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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Most Improved

Unless it's your birthday, the second-to-last day of the year has all the qualities of a Most Improved trophy. So here's to you, December 30, 2009, at least you're not the most depressing day of the year.

I am constantly reminded that we live in a world where winning is a battle of me versus you, us versus them, or, more specifically, the groups we belong to versus every other group that does not let us in. I'm reminded of this every time I get a form rejection; I'm reminded when I read about some idiot celebrity that sells a bazillion books after saying how stupid books are; and I'm reminded when I see hardworking authors struggle just to get some of the scraps left by the big dogs. So when I read Jeff Vandermeer's post Using Your Leverage, I thought he nailed so much of what is wrong with the publishing industry, if not every industry.

Sadly, Jeff's message will fall on deaf ears because the people who believe what he is saying don't have to be told, and the rest just keep on keepin' on.

Maybe today, the second-to-last day of the year, is a good reminder that winning isn't always an achievement of this group versus that group, or me versus you. That we can all get by with a little help from our friends.

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Apocalypse Fiction

If you've been coming around here over the past--gasp!-- year, you've probably noticed some changes. For one, the layout is new and improved. For two, I've changed the name of the blog to Shades of Gray. While the site is still a work in progress, I think it's coming along swimmingly. So let me know what you think, Dear Reader.

I mentioned a few posts ago that I began a new story. This latest is a YA apocalyptic novel about a young group of people who are exiled from their village and journey to the far away land of New York City. I've been calling it Stand by Me meets The Road. So far I'm in about 50k words, and I have no idea where I'm going with it, but I'll save the post about creative wells for another day.

This story is a different direction for me, but one I've been tinkering with for some time. I've always wanted to write an apocalyptic novel, something as a homage to some of my favorite childhood apocalyptic novels like Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, Stephen King's The Stand and Robert McCammon's Swan Song.

But mostly I'm writing an apocalyptic novel because these authors seem to get on Oprah's book club. Just look at the success of Cormac McCarthy's brilliant novel The Road. I mean who cares that it won a Pulitzer Prize, it was featured on Oprah for Christ's sake!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Another Decade Nearly Gone ... Whatever the Hell Its Name Is.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, animals both domesticated and wild, the decade is coming to a close, and I still have no idea what to call it. I will miss the 80's, 90's and the ... Ones and Zeroes? The 0's? And while I'm brooding over this decade, what about the next decade? Is it the Mostly Teens? The 11's? It's like the whole he and she business; a very confusing mess that will never have a solid support system.

I demoed the nook over at my local Barnes & Nobles today and was fairly pleased with it. There was no, Oh my God! I need to pre-order one now, and then complain endlessly when it doesn't arrive on the promised date ... more like a, that's cool, can't wait for the next version.

Most of the issues I had with the device could be fixed with some minor firmware updates. Coming from an iPod Touch world, which has a really intuitive touchscreen, I was less than impressed with the nook's touchscreen, or what I like to call in more technical terms: the touch-flick thingy. The nook's touch-flick thingy reminded me of browsing the apps store on an iPod Touch with a bad Wi-Fi connection ... you know, that bit of lag you get while the images are waiting to load? Well, that's the nook's whole browsing interface in a nutshell.

I also found features like search, dictionary and highlight a bit awkward and jerky. The main problem with all of them is that they were slow and cumbersome. For example, I could easily pick up a dictionary and find a word faster than it took me to look up a word in nook.

But overall it's about the reading experience right? And in that area I was mostly impressed. The screen is pleasing to the eyes. After a few pages I could see myself even forgetting I'm reading on an electric device. Unfortunately, some of the books I previewed were formatted poorly, the spacing and paragraphs looked choppy, and some of the letters were hacked off at the corners. This, I was told, was a problem with the publisher not properly converting the book for an e-reader, but it was annoying. It would be like buying a movie and seeing green screen instead of the intended special effect, and the sales guy saying, well, you know, not all movies are formatted properly for your television, but whatever.

So my verdict is I'll wait until they make a few more firmware updates before considering a nook. It also gives me some time to see how Amazon and Sony respond.

Later Fiends,

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Chronicles of Commuting

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, animals both domesticated and wild, welcome once again to another installment of complete nonsense from your pal Robert Gray.

When I left for work this morning it was pouring rain and the wind was banging my little car around the road. By the time I got to work the sky was cloudless, the sun warm, and I was pretty sure at some point the storm had carried me away to an alternate world. Though I'm fairly certain that I didn't leave this world--I have yet to see any talking lions, munchkins, or gunslingers-- I'm still a bit suspicious....

In the next issue of Fangoria magazine, which will be available December 15, Stephen King talks about those things that scare him. A snippet of the article is available on Fangoria's website.


Something else I saw at Fangoria, which should help you all get into the Holiday spirit, is the trailer for Silent Night, Zombie Night.

And finally, here's a treat for those who managed to make it to the end: a rare interview with Dean Koontz. You can click here to see the full interview with Dean Koontz from the Tavis Smiley show.

Later Fiends,

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Turkey Day

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, animals both domesticated and wild, while you're all getting fat and happy off your turkey feasts this Thanksgiving just remember: sometimes they come back!

Image courtesy of Kidchuckle.com

Later Fiends,

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Kris Kuksi's Beast Anthology

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, animals both domesticated and wild, today I saw a dead turkey on the side of the road. I think it was a suicide.

Kris Kuksi's sculptures are like arriving upon an alien world, traveling through the various atmospheric layers, discovering unique and amazing caverns and oceans, some new and unusual forms.

And you can visit these worlds too. Kuksi will be exhibiting from November 21 to December 19 at the Joshua Liner Gallery in NYC.

Later Fiends,

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Publishing Extravaganza

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, animals both domesticated and wild, grip your ankles and say your prayers 'cause the shows about to get started. Prepared to be mystified and delighted by this publishing extravaganza.

Based on the PW article called What Do Teens Want?, it seems an overwhelming majority of teen readers want books that don't suck. Wonder who they had to pay for that insider knowledge?


I spoke briefly the other day about Stephen King's new book Under the Dome, and I wanted to mention something interesting that literary agent Michael Stearns of Upstart Crow Literary Agency found--or rather something he didn't find--in the book.


Cormac McCarthy gives a rare interview to the Wall Street Journal to discuss his novel The Road. Here's a snippet I personally enjoyed:

WSJ: How does that ticking clock affect your work? Does it make you want to write more shorter pieces, or to cap things with a large, all-encompassing work?

CM: I'm not interested in writing short stories. Anything that doesn't take years of your life and drive you to suicide hardly seems worth doing.


The first 171 pages of Robert McCammon's Mister Slaugher are available on the Subterranean Press site. What are you still doing here? Get over there and start reading.

Later Fiends,

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Under the Leviathan's Malice

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, animals both domesticated and wild, the holidays are fast approaching--I know this because the news has started carrying stories about the evil atheists and tyrannical Jews trying to eradicate all things Christmas with whip-cracking laws that further separate church and state--so bring on the cheer!

I just got my copy of Stephen King's Under the Dome. It's been 30+ years in the making, and the early reviews have been positive. At 1088 pages, the book is a monster, a poster child for why people should purchase e-readers, and I'm sure there are plenty of people barking about how many trees sacrificed themselves for King's drivel. All that aside, I love long, sprawling novels, and King's long, sprawling novels are some of his very best. They're perfect fireside books on those cold winter nights.

Before I begin Dome, I have a couple of other books I want sink my eyeballs into first:

Malice by Chris Wooding and Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. These were Halloween gifts-- yes, in my house we exchange books on Halloween--I haven't gotten around to reading yet.

Which reminds me ... if you want to find out what I'm reading, or some of the stuff I have read, you can check out my virtual library on Goodreads.com. I'll add the link to the sidebar so it's always available.

Later Fiends,

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sunsets & Urinals

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, animals both domesticated and wild, welcome to the Fabulous World of Robert Gray. Okay, so it's not that fabulous ... and it's really not a world, just a bunch of ones and zeroes on a hard drive, probably stored in some horribly poor village in India, but welcome anyway.

Last week I got the chance to visit Pismo Beach in the great state of California. I'm an east coaster, so the trip, which included three layovers, felt more like a pilgrimage than modern travel, but I made it there and back in one piece and got to read a few good books along the way. While the trip was for work, and I didn't get out much, I did manage to sneak off to the beach for a little while to watch one of the most beautiful sunsets.

But even better than the sunset, I got to use one of the coolest urinals ever, which is located at the Madonna Inn.

Later Fiends,

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Latest Projects

I finished the first draft of my second novel, a middle grade story about a family of monsters stuck in the suburbs. You can see the original post here if wish: New Middle Grade Fiction Story. I actually finished the draft in a little over a month. It's the fastest I ever wrote a first draft. The story came almost entirely to me, which is a very rare thing indeed. Usually I'm brooding for days over particular scenes, but I managed to somehow stay ahead of my muse. I still have to tease out some of the meanings and thematic issues that started to form towards the end of the story, but I'll work on all that in the second draft, which for me is almost an entire rewrite.

While I'm letting that story simmer, I started my third novel. This one, I can already tell, is not going to be so easy. I'm about ten thousand words deep and I still have no clear direction, though some of the characters have started to flesh themselves out. Right now I'm just letting them drive; I'm just tagging along. I'll see if the characters take me somewhere interesting. If not, I'll have them drop me off at the next rest stop.

Later Fiends,

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Veterans Day

Happy Veterans Day!

To everyone who supports the American soldiers, Harley-Davidson is doing a pretty cool promotion this Veterans Day. You can send a personalized postcard to the troops at Harley-Davidson Military Appreciation. If you served, you can also enter to win your favorite Harley delivered by Marisa Miller (pictured above) and a trip for 4 to Las Vegas to see UFC 108.

Later Fiends,

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Nook, a Kindle and a Tablet Walk into a Bar ...

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, animals both domesticated and wild, pokol; vurderlak; eyalik.

Image courtesy of wired.com

Some interesting debates over e-books since the news broke of Barnes & Noble's new nook e-reader. I think the pros and cons between the Kindle and nook have been exhausted, so I'll try to avoid who has the bigger--um--set of features. My take is quite simple: demand for e-readers will taper off if they continue to use proprietary formats.

Here's how I see the e-reader market as it stands between the two current top-tier devices, Amazon's Kindle and B&N's nook. Amazon has positioned their device for people more inclined to want technology over longevity by using a proprietary format, no problem for magazine or newspaper subscribers, but horrible for avid book readers that might actually use a good chunk of memory to house their libraries--the same avid readers that Barnes & Nobles is hoping to snag with the nook, which uses open standards (Epub, pdf, eReader) and offers a cute little lending option that allows nook users to share books with other nook users for 14 days.

Enter Apple. They're just sitting in the background and sharpening their talons. It's rumored that Apple doesn't want to participate in the e-book world, obviously because they are above all that nonsense, but for the helluvit, let's just assume Apple is lying; let us assume they plan to make a go at the e-book market once they introduce their tablet early next year. Who would be their target readers? Answer: Tech-savvy casual readers, who want eye-popping color for magazine subscriptions and newspapers. Compare that to the current 16-shades-of-gray E Ink technology in the Kindle and we're talking the difference between black & white television and Blu-ray. In this sense B&N will be free to nab up hardcore readers that are looking for a device to a) offset limited shelf space b) reduce the number of books carried while traveling c) are technical savvy people who are also avid readers.

Some of you may be reading this and saying, I own a Kindle and I read a lot, so you're a dumb ass. I am a dumb ass, but that's besides the point. I'm not saying the Kindle is not used by avid readers, I'm saying that Amazon has done a poor job of positioning the device for avid readers. You have a company promoting a device that can store thousands of books ... but only if you purchase every single one of those books from them.

So is the nook the Kindle killer? Nope. But if Amazon isn't careful, they're gonna pit themselves up against Apple, and that, I fear, would be a slaughter.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Garbage, Inc. Is Here!

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, animals both domesticated and wild, today's the day. Garbage, Inc. has arrived!

WARNING: This story contains crude language, excessive violence and disturbing images that are not suitable for children or those that are easily offended ... Happy Halloween!

Garbage Inc

Monday, October 12, 2009

Top 13 Horror Writers

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, animals both domesticated and wild, today's list is all about writers. And remember folks: Tomorrow is the release of my short story Garbage, Inc.

Top 13 Horror Writers

13. Brian Keene - Favorite Books: Ghoul, City of the Dead, The Conqueror Worms

12 . Ramsey Campbell - Favorite Books: The Darkest Part of the Woods, Hungry Moon, The Doll Who Ate His Mother

11. Dean Koontz - Favorite Books: Strangers, Watchers, Velocity

10. Neil Gaiman - Favorite Books:  Coraline, American Gods

9 . Shirley Jackson - Favorite Books: The Haunting of Hill House, The Lottery and Other Stories

8. Peter Straub - Favorite Books: Koko; Ghost Story; Lost Boy, Lost Girl

7. Clive Barker - Favorite Books: Books of Blood 1-3, Hellbound Heart, Abarat Series

6. Richard Matheson - Favorite Books: I Am Legend, Hell House, The Incredible Shrinking Man

5. Robert McCammon - Favorite Books: Swan Song, Wolf's Hour, Mine

4. Bram Stoker - Favorite Book: Dracula,  Lair of the White Worm

3. H.P. Lovecraft - Favorite Collection: H.P. Lovecraft: Tales

2. Stephen King - Favorite Books: It, The Stand, 'Salem's Lot

1. Edgar Allan Poe - Favorite Collection: Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales & Poems

Later Fiends,

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Top 13 Phantom Flicks

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, animals both domesticated and wild, today's theme is about the ghosts in the screen.

Top 13 Phantom Flicks

13. 13 Ghosts (2001) - A fitting number 13 ... I preferred the updated version to the 1960 version, but that's just me.

12 . Event Horizon - While the movie falls short of being a classic, the mesh between sci-fi and ghost story was well structured. If you go in thinking B movie, you'll probably like it.

11. 1408 - 1 + 4 + 0 + 8 = 13 ... and the room just so happens to be on what technically is the 13th floor. So, you know, the room's gonna have some problems. I rarely say this, but in this case, the movie was better than the short story.

10 . The Ring - Had I seen Ringu, I probably would agree that it is the superior version, but I haven't, and so I won't.

9. The Frighteners - I know what you're thinking: Michael J. Fox, probably be a Teen Wolf with ghosts. If you haven't seen it, then do yourself a favor and see it.

8. Beetlejuice - Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Who out there can listen to Banana Boat by Harry Belafonte and not think of this movie?

7. Amityville Horror (1979) - Even though the movie is more of a comedy today, it still holds a small place in my demonic heart. It was one of the first horror movies I ever saw.

6. The Haunting (1963) - Stick to the classic on this one. The 1999 remake was nothing more than a chance to capitalize on Liam Neeson after Phantom Menace.

5. The Sixth Sense - Has there ever been a quote from a horror movie more parodied than I see dead people?

4. Ghostbusters - C'mon, you all know it ... Who you gonna call?

3. House on Haunted Hill (1958) - Go for the original here. The 1999 remake is a mockery of the original Vincent Price classic.

2. The Shining - All work and no play makes Robert Gray a dull boy. All work and no play makes Robert Gray a dull boy. All work and no play makes Robert Gray a dull boy. All work and no play makes Robert Gray a dull boy.

1. Poltergeist - "Do not go into the light. Stop where you are. Turn away from it. Don't even look at it."

Later Fiends,

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