Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Sight and Sound of Remains

The school year just started this week, and so it's back to real life for a while. This last few weeks of vacation crept by and if I'm honest, it's nice to be back in the office. I started the semester off by talking to the students about the old curse, "may you live in interesting times." I told them that we are certainly living in interesting times, and I asked them to consider these times something of an anomaly, and that things would sooner or later return to some kind of normalcy. I really hope I'm right about that. I try not to get super political here on the blog--I tend to save that for twitter, where it's more of the norm for the discourse there--so all I will say is this: the continued attack on education at all levels that we currently see in our culture can only be described as suicidal at best, and it has to be stopped.
I wish I could say that things had been more productive over the summer, writing-wise, but the current novel is creeping by. Over the summer the rough draft only grew by about 18K words or so. It's only just now making 55K. I'm not one of those writers who prides themselves on producing reams of work per second, but I did have hopes for being further along. I'm trying something new with this book and the differences are making it so that the book doesn't flow immediately like some of the others. Not that the work is bad--I think this is some of the most interesting work I've done if you'll allow me to say so. It's just very different from, say, Drowning, which is probably the most "me" of all my books.
Remains is doing well out in the world, though, and I can't thank you all enough for the support. Out in Print gave it a really nice review. If you'll allow me another somewhat self-congratulatory-but-not aside, I agree with them--that cover is haunting, and difficult to get out of your mind. Inkspiral did that design for the book and they just knocked it out of the park, I feel. In another huge milestone for not only me as a writer but for Remains, you can purchase it as an audiobook! (also here through Amazon). This is my first ever book-made-into-an-audiobook, and I'm over the moon about it. I didn't have any say in the selection of the reader, but I really like Garrett MacLauchlan's voice. His take on Mike's narration is good.
The sheer amount of "I live in Japan and I want to tell you about the culture here" vlogs I am watching on YouTube lately leads me to believe there's something brewing in my subconscious. I just realized this morning that, minute for minute, I've been watching more of that kind of content than anything on cable. TokiYuYu, Only in Japan, Tsukasa and Jonas and Life Where I'm From are particular standout favorites.
At work, our yearly literary festival has a rotating directorship. This year it is my turn and I've put together one I'm really proud of. Our featured speaker is Stephen Graham Jones. If you keep up with my Goodreads reviews, you'll remember I was blown away by his novel, Mongrels
I loved the underlying metaphor as social commentary, plus I just loved the idea of someone writing a werewolf book in this day and age so saturated with zombies. As you'll recall, I *highly* recommend the book. I'm also excited about him coming to speak because he publishes both with small press and major presses, which I think is cool. If you look at his output, he maintains what can only be called a blistering publishing schedule. I think the students are going to get so much from workshopping with him.
As always, thanks for the support for the books. If you have read one or more of them, please do me a favor and stop off at Amazon or Goodreads (or maybe both if you have a bit of extra time) and leave a review. Every review (even a bad one) helps sales and is super appreciated.

Saturday, July 29, 2017


Man, it has been a busy month here at the Stronghold.
Just yesterday I finished teaching an intensive two month course on Greco-Roman mythology/Homer. That was a real treat not only because of my love of the material, but the students were absolutely fantastic. I won't lie, after a fairly disastrous Spring semester, to have students who were whip smart and engaged and curious was a balm. I feel ready to go back into the classroom in a month. If you haven't re-read Iliad and Odyssey lately, do yourself a favor--go get the Fagles translations, a few nice bottles of red, and settle back in. Some of his tongue-in-cheek translation choices had us giggling.
The postal snafu was finally resolved and I got the author's copies of Remains!

Huge shout out to Steve at Lethe Press. I can't imagine what a nightmare it is to keep a machine like that moving, and when something snags (especially when that snag isn't your fault), that must be infuriating.
Speaking of, Jayne Lockwood reviewed the book for the fellas over at WROTE podcast. "Anyone fascinated by the “small-town America seething with murky skeletons in the closet” genre, will love this. It is a Salinger-esque character study of one man, but also one place, the town, and the lengths it will go to, to remain normal on the outside." she said. You can't ask for better praise than that.
Speaking of the WROTE podcast, I was the guest for episode 121. Baz, Vance and I had a great time hanging out and talking about not only Remains, but the state of queer sci fi and other things for a while. Have a listen!

The other great news is that University of Mississippi press has bought the book that grew out of my doctoral dissertation! We're early days on that, yet, so not much to report other than that it has happened and that we're working toward maybe having it out early 2019, but it's very exciting. I spent a lot of time on that book thinking it would just sit on my shelf the rest of my life. It's exciting to think it will eventually be out in the world. There is a ton of work to do to get it into shape, though, so more on that as it develops.
After setting out on the project to re-read and get caught up on Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles, I have finally gotten all the way to the current book. I just finished reading Prince Lestat

As I said in the beginning of my Goodreads review, I don't know what happened in the ten years or so since she wrote the last one (Blood Canticle), but wow. She emerges in this book with prose that is refreshed, taut, and (though I don't mean this in a mean way) finally taking on some of the implications of the early books in the series. Plus there is a scene in the last third of the book that will flat out knock your socks off. I cannot wait to see it dramatized in the upcoming TV series. If this had been the last book ever to be written about these characters, what a fantastic button it would have put on the series. With there being one more book so far, though, it obviously marks a tremendous pivot point and refreshes the series in a wonderful way. I can't recommend it enough, even if you haven't picked up one of these since Queen of the Damned (mostly because there are two EXTRAORDINARILY helpful appendices that will catch you up instantly).
Man, did I want Valerian to be better. Just wanted to throw that in there.
So, we head into August with a lot on the plate, but feeling overall optimistic.
As always, if you have read one or more of my books recently, I would love it if you'd take a minute to stop by Goodreads or Amazon (or both) and leave a review! They help people make decisions about the books they see advertised, which really helps sales so much.
See you back here in a month!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

New Digs

I just unpacked the last box a day or so ago. I turned in the keys to the old apartment on Thursday. I live here, now.
I was not sorry to see the last of those 3 flights of stairs without an elevator, I can tell you that.
This is the first time I've lived in a house and not an apartment in almost 15 years. That's a really odd thought. The last time was a four bedroom that I shared with two other guys and a newly-married couple. That's a particularly odd thought, too. A friend of mine said the other day that she'd only moved 3 times in her whole life. I've lost count of how many times I've moved.
I made my first ever mortgage payment this morning.
So here is the first blog post from the new digs. From the new office.
I'll be honest--during the entire boxing up and moving and then unpacking, I haven't written a single word on the novel. No news on that front. I'll get settled in here, though, and then get back to it.
I did, however, in the unpacking, find the paper where I laid out the initial structure of the novel I finished last year, though. That was really interesting, to see how it changed from the initial planning to the final thing that I turned in. Hopefully, as I keep saying, you'll see that one next year sometime.

Remains is now live. It's out there in the world in both paperback and on Kindle. That, too, is a really odd thought.
Unfortunately, due to a postal snafu, I still haven't even seen it. My author's copies have disappeared in transit, somehow. They are out there in the ether. If you've gotten your copy already, tweet me with a picture of you with it and let me know what you think of the design.
Due to the stress of the move, I haven't been reading very fast, either. I'm still plugging away on Rice's Blackwood Farm.

Not her best, but part of an interesting trend in her work where the undead (vampires) become involved with the living (Talamasca, Mayfairs, etc.) who can see the unquiet dead (spirits, ghosts, etc.). I'm also fascinated with her idea that large, old Louisiana families all wind up having sex with their cousins constantly--is she playing with the stereotype of inbreeding with tongue in cheek, or is she finding things in her research that I just never heard of?
So, next month we'll hopefully be back on track. Plus, the ink will be dry on something I'm working on putting together now, and I'll be able to tell you about that.
As always, thanks for your support.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

14 Boxes

So Summer finally arrives. I find myself still watching the skies, though as if at any moment there might be 6 inches of snow. I don't think I'll ever get used to how volatile the change the weather can be, here.
Part of the big news is this: I bought a house. I know, I know...this is a pretty standard thing for most young couples. You have to understand, though, that coming from the background I come from, nothing is guaranteed. Nothing. I'm not going to go on some rant about being a "self-made man" because we all know that "I did it entirely alone" narrative is bullshit, but I will say this: many of the things that are "well, duh" accomplishments for people are not givens for me.
The new house is coming together. Just yesterday I had blinds installed. The guy who lived there before had just thrown up some quicky cheap curtain rods and then the most god awful cheap green curtains. I'm not kidding--the fabric felt like it was rubber. I don't know what he was doing there, but the overall feel for much of the place was "nice place slowly sliding into crack den." I'm rescuing it. There's a huge list of things to do--tear out the carpet and put in hardwood floors, plant a tree in the back yard, put up wasp traps, etc. It's so strange to me to have that list, though.
I mean, earlier this week I bought a lawnmower.
If you knew me in person you'd know that's hysterical.
It's got an electric motor, though, and a really cool battery charging system so it's ecofriendly and quiet. You can laugh all you want, I think it's the shiz.
Of course, this also means that I'm packing up to move from my apartment. I boxed up books already. 14 boxes. Even I shake my head at that. Mind, that's not even all of them. I donated a huge chunk to the Friends of the Library booster group for their annual booksale. I donated a huge chunk of my graphic novels to the school's library. I'm giving away something like 8 bags of old theory books to the students that I know are going on to grad school. Even after all that--14 boxes.
It's an addiction. 
Remains is now out. You can purchase the paperback
direct from the publisher, Lethe Press Books
or from Amazon
We're hoping to have e-text available soon and maybe, just maybe, if you cross your fingers and squeeze your eyes real tight, there might maybe possibly be an audio book. More on that soon. If you follow me on my social media, you have already seen this, but here is the book trailer:
Still plugging away on the current work in progress. Just crossed over the 42K words mark on the rough draft, so about halfway to my goal length for it. Sven from Rebel Satori gave me a fantastic book to read as part of my research for the current WIP and I want to pass that title along to you. The book is Bull of Heaven by Michael G. Lloyd
It's a thorough exploration of the connections early occultism (especially the New York covens/branches/lodges) has with the early gay liberation movement. I knew absolutely none of this and so this book is helpful. There'll be a review on Goodreads fairly soon (with the move and also teaching this summer, the reading is going slowly).
One of the classes I'm teaching this summer is a romp through Greco/Roman mythology. I'm doing it as a deep reading of Homer with the students. It's a hoot to come back to Iliad and Odyssey after some years away. One could find worse ways of spending a summer.
As always, thank you for your support. I hope you like Remains. I'm curious to see how that little boat does as I release it out into the ocean. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Hummingbirds doggy-paddling

Spring has finally arrived. Well, at least for most of you. Just a few days ago we had a not-inconsequential snow storm and this morning we're still below freezing until about noon. I'm starting to get used to it, believe it or don't.
When the climate change that absolutely positively isn't happening as long as we all clap our hands, delete enough information from the web, and believe hard enough happens, the state I live in will become beachfront property with a really steady, lovely climate, so that's all good.
Work on the current book has picked back up. We're creeping up to 40k words. I did have to remove the recurring character, though. There was just no way that the universe that's developing in this current book and the one from the last one are the same universe. So the character got a facelift and when people talk about "the bombing incident" they mean something similar to the book that came before but not the same thing. I cast him as present-day Edward Furlong.

I think there's something extremely interesting about that actor these days. Go back and watch 2005's "The Crow: Wicked Prayer." It's not a great film by any means, but Furlong makes some very interesting choices. If I were Tarantino, I'd snap him up in an instant for something--hence him becoming the newly-renamed Special Agent Paul Lowe in my current WIP.
We are T-minus 1 month from the release of Remains. If I'm honest, I'm nervous. I stand behind the book, but I know that the book isn't for everyone. I don't write mainstream work. Even though this was written before I fell in love with transgressive fiction, it isn't exactly Anne of Green Gables, y'know? What's more is that I know that I'm working against the idea out there that if you're a gay man publishing work on a small press, it must be erotica. That's what so much of straight America (especially straight American writers) think. And look, there's nothing wrong with erotica. Not a thing. But it's just, that's not what I write. Imagine how upset John Scalzi would be to find one of his books reviewed for not being a very good romance novel. In other words, I'm worried that people will go into the book thinking "this is erotica" (even though it is clearly marketed as horror/suspense) and then think, "y'know, for erotica, there sure wasn't much sex." Am I a gay author? Yes. Do I publish on small presses? Yes, because small presses are my passion. But just because a book is by an LGBTQ author and it is not on a giant conglomerate press does not mean that it is erotica. I wish I could get more people to see that (and, again, no shade thrown at erotica at all--it's one of our oldest forms of literature, but as the saying goes, if you judge a hummingbird on how well it can doggy-paddle, yada yada yada).
Along with that, I've been thinking a lot about kinds of writers. I happen to live and work in a place where most of the writers that I run into do a very specific kind of writing--nature writing. And there's nothing wrong with that, either. I think some of the passages in Walden are marvelously beautiful. It's just not the kind of writing that I do. I'm not the kind of writer who believes that meditating in the woods will bring enlightenment for me (though I 100% recognize for others it might). I'm also not the kind of writer who thinks going out to bars constantly and on road trips to see Americana is the way to go, either (though, again, I get that for some people, that's what inspires them). I enjoy reading Kerouac, but I don't see a need to emulate him. For me, though, the model has always been Philip K. Dick. 44 published novels, 121 short stories. In other words, as the acronym reminds us, But In Chair Hands On Keyboard. Once, on Inside the Actor's Studio, Eddie Murphy said something that has stuck with me. When asked about the number of films he had said yes to and how the quality of them varied, he responded that he felt it was about recording the work. I took that to mean that of course the quality of the work is going to fluctuate over time, but the important thing is to record a process. Stephen King cranks out a 700-pager every five minutes (and Gods bless him for it). They're not all winners, but over time what we see, just like with PKD's output, a trajectory. We can see the work evolve. For the longest time, Chuck Palahniuk produced a novel a year. Were they all winners? You already know the answer to that. But through that output, we can see the evolution of an artist. A mind choosing certain pathways of expression, abandoning them, turning back and trying a different route.
To me, THAT's the goal.
I don't think that for a writer anything about the process should be more important than the writing itself. Can you win awards by going to South by Southwest Concerts and writing about it? Yeah. Can you produce beautiful prose by hiking national parks during the summer? Of course you can. Just don't forget that those things aren't more important than the actual work of producing writing.
Once, I was a poet, and very proud of that. Then I discovered that people easily fell in love with another poets' work because of the persona he created rather than his work itself. That was an important lesson for me.
All of that is by way of saying that I hope you like Remains when you read it. You might not, though. If that's the case, try to remember that there'll be another book along in 2018 (probably late in the year, but there will be a book). And, Gods willing, another in 2019. And 2020, etc. That, for me, it's about documenting the process, not trying to "be a writer." BICHOK, baby--that is the ONLY thing that matters.
As always, thank you so much for your support. We'll see you again in June with not only the release of Remains, but some other big news.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Interesting Times

As it turns out, we didn't really have to worry too much about the whitewashing of "Ghost in the Shell" because the movie just really isn't all that good.

 The material just doesn't translate all that well. If you've been around for a bit, you know I said the same thing about the reboot, "Ghost in the Shell: Arise." All the best moments in this current live action version came directly from the original 1995 film, anyway. So, do yourself a favor and just go watch that because it's a fucking masterpiece.
I've been really interested in H+ (posthuman/transhuman) studies these days. I'm about ankle deep in N. Katherine Hayles' amazing book, How We Became Posthuman

 at the moment and it is blowing my mind.
I just signed the contract on the book I keep calling Tygers. I'm confident that we can have it edited and ready for you to see by late 2018. That is if you're still talking to me after Remains (and here on Amazon), which comes out the first of June. I hope you've all pre-ordered your copies.
The current book is still creeping along. I swear I don't know what's wrong I just can't...well, I just can't. I don't want to shelve it, but I'd be lying if I said it had all of my attention right now. It's hovering at 28K at the moment, despite a real push during Spring Break to get through it. Sometimes I wonder if I should be that honest. I mean, John Scalzi doesn't moan about how difficult the current book is when he's writing. He just shows you adorable pictures of his cats and obliterates trolls on his twitter feed.
I love that dude (and his work).
As it turns out, I'm also in the middle of a house hunt. Tired of living in an apartment with a huge number of steps to get up before I can set the groceries down when the temperature is negative Iceland and the wind is at a billion miles an hour. A garage would be nice. I'm sure as soon as I find one and get it there'll be pictures on ye olde Instagram feed for you.
I wonder how the cat will take it.
The situation at work, like the situation with government in general these days, is best not spoken of. These are truly the "interesting times" that the old curse speaks of. I'll be honest, sometimes I find myself watching shows like "Colony" rooting for the aliens.
Still trying to get through Anne Rice's works. About pinky toe deep in Taltos at the moment and finding it vastly superior already to Lasher. I hope that holds up--I still have many books to go.
So, that's you up to date on me for March. Let's hope April does come in like a lamb...though that's not seeming very likely at the moment (if you are on my Instagram feed, you saw what the weather was like yesterday). Wish us luck, eh?

Monday, February 27, 2017

An Outlaw Gender of Books

I'm lucky enough to work at a school that believes very strongly in bringing in speakers and performers from outside for our students. This creates incredible opportunities for not just our students, but for those of us on the faculty, as well. We get to suggest friends and heroes as speakers and sometimes they say yes.
That is how I got to spend almost 48 hours solid hanging out with one of my all-time heroes, Kate Bornstein

A post shared by J. Warren (@author_j_warren) on

Kate's book, Gender Outlaw
is like a kind of bible to me. No. More important even than that. A person that I love dearly once said that, for academics (and maybe others), there is a constellation of books--usually about 4 or 5--that form a kind of narrative compass, a way of guiding oneself through the world.
For me, Gender Outlaw is one of the brightest stars in that constellation.
They say to never meet your heroes, and I guess that bad things have happened enough to earn that wisdom, but I have to tell you in this case? It couldn't have been less true. Kate was everything you'd expect of a buddhist shaman of genderqueerness and then some. Kate changed lives at this school and, at a time when my inspiration was running very low, got me back on my feet. Even some of the worst weather our state could throw at us didn't dampen Kate's spirits and the rest of us had no choice but to follow that lead. Kate's message of compassion, even in the space of disagreeing, is incredibly timely. The new book Kate is working on can't come fast enough.
So, at the risk of setting you up for failure--DO meet your heroes.
I also had the chance to attend the Southwest Pop Culture Association to read a paper. I had a meeting with a rep from Palgrave/McMillan while I was there. He was hoping that my paper was a part of a larger project but, unfortunately, it really isn't. It might be, but that's not how it started. He was lovely but I managed to be spazzy, have a nosebleed, have a piece of food come flying out of my mouth mid-sentence, AND arrive late. It was a disaster on all levels. Still, though, Univ. of Mississippi press contacted me, too, and we're starting to talk about ways to make my dissertation into a book, which would be awesome. Very very early days on that, though. I'll keep you updated.
Albuquerque was lovely, though. Gorgeous town.
And I got some suggestions from one of the panel for some new stuff to read: YA  books featuring non-binary gendered characters!
Jeff Garvin's novel, Symptoms of Being Human
and also Anne-Marie McLemore's When The Moon Was Ours
Always happy to have new stuff to read!
I've been slowly working my way through Anne Rice's work, too. I only ever made it as far as The Vampire Armand my first time through some (jesus, has it really been) almost 20 years ago. I've taken a small break, but I'm all the way through Lasher. Taltos is, of course, next. I'm trying to get all the way caught up. Some of it is guilt, to be honest--she's every bit as foundational to horror as Stephen King but I always turned my nose up at her. Admittedly, the books aren't magnificent, but she has some very interesting stuff going on. The Talamasca is very interesting to me in particular.
The book continues apace. About 24K words into it. Not going quickly, but steadily.
As always, thank you for your continued support. Talk to you next month!