Manuscripts Burn


"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Monday, December 31, 2012

Manuscripts Burns's Top 12 Posts of 2012!

In an idea inspired by Chihuahua Zero's blog post here I've decided to bring you not just the top ten rated posts of the year, but the top TWELVE rated posts of the past year. 

12.  YOU DECIDE!!!!™ (Prologue) - this is my 200,000 word Romney/Obama slash fiction novel

11.  Fifty Shades of Copyright Grey Area - a thorough debunking of the myth that oncology recapitalizes philately

10.  Bar Mitts (Vah) - a lengthy, Die Hard III-style series of practical riddles that, once entered upon, inevitably results in the reader's cold, painful death

9.  "Pre" posterous - at long last I reveal my true identity: Automobile von Bismarck

8.  Serial Commas...YOU DECIDE!!!™ - it's just a link to Facebook

7.  Maverick, LCSW (p. 1) - two columns get into quite a...row.  Get it?  Get it?

6.  Double-Spaced Sentences...YOU DECIDE!!!™ - when a firefight breaks out between two Salvation Army bell ringers on opposite sides of the street, only a mannequin brought to life by an ancient Egyptian curse can reinvent rock and roll

5.  Why I Hate Bangs Redux: Why Everyone Should Hate Bangs - Kevin Bacon

4.  THE NOVEL HEARD 'ROUND THE WORLD - Page 1 - a seven hour video of me masturbating for six minutes set on a loop

3.  Watch out for my ROOOOOOOOOOOTS!!! - all the lyrics to Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" written in reverse

2.  Weasel Words - free iPads!

And finally (drumroll please) the highest rated Manuscripts Burn post, not just of 2012, not just of the 21st century, but (Ima let you finish, Taylor) the greatest of ALL TIME...

1.  Why I Hate Bangs - William Hung's autobiography, in limerick form

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Announcement: The 2013 Hundie Challenge

I've never read Faulkner.  Or Hemingway.  Or Joyce, for that matter.  But that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my literary, er, illiteracy. 

Generally speaking I think I'm moderately well-versed in Russian Lit (check out the etymology of the blog title if you don't believe me) and I've dipped my toe into some classic sci-fi, but I'm not sure if I've read a proper classic since high school.  And even some of those books I just pretended to read.  (Sorry, Mr. Huxley, reading your book was like being on soma, and I only know that that's a drug because I paid attention in class.)

Now, I hate to be an ignoramus in general but I hate to be a book-writing guy (is there a word for that?) who is ignorant of his craft even more.  Sure, I always mean to get around to reading "The Old Man and the Sea" (read: not really) but if there's a new book out about zombie spiders, guess which one is getting read first.  That's right: Hemingway can go get fucked in his clean, well-lighted asshole.

Aaaaaanyway, to correct this considerable character defect, I came up with a resolution last New Year to read a solid hundie of classics from one of those "100 best novels of all time" lists.  But, as often happens with the best laid plans of mice and men, that idea got shot in the head by its non-mentally disabled hobo travelling companion.  (I mean, what was I supposed to do, put down "A Clash of Kings" halfway through?  That shit was GOOOOOOOD and it was only, like, the second book in the series.)

So that never happened last year.  (Thanks a lot, George R.R. Asshole.)  But this year I am resolved to take a crack at it again.  So, here is my plan for 2013:

1.  Pick a list.  After perusing a few possibilities, I decided on the Modern Library Top 100.  Are there problems with this list, up to and including the fact that it's kind of a cheap marketing ploy for novels that only Modern Library publishes and includes precisely zero foreign language works?  Yes.  But will I ever find a perfect list?  No.  Besides, of the other top contenders one was almost entirely French works and the other was compiled in 1908.

2.  Filter out the books on the list that I've already read.  Here's the abysmally short list of books which I've already read.  The reason that I'm removing these is because my intent with this experiment is to expand my literary knowledge, not to re-read the classics I already have under my belt.

3.  Get a library card.  Because fuck capitalism.

4.  Read all 87 books on my revised list in 2013.  I would say "in order" but that's probably not going to happen unless the library begins catering exclusively to my needs at the expense of every other patron.  Besides, the Modern Library's order is more than a little arbitrary to begin with.

5.  Blog about each.  Yes, indeedy, friends, your favorite blog is about to undergo a sea change, at least for the year 2013.  No manuscripts will be burned this coming year (sorry, but it's not like we've been doing it all that regularly since 2010 anyway.)  I was also considering vlogging about every classic on the list, but since I'm pretty confident that won't happen either, I'm not going to make that commitment.  I will try, though.  At least some of reviews will be in a different format than strictly text.

"But Redleg," I can hear you saying, "Surely 87 is a different integer from 100, and, as a prime number, quite a bit lamer.  How can you even sleep at night calling this the 2013 Hundie Challenge when the 'hundie' part is such an obvious, vile lie?"

Hold your rhetorical horses there, strawman commenter.  I'm not finished.  You may have noticed that this post is also a YOU DECIDE!!!™  So, if you'd like to leave a comment on what important classics Modern Library left out I will add them to an auxiliary list that I will try to get to at the end of the year to reach that all-important 100 number.  Why 100?  Well, partially because it's a nice, even number, but mostly because stupid Flav said it couldn't be done.

Monday, December 24, 2012

On Gratitude

My wife says I'm ungrateful.

Not all the time, like as in, "You're an ungrateful lout and you don't appreciate what I do for you."  Just sometimes.  Usually around this time of year, or my birthday, and usually regarding the same thing: receiving presents I neither asked for nor wanted.

I think it's important that I reiterate those two points separately and as a formula of sorts.  I find that I am ungrateful when I receive a present that BOTH:

a)  I did not ask for AND
b)  I did not want

The reason why I phrase it that way is that sometimes you receive a present that you didn't ask for but that someone genuinely saw and thought you would want.  So, for instance, I burn candles while I'm writing although I never ask for candles as a present, partly because what kind of a straight man would ask for a candle as a present but mostly because I like to pick out my own flavors. 

(Yeah, I'm a guy who genuinely enjoys candle flavors.  Fucking sue me.)

So, one time my mother-in-law brought me a string of various candle flavors (it was literally a string, like soap-on-a-rope almost) which was a delightful and unexpected present.  Reaction: gratitude.

Why do I bring up this subject at all?  I don't know, fuck you, it's my blog, I'll write about whatever I want. 

I'm a big proponent of the concept that "it's the thought behind a gift that counts."  However, I think I interpret this in a radically different way from my wife. 

My wife's thought process (I assume) goes like this: "Someone bothered to think to get me a gift.  Any gift, therefore, passes the 'it's the thought that counts' test.  Status: grateful."

My thought process goes more like this: "Someone bought me a gift due to societal pressures/social graces*.  Is it something I asked for?  No.  That's fine, because it could still be something they thought I might like.  Is it something I might reasonably like?  No.  Status: ungrateful."

In my opinion, if someone buys you something that runs completely contrary to what you, as a human being, have ever demonstrated a desire for, then they in fact fail the "it's the thought that counts test" precisely because THEY DIDN'T THINK ABOUT YOU.

I'll give you an example, and this is a real example.  In case you don't know me in real life, I despise having my picture taken.  I am a reverse shutterbug.  Unless immense pressure is brought to bear I will avoid a camera at all opportunities.  I'm that guy who you're pissed off at because his Facebook avatar is always a cartoon or something instead of an actual picture of him.  I've been this way all my life.

When I was deployed to Iraq I had a further concern about picture-taking, namely Operational Security or OPSEC as its more commonly known.  I actually took the time to have lengthy conversations with each of my family memebrs explaining to them that I would not be telling them when and where I was because it would endanger the mission, and I certainly wouldn't be posting picture of myself and my Soldiers and our weapons on MySpace (yeah, this was back in the MySpace days) because, again, terrorists love open access to data about Soldiers online.

So one of my family members asked what I wanted re: care package, to which I had a whole slew of answers because there was some stuff over there I couldn't get or couldn't easily get or just used regularly and needed: cigarettes, Tastykakes, things like that.  Lo and behold, I receive a package in the mail and what does it contain (you can probably guess at this point): a digital camera.  A gift that I quite literally could not use, nor would I happen to like it even if I were not in Iraq, and all this INSTEAD of the things that I might actually have wanted.

I considered this the opposite of a thoughtful present, in fact, I considered it something of an insult as in, "Oh, we know better than you what's important, because of things we learned from Hollywood, and we're deliberately not listening to you talking about saving Soldiers' lives by not giving the terrorists stuff to use against them."  Because I can't tell you how many times I had to hear that sentiment, and then there it was, a $200 hunk of uselessness staring me in the face essentially saying, "We don't care about you or what you say."  I was quite peeved and rather the opposite of grateful.

Does this measured thought process re:gifts calculus make me an ungrateful person?  I don't know.  I tend to think it makes some people jackass gift-givers rather than me ungrateful.  But, whatever.  I still claim the moral high ground in this argument, because at least unlike some people, I don't refer to people as "bitches" while demanding that they give me only money.  Such materialism.  For shame.  Have you forgotten the reason for the season, sir?  It's Jesus.  Or cookies or something, I don't know.

*naturally, if the gift was unexpected or unrequested, or came from someone who had no reason to get me a gift, my status immediately becomes grateful regardless of what it is

Friday, December 21, 2012

On Stolen Valor

The subject of today’s blog post is stolen valor, but with a special emphasis which I shall address shortly.

I was intrigued to learn today of both the existence and the striking down of the Stolen Valor Act, which was essentially a law banning U.S. citizens from pretending to be veterans, or falsifying their military records. I used to hear a lot about phony Soldiers, especially when I was still on active duty, probably because we knew exactly how ridiculous some of these folks looked. I gather that these people get away with posing as service members because most civilians won’t catch the fact that his medals are out of order or ridiculously inflated for his rank, or that his beret was skewed or that he was wearing a black undershirt.

(Seriously, I remember a picture of a guy wearing a black undershirt. That’s ludicrous in a way I don’t even really know what to compare it to. Like a fireman wearing a chef’s hat, or something.)

Anyway, I don’t mean to belabor this point, I guess I just wasn’t aware that they had a law banning this practice, although I had heard the term “stolen valor” quite a bit. See, sometimes these jerkoffs would really boil my blood because they would, say, make a really offensive statement and then claim they were entitled to be heard because of their fake Medal of Honor from ‘Nam. And then other times it was just Grampa claiming he was at the Bulge when he was really still in France. How pissed can you really get about that?

So earlier this year the Supreme Court struck down the Stolen Valor Act (again, I don’t think I was really aware of it in the first place) on what I would consider the “Grampa forgot which campaign he was in” clause. Basically, if you can prosecute someone for lying about his military record, why couldn’t you prosecute someone for lying to mom and smoking or drinking? (No, really, that was one of the justices’ examples.)

So, okay, I guess I’m on board, I can understand why attempting to ban any lying, even odious lying like claiming to be a vet when you’re not, impedes on the First Amendment. Which basically puts the onus on we, the people, and the Fourth Estate, to get their facts straight and to not let people get away with this shit, or anyway, to not report on it without checking first.

Which leads me in a roundabout way to the direct subject of today’s blog. I’m not sure what the correct method of addressing this subject is, so I’m going to pick a method, and if you disagree with it, please let me know in the comments. So here’s my method: first I want you to read this story, which we’ll call the Medal of Honor in ‘Nam Story from here on out. Now I want you to read this story, which we’ll call the Grampa Fibbing Story from here on out.

Okay, if you actually read them both, you’ll probably guess pretty quickly why I was leery about what order to put them in. Basically, they’re the same story, which boils down to: some weirdo thought he would prove a point by “guarding” an elementary school unarmed while in his Marine Corps uniform. The difference is the first story paints the guy as a piece of shit, while the second story paints the guy as kind of a misguided but well-meaning old fellow.

Why am I bringing all this up? Well, first of all, I’d like to hear your opinion of this practice, if you have one. I personally find it objectionable, and I suspect that the fellows doing it are doing it more to get media attention for themselves, personally, than to in any way “protect” children or put their minds at ease. And wearing your uniform to get attention pretty much runs contrary to most concepts of honor inculcated in the military. Even more offensive is that I suspect (but can’t prove, so I’m not overly excited about it) that these two jokers are actually using their uniforms to support a political cause, which is not just a grey area like being a publicity whore, it’s flat out fucking prohibited by the UCMJ.

(If you disagree with me, please let me know, I’m still trying to parse this out, so feel free to let me know in the comments what YOU DECIDE!!!™)

So, all that being said, back to the subject of stolen valor. The reason I was on the fence about whether to present the ‘Nam Story first or the Grampa Story first is that one really colors the other. Because, fundamentally, neither of these men did anything all that different. Neither was authorized to wear his uniform under these circumstances, but both did so anyway out of a sort of a misguided sense of morality. But whereas Grampa actually served in the marines for a while and just dug his uniform out of the attic, ‘Nam MOH guy apparently got booted out after basic.

So, my feeling is that if you agree with the premise of the ‘Nam Story, which is that a piece of shit stole some valor, it really colors your impression of the Grampa Story, making that guy also look like a piece of shit.

But if you agree with the premise of the Grampa Story, which is that this guy really had his heart in the right place but didn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground, it really colors your impression of the ‘Nam Story, making that guy look like a sort of sad sack with a heart of gold.

Well, I think I’ve said enough about how I feel. What do you think?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Why I Hate Bangs IV: The Voyage Bone(r Poison)

Hey, you know who people won't care about if we fuck with them?  Beloved icons of their childhoods, like Zelda.  Yeah, nobody'll give a shit if we ugly her up.

Monday, December 17, 2012

And Now it's Time for America's Favorite Guessing Game...

Palin or Romney?  YOU DECIDE!!!™ 

You get the first name, I get the last name and there are no duplicates. For extra points, post your answer in only 60 seconds and, as always, no googling!


Friday, December 14, 2012

So Whatever Happened With That Whole "NaNo" Thing?

I'm glad you asked!  The answer is, of course, as with every year, I completed the challenge.  However, let's put first thing first. 

Q:  What did I end up calling my work in progress?
A:  Notes From the Undead

Yeah, it was honestly probably going to be that anyway, although I was looking forward to some audience input that never came.  (Wow, that's like the story of my whole time as a blogger in 11 short words!)

Anyway, a few words about this year's manuscript before we take a look at the graph.  The story behind "Notes From the Undead" was actually developed before "The Ghoul Archipelago" way back in 2003-2004.  Back then it had the working title of "Flesh" and I still think of it as the Flesh Series, although given the naming convention I stumbled upon later, I'm thinking of calling it the Gore and Peace Series if it ever actually gets published.

So, back in the early days, when I was just getting into zombies, when all we really had was the Holy Trilogy and a few other odds and sods ("Dead Alive" and the first "Resident Evil" movie spring to mind) I thought it would be really cool if someone wrote an ongoing TV series about the zombie plague, so we could see, for instance, what happened to Peter and Francine after they got on the helicopter.  Clever me, right?  Shit, I could've been a millionaire if I had more clout back then.  Damn you, Frank Darabont!

Anyway, the sketchy part-prose, part script (I think I went back and forth on whether it had to be a smash hit novel before it became a TV series, but TV series was always the goal) version of what was then called "Flesh" focused on a righteous young Armor officer proving that 2LTs weren't incompetent the way everyone seemed to treat them.  I guess I had a chip on my shoulder back then, and you can tell it was old because he wasn't even a Field Artillery officer yet.  This must have been 2003, come to think of it, because no character I created would have been a tanker after I got my first taste of redleg life in 2003.

The other main character was a German (or Swiss, I think I hadn't decided) priest.  I was still a pretty heavily practicing Roman Catholic back then, and I thought the idea of a badass priest was the greatest.  I think the original concept of "Flesh" (now "Notes From the Undead") was a bit of a Catholic apologia, in fact, since there was also some anti-abortion stuff with zombie fetuses and the like.  Although the zombie fetus decidedly crawled out of the belly of a personal enemy of mine, so it seems sour grapes as well as the Catechism were driving me in equal measure a decade ago.

Anyway, you can see the fertile ground from whence sprang our heroes 2LT Ojeda and Fr. Daley.  (For a little taste of Daley's adventure, check out the "Notes" excerpt here.)  And an exciting idea was born.

So what held me up on work for nine years?  Well, put simply, pop culture happened.

The "Dawn of the Dead" remake came out in 2004.  Then "Shaun of the Dead."  Then, well, you know the rest.  A whole flood of zombies, a veritable zombie plague of varying degrees of quality.  As a fan I was in Heaven, but as an artist I was slowly starting to despair.  Suddenly my simple tale of a band of survivors making their way across America in a sort of modern day BSG on earth started to feel stale.  And when "The Walking Dead" hit the airwaves in 2010, as a fanboy I creamed my pants but as the one who "had that idea first" a little part of me died.

"Flesh" as a concept was unceremoniously buried and forgotten about, killed by its own instant status as an imitator.  And it probably would have stayed that way if it weren't for a delightful character by the name of "Howling Mad" Martigan.  And so, like the revenants which it features, "Flesh" staggered out of the grave and back to life.

You see, "Flesh" was always meant to be a TV series, and as a TV series I knew I had to have a plan for a season 2, and potentially seasons 3 and 4.  So I sketched out the whole series as I was fleshing out (ha!) season 1, which would eventually become "Notes From the Undead."  And season 2, to switch things up, was going to be a nautical-themed adventure.  Here are my notes:

High Seas.  Sailing island to island they find an enclave of pirates who rule the Pacific. 

That's it.  That was season 2.  That and a picture in my mind of a shipwrecked crew and their scraggly-bearded captain who had missed the whole zombocalypse by being stuck on the modern-day equivalent of Gilligan's Island.  And so, as you may already be guessing, "The Ghoul Archipelago" was born.

What was great about "The Ghoul Archipelago" (and still is, at the time of this writing) is that it finally takes zombies to a place where they've never been before.  All the tropes of a Joseph Conrad novel or Horatio Hornblower on the high seas haven't been done to death by the undead genre.  In fact, except for a not-quite-what-I-was-doing little book called "Dead Sea" by Brian Keene, I'm not aware of any nautical zombie novels.  So, for NaNo 2010 I wrote mine, and didn't even feel bad about it.

And, as I've often said on this blog, "Archipelago" may be my magnum opus.  It may be the greatest thing I, or any other writer, has ever written.  (Take that, Faulkner!)  And of course, being as it was meant to be season 2 and a side story to the original "Flesh" story well, those stories had to be told, too, didn't they?  Else the tale would be incomplete.

So, there you have it.  If "Ghoul Archipelago" (which is now first, chronologically and dramatically) is a big success, "Notes From the Undead" may, nay, will see the light of day.  And if not, well, I've still got 50,000 words closer to becoming a publishable writer and got to spend time with some of my favorite characters, including some old friends and some new ones. 

So, that being said, here's this year's graph.

So, what's interesting about this?  Nothing much.  Day 3 was a banner day and every day after I did more than the 1666 minimum, and I was finished by Day 24.  (For some reason it says I will complete on December 13 because I downloaded this image on December 13.)

I was considering trying for a 15 day challenge this year, at least that was my intent, but I never had any other banner days after November 3, so it never panned out.  Also different this year, for the first time ever I had NaNo buddies, and I found I was strongly encouraged the whole month to not let my buddy be nipping at my heels (even if he did beat me in the end, the loathsome slug.)

So, any thoughts on this year's NaNo?  Mine or yours?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Source of Our Favorite Blog's Recent Woes

I've received a number of e-mails recently asking what's going on with the blog.

Honestly, I have no idea.  It seems like it may have been hacked.  I keep trying to un-fnord it, but every time I do, it reverts back.

I have my suspicions about the source of the fnords.  I've been doing research into fnord and it's revealed some very suspicious fnords that fnord the fnord fnord fnord.

Fnord fnord fnord fnord lizard fnord fnord fnord people fnord fnord thanks.  Fnord.  Fnord fnord fnord fnord fnord fnord fnord fnord fnord fnord.
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