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Author Archives: Josh

2018—My Year In Books

As Yakko Warner stated before spinning the satirical Wheel of Morality at the end of many an Animaniacs episode, “It’s that time again.” The earth has concluded yet another trip around the sun, and I’m back to run through a few of my favorite books of the year. 2018 has been a whirlwind for me with several mountaintop highs (including the arrival of my first son, who has already doubled in weight since my most recent blog post) and a few deep, dark valleys—some of which I am still in the process of recovering from even as the year draws to a close. It has been a long year, my friends, and a busy one. Nevertheless, Goodreads tells me I completed 58 books (my goal was 50, which will be my goal for 2019). As always, here are a few of my favorites, listed by genre.

BEST HUMOR: The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynne Jones

An accomplished fantasist herself (most famous for Howl’s Moving Castle), Jones knew her way around the fantasy genre. In The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, written in the form of a travel guide, she provides readers with a tongue-in-cheek rundown of the genre’s most hoary tropes—equipment and armor, character archetypes, types of quests, sources of food, weather patterns, locations, magic systems, etc. Her loving parody—sharp but never cynical—highlights clichés without denigrating the stories that made them so popular. Whether one is a fan of Lord of the Rings or Skyrim, readers will find plenty of witty insight on the all-too-familiar elements of these types of stories.

BEST LITERARY FICTION: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

As an artifact and product of the early-sixties counterculture that birthed it, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest serves as the ultimate power-to-the-people underdog story. Rallied by the gumption and charisma of a self-proclaimed con man, the oppressed inmates of a mental asylum break free, not from their insanity, but from the bindings of a system designed to hold them as prisoners. The book is a bit crass, plagued by the sexism and profanity one expects to find in literary novels of its era, but the interactions between the mental patients are always a hoot, and the novel itself is loaded with interesting imagery, a fascinatingly flawed hero, an ironically mute narrator, and, in Nurse Ratched, a villain whose cultural significance has taken her far beyond the pages of this book.

BEST CHILDREN’S BOOK: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Sweet. Innocent. As profound as it is simple. This fantasy fable of the prince from a tiny planet and of the rose he loves serves as a great reminder to live in the moment, to learn from those around us, and to invest our time and energy into the things that matter most—relationships with those we love. I would have liked this book as a kid, but I think it meant more to me reading it as an adult.

BEST FANTASY: Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon

This is actually a contender for my favorite book of the year—which I’ll come to at the end of this list. It’s certainly the best novel I read in 2018. Perhaps it’s because of my own background, but I’m a sucker for novels set in the rural South, for luscious prose, and for tales that speak to a longing for what is often perceived as a simpler time. This is just such a novel—a coming of age story interspersed with jolts of magical realism including a sentient bicycle, a hot-rod driving ghost, a sea monster in the local river, a kid who can throw a baseball out of the earth’s gravitational pull, a retired old-west gunfighter, and a dinosaur in a traveling circus act, to name a few things. At the novel’s core is a murder mystery, but the focus is the story of a boy’s relationships with his father and his friends and the community around him. The fantastical elements peppered throughout serve to highlight the wonder of childhood, an age where magic and mystery seem to lurk around every corner before the mundanity of adult responsibilities dulls our sensibilities. McCammon was obviously influenced by Ray Bradbury (one of my all time favorite authors) while writing this, and it’s a fitting tribute, not only to Bradbury’s writing style but to childhood itself.

BEST HORROR: Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

I saw the movie based on this story as a kid (although I knew my parents wouldn’t have approved), and it was pretty freaky. As an adult and as a writer of macabre sensibilities myself, I see the layers of irony and humor in the story; there’s something delightfully bizarre and blackly comic about the cute elderly couple next door who are the agents of ultimate evil. This novel that works on multiple levels: as a rollicking horror tale that digs beyond satanic panic, trapping its heroine in a mass conspiracy, as a feminist satire (to be held alongside Levin’s other famous work, The Stepford Wives), and as an exploration of the anxiety that accompanies pregnancy and becoming a new parent. Most interesting, though, from a literary standpoint, (and a great lesson for any author) is to look at this book as a masterwork of foreshadowing. Every significant plot point that occurs is broadcast earlier in the novel, and Levin displays nothing short of genius in his ability to set-em-up and knock-em-down, providing readers with one satisfying payoff after another.

BEST UNCATAGORIZABLE: The Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon

My favorite book of 2018 is also the hardest to define. Subtitled “A Culinary Reflection,” The Supper of the Lamb is part memoir, part cook book (complete with recipes), and part theological treatise. Written by an Episcopal priest who clearly loves food, the book uses the topic of eating as a jumping-off point to explore topics as diverse as God’s extravagant goodness and grace, the joy of creativity, the meaning and value of hospitality, and the beauty that can be found in the ordinary stuff of life. It’s also loaded with practical cooking tips (I am a better chef simply by employing bits of Capon’s advice), and seasoned throughout with gentle humor reminiscent of the best of C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton. Absolutely delightful.

And with that, another year’s book rundown draws to a close. As always, feel free to let me know what books you enjoyed in the past year. Happy New Year, friends.

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2018 in Blog

 

And Baby Makes Three

I was at work when I got the phone call; I had just released my last class of the day and was settling in to my desk to complete some much-needed grading.

“Hey Rachel, what’s up?”

“Hey… I think my water just broke.”

How can I describe the rush of emotions? Excitement, of course, but also surprise, confusion, and a bit of fear. Our due date wasn’t meant to be for another month, after all. He still had some growing to do. We still had some work to get our house ready for a new baby. We hadn’t even packed an overnight bag the way all the books said to.

A cop followed me on the way home; he rode my tail all the way down Tamiami as if daring me to speed. It was all I could do not to just push the pedal to the floor, devil may care, and attempt to outrun him like Tommy Vercetti in Grand Theft Auto.

Rachel wasn’t in any pain, and seeing her helped calm my nerves. Together, with her seated on absorbent pads we’d thankfully had left over from our incontinent pet rabbit, we made the 50-minute drive to the hospital triage unit. Since the baby was breech, we would need an emergency caesarian section—but apparently not too much of an emergency. Rachel’s contractions were very mild and there was time for me, while Rachel was working through some of the preliminary paperwork, to make a run to Walgreens for some much needed canker-sore medicine and to the nextdoor Publix for a sub and a Coke. We arrived at the hospital at around 1:43, were told we would go in for surgery at 7:00, and actually went in at about 8:30. C’est la vie.

We were given a fair amount of scary worst-case-scenario talk about all the things that can go wrong in a c-section. The words hovered in the air like hydrogen blimps on the verge of exploding: infection … blood loss … remove the womb … We were told that our son might have underdeveloped lungs and be unable to breathe. I tried not to let it bother me. I know they’re required to let patients know this stuff in advance, in preparation should things take a turn for the worst. None of these things would happen to Rachel or our child. They wouldn’t. They couldn’t. Things like that only happen to other people … to women on daytime TV melodramas or to your mom’s friend’s sister’s baby. I willed my nervousness away. We prayed together. Over my clothes, I put on a paper suit—loose fitting shirt, MC Hammer pants, hair net, silly little booties. The doctors said it was time and took Rachel away for local anesthetic. Half an hour later they came and got me.

The operation itself went faster than I had expected—after the nurse anesthetist did his thing, the actual surgery was over in a matter of minutes. I held Rachel’s hand, anxious, as she winced and gasped and told me how weird it felt: “Tugging, but no pain,” as the surgeons said. I tried my best not to imagine them fiddling about wrist-deep in my wife’s guts.

After a tense few minutes, we heard the baby—our baby—cry. It was one of the best sounds I’ve ever heard. I immediately began to laugh. I couldn’t help it. I was overjoyed. That was my son, my little David. If he could cry, he could breathe. He would be ok.

The next moments were a delirious blur of activity. I kissed Rachel, then was whisked to an adjoining room that seemed no bigger than a closet. Doctors were wiping him with cloths, sucking fluid from his mouth and nostrils with a bulb syringe, squirting ointment into his eyes. I cut the umbilical cord with a pair of scissors, trying to take in his tiny hands, his smooth, pink skin, his angry little face. In a daze, I watched when they brought him over to meet his mom, dutifully snapped a picture when instructed, then followed the doctors down a series of corridors to the NICU unit.

Wee Davey was placed under a heat lamp, given an IV, and hooked up to machines that go “bing.” The nurses (who were great—equal parts compassion and professionalism) stuck him with what seemed like dozens of needles, trying to insert tubes into tiny veins to draw blood off and put other fluids in. To distract and calm him as they worked, I dipped a pacifier into sugar water—the newborn equivalent of a lollypop. They took his weight and measurements: five pounds, three ounces, seventeen inches. His breathing, heartrate, and body temperature were stable. His blood was sludgy thick and would not come easily when the nurses needed to draw it; it would need to be thinned out. He cried and wiggled and made soft chimpanzee noises, but mostly he slept.

I wasn’t allowed to hold him that first night—was barely allowed to touch him, except to comfort him when he was already awake. Sleep was the most vital thing for him at the moment, the nurses said, as he had a lot of development to catch up on, and I oughtn’t disturb him, except at specified “touch times” when he would be awakened to take care of all his medical needs at once. So instead I watched. I stood beside his little incubator-bed and stared at him, trying without success to read my or Rachel’s features in his little wizened face. I admit I cried a little. This was my son, after all. My firstborn. Flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone, and all that. It was—is—simply amazing.

When he cried, I kissed him and sang to him: rock and swing, hymns, nursery rhymes. In the midst of it all I thought of a song I hadn’t heard in years—perhaps not since my days as a middle-schooler racing round and round the disco-ball lit hardwood floor at Kate’s Skating Rink: Aerosmith’s power-ballad, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” I know the song is about a guy singing to his wife or girlfriend or whatever, but it felt super-appropriate for our situation.

Don’t want to close my eyes
I don’t want to fall asleep
Cause I’d miss you, baby
And I don’t wanna miss a thing.

Cause even when I dream of you
The sweetest dream would never do
I’d still miss you, baby
And I don’t want to miss a thing.

I spent the night ostensibly on a cot in his room, but probably only slept about half an hour in total. Most of my time was spent either restlessly watching him, talking with the nurses, or running errands between his room in the children’s hospital and Rachel’s room in the main unit where she was recovering from surgery—It would be about twelve hours before she would be well enough to come see him—right after I was able to hold him for the first time.

God is gracious—so many things that could have gone wrong didn’t, and we are thankful for a healthy son. I have no doubt that little Davey, “from his mother’s womb untimely ripped,” will grow to do mighty things.

The staff here tell us that we can expect David to remain in the NICU unit for at least a couple of weeks—maybe all the way up through our due date at the end of October. Healthy as he is, he is yet small and fragile, being premature, and he’s going to need time and care to continue to develop properly. We’ve applied for a place at the Ronald McDonald house, which would make staying up here far more convenient—there’s only room for one parent to really sleep in David’s room with him. I’m going to need to go back to work soon (perhaps Monday, but we’ll see what the weekend holds), but I plan to spend every possible moment here with him.

Because I don’t want to miss a thing.

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2018 in Blog

 

Emptying Out the Junk Drawer

The problem with not blogging regularly (here we go with the metacommentary again) is that life continues to happen at the same rate as ever. As a result, events, experiences, challenges, and changes stack up alarmingly, growing fusty and gathering a thick layer of dust before actually making it online. At that point, a blog becomes little more than the equivalent of a “yearly summary of the Strnad family” Christmas newsletter—hardly the point of the thing. Thus, motivation to write for the blog wanes, and blog-worthy events continue to gather like assorted items jammed into the kitchen junk drawer, till the day one says “to heck with it,” and dumps all the contents on the table to sort through them. This is that blog post, I suppose. So it goes.

I’m headed back to school this week, with meetings and preparation before the kids arrive for their first day on Friday. Last year (2017-2018) was the best year I’ve had as a teacher, leading a film class as well as taking over AP Literature at my school. This year will likely be a little rougher, though—our school is under a new administrative team and, as the new principal is dealing with a shortage of English teachers, I’ve lost those electives. I’m disappointed (especially since I just spent a week this summer in training with the College Board AP Literature test), but have confidence of building back up the program and bringing back AP classes next year. In the meantime, I’m taking over teaching Yearbook, which ought to be fun and hectic in equal measure. It’ll help scratch my creative itch, but the scheduling involved intimidates me. Fortunately, I have several colleagues who have waded the yearbook waters before me who will be invaluable as guides.

I had intended to hammer hard on my next novel (a yet-untitled urban fantasy) this summer, but wound up diverted into short story territory instead. I’ve gotten a few pretty good ones written (if I do say so myself), and am seeking homes for them now. I’m also considering the possibility of putting together a short fiction collection—something with a Ray Bradburyesque frame story that would tie it together. I’m told that short fiction anthologies often don’t sell as well as novels (and my experience with Silent Screams seems to confirm that), but Bradbury’s trick in books like The Illustrated Man (my all-time favorite short fiction collection) and The Martian Chronicles was to add simple frame stories and call them novels. It’s business. It’s psychology. It’s sales. But if it worked for Bradbury, maybe I can make it work for me.

Similarly on the writing front, I’m gearing up to rerelease Pantheon under the Serpent and Dove label. Since Musa went out of business, Pantheon hasn’t been available online, so I’m excited to get it back out there. The rerelease involves some polish all around—a fresh edit and some brand-new pulp-inspired cover art from the mighty Emory Watts (who did all the artwork for Silent Screams). It’s been a long time coming, but I’m very excited. Here’s a rough sketch to give you an idea for what the cover is going to look like:

Cool, huh?

The church Rachel and I attended for the past several years dissolved recently when our pastor retired. The split was amicable and peaceful (praise God), but we spent several months back in church-hunting mode. We recently found one in the area to call home (praise God), with solid, Biblical teaching and a genuine sense of community and fellowship. We are blessed.

Speaking of blessings, we are expecting our first child! Rachel is due on October 30th (although I’m pushing for a Halloween baby). October is going to be a crazy month—I am in a friend’s wedding in North Carolina, I am scheduled as a guest at NecronomiCon, and our baby is due sometime around there. Add in normal life with work and such (and the added pressure of yearbook deadlines) and I’m sure I’ll be spinning like a top. So far, though, both Mom and Baby are healthy. We are extremely excited to be parents.

What else… What else?

We’ve done a fair amount of traveling and visiting this summer—visiting family in North Carolina, having family come here (as I write this, several of Rachel’s cousins from Washington State are hanging out with us for the week).

I’ve been to a few sci-fi conventions. I have a few more lined up. I’ve gotten to a point, though, where that feels fairly normal and not particularly newsworthy…

I started a YouTube channel where I review free computer games. Here’s a link, if you’re interested.

I’ve gotten really into making home-made ice cream over the past several years, but only recently leveled-up my skills to the point that I can craft my own flavors without a recipe. So far my best successes have been red-hot cinnamon flavored, and amaretto with toffee bits (currently in my freezer).

I’ve also recently enjoyed repainting and customizing toy guns to make them all brassy and steampunky. Probably I’ll begin bringing them to conventions to sell them off along with my books, as I really don’t have room to store them, but really enjoy the painting and crafting process.

I suppose that’ll do for now. I think I’ll hop on here sometime in the nearer future (hopefully) to blather at length about my hobbies—each of which could easily make a full blog post. Or maybe I won’t. I’m mysterious like that.

Until next time… whenever that may be,
—Josh

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2018 in Blog

 

2017—My Year In Books

For me, New Years is always a time for reflection and thought—a time for me to remember the past year’s struggles and triumphs and to look ahead to dreams and goals for the future. I’m not big on New Years Resolutions (as one really has no idea what new challenges or opportunities tomorrow will bring), but for the past few years I’ve been able to meet a general goal of reading on average one book a week—sixty-five in total this year. They (whoever “they” are) say that great authors are first and foremost great readers, and although I make no pretentions to greatness in either category, isn’t that the standard to shoot for?

That said, here are a few of the notable books I’ve read over the past 365 days, with a few words on what I appreciated about them. As usual, I’ll break them into rough categories.

BEST GENERAL NONFICTION: Republocrat by Carl R. Trueman

Confession: I kind of hate politics. This isn’t to say I don’t have political opinions, but rather that I have a general distrust of most of the government and little patience for the social media name-calling that stands in the place of debate these days. I often joke that I’m just conservative enough to piss off my liberal friends, and just liberal enough to piss off my conservative friends, being sure to alienate and enrage everybody. In that sense, Trueman feels like a kindred spirit, and Republocrat like a breath of fresh air. For anyone dissatisfied with the state of American political discourse, this book can help make one make a little sense of the madness.

BEST SCI-FI: Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke

I now know why Clarke is hailed as one of the all-time greatest science fiction authors. Childhood’s End is an alien invasion story with a twist… then another twist… then another twist. By the time I reached the end of the book, my jaw was on the floor. No spoilers. If you trust my opinion at all, read this book. It is fantastic, in every sense of the word.

BEST COMIC: The Superior Spider-Man by Dan Slott

The three-volume collection of Superior Spider-Man is a tour de force that ranks up with some of the best Marvel stories I’ve read. After swapping brains with Peter Parker (resulting in the death of the former spidey), Otto Octavius determines that he will take over Parker’s role as protector of the city—his own way. The resulting story of supervillain-turned-superhero involves lots of good character moments, as well as plenty of action, ranging from the Green Goblin’s dealings in the criminal underworld to time-traveling dimension-hopping madness. It’s a total hoot.

BEST HORROR: Toss-up between It by Stephen King and What the Hell Did I Just Read by David Wong

With the success of the recent movie, I suspect It wound up on a lot of people’s reading lists, but (cue hipster impersonation) I’d like to say once and for all that I began the novel before I even knew there would be a movie (starting it in 2016 and finishing it in January). Regardless of whether people are bandwagoning or not, though, this novel deserves the attention. Although the final scene of the book (which I hear was cut from the film version) was a huge disappointment, the rest of the book was a delight. King is known for his slobbering, sharp-toothed monsters, but I find he shines most in his quieter moments of character interaction. The real heart of It resides in a gentle nostalgia for the ups and downs of childhood, and a delight in the power of friendship.

As a contrast, David Wong’s gleefully immature take on the genre never fails to entertain me. What the Hell Did I Just Read is the third (and maybe best) addition to Wong’s successful John Dies at The End series, in which he blends absurd, outrageous humor with scenes of gut-wrenching terror. Imagine HP Lovecraft as a thirteen-year-old boy who has watched too many Saturday morning cartoons, and you’ll have a fairly good idea of Wong’s style. If you can tolerate the middle-school-level vulgarity, there is plenty of mind-bending fun to be found here.

BEST THEOLOGY: The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer

The Knowledge of the Holy is a slim, unassuming little book, but it is both dense in its content and profound in its implications. Contemplating on the attributes of God, Tozer manages to say more in two or three pages than many authors say in their entire books, and I found myself needing frequent pauses while reading in order to properly digest the ideas on the pages. It’s good, rich, meaty stuff, but rather than being a mere intellectual exercise, Tozer uses the scholarly aspects to direct the readers’ hearts to worship the amazing, incomprehensible, marvelous God who has revealed Himself in creation, in the holy Scriptures, and in the person of Jesus Christ.

BEST CHILDREN’S BOOK: The Brave Little Toaster by Thomas M. Disch

I grew up on the movie The Brave Little Toaster, and it remains one of my favorite animated films. It wasn’t until this year that I learned it was initially based on a book—and immediately tracked down an audio version someone recorded online. The story wasn’t initially intended for children, serialized in Fantasy and Science Fiction, but no matter—this is a children’s classic on par and sharing its tone with Milne’s Whinnie the Pooh books. Although the movie is manic fun, the book’s humor is a bit softer, gentler, and more poignant. It’s sweet and innocent, a story I loved as an adult and intend to share with my own children one day.

So there you have it. What books did you love this past year? I’m always on the lookout for recommendations.

So long, 2017. Hello, 2018. Let’s make it a good one, friends.

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2017 in Blog

 

Impostor Syndrome

Here’s the good news: I am a guest author at not one, but two different science fiction conventions this October, SWFL Writer’s Showcase and NecronomiCon. Here’s the bad news: I don’t feel like an author.

There’s a tendency for artists and creators to get in a kind of funk when they haven’t been producing much. Legitimately or not, we often think of ourselves only as good as our most recent work output—I may have edited a pretty great book last year (check out Silent Screams if you haven’t yet), but… well… I haven’t had a story published in a while. Even worse, more and more when I sit down to write, I’ve been having trouble solidifying my imagination into words and getting them onto paper. I have some killer ideas for my next novel, and some fun short fiction concepts rattling around the brain-box, but haven’t had anything to share with my writing critique group for the past month or so.

Here’s where self-doubt comes in—the nagging thought that maybe I just suck at this and my previous successes were flukes. This is compounded by things like being a guest at conventions. Who the heck am I to sit on panels next to way more successful and famous people and give others writing advice?

In Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” Lumiere laments that “life is so unnerving for a servant who’s not serving.” I second that emotion. When I’m not actively producing, I feel… well, less somehow. There’s a weird sort of guilt, like I’m wasting time and not living up to my potential. We like to put ourselves into boxes and categorize ourselves with neat definitions. I am a painter, so I paint. I am an athlete, so I compete. I am an intellectual, so I debate.

I am an author, so I write.

I think, therefore, I am.

But what of the painter who can do no more than doodle swirly lines on her canvas? What of the athlete who, through a tragic accident, winds up confined to a wheelchair? What of the intellectual who struggles with bouts of depression or crippling headaches?

Am I still an author when I’m hitting the writer’s block wall or when I’d rather crank up Steam than my word processor? Am I still a Christian when my devotional life tanks and my prayers are empty parrot-talk? Am I still a teacher when, despite my best intentions, I don’t communicate what I want my students to learn?

Of course, the answer to all three of these is yes. Failure is a normal part of life. That doesn’t mean I quit trying, but it does mean that I can cut myself a little slack when things aren’t going so well. The fact that I’m concerned about the times I’m not doing so well helps prove that my heart is in the right place, and that I will eventually wind up back on top. The struggle isn’t what defines me, but what I do through it.

God’s grace is bigger than my sin. He will see me through, because it’s in His nature. It’s what He does.

My imagination is bigger than my writer’s block, and one day, soon, the stories will flow again. It’s in my nature. It’s what I do.

I am an author, so I write.

Sometimes.

And sometimes, that’s good enough.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2017 in Blog

 

Done, Done, On to the Next One

Today marks a milestone. I completed the final illustration for my children’s picture book. As I glued the last piece in place, sitting back to examine my work, I experienced a quiet glow of satisfaction. No fanfare blew, no confetti fell from the ceiling (although the floor around me was, as usual, already covered with tiny scraps of paper), and so far I have yet to receive any unsolicited calls from publishers desperate to make me a superstar. Still, it feels good just to be done with the thing. I began working on this book a full eight years ago, and it’s been a labor of love (as all art worth making must be).

The story, a simple fable about anthropomorphized talking tools, is a personal one to me, born out of a period of frustration and longing and loneliness, written with a deep sense of having been made for a purpose and a hope in things yet unseen. I’ve always been of the opinion that a story’s genre and style should, as well as possible, match the author’s message. Sometimes children’s stories say best what’s to be said.

Shortly after writing its initial draft and sketching the characters, I became interested in collage art—using scraps of old magazines to create new images. Upon encouragement from friends and family, I used this method to create the illustrations, poster-sized to maintain the level of detail I wanted each picture to have.

Looking back, I wish I’d kept a tally of how many magazines I’ve destroyed to make these illustrations, as well as how many glue sticks I’ve gone through. My estimate is that I’ve harvested colors from easily thousands of magazines, and worn at least a few hundred glue sticks down to the plastics. A conservative guess is that about 600 hours went into the collages (15 in total at about 40 hours apiece). This time was spread over nearly a decade; while my picture book waited in the background, I put out two books for adults and spent three years in grad school (during which I barely touched any other projects).

“So what are you going to do now that you’re finished?” my wife asked. I almost laughed. “You forget you’re married to the man with 1000 hobbies,” I told her. Art and writing are, for me, like the hydra: cut off one head and two more grow to take its place.

First things first: the actual story text some serious overhaul. Needless to say, I’ve grown a lot as a writer in the past ten years, and I think that some trimming and sanding and polishing are in order before this thing is ready for prime time.

I also need to learn all I can about children’s publishing. All my previous experience is in writing for adults—sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. Picture books are a whole different animal.

And, of course, there’s my other writing to attend to—more short fiction, and the ever-looming “second novel.” In the immortal words of Semisonic, “Every new beginning starts with some other beginning’s end.”

Who knows? Given the speed this project has moved at thus far, maybe I’ll be able to get this thing published and into a form people can actually read within another ten years.

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2017 in Blog

 

The Girl

Last time I had seen her, she was in middle school. Her sister and I were high school friends (same graduating class). As kids we had all gone to church and played together (I have especially fond memories of putting on puppet shows with a portable stage) but, as life has a way of sending people different directions, we hadn’t seen each other or spoken in about fifteen years.

In hindsight, it seems inevitable that when we met for the second time, it would be at the library. The library in my hometown is about the size of an average McDonalds. Although the town itself has grown considerably over the past 20 years, the library has remained in the same building it’s always occupied. Since I was there about once a week, it was inevitable that the librarians would know me. They make it a habit to greet their frequent fliers by name. It’s a bit like Cheers that way.

I was hanging out at my parents’ house for the summer vacation (one of the few real perks of being a teacher), looking for a new job, hoping for a change. Jonesing for a comic book, I swung by the library. I hadn’t been there in about a year (since I’d been living an another town), and was surprised to see this beautiful young lady– a woman I had known as a girl long ago, standing behind the counter.

Last time I had seen her, she’d been a skinny kid in a baggy rock-and-roll tee shirt. Now she was grown up, working as a librarian, and… well… cute. After a hug and the initial “long time no see” banter, I asked her what she was up to these days.

“I’m finishing up my master’s degree right now. I’m studying theology and creative writing.”

“That’s cool,” I said, trying to sound casual. “What kind of stuff do you like to write?”

She smiled. “Mostly science fiction.”

Be still, my heart.

We exchanged information, me awkwardly telling her that if she ever wanted to get together and *ahem* talk about writing some time, I’d be happy to hang out.

Then I took my books and left. That, I figured, was that. She was pretty, but what of it? Lots of girls are pretty. After all, I would not likely be in town long.The new school year was rapidly approaching, and I still had no idea where I would be teaching.

Little did I know our paths would cross again a few nights later. I was over at a friend’s home for supper and board games when she walked in. I’d had no idea she would be there. That evening, as we sat around eating Mexican food and playing Takinoko, I was more and more impressed– she was smart and funny and full of life.

As there were others who were interested in writing, we planned to meet that Sunday evening for a writers’ group. We did. It was nice, but fairly uneventful.

Later that week I was offered a job near my grandparents in South Florida. The school year was about to begin, so, without even time for a proper goodbye, I dropped a ninja smoke bomb in North Carolina and raced down to prepare my classroom and curriculum.

And that, I figured, was that.

…Which just goes to show how little I knew. That fall, I was beginning to gather stories for Silent Screams, and she was interested in contributing one. We spoke on the phone several times, then on Skype, initially to brainstorm and swap ideas but more and more just to talk. Our conversations would extend for hours.

When I was home for Christmas break, I knew I would regret it if I didn’t take the chance to ask her out. That first date, on a cold, gray day, we sat and talked over sushi and frozen yogurt for about five hours. My family made fun of me when I got home, but I didn’t care. There weren’t a lot of fireworks, no flashes of heady passion (those would come later). It was just nice to be with her, to hear her thoughts, to enjoy her company.

When I returned to Florida, we kept up contact over email and Skype; very soon we were speaking almost every night. It didn’t take long before I was head over heels in love. When I was about to go home for spring break, my grandmother jokingly asked if I planned to propose.

“Don’t be silly,” I told her. “We’ve only been dating for about three months. That’s not going to happen. That’s too fast. Normal, sane people don’t do that.”

…Which just goes to show how little I knew.

Seeing her again was better than wonderful. Where there weren’t fireworks before, this time I had enough to fill Crazy Ed’s Roadside Bargain Warehouse.

Halfway through the week, we had a conversation that began with “How do you think all this is going?” and ended with “I guess we should get married, then.” I was completely unprepared; I hadn’t even purchased a ring. I kissed her. I had no idea it was possible to be so happy.

Three months later, only about one year after that initial encounter at the library, we said our vows at the front of a full church. She wore white. I wore a suit. There was music and laughter and cake.

She is asleep in the other room as I type this.

At the risk of being redundant, I had no idea it was possible to be so happy.

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2017 in Blog

 

Enter to win a free signed copy of Silent Screams from Goodreads!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Silent Screams by Josh Strnad

Silent Screams

by Josh Strnad

Giveaway ends January 31, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2017 in News

 

Silent Screams Press Release

Calling all reviewers, journalists, bloggers, and podcasters!

Silent Screams, a new anthology of dark speculative fiction, is coming out on Halloween of 2016. Here is a downloadable PDF of the official silent-screams-press-release. For more information or to request review copies, please write to silentscreamsanthology@gmail.com

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2016 in News

 

Silent Screams Coming Soon… Finally!

I just saw that it has been nearly a year since my last blog post. Part of me is baffled by this revelation (where did the time go?), but it makes sense. The past year has been a whirlwind of activity, in which I met a girl, fell in love, got married, bought a house, moved, and edited an anthology, while still working full time and doing all those normal life things a functional adult is supposed to.

Perhaps I’ll do a more lengthy write up about my bride and the crazy unexpected beautiful way our relationship came about on another day– it is a story that would require a blog post in itself. For the moment, though, I want to announce the exciting news that, at long last, the Silent Screams anthology is going to be released.

This has been a huge undertaking and a true labor of love. I am extremely excited about this book, and cannot wait to share it with the world. The ebook comes out on Halloween– October 31st, with a print version to follow shortly after. If you read dark fiction, this is one you won’t want to miss. I can’t wait to unleash it on the world.

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2016 in Blog