October has returned!
This seems to be my default time of year to post here, so despite my best intentions to add more entries over the last 12 months, this October post was apparently the best I could do. Well, so it goes.
All is well on most fronts, or as well as anyone could have reason to expect in life. And on the writing front, I’m happy to announce that my new Halloween book, Dark Nights and Candlelight, is just about finished. All of the stories are written, and almost half of them are more or less finalized. My original goal was to have the entire book reader-ready and published by this Halloween, but I decided the overall quality of the stories would suffer if I rushed things too much.
So my new goal (and a reasonable one, I think) is to have Dark Nights… out by March or April. Not exactly the right season for a Halloween book, but at least it will be there, ready and waiting, for next Halloween. And sometimes, even in the earthy, half-warm dampness of early Spring, a book that smells of fallen leaves and burnt pumpkin can hit the spot.
And after saying all this, I should also note that when you finally see it, you may be surprised by what a small book it is. It certainly surprised me, when I printed it off for the first time and examined the slim sheaf of paper. All told, it only weighs in at around 28,000 words (about a hundred pages and change). And, of course, that was partially the point…to write a book that could be enjoyed in bite-sized portions, one a day for every day in October. The challenge, I found, was coming up with 31 ideas. So however brief, the project was still a challenge, which of course is what makes it fun. And it still served as a nice change of pace after spending over three years on Darkness in the Valley.
Speaking of The Uncanny Chronicles, the third book in the series, which I mentioned in my previous entry, now has a focus and direction. One of the reasons I’d like to have Dark Nights… published before summer is so I can turn my full attention back to Uncanny Valley between June and August. The well of ideas has filled up again, and by then, I’ll be ready to plunge the bucket back in and draw it up.
What else? This October I’m adding to one of my long-standing traditions. Every October I read Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. Have for years. There is no better book to celebrate Halloween than Something Wicked, just as there is no better book to celebrate Summer than Dandelion Wine. So I’m in the middle of it again for perhaps the fifteenth time, and for the fifteenth time, I’m loving it for reasons both great and small.
But this year I also added another book to the mix: Stephen King’s Joyland, not about a traveling carnival, but its close cousin…a haunted amusement park.
I read Joyland for the first time right after it was published in 2013, on a flight to Los Angeles to visit Ray Bradbury’s home for the very last time…his family, and a few of us close friends, were inventorying and tidying up his estate before the house was scheduled to be put on the market (it was sold in 2014, and tragically, infuriatingly, demolished in early-2015). The book was a comfort, because it was so obviously in tune with the feel and magic of Ray’s work, yet was also new – I could immerse myself in it, and, for a little while, forget the fact that I would soon be saying goodbye to Ray for the second time in a year and a half. That house was a part of him.
Four years later, I’ve returned to Joyland again, and I’m grateful for the second visit. The climax of the book takes place in October, yet the whole story has the feel of it…a combination of precious memories, bittersweet change, and welcome horror. I may not end up reading it every October, but I fully plan on going back to it every two or three. King knows how to find the October Country Ray explored so widely a generation before. He has the gift.
A couple, final things, until the next time:
First, a photo of the night carousel taken when we went to “Fright Night” at Kennywood Park a few weekends back. Talk about a connection with both books! Fright Night is Something Wicked and Joyland all wrapped up into one. And I love it.
Second, the cover for Dark Nights and Candlelight, part of a much larger painting by the inimitable and always-talented John Randall York. I’m thrilled to have his art on the cover of yet another one of my books.
And with that, I’ll say farewell until closer to Publication Day, and leave you with a quote that works on any day, but seems particularly fitting for Halloween:
“Unable are the loved to die, for love is immortal.” – Emily Dickinson