There is a shortage of book talk on this blog, and it's a shame considering that I do read them as well as write them, I really do. In fact, even before the process began of researching agencies, which in itself prompted me to begin reading a wide variety of books strictly to see what else was out there, I had a pretty good backlog of books that I wanted to not so much review here but highlight. An earlier post from August of 2011 emphasized what "inspired" me about Andrew Davidson's novel The Gargoyle, for instance, and this is what I plan to do here with this small handful of books in this my first multi-image post!
I'll start with the most recent, Dean Koontz's 2005 novel, Velocity. And most all of the reviews that I've read and even watched on YouTube say the same thing about this book, that the book's title says it all, with a story that is for the most part in real time as it races through only a few days in the life of our unfortunate hero. While being put to the task of choosing the victims of a killer through a series of notes and riddles, I was at first put off by the fact that I had stumbled onto another crime story, but then I was inspired above all by how much fun Koontz was having with the material.
Which takes me to the previous book I'd read, Richard Laymon's 1986 horror novel The Beast House, which is actually the second book in his Beast House Chronicles series. Here, I was treated to a book much like one in which I would structure, complete with multiple viewpoints and motivations and cinematic descriptions of the action that all added up to a novel that read very much like a "grindhouse" monster movie. I read this one during breaks in the morning hours and the Koontz book at night, and I suppose I lucked out, because they both sustained my attention and proved to be good picks to double-up with from our very own bookshelf at home.
Going back now a few months, I dove into the world of Joe Hill, and I did this first with his 2010 dark-fantasy novel Horns. Here I was impressed with much of the same things that I had admired about The Gargoyle, which was that there was really a minimal amount of plot in favor of character and insight that leant itself more to the genre of literary fiction than to horror. Our hero wakes up one morning from a drunken night with horns on his head, and why and when this happens is explored in a bit of an abstract and allegorical way, which in my opinion is perfectly acceptable.
But in Hill's previous outing, the 2007 straight-up horror novel Heart-Shaped Box, an aging rocker purchases a suit of a dead man that carries with it a vengeful ghost. This one was more accessible as it dealt with a situation, the premise of the suit itself being haunted, and it was explored and carried out in a satisfying if not poltergeist-bright-and-flickering-lights kind of way. Hill is the son of a lesser-known horror writer with the surname of King.
Which brings me to the novel with which I started the year, Anne Rice's 2012 return to her Gothic roots, The Wolf Gift. As you can guess, this is an exhilarating exploration of the wolf man (or, as she prefers to call it in the book, the "Man Wolf") myth, and it begins what will soon be another series by the author that started the inside-out re-imaginings of the legends of horror. I am still thrilled to have been called out by Ms. Rice herself on this blog regarding an early and speculative post about this very book, and it can be found here on the sidebar as my most-popular post to date.
Thanks, Anne, not just for the shout-out but for basically starting this whole writing thing that's consumed me since your 1976 novel Interview With the Vampire. But that's a love letter for another post. This was about books that have inspired me, about what I've learned about the genre that my books may or may not fall into, and about how I should move on in the new year with the business of being Ted Torres.
Considering my obsession with numerology and the fact that I haven't posted in a while, is it any wonder that not only am I resurfacing today on my own blog, but that today I've sent out my first round of queries to some possible literary agency contacts?
I might as well share some thoughts on this special day, and by special I mean the culmination of lots of energy toward actually taking this next step toward my dreams of traditional publication, and not so much the 12/12/12 thing. Although I have to say that again, with reference to my love of number sequences especially when it comes to dates, I'll always remember the day that I quit drinking as 9/9/09. So there.
But back to the agent hunt, and first I'll say that like anything else, I plan to learn from this experience. I know that this won't come easy, and I'm quite sure that I've made some mistakes even on this very small and selective round of agency queries, the lessons hopefully benefitting me for now more than the prospect of actually landing representation. Second I'll say that I have another round that is slightly bigger than the first that I'll begin working on and modifying according to the outcome of this current round, and even after that, I have enough leads to fill many a day and month and even year while I continue forward with new writing projects.
Because that's what we writers do.
Another thing that has happened over the course of learning about the process of finding an agent is the pleasant discovery of the amount of different kinds of books and genres that there really are out there, and I would like to say that this is refreshing, because it seemed for a while there that at least to me everything had something to do with solving some sort of a crime. It got to a point that I started playing a little game with myself while on the road with my band, where during visits to truck stops I'd snatch random paperbacks from the spinning displays and count the number of FBIs and CIAs and former-this and former-thats of the FBIs and CIAs on the back covers, and it was all very discouraging. I refused to believe that the novel existed in this day and age merely as a medium to tell cops-and-robbers stories.
I've read many books recently as a result, and that being said, I recommend Velocity by Dean Koontz (which, okay, was a mystery but was also a writing course for me) and The Beast House by Richard Laymon (which is one in a series but reads well on its own as an almost "grind house" horror novel).
As you can see, fingers are crossed during this first round of queries, even though they may not be fingers of my own. There's no way I could do that. Just ask my chiropractor.