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Gary A. Braunbeck's Signal Flares from Cedar Hill

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Over the next 12 months JournalStone Publishing will be re-releasing all of the Cedar Hill novels in hardcover, trade paperback, and electronic copies, as well as a new short-story collection and collection of novellas. The Cedar hill novels are the Author's Preferred versions, meaning that all of them will contain material that was either cut from the original paperback releases, or material that I chose to excise before submitting the manuscripts to Leisure Books (publisher of the first 5 Cedar Hill novels).
In the case of every re-release, you will find new material that has recently been added, material that never appeared anywhere before because, well, it never existed before. The reason for this s simple (and I hope the explanation doesn't try your patience).

As the Cedar Hill Cycle has taken form over the past twenty-eight years, numerous and subtle connections between stories, novels, and characters have revealed themselves to me with high-definition clarity. The over-arcing connections -- the major correlations -- I knew from the start, so many of these connections were revelations to me, and hopefully will be the same for Cedar Hill readers, as well.

Example: Cedar Hill readers know that a kind, lovely woman by the name of Ethel volunteers at the Open Shelter. She sits at a table near the entrance and takes the names of the Shelter's guests as they come in, but she also takes monetary donations from anyone who wants to drop by and throw a few bucks into her jar. All the years i've been writing about her and the Shelter, a part of me always wondered what she did in the outside world to support herself.

Imagine my surprise when I realized that Ethel was the head nurse at Buzzland -- otherwise known as The Cedar Hill Mental Health Association Emergency Stabilization Center, the place where Martin Tyler finds himself at the beginning of In the Midnight Museum. This really hit me, because it proved to me that every writer has this subconscious continuity checker buried somewhere in the gray matter who keeps track of future connections before the writer him- or herself has even considered -- let alone made -- them.

After twenty-eight years of writing short stories, novellas, and novels set in my imaginary home town, I found myself facing the sobering possibility that there might be dozens -- even hundreds -- of similar connections that I wasn't fully aware of at the time. So I've been going back through all the Cedar Hill Cycle and guess what? I've discovered hundreds of similar instances like the one described previously. This is one of the reasons that it's taken me so long to complete A Cracked and Broken Path; double-checking nearly thirty years' worth of continuity is, well, kind of daunting, to put it euphemistically. But it's also been no end of rewarding, because it's proven to me that I've always known what I was doing ... even if I wasn't aware that I knew what I was doing.

Don't try too hard to wrap your head around that one, lest you give yourself a migraine.

So, at last, the point of this post.

I've gotten a surprising onslaught of e-mails and private messages asking about the specific changes to each novel, what makes this version the "preferred" version, if there are major differences between the JournalStone texts and the texts of the Leisure Books mass-market editions, so I offer to you here a breakdown of what restored and new material you'll find in each novel. Here goes:

First of all, each novel will contain a new Afterword written specifically for the JournalStone editions.


In Silent Graves or The Indifference of Heaven:

1) The center section of the novel -- the areas where there's a story-within-a-story-within-a-story-within-a-story -- have been seriously streamlined; I pruned these sections of every unnecessary word, and the result is a much tighter and clearer delineation of the various overlapping narratives (at one point, there are five overlapping/simultaneous narratives that eventually dovetail, and as proud as I was of this in the original version of the novel, I am doubly so now because it reads, methinks, with sharper focus).

2) A handful of shorter scenes -- most of them simple "character" moments -- have been restored.

3) Several existing dialogue scenes have been slightly expanded to further explore secondary themes and again add an extra layer or two the characterization.

4) A shortish sequence with a couple of security guards has been almost entirely cut from the text. Upon re-reading the novel, the editors at JournalStone pointed out to me that this shift in POV was ultimately unjustified, and read like an author's attempt to inject phony suspense. They were right. So that sequence is gone. You won't notice it missing, trust me.



Oooh, boy, has this one been something of a bear to wrestle with and reconstruct. I won't bore you by listing the reasons why the version published by Leisure Books was only about fifty percent of the novel I'd original envisioned and submitted; suffice to say that once you've signed a contract and cashed the advance check, you, as a professional, are obligated to engage in ongoing give-and-take with your editor. Don D'Auria was always great to work with, and he had solid business reasons for requesting (and in one instance, insisting on) certain changes to be made in the narrative. So, are the changes in Keepers in the minutiae or are they major?

Answer: Major. So major. This isn't so much a restoration as it is a reconstruction. To whit:

1) A major subplot that was added to the original version has been cut. I never felt comfortable with this part of the novel because it read to me like something that had been added. Neither Don nor a majority of the novel's admirers shared this opinion with me. This subplot -- everything with Gil's nephew Carson and his comic books -- is gone. Carson and his comic books will come back in a new novella form in the future, but they're gone from Keepers.

2) The romantic subplot between Gil and Beth was heavily trimmed for the Leisure version; all of it has been restored.

3) The overall structure of the story has been altered; where the Leisure Books version was rather straightforward in a this-happened-and-then-this-happened-and-then-this-happened-because-of it manner, the original structure was more fragmented in order to better echo Gil's suppressed and fragmented memories. Believe me when I tell you that the structure alone is a huge change.

4) The more fantastical/Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett (Lord Dunsany)/HPL elements that had to be toned down have been restored, and as a result gave way to a brand-new sequence wherein Gil encounters dozens of ancient mythical creatures that may be the most whimsical sequence I've ever written. We shall see.

5) I have also added several new short scenes that better connect the events at the end of the novel to events that serve as a major element in A Cracked and Broken Path. (Of all the novels in the cycle that I thought would end up serving as the foundation from upon which all the others would build, Keepers was always on the bottom of the list. I assumed that Coffin County would serve as the foundation novel. Imagine my surprise when I realized I was wrong.)

6) The final sequence has been slightly expanded, but if you're hoping the nebulous nature of the very last scene will be cleared up, it won't be. For the sake of the overall arc of the entire cycle, it was necessary that one of the books end with reason and reality completely shattered and left in a smoldering heap.


Mr. Hands:

1) To this day several readers remain confused about the dovetailing timelines of Lucy and Ronnie (well over a decade elapses between the end of Ronnie's story and the start of Lucy's) and that was my fault; I offered only one brief line that contained that most vital information. I have taken care to more clearly delineate the differences.

2) A scene between Lucy and her ex-husband has been restored. I initially cut this because it seemed to me at the time to be superfluous, a needless rehashing of themes previously presented, but upon re-reading (and polishing) this scene, I realized that it contained numerous elements that added depth to Lucy's character, gave a better idea of what the disintegration of her marriage was like, and the devastating effect all of it had on her ex-husband. Some might call this scene an instance of "kitchen-sink drama," and it very well may be, but for my money it introduces an additional emotional layer to the novel that was not there before, and further muddies the moral waters.

3) I have restored material dealing with Ronnie's past. There's not a lot of it, but I restored it for the same reasons I restored the scene with Lucy and her ex-husband.

4) The International Horror Guild Award-winning novella "Kiss of the Mudman" will still be included here as it was with the Leisure Books edition, but this too has been tweaked in order to better illustrate the connections with the cycle.


Coffin County:

Aside from some briefly-expanded dialogue scenes, this novel will contain only one change, but it's a big one: the final three sequences have been expanded, and a fourth sequence (which at the time I feared made the ending waaaaaay too dark, if you can imagine such a thing) has been restored. No one aside from me has ever read this lengthy sequence. A part of me still fears that it will make everything too dark -- for the first time ever in my career, I've written a sequence that creeps me out -- but this sequence demanded to be restored, and who am I to argue with that the story wants?

The short stories "Union Dues" and "I'll Play the Blues for You" will still be included because they are thematically central to the cycle.


But what if Far Dark Fields? This one is a bit tricky.

Far Dark Fields was the novel that was originally intended to be A Cracked and Broken Path, but for tear- and headache-inducing reasons it didn't work out that way. But it was important to me that this novel still remain as a part of the cycle somehow, albeit peripherally, and after (literally) years of struggling with how to achieve this, the answer announced itself as I worked on Path: Far Dark Fields is the novel that the now-disappeared Geoff Conover wrote to throw everyone off his track should they be searching for him, specifically his two (now-grown) children and his granddaughter who, at the start of Path, are fugitives traveling cross-country in a desperate attempt to locate him ... if he's still alive.


I hope this answers all your questions about the forthcoming Author's Preferred editions of the Cedar Hill novels. I'll be posting updates both here and on Facebook as the publication date for each book nears.

Thank you for your support, dear readers. I treasure you more than puny words can express.
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Today -- in fact, less than half an hour ago, I delivered A Cracked and Broken Path to Jason Sizemore at Apex. I am a bit tuckered, so to quote The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra: I sleep now.

I thought you good folks might like knowing this.

When I come up for air tomorrow, I'll be -- at long last -- finishing a novella that my dear friend Stephen Clark at Tasmaniac has been waiting on since the dinosaurs ruled the Earth: Clipper Girls .

Over the next couple of weeks I'm going to use my LJ to talk about the process of writing Path , concentrating on how it almost wasn't the book I wanted it to be. It will be either fascinating or fatuous, depending on your interest and patience.

You stand warned.

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Long story condensed to Readers' Digest length:

For numerous reasons that would only spoil your day should they be listed here, my on-going fight against my clinical depression went into full-tilt-bozo retreat about 5 years ago, and it's only now that I'm managing to amass forces for a new assault against it. Still not there yet, but you can't have everything.

Point is, I lost a lot of time, a good bit of writing, several friends, and damn near all my self-esteem to this. Working on catching up and regaining some measure of worth and dignity in my own eyes.

The one constant when trying to explain this to the people in my life was the someone inevitably would go the Tom Cruise route and say something like, "Just get over it," or "You need to buck up," or some-such happy horseshit. It still amazes me how many folks think that genuine, clinical depression is just a matter of having "... the blues ..."

If you or someone you care about struggles against some form of mental illness on an hourly, day-to-day basis, please copy the image here and share it in as many places as you'd like. (If you clock twice on the image, you'll get a bigger, sharper version. I'm learning how to use this scanner again.)

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This is a copy & paste from an announcement I made over on Facebook; some of the remarks are FB-specific, but the majority of the post is, methinks, universally applicable -- insomuch as that phrase has any significance on-line:

Please Note That I Am POLITELY Asking The Following (There Have Been numerous Instances Of This In The past Couple Of Weeks):

1) If you are a writer to whom I have suggested submitting a piece of your work to certain publisher, please DO NOT tell said publisher that I did so *unless you have my specific and direct permission to do so* -- as in :"Tell (insert editor's name here) that I told you to submit this to him/her."

I have worked for over 35 years to amass what little clout I have with certain editors and publishers, and when someone decides without asking that it's all right for them to borrow on that clout without my permission, it reflects badly on me, and I receive borderline nasty grams from said editors and publishers. So, to recapitulate: PLEASE DO NOT TELL THEM I TOLD YOU TO SUBMIT UNLESS YOU HAVE MY DIRECT PERMISSION TO DO SO.

2) If you are a writer *for* whom I have submitted a piece of work to an editor or publisher (and this happens rarely, just so you know), PLEASE DO NOT MAKE A PUBLIC INQUIRY ABOUT THE STATUS OF YOUR WORK HERE ON THIS MESSAGE BOARD; please do so via e-mail or private message. Whenever someone does this, I get a half-dozen e-mails from writers I don't know and whose work I've never read asking me to do the same for them. I am no one's go-between. If I have done this for you, it's because I believed enough in your work not only to suggest said publisher, but to act *initially* as the one who makes your introduction.

3) If you wish to make an announcement about an upcoming book release/signing/appearance/what-have-you, be it for yourself or on behalf of someone else, and you wish for that information to be shared here on my FB page, PLEASE DO NOT JUST POST THE INFORMATION AND THE LINK WITHOUT ASKING ME FIRST. It's just rude. This page -- and that for my fan club -- are not your personal billboard signs. If you think that the event you want to publicize would get a larger response were it to be mentioned here, then please ask me via e-mail or private message. If you do not, said announcement will be immediately deleted.

I hesitated to bring up any of this, but each of these things has happened numerous times over the past few weeks, and I find it *irksome.* (Google it)

I consider my 2 FB pages to be a sort-of virtual "home" and -- to quote a great line from MAN OF La MANCHA, "In my home there will be courtesy."

I show it to you; please respond in the same manner.
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For those of you who missed director Earl Newton's lovely short film One of Those Faces (based on my short story "Rami Temporalis") it's now on my Facebook page so, please, go, view, enjoy:


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