Books that were fun to write and books that tried to kill me.
Updated: Sep 12, 2018
A lot of people ask me which of my books were the most fun to write.
Okay, three people have asked me that, but really, who's counting? Truth is, some books were as fun as rave parties to write. A few were complete pains in the ass and a couple I don't remember writing much at all. Figure that one out, Sigmund. It breaks down like this: * WORUMBO: A young reporter develops the ability to suck a single thought from the minds of others. Exploration of this freaky trick leads to discoveries about bizarre government experiments with mind control. This was the first of my novel-length works and I remember the process vividly. What I recall is a crap ton of research (we're talking brain science and government shenanigans here,) a few Microsoft Word mishaps that ate entire chapters, and a whole lot of furious writing sprees that would last at times until dawn's early light. If a guy sucks thoughts out of the heads of strangers, whether he wants to or not, the scenarios are pretty much endless. On the Fun-o-Meter scale of 1-10, I'd give this one an 8. * THE PINK ROOM: A pair of grieving men attempt to use advanced physics to bring their loved ones back from the dead. More research. What the old-timers would call "a whole crap ton" of research, this time involving string theory, relativity and other weirdness. The story is about the use of string theory to bring the dead back into the world, so I had to grasp the science a little bit. To get into the groove, I read Brian Green's "The Elegant Universe," and grew my brain to mammoth proportions. Tried to, anyway. And when the research was over, I got down to writing about people doing absolutely messed up things due to a weird confluence of ley lines and the summer solstice. Writing about bizarre human behavior is about as fun as it gets. Plus, a creepy, foul-talking dead girl in a closet. Fun-o-Meter score: 9. * VEGETATION: In this one, a pompous ass offends the plant kingdom and finds that the whole world really is out to get him. Seriously, this guy gets harassed, pummeled and outwitted by plants as mighty as the saguaro and as innocuous as the petunia. The trees are out to get him. So is the grass, so is the potted plant in the hotel lobby, so is the damn fungus in the drain. Finding new ways for the world's flora to trip up that arrogant prick was a night-after-night glee fest for me. I had to study up on vegetation quite a bit to get there, but that was part of the joy. Plants are astoundingly versatile and diverse and they will kick your ever-loving ass if you don't watch out. Fun-o-Meter: 10. * DIRT: AN AMERICAN CAMPAIGN: Meh. Politics. At the time, I didn't know Jack diddly about how politics work. Kind of a problem since this was at least partially meant to be a political thriller. I was writing about a guy who was so grief-stricken by the loss of his wife, he snuck her out of the tomb and ran off to continue the postmortem romance. That part was great fun. But our grave-robbing Romeo happened to be the son of a strong presidential contender and weaving in political response to the atrocity was delightful at times, a pain in the ass at others. I REALLY enjoyed writing dialogue for this one, in particular the snappy exchanges between Billy Baylor, the drunken author, and Thomas Cashman, the political operative. Fun-O-Meter (I"m tired of calling it that:) 7. * BOX OF LIES: My first book of short stories. Insane government experiments, conspiracy theories of all kinds, weird physics, cannibals, bleak future societies, an elementary school full of insane kids, and an inside look at heaven. That collection was just jam packed with fun and a lot of it was based on ideas that had been rattling around in my head for decades. The weirdest part of writing that book is that I have absolutely no idea where some of the stories came from. I don't remember how I conceived of them and I don't recall anything about the writing. If there was ever a writing experience where I felt guided by some divine hand, it was this one. Still, we're talking dead fishermen and baseball-loving extraterrestrials. I'm gonna give this one an 9. * DELIRIUM TREMENS: An alcoholic journalist sees dead people whenever he tries to give up booze. This one was billed as The Sixth Sense meets the Lost Weekend and some people just loved the story. There were parts that I really enjoyed writing – putting together the plot was a lot of fun with some genuine "Aha!" moments. It's always a blast, as an author, when you can utterly surprise yourself. But then, a lot of this book was deeply personal and, let's face it: alcoholism is a depressing topic unless you happen to be Dudley Moore or Keith Richards. I think D.T. has one of the best endings I've ever written, but on the fun scale? Highest I can go is 6. * GUYS NAMED JACK: A group of teenager boys, all named Jack, wake up with mysterious new talents. One finds that he can manage complex mathematical problems without so much as a pencil. Another invents things that boggle the mind. One becomes an expert martial artists without so much as a single lesson while another wakes up versed in a dozen languages. Jacks is my most recent novel and yet I have almost no recollection of writing it. Strange, huh? I don't get it, either. What I do recall is having a lot of fun describing how all these teenage kids made use of their newfound talents. If you were 15 years old and suddenly realized you could kick anyone's ass or invent and build just about anything at all, how would you use that gift? It was fun as hell to create those scenarios. I think. Wish I remembered more of it. I'll give this one a hazy 7. * ASTERISK: RED SOX 2086: Baseball in the future. What's more fun than that? This novelette was my follow-up to "The Pink Room" so I used a lot of that leftover string theory noise to create my weird scenario of high-tech cheating in baseball's future. Plus flying cars and shit. Yeehaw! I'll give it a 7, but it may round third and come home for a solid 8.