Category Archives: The Mushroom Shift

Cannibalism

literary-cannibalism

Okay, that might be off-putting.  Perhaps a better title would be recycling. Repurposing. Reusing. Renewing. Resuscitating.

But I like the word cannibalism because it brings to mind a survivalist mindset – They cannibalized the wrecked vehicles for parts and were able to get one working.  Kind of that whole Flight of the Phoenix sort of thing.

I’m talking here of course about literary cannibalism.  Not the kind where you ingest, say, something by Stephen King, and the parts that don’t stay down are used for something of your own creation.  No, I’m talking about where you take parts out of something you’ve already created and recycle, repurpose, resuscitate it for use in a new project.  Yeah, self-cannibalism.  Ewww.1

Part of this comes from the admonishment for writers that I make from time to time, namely never throw anything you write away. True, that novel you started and got 140 pages on before you realized it was, alas, misbegotten2 may never get finished and see the light of day, but there may be something in it – a character, a scene, technology, some bit of great writing – that would have a great life in a future project. You just never know what it might be until you get there.

For example, when I was writing The Company Man, I came to a scene where Andy Birch walked into a greasy spoon and started to chat up the waitress there. I stopped with my fingers on the keys, staring at the screen, and had an epiphany: I’ve already written this scene. And with that I dug out an old, dead pre-Desperate Measures3 unfinished manuscript provisionally titled Book of Dreams and there, 25 manuscript pages in, was the scene I needed. So I put the pages next to my computer and typed them in (the manuscript being from my typewriter days), changing the names on the fly, and there it was.

There are riskier forms of cannibalism. I once came to a point when writing the Pembroke Hall novels where I started to strip The Mushroom Shift for parts. It was an easy decision to make – at that point in the mid-1990s, Mushroom had exhausted the possibilities of where it could go. Editors were shaking their heads over what they could do with it, and my then-agent wasn’t as enamored of the book as I was. It looked at the time like it was one of those novels that would forever remain in the closet under the bowling shoes, so I put it up on blocks and started taking out parts.

Fortunately, I didn’t strip it completely. One of the conceits in Mushroom was two characters with the first name of Steve, both on the same shift. In the we-band-of-brothers mentality of law enforcement, they became one unit, the Steve Brothers. I pulled this out and translated it into Pembroke Hall-ese to show something similar – not the bonds of camaraderie, but how a bunch of creatives treat their own when left to their own devices. In a company where everyone is known only by their last name (and, occasionally, the department in which they work), two employees, Upchurch and Churchill, get branded as… ah, but you’re already of me. This didn’t cause a problem because nobody had read Mushroom, and at the time I thought nobody would. But now I’ve published it myself and run the risk. It’s okay, though, because I’m confessing now… and because not that many people read the Pembroke Hall books.4 And speaking of that…

There is such a thing as cannibalizing yourself a bit too much. I’m thinking of John Irving, whom I discovered as a college student via that made-for-college-student novel, The World According to Garp. I loved the book at the time, and sought to familiarize myself with Irving’s earlier work. I was disappointed to find that each one was the same combination of writers, wrestling, bears, unicycles, and motorcycles, all pillaged from Irving’s personal life5, all of which made Garp so much fun, all of which now seemed so… derivative. It was like this for novel after novel, even into his first post-Garp book, The Hotel New Hampshire, and it felt to me like Irving had just recycled the same elements over and over and over until he hit the lottery.

Now I have to come clean and admit that I have done this myself. And I actually got caught at it. See, the Pembroke Hall novels rolled over and played dead on their release, so badly so that Ferman’s Devils was taken out of print the same month that Boddekker’s Demons was released. In the ensuing years when I was working on Drawing Down the Moon, it occurred to me that I needed to throw readers a curve about a character’s sexual orientation. I knew I had done the same exact thing in the PH books, but I figured – hey, nobody has read them… I can get away with it.

Except I didn’t. See, one of my first readers of Moon had gotten her hands on the PH novels and read them, and so it wasn’t long before I got an email back from her on the former saying, “Do you have a ‘thing’ for lesbians? Just asking since one has featured in both novels (wink, wink)6

Mousetrap, meet fingers.

All said, there’s a fine line to tread when pillaging your literary past for parts. If you use them enough times they can become a trope, and then a cliche within your writing, like Irving’s writer wrestler bears (although I think he has since left these behind), Dean Koontz’s noble dogs, and Janet Evanovich’s wrecked cars. And while some people might find these recurrences comforting signposts, I personally think it’s lazy writing. But then, I’m not a bestselling writer. Take from that what you will.

Meantime, no more similarly named co-workers or surprise lesbians from me. At least, not until I hit the charts.


1 Now you know why I chose Stephen King as an example.
2 In my case, a little thing called Bellvue Seven, which withered and died between A Death of Honor and The Company Man.
3 Desperate Measures being the novel I wrote before A Death of Honor. The order of publication was, of course, different.
4 Outside of Russia, that is.
5 But we all do that, which is fodder for another essay.
6 Paraphrased to make more funny.

Advertisements

Can You Hear Me Now

Okay, time to make an announcement. Well, it’s not much of an announcement… if you’re connected to my Facebook Fan Page you’ve known about this for a couple of months. I just never said anything in this venue because I have no idea what the timetable is for what is going to happen.

That is, my entire back catalog of Del Rey and Bantam era books is going to be released in audio book form by Audible.com.

audible-logoThis is exciting news for me because audio books was the last frontier I hadn’t yet conquered. Unless you count TV and the movies, and I came close there. But never mind that. With the advent of ebooks, I’ve been too-slowly getting the back catalog out there for the Kindle, and was wondering what to do about the other e-reader book formats in the world (and more about that in a couple more graf). But one of the things on the back of my mind was how to get the catalog into audio form. I’d done a little research, but nothing earthshaking. Until October.

That’s when I received an unexpected email from my former agent offering to pitch my backlist to Audible to see which titles, if any would stick. As it turns out, all of them did.

So the paperwork is signed, and I’m waiting. I’ve gotten one email from Audible about some issues with A Death of Honor, and suspect there may be others as the time draws nigh to produce.

At present, I don’t have any more information about release schedules or anything like that. Rest assured as I find out, you’ll be hearing from me on this screen and in the aforementioned Facebook page.

And what about non-Kindle format ebooks? Those will be coming, too, slowly as I turn them out. But the current three, A Death of Honor, The Mushroom Shift, and The Company Man are all in the process of being converted, as it turns out that one of my former agent’s new missions is to open up client backlists to the ebook world as well. So I’m glad he still considers me – or my backlist, at least – a client.

So. Back to work now on the new stuff.

Free Mushrooms

As promised, in honor of National Police Week (May 12-16) and Peace Officer Memorial Day (May 15), the Kindle version of The Mushroom Shift free from Amazon.com.

If you prefer paper and want to try your luck, 10 autographed copies of the trade paperback version are being given away through Goodreads.com.

Enjoy… and remember.

Facebook Fan Page: The Drive to 100

Having just noticed that the JCF Facebook Fan Page is a mere 14 people away from hitting the 100 mark, I am announcing yet another contest to give away one of my books.

When the JCFFbFP hits the 100 mark, I will open up my geek toolkit, remove two 10-sided dice, and toll up a number between 1 and 100. The corresponding person on the listing of Likes will receive his or her choice of the Beautiful Trade Paperback Edition of either A Death of Honor or The Mushroom Shift, personally autographed by yours truly and shipped with loving care by the United States Postal Service.

In addition, as a JCFFbFP liker, you will get JCF news first! The order things are usually announced is: 1) Facebook Fan Page; 2) this blog right here and my regular Facebook page, usually a week or two later; and 3), my wife, usually when she says, “And when did you plan to tell me about this?”

So click through and Like today! Hey, the odds are better than buying a lottery ticket!

And don’t forget, copies of The Mushroom Shift are also up for grabs in paper and Kindle editions as outlined here.

Author Announces Book Giveaway in Honor of Law Enforcement Officers

CANTON, OH – To help raise awareness of Peace Officers Memorial Day (May 15) and National Police Week (May 12-16), author Joe Clifford Faust is giving away copies of his dark-humored police novel, The Mushroom Shift through the Amazon Kindle and Goodreads.com. Between May 12th and 16th, Amazon Kindle owners may download a free copy directly through their device or order it through the Amazon.com website. In addition, 10 autographed copies of the trade paperback version of the book will be given away through Goodreads.com. A Goodreads account is required to sign up for the drawing.

“This novel is based on things I saw during 4 1/2 years of working as a Sheriff’s dispatcher,” Faust said. “I saw quite a bit during my time there, from the hilarious to the utterly terrifying, including the loss of officers. Nothing I can do can make up for the sacrifice these men make, but I hope that this effort makes people more aware of the importance of May 15th.”

The Mushroom Shift tells the story of Clarence Raymond Monmouth, a deputy in a small town in Wyoming, who is finishing his third year on the despised Mushroom Shift – midnight to eight a.m. – in the final weeks of 1985. As the year draws to a close, Monmouth comes to realize that the county’s aging Sheriff will soon be succeeded by the political enemy who marooned him on that shift. Survival mode kicks in and he begins to consider his options, interrupted by his crumbling marriage, his drinking, and the never-ending parade of drunk drivers, family fights and perverts that make up small town police work.

The novel is a snapshot of a different world that is not that far in the past, in a time before political correctness. Its theme of men struggling to hang on to their jobs is universal.

Joe Clifford Faust was born in North Dakota, raised in Alberta and Wyoming, went to college in Oklahoma, and now lives in Ohio. He has been married for more than thirty years, has two adult children, and has worked at a local advertising agency since 1997. Besides The Mushroom Shift, he is also reissuing his critically acclaimed science fiction novels under his own imprint, Thief Media.

Faust may be contacted at thiefmedia at gmail dot com for interviews and guest blog posts, and is available to speak to writer’s groups or other organizations live or via Skype.

The Mushroom Shift Links
Amazon Kindle Version (non-affilliate)
Goodreads contest
Facebook Fan Page

The Mushroom Shift

Okay, this is the big announcement you’ve been waiting for. Or maybe it isn’t.

The Mushroom Shift, the police novel I wrote way back when during the mists of 1985, is officially available for you to read. You can get the Amazon Kindle version here, or for those of you who still love the feel, smell, and tactile experience of a real paper book, you can get the trade paperback version from Amazon here or from me through Amazon here.

(A Trade Paper version of A Death of Honor is also available here, but is not yet available on Amazon for some reason. Call it delay by dinosaur?)

The Kindle version went online in the middle of December, but I wanted to wait to make the official announcement until the paper version was available. Of course, if you’d liked my Facebook Fan Page, then you already knew about all of this stuff weeks ago.

If you’re interested in the book, make sure you read the propaganda I wrote about it before buying it. The book is not at all politically correct (but since when are cops PC?) and is rather profane (but since when do cops talk like choirboys?). If you decide to take the plunge, I think you’ll be rewarded with a novel that contains some of my best writing – not bad since it was only the second novel I wrote (I have a theory on why it turned out that way, but that’s a topic for a future post).

There you have it. The chronicle of Clarence Raymond Monmouth, Badlands County Sheriff’s Department, ready to come to your home and entertain you in whatever format you choose.

So buy early and often. And remember… I get paid whether you read the book or not!

Enjoy!

Unwritten Sequels

I don’t know where you come down on the idea of sequels. Cinematically, I’m really tired of them… it’s like proof once again that Hollywood is officially out of ideas.

Not that I haven’t been tempted. With every novel I’ve published (or, as in the case of The Mushroom Shift, am about to publish), I have had a notion to do a sequel at some point in the future. I’m not sure why this is. Perhaps it’s because I liked living in that world while I wrote the book and need an excuse to return. Or maybe it’s for another reason. I don’t know.

Just to give an idea of how the process works, here’s a look at the unwritten sequels that have crossed my mind that you won’t see for reasons of time, apathy, or considerations more practical…

Caution… Spoilers abound!

A Death of Honor. Payne and Trinina’s story was pretty much told at the end of the book. But for a while I entertained the notion of an untitled sequel that would show what the rest of the U.S. looked like in that universe. The story would follow Bailey as he escaped from the raid on Payne’s apartment building, hooked up with Karol, and then set off on a cross-country odyssey in a search for a new place to call home.

The Company Man. Two different ideas. First, I wanted to play more with dogbrain technology and PATER. I had done that some with a story called Pins that was picked up by Amazing Stories, but I thought there was still more potential there. And I thought Andy Birch was just the guy to do the exploring. The novel The Inside Man would have been the playground for that. And no, Jade would not have returned. But Lucy would be around.

Also, writing The Company Man was the period when I was learning that not everything in my head about the universe had to go in the book. For example, Howard Kessler and Jack Lime were once partners until the former did the latter dirty, as happened to Birch in his novel. The Company Men would have told that backstory.

The Angel’s Luck Trilogy. The trilogy? The one I famously had to step away from during the writing of the third book and take a month off because I was getting sick and tired of the characters and wanted to kill them off a la Stephen King in The Stand? Yup. I had an idea for a fourth book that reunited the characters twenty years later, when May was about to retire and Duke had become a hotshot pilot in is own right, thanks to Reckless Eric Dickson. Never got any farther than that.

Trust. An unpublished political thriller that I intend to release before the Pembroke Hall reissue. This might have been spun into a whole series of novels about tabloid reporter Annie Graham. The second would have been called Truth, in which Ms. Graham had to match wits with a rather unusual serial kidnapper. Hmm, but when the first book doesn’t find a publisher? Perhaps just as well. The world is only so full of five-letter words that start with “T”, which is what all the titles would have been.

The Pembroke Hall Novels. Was almost a trilogy. Toward the end of writing the second book, it occurred to me that there was one more thing to cover – the aftermath of the reign of the Devals. Hollywood, Arizona would find Boddekker happily working for a non-profit when he was approached by Pembroke Hall to oversee the movie being made about the life of Ferman’s Devils. Life, meet the distorting effects of art. Each chapter would have been preceded by pages from the screenplay that was being produced. Shelved when it became apparent that the published books were a bust.

The Mushroom Shift. You’ll get to read this quite soon. Mushroom was to be the first book in the Badlands County Trilogy, with each title following Monmouth during a different shift. Mushroom was the midnight shift; The Horizontal Tango followed him onto swings; and the final volume, The Sierra Hotel found him on the day shift. Those plans went into the bin when the book didn’t find a publisher. And I don’t think I could write them now.

However, I never throw anything away. The theme of Tango was to write about sexual attraction between two characters in an adult manner while conspiring to keep them apart at every opportunity. That’s now part of Drawing Down the Moon. And Monmouth ages in real time – 25 years – to become older, wiser and the central character of the UFO Novel I’m now working on. Incidentally, Annie Graham is a central character also. As is Robert Grinwald, a refugee from Rachel’s Children, a cycle of novels about an alien invasion that I proposed to Del Rey right before I was dropped.

Part of the allure of my writing the UFO Novel was that it was going to be a place where characters from all of my unpublished novels would get to see the light of day. But now, with these books being published by yours truly, it is going to make for a very interesting collision of universes. Are all these books tied together? I’m not saying. Or maybe I just haven’t figured it out myself.

(Incidentally, I have in my files an unpublished short story called Miss February that features a prominent technology from the Pembroke Hall novels, along with a police lieutenant named Monmouth. Got a migraine yet?)

And what about Drawing Down the Moon? It seems to be the noteworthy exception. I have had it done for a while now, but I have no desire to go and play in Ricky and Kada’s world again. Personally, I think that has to do with the quality of this particular project – along with my actually managing to say everything I wanted to say on the subject during the course of the novel. Well, maybe someday soon you’ll get to read it and see what your opinion is. Meantime, perhaps these unwritten sequels will find a little new life in your imaginations – as they once had in mine.