Reading another Andrew Vachss story on MPformance…

Yesterday MPformance posted another MP3 of me performing Andrew Vachss’s short story, “Dress Up Day.” It’s got original music, sound effects, and, of course, my performance as a troubled  teenaged high school kid (ah, the joys of voice acting — I could never pull that off on stage or in film!).

It’s a cheap & quick $.99 download, so check it out. There are five stories available now, and I’ve read two of them with two more in the pipeline. I’ll also be recording some of my own stories as well. Give them a listen and please let me know what you think…

Acting & Writing: Interpretation, Creation, and Character

Many of my readers and writing friends may not be aware of my acting, while many of my fellow actors and theatre people aren’t usually aware of my career as a writer. They’re two occupations that fit together very nicely, and I’ve been playing one against the other regularly for the past several years. While I see writing as purely creative, I consider acting to be more of an interpretive art, bringing to life someone else’s creation, and interpreting that preconceived role in your own way. Continue reading

Wish I were “In Treatment”…

I’ve promised to discuss things that interest me in the arts rather than just make this blog/website a self-promotional tool, and I’m keeping that promise by telling those who don’t already know about it what a transcendent and illuminating TV show HBO’s In Treatment is.

I’d been dimly aware of this show, but I recall that when I’d first heard about the concept I’d found it off-putting: a half-hour series about a psychotherapist who is visited by the same few patients week after week. I immediately envisioned thirty minutes of whining counterbalanced by Gabriel Byrne’s constant nodding and inquiring, “And how do you feel about that?” So I ignored the show. But after a friend highly recommended it, I decided to give it a try, and sat down in the chair across from Paul (Byrne’s character) and started undergoing treatment. Continue reading

MPformance — a new way to hear stories…

I put a teaser on earlier, before my website was even up, about a new site for which I was reading some short stories. Well, it’s up now, and it’s called MPformance.  Click on the word and go there now.

The site will fill you in on what it’s all about, but the skinny is that there are currently three stories by Andrew Vachss which are downloadable as MP3 files, and I performed one of them, “Cain.” I’ve also recorded three other stories that will be up in weeks to come. Continue reading

Welcome to my book page…

…Here you’ll find the various books I’ve written over the years, with my comments and anecdotes about them.

Some are actually still in print.

If you’d like to leave any notes or comments yourself, please feel free to do so. Those that convey the message, “I hate your work. Die, die,” will probably be deleted, unless you hate my work and/or wish me to die die in a particularly colorful or amusing way.

The Story of Noichi the Blind

The Story of Noichi the Blind
The Story of Noichi the Blind (Cemetery Dance Publications, 2007)

The novella is my favorite length in which to write horror, so when Richard Chizmar requested a novella for Cemetery Dance’s hardcover novella series, I immediately started thinking about what to write.

My son Colin moved to Japan when he was still in college, transferring to Temple’s Tokyo campus and then staying there after graduation, working first for Anchor and then for Square Enix as a videogame designer. My fondness for all things Japanese has increased during his tenure there and our many visits. And one of the things I have long liked about Japan has been the writer Lafcadio Hearn. So I decided to create a “rediscovered” Hearn story which I would then “edit” with the help of the fictitious Alan Drew, Ph.D., a Hearn scholar.

The result was The Story of Noichi the Blind, complete with an introduction telling how my son found the story and sent it to me, and how the manuscript’s  typeface was identified by the very real Richard Polt, who is an expert in antique typewriters and also runs the Harry Stephen Keeler website. The story follows, and the volume ends with an Afterword by Dr. Drew in which, through textual analysis, he concludes that the tale is not by Hearn, but by an unknown admirer living in Japan sometime before 1940.

The whole creation was a delight to concoct, and the story itself is one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever set to paper, though told in a classic, fairytale manner that somehow makes it palatable. The reviewers seemed to have as much fun with it as I did, and my favorite comment was one from the Booklist reviewer who said, “This extraordinary performance makes such comparably transgressive writing as the Marquis de Sade’s seem totally crude.” Now that made my year.

The delightful cover painting is by the wonderful Jill Bauman (I own the framed initial monochromatic study she did for it). I have also turned the story into a play for puppet theatre, blending traditional Japanese puppetry with contemporary puppetry, in the hopes that somewhere, someday, someone will be twisted enough to undertake the project…

Pennsylvania Dutch Alphabet

Pennsylvania Dutch Alphabet
Pennsylvania Dutch Alphabet

Another picture book, this follow-up to my Pennsylvania Dutch Night Before Christmas has a four-line poem about the Pennsylvania Dutch for each letter of the alphabet, along with some explanatory text. Among the more predictable ones are “Quilt,” “Corn,” “Shoo-fly Pie,” and “Pretzels,” but I was stumped for “X” until my now deceased Pennsylvania Dutch friend, Lloyd Arthur Eshbach (founder of Fantasy Press and a science fiction pulp writer since 1929) suggested “X” as in: “The chicken lays the X.”

So I came up with “X is for eggs –/That’s how you pronounce them:/’Bring in the ecks!/Be sure not to bounce them!’”

The illustrations, much more faithful to the Pennsylvania Dutch culture, are by Alan Stacy, and the book is available from Pelican Publishing.

Figures in Rain

Figures in Rain
Figures in Rain (Ash-tree Press, 2002)

If I had to take along one book of mine with which to be stuck on a desert island, it would be this collection of many of my short stories. I had been a collector of Ash-tree Press volumes, since they specialize in classic ghost stories, and I’ve long been a fan of such tales in the vein of M. R. James, E. G. Swain, and others. So when they approached me to do a collection of my own supernatural tales, I leapt at the chance.

I arranged the volume in chronological order, with my very first story from a 1981 issue of Twilight Zone Magazine leading the way. I wrote detailed notes on every story, which were placed in the rear of the hefty volume (27 stories & over 300 pages of quite small print), and Joe Lansdale penned an introduction which still makes me blush whenever I read it. Three times a day. “He’s earned the right to be recognized as one of the finest writers of our generation. And generations beyond, I’m sure.” I love that Joe…

Others seemed to agree, since the reviews were fairly incandescent. The book was shortlisted for the World Fantasy Award, and won the International Horror Guild Award, while one of the two new stories I wrote for the book was nominated for the IHG Award as well. The book is still available from Ash-tree…

Uniting Work and Spirit: A Centennial History of Elizabethtown College

Uniting Work & Spirit: A Centennial History of Elizabethtown College
Uniting Work & Spirit (Elizabethtown College Press, 2001)

This is the first and only college history I have ever written or will ever write. I was commissioned to write the centennial history of Elizabethtown College, a small liberal arts college founded by the Church of the Brethren in my town. I’d never written a non-fiction book before, but someone at the college thought that a writer like me would produce a much more readable and engaging book than most dry-as-dust historians would turn out. I like to think they were right.

I wrote the history about the people who built and nurtured the college, and not the college itself, and it was a much more fascinating journey than I had thought. Though I was offered research assistants, I chose to do all the research myself, and went through every issue of the college newspaper, every yearbook, endless piles of college catalogues and more. I dug into the archives, uncovering some scandalous stories about the college founders, and showing that J. G. Francis, considered the George Washington of the school, was in fact a petty, vindictive man who ultimately tried to destroy the school because he felt as though he had been under-appreciated by those who took control.

Unfortunately, I spent an entire year researching and writing the history, a year that, as it turned out, could have been more wisely spent, at least in financial terms. If you’re interested in having me write a history of your college, my price will start in the mid-six figures.

Only real completists would want this book, available in hardcover and paperback. But if you do, the E-town College Bookstore has it…