Posts Tagged ‘ Chuck Palahniuk ’

BEGINNING TO END

Not long ago, Crystal Lake Publishing printed a slightly older version of the following article / interview, “Ah-ha: Beginning to End” or “Chuck Palahniuk and Michael Bailey Discuss the Spark of Creativity” in It’s Alive: Bringing Your Nightmares to Life, a recent recipient of the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Nonfiction.

Chuck Palahaniuk is a novelist and freelance journalist whose work can only be described as transgressional fiction. He has written such novels as Fight Club, Survivor, Invisible Monsters, Choke, Lullaby, and that’s all before 2002! He has written eighteen or so other books since then, such as his most recent novel Adjustment Day, a few coloring books, Bait and Legacy, and the graphic adaptations of Fight Club 2 (with Cameron Stewart) and Fight Club 3 (in the works). Adapted films of his work include Fight Club, Choke, Romance (based on his short story), and the forthcoming Lullaby and Rant.

With permission from both Chuck Palahniuk and Crystal Lake Publishing, “Beginning to End” is now free to share with the rest of the world, so enjoy!


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One lives in the Pacific Northwest and nearly lost his home in a wildfire the summer of 2017, while the other used to live in what is now a scorched part of Sonoma County from a wildfire the autumn of that same year. One’s surname is often mispronounced [ paula-nick, for those stumbling over it ], while the other’s surname is often mistaken as having Irish heritage [ Bailey, in this case, is English) ]. Both have been threatened by fire, both have problematic last names, and both have been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award on various occasions, and in a mix of categories.

Whether or not one believes in coincidence, these two magicians of creativity have been brought together, one thing leading to another thing leading to another, to discuss the spark of creativity from beginning to end. Something short and sweet.

Imagine these two strange fellows sitting behind laptops or notepads, conversing from places not-so-far-apart—perhaps one sips coffee, while the other sips tea (or maybe water or nothing at all)—to reveal some of their dark magic:


Michael Bailey: The first volume of Where Nightmares Come From focused on the art of storytelling in the horror genre, while this latest edition explores how storytellers transform ideas into finished product. Most writer interviews start with the obvious question: “Where do you get your ideas?” But let’s not go there. Story origin has been done to death. Instead, how about: What’s the first thing you do after your mind sparks original concepts? In other words, what’s the very first thing you do after that original ah-ha! moment?

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Chuck Palahniuk: Once an idea occurs I repeat it to other people to see how readily they engage with it. And to see if they can offer examples of it from their own lives. And to test whether others have seen the idea depicted elsewhere in the popular culture. If they engage, if they expand upon the idea, and if they offer no recent examples of it in fiction or movies, then I proceed.

MB: What’s your first-draft poison: dictation, pen and paper, pounding tired keys on an old typewriter, fancy computer / laptop, tapping tablets, cocktail napkin notes, or a combination of sorts? How do you release your words? And once released, do they live primarily on virtual paper, physical paper, or both?

CP: I make all my notes on paper. Only after I’ve collected several pages of notes do I keyboard the notes into a word processing file and begin organizing them by cut and paste. The next step is to look for plot holes and create the bridging scenes or moments to resolve those.

MB: I used to have an uncontrollable need to transcribe the noise from my head directly onto the page. Early drafts were perfect, of course (in my undeveloped head), ready to sell without revision. I think most writers go through something similar at the beginning, before learning the stuff not to do. Early in my endeavors I met Thomas F. Monteleone and F. Paul Wilson, and they fortunately set me right. They explained that writing / storytelling is a disease (if one must do it) … and like all diseases, one can’t go untreated for long, lest they shrivel up and die. They took me under their wings and showed me the ropes, for many years. And they introduced me to Douglas E. Winter, who (also over the course of many years) taught me the art of self-editing (much more difficult than editing the work of others). He slashed and sliced that evil red pen of his until my manuscripts bled, severed them in half, typically. “Start here,” he’d say, “on page 13.” My writing has evolved, sure, and my writing has gotten slower because I can’t help but edit along the way. With all that pre-loading, I guess my next question is this: How ugly (or pretty) is a Palahniuk first-draft?

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CP: What you’d call my first draft is actually my third or fourth draft. In a story, each of the three or five acts gets its own draft, and each must work well before I tackle the climax of the story. That way my eventual finished first draft isn’t too shabby.

MB: And a follow-up: How has your first-draft evolved during your writing career? Do you binge and purge? Do you edit-on-the-go?

CP: My process has stayed essentially the same since 1992. I takes long-hand notes. Then, transcribe the notes into a computer file. Then, print the draft and carry it with me on paper so I can read and revise it anywhere in the world. Then use those edits to revise the computer file, print it and repeat the process.

MB: Some writers set daily or weekly goals, whether it’s word count or page count. Some try for 5,000 words a day, some 1,000. Some try for 5 pages a day, some 10. Some try to at least write something each day. And there are some oddballs, like me, who go for months without writing a single word, sometimes as long as a year (although I’m always doing something creative), when suddenly the mind takes a laxative and dumps out 10,000- to 30,000-word chunks. What are your writing goals and / or habits?

CP: As a physically active person I hate to sit and keyboard. Notebook in hand, I’ll go for weeks just jotting down details that might apply to a story. This used to be called “brain mapping” in the science of the 1990’s. It takes a stretch of rainy weather before I’ll settle down and begin to type. Often the typing takes place aboard an airplane or in a hotel room or some other stifling place where I have no other options. As for goals, each January 1st I decide what I will accomplish for the year.

MB: What’s the most you’ve ever written at one time (not necessarily in a single sitting, but what you’d consider all-at-once)? And how long have you gone without writing?

CP: My greatest single sitting output was the eleven-page story “Guts.” To be frank, that many keystrokes makes my elbows and wrists ache like you wouldn’t believe. Years at the Freightliner Truck Plant have left me with carpal tunnel syndrome, and any kind of marathon typing now requires a Vicodin. Blame it on the drugs, but that short story just poured out.

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[ read Chuck’s short story “Guts” in Haunted ]

MB: Writer’s block: real news or fake news?

CP: Writer’s block: Not my problem. As with any living thing, there are dormant and active phases. When I’m not actively writing I still watch and listen, always trying to identify new patterns and ideas.

MB: ‘Character’ is arguably the most important part of a story. Some say ‘plot’ or ‘conflict’ or ‘the message’ is most important, but they are wrong, no? Your fiction always breathes with the lives of diverse, colorful, incredibly memorable characters. Where do your characters come from? I realize that’s sort of like asking the “Where do you get your ideas?” question, but since ‘character’ plays such an important part of the story, it seems to be an important question.

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[ his most recent novel, Adjustment Day is now available ]

CP: My characters are always based on actual people. Their most memorable lines of dialog have already been said by real people. Even their dogs are real. Although I’m trained as a journalist I find that there’s more fun (and money) in passing off reality as fantasy.

MB: So you’ve spawned an idea, and created characters, and they converse through dialogue and navigate plots and traverse conflict, and the manuscript has maybe gone through a few drafts (or not) and all that other magic that happens during storytelling, and suddenly you find yourself with a completed manuscript—short story, novelette, novella, novel, comic / graphic adaptation … doesn’t matter. This interview started with an ah-ha! moment—the original spark of creativity—but there’s another ah-ha! moment to consider: the moment one realizes a story is complete. What next? Do you send it to beta-readers, let it marinate in a drawer somewhere, send it off to an editor?

CP: To date I’ve done my beta testing while I write. By testing each scene on my peers or fellow writers in a weekly group. This creates an informal collaboration and allows contributions from possibly hundreds of people. David Sedaris advised me to always test new material by reading it aloud on tours; that works well also. Nothing goes off to New York until it’s made people laugh or cringe everywhere else in the country—or the world.

MB: We recently discussed the fires in California and in the Pacific Northwest, as well as some of our losses and scares. I was lucky and for some reason already had my laptop in the car before fleeing from one of these fires (and I habitually upload files to off-site storage), but the threat of losing creativity begs the question: What if it all burned down? Where do you keep your creations, in case a fire someday threatens (or accomplishes) turning them to ash?

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CP: If you’re talking about past notes, drafts, books, I don’t keep them. I burn everything once the final book has been typeset [ something both writers now have in common after the fires ]. Regarding on-going work, I back-up to flash drives and keep them separate from each other—in my car, with friends—and I always have a printed hard copy of the work in progress.

MB: And since this interview / discussion is for It’s Alive [ a follow-up to Where Nightmares Come From ], what is your nightmare, the thing that scares you most?

CP: Plenty of things scare me. These include driving over extremely high bridges or being buried alive. But nothing scares me the most.

MB: Over the last few years I have collaborated with writers for fiction and have sought out collaborative works for anthologies I’ve edited. My next anthology is composed entirely of collaborations, even [ Chiral Mad 4: An Anthology of Collaborations ]. Collaborations are perhaps my new ah-ha! in this business, something of which I want to see more. I love the concept of multiple minds working together to create entirely new voices and visions. But I have yet to collaborate on 1) interview questions, and 2) with Chuck Palahniuk. So, how about we spin things around? My freelance work is roughly 33% writer, 33% editor, 33% book designer, and now 1% interviewer. What question, in the broad scope of ‘from concept to finished product,’ would you like me to answer?

CP: My question to you is: Do you think piracy has damaged the viability of writing professionally? And if so, how do you bring yourself back to the task despite that threat?

MB: There’s potential in book piracy eventually hurting the industry, but we’re not there, at least not yet [ maybe we are now, I don’t know ]; we may never get there. I would argue that eBooks, in terms of sales, have caught up to printed books, perhaps even surpassed sales in some cases, but I would also argue that most eBooks go unread. It’s easy to purchase digital books—a single-click sometimes. They are priced to move copies. It’s easy to fill virtual shelves with digital books because they are not really there and don’t take up physical space. They are simply strings of binary designed to mimic books, which is neat. But this also makes them easier to steal, sure, like music was easier to steal once it turned digital. How many digital books are read from start to finish? I’d guess 5-10%, if I’m being generous. A printed book, however, for now, is there, is something real, and harder not to read—if it’s pretty enough and smells like a book and you can hold it in your hands—and likewise harder to steal.

Here’s my confession, which might help explain what I’m trying to say. Before the fire (which took just about everything but our lives), I used to have a nice collection of Palahniuk on my shelves. I also used to have a Kindle with about a hundred titles, including your Kindle short story “Phoenix,” released in 2013, which I bought for $1.99 (a steal!). I have read every book of yours (that I used to own), from start to finish … except for one—the title of which I now find ironic because it’s the only book that still ‘exists’ somewhere in those 0’s and 1’s, and I could still read it on my laptop if I choose to. My physical books are gone, sure, but I’ll get new ones going forward, and I’ll probably read those before ever browsing my digital shelves.

My point: book piracy has potential to hurt the industry monetarily, sure (as piracy did the music industry at first), but we’ll always have books (like we’ll always have music). Piracy will never hurt the creative process. Books will survive as they always have. I would argue that those doing the stealing aren’t doing enough damage at this point, but someday (who knows?) they might, and the industry will adapt accordingly. Book pirates are most likely never going to read the books they steal, anyway, and neither are those taking them from wherever they take them, so who gives a shit? We’ll adapt. We’ll evolve. Musicians are still making music. Writers will continue to write, if they must, because writing’s a disease, right? All creators will continue to create as they always have.

No matter the threat, professional writers should continue to write professionally. Books will always have a place in our world, however they—and we—evolve. All we can do as writers is to keep writing. All we can do as editors is to keep editing. All we can do as book designers is to keep designing beautiful books. And readers: must keep reading (purchased books only, please). It doesn’t matter what tools we use to create, and it doesn’t matter what tools we use to immerse ourselves in those creations. We simply need to keep doing what we’re supposed to be doing.


Imagine the coffee and tea cups empty, or perhaps untouched this entire time and now lukewarm and undrinkable. Perhaps Chuck leans back in his chair, and Michael does the same. One stretches, while the other cracks his knuckles and winces. One looks to the blank wall and sets up the next scene, while the other looks off into the distance and listens for the voices. Both move on to the next project, for there are always next projects. There are stories that need to be written. There are deadlines that need to be met. There are books of various kinds in development.

 

CHIRAL MAD 3 – NOW AVAILABLE!

CHIRAL MAD 3 cover

The highly-anticipated third volume in the award-winning and critically-acclaimed Chiral Mad series of psychological horror is now available! This marks the first anthology by Written Backwards as an imprint of Dark Regions Press.

Click the book cover above to order Chiral Mad 3 directly from Dark Regions Press in trade paperback, eBook, or to pre-order one of the 26 deluxe hardcover editions signed by everyone but King (these will go incredibly fast, so if you’re even thinking about ordering a copy, you should probably just order one). We may release this incredible book in hardback later down the road, but if you’re a collector, the signed/lettered deluxe edition will sell out quickly, so act fast.

You can also order a copy of the trade paperback or Ebook editions on Amazon.comChiral Mad 3 will also appear in various bookstores and libraries throughout the world, and wholesale pricing will be made available to retailers in Ingram Catalog (ipage). Email written@nettirw.com for more information.

CHIRAL MAD 3 illustrations

This stunningly beautiful book is illustrated throughout by legendary artist Glenn Chadbourne (45 images), with 400 pages of fiction and symmetrically placed poetry (see full table of contents below), and features a special introduction by Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club and the Bram Stoker Award nominated Beautiful YouYes, this anthology is insane.

Introduction: Observations on Horror Burnout – Chuck Palahniuk

Fiction:
01. The Poetry of Life – Richard Chizmar
02. The Last Rung on the Ladder – Stephen King
03. A Rift in Reflection – Hal Bodner
04. Windows, Mirrors, Doors – Jason V Brock
05. Prayer – Mort Castle
06. The Agonizing Guilt of Relief (Last Days of a Ready-Made Victim) – Paul Michael Anderson
07. The Black Crow of Boddinstraße – Emily B. Cataneo
08. A Flash of Red – Erinn L. Kemper
09. Red Runner vs. The Surgeon, Issue 18 – Jessica May Lin
10. The Dead Collection – Mercedes M. Yardley
11. Watch Me – Meghan Arcuri
12. The Bigger Bedroom – Josh Malerman
13. That Perilous Stuff – Scott Edelman
14. Know Your Code – Ramsey Campbell
15. 3-Dot People – Gene O’Neill
16. Silver Thread, Hammer Ring – Gary A. Braunbeck
17. Those Who Watch From on High – Eric J. Guignard
18. Blood Dust – Max Booth III
19. The Offering on the Hill – Richard Thomas
20. The Whipping Girls – Damien Angelica Walters
21. Seconds – Jack Ketchum

CHIRAL MAD 3 illustrations

Poetry:
01. Fair – P. Gardner Goldsmith
02. Fail-Safe – Jonathan Balog
03. Folie à Deux – Sydney Leigh
04. Reflecting on Reflections – Bruce Boston
05. Mirror Image – Marge Simon
06. Black River #1 – Elizabeth Massie
07. Prescience – Rose Blackthorn
08. The Speed of Sound – Ciarán Parkes
09. Welcome Home, Darling – Stephanie M. Wytovich
10. Whisper #1 (A Warning) – Erik T. Johnson
11. Whisper #2 (A Prophecy) – Erik T. Johnson
12. Put Me to Dream – Stephanie M. Wytovich
13. Recognizing Trees – Ciarán Parkes
14. Arbitration – Rose Blackthorn
15. Black River #2 – Elizabeth Massie
16. Reflections Through the Raven’s Eye – Marge Simon
17. Beyond Symmetry – Bruce Boston
18. Folie à Plusieurs – Sydney Leigh
19. Insomnia in Reverse – Jonathan Balog
20. Promise – P. Gardner Goldsmith

Grab a copy today!

[ artwork by Glenn Chadbourne ]

CHIRAL MAD 3 cover

WRITTEN BACKWARDS AWARDS ® / DRAWA

Written Backwards Awards

Also known as the DRAWA, the Written Backwards Awards ® celebrates the recognition of literary marvels. For those unfamiliar with this somewhat-annual tradition of virtual award-giving, here are the details (most plagiarized from the previous award year):

The prestigious DRAWA / AWARD is not determined by jury, not by recommendation counts of any kind, and not by a jury/rec superpac, but is decided upon by Written Backwards and its staff… meaning one person, Michael Bailey. He determines whether a literary work is DRAWA eligible by reading or looking at various readable or lookable things throughout the year, whether it be a short story, novelette, novella, novel, screenplay (which we all know is just watching a movie), soundtrack, grocery list, magazine, website article, literary journal, pretty picture/artwork, or whatever else he sees fit, mentally scores this work on a scale of suck to badass, and from that point creates a preliminary ballot in his head from which to randomly choose ballotees. From this “preliminary” ballot, he then carefully and skillfully and adverbly removes “preliminary” altogether, thus creating what is known as the Written Backwards Awards® final ballot, which may or may not have to include works from the previous year. DRAWA winners are determined from this mental list, if remembered, depending on eligibility.

There is no hindrance on publication date, as long as the publication date does not surpass the year in which an award is planned for issue. For example, if Joe King publishes an award-winning masterpiece in March 2016, he is not eligible for a 2015 award because, well, his work is from the future, and future literary works are prohibited, as mentioned somewhere in the figurative small-print. Awards can go to the dead, although they cannot be accepted in person.

Please note that all writers whose work appeared or will soon appear in Written Backwards anthologies are not only eligible for a DRAWA, but automatic recipients of the Written Backwards Awards ®. This includes the following anthologies not covered previously: Qualia Nous, The Library of the Dead, as well as the upcoming Chiral Mad 3 and You, Human. If your work appeared or will soon appear in the aforementioned anthologies, you are hereby or soonby an alumni recipient of the Written Backwards Awards ® for the given year of publication. See anthology table of contents page for a full list of alumni recipients.

So, without further ado, Written Backwards is proud to introduce the the latest winners of the Written Backwards Awards ®, also known as the DRAWA (name not yet a registered trademark). The following works were admired greatly since the last award season, and can forever be considered literary marvels from this point onward. If you haven’t read these books, do so now. I’ll even supply a direct link where you can buy these books, as well as a few kind words about each…

Slade HouseSlade HouseThere’s a reason writers such as Joe Hill, Dean Koontz, Anthony Doerr and Gillian Flynn blurbed this novel; while Cloud Atlas had its share of fictional history, science fiction, and even horror, Slade House is Mitchell’s first take on straight-up horror. Some are describing this book as our generation’s The Turn of the Screw. I read a lot of both published and unpublished dark fiction, and this is one of the finest, most well-structured short horror novels I’ve read in the last ten years. The book is a work of art, inside and out. I adore this book completely.

The Bone ClocksThe Bone Clocks
Just before so beautifully tackling the horror genre, Mitchell beautifully tackled the science fiction genre with The Bone Clocks, a novel composed of six interconnecting novella-length works. “Tackled science fiction” is not strong enough. “Crushed it” may fit better. In fact, he won the World Fantasy Award and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize for this novel. And he should have won the Nebula, in my opinion. Again, one of the finest, most beautifully-constructed science fiction novels I’ve read in the last ten years.

The Reason I JumpThe Reason I Jump – Jon Stewart probably says it best: “One of the most remarkable books I’ve ever read. It’s truly moving, eye-opening, incredibly vivid.” And I agree 100%. This is a translation (by both David Mitchell and his wife) of a memoir by thirteen-year-old Naoki Higashida, a boy living with autism. If you want to understand autism, this is the book to read. As Stewart said, “eye-opening.” This should be required reading in schools. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve loaned this book for someone else to read.

David MitchellSlade HouseThe Bone Clocks, and The Reason I Jump (yes, two novels and a nonfiction book from a single author made the list this year). I fell in love with Mitchell’s first novel, Ghostwritten, and then Number9Dream, and then Black Swan Green, followed by Cloud Atlas, which was adapted to the screen by the Wachowski’s, and although I haven’t read The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, I highly enjoyed the audio book. In writing these books, which all connect in subtle ways, Mitchell has quickly become my favorite contemporary writer, hands-down. His latest three books are probably some of the most important books written in the last however-many years, and are some of the most literary/accessible works I’ve had the pleasure of reading (and re-reading, since I will be revisiting each of these books in the future). It’s probably safe to say that David Mitchell is the most important writer working today.

IQ84

IQ84 by Haruki Murakami caught my eye as I was perusing a bookstore in some airport a few years ago, mostly because of its size. This book could be a… well, a bookend, or a doorstop. It’s 1,184 pages, to be exact, which works well with the title. I’ve read this book in print, as well as listened to the audio book, and it’s a trip, a long trip, but one worth the journey. Part fantasy, part science fiction. My only regret is that I’m sure it’s lost some of its beauty in translation. If you’ve got some time to kill, kill it with this book.

Beautiful You

So Fifty Shades of Grey happened not long enough ago… Now imagine that book as not one of the worst things ever written, and imagine something better, so much, much better, written with… what’s the word… English, and then add a splash of end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it horror, and let it come from the mind of Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club, Choke, Survivor), and you have Beautiful You (novel), probably the strangest book to win a DRAWA. Nominated last year for the Bram Stoker Award, this is… well, interesting. I guess I should let the Amazon book description do its thing: “when Penny discovers she is a test subject for a line of female sex toys so effective that women by the millions are lining up outside the stores to buy it on opening day, she understands the gravity the situation. A billion husbands are about to be replaced.” Yep. It’s like that.

Lisey's StorySince we’re on the subject of love (sort of), Stephen King wrote Lisey’s Story (novel) over ten years ago, and it’s good enough to make it on my list this year, mostly because I want people to give it a shot. I’ve read it three times now. Some people love it; others hate it. My opinion? This is Stephen King’s best novel (yeah, I said it, so what?). Even Stephen King thinks it’s his best work. It’s sort of a ghost story about the secret language of love… of all things. I’m guessing you’ve never read it. If not, read it. Now. It was up for the World Fantasy Award, as well as the Bram Stoker Award for long fiction back when the original “Lisey and the Madman” was published a few years prior to the novel.

Bird Box

Birdbox (novel) by Josh Malerman is the first book in a long while that kept me riveted, to say the least, and the book refused to be put down for a break, and every time I did (sometimes I had to), it left me wondering “what’s next?” and wanting to finish the rest of it. I’d think about it all day, wanting to get home to read more. Why? A woman and two four-year-old children float down a river, blindfolded, with someone or something out there making noises, perhaps following them. Malerman’s debut novel deserved the Stoker for first novel, in my opinion (although there was some fierce competition), and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

The MartianWhether you loved it or hated it (seems to be a toss-up, either one or the other, and never anywhere in the middle), The Martian (novel) by Andy Weir made the cut for this year’s DRAWA. As of writing this, I haven’t seen the movie (although I’ve heard it’s Ridley Scott’s best thing since Alien and Blade Runner), but the book held me. I read this thing in three sittings. Plus, I love science, and this book was full of nerdy sciency stuff. If I were stranded on Mars, this would probably be close to my memoir. I guess you could say I liked it…

Burnt Tongues

I read a lot of short fiction for my anthologies (millions and millions and millions of words each year) so it’s a nice surprise to find a gem of an anthology from talented peers, such as Burnt Tongues (anthology), edited by Richard Thomas and Chuck Palahniuk. Although I’ve never heard of a single name in this book (other than its creators), this is a great collection of short fiction by some writers that should probably be a little more well-known (so give them a shot!), and an anthology deserving of the recognition its received. Kudos to Richard Thomas for putting together such a fine looking book, and to Chuck.

Head full of ghostsI wouldn’t be surprised if Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts (novel) takes home the Bram Stoker Award this time around. It’s a fine novel, one that gave Stephen King a scare, no less. I’d never heard of Paul Tremblay until this book was mentioned on Brian Keene’s podcast, The Horror Show with Brian Keene. Brian had enough kind things to say about this book that I gave it a read. And, well, it’s incredible. Slade House will probably be overlooked for the Stoker, so A Head Full of Ghosts would probably be my next vote.

Where We Live and DieSince I mentioned Brian Keene, and I’m sure he probably wouldn’t mind a nod, Where We Live and Die (nonfiction) made the cut this year. Brian Keene. Nonfiction. Enough said, right? This is how I like my nonfiction! Many know Brian’s work because of The Rising and The City of the Dead, or his novel about giant earthworms (all great books, by the way), but I discovered Brian by accident by reading a lesser-known novel of his called Terminal, which would make my list of all-time favorite books, if I were to make such a list. Jeff Strand‘s Pressure would probably make that list as well, which I’d consider his best book… But enough about fiction. Read this nonfiction.

The Art of Horrible PeopleThe last DRAWA this year goes to John Skipp for The Art of Horrible People (fiction collection). “Savor this book. Savor this writer.” Josh Malerman rightfully states this in his introduction. The Art of Horrible People collects Skipp’s fiction in a way I’ve never experienced before in a fiction collection, offering a reflection of our sick selves in the process, a look at just horrible we’ve become, and how beautiful that can be. Skipp is perhaps the living example that the phrase “there are no original ideas” is a load of crap. Skipp can crank out originality like it’s-not-going-out-of-style.

You have 12 new books to read (or perhaps re-read if you’ve read them already). Buy yourself something nice this holiday season. Like 12 books. And then read one each month for the next 12 months.

That’s it for this year, except…

Last year there were some special Written Backwards Awards ® given to those making a noticeable difference in the writing community. This year, Written Backwards proudly presents the DRAWA Presence, Inspiration, and Voice. (See how that works? AWARD is spelled backwards, with the subject of the award after… so, this would actually be a Presence Award, Inspiration Award, and a Voice Award… clever, right?)

Anyway, the DRAWA Presence recognizes an individual completely dedicated to the craft, someone who’s been around awhile and knows what they’re doing, and is not afraid to share that knowledge for the greater good. The DRAWA Inspiration recognizes an individual somewhat new to the craft, someone with emerging talent, a strong, literary powerhouse waiting to erupt; this is the person to watch closely. Lastly, the DRAWA Voice recognizes an individual  with a fresh, unique literary voice, someone who quite clearly knows all the rules, and is very good at breaking them; this person has their own genre of awesomeness, in other words. Who are these people?

DRAWA Presence – Mort Castle is a teacher, a counselor, a man willing to mold the future of all things literary. He is an inspiration, and he inspires.

DRAWA Inspiration – Emily B. Cataneo was first introduced to me by Jack Ketchum a few years ago when I was on the hunt for short fiction. Emily likes to send me stories with incredibly long titles, such as “A Guide to Etiquette and Comportment for the Sisters of Henley House” and “The Rondelium Girl of Rue Marseilles.” I have now published three of her stories, and all three of them are golden. Keep an eye out. Her words are beautiful.

DRAWA Voice – Paul Michael Anderson also likes to send me stories with incredibly long titles, such as “The Agonizing Guilt of Relief (Last Days of a Ready-Made Victim)” and “In the Nothing-Space, I Am What You Made Me.” And I publish every single one of them, because they are incredible.

And in case you missed last year’s Written Backwards Awards ®: http://wp.me/p2gHzu-9W