I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells

IAmNotASerialKillerYou can scare the crap out of me (Aracnaphobia), and I will love you forever. You can make me bite my nails in terrible suspense (Wait Until Dark, The Village) or throw supernatural at me (Poltergeist) and I will sing with praise. But the moment you do gruesome, the moment you start showing me entrails and organs, my discomfort level shoots through the roof.

And this is why I would not have finished  I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Well’s if I had just picked it up off a shelf–because the main character is the son of a woman who owns a mortuary. We get to see him help process a mutilated body very early in the book, pumping fluids in etc., and Wells knows his craft so I was THERE. I’m sure it’s not too gruesome for some, but I just have issues with organs. I don’t know why. I also have an issue with clowns.

Clowns are, by far, the scariest things around. And this is not because I read the book IT by Stephen King as a wee lad because I didn’t. It’s because they’re painted vessels of evil. End of story. They’re perfect examples of the freakazoids that lurk in the uncanny valley.

Anyway, I’d heard Wells read a portion of this book that had all of us in the room crying because we were laughing so hard. So I read on, telling myself I had to at least get to that part. And I am so very happy I did. 

I Am Not A Serial Killer is young adult story about a good-hearted teen named John Cleaver who is a sociopath with all the traits shared by serial killers. John’s in counseling, but more importantly, he is convinced he can prevent himself from becoming a serial killer by keeping rules he’s made for himself like not watching people for too long and complimenting someone when they make him angry. Such rules, he hopes, will keep him from feeding compulsions he won’t be able to resist.  The problem is a real serial killer has come to town (but unlike any you’ve seen before). And John may be the only one who can stop him. Will he let go of his rules to save the town? Or will he keep his monster asleep while others die around him?

It’s a fascinating situation (without a clown in sight, may the writing gods be praised). And Wells takes the reader on a journey through it that includes mystery, dread, and humor. In the hands of some other author, that would be enough. But Wells does more than entertain us. He gives us things to think about. He gives us great characters to boot–come on, when was the last time you read a book where the hero was a likeable sociopath? And most of the gruesome is up front anyway.

Read this book. Skim the body processing if you must. But you simply don’t want to miss the rest. It was a fabulous read and I recommend it highly.

The US version comes out in March of 2010. But you can get the UK version now on Amazon UK, Borders UK, etc. The links are all here on Well’s site.

John guests on Writing Excuses season 3 episode 16

writing-excuses-the-guys2-300x139A while ago the Writing Excuses team asked me to record with them, and last Friday I got to do it and had a blast.

We recorded three episodes. In the first podcast we talk about putting and not putting ourselves in our writing and making characters who don’t all sound like the author. As usual, the guys had some great insights. Check it out: The Anti-Mary Sue Episode.

“From the Clay of His Heart” reprinted

Cover_YearsBestFantasy9I loves me golem story. It was such a joy to write. Obviously, two editors found it a joy to read as well. So it was just reprinted in Year’s Best Fantasy 9 edited by David Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer and published by Tor.com.

The good thing is that there is a whole boatload of other great stories in this anthology including one of my favorites, Kij Johnson’s “26 Monkeys and the Abyss.”

Here’s the Amazon link.

Camille Paglia, Word Ninja

I think I must disagree with half of everything Paglia says (I’m a Republican, she’s a Democrat). But when you can write like a kung fu master, you have to be read:

Advanced whack-a-mole is clearly needed for that yammering smarty-pants Newt Gingrich, who is always so very, very pleased with himself but has yet to produce a single enduring thought.

Holy schnitzel, that’s what words are for. I’m still laughing and nodding my head. Can I be Camille for a while?

The fact is while Paglia is clearly liberal, she’s not a party lemming. This is one of the things that is so refreshing about her. She’s not afraid to call ’em as she sees them, even if that means roasting her own party or praising the other.

More here: Too late for Obama to turn it around? Plus: The left’s visionaries lost their bearings on drugs — but the GOP is led by losers

And here: Paglia page.

The church of dead chickens

For about two hours each Sunday I get to teach a bunch of wonderful six and seven year olds at our church. 5 boys. 2 girls. One of the boys likes to rip the buttons off his shirts with his teeth. So I’m thinking, hey, this is my kind of crowd.

I teach with a man named Jed. Poor mountaineer barely keeps his family fed. One day he was shooting up some food when up from the ground came a bubbling crude.

Okay, so Jed isn’t a poor, bare-foot fellow with starving kids. He’s an eligible bachelor who helps his father run one of the biggest cattle ranches up here. Nevertheless, his name IS Jed. And we do live in the mountains.

So anyway, we have a great time with these kids. I mean, with adults, they all sit there polite in their chairs. But with these kids, well, every once in a while there’s one boy who gets up and jigs like Lords of the Flame. We appreciate his art and then get on with the lesson. You also get to say things like, “Hey, do you need to blow that schnoz,” and “get your hand out of your pants” right in the middle of class and nobody bats an eye. During the prayer one of them likes to sit Indian style, hands out, thumbs to the birdie finger (what’s the real name of that finger anyway, Tallman?), and say “oohm.” Trying to break him of that habit. That’s not quite the civilized style of prayer in these parts. But at least he closes his eyes and figures prayer is fun.

So at the beginning of each class we go around and tell one cool or interesting thing that happened that week. I think their stuff is cool. They think my stuff is cool. We have a cool chat and then move on to professionally prepared lessons. Lots of interaction. I’m a private sector teacher, right? (Look, I’d say “trainer,” but then all them snooty types would say, “So what do you want? Sex TRAINING or sex EDUCATION?” Then they’d look down on me. And I’d say, well, education can sometimes be boring. Let’s try the training part. Then I’d get kicked out of my church job. So I’m keeping my job, okay?)

Jed and I, we facilitate some good lessons.  Thing is you never know what gets through. Until, of course, the parents give you some feedback.

I had a party with the kids over at my house. We couldn’t find an official slip-n-slide, so we pulled out some plastic, folded it up, and then set it up on our hill. One benefit of coming to my house for slip n slide fun is that we have a hot water tap outside. Nice for washing cars. Nice for mixing with the cold water so you’re sliding in a warm sploosh. Not some ice fest because you want to be loosey-goosey when you’re careening over grass.

It was all good until one boy zoomed down the slide at 80 mph while another was trying to straighten our redneck slip-n-slide. The first smacked the other I don’t know where with his head.  All I know is that there was a nice watermelon sound and a delayed wail of extreme pain. We all admired the sound echoing around the hill we live on then moved onto some buddy tag (you call it missionary tag out here in Mormonland). Then to flying paper airplanes off our deck, after which we cooked s’mores over a fire. We ended up with hooligan fireworks on the driveway–smoke bombs and tanks. Everyone loved it. Kids didn’t want to leave. Who would?

That Sunday we had another fine lesson at the church. So what do you think this kids are going to remember?

I’ll tell you what they’ll remember. One little gal just told her mom that they needed to get some dead chickens and turkeys and put them on their porch.  This is what they learned in primary from Brother John and Brother Jed. And she’s not the only one talking like that.

I deny teaching any voodoo.

Or taxidermy.

Of course, I will admit that when we were flying airplanes off the deck I told them I wanted to put up a few platforms maybe two feet square down by our garden. Put them up on 7 foot poles and throw some dead animals on them during the winter, maybe a chicken from the store, and watch the bald eagles and hawks gather. I mean, come one. Forget those weiner sparrows. Who wouldn’t want a few bald eagle badboys in the garden, looking down and scaring the cats? We all agreed that was cool then went on flying our multi-colored airplanes.

So that’s what I’ll admit to. But the parents can’t be mad because being nice to others, especially those with razor sharp beaks and talons that like to rip and tear raw flesh, hey, that’s the second great commandment. I was just teaching the gospel truth.