I hadn’t realized that it’d been so long since an official blog post. Thank goodness for Bubble and Squeek. I’m sorry that today I’m writing about the death of a dear friend, a brother of my heart, Rich Taylor AKA UnkyRich. I wish it weren’t so. I just spent an hour looking for a picture* I took of Rich the day we met at one of Chris Senft’s parties. I can’t find it. I probably put it in a very safe place. I think it was about 1993. The earliest picture I found of Rich is 1995. He liked having his picture taken as much as I do.
I hate that I’m already automatically writing “liked” versus “likes.”
Rich died on September 17th. Today is his memorial. I couldn’t go. Sometime in the future, Cil and I will meet up for a drink and remember him together. For now, just the thought of that sentence closes my throat and brings tears to my eyes.
And yet, I can’t help thinking, “What did he have in his pockets when he died?” Because Rich talked about carrying strange little items with him so that, if he suddenly died, the coroner could see his things and wonder what the hell was up with him. It’s one of the reasons I carry skeleton keys in my purse.
Also, one of the reasons wanted to find that picture of Rich was the other thing he said he wanted to do: Get two pictures of someone about fifteen years apart and write dates on them—something very early for the older picture and something later for the younger picture with the question, “How did he do it? I must know!” on the back of it. Then leave those two pictures in a safety deposit box. Just to give people something to puzzle over.
Rich touched my life in many ways. He was a best friend and confidant. I missed him a lot in the years I’ve lived in Washington. I tried to see him and Cil as much as possible but it’s been less and less over the years and my more busy travel schedule. But when we’d talk… it was like no time had passed. I appreciated that.
I wish I had been able to play in one more of his games.
I guess there’s not much more to say. I loved him as a brother and I will miss him as a friend.
*Physical picture. This is from the 1990s when we didn't have the internet like we do today. Get off my lawn!**
**Something else Rich used to say a lot. :)
This is a big Bubble and Squeek today. A lot stuff came in all at once.
Article: For writers on the SFWA Blog. How do you ask for blurb?
Article: I talk about my love of gargoyles on My Favorite Things.
Article: SFSignal MIND MELD: Second Chances. I talk about why I gave Stephen R. Donaldson a second chance.
Article: Over at Ragnarok Publications, I talk about how I used my anger to fuel my writing career in Dreamer No More.
Interview: Permuted Press asked me some great questions about NEVER LET ME SLEEP. We touch on body image and mental illness.
Interview: Over at Eating Authors I get to talk about ramen. Really, really good ramen.
Review: I get a nice shout out in this review of NOT OUR KIND from the Eviscerating Pen (what a lovely name!).
Pre-Order: Remember, you can pre-order NEVER LET ME SLEEP and the hard copy Melissa Allen compilation NEVER LET ME. Also, if you missed it, here's a post that's all about my fabulous covers.
SFSignal: I gotta say it. I love seeing my name on SFSignal and in such good company, too.
Spiders, Gods, and Monsters
“What’s your book called?” I’ve been asked a couple dozen times since I announced its upcoming release.
“The Spider in the Laurel.”
“Oh. Is there a real spider in it?” is the inevitable next question.
This is where I get stuck. I want to say, “Yes, there is a real spider in it, insomuch as the gods and monsters we write about in sci-fi and fantasy are real.”
But I see the look. Spiders are creepy. Scary. I’m not buying a novel with a spider in the title, and on the cover, and in the damn book.
So I say, “No, the spider is a metaphor. A part of a fairy tale actually.”
“I like fairytales. Which one?”
Now I’m stuck again. If I say that it’s a brand new fairy tale that I made up, I get a new look. I’ll believe you wrote a hundred thousand word novel. But a brand new fairy tale. Come on, author-man. I’m not buying it.
I take the easy way out. I change the subject. I start talking about the novel’s title. It spent more than half its life being called Genesis Lied. I liked the title. It came out of a spit-balling session with my writers group at California Pizza Kitchen. I like it, but I didn’t love it. I stayed on the lookout for something better.
That something better arrived in the form of a 120 year old Herman Melville poem I found while searching for epigraphs for the book. The line, sort of the poem’s volta, just sang. I snatched it like a six year old pocketing a three pound gummy bear in a candy store – no thought for result or consequence.
The new title vanquished the old. But a new trouble arose. My novel had nothing to do with spiders, laurels, or Herman Melville. I had to take a step back. Re-see and reevaluate.
I’d already built an entire new mythos for the book by reinterpreting Mesopotamian and Minoan mythology, weaving this through Biblical tradition, and tying it to a little-known (at least, little-known outside of Europe) Dark Age relic called the Vase of Soissons.
But the thing about mythology is that it’s macro, by definition. It’s all about explaining origins and defining archetypes. That sense of scale, that aloofness, had pervaded the entire story. It had turned my characters into types, not people. I needed to re-humanize them.
The solution came to me while I was shopping in a bookstore with my wife, choosing which fairytale collections we wanted for our soon-to-be-born (at the time) daughter.
I set to, right away, thumb-typing into my phone’s ‘memo’ app. Fairytales, you see, are the next step in any mythology. They break from explaining the universal, and focus instead on teaching the individual. What better way is there for a parent to teach a child not to judge a book by its cover, or to beware strangers, or perhaps – as Simon teaches his daughter MacKenzie in my novel – to trust her heart most when the danger of betrayal is at its highest.
“Long ago, when it was still good to wish for a thing,” I wrote, “there was a red-haired princess in a kingdom by the sea.”
I wrote the whole fairytale in a day. I gave it to MacKenzie for safe keeping. And yes, there is a spider in it. But it’s only as real as gods and monsters. And when have they ever prevented a good night’s sleep or a happily ever after?
Michael Pogach is the author of the sci-fi thriller The Spider in the Laurel. He began writing stories in grade school. He doesn’t remember these early masterpieces, but his parents tell him everyone in them died. He’s gained some humanity since then, and has been known to allow characters to survive his tales these days. You can find his stories in journals such as New Plains Review, Third Wednesday, and Workers Write, as well as the chapbook Zero to Sixty. He is hard at work on two more novels, countless more stories, and keeping his infant daughter from eating everything she can reach. Michael's website is: www.michaelpogach.com.
Release date for The Spider in the Laurel is Sept 21.
I am so happy with my Melissa Allen covers. The cover art was done by Ryan Truso. I don't know the model's name. I wanted a corn fed farm girl from South Dakota and that's what I got. An actual teenager on my YA series. I love this.
October 13, 2015 – Never Let Me Sleep (Set in the town of Onida, South Dakota. The nightmare begins and Melissa has to stop the apocalypse from happening.)
November 10, 2015 – Never Let Me Leave (Set in an underground lab in North Dakota where Melissa discovers she's not the only one to save the world... and that someone on the inside wants to kill them all.)
December 8, 2015 – Never Let Me Die (Set in Richland, Missouri. This is my favorite cover. Melissa has had enough. It's been well over a year since that day in South Dakota and she lost everything. She's gained some of it back but now someone else wants to take it all away from her again.)
January 26, 2016 – Never Let Me (The Melissa Allen Omnibus with the extra story. The extra story "Never Let Me Feel" gives you a hint of what's to come for Melissa after the events of Never Let Me Die.)
I'm talking about this series on a couple of upcoming podcasts.