December 27

If I stay on schedule, today I’ll hit the halfway point on my new novel. This one is bats**t inside…which, yes, I suppose describes pretty much all of them, but still…

Last night I finished reading Quentin Tarantino’s Cinema Speculation, which filled me with a great desire to watch a bunch of the ’70s movies he writes about. No time for that now, though. I’ve got a novel to write!

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December 24

Merry Christmas Eve! I’m usually opposed to book-burning, but if you need to set fire to a few of my books to stay warm, it’s totally fine. If they were autographed copies, I’ll write my name in the ashes.

The new novel is just over one-third done. Things are getting insane! Just kidding…things were insane long before the one-third mark. I’m not sure that I would classify this book as a full-on horror/comedy, but there’s a very strong “WTF?” element to the proceedings.

I’m finally catching up with the third season of Barry. I’d forgotten how GOOD this show is. As funny as any sitcom, but with real stakes.

December 22

I’ve made my writing goal six days out of six since I started the new novel. Right now, I’m planning to sustain that goal for Day #7. But I’m also planning to do a very careful rewrite of the 71 pages I’ve written so far (I start each day by going over the previous day’s work, but today I want to start from the beginning) so we’ll see what happens…

Look! It’s my author copies of Bentley Little’s The Store. No, Bentley Little is not my pseudonym. I wrote the foreword. When Lividian Publications asked me to do this, my initial reaction was “Yes! Yes! Of course!” followed by slack-jawed astonishment that they would’ve asked me to do it. It’s a fantastic presentation of a fantastic novel, and I hope my dorky little foreword doesn’t diminish the glory of this package.

December 20

It took me almost until midnight, but I did make my writing goal yesterday, so I’m four for four since I started this new book. I also braved the holiday lines at the post office (much longer than usual, but a far cry from the postal hellscape of Atlanta or Tampa), re-recorded the Skull Sessions podcast episode that didn’t record (for the most part, an entirely new conversation, with the occasional callback to what was tragically lost), and enjoyed my free birthday burrito from Moe’s.

Today I won’t be going to the post office, won’t be recording a podcast, and I don’t get another free burrito, so I guess I’m just working on the book.

December 18

The new book (which now has a tentative title, but I shan’t share it quite yet) is going smoothly. Two days in a row I’ve hit my word count goal. How will Day Three go…???

Yesterday I did my final proofread on Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (honestly, just a scan for formatting glitches at this point) so now I guess I just wait until April 14th for the book to come out!

Got the almost-final pages of “The Gaslighting of the Shrew,” which is my four-page story for the bonus comic included with Shakespeare Unleashed. Basically they need to make one dialogue bubble point at a different person and it’s good to go.

Recording a podcast this afternoon (Bubble Bath With Baph), joined by Bridgett Nelson. Unlike most of the podcasts I’ve done recently, this one is audio-only, so it doesn’t matter that I’m in desperate need of a haircut.

December 17

Started a new novel yesterday! That wasn’t the plan. The plan was to finally, finally finish Creep Out, my possessed ventriloquist dummy book, and publish it in January.

Then I discovered that Grady Hendrix has a new novel coming out in January, How To Sell a Haunted House. I’ve known that for months. What I did NOT know is that it’s….a possessed puppet book. D’oh!!!

I’m sure the two books are completely different, but I don’t want to publish an evil puppet book at the same time a much higher profile puppet book comes out. Creep Out isn’t being flushed away; I’m just going to put some distance between the two.

So I decided to start something brand-new. It doesn’t have a title yet. It’s a crime thriller that takes a very early hard left turn into supernatural horror. With It Watches in the Dark and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes done, and a major behind-the-scenes project probably on hold until January, I’m going to try to get as much done on this new book as I can over the next couple of weeks.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes Preface

My novelization of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes will be published April 14th, 2023. “We can’t wait that long!” people are shrieking. “Please, please, for the love of all that is holy, at least give us a teaser! Something to get us through these endless lonely nights as we await your masterpiece! We’ll do anything, no matter how demeaning or illegal! Please!”

Fine. Here’s the preface…

On October 8th, 1978, a motion picture was released that would change cinema history forever. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes was met with instant critical acclaim, with Leonard Maltin proclaiming that “it makes Casablanca look like Exorcist II: The Heretic.” Siskel & Ebert suggested that they would need thumb-enhancement surgery to sufficiently convey the intensity of their two thumbs up. (Though Ebert backed out, Siskel did in fact get the surgery, spending the remainder of his life with a grotesquely oversized thumb that was prone to infection.) When critic Pauline Kael wrote a review giving it a mere three stars out of four, suggesting that it wasn’t quite as amazing as everybody said, readers were so enraged that they burned down her home with her still inside, and she remains dead to this day.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes was nominated for nine Academy Awards but only won five, including Best Foreign Language Film, a category it qualified in because of the language spoken by the tomatoes. The previous year, Star Wars had won an Oscar for Visual Effects; in an unprecedented move, the award was rescinded, because the sheer spectacle of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes made Academy voters realize that George Lucas’ film was unworthy of the honor.

Even today, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (hereafter abbreviated to Attack of…Killer Tomatoes) tops almost every list of the finest motion pictures ever produced. While classics like Gone with the Wind have lost their luster, Attack of…Killer Tomatoes is timeless, revealing new layers of thematic depth with every viewing. It’s not just that the tomatoes are a metaphor. It’s that every individual tomato is a separate metaphor. 

And yet there has never been a novelization.

Pulitzer-prize winning author James Michener had been hired to write one, but found the project too challenging and returned his seven-figure advance after three years of struggle. The project circulated through the publishing community for decades. Judy Blume claimed to have finished it, but an FBI raid on her home revealed that she had only written half of the first chapter. The world became despondent. It is said that Queen Elizabeth II threatened to “start chopping off some [expletive deleted] heads if I don’t get my [expletive deleted] tomato novel,” though some scholars feel this is apocryphal.

My first involvement with the project came about twenty years ago, when I had a meeting with the movie’s screenwriters, Costa Dillon, John DeBello, and Steve Peace to discuss writing a book version of their masterpiece. They laughed in my face. I mean that they said, “Move your face closer…closer…a little closer…there you go!” and then literally laughed in it. Flecks of spittle from all three of them struck my nose and chin. I walked out of the meeting with tears of shame burning their way down my cheeks like rivers of lava.

I vowed revenge, then remembered that I’m too lazy for such things. I forgot all about it until last year, when I made an astonishing discovery: a novelization had been written and never published.

Yes, Ebeneezer Tomatobookwriter had written it in 1979. (“Tomatobookwriter” was his real name, and it actually dates back to the 16th century. Ebezeener told me that he didn’t even notice the coincidence until he was nearly finished with the book.) 

When I visited his home, he showed me the manuscript, bound in gold. 

“Why didn’t you ever publish it?” I asked.

“It would always be my greatest achievement,” he explained. “I couldn’t let my career peak so soon. I needed to wait until I knew it would be my final work.”

“Are you near death?” I asked.

“Oh, goodness no,” he said. “I’ve got at least thirty or forty more years in me.”

And in that moment I asked myself: was I prepared to take a human life? For the third time? Yes, indeed I was. I beat Ebeneezer Tomatobookwriter to death with the very manuscript you’re reading right now.

As I write these words, I’ll admit that I’m questioning the wisdom of confessing to first degree murder right here in the preface. Also, maybe I shouldn’t be blabbing that I’m trying to pass a dead man’s work off as my own. I might regret it later. But I’m feeling kind of privileged and invulnerable, and I don’t feel like rewriting this whole thing, so I will let it stand.

Anyway, here it is, the novelization of Attack of…Killer Tomatoes, hereafter expanded to Attack of the Killer Tomatoes to boost the word countI hope you enjoy it, and I will wallow in despair if you don’t. 

Jeff Strand

Beardmore Glacier, Antarctica

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is available for pre-order from the retailer of your choice. But if you want it two weeks early, for 35% off, order by December 2nd directly from the publisher, Encyclopocalypse Publications and use coupon code BLACKFRIDAY2022.

(Two paperback editions available, trade and mass market! Yes, you can get it in a version that looks like it was published in 1978, complete with B&W movie stills!)

(While you’re here, why not subscribe to my newsletter? It’s wacky.)

Black Friday Tomato Attack!

My insane novelization of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes will be published April 14th, 2023, by Encyclopocalypse Publications!

If your reaction is “Why the hell would I buy a novelization of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes?” then you’ve learned all you need to know for this newsletter and can move on to other e-mails.

If your reaction is “I’ll definitely buy that, but I’m happy to pay full price and there’s honestly no real urgency about it,” I thank you for your time and I’ll promote it extensively later.

If your reaction is “OMG!!! I need this ASAP!!!” then I’m here to tell you about the Black Friday sale! 

This book will be published in two paperback formats: a trade paperback like almost all of my other books, but also a mass-market sized edition, just like you would’ve bought in 1978! 

If you order directly from the publisher, get 35% off the cover price with code BLACKFRIDAY2022, and you’ll get the book two weeks earlier than the commoners! 

Get it HERE.

November 7

In my last update, I said “Now I’m going to write like crazy. I’ve got edits on It Watches in the Dark to tackle…”

But one of the major behind-the-scenes projects I’ve been teasing for a couple of years has had a drastic change in form, and it turned into a “drop everything and work, work, work!” situation. But I turned in the deliverable late last night, so NOW I’ve got edits on It Watches in the Dark to tackle…

November 1

Welcome to November! Well, my Halloween fun is over. It was a great month, with one convention (Multiverse) and a trip to Pennsylvania where I got to hang out with a bunch of my horror-writing brethren. I saw Evil Dead: The Musical (we weren’t supposed to be sitting in the splatter zone, but in this venue, pretty much the entire place was the splatter zone), The Descent in an actual cave, and the original Dawn of the Dead in the theater in 3-D.

Other Halloween movies were Smile, Little Evil, Barbarian, Terrifier 1 and 2, Pearl, Candyman, Coming Home in the Dark, Deadstream, and probably something else that I’ve forgotten.

Now I’m going to write like crazy. I’ve got edits on It Watches in the Dark to tackle…

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