Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 in Reading Material

I try to read at least forty books a year, though it usually ends up being more like thirty-five.  Here's my recap of 2013:

Susana Clarke - Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel
Ernest Hemingway - The Old Man and the Sea
Shakespeare - The Merchant of Venice
Clive Barker - Weaveworld
Clive Barker - Imajica
Clive Barker - The Great and Secret Show
Clive Barker - Everville
Dante - Inferno
Dante - Purgatorio
Dante - Paradiso
Richard Matheson - A Stir of Echoes
Richard Matheson - What Dreams May Come
Richard Matheson - Hell House
Richard Matheson - Nightmare at 20,000 Feet
Richard Matheson - I am Legend
E. E. Rice - Alexander the Great
Christopher Hibbert - Rome: The Biography of a City
Keith Hopkins and Mary Beard - The Colosseum
John Berendt - The City of Falling Angels
R. A. Scotti - Basilica
Ross King - Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
Jonathan Swift - Gulliver's Travels
Rudyard Kipling - The Jungle Book
Rudyard Kipling - The Second Jungle Book
Neil Gaiman - The Graveyard Book
Neil Gaiman - The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Neil Gaiman (editor) - Unnatural Creatures 
Andrew Graham-Dixon - Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane
H.P. Lovecraft - The Best of H.P. Lovecraft
Gabriel García Márquez - One Hundred Years of Solitude
Gabriel García Márquez - Love in the Time of Cholera
Gabriel García Márquez - The Autumn of the Patriarch
George R. R. Martin - A Game of Thrones

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Ominous Realities, which contains my story 'Born Bad,' is now available as an e-book on Amazon.com.  The paperback should be out soon.

I wrote 'Born Bad' a year ago, almost to the day.  Usually short stories take me at least a week, but I managed to pump this one out over a weekend.  One Friday night last December, I plugged myself into my computer, and didn't look up till it was finished.  When it was done, I realized I'd missed my friend Julie's Christmas party, but I had a brand-new piece that barely needed to be touched.  Now here we are a year later.  It's found a home, and it helped pay for a flight ticket home for the holidays.

Hope ya'll like it!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Saturday, December 7, 2013

In which I'm compared to one of my heros.

I was very happy to hear from Tony at Grey Matter Press that I've been mentioned in yet another review of Dark Visions 1:

“The Troll,” by Jonathan Balog reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s “Troll Bridge,” even with its description of a young boy trying to escape the bullies who traumatize him every day at school. Life can be lonely, but what he finds under the bridge can more than make up for it.

For years, Gaiman has been one of my favorite authors, and he's provided me with a bottomless well of inspiration.  Needless to say, the comparison is a serious compliment, but it's also a pretty astute observation.  I'd read "Troll Bridge" a few years before I wrote the story of mine in question, and I'm sure it was knocking around my subconscious at the time.  Both stories begin the same way, with a somewhat disenchanted young boy stumbling across the proverbial troll under the bridge.  However, my troll has a less menacing appearance, and the story goes in a much different direction.

One of my prime motivations for writing dark fantasy/horror fiction is the desire to give something back to the genre that's given so much to me.  If something I wrote can be viewed as a tribute to an author whose work has enriched my life, I'm happy about that too.

Friday, December 6, 2013

...he sees you when you're sleeping...


Whenever I hear people lamenting the sorry state of today's youth, then arguing that we need tougher teachers and more involved parents, I think, "No, we just need to bring back Krampus."

If you want to get in on the holiday spirit, go read my friend Chris Larsen's story Hoofbeats on the Rooftop.  It's available for free on his blog today.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bankrupt? Cancer? Tsunami? Buddy, you've got a negative attitude!

This video sums up pretty neatly why I wrote The Truth.

For anyone new to this blog, a few years ago I wrote a Vonnegut-like short story about a detective who discovers a ludicrous self-help book, then attempts to solve a murder case while thinking only happy thoughts.  The story ended up being published in a book dedicated to Vonnegut called So It Goes.  That gave me plenty of happy thoughts.

In my own way, I've debunked the whole power-of-positive-thinking bullshit, because I've succeeded through the power of NEGATIVE thinking.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

DV1 in the Press

Dark Visions is a Book of the Week at The Horror Honeys.  Hardcover Honey wrote a terrific review, mentioning my story about 3/4 of the way through:

And it's followed up by another strong entry in Jonathan Balog's "The Troll", in which a bullied middle-schooler finally meets the troll under the bridge, and is thrilled when it seems all of his dreams will shortly be coming true thanks to the troll's "helpful" suggestions.

Also, I just learned that my youngest fan is a three-month-old from the Netherlands.  Here's Christian Brandenburg-Goddard, reading his new copy.  Looks like he's already scared.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Autumn of the Hundred Years of Cholera

Lately I've been spending a lot of time with Gabriel García Márquez, and I've finally gotten around to tackling One Hundred Years of Solitude.  In all honesty, I didn't enjoy it as much as I'd expected.  I certainly appreciated the rich use of language.  I dug the moments of magic realism, like the insomnia plague, and the trickle of blood snaking its way through town.  But the rapid-fire turnover rate made it hard to feel any kind of emotional investment in the story, or get a feel for any of the characters.  It felt like Catch-22 with a fraction of the humor.  After a while I gave up trying to keep tabs on the family, and just let the narrative consume me like a fever dream.  On that level I can say I enjoyed it, but it wasn't the life-altering experience recounted by so many other readers.

Right now I'm halfway through Love in the Time of Cholera, and I'm having a MUCH better time.  Reading this one after Solitude is like reading Dubliners after Ulysses.  As far as I'm concerned, it's more than worthy of the Nobel prize and all the praise that's been heaped upon it.

Next up on the agenda is The Autumn of the Patriarch, and then I'll be moving on.  All this time with García Márquez is making me feel VERY intellectually stimulated, but deeply in need of stabbings and beheadings.  So, Game of Thrones it is.

Monday, December 2, 2013

first thing you learn is you always gotta wait

One of the drawbacks to life in Rome is dealing with the least efficient public transportation system in Europe.  The trains are routinely delayed, there's a strike every other week, and the part of this video at the 1:35 mark hits the nail more firmly on the head with each viewing:

Dante forgot to describe the circle of Hell reserved for ATAC drivers who fly past their stops without slowing down.  If I designed their poetic justice, they'd spend eternity in great hunger in a place with a very warm climate.  Once a day, an ice-cream truck driven by a little imp demon would fly by, and as it passed he'd stick out his head and scream, "MAYBE NEXT TIME, YOU FUCKING PRICKS!"

A longstanding proposed solution to Rome's transit problem has been the construction of a third metro line.  In this blog post, David Boffa chronicles its history better than I ever could.