Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Long Road to Paperback

Two of my books have recently become available as paperbacks and ebooks after many years spent languishing in obscurity as limited edition hardcovers. Lot Lizards was published in 1991 and Sex and Violence in Hollywood in 2001.

After living in southern California for a few years in the 1980s, I ended up, due to a string of unfortunate circumstances, moving back in with my parents. Do I need to say that this was not an ideal situation? During that time, I got into the habit of going out late at night and writing in all-night coffee shops. Back then, there were a few of them around here – these days, the only things open all night are Denny’s and Walmart. One of the places I frequented was the 76 Truck Stop. That’s where I met Dawn.

She was the night manager of the travel store/gift shop and every time I went there, I walked by her counter on my way into the coffee shop. We had an occasional conversation at first, then she began to spend her breaks with me in the restaurant. She was a horror fan and was especially fond of vampires. When I mentioned that my vampire novel Live Girls had just been released, she brightened and said, “You wrote that? I loved that book?” She wasn’t being coy. She’s always been a voracious reader, but she’s never paid much attention to the name of the author on the cover of each book. She’s gotten a little better about that. A little.

One night while writing at the coffee counter, I overheard a conversation between two truckers about lot lizards. I’d never heard the term before and didn’t know what a lot lizard was. So I asked. I learned that a lot lizard is a prostitute who works the trucker's parking lot at truck stops. She goes from truck to truck, selling her wares, sometimes for money and sometimes for drugs.

“Stay away from ‘em,” the trucker advised me. “Most are diseased tweakers. And they’re all uglier than a jar of warts.”

I loved the term. Lot lizards. Once my imagination had latched onto it, I couldn’t get it out of my head. I wrote Lot Lizards over several weeks; most of it was written there at the coffee counter in a notebook, then I’d take it home and type it up.

The novel was published as a limited edition hardcover in 1991 by Mark V. Ziesing, and no other edition has ever been published. Until now. Lot Lizards is now available as an ebook –

– and as a paperback.

I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback over the years from readers who’ve enjoyed Lot Lizards. Some have said it makes a good companion piece to Live Girls. The books are unrelated and have very different settings, but they have something in common: vampires who are beautiful and seductive, but vicious. They do not sparkle. It has been optioned for a movie – that would be wonderful, but I’ve had enough experience with movie options to know that I shouldn’t get my hopes too high.

In 2000, I was itching to write something outside the horror genre. With nothing in mind except that I wanted to write about life in Los Angeles on the fringes of the movie business, I began writing about a young man named Adam Julian, who was having an affair with the wife of his obnoxious but very successful screenwriter father. I kept writing for about a thousand manuscript pages. Nothing has ever flowed out of me as smoothly or rapidly as Sex and Violence in Hollywood and it remains my most joyous writing experience. It's also my personal favorite of all my work. It follows Adam through a landscape of sex (lots of sex), movie stars, Hollywood wannabes, sleazy pornographers and elaborate murder, and ends with a rather wild, high-profile trial. Oh, and it’s a love story.

I showed it to my agent, Richard Curtis, and his boisterous enthusiasm for the book caught me completely off guard. With his guidance, I trimmed the manuscript, then he took it to the New York publishers and pushed it hard.

The response from those publishers was overwhelmingly positive. They loved it. But ... they had no idea how to market it. It was a thriller. It was erotic. It was funny. It was horrific. But it didn’t fall squarely into any particular genre. It blurred the lines between a few genres and as a result, they didn’t even know what to call it, let alone how to market it. For that reason, they all turned it down with regrets.

It was published by Subterranean Press in 2001 as a limited edition hardcover. But Subterranean is aimed primarily at readers of horror, who were very familiar with me as a writer of horror fiction – which this was not. The result was that not many copies sold, although the critical reaction was very positive.

So, much to my disappointment, the book I believe to be my best has gone largely unread. Now it’s available to a wider audience in a much more affordable edition. Two editions, actually. It’s now an ebook –

– and a paperback.

These are two very different books. One is most definitely a horror novel and the other is not. But after a long time spent out of the reach of most readers, both are now more readily available than ever before, and I hope you’ll give them a look.

1 comment:

  1. I think they both sound amazing and I can't wait to get my grubby hands on them.

    And you know, I doubt I ever would've heard or known what a lot lizard is, so this is quite the educational blog you have here. Thanks :)