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."

Friday, March 28, 2014

Would You Like to Ride the Bone Train?

I'm going to begin describing a general sort of story in the next paragraph, and as soon as you've fully figured out where the story is going, go ahead and skip to the third paragraph.

A mysterious antiquities shop opens in town and the proprietor is a friendly, older gentleman whose dress and manner is odd, almost as though he stepped out of an earlier time period. The man is overwhelmingly kind and whenever people come into his store, he seems to send them away with free merchandise and avuncular advice. Around this point, when no one else is around to watch him except the reader or the audience, the man smiles just a little bit too widely, or maybe laughs evilly to the camera. Then gradually it becomes clear that the objects he has been handing out are not mundane antiques, no, in fact they cause pain and pestilence and ruin lives in the most ironic ways possible, although none of it can be tied directly to the object or the happy-go-lucky store owner who sold it. One of the heroes by now is convinced that the man is some kind of demon or evil presence, and while he denies it at first, he slowly reveals his true nature and perhaps even begins to enjoy that one character is like Cassandra, screaming about how evil he is while no one else will listen. Finally either on his own or after painfully convincing some allies, the heroes all work together and banish the devil and all is right with the small town again...or is it?

Okay, you finally made it to paragraph three. If you followed the instructions, how long did it take you to jump down here? Three sentences? Two? Only one? Did you get it in the first sentence?

There's a reason I asked you, dear reader, to jump through this hoop for me. I want to talk a little bit (just a tiny little bit) about storytelling, but mostly I want to tell you about a great new show. Now this story, the sort of NEEDFUL THINGS archetype, is very common and we see it all the time on anthology TV, in short stories, and the like such that we know all the beats. The pleasure in reading such a story, therefore, is primarily in the originality of the ironic punishments, and perhaps in the individuality of the heroes and how they banish the demon, etc. etc. Now, bearing this story in mind I want to tell you about a television show I watched earlier this week called Rick and Morty. If you've never seen the show, Rick is a nihilistic scientist and a bit of a drunk.

In this week's episode, Rick drives his granddaughter to her new job, walks in the door, and within about thirty seconds sizes up the situation, turns to the mild-mannered older gentleman and says, "So, what's your deal? Are you The Devil?"

That's a minute or two into a thirty minute show! Normally, with ordinary act breaks and everything else, the hero probably wouldn't even begin to suspect that the owner of the curiosity store is not all he seems until the first act break, and he or she probably wouldn't be certain of it until the second act break, and then the last ten minutes or so would be the big climax. By cutting straight to the chase the show opens up whole new avenues of storytelling. Instead of everyone in town needing to be convinced that the store and its objects are evil, everyone automatically buys into that and begins going to Rick to have their objects uncursed. Rick's granddaughter allies with The Devil who becomes suicidal when his ruse is uncovered, and together they go on to found an evil internet startup.

Rick and Morty is probably my favorite show on the air at the moment, which is a shame because a lot of that is due to this season's Archer and Justified, two long-time staple favorites being just terrible this season. I'll level with you: I watch basically everything Adult Swim produces. There are a few rare exceptions, for instance I couldn't handle Mondo Wrestling Alliance and I thought Delocated was unbearably stupid. But for the most part I started watching [as] in 2001 or thereabouts and have seen almost everything they have to offer. Rick and Morty isn't just the latest act of undeniable genius from that network, it strikes me as a whole new paradigm for television storytelling going forward. I've liked the show, even loved it, since it debuted in November, but I couldn't quite put my finger on why until this week.

The "why" is just that there's no bullshit. So much of storytelling, especially genre storytelling, and double especially serialized genre storytelling, is vamping for time. There's always a mystery, there's always someone who believes first, and then there's always so much time put into convincing other characters until finally everyone's on board. And that's fine, or it was fine, for the last seventy-odd years of television as a broadcast medium. But now that we have a generation of viewers whose grandparents watched the Twilight Zone. I'm not going to pretend like I don't enjoy sitting down and watching a sci-fi show or an anthology show go through the beats, but I also do tend these days to get a sneaking sense of "come on, just get on board already!" Like, how long is it going to take for the kid to convince his parents (or whoever) that his teacher (or whoever) is a vampire (or whatever?) It's going to happen eventually!

When I was dicking around with making KINGDOM a TV show, I even marked down some of the genre-necessitated shows that I thought would be fun to cover. Here are some of the ones I came up with:

1.) Lotus-eater machine (aka "it was all a dream")
2.) Honey, I Shrunk the Recurring Cast
3.) Everybody's mind get switched into a different body
4.) Grey goo scenario (aka "the nanites are self-replicating!")

And so on. I'd seen them all so many times before I knew I had to put my twist on them. And Rick and Morty does that but it just cuts out the whole middle part. There's just no fooling Rick. (Morty, his grandson and sidekick, is another matter entirely.) Earlier this season they set up Rick for a lotus-eater, Matrix-type scenario and within thirty seconds Rick had identified Morty, normally above reproach, as part of the scenario. The whole rest of the episode played out with (get this!) Rick being SMARTER than the actual audience. I'm not going to lie: I, of course, thought that Morty was real and Rick, in a fit of drunkenness, had accused him and then realized his mistake. And by the end of the episode I realized that A CHARACTER IN A TV SHOW WAS SMARTER THAN ME.

I said I was going to try to limit my talk about storytelling, and I will, but if you know literally nothing about how a story is constructed, then it would behoove you to know that the difference between what the character knows and what the audience knows is the key to creating tension. It's called dramatic irony. So, imagine a show where you know what the villain's plan is and the hero doesn't . That's one kind of dramatic irony. Another kind is when the heroes make a plan off-screen and the audience doesn't know what it is (think "Ocean's Eleven.")

In almost every case, dramatic irony requires you not to know stuff. It's the magic of storytelling. You just don't know what you're not shown. The most exciting kind of dramatic irony is when you can't guess what the character is going to do, even though all the clues are laid out in front of you. (Think Tyrion's chain trick from A CLASH OF KINGS.) But to have a character genuinely be smarter than the audience? That's a feat. That's really...that's something there. That's...that's...that's Rick and Morty. It's just Rick and Morty. Rick and Morty and their adventures, Morty. RICK AND MORTY FOREVER AND FOREVER A HUNDRED YEARS Rick and Morty. Some...things. Me and Rick and Morty runnin' around and...Rick and Morty time...a- all day long forever...all a, a hundred days Rick and Morty! Forever a hundred times...OVER and over Rick and Morty...adventures dot com...WWW dot at Rick and Morty dot com w...w...w... Rick and Morty adventures...a hundred years...every minute Rick and Morty dot com...w w w a hundred times...Rick and Morty dot com.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Tribute to my UK Fans and Supporters

G'Day mates! Today we're going to take a trip across "The Pond" (aka Lake Michigan) to a land of splendor and mutton: Great Britain!

That's right, the famous British Isles. Old...Jolly. Fogerella. Richard Dawson's Creek.

The royal banner of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
or as it's more commonly known, "Fancy Ol' Queenie."

And why, pray tell are we journeying to The Big Tea Drinky? Well, that's simple my friends. Just yesterday I received the coveted double imprimatur from the British Ministry of Zombies! That's right! Both BRAINEATER JONES and THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO received 5-star (or as they're known in the UK, "rough dinkum") reviews.

So, first let's stop by me brand spankin' new Amazon UK Page and pick up our passports!

Our fanciful cyber-trip down the Thames starts with a visit to our good friend Louise Wise over on what I assume is the good shore! Hi, Louise! Toot toot! Wow, take a look at that double-decker bus over yonder. And don't forget to stop by the famous Tomes of the Soul while we're here in Whitechapel!

Next lets head up Norf where I unnastan they talk diffrin or sumfink so's as I Kent* (ha!) unnastan 'em, and visit our good friend aufor Guy Haley!  While we're here, why not enjoy a taste of that quintessential British delicacy, Ginger Nuts of Horror?

Next stop is the land of Irvine Welsh, haggis, and countless jokes about why Sean Connery played a Spaniard in that movie: Scotland. And while we're in the highlands, don't forget to visit friend o' the blog (or is "o'" an Irish thing?) Sharon Stevenson, whose review of TGA has set many a kilt aquiver.

And what trip to Merry Britain Town would be complete without visiting the King? Yes, that's right, I mean of course The King of Horror! God rest ye, merry gentleman!

Well, friends and compatriots, that concludes our virtual tour of our good friends (and hopefully good humored friends) in the United Kingdom. Tune in for our next culturally insensitive trip abroad when we'll be visiting Belgium!

*Yes, I'm aware Kent is in the South and that this, while gibberish, most closely resembles Cockney and not Northern. But if that was your first clue that this post was a joke, well then you, sir, may be drunk, but I'm ugly, and at least in the morning you'll be sober.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What a Piece of Work is a Brony

When I was, oh, let's say, 12, I inherited what I thought was a bangin' Metallica shirt from my older sister. I was a somewhat awkward kid, not *quite* on the bottom rung of the social ladder, but not too far from the bottom, either. I actually suspect that at a different school my life would have been a living hell, but I benefited from:

a) my generally obliviousness to life, and b) living in a very wealthy town where rich kids didn't tend to dirty their knuckles beating up on the poors

In any case, as a tween I was discovering the power of music to move you into the right social circles, or at least open up doors for you. And I was constantly flirting with ways to be "cool" or, at the very least, to improve my station in the food chain. Wearing this Metallica shirt seemed like a slam dunk for me. Let's take a look at it now:

No, I don't still have it, dickbrain. I found this photo on ebay.
 So, did you catch my mistake there? I thought "Metallica = cool." But of course everyone at school thought "naked old man = uncool." I made it through that day dealing with potential bullies who were luckily in varying states of confusion asking "Is that your Dad?" when I would point out the Metallica logo and earn a confused decision to mutually ignore one another. What had happened was I had gambled with the rules of the playground and lost.

So fast forward twenty years and most of you have probably by now read this story about a young "brony" or male My Little Pony fan who brought his lunch sack to school and was bullied for it. The bigger uproar, though, seems to be over a school administrator who told the kid that maybe if he didn't want to get bullied, he shouldn't bring a My Little Pony lunchbox to school. This is the point where the general flow of public panic loses me. Because, yes, that administrator is correct. If you don't want to take a bunch of shit, you don't bring a damn My Little Pony lunchbox to school. I'm not saying it's right. I'm not even saying it's defensible. But what it is, though, is fucking obvious.

At any point was this kid under the impression that he wouldn't get his ass beat if he came to school with a My Little Pony lunchbox? By the time we're five we have a fair understanding of the way the world works, and after a few years in school we probably have a keener sense of social expectations and obligations. What I'm asking is, was there really a point where what was glaringly obvious to the school administrator ("My Little Pony lunchbox = ass beatings") was not obvious to the kid who had to live and struggle and survive and hopefully thrive in that social environment every single day? Like, was he really confused about what the outcome was going to be? Or did he decide that he was defiantly and proudly going to make his stand? And if he did decide he was going to make his stand, then why is he complaining about it now?

And all other things being equal, if the kid really was that oblivious, were his parents as well? The kid did not buy his own lunchbox. So this mother, presumably around my age, went to the store with her son, and said to herself, "Oh, My Little Pony. I used to play with those when I was a girl. I'm sure this will in no way cause my son to get his ass beat at school." Like, isn't that why we have parents? So they can tell us when we're making bad life decisions, not underwrite them?

I'll give you another example from my own childhood. A lifelong cartoon fan, I watched Pokemon like clockwork every day when I came home from school, well into high school. I was what you might call a Pokemon fan. However, valuing my own health and well-being, I did not go to school and loudly announce that I would be watching Pokemon later that day and hey, did anyone want to see my Squirtle/Misty slash fiction. (I'm exaggerating, of course. Everyone knows Squirtle wouldn't touch that uptight bitch Misty with a ten-foot pole.)

My point is that I didn't feel that society had to adapt to me. I had some obligation to accept my social expectations, or, at a minimum, to accept the consequences if I didn't. I mean, hell yeah, there were kids that came to school with the contemporary equivalent of a My Little Pony lunchbox, and defiantly so. And they accepted their lumps as a consequence of that.

I'm just picturing myself coming to work unshaven in flip-flops and a bathrobe with a half-empty bottle of gin in my bathrobe pocket. There's nothing illegal about that, and assuming I don't actually drink from the gin at work, probably not even anything that violates workplace guidelines. Like, my point is, I could 100% do that. I could try to make some point about how my work isn't any different even though I dress like I'm unemployed. I could legally, morally, reasonably do this. But then if my boss came to me and said, "Hey, maybe if you don't want everyone to treat you like a bum, don't come to work in a bathrobe with a booze bottle" would I get all defiant and angry and call the media in?

I don't have all the answers, obviously, and I get it, there's two sides to every story. And maybe the whole point of this exercise is that we should strive for a world where there are no social expectations and everyone can just do whatever the fuck they want and if I want to go to work naked or dressed like a clown then I should be allowed to. I can't deny that a lot of social mores are just junk, outdated, bigoted junk. But then there are other things that just exist because, hey, we all have to co-exist on this rocking sphere together, so maybe don't go into 7-11 barefoot. I don't know.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Katy Perry Theory

I have this non-scientifically proven marketing concept. I call it the Katy Perry Theory.

Pictured: a non-copyrighted image of the theory's eponym
So, the first time you hear a Katy Perry song, you turn the knob* right? Then the second time you hear it you let it play all the way through. Then by the third time you hear it you’re like, “you’re gonna hear me rooooooooooooooaaaaaaar!”

I used three steps because of the rule of threes and three being the perfect number and all that, but really my point is that it’s a process. I can’t tell you how many pop songs I’ve hated at first, grown lukewarm to over time, and finally grown to love. It’s a simple process, really, and one that record companies love to take advantage of. All you have to do is hear a song enough times and it goes from being gross to being familiar to being pleasant.

I have the same thought on marketing my books. You may have noticed (at least I hope you have) that I’ve been writing a lot of guest blog posts and doing a bunch of interviews and things lately. You can see the whole slate all the way back to the beginning of time, for BRAINEATER JONES here and for THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO here. And the reason I’m doing that is not because I expect to pick up one or two new sales every time I pop up somewhere on the internet (although that would be nice.)

What I really think is going to happen is that the type of person who reads Charnel House Reviews will also read Feed the Zombie Children and possibly The Bookie Monster. So Smitty (for our purposes this imaginary reader will be called “Smitty”) sits down to his or her computer and the first time he sees BRAINEATER JONES he just scrolls past it. Scrolls right past it because who gives a shit? It doesn’t appeal to him in the least.

Then the second time Smitty sees BJ on some site he loves, maybe his hand hesitates on the mouse. Then by the third time he sees it he starts to think, “Hey, maybe there is something to this zombie detective novel after all” and he buys it.

You know why I think this will work**? Because of NOS4A2. In this case, I’m using myself as an example. I had no idea who Joe Hill was and had zero interest in this book the first time I heard about it. Maybe that makes me a terrible person and an even worse horror author, probably, I don’t know. But in any case by the time I had seen it a few hundred times (possibly literally) it occurred to me that maybe there was something to this NOS4A2 book. And thus was born the Katy Perry Theory, or, perhaps, more accurately, the Joe Hill Theory, but I’m not going to call it that because that purty picture of Katy Perry will probably drive more traffic to my blog. (No offense. I'm sure Joe is a perfectly handsome man. But you know what, bizarrely, is still my most popular post over two years later? Yeah, that one.)

*“turn the knob?” what the fuck is this, 1920s Alabama, Steve?
**obviously not any kind of scientific evidence

Monday, March 10, 2014

It's heeeeeeeeere....

I have been tearing my hair out waiting for permission to make the official announcement:

Honest to goodness, the audiobook is like a whole new novel.  I found myself laughing at the delivery and I wrote the damn thing.  The incredible Steve Rimpici has created an extraordinary set of voices for this book.  Of particular note are:

Alcibé (who now by canon is from a "remote" part of Honduras)
The Old Man (who sounds like he's genuinely underwater)
Henk the tattooist (whose accent Jones the character never identified, but Rimpici split the difference)

But perhaps the greatest voice is that of "my father" which appears only in the foreword and is HILARIOUS.  If the trailer above wasn't enough to whet your appetite, there is an audio sample under each of the purchase links.  

The audiobook is now available from any of these fine outlets:

Friday, March 7, 2014

Interview with The Bookie Monster, Book Reviewer Extraordinaire

Hey, kids, we've got a special and somewhat unusual treat for you on the blog today.  In the writing world (and on this blog in particular) we often get caught up talking about the dichotomy of authors (like me) and publishing industry professionals (like any of my various publishers or hopefully future agent.)  And yet, somehow, we almost never find ourselves talking about...well...readers.  And, really, it's all about the reader.  Without them, none of the rest of us exist.  So today I invited a special guest to bring us a somewhat different perspective.  Shana Festa A.K.A. The Bookie Monster is a well-regarded reviewer in the horror community.  She doesn't get paid a dime for her reviews.  She's just a reader who likes to share her opinions of various modern classics of the horror genre.  So today we're going to be talking to her about that third and perhaps most important pillar of the publishing community: the reader.  But first, a brief introduction.

About the reviewer:

Shay Festa A.K.A. The Bookie Monster reviews horror and paranormal books, with an emphasis (but not limited to) zombie fiction. With a background in Psych Nursing, Shay brings her unique perspective to the online reading community.  You can follow her on FacebookTwitter, or her website.


Steve Kozeniewski:  Can you tell us about how you got your mascot?  Also, does he have a name?  (And, if not, may I suggest "L'il Braineater?")

Bookie Monster:  Sadly, there’s no exciting tale for my little monster. Having zero artistic talent, I knew I had to look elsewhere and found a ‘gig’ on Unfortunately, I chose someone with a very limited grasp on the English language, so my request for a scary, horror or zombie related logo, was interpreted in such a way that I was delivered a cute green blob that looked more like a booger than a monster. But the little guy gave me such a gut-busting laugh that I just had to use him.

"L'il Braineater"

Then I went back to, found an amazing graphic designer, and had her decorate the booger for a bunch of holidays. In fact, my St. Patty’s day logo went live this morning. What do you think? 

Top o' the monstering to ya!

Next up…Easter!

SK:  I'm looking forward to Easter.  I hope he resembles Louise Belcher from Bob's Burgers.  The netiquette for querying an agent or a publisher is very clear and easily accesible online.  For reviewers, not so much.  Can you tell us what you prefer? to see in a review request (i.e. a hard sell, a polite call-to-action, the entire synopsis, a one sentence logline...)?

BM:  I actually have an automated submission process that begins with a questionnaire accessed from the review policy page. I request a plethora of things, most of the time more than I use, but it makes it easier on myself or one of the other reviewers. And means we spend the bulk of our time writing a quality review instead of spinning our wheels to search for the info.

I subscribe to the work smarter not harder motto. The site itself is a beast to maintain, add in managing a large team and trying to read a book a day (not to mention a full time job) and things can easily overwhelm me. So I integrated my submission list with a review request queue that populates for me. Not only is it efficient, but it allows us to see a real time list of submissions by date and select the oldest submissions as our next read. My next wish list item is to find a way to do it all through Wordpress and populate the info into posts. So if anyone knows how to make that magic happen, I am a willing student!

I don’t need the hard sell, and try to accept submissions whenever they align with my target audience and my own and team genre preferences. With so many books already in queue, I’ve actually closed submissions to all but zombie fiction in hopes we can get caught up. I’ve still got a few November submissions to plow through!

SK:  I understand you're a nurse by day.  First of all, can you take a look at this lump on my rear end?  Second, as a medical professional, how do you feel about the depiction of gore in horror?  Does it bother you when authors get anatomy wrong or can you just "switch off" your professional mind and strap in for the ride?  Or are some mistakes okay but others are egregious?

BM:  Um…lucky for me, nurses don’t diagnose, so I suggest seeing a physician for that lumpy bum.

I’ll admit there have been a few occasions I’ve gotten frustrated by some glaring inconsistencies. I look at it this way. Any time you write outside your scope of knowledge, you run the risk of getting it wrong. Research, research, research. Most nurses would say it’s not easy to “switch it off”. Nursing becomes a part of who you are and changes your perspective on a lot of things. They’ll also probably tell you that everything revolves around bowel movements…but that’s beside the point.

It absolutely pulls me right out of the story when I see these type of sloppy errors. Even before I was a nurse I read a piece of zombie fiction (it will remain unnamed to avoid shaming the author) where a character suffers a broken arm…when described in detail, the author tells readers it was the tibia. It was all I could think of for the remainder of the book. For my current project I researched even the smallest of things to make sure I didn’t give misinformation. Guns, helicopters, even houseboats! As a nurse, you’re taught to question everything, and if you still have questions, ask for the evidence based practice. My poor husband has to be out of his mind by now. Every few days he’ll say something like “they said can cause cancer,” or something else random. I don’t let him get passed that sentence before retorting “who is ‘they’ and where’s the study to prove it?”

SK:  In the "Authors Behaving Badly" category (and there's no need to name names - but you can if you want!) what was the absolute worst reaction you ever had to a review?  Did they mail you a box of horse dung? 

BM:  I rarely give out my physical address, so thankfully no dung. But I have had two very awkward interactions with authors who felt their reviews did not meet their expectations. Both reviews were written by two very talented members of my team and surprisingly, they weren’t bad reviews. Both books received 3.5 stars, which equates to “I liked it” as described in our policies. The first author emailed me asking me to remove the review because it wasn’t helpful to them, and they felt it would not help them make any sales. Additionally, they were so affected by the review that they told me they had been excited to start the next book in the series that night, but now they may not be able to. I was quite taken aback, and replied that like any art, writing is subjective. Just because we didn’t love it does not mean others wouldn’t feel differently. In the end they asked that I put the review back up. Then a month later I received an email from the same author out of the blue. The content made me very uncomfortable, and I actually told them that in my response. The gist of their email was an in depth explanation of why they felt the review was bad, and they felt the reviewer did not read the entire book because they had opinions that didn’t jive with how the author felt their work should have been perceived. I felt like a ping pong ball.

The second awkward moment also came in the form of an author email. This author sent an email strongly disagreeing with the review and even insulted the reviewer, who happens to be a successful author. They felt the small things pointed out were personal tastes of the reviewer alone and the author felt a loss of 1.5 stars was too aggressive and it deserved a higher rating. I must have read that review a dozen times to make sure I wasn’t missing something. But the review was exactly what the author had been promised. An honest opinion. I was actually confused, because the review called out many positive things, and a few small but important negative items that would impact my opinion of the book had I been reading it. I thanked the author for their feedback and apologized for not being able to give them a five star rating. Then again, two months go by and I receive an email from the same author thanking us for the valuable feedback our review provided. They had made changes based on the things my reviewer called out and were rereleasing their book. Additionally, they submitted the second book in the series and said the feedback they had received from us on the first book was “fantastic and invaluable”.

SK: Redemption time: what was the best author reaction you ever had to a review? Did they bake you a cake with a L'il Braineater topper?

BM:  There have been so many. I have been blessed with an amazing list of submissions. And the authors have been incredible and gracious. I receive emails from authors all the time thanking me for the reviews my team and I have written. I can’t pick a winning moment, but I will call out some early ones that gave me such joy and pride.

The first moment for me was when I went to the Permuted Press website to look for a new book to read and I saw a banner on their front page advertising Iain McKinnon’s new release, DEMISE OF THE LIVING, quoting my review. I remember jumping around the house and doing the happy dance that something I wrote was being used to promote a book.

The second time I did the happy dance was when the same exact thing happened. I was browsing the web and found one of my quotes in an ad for Devan Sagliani’s UNDEAD L.A. Devan has been one of my favorite authors to review since I started The Bookie Monster. His work is really diverse and he writes both adult and young adult zombie novels.

Then the authors upped the ante and I started finding my name and quotes in the acknowledgement section of books. I had no idea it was there, and I opened the books and, BAM, there I was! Happy dance times a thousand!

SK: Since this was one of the questions YOU asked ME, what Star Trek character would YOU be? (And the answer had better meet my standards as a superfan.)

BM:  Christine Chapel…she was a nurse!

SK: I grudgingly accept that as a deep enough cut to prove your fandom.  Well, thanks for stopping by Manuscripts Burn, Shay! Do you have any parting words for us?

BM:  “Beware the toes you step on today. They may be attached to the ass you have to kiss tomorrow.” Words to live by.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

"Why Do I Write" Blog Hop

If you don't know Kate "Pushy Britches" Moretti, then you probably have no idea why I just used that peculiar nickname, but if you do, then you do.  But if you don't, then it would behoove you to know that Ms. Moretti recently asked me to join the "Why Do I Write" Blog-Hop.  While I normally wouldn't do anything of the sort, she can be very...persuasive.  What's a Blog-Hop?  I don't know.  How does it work?  I have no idea.  But here's Kate's original post.  And here's my new one:

1) What am I working on?

I am putting the finishing touches on my long-awaited balletpunk epic, tentatively titled BALLERINA AT THE EDGE OF FOREVER.  (Pro tip: it will not actually be called that.)  The story begins when two opposing factions of aliens arrive on earth and demand that the only neutral species in the galaxy - humanity - helps them broker a peace.  Meanwhile, intergalactic criminals try to gain a toehold on earth, human xenophobes act exactly the way you would expect them to, and a ballerina finds herself trying to figure out who carried out a terrorist attack that threatens to derail the whole peace process.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

What the fuck does this question mean?  From other whats?  Can I have a concrete object in this sentence, please?

3) Why do I write what I do?

Again with the impossible to parse questions?  I don't write what I do, that would bore the shit out of everybody.  Do you really want to hear about the day-to-day adventures of a pissant Navy accountant?  (Actually, PISSANT NAVY ACCOUNTANT does sound like kind of a good read...)

4) How does my writing process work?

Sigh...although I hate talking about writecraft at least his question is reasonably well constructed so I shall make a good faith effort to answer it.  I usually start with an idea and let it go for a few days or even months or sometimes years to see whether it germinates in my head or is forgotten.  I rarely write ideas down because they usually end up being incomprehensible when I look at them later like, "army of spiders?"  I assume if they were any good they would stick with me.  After a while in the shower and in the car acting out scenes in my mind, I'll sit down to actually write.  I like to leave myself cookies, that is, I write the scenes that I desire to write, even if they're out of order, then go back and figure out what kind of ligaments I need to hold the book together.  After the first draft is done I put it away for months, sometimes years at a time, then, if it's deserving, I pull it back out, do an author edit, and, if anyone is willing, send it to a beta reader I trust.  If the beta reader is terrible, I end up with a BJ.  If the beta reader is M.R. Lerman, I end up with a TGA.

Thanks again to Kate for the "invitation."  Here's a little more about her:

Kate Moretti is the author of the contemporary romance THOUGHT I KNEW YOU. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two kids, and a dog. She’s worked in the pharmaceutical industry for ten years as a scientist, and has been an avid fiction reader her entire life.

She enjoys traveling and cooking, although with two kids, a day job, and writing, she doesn’t get to do those things as much as she’d like.

Her lifelong dream is to buy an old house with a secret passageway.

You can find Kate on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, her blog, her website, or something called "Pinterest" which I'm not really sure what it is.  Buy her debut novel THOUGHT I KNEW YOU and plan to buy her sophomore novel BINDS THAT TIE.

Who's up next on the hop?

Mary Fan

Mary Fan lives in New Jersey, where she is currently working in financial marketing. She has also resided in North Carolina, Hong Kong, and Beijing, China. She has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember and especially enjoys the infinite possibilities and out-of-this-world experiences of science fiction and fantasy.

Mary has a B.A. in Music, specializing in composition, from Princeton University and enjoys writing songs as much as writing stories. She also enjoys kickboxing, opera singing, and exploring new things—she’ll try almost anything once.

You can find Mary on FacebookTwitterGoodreadsTumblr, and her blog.  Buy her "debut" novel ARTIFICIAL ABSOLUTES and her sophomore novel SYNTHETIC ILLUSIONS.

Elizabeth Corrigan

Elizabeth Corrigan has degrees in English and psychology and has spent several years working as a data analyst in various branches of the healthcare industry. When she’s not hard at work on her next novel, Elizabeth enjoys singing, reading teen vampire novels, and making Sims of her characters. She drinks more Diet Coke than is probably optimal for the human body and is pathologically afraid of bees. She lives in Maryland with two cats and a purple Smart Car.

You can find Elizabeth on FacebookTwitterGoodreads, and her website.  Buy her debut novel ORACLE OF PHILADELPHIA and her sophomore novel RAISING CHAOS.

Kimberly Garnick Giarratano

Kimberly G. Giarratano, a forever Jersey girl, now lives in the woods of northeastern Pennsylvania with her husband and small children. A former teacher and YA librarian, Kimberly adores Etsy, Jon Stewart, The Afghan Whigs, ’90s nostalgia, and (of course) everything YA. She also speaks Spanish, but is woefully out of practice. Kimberly always dreamed of being a published author. Her other dream is to live in Key West, Florida where she can write in a small studio, just like Hemingway.

You can find Kimberly on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.  Plan to buy her debut novel, GRUNGE GODS AND GRAVEYARDS.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Why Star Trek is the Greatest SF Franchise of All Time (Guest Post by Mary Fan, author of SYNTHETIC ILLUSIONS)

Today I'm happy to host fellow Red Adept Publishing author Mary Fan, who has recently released her sophomore novel, the heady NA sci-fi novel SYNTHETIC ILLUSIONS.  Be sure to hang around until the end because our mutual publisher is generously hosting a giveaway for this blog tour.  You could win a free copy of the prequel ARTIFICIAL ABSOLUTES or even a RAP can koozie!  But only if you read this whole post first and agree with me about Star Trek.

And now I'll turn the blog over to Mary to answer this question:

As science fiction's leading new voice, I'd like to hear you make the argument, once and for all, why Star Trek is infinitely superior to Firefly, or, for that matter, any other lesser SF franchise.

Well, Steve, I’d think that was obvious. Let me start by saying that every sci-fi franchise has its signature traits that define it. “Star Wars” has all the mysticism and adventure of an old-fashioned quest tale—but in space. “Firefly” has a colorful cast of misfit cowboys—but in space. And, because I just have to mention my own series, “Jane Colt” has Alias-style intrigue and Asimov-style artificial intelligence—but in space.

What can I say? Everything is better when you add in space.

But of all the fantastic in space universes out there, “Star Trek” has got to be the greatest, because it can predict the freaking future. Who needs good story arcs or well-rounded characters when you’ve got that ability? Those are just filler for all the cool tech they show. Scientifically implausible plot where the ship escapes a crack in the event horizon of a black hole—which by definition swallows absolutely everything? Whatever, they predicted cell phones in the 1960s. Stilted dialogue and overacting? Never mind, they predicted iPads when the average computer was still the size of a house.

Things like character development and clever plotting just don’t matter that much when you’ve got the freaky ability to tell people what tech they’re going to have in the next few decades. “Firefly,” that backward show, had its characters using guns with bullets. Bullets! That’s not very clairvoyant—those have been around for centuries! So despite the snappy dialogue, the memorable characters, the fantastic world-building, the well-conceived plots, and all that unimportant stuff, even it must bow down to the genius that is “Star Trek”.

And even I must admit, “Jane Colt” just isn’t a tech-world crystal ball like “Star Trek” is. I will fully confess to relying on sci-fi traditions for most of my tech: laser guns, starships, virtual reality… the usual. The only tech I have that I don’t think exists in any other sci-fi series is the slate, which is a tablet computer you can fold into a small triangle and stick in your pocket (because who doesn’t wish their iPad were both big enough to watch movies on and small enough to stick in your jeans?). It’s got a lot of other things—plot twists, philosophy, action, non-cartoonish characters—but those aren’t the things people get into sci-fi for anyway.

So all hail “Star Trek”: the Oracle of Science Fiction.

About the Author:


Mary Fan lives in New Jersey, where she is currently working in financial marketing. She has also resided in North Carolina, Hong Kong, and Beijing, China. She has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember and especially enjoys the infinite possibilities and out-of-this-world experiences of science fiction and fantasy.

Mary has a B.A. in Music, specializing in composition, from Princeton University and enjoys writing songs as much as writing stories. She also enjoys kickboxing, opera singing, and exploring new things—she’ll try almost anything once.


Illusion is the only reality.

Jane’s new career as a composer is a dream come true, but her blossoming relationship with Adam is marred by his terrifying nightmares. When Jane receives a warning that a shadowy agency is targeting Adam’s seminary school, she rescues him in the nick of time, but the only way she can protect him from such a powerful enemy is to run.

In a shocking betrayal, her brother wasn’t the one who warned her about the attack on Adam. Instead, Devin was leading it. As Jane struggles to keep one step ahead of Devin, Adam’s exhaustion gives way to horror: His nightmares have begun to touch the real world.

Jane can’t abandon Adam to a fate worse than death, and far more than Adam’s life hangs in the balance. As Jane pushes further into the dark unknown, she must challenge everything she once believed in, and she faces the most wrenching decision of her life: choosing between the two people she loves most.


Be sure to purchase SYNTHETIC ILLUSIONS at:

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