was by no means “fishing” for sympathy in my tale of the unkilled cat. I was simply stating in a straightforward manner the trials and tribulations I’ve been facing if not in the past several weeks then in the last few months. But I do appreciate the comments and well-wishes.

Having said that, I’m here to say that I do feel great after my trip. I got along fine on my “wounded” ankle. It got a little stronger every day. As a matter of fact, one day I took a cab from the resort to downtown in search of some Cuban cigars and decided to walk back (after I got a small tattoo on my chest…henna, not permanent, but thinking along those lines). Well, I walked away from midtown through neighborhoods and local shopping areas, and all of it along the oceanfront. It was warm, the sun was high, a soft breeze was blowing, the sky and sea were awesome shades of blue…ahhhhh! I went into a local department store and scoped the place out. I investigated an area of nice houses going up that evidently had been abandoned for lack of money, but it was an interesting excursion anyway. I went into the terminal at the dock where the cruise ships come in. I walked and walked. Until at last I had walked seven miles, and I was standing in a pasture scratching behind the ears of a solitary horse. It showed its pleasure by thumping its hoof on the ground…whichever ear was being scratched, that was the hoof that beat out a little counting rhythm that I found very charming.

I went snorkeling, I went on a sunset cruise, I swam and swam, I had a fabulous seafood feast, I did karaoke for the first time in my life (and did better than I thought I would because I sang with a guy named Joe Bargo from Kansas City who actually is in a jazz band and can carry a good tune), I drank liters of Coke Zero and smoked Cuban cigars by the pool, I partook of a fantastic tequila bar where there were about thirty different bottles of variously-flavored tequila, I drank my favorite Johnny Walker Red, I met all sorts of people from everywhere, I laid out on the beach, I watched the moon set and the sun rise and then the sun set and the moon rise, I went on a submarine a hundred and ten feet down to the edge of The Shelf, I rode on horseback through the jungle, I heard a GREAT band do their Steppenwolf set, I ate cactus and enjoyed it, and I have vowed to return to that place in April after I finish The Providence Rider.

So, yes…I did have a good time.

And the New Year approaches, and may be here before what I’m writing is on my website. I am looking forward with great anticipation to 2011. Aren’t you? I mean, really… 2010 was a tough year. A year of change, not all of it wanted and not all of it good. A year of bracing yourself. A year of taking it on the chin. Or sometimes getting kicked in a lower area, and having to grin and bear it so nobody knows the pain you’re feeling.

Yeah, that kind of year.

But that kind of year, it seems to me, has its value. It teaches you discipline and toughness. It teaches you to depend on yourself. To know you can handle whatever happens… because you have to. And to handle with grace and style the difficult things, the things that a few years ago might have put you down for the count.

Nossir. I ain’t goin’ nowhere now. I’m here to stay, so go ring the bells and tell ’em, the best is yet to be.

And it is, guys. I have some tremendous projects ahead. Much more Matthew to come, and many more surprises. Some things, I think, that will even surprise me. And one project in particular I wish I could tell you about, but it will happen when it happens…and when it does happen…and it will…wow.

So hang in with me. Enjoy this ride into the future we all are on. Trust me to guide you. I will take you to some wonderful places, and introduce you to some amazing characters. There’s a lot ahead for all of us, and I can’t wait to get started on that journey from here to there.

Ring the bells, my friends. Ring the bells and tell ’em.

I’m here to stay, and the best is…

Yeah. It’s comin’.

Happy New Year to all, and thank you for believing in me.

Best Wishes,
Robert McCammon

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The Curse of the Unkilled Cat (A Christmas Story?)

 Robert McCammon update  Comments Off on The Curse of the Unkilled Cat (A Christmas Story?)
Dec 182010
 

I have come to relate a strange tale, as is my wont and my talent in this life. Many things around us are not to be understood. We just can’t grasp them. Maybe on the other side of the dark glass we will, but in this realm…forgettaboutit!

My tale involves the night I was driving at fifty miles an hour, the legal speed limit, along a major highway here in Birmingham. Everything was just peachy! Driving along, listening to The Clash on my CD player, looking forward to dinner…peachy. Suddenly I see a police car sitting in the median ahead. No problem, I’m going the speed limit. So I don’t even take my foot off the accelerator or touch the brake. No problem?

Ah, the problem.

Suddenly from my left a black cat squirts out of nowhere and directly in front of my car. There’s a lot of other traffic on the highway, and I realize that if I swerve suddenly the police officer in that car is likely to light ’em up for me, or I might bash into another vehicle. So before I could slow down a single mph, I have hit a black cat. I hear and feel the thump on my right tire. I glance back in my rearview mirror and see the cat stumbling off the highway, so I know I’ve not killed it—let’s just say it’s not yet dead—but it seems to be badly injured.

Okay. Life goes on, right?

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. In the last couple of months I have had a virus winnow through my anti-virus program, destroy my hard drive and nearly destroy part of The Providence Rider, as well as mangling other important programs I need to keep. I was able to transfer some work to a second computer. Within several days of working on that rig, the hard drive crashed. I luckily have a third computer tucked away in a closet. When I plugged that in, the power pack instantly blew up. I’m not talking a quiet pop, folks. I’m talking fire and smoke shooting out of the vents in the metal box.

On a more personal front, there are things going on I can’t even begin to relate. One thing I will say is that I very much enjoy running. I run every day if I can. Well, someone advised me that I’d been running wrong for years and I should be running “heel to toe” instead of “toe to heel”. Good enough. I go out and buy two pairs of very expensive running shoes. I’m ready to go. I decide to run on an indoor track to get used to my new running style. Yeah, let’s go!

Four strides in, I take a curve, my right foot crinks to the side on the new tread of my exprensive running shoe, and suddenly all my weight is on my ankle and my foot is turned beneath me at a right-angle. I flew toward the railing and nearly brained myself. The upshot of this is that I wound up limping into my neighborhood pharmacy at about eight that night to ask if I could rent crutches. No, I was told, but I could buy crutches if they had them…but they did not, and I might try another pharmacy several miles away.

Bear in mind, I am walking now by dragging my right foot and my speed is somewhere between snail and death. I never knew pharmacy parking lots were so huge. Okay, I should have gone to the doctor but I didn’t. I’ve had sprains before and gotten through them, but this was Pretty Ugly. I recall breaking out in a cold sweat when it happened. Anyway, major damage has been done and…guess what…I am supposed to go for a trip to Cozumel, Mexico over the holidays…and I’m leaving Tuesday the 21st, and I’m writing this on Saturday the 18th and my foot is still mucho swollen. So the time is ticking.

Anyway, I get my crutches and I go on from there. My situation does get a little better. I’m able to get off the crutches, though now the pain is so severe I can’t drive. Do I hear a black cat laughing? What would that sound like? I think I know.

Okay…I have run out of food. Did I tell you I am separated from my wife and I live alone in an apartment now? Another tale…but I have to make myself drive and get some food. So I force my foot into an old beatup running shoe and I head to the grocery store, where while I’m tottering around trying to choose a jar of grape jam for my peanut-butter-and-jam sandwiches an elderly lady asks if she can hold my basket.

Fun…knee!

Well, I relate all this in a late night conversation to a friend of mine in Vancouver, the excellent writer KC Dyer. She says, “Rick, this is the curse of the unkilled cat. You have to appease the Cat God to have this curse removed.”

“Okay,” I say. “And how is that going to happen?”

“You go to the grocery store…”

OMG! Not again, I think.

“Go to the grocery store,” she says, “and buy the most succulent seafoody catfood you can find. Then you take that catfood to the nearest animal shelter and donate it. I think it will work, and I think something will happen to show you it’s worked.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

I go.

Well, that day becomes one of the most stormy and rain-filled days in Birmingham history. I have a small car—a Pontiac Solstice, long live Pontiac (sob)—and I’m fishtailing around in the rain like crazy. No way I can get way across town to the nearest animal shelter!

Another call to KC. She says, “Take the food to the nearest vet, and make sure it goes to the cats or kittens that need homes.”

Okay. The nearest vet is right down the street. I take the catfood and I tell my story to the people at the front desk, and thank God I know them because my story is weird. But they listen and they understand because they, too, have some black cat stories. Anyway, the time comes to feed one of the needy cats and see what happens.

This particular cat has run into the bathroom, where it drinks water from the faucet yet they tell me it doesn’t like to have water dripping on its head. So I cup water in my hand and lo and behold the cat drinks from my hand. And…and…after all the water is gone it continues to lick my hand. A sign? I don’t know. But I do know that cat enjoyed its seafoody lunch. It almost ate the plastic dish. So I left feeling lighter, and feeling that a unkilled black cat’s curse might be loosened from my shoulders. A little bit, maybe. But in this case a little bit is a lot.

Now…you may be asking how in the world this is a Christmas story?

I have had a very difficult and tough last few months. Well…last few years, really. Okay…ever since I wrote Boy’s Life things have been tough, because I walked away from genre horror work and I wasn’t supposed to do that, according to the corporates. They were investing in a horror writer. That’s what I was supposed to be for the rest of my life, no matter what else I wanted to write. And guys, the corporates can make life Hell for you, in ways that an unkilled black cat could never imagine.

But I’m here. In a different place now. I’ve been in my apartment since August. I’m pretty much on my own.

A Christmas story? Well, listen to this.

One night I was sitting on my balcony and I had a thrill of happiness. It just came on me. It was a thrill of happiness that I haven’t felt for a very long time. I recall feeling that kind of thrill on Christmas morning when I was a little boy, with the tree and the presents waiting under it to be unwrapped. I felt that thrill, and I knew…the world is my present, waiting to be unwrapped.

I have determined to travel more, to get out in the world and enjoy life more than simply being a solitary hermit creating fantasies. I will certainly continue to work because I love to work and I love the family of my characters…but nothing beats real life, guys. Nothing beats getting out in the world, meeting people, going places and having new experiences. That’s why on Christmas Day I’m going to be swimming in the clear blue water off Cozumel. It will be my baptism into a new life.

I have experienced that thrill of happiness several times since. It is the kind of happiness that can not be bought. It can not be manufactured. It can not be written about. It must be experienced to be known. I intend to find more and more of it, as time goes by. I think at long last I have earned it.

I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I wish you happy times with loved ones. Never take them for granted. Never.

I wish you peace and kindness, and I wish you freedom from black cats of all kinds.

Your friend,
Robert McCammon

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Nov 092010
 

Some Thoughts On The Wolf’s Hour

Hi, all. November is upon us. Also upon us, and something I’ve been very excited about for a number of months, is the beautiful edition of The Wolf’s Hour from Subterranean Press, which I consider to be the Ultimate Edition of that work. I’d like to take a few minutes to talk about that book, if I may.

Where did the idea come from? I’ve thought about that and I can’t really answer it. I do know I’m very interested in World War II history, and also the “lore” and “allure” of secret agents. You may not know that I tried to put myself in the running several years ago to pick up the James Bond series when the publisher was casting about for a writer. I didn’t get the spot, and I guess I’m glad I didn’t because my work has evolved in another direction, but I always thought I could do a “bang-up job”—British lingo there—putting across an action-oriented secret agent novel.

So I decided to think about doing a different kind of secret agent, and using of course my interest in World War II and general weirdness. What could possibly make my hero different? I wondered.

Then I had the Ah, ha moment. Eureka, as they say.

But if he’s going to be that, I decided, it has to be believeable all the way. It has to be made real. It can’t just be dropped in like a gimmick. There has to be a backstory and a wealth of personal history—and tragedy—and if this unreal hero is to become real he must first and foremost be made human.

Now, the fun part about putting this hero together is that I knew there would be a lot of action. If you know what I mean?

Usually I don’t get to write scenes like that. If you read the new novelette “The Room At The Bottom of The Stairs,” you will see that I decided to go for the gold in terms of the bedroom scenes. Someone mentioned to me after reading those scenes that they were “very earthy.”

Well, yeah. I don’t get a lot of opportunities to write “very earthy,” so in this case I thought…go for it, all the way.

They actually may have said “very dirty,” but I heard “very earthy.” Same difference. I guess?

I realized when I was writing The Wolf’s Hour that it was going to be a long book, but I didn’t realize until looking back and re-reading this Ultimate Edition how fully-packed the thing is. I mean, it is intense. I think every possible situation one could throw at a hero, whether he is merely human or more than human, is in this book.

The action scenes were great fun to write. I do mean, here, the physical action. You know. The fighting scenes. Okay? Well, they were fun to write. But I never wanted my hero’s life-condition to be a gimmick, something that is used when the pace falters or the story runs out of steam or you just need a good jolt to throw at the reader. No, his situation had to be honest, as much as I could make it.

It had to be depicted as a life lived in both great joy and deep sadness, because for all my hero’s abundant strength and speed and animal passion, he also walks alone. He must pay the price for what he is, and though the decision to be what he has become was not his to make…there is still the price to be paid, and so this becomes more than a story about a secret agent in World War II who is a lycanthrope. It is also the story of an innocent boy who set out to catch a kite and became a solitary traveller through a dangerous world.

I am very proud of The Wolf’s Hour. It appears that this is another of my books that, thankfully, is growing in stature with the passage of time. I have been asked many times if I would ever consider doing a sequel. Again, there are so many events packed into this book that I might have a hard time writing a book-length sequel. But after writing the shorter piece “The Room At The Bottom of The Stairs,” I started thinking… hmmmm, well, maybe I could do a sequel of sorts that was not really a sequel but that did continue my hero’s story.

So…I sat down this summer and wrote what has become The Hunter From The Woods, a collection of short stories and novelettes starring Michael Gallatin. He gets to move around quite a bit, from a ragtag circus in Russia to fighter planes clashing over North Africa to a freighter in the fog of the North Atlantic and beyond. It was great fun for me to rouse Michael Gallatin to new adventures and…who knows what the future holds for him?

Thank you for your readership, as always, and I hope you enjoy the Ultimate Edition of The Wolf’s Hour. I suppose you know the title is a takeoff on “The wolf is ours” and the idea of the eleventh hour, which was indeed “the wolf’s hour” in the lore of several mythologies.

Happy November to you all, and good reading to you as well.

Best Wishes,
Robert McCammon

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Goodbye, Summer

 Robert McCammon update  Comments Off on Goodbye, Summer
Sep 152010
 

Well, the time has come to say goodbye to summer and to prepare for another autumn and, beyond that, another winter.

I always feel a little sad at the end of summer. Or wistful might be the better word. There were so many plans for summer that never happened. You know that drill. You meant to take this trip to the beach, and something got in the way. You meant to stand in a woods and watch the fireflies—we call them “lightning bugs” down South— light up the night, but it never happened. You meant to go to a baseball game and kick back with the taste of a hotdog and the smear of mustard on your mouth, but somehow another thing seemed more important. Maybe you meant to just lie on a hilltop and watch the clouds move in their slow and stately progression, but somehow that didn’t seem important enough. I know all about this. It happened to me, too. I had plans that didn’t work out. Doesn’t everyone? And the thing that gets in the way? That’s called “Life.” Ah, well.

There’s always next summer. And plenty of time to dream about what might be, next time around.

Thank you for your comments and your readership. As always, if you didn’t read my work, I would cease to be. So thank you again for hanging in with me, and travelling with me over the many roads.

For anyone close enough to Birmingham to make the drive, I’m going to be speaking and reading at the Hoover Library on Tuesday, October the 5th at 7:00. It’s free, books are going to be sold there, and it’s a nice venue with a cool stage and very comfortable seats. The kicker is that I’m going to not only talk about the Corbett series and The Five, but I’m going to read the opening chapter of The Providence Rider and of course talk about that book too. So if anyone can make the drive, please drop by for the reading.

I’m going pretty well on The Providence Rider. Usually the toughest part for me is getting everything going, and then when the engine is started—so to speak—the machine sort of starts running itself. Lots of characters in this one and it may be a long book. Not sure yet. Well, okay…yes, it’s going to be a long book! Let me restate that: it will be as long as it needs to be to get the story told. Aren’t they all?

Speaking of long books, The “Ultimate” Wolf’s Hour comes in around six hundred and seventy pages, including the new novelette. You know, I look back on some of those and wonder how I wrote such long books. But then again, The “Ultimate” Wolf’s Hour is everything it needs to be. Story told. But story finished? After I did The Hunter from the Woods this summer, I enjoyed it so much that I immediately started thinking about doing more Gallatin pieces. This really was a fun book to write, and probably the most “fun” I’ve ever had doing a project. What was cool about it to me was that instead of writing one book for nine months, here I could finish a short story in a few days or a novelette in a week or so and then go to an entirely different locale and plot-line. So I really did have a lot of fun doing it, and maybe there’s more Michael Gallatin in the future if you guys like it.

Just wanted to check in briefly this time and give you an update. Writing this in the middle of the night—of course—so I’ll be getting back to Matthew and The Providence Rider.

But before I get back to work I may walk outside to my balcony, sit down and just listen for a few minutes.

You know, it’s still warm and the crickets and the night sounds are still out there. It’s really still summer, so maybe that goodbye was a little premature. The moon’s up, the world feels calm, and in the peace of solitude there’s still plenty of time to dream.

So yes, I think I won’t say goodbye to summer yet.

Not just yet.

Best Wishes,
Rick

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Robert McCammon: “An Eye-Popping Blast from the Past”

 Robert McCammon update, Swan Song  Comments Off on Robert McCammon: “An Eye-Popping Blast from the Past”
Jun 052010
 

Hi again, guys. I wanted to check in and thank you for all the kind comments about Swan Song. I’m glad you enjoyed that book and certainly glad you still have an interest in it.

I see that James Melzer’s review of Swan Song includes a picture of the original cover, and I have a story to tell you about that.

When that original cover was presented to me at Pocket Books, I hit the roof. I begged and pleaded for them not to use what I considered to be a “cartoon” depiction of evil. I offered all sorts of options. I even drew my own picture of what I wanted the cover to be, which was a nuclear cloud with a barely-defined “face” within it. (Actually, that picture was used in a reprint edition).

Anyway, I went around and around with the publisher at Pocket over what I thought was a “comic-book” cover. Basically, I was patted on the head and told to go away, because the art director knew what sold and he knew what the market wanted to see.

I asked to speak with the art director.

He walked into the office wearing, as I recall, a hot-pink tie with a sickly-green coat. Looking at his mismatched and garish clothes made me feel a little sick. But I realized, this is why the garish colors are on the cover of the original Swan Song…art is in the eye of the beholder, even if that eye is nearly half-blind or otherwise unable to see anything but a blast of miasmic and frenetic hues.

So…that’s why the incandescent red-and-orange clown face is on the cover. They came to their (color) senses only years later at Pocket, with the latest edition that I think looks very good. But that first cover…OMG!!!

Again, thanks for the comments!

Best Wishes,
Rick

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Robert McCammon: A new Michael Gallatin story

 Robert McCammon update, The Wolf's Hour  Comments Off on Robert McCammon: A new Michael Gallatin story
Apr 212010
 

Hi, everyone, and as always, thanks very much for all the comments.

Big news today!

I’ve been meaning to answer more of your questions but I’ve been very busy for the last month. Subterranean Press is doing what I consider the definitive edition of The Wolf’s Hour in November or thereabouts, and I was asked to do an introduction.

So I started thinking about what I could say in this introduction. It would most likely be something boring, like talking about my interest in the werewolf legend and in World War II history and how I decided to do the mash-up.

But, I didn’t think that would be good enough, so I thought…okay, I’ll write a new Michael Gallatin short story.

What started out as a short story ended up as 123 pages of new Michael Gallatin material. I guess this would be called a “novella”. Anyway, the story takes place after the events depicted in The Wolf’s Hour. It’s also made me start thinking about writing some more Gallatin material in the short form (say, a book of two novellas and three short stories) because my problem with writing a Wolf’s Hour sequel is that I don’t want to repeat myself. In the shorter form, it might be possible to do some different things that I couldn’t do in novel length.

The new Michael Gallatin story is done and will appear in all editions of The Wolf’s Hour published by Subterranean Press.

So, for all who’ve been asking about a Wolf’s Hour sequel, this is probably the best I can do right now. More stories may come later. We’ll see what the response is and if it’s strong enough there will definitely be more Michael Gallatin.

Okay.

Working now on The Providence Rider. Moving pretty well there but I did devote the last month, as I said, to the Gallatin story. The Five is still making the rounds of publishers but no offers yet. The question was asked if The Five is a “dark” novel, and though it does have supernatural and “dark” elements it also has “light” elements, so it’s not strictly along the lines of my earlier work.

You know, I’ve been puzzled as to why The Five hasn’t been picked up by someone, because I think it’s the best book I’ve ever written. But tonight I kind of came to this conclusion:

I was at a library benefit tonight and had the opportunity to speak with a couple of other writers, and we were talking as writers do about the business, and publishers, and genres and such.

Never in the history of publishing (at least never in my thirty years of being in the business) has the role of “genre” been so tight. I mean, everything has to fit a category.

That’s just the way it is. People in publishing are very afraid of losing their jobs these days, so what’s going to be bought and pushed is usually the “safe”—meaning “it’s been successful before”—choice.

So I was thinking on the drive back how the one thing I’ve always wanted to achieve and feel I have achieved is a double-edged sword.

The Five is unlike anything else being published today. There is absolutely nothing else like it out there. Also, the same can be said of the Matthew Corbett series.

What I’ve worked very hard to achieve is being unique. Being the kind of writer who does work that no one else does. Of going my own way, on my own road, and feeling I’m doing the right (or write) thing.

I think I’ve created my own genre that no one else shares. For instance, a woman came up to me and asked me to describe Boy’s Life. Is it “horror”, is it “fantasy”, is it “literary”, or “mystery”…or what?

My answer to that was: you know, I think it’s something altogether different.

My trials and tribulations in the publishing business began with Boy’s Life. I think I created something that no one else could do. Which kind of astounds me when I think about it, but Boy’s Life follows no publisher’s model of success. That’s also true of the Matthew Corbett series and certainly true of The Five.

So I think I’ve achieved my desire to be unique. Now…in this world nothing is free, so if you walk to a different drummer you might find yourself on the path that no one else wants to walk. But still…this is something I should be very proud of, I think. I believe what I’m doing is good and important, or obviously I wouldn’t want to be doing it, and because it has no previous “model” it stands on its own.

I think that’s what I’ve always wanted to achieve. So here it is, but again the world being what it is, a price must be paid for everything.

Now…don’t worry about The Five. It’s going to find a good home and I think it’ll have a strong future. You know, the plans you make don’t always work out but I’m here to tell you, guys, there is always…always…another plan.

So thanks again for your comments. I have to say, I’m writing this late night near two o’clock and I’m pretty tired after the library benefit, but I got one question from a gentleman who lives in Charleston (and I tried to go back and look up his name on the Facebook page but I couldn’t find it, I guess my eyes are going too) concerning the fact that there’s mention of a “lightning rod” in Speaks the Nightbird when that particular item wasn’t invented until much later.

I wanted to address this because I don’t want to “duck” a research question. The answer is, this is one of those things that invariably will bite you. And there will be more than one in each book. Writing about history is fraught with research perils. You can take care of a thousand things (and there really will be thousands of things to take care of) but a few are going to get past you, no doubt about it.

I don’t have a research assistant or staff. It’s just me. And, I have to say, I’ve gotten more careful about researching as the series has progressed, because I’m aware of earlier mistakes I’ve made. I hate making mistakes, but after they’re made and in print all you can do is grit your teeth and hope you won’t make any more, which is kind of the impossible dream.

As I’ve said before, you’re never going to write a perfectly accurate historical novel. I think I threw in that “lightning rod” comment just as an aside, and this is where you can get hammered because I was probably too busy researching a dozen other things to think about an aside. My bad, and I hope it won’t happen again but I know it will. I will never, ever tell you all the mistakes I’ve made in this series so far because some of them are real screamers. At least, I screamed when I realized they were in print, too late to be removed from the eyes of experts who know everything under the sun about a single subject. I just have to do the best I can do in any book, which will certainly fall short of being perfect.

Did you guys like the podcast? I’m getting ready to do a second one. I really enjoy doing them, and some of the songs and bands you’ll be hearing are mentioned in The Five by the character Terry Spitzenham, who plays keyboards and is the band’s retro freak and encyclopedia of, as the drummer Berke Bonnevey puts it, “the moldy territory”.

Lots of good things ahead, guys. Very excited. Oh! Almost forgot! How about Chuck Hartsell’s video for Mister Slaughter? We’re doing videos also for Speaks the Nightbird and Queen of Bedlam. Chuck also wants to do a video for The Wolf’s Hour.

And…we’re planning on doing a longer form music video for The Five. I’ve written the words for some of the songs in The Five, so what we might do is put music to one of them and fire that up with a band doing the original song in the video.

How about it? Summertime is coming, guys!

Thanks for all your support and good wishes, and I’ll check in with you a little later on.

Best,
Rick

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Robert McCammon update: February 2010

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Feb 222010
 

Hi everyone,

As always, thank you for your comments and questions and most of all for your readership. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: a writer would be nothing without readers, and I gratefully appreciate the time and effort you spend on my behalf.

I wanted to answer a couple more questions this time out, but first I wanted to talk about some things I’ve seen remarked on: the first being that the time between Matthew Corbett books seems very long and the second being the idea that I get no “respect” from the publishing industry.

The story behind Mister Slaughter (there’s a story behind everything, isn’t there?) is that it was finished and turned into my then-agent in April of 2008. I wasn’t happy with the job of promotion that Pocket had done with Queen of Bedlam. I was balking at doing another book with Pocket, and I wanted an “upgrade” in terms of what the publishing house (Simon and Schuster) would do with Mister Slaughter. So my then-agent came back to me with the revelation that Scribner (part of the Simon and Schuster company) was going to publish Mister Slaughter in hardback, everything was in place for that to happen, but we had to wait for Susan Moldow, the head honcho (honchess?) at Scribner, to sign off on the deal. That wouldn’t happen, though, until September because Ms. Moldow would be away during the summer. But I was told not to worry about it, because the deal was a “slam dunk”.

Imagine what I felt like when I got a call from my then-agent in October of 2008 saying he didn’t know what had happened, but the deal had blown up and Scribner would not be publishing Mister Slaughter but I was welcome to go back to Pocket.

Still can’t figure out if it was a setup to get me to go back or if I was just plain lied to, but I fired my then-agent within a couple of weeks after that and went on the search for a new agent and, of course, a new publisher. That turned out in time to be Subterranean Press, based in Michigan.

I was pretty down about things, but I started writing The Five in February of 2009 and finished in October of 2009. That book is making the rounds of New York publishers. I’m hopeful for a quick result, but it might be months before the book is picked up by anyone. So right there is an example of how you can finish a book and it’ll be a year or two before it comes out.

I’ll begin The Providence Rider in March and intend to finish in October. But what I’m trying to say is, the long lag between books is not my doing. I want to get on a solid publication track. So what might appear to you as an excessive time between books is particularly frustrating to me. I’m trying to get the corporate horses to pick up their speed, and the nags won’t go. Sometimes they refuse to move at all.

As for Pocket, my hope was that they’d see the potential in the Matthew books and really go to work promoting them, but I think my horror work still gets in the way there. One problem is: where do they go on the shelves in a bookstore? My name is still in the horror section, but the Matthew books are more Historical Mystery. We all know Boy’s Life was not “horror”, and neither was Gone South, yet those two books are shelved in the horror section where booksellers (particularly the big box stores) recognize my name from my earlier works. That’s one reason I caution beginning writers to be very, very careful how they start out, because if you begin as a genre writer you’re going to find it a very hard, torturous journey to be able to do what a writer ought to feel free and be encouraged to do: write about any subject, in any timeframe, that appeals to the creative nature. But I think Pocket just couldn’t get a handle on the Matthew books, and I probably stayed at that particular party too long.

Now to the part about “respect”. Again, we’re talking about corporations. They respect money. Can you ask for respect from a building? From stones and bricks? You might, but you’re not going to get it.

I get the respect I need from you guys. I re-read something I wrote awhile back, the introduction to my short story collection Blue World. I was talking about fast cars, the idea of moving forward, and in it I kept coming back to the phrase “Trust me”, in regards to letting me take the wheel and steer the ride. That’s what I feel you do, in allowing me freedom of the creative nature. You do trust me, and right there is the best respect anyone could ask for.

I will tell you that I think The Five is the best book I’ve ever written. All-in-all the book is exactly what I hoped it would be. The Five is something I have needed to say for a long time, but it took me awhile to know how to say it.

I feel like there are great things ahead. I have ideas stacked up and ready to go. There are things I could tell you now that would make you jump with joy, if you’ve liked my work up to this point. All I can say is…trust me.

I hear you when you say the wait between Matthew’s stories is long, and I wanted you to know it’s a problem I’m actively trying to solve. I think Subterranean Press has done a fantastic job with Mister Slaughter, and I have no hesitation in saying I hope they will publish the rest of the series.

Okay…onward, then.

Denise Quinn and Mike Wilkerson (among others) have both asked about sequels to Swan Song and The Wolf’s Hour.

I’m thinking of (maybe) a sequel to The Wolf’s Hour, but I have so much on my plate yet to do that I want to keep on my schedule. Now, that’s not to say that if The Wolf’s Hour actually becomes a movie and does well that I wouldn’t really really give some thought to continuing the story, but…

My take on sequels is that they’re never going to be as good as the original book. Yet my intention is for you to actually want me to write a sequel. Does that make sense? If you want me to write a sequel, it means you enjoyed the book and the characters enough to want to keep going with them. That’s a very high compliment to a writer, but sometimes (I think particularly in the case of Swan Song) the story is told and if there’s any continuing story it should be written in the reader’s own imagination.

I don’t consider Matthew’s stories to be “sequels”, but rather one continuing book. His story is not finished yet, and won’t be until we get to the last book in the series. But everything else I’ve done, I kinda figure those stories are finished. Having said that, though, it’s really a good thing that you want me to write sequels because it’s an indication of how much you enjoyed the original work.

Hope that makes sense.

I know there’ve been some questions about the availability of e-books. Believe me, this is an area of chaos and confusion for the book industry. I find it very interesting that Amazon promoted the Kindle as being able to download current bestsellers within minutes of their pubdates, and then suddenly the publishers are saying they want four or five months leeway between the release of new books and the e-book version. So that’s why Amazon is plundering back-lists and the publishing companies are trying to grab hold of as many older titles as they can. It’s a complicated issue. Amazon wants to be able to set e-book prices and the publishing industry wants to be able to set e-book prices. Chaos and confusion, added to by the huge number of e-book readers on the market and soon to be on the market. I have enough chaos in my day-to-day, so like you guys all I can do is watch the circus parade go past and wonder who’ll be bringing up the rear with the brooms. No doubt it’ll be the writers.

Again, thank you so very much for your comments and I particularly appreciate that you’re reading and re-reading the older books. I hope you’ve enjoyed Mister Slaughter. I will say about The Providence Rider that not only do we leave New York in this book, we also leave the colonies. But—no fear!—we’ll return to the familiar trappings of Number Seven Stone Street ‘ere the tale is through.

See? I’m getting back into the colonial mode after the rock’n roll book!

Thanks for reading and for writing, and I’ll talk to you again a little further on.

Best Wishes,
Robert McCammon

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Robert McCammon update – January 2010

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Jan 082010
 

Hi everyone,

As I’m waiting for the official pub date of Mister Slaughter, I’ve been going back over comments and questions that some of you guys have posed over the last few months, and I wanted to respond.

First off, I can’t tell you how fortunate I feel to have loyal readers. Telling a story and communicating with people is what it’s all about, and I have to say that looking back over all the comments I feel like a very lucky person indeed. I’ve always said that I first write a book for myself because it’s a story I want to read, but knowing that other people are enjoying the books, understanding the characters and what I’m trying to express…it’s really a great feeling, so I wanted to thank all of you very, very much.

I really enjoy reading your comments. I’m so glad my work has given you pleasure and, in a way, become a part of your life. What more is there for a writer, than to reach out and be accepted? Again, I’m a very fortunate man.

To the comments and questions:

Jean-Frederic Chaleyat asks about movie rights to The Wolf’s Hour, and what’s going on there.

I can answer that the movie rights have been optioned and there’s a very good chance the movie will actually be made…but, as always, we’ll have to wait and see.

Paul Taylor asks if there’s any way the “hardcore” can read The Village.

You know, I took The Village out of its box not long ago and re-read it. I think I probably need to tighten it up some, but it wouldn’t be such a difficult task. The problem—and I think this is also part of why it was never picked up by a publisher—is that it concerns a part of World War II that most Americans know nothing about. (And probably don’t care much about, either!) Namely, the partisans fighting in Yugoslavia against the Germans. There’s really more to it than that, but it’s told from the viewpoint of the Russians and…well, it’s a pretty complicated plot. Plus it’s very bloody and violent. But…I might at some point clean it up and put it out there, so The Village is certainly not dead. It’s just that right now I have so many other things going on.

Frederic Doss asks how he would find out about acquiring the film rights to Gone South.

Years ago, I got a telephone call in the middle of the night from a young man who’d just won a big lottery jackpot. He’d gotten my number from the operator by saying it was an emergency call. But, anyway, he wanted to use some of his newfound money to option one of my books and make a movie.

I spent about an hour talking him down to earth. I told him to enjoy his money and not throw it away, which is exactly what he would’ve been doing if he’d tried to get into the movie-making business.

The film business will gladly eat any amount of money you wish to throw at it, burp and ask for more. Without hugely deep pockets and a studio behind you—and even with these things—you would likely have nothing to show for the money you’ve spent.

I hope someday Gone South becomes a movie. I hope others of my books become movies…if they turn out to be any good. Because, really, even spending multiple million dollars on movies doesn’t mean they’re going to be watchable. It’s just feeding the beast.

So, Frederic, thank you for asking, but please keep your money, go out to good dinners, enjoy some bottles of wine and nice trips and have fun with your cash. Even if you had millions to throw away, I would say don’t go down that movie road. There’s a reason most movies are put together by conglomerates and financial companies using other peoples’ money!

Wayne Rogers wants to know what happened to my hair.

Okay, here’s the mathematical formula to explain it: Life as a writer + dealing with the publishing business + fatherhood to a teenaged daughter x the trials and tribulations of 2000 to 2009 = WYSIWYG!

Lisa Schneider asks if I might be coming to Southern Cal for a signing, and Jodi asks if I might be coming to NYC for a signing.

Not anything planned right now, but I think we have to see how Mister Slaughter does.

If I could work out some book signings in both places, that would be fun.

Carmella Dillman asks if Speaks the Nightbird will be released as an ebook.

Working to figure out if that’s possible right now. Also working on getting some other titles into ebook formats.

Kyle Bakke asks if I’m not proud of Swan Song, and why I never talk about it.

Kyle, I’m very proud of Swan Song, but when it first came out it was blasted by some critics who said I was trying to copy King’s The Stand, and much of the heat directed at me over that book was pretty hot. Over time, Swan Song has stood on its own, but I guess it’s still a sore spot for me. One of the reasons I wanted to do historical work was that for awhile some of these same critics were saying that everything I was writing was ripping off King. I remember somebody talking on a forum about MINE, saying that they’d heard it was an idea King was going to do and that I must have ripped it off before he could write it. Another person said I’d ripped the Wolf’s Hour character off from the werewolf in The Talisman.

But the deal is, the last King book I read was The Dead Zone. I just stopped reading him, because of the very cutting criticism I was getting. Somebody even said the monster in Stinger was like the monster in IT, which I never read.

So if I don’t talk about Swan Song, it’s not that I’m not proud of my work…it’s just that it was not really recognized as my work until enough time had passed to cool some fires.

Some news: The Five is making the rounds of publishers right now and I’ll be starting the next Matthew Corbett book, The Providence Rider, pretty soon. I’m putting the plot together now, and tying some things together with things that happened in Mister Slaughter. Going to be interesting to get my head back in the flow of 18th century language as opposed to modern.

Again, thank you very much for your comments. I’m so glad you all have your favorite books.

This sounds like a cliché, I know, but my favorite book is always the one I’m working on.

Thanks for sticking with me.

I wish you a great and happy beginning to 2010, and I look forward to your continued comments and questions on the website.

Best Wishes,
Robert McCammon

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Robert McCammon update – November 2009

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Nov 212009
 

Hi all,

I wanted to say that I finished the new book about a month ago, it went to my agent on the 29th of October, and it will start making the rounds of publishers after Thanksgiving. I have no idea where it’s going to wind up, so we’ll see.

The title is The Five, which is also the name of the band. The image is one I put together just for fun to send out with the manuscript. I enjoy playing with graphics and fonts, so I thought I’d do this “mock cover”. By no means am I a graphics professional, but I decided I’d do it anyway after I finished writing the book.

The manuscript came out to 523 pages, a little longer than I’d anticipated but they always seem to come out longer than I think they will.

The last two weeks of writing were really tough, as I had to finish before I went to the writers’ conference in Vancouver. I’d made plans back last March or so to go to Vancouver, and I realized in September that I was going to crash into the conference date and not be finished unless I picked up the pace. I could’ve gone without finishing, but (at least for me) when I’m so close to the end of a project my sleeping schedule goes crazy and I can’t do anything without having the book foremost in my mind, so I would’ve been bumping into walls in Vancouver and not been much good for anything.

Any writing project to me is like a slow-motion marathon. It’s going to be nine months, and you have to be careful not to “kick” too early or you’ll burn out before you finish. I kicked early on this one, and I was running full-out trying to finish and so the world went away from me for awhile and, likewise, I went away from the world.

But now, happily, The Five is done, I’m very excited and pleased with it and in a way it represents a new beginning (again!!) for me. A new agent, a new publisher, and (we hope) a new opportunity. As I mentioned in another post, The Five is a contemporary novel, which I’ve not done for awhile.

I’m going to give myself a few months to recuperate and then I’ll start on the next Matthew book. As I’ve also said, I’m planning on going back and forth in the next few years between doing the Corbett series and writing more contemporary books.

I’m very pleased about the quality of my writing in The Five. I think it’s way beyond what I’ve done before, and I have to credit Matthew Corbett for that. I believe that writing the historical series—and being somewhat constricted in language, yet having to be as painstaking and imaginative with language as you’re able to be—has helped my abilities. I have great fun with the language in the Corbett series, and I found in writing The Five that I didn’t have to “think” quite so hard to find the right way to say or describe something. It just seemed to flow much more smoothly, and I do credit Matthew for that.

So…Mister Slaughter comes out in January, The Five will be after that (who knows when, but I hope it won’t be too long) and I’m planning on finishing the new Matthew book, The Providence Rider, next autumn. Actually, probably around October. And also probably very near the time I told the good folks up in Vancouver I’d come to the conference again!

Well, the wheels of the bus do go round and round.

Thanks again for your interest in my work, and thank you for the time you spend in checking on the website and keeping up with my writing. I’ll let you know later on as things progress.

Best Wishes,
Robert McCammon

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