The Moon Will Look Strange: Deluxe Limited Hardcover

TMWLS Combo pic

I’m delighted to announce that the very fine Undertow Publications is releasing a gorgeous limited edition reprint of my first short story collection, The Moon Will Look Strange. There will only be 100 copies. You can take a look at the specifications and preorder here. The amazing Vince Haig is responsible for the beautiful design.

I’m particularly pleased to be first in a line of “Contemporary Classics” released by  Undertow that will include Joel Lane’s The Lost District. I’ve written here before about what an influence and inspiration Joel was for me.

In other news, I am on the jury this year for the Shirley Jackson Awards, which means that outside of the usual work-sleep-eat survival stuff, my life is mainly consumed by reading like a maniac. This is a huge honor and also provides the opportunity to read a lot of really amazing fiction and is also a lot of work! Unless I have any more publication news to share, I’m unlikely to resurface again here until after the nominations are announced in late spring, but I’ve got quite a few projects going on and a lot to say, so I’ll be back when I can. In the meantime, you can always find me on Twitter and Facebook (though I post less on Facebook and am also really bad about keeping up with friend requests unless we’ve met, so . . . )

And of course, the paperback and ebook version of The Moon Will Look Strange is still available at all the Amazons. There are also copies of my second collection, You’ll Know When You Get There, available from Swan River Press.

“Different Angels” reprinted at Nightmare Magazine

The first story I ever published, “Different Angels,” has been reprinted over at Nightmare Magazine. I wrote this way back in the halcyon days of the late 1990s–a different world, that was–and it was published by The Third Alternative, the precursor to Black Static, in 1999. I’ve written elsewhere about what TTA Press meant and means to me and how important that first sale was–the first story I sent to Andy Cox!–so I won’t belabor that point here, but I did want to talk a little bit about the story’s origin.

Back in the 1990s, I was still very much finding my voice as a writer. And wow, I could not sell a story. I couldn’t even give a story away–believe me, I tried. Back then, nobody wanted the kind of stories I was writing, or didn’t want them from me, at any rate.

The stories we write are always stories that come from where we are in that particular time and place, and “Different Angels” is an angry story I could have only written in my twenties. I was still angry at the rural South where I’d grown up, and hadn’t yet figured out how to reconcile the things I hated about it–ignorance and bigotry and small-mindedness and religious fundamentalism–with who I was–unmistakably a product of that rural South, however much I wanted to deny it. So I wrote a story that twisted a lot of the values I was kicking against–religion, the family. I think I was also mainlining a lot of writers like Flannery O’Connor and Harry Crews around that time.

I used to hear a lot of writers say that nothing changes after you publish your first story, but I found that wasn’t true at all. I had wanted to be a writer ever since I could hold a pen, and I’d been seriously submitting stories for four years with no success. To finally get an acceptance, and to a magazine I admired so much, was a huge deal to me. I felt like a real writer at last–even if nobody in America had ever heard of the magazine or TTA Press back in those days and just looked at me blankly when I mentioned it. Plus, it plugged me into a community of TTA readers and writers, some of whom I’m real-life friends with today.

Of course, if you like the story, you can check out other stories by me that are available free online. “Different Angels” is also reprinted in my first collection, The Moon Will Look Strange, which is available at all the Amazons (even though I only linked to two) in Kindle or paperback. And you can pick up my second collection from Swan River Press, You’ll Know When You Get There.

The Moon Will Look Strange: reviews roundup

The Moon Will Look Strange finalsmall

My first short story collection, The Moon Will Look Strange, is receiving some thoughtful and positive feedback from some blogs online. Here are a few:

Simon Strantzas: “Rucker’s characters do not experience loss as much as they are lost, and the disorientation they feel is mirrored in the reader’s own disorientation, evoked by Rucker’s delicate sense of ambiguity…In this way, her work calls to mind one of the most appealing aspects of Robert Aickman’s work—the air of dislocation created by the unfolding of strange and dreamlike events.”

Supernatural Tales blog: “Rucker is exceptionally good at evoking a spirit of place in a few deft lines, quickly establishing her characters as outsiders.”

Ginger Nuts of Horror: “Dark, emotional and otherworldly, The Moon Will Look Strange  is another wonderful example of intelligent horror.”

M.R. Cosby names it one of his favorite books of the year.

table of contents: The Moon Will Look Strange

The Moon Will Look Strange final

Here is the final table of contents for my debut short story collection, The Moon Will Look Strange, which will be out at World Fantasy Convention in November (and  possibly a bit before on Kindle; details to come).

Introduction by Steve Rasnic Tem
The Burned House, Original to this collection
No More A-Roving
The Chance Walker
The Moon Will Look Strange
In Death’s Other Kingdom, Original to this collection
Ash-Mouth
These Foolish Things, Original to this collection
Beneath the Drops
These Things We Have Always Known
Different Angels
The Last Reel

You will be able to order the book on Amazon, or, if you’d like a signed copy, you can shoot me an email/comment below and I’ll set one aside at WFC to be mailed to you (pay by PayPal). Let me know, too, if you’d like to buy one at WFC; we are taking a headcount to make sure enough books are brought to the convention.

an update on my short story collection

The Moon Will Look Strange final

Alert readers may recall an earlier post from me in which I announced the ebook version of my short story collection, The Moon Will Look Strange, was coming out in April with the paperback to follow in September. And then…silence.

There is no bad news or secret scandal behind this. (I feel compelled to emphasize this because publishing is so rife with awful stories behind book delays, but happily, this isn’t one of them.) I’ve just been remiss in updating the ebook release date. Pushing the book forward was an easily arrived at and mutual decision arrived at by the publisher and me due to, well, let’s just say due to Some Boring Stuff.

The paperback remains on track to come out in September and the ebook may or may not be out earlier than that, and this time around, I will actually keep you posted.

two announcements

The Moon Will Look Strange final

1. Above is the final cover for my forthcoming short story collection which, if you missed my earlier announcement, will be published by Karōshi Books later this year. To say I am delighted with the introduction by Steve Rasnic Tem would be a huge understatement.

2. From May, I’ll be the newest columnist for the British horror magazine Black Static, joining regulars Stephen Volk and Christopher Fowler. I’m thrilled about this as Andy Cox bought my first stories for its earlier incarnation, The Third Alternative (and the title story from the collection above appeared in there as well). Having an editor or two who believes in you in those early days is, well, pretty much what keeps you going.

on criticism

So, last entry I linked to a great review of Black Static #16 and “The Moon Will Look Strange.”  Monday morning, I woke up to this review.  Wow!  That is, by far, the most scathing review I’ve ever received. When I mentioned it on facebook, friends (and even one or two people I didn’t know) rallied valiantly to my defense, which was kind of awesome, like the way your friends will trash your awful ex for you if you need them to, because that’s what friends are for.  (Note to any exes reading this: you were not awful, and nobody ever had to resort to trashing you to make me feel better.  Really!)

And two friends asked me very incisive questions: So, was there anything to what he said?  Could you take something away from it, learn anything you need to do differently the next time?

The content of the review itself isn’t really the point here (aside from the fact that there is nothing quite like watching the trainwreck of writers publicly excoriating detractors of their work, which I wouldn’t do anyway).  It made me think about criticism, and how we react to it both publicly and privately.

I don’t need to name any names to point out that we can all come up with examples of writers of whom it’s said they grew too big and important to edit–I have no idea if that’s true or not (although the lead time for at least a few mega-bestsellers suggests that it is not necessarily the primary concern of publishers in some cases).  Certainly there are writers out there who are said to be difficult to edit, which I don’t doubt. But where does a writer (or a director, or a visual artist, or anyone creative) draw the line between sticking to their own brilliant idiosyncratic vision and realizing when, well, what they thought was really idiosyncratic and brilliant is really just awful?

When I first started writing seriously–by which I mean actually trying to finish stories and send them out–I had this horror that I might be the Ed Wood of fiction.  I have no idea what the real Ed Wood was like, but the way Johnny Depp plays him in the Tim Burton movie–he’s so sure that what he’s doing is, at the end of it all, good, and that audiences will just overlook the shabby sets, the dreadful continuity errors, the laughableness of the whole affair.  I mean, some people desperately do want to be poets and directors and painters and writers who create things that people want to read and watch and look at, want it more than anything in the world, and yet there is no amount of perseverance and hard work in the world that is going to make them not godawful.  We’ve all seen and read this stuff.  It can be hilariously bad but it’s also tragic–to want that so badly (and if you want it, you know just how badly I mean), and for it to be so futile, and for you not to know. Talk about real fear!

It’s been a long time since I quit worrying about being Ed Wood, because clearly people want to read and publish things I write at least some of the time. (True story: in the early days of submitting fiction, I had so much anxiety about the whole process that I first had to sit and envision the worst scenario I possibly could.  The editor would weep with laughter, call up all his or her friends, read it over the phone to them, save copies of the story to pass round to people in the future just for the yuks, remember and curse my name forevermore.  I would actually play this scenario out in my head, take a deep breath, and decide I could live with that and drop the damn story in the mail.)  But it doesn’t stop other worries: worries about being neither good nor bad but merely mediocre, or that the things you’ve written which have struck a chord with people are some kind of fluke, that you’ll never be able to summon that again.

It’s a delicate balancing act between the incredible arrogance of believing that you have a story to tell that anyone is going to give a crap about and knowing when you really do need to listen to cooler heads and murder your darlings, as it were.

I know lots of writers swear by their writing groups, either online or in-person.  I have sometimes thought, over the years, that I would like to be part of such a group, but when I really think about it, it’s the camaraderie and companionship and like-mindedness I crave, not so much the putting stories out there for critique part.  It’s not that I inherently have a problem with being critiqued.  It’s an issue of writing temperament. And I write stories the way I deal with most important things in my life . . . very privately, inside my own head.  Once I’ve got all my ducks in a row, so to speak, I’m willing to reveal myself, but I have never found it useful or productive to expose wild, raw material before I’ve had plenty of deep thinks about it and refined it into something that makes sense to me.

Of course, it’s ridiculous for a writer to talk about privacy, because another thing I firmly believe is that if we’re writing fiction that means anything to us and to other people, fiction that’s worthwhile, we’re exposing all sorts of mortifying things about ourselves all over the place.  The trick is (I like to tell myself) once it’s out there, you (the reader) don’t know where the rawness ends and the craft begins.  Maybe in the space of a single sentence, which starts out true and turns into a lie halfway through.  There’s probably something to the fact that one of my recurring nightmares is that I’m naked in public places, though.

So–coming back to criticism. There’s my confession: I write short fiction without benefit of outside critiques.  I am working on a novel now, and I’m not actually foolish enough to try and do the same thing there.  (It’s not my first novel–I’ve written one, and most of a second, and lucky for you, I will not tell the sad, sad story of the fate of my first novel here, which is considerably less sad than the stories lots of other writers have to tell, and to which plenty of people have reacted with greater resilience than I did.)  A novel is much too big to try and keep inside my own head.

I’m wandering far from my original topic here. What I really wanted to say is that–despite the sound of this entry–I think it’s vital that writers get critiqued, even after publication, and that we write with an awareness of the reader out there.  I may not run my stories past a workshop but if I send them out and nobody wants to buy them, that’s a critique right there.

There’s an idea out there that the best writers write for themselves–a couple of people have said that to me recently–and it’s both true and not true.  I know at least a couple of writers who really do write for themselves; they are amazingly talented and they are nothing like me.  They truly don’t care about sending stuff out or getting published; I only hope that they manage not to destroy what they write before they die and somebody astute stumbles upon what they’ve left behind.  I do write with a desperate hope to communicate, to have other people respond.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t write things that are meaningful to me, but I am always hoping that people will be interested and moved.  I don’t want to bore anyone, as I did the reviewer of the story; I don’t want you to get bogged down in blocks of text and indulgent drivel.

But I also don’t write fiction that is terribly plot-driven; I am interested in settings and characters and states of mind and atmosphere and prose and weird images that my brain dreams up when I’m not looking.  And that’s not always going to be to everyone’s taste.

I think it’s disastrous for writers to hear only good things about their fiction.  I don’t agree with the review I linked at the top, but I am grateful that two people asked me such pointed questions about it.  Equally as horrifying to me as the idea of being Ed Wood is the idea of surrounding yourself with people who always tell you that what you are creating is wonderful and right no matter what it is.  (Aside to my friends: paradoxically, this does not mean your support did not mean the world to me.  Please keep reassuring me of my awesomeness.)

But nobody should be protected from that.  Bad reviews ground us. Writing is an incredibly un-glamorous profession, but it can still be all too easy to surround ourselves with yes-people and end up like those celebrities who travel with an entourage that laughs uproariously at every single unfunny utterance that drips from their mouths.  It reminds us not just that everything we write is going to work for everyone, but that sometimes we can fail–at least in some people’s eyes–in very public ways and it’s okay.  We need to receive criticism and crappy reviews with thoughtfulness and grace and we even need to try and learn from them, when we can.

a review. a picture. some links.

I feel like I need to post something here which is not actually All About Me (despite the fact that it’s my blog), but I haven’t really had the time.

So, here are more things about me!

The first review of Black Static #16 says nice things about everyone.  People seem to be receiving their copies in the UK now but thanks to the angry volcano gods I expect mine will be delayed a bit longer.

Here is a link to the creepy illustration from the Polish edition of “The Last Reel.”  Thank you, Ben, for passing it on!  Scroll down to the three little pictures at the bottom.  It’s the first one, of the girl from behind, if you haven’t read the story.  For those who have read the story…people have pointed out to me that 1. they expected a darker room and 2. they expected that if the walls could be seen, they would have more stuff on them.  I agree with both of these points, but I think the picture captures the essence of that moment in the story.  I always enjoy seeing stories I write take on a life of their own in this way once they’re out in the world, whether through illustrations or reviews or what someone tells me about what they saw in the story.  Although I have never felt egregiously misread–which I’m sure is unpleasant–I am not particularly attached to the images inside my head and the ideas behind stories I write.  Actually, that’s not true–I am quite attached to those things, but I don’t feel compelled that others share them with me when they encounter whatever sprang from them.

Okay, here is something which is not all about me.  A couple of years ago, the excellent and mysteriously pseudonymous Arbogast tossed out a compelling challenge known as The One I Might Have Saved.  What horror movie victim really gets you–who would you save if you could?  A few days ago, he resurrected the challenge across a couple of posts.  I’d like to do this at some point when I get a chance but in the meantime, as well as the other contributions, you can check out Derek’s: poor old Brendan Gleeson from 28 Days Later. Yeah, Frank always gets me too.