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, April 28, 2014

Attack of the Alien Zombie Gremlins (Guest Post by Jen Printy, Author of MY SOUL IMMORTAL)

Today I'm happy to host fellow Red Adept Publishing author Jen Printy, who has recently released her debut novel, atmospheric romance/horror novel MY SOUL IMMORTAL.  Be sure to hang around until the end because our mutual publisher is generously hosting a giveaway for this blog tour.

And now I'll turn the blog over to Jen to cover this topic:

Because my love of puppetry knows no bounds and MY SOUL IMMORTAL obviously sells itself, I'd love to hear you tell us a bit about your dollmaking.

You walk into a house, quietly, trying not to disturb anything while looking for a light-switch. The boards creak slightly under your feet; coats on hooks appear as the silhouette of a man lurking in the shadows. When you stumble across the light-switch, you flip it, but nothing happens. You’re alone in the dark. Your stomach rumbles, reminding you of why you entered the house in the first place.

“Hello?” you call out, still in a hushed whisper. “Is anyone around?”

The silence confirms that you seem to be alone in the house and you creep across the linoleum floor to the refrigerator. Upon throwing open the door, beady eyes of what appears to be a head on a pike greet you.


“GAH!” you cry out, stumbling back into the counter and leaving the door open.

You turn to flee but the dim light from the fridge reflects onto the table, revealing arms and legs strewn across the surface. No, you not a soon-to-be victim in some horror flick. You’ve just enter the world of a doll artist. Cue creepy music.

All joking aside, when I’m not writing, I’m sculpting dolls. Dozens of people have asked how I’d stumbled into such a profession. Children don’t say I want to sculpt dolls when I grow up, or at least I didn’t. Although I love what I do, this wasn’t my plan. I was quite happy with my career choice of being a colored pencil artist. However, life had its own plan as it often does. Throughout college like most students, I worked to pay for books, classes, and the occasional fun night out. At the time, I didn’t realize it, but this part-time-make-ends-meet job was the nail in the coffin to my colored pencil career because it caused tendonitis.

Eventually I couldn't draw anymore. The repetition involved in creating a colored pencil work of artwork caused too much pain. Art had always part of my life, and like writing, it was a way to express myself and deal with my emotions. For about a year, I was lost until I stumbled across a website of one-of-a-kind dolls—OOAK’s as their called. I found it fascinating that art-ists could make dolls look so lifelike. With my colored pencil artwork, realism had always been the goal.

With a purchase of clay and a few tools, I began. My first baby dolls looked more like a cross between an alien and zombie gremlin, and probably worthy of one of those two bit horror movie. Unattractive is putting it mildly. Luckily, practice does make perfect.

The MB house lawyers have advised me that showing the alien zombie gremlin doll would open me up to far too much litigation for bleached eye sockets.

As it turned out, doll sculpting is a rewarding career. I’m able to create a collectible en-joyed by the very young to the very old. I have made friends all over the world. None of this was my plan, but fate knew best.

That's seriously a doll?!?!?

About the Author:


Since childhood, Jen Printy has been writing. Whether stories about a fantasy world or everyday life in Maine, Jen loved losing herself in the worlds she created on paper. The arts in all forms have always been an important part of Jen’s life, a love instilled in her by her father. When Jen isn’t writing, she’s sculpting as a freelance doll artist.

Jen lives with her husband, two daughters, and diva dog Cookie in southern Maine, where she loves spending time friends and family, finding treasures along the seashore, or enjoying a Guinness at her favorite local pub.


An endless love, for an endless price.

Jack’s immortality is exposed when he prevents a liquor store heist, forcing him to flee to protect his secret—a secret not even he understands. But when he meets Leah Winters—a mirror image of his decades-lost love, Lydia—his very soul is laid bare. He begins to question his sanity. Is she real, and if so, what does that mean for Jack and his secret?

Jack’s not the only mystery man in town. A stranger named Artagan hints at knowledge Jack is desperate to possess. But can he trust Artagan, or does the dark newcomer harbor deadly secrets of his own?

As Jack’s bond with Leah grows, so does the danger to her life. Jack must discover just how much he is willing to risk in order to save the woman he already lost once.


Be sure to purchase MY SOUL IMMORTAL at:

Barnes & Noble

And don't forget to review it and tell your friends about it on:


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Friday, April 25, 2014

She Helped! (Interview With Cassie Cox, Line Editor of BRAINEATER JONES)

We've got a VERY exciting treat for you today, blogketeers: the inimitable Cassie Cox, line editor of modern masterpiece BRAINEATER JONES!  (Those of you who have followed the blog for a while will remember Cassie's microfiction piece as well as the story of her transgender cat.)  We're concentrating on BJ in the interview today, but Cassie has edited LITERALLY* hundreds of manuscripts, so she is a veritable font of wisdom on the business and practice of editology.

Cassie isn't big into social media, but if you're interested in working with her (I strongly recommend it!) she's open to being contacted through Facebook or you can submit completed manuscripts through the Red Adept site.  We're going to have a fun interview, but first, a brief introduction:

*"literally literally," not "figuratively literally"

Editors don't really make what you'd call "comb money."

About the Editor

Cassie lives in Tampa with her husband and six cats. She has a master’s in Shakespeare in Performance, and she recommends you don’t get her started talking about second person pronouns in early modern England. When she’s not editing, she can be found cleaning, organizing, or baking. For fun, she watches Charmed and reads YA fiction.


I understand you got your start in the hospitality industry.  Could you share a picture of yourself in your bellhop’s uniform for us?

Um, I was a front desk clerk, not a bellhop.

I see.  Well, for the edification of my fans I’m just going to insert a picture of Sting in a bellhop’s uniform instead.

Don't stand...don't stand so...don't stand so jauntily...

How did you get started in editing?  And is this the “traditional path?”  For that matter, is there a “traditional path?”

I honestly don’t know what the “traditional path” is, but I’m pretty sure mine wasn’t it. I kind of tripped and stumbled into editing. A friend of mine asked me to go over her book, and I enjoyed it enough that I decided to take her seriously when she suggested I look into getting a job as an editor. I’ve been doing this for almost three years, and I still enjoy it as much as I did then.

Describe the perfect editing client.  (This can be real or theoretical.)

Hmmm… Well, my favorite clients are the ones who write stories I enjoy reading. I’m a sucker for a good story, and the biggest perk of my job is that I get paid to read. I love it when clients appreciate my work and thank me for fixing problems or tell me I’m funny (it’s rare, but it happens). I love it when clients are quick to communicate. It always makes me happy when a client becomes a friend, someone I just enjoy talking to.

Your agent advised me that you will not discuss any editing client from hell stories.  Therefore to fill this slot, would you tell us about your hotel guest from hell?  (Again, real or theoretical is fine.)

Wow, I have a good agent. I might have to give her a raise :) Hotel guest from hell story? I’ll give you two.

At the first hotel I worked at, we had a guest who came to stay with her cat. Since her cat was allergic to everything, she insisted she couldn’t stay in a pet-friendly room. She was to be a long-term guest, so we agreed to put her in a standard room, even though that meant we would have to spend hours cleaning it after her cat left. Well, the first room wasn’t good enough. Nor was the second. Nor the third. After she got into her fourth non-pet room, she complained that the room smelled like the housekeeper’s hair product, and she had to move again. We moved her for the last time (seriously, it takes forever to clean rooms that pets have been in) we found out that the reason the room smelled like hair product was because she’d dyed her hair in the bathroom.

The other story is one my husband got to witness. On New Year’s Eve in the biggest hotel I’d ever worked in, the room locks died at midnight. Every. Single. One. So I was working the overnight shift in a hotel full of drunk people celebrating New Year’s who came back to the hotel to find that they couldn’t get into their rooms. We had one master key, the old-fashioned metal kind, that we had to take door to door to let people back in their rooms. It took forever, and as I’m sure you can imagine, people weren’t too happy about it.

Very few people know this, but you actually requested to work on BRAINEATER JONES.  Can you tell us what drove that particular decision?  And in a more general sense, how much do you get to choose your work and how much is it assigned?  Has this ratio been different with the different companies you’ve worked for?

I requested BRAINEATER JONES because I thought the author was funny and likable, and I hoped that would translate into his writing. Like I said, my favorite clients are the ones who are easy to talk to and who write stories I like to read.

I can request to work on a particular book that Red Adept publishes, and if my boss thinks it’s a good fit for me and I have the time to work on it, then she’s generally pretty happy to honor that request.

We all know what it’s like to do scut work, but editing seems more like a calling.  What’s it like, therefore, when you get stuck working on a book you have no interest in?

I can’t think of too many books that I had no interest in working on. For the most part, I try to find the good stuff in books and cling to that. Maybe a character I like or a plot line I enjoy. Sometimes I just cling to the hope that it will be better by the time I’m done with it. If I really don’t like a book, then I just remind myself that after I finish it, I don’t have to work on it again. The fastest way to other side is straight through, right?

I’d like you to put on your “writing cap” for a minute.  Can you tell us the story of editing BRAINEATER JONES?  I know what it was like from my end but I have no idea what it was like on yours.

It’s been a while since I worked on it, so my memories are a tad fuzzy. Editing BRAINEATER JONES was a fairly similar process to editing any book that was funny, confusing, and gross. When I got to the funny parts (hello, Hatscratch Fever!) I read them to my husband. When I got confused (I’m apparently underexposed to 30s slang) I made notes. When I got grossed out, I shared that with my husband. I enjoyed working with you and seeing your notes on my edits, seeing what you wanted to protect from my “red pen.”

I imagine editing must be bittersweet, to pour so much effort into a novel that somebody else will ultimately get the lion’s share of credit for.  I’ve also heard it described as a form of symbiosis.  But really I have no idea.  What’s being an editor like emotionally?

I love that you asked this! I do find editing emotional. I feel the books I work on, so I’ve been known to apologize to my husband for things I haven’t done. But it is bittersweet to see the books I work on do well and know that, for the most part, I get no credit for that. I’m so proud of my authors when they do well and when they write new books; I feel really invested in their careers. But sometimes I want to shout, “I helped!”

You’re famously a Shakespeare scholar.  Is this knowledge useful as an editor, counterproductive, or totally indifferent?

Thus far, my knowledge of Shakespeare hasn’t been super helpful. But I keep hoping I’ll get a Shakespeare book one day! The writing skills I learned in grad school have been helpful, though. I think back to my professor’s Picky Rules quite often while I edit.

Do you ever feel like The Bard’s work could have used a good edit or do you consider that sacrilege?


Shakespeare’s plays are written in such a different style (and for such a different purpose) than the books I work on. I’m sure that a modern publisher would have a play-editor (I assume there is such a thing) edit his plays if they were to be published today. But I think it’s always a good thing to revisit the format of Shakespeare’s plays and try to republish them in ways that are more accessible to today’s readers. I’ve actually done some work on that myself.

But the religious side of me, the side that thinks Shakespeare is God and his words are holy, recoils at the idea of altering his text. Then the factual side reminds the religious side that only God (Shakespeare) knows what Shakespeare actually wrote. So many people altered his text before it ever got to modern audiences, and people will continue to alter it long after my lifetime.

Finally, are you up for a game of 10x10x10 which is a thing I just made up where I ask 10 questions of 10 words or less and you have to answer in 10 words or less?  The topic will be Shakespeare.

Oooh, sounds like fun!

Thanks for coming on the blog, Cassie!  And we'll be back next week with the 10x10x10 game.  It's a hoot!

Friday, April 18, 2014


No. Seriously. Consider this whole post SPOILER ALERTED!!! Because I will be talking about spoilers as a subject.

And basically I just give up. I don't even get it any more. Don't get me wrong. I'm 100% anti-spoiler. I was pissed the day after the Breaking Bad finale when everyone was posting Walt's (SPOILER ALERT!!!) obituary on FB. Becuase I was at least a few weeks behind.

Here's the thing though: in that case I knew that I was the one at fault. I mean, there is a certain expectation that people won't be dicks, that's true. Everyone knows if you say "EHRMAGERD last night's Hannibal!" the comments are going to be about it, but nobody like the guy that says, (SPOILER ALERT!!!) "Holy shit, Henry Blake's plane went down over the Sea of Japan!?!?!?!" There's a tacit understanding about that. But I also KNEW that if I logged onto FB after a television event it WOULD be ruined.

Sort of like people who tape big sports games (I guess some people still do that and yes, I know, I really should say "DVR" but fuck you) and then get all uppity when you tell them that (SPOILER ALERT!!!) the Seahawks won the World Series or whatever. Like, sure, maybe I can actively avoid discussing it in front of you if you tell me to my face, but surely after an event like the Ford Fiesta Bowl or the Baseball Cup or whatever you have to expect spoilers to be all around.

What I REALLY want to talk about though, however briefly, is Game of Thrones. Not to be a douchebag, but I read all the books. And I think I maintain my "not a douchebag" cred because I didn't read any of the books until after I was introduced to the first few episodes of the show. So you at least know I'm not one of those, "Sniffle, I've known all of this since the '90s" douchebags.

But, anyway, yes, I've read the books. So here's the thing about Game of Thrones. Unlike The Walking Dead where (SPOILER ALERT!!!) knowledge of the comics can enhance but cannot possibly replace knowledge of the show (since the show and the comics follow different paths) knowledge of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE (okay, I guess I did get a little bit douchey there) absolutely can replace knowledge of Game of Thrones.

We are, as far as I can tell, in a unique situation in these United States of ours where anyone, literally anyone, can read essentially next season's scripts of one of the most popular shows on television. Could you imagine if I could read next season's Mad Men scripts, or even next weeks? Everyone would flip shit, not least of which Matthew Weiner!

I mean, most movies are based on books, but once that bullet's shot it's shot. There's only so long that I can protest not having seen "Ender's Game" or whatever. A few weeks, let's say. Then it's kind of like, "Why haven't you seen the movie yet, then, asshole, if you're such a big fan?" It's really not the same situation.

This is a unique and frankly weird situation where I literally know a few years ahead of time what you're gasping about today. I knew in 2011 that (SPOILER ALERT!!!) Ned Stark was gon' get his headz chopt off. And I knew (SPOILER ALERT!!!) that Robb Stark and all his dudez was gon' die. And that (SPOILER ALERT!!!) Joffrey was gonna choke on some fucking wine. I'll tell you what: I even know what's going to happen to Tyrion next week as the fallout from that!

Here's me, just generally attempting not to be a dick and saying, "Okay, well, I read the books, but I feel no special need to ruin everybody's TV viewing experience." Because I know what it's like to have a TV experience ruined. (See the Breaking Bad story above.) But at what point does this all simply become crazy?

You know me, even though I'm a writer, I'm not really a book snob, but I'll admit it, a lot of what this boils down to for me is that I don't understand why, for a certain percentage of the population, they are proudly illiterate. There are people out there who are like, "I can't wait to find out what happens next season on GoT!" that simply make me scratch my head. I want to be like, "Look, you can walk down to the library right now and find out..." But some people are PROUD not to do so. Which I don't get. I mean, I sort of get the "Nah, no time, TV's okay," crowd but I almost get a sense that some people DELIBERATELY don't want to read just this particular series of books.

Which bring me back around to why this is such a unique situation. There are people for whom this week's (SPOILET ALERT!!!) SHOCKING Purple Wedding are old hat. And there are people still reeling from it. And there are people who haven't even caught up yet, because Jesus Christ HBO is like $150 a month. Last week I waded somewhat jokingly into the fray on Facebook because I thought all the Red Wedding stuff, now being a year old and theoretically old hat for BOTH PARTIES would be fair game to make fun of. And you know what happened?

You can probably guess. Somebody yelled at me "How about a SPOILER ALERT, asshole!!!"

I give up. What a brave new world we live in.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO is on sale for $0.99

I'm very excited to announce that my magnum opus THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO is on sale for $0.99 through Friday!  I really want to thank everybody who's bought, read, and shared, so far.  Here's the purchase link (or you can just click on Phil's ugly mug up there):


Wondering what you're in for?  You can find every review, interview, and write-up here, but here are some of my favorite quotes so far:

"There are parts that are so gruesome that even other characters are vomiting and heaving from it. There were even a few parts where I found myself saying 'I can't believe I'm reading this. I'm so going to get nightmares. If I don't, there's something wrong with me.'"

"Overall, a very solid entry into the zombie genre, with enough twists and new ideas to keep those who are looking for a new perspective on the classics to have fun with the story. The characters drive this one, and there are some good ones with some crackling dialog."

"This is not your average anything. Definitely not an average zombies tale."

"'AAAAAAHHHH!!! Why, Steve, why? That's gross! Okay... just breathe... moving on... okay, that's kind of cool... WHAT THE HELL?! Steve, what's wrong with you?! *inhales* It's just a book it's just a book it's just a book... HOLY $#@*!!! Did that really just happen? There's an image I'll never get out of my head... Hey, that's interesting... whoa, WHAT! I need a drink...'"

"This novel is a must read for fans of the zombie horror genre. Unique, horrifying and enthralling; this is dark entertainment at its best."

Monday, April 14, 2014


***In honor of ORACLE OF PHILADELPHIA reaching the lofty heights of fifty Amazon reviews (!) I'm pleased to present the following fully licensed and certified fanfic:***

A sticky, squicky, spoileriffic Earthbound Angels Fan Fic
by Siren the Truth Angel

It was the tensiest moment in all his lifes.  Sitting there, on the beach.  Standing there, maybe.  Can't really remember which.  On the one hand, Khet, the totally plutonic love of his life.  On the other hand, Azrael, who was kind of hot in her own way, though I think maybe we're not supposed to call attention to that fact.  Then, on yet a third hand, the "hottest" (ha!) thing of all: that great big flaming sword.  Michael was the dude's name.

"Michael!" he bellowed hastily, throwing himself into a slo-mo unnecessary fly through the air type scene shouting, "No!"  "Totes gimme your sword, dawg.  Wimmy wim wim wozzle!"

"Dafuq?" Archangel Hella Sexy responded lugubriously.

"Your sword, dawg!  Lemme grab hold of your sword!"

It was at that instant that Bedlam realized this was a flashback and not the actual story yet, because all of this had happened already.

"My sword?"

"Your sword."

"This sword?"

"That sword."

Michael looked down at the great big fiery blade of fire the flamed up to the sky, spreading fire everywhere in great fiery gouts.  "Fire," is the key takeaway here.

"So you want my sword?"

"Yeah, look, dawg, here's the deal, wubba lubba dub dub!  We're gonna debate for a while back and forth over whether you let me grab hold of that sword, thus giving Lucifer totes plenties time escape.  'Ceptin' he won't.  For plot reasons.  Then, blammo!  My big plan comes to fruition."

"Are you talking about stopping me over there?" Lucifer interrogated boisterously.

"No, don't worry about it, dawg," Bedlam replied vociferously, then, remembering what his deal was supposed to be, poured some sand over a big bowl of, I dunno, sauerkraut and took a big bite out of it and pretended like it was good, because that's the sort of thing he was always doing to keep his wacky persona intacto.

"Very well then," Lucifer responded dangerously, and returned to whistling and twirling the Spear of Destiny like it was one of those baton stick dealies, you know the ones I mean, like what the flag girls sometimes carry in marching band?  Like it was one of those.

Bedlam inched closer to Michael and the whole rest of the romantic beach front seemed to disappear, except for the bits that kept it romantic, like, I dunno, the starshine.  Or was this during the day?  The important thing was: romance.  Implied, not overt.  Just pretend like I did it good.

"All right, Bedlam," Michael whispered lustily, as their lips almost touched, "You can have my...sword."

But he didn't mean his hot sword.  He meant his hot sausage sword.  In other words: his pee-pee.  Michael slowly began to unzip his angel zipper which, not unironically, was not a whole lot different from a regular zipper, but importantly here (and I can't stress this enough): not exactly the same.

Then out came Michael's great big angel wang which, again, quite a bit like a human wang but for worldbuilding purposes subtly different, came out.  Slowly, as if it were a turtle or something, Bedlam began to fondle it.  Then, as it grew in his hands, again like a turtle or something, Bedlam found himself somewhat less reluctant to be fondling it (the wang, that is.)

"Oh, baby!" Michael muttered wetly as they began to full-on make out in balls-out public, their tongues prancing and fencing with one another like reindeer and fencing foils respectively.

Then suddenly the spear like, crashed through Bedlam's chest from behind a second time, which was like a total giveaway that this was a dream sequence, because that never happened in the original book, I mean real life.

"Oh, shit, dawg," Bedlam shouted insistently, sinking to his knees in the sandy beach of sand.

"Oh noes!" Michael cried out blisteringly.

"Totes," everybody agreed vehemently.

It was Lucifer, by the way.


Bedlam awoke with a start.

"Oh, shit, dawg," he ejaculated pontificatingly, "It was all totes a dream.  That is wiggity wiggity wack.  Wait a minute, do I sleep?  Eh, I'll let line handle it."

He leaned over so that the thin satiny sheet drifted off his tightly sculpted imaginary man body and looked at the clock.

"Wait a minute," he remembered impotently, "Why do I need a clock?  I'm an angel.  It's balls o'clock everywhere for me!"

Dance party break.  Woot woot!  Shicka shacka shicka shacka.  Woot!  Okay, dance party over.

Bedlam scarfed down a big bowl of Froot Loops and cabbage that happened to be in a glass (a glass?  CRAAAAZY!) on his bedside.  That shit was the bomb.  He expressed as much out loud.  Then he leaned back in his bed.  Suddenly he felt a hand grasping his junk by the shaft of it.

"Kezi?  I thought I told you off.  Wiggity wam wam wozzle!"

"No, baby," a smooth, archangelic voice purred venomously, "I banished Keziel to the Outer Something-or-Other.  I didn't want her getting in the way"

Shaking, still afraid to look at the unwelcome visitor grabbing hold of his knob, Bedlam shook like a foozball table on the fritz maybe.

"But Kezi is my eternal unhealthy relationship dealie although maybe I'm kind of into Carrie, nobody really knows.  You can't just banish her to some imaginary place you just made up!"

And then Bedlam finally swooned back into the arms of his molester and realized that it was, natch, Michael, the angel of his dreams.  (Literally.  See what I did there?  From the dream sequence before?)

"Oh, Michael," Bedlam whispered potently as Michael rubbed his hand up and down Bedlam's ever engorging with blood shaft, "I never thought it could be like this between us."

"No, it totes can.  And now you know why I gave you my sword on the beach that day."

"Oh, yeah.  That did always kind of feel like a great big plothole.  Also: why am I an angel?  And why did the same exact thing have a different effect on me than it did on Azrael?  For that matter, how come in the first book..."

"Shhh shh shh," Michael shouted sexily, pressing his index finger to Bedlam's manly lips, "All that stuff has totally reasonable explanations which we don't have time for here.  All we have time for here and now is to lube up for tons of butt stuff."

"Butt stuff," Bedlam agreed hastily.

"Butt stuff."

There was nodding all around.  When it was over, instead of a cigarette, they shared a bowl of macaroni and Shasta.  Because it's wacky!


Friday, April 11, 2014

A Reader's Guide to Why I'm Such a Dick All the Time

If you know me in real life or follow me on any form of social media I've probably begged you at least once to review one of my books, BRAINEATER JONES and THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO.



Hang on just a minute, please! Look, I've seen the error of my ways. I won't beg you anymore. Well, no doubt you realize, probably instantaneously, that that's a lie. But I do think you at least deserve an explanation as to why I would ask. You know, I learned in the army that "Shut up and do it!" is a lot less effective as a motivator than "Here's why I'm asking." And yet I never applied that rule in my writing life (go figure.) So, here's me politely explaining to you why...



Readers probably don't know this, or if they do, they don't think about it, but Amazon is a whole new animal in the history of commerce. It's kind of like a combination of McDonald's, Alcoholics Anonymous, and the New York Times. (How's that for a weird metaphor?)

It's like McDonald's because it's the biggest bossest badassest son of a bitch in the world. Sure Burger King "competes" with McDonald's in the same sense that an infant could have, technically speaking, entered the ring and "competed" with Smokin' Joe Frazier (may he rest in peace.) But McDonald's is so wildly, exponentially more powerful than its next closest competitors it's almost laughable to consider someone "competing" with it.

Amazon is also like AA in that it's the only game in town. When I worked in the substance abuse clinic the social workers used to tell me that AA wasn't always perfect for everyone (NA or Al-Anon or something else entirely might be more appropraite), but it was what existed. There was an infrastructure there. Any city in the world you could pick up a phone book and find AA meetings. Just like Amazon is what is there. It's where the vendors are, where the merchandise is, and where the buyers are.

And, finally, Amazon is like the New York Times (or it might be more accurate to say that it's supplanted the NYT) as the arbiter of taste. Whereas people used to look to the NYT Review of Books to see what was legitimately good, and trusted that opinion, people now look to Amazon reviews to tell them what's good or not.

Long story short: Amazon is large and powerful enough to drive both the market AND public opinion, so what goes on there is, for good or ill, really important to authors.


So, the last section may have seemed a bit patronizing. As a reader, or just as a consumer in general, you probably already know Amazon is the Grand High Poobah of more or less all commerce today. But this next part doesn't really make sense unless you know that first.

So, taking into account that you're probably going to buy things on Amazon, it helps to know that Amazon uses algorithms to determine what you see there. Like, EVERYTHING you see there.

So, lets say you want to buy a copy of THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO (natch!) and you go to Amazon and type in "ghoul." So, based on what's popular, as well as your shopping and browsing history, Amazon is going to decide what to show you. Yours may be slightly different, but when I search for "ghoul" I get the 2013 movie, an album called "We Came for the Dead" by a band called Ghoul, our good friend Brian Keene's novel, and seven others, but not what I was actually looking for.

Now, this is especially weird because I can tell you right now that as the author I go to my poor book's Amazon page several times a day to check sales. So if the algorithm was working by my browsing history alone, BJ and TGA should jump to the top even when I make searches for "My Little Pony." But it DOESN'T. Amazon's algorithm, though super-secretive, is based partially on browsing history, partially on popularity, and partially on quantity of reviews. (Note I don't say "quality" of reviews...but we'll cover that in a second.)

Reviews enter into the math to determine what comes up when you do a blanket Amazon search, not to mention what it will recommend to you and others (which, surprisingly, considering we don't like to think of ourselves as affected by internet ads, is a BIG driver of sales.) Amazon has this shit down to a science. They know what you like to buy, what you like to peruse, and what, if it happens to mention to you, you will click on. But it won't recommend shit to you that isn't popular, and popularity is at least partially determined by number of reviews.


I suspect some people, good-meaning people, possibly even my friends and family, don't want to review my books because their mothers taught them "if you don't have anything good to say don't say anything at all." In other words, people who might otherwise review my book don't want to either be dishonest (5 stars! it didn't make me want to retch every second!) or to hurt my feelings (1 star! don't divorce me, honey, but you're a terrible writer!) This may seem counterintuitive, but bad reviews are good. Repeat it with me now: BAD REVIEWS ARE GOOD.

I don't have that many (although I'm hoping this blogpost will change all that) but the bad and mediocre reviews that I do have lend credence to my good reviews. Sound weird? It works like this. Only about 1% of people who actually read a book will bother to review it. In an ideal world where I didn't solicit reviews (this is NOT an ideal world and I DO solicit reviews, but more on that later) you could judge my sales numbers roughly by my review numbers. 1 review? 100 sales. 100 reviews? 10,000 sales. And so forth.

Having reviews, therefore, implies popularity. However, Amazon and its clever algorithm system are not totally ignorant. They know that I'm going to ask my friends and family for reviews. And they also know that friends and family are most likely going to give me 5-stars for the reason I mentioned above (they don't want to hurt my feelings, theoretically.) So Amazon's algorithm treates 10 x 5-star reviews not as 1000 sales to strangers but as 10 sales to people who are obviously friends and family.

But a 1-star review? AH HA! A 1-star review is obviously NOT left by a friend or family member (so goes Amazon's logic.) Obviously that reprents 100 actual people, because actual people sometimes hate shit!

Now, like I said, this is counterituitive, but it makes sense from a certain perspective. Think of it this way: Kim Kardashian is one of the most POPULAR celebrities alive. Virtually EVERYONE in America knows who she is. And a huge percentage of people (probably disproportionately so) hate her. She's SO popular that even people who wouldn't normally care know her enough to hate her. It's the same way with books. You haven't really made it 'til you have haters, and Amazon takes that into account. So if you've been holding back on giving me a review to spare my feelings, please don't! You'd be doing me a bigger favor than you know by trashing my book.


And here we get to the tricky part. I think I've outlined pretty well so far how Amazon works, why it's important to have reviews, and what reviews mean to me as a writer. (Sales! Legitimacy! Quitting my day job!) But here's where we get into the morally grey area of ethics.

As you know, there's nothing preventing me from creating a hundred Yahoo accounts, and with those Yahoo accounts creating a hundred Amazon accounts, and with those hundred Amazon accounts giving myself as many 5-star (or, bearing in mind the last section, 1-star) reviews as I want. Not only do some authors do that, but they also pay for reviews (yes, there are such services) to speed up the whole cheating process. And in the slightly less reprehensible but still kind of fucked-up arena, some authors will trade quid pro quo with one another and copy-paste canned reviews of one another's work without reading it first.

Now, I'm absolutely delighted when another author (especially a famous one!) reviews my work, but I don't want it to be because I paid him or her, or because I traded some kind of tit-for-tat "Hey, let's not really read each other's work but just give it a fiver anyway" game.

I want every single review I receive to be legit. Now, bearing that in mind, there are only two ethical ways to solicit reviews. The first is exactly what I'm doing right now, asking people that I know have already read my book to consider writing an honest review of it. The second is to ask a professional or semi-professional reviewer to write a review. (In this case it's considered polite to offer a courtesy copy of your book, just like you would comp a food critic if he ate at your restaurant. That's why sometimes you'll see a caveat like, "The author sent me a free copy but this will not affect my review in any way.") Beyond those two options everything else is dirty pool. So I guess what I'm saying is, I want to do this the right way, and to do that I'm relying on the largesse of you, my readers.


Getting reviews is brutally hard. It's REALLY REALLY tough, people. Some of you reading this are my best friends in the world and my closest family members and YOU HAVEN'T WRITTEN ME A REVIEW. I get it. You've got shit going on. Maybe I've never asked you explicitly. Or maybe I have and you blew me off. Or maybe I have and you didn't want to give me a bad review (in which case, see section 3 above.) But let me outline this for you real briefly.

I mentioned above that one legitimate way to get reviews is to solicit professional reviewers. So, when I'm soliciting reviews, I track who I've contacted to make sure I don't double tap or, God forbid, spam any reviewers. Here's a quick breakdown:

To date I've asked 172 reviewers to read BRAINEATER JONES. 53 (31%) have said yes (I'm including those who declined to actually review but did agree to an interview, guest post, or some other form of free advertisement, because I also appreciate when reviewers take the time and energy to feature me on their sites, in their magazines, etc.) Of those 53, 22 (41% of those who agreed, 13% of those solicited) have actually followed through.

I've asked 88 reviewers to read THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO. Using the same broad terms, 33 (38%) have said yes. Of those 33, 7 (21% of those who agreed, 8% of those solicited) have actually followed through.

Pretty grim numbers, eh? And those are the professionals. Remember I said before about 1% of random readers will actually write you a review? This shit is like pulling teeth.


What I'm hoping with this post is not to berate you, but like I said at the beginning, to actually break down for you why, exactly, authors harp and harp and harp on Amazon reviews. Hell, I appreciate that you read my book. I appreciate if you bought my book and didn't read it. I appreciate if you read all the free content on my blog, never buy my books, and never review anything. It's all good. It's all different levels of support.

But I do wonder if sometimes the reason why authors get so wrapped around the axle about not getting reviews is that none of them have ever bothered to explain to their readers why it's important. Hence this post. If you're a reader, I hope you learned something, and if you're really feeling sporting, here are easy links to review BRAINEATER JONES or THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO. If you're a writer, feel free to share this post as widely as you like, or riff on it on your own (or tell my why I'm an asshole in the comments.) It's all good! Thanks for listening. :)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Press Release: Stephen Kozeniewski signs 9 book deal with Permuted Press

Mad props to our good friends at The Bookie Monster (you'd think they're paying me to keep pimping them, but really they're just super-supportive and I have to keep sharing all the stuff they keep doing for me) for this press release announcing my 9 book deal with Permuted Press.  (I know, press release, sounds like something only a bigshot fancypants would get to do, right?)

Press Release: Stephen Kozeniewski signs 9 book deal with Permuted Press
Two world-famous legal scholars review my Permuted contract and find it more than fair

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Vote for GHOUL!

Hey, kids! Make sure to vote for your favorite book (by which I mean THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO) in The Bookie Monster's Book of the Month contest for April!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Interview with The Devil, Star of RAISING CHAOS

Today I'm honored to welcome a very special guest to the blog: the source of all evil and bane of mankind, The Devil! The Devil is here promoting his appearance in the latest Red Adept Publishing release, urban fantasy RAISING CHAOS (ghostwritten by Elizabeth Corrigan.) Be sure to hang around until the end of the post because RAP is generously hosting a giveaway for this blog tour.  You could win a copy of the novel ORACLE OF PHILADELPHIA which also features Satan or even a RAP tote bag! In honor of this new release, The Devil has agreed to answer a few questions in one of his vanishingly rare personal interviews.

And now, without further ado, Manuscripts Burn is proud to present: The Devil.

Steve Kozeniewski: Ladies and gentlemen, today we have a very special guest here on ye olde blogge: The Devil himself. Thanks for being with us today.

Lucifer: Thank you, Mr. Kozeniewski. It is not often I get to represent myself in such a… ahem… dignified forum.

SK: Okay, first question: do you know what that icy precipitation that falls out of the sky is called?

L: I imagine you are referring to snow, or sleet.

SK: Hail, Satan. Get it?

L: Very droll.

SK: Okay, now that the ice is broken (ha!), our first real question: Why do bad things happen to good people? And, conversely, why do good things happen to bad people?

L: Ah, the myth of “good” people. I ask you, Mr. Kozeniewski, do you really know any good people? Do the people you know donate all their time and money to charity and behave with kindness and mercy to all they meet? Or do they espouse philosophies to the detriment of the human collective, spend most of their hours working for corporations that exist only to increase the profits of the wealthy, and generally engage in behavior designed only to improve their own meager existences? It’s true that most people don’t get what they deserve. They get much, much better.

SK: Wow. Heavy. Let's lighten the mood a little bit. Beatles or Stones?

L: One of those bands wrote a song about the ceaseless struggle of my existence, and the other endlessly yammered on about about how “all [we] need is love.” I’ll let you form your own opinions about my preferences.

SK: Good choice. Let's take a little bit of a different tack. When it comes to your own popular portrayal, most people would agree that there are three exemplars in literature: Milton's PARADISE LOST, Bulgakov's THE MASTER AND MARGARITA, and Corrigan's EARTHBOUND ANGELS. How do you feel about those? Or do you prefer a different interpretation of yourself? Perhaps from a different realm of pop culture?

L: I feel Bulgakov’s work speaks for itself. Milton makes a number of good points regarding the circumstances surrounding my infamous Fall, but he fails, in the end, to accept the tyranny of Heaven for what it is. As for other works, I generally don’t engage in the narcissistic pastime of seeking out representations of myself. I have some fondness for Anne Bishop’s BLACK JEWELS series, if only because her Saetan bears nothing in common with me.

SK: Interesting. Very interesting. So how are things going with you and Yahweh these days? Do you think you two are going to patch things up anytime soon? Did he finally remember your birthday this year?

L: Considering that “patching things up,” as you put it, would entail me giving up my power and spending the rest of my existence pandering to the needs of barely sentient monkeys, I believe I shall continue our estrangement.

SK: I'm going to give my last question up to the people. A few weeks ago I solicited my fans asking what they would want to ask you. They, ah…they did not take the question very seriously. However, I did get one non-wisenheimer response: "Why cancer?"

L: An intriguing question. People generally consider my realm that of evil. But cancer… Cancer is randomly mutating cells growing faster than is natural. So, cancer, really, is chaos. And I think we all know who is responsible for chaos. 

SK: Well, thanks for being with us today, Lucifer. Any words of wisdom or advice you'd like to close with?

L: I’d just like all humans to remember that while Heaven may ignore your prayers, we denizens of Hell are always willing to lend a helping hand, for a reasonable fee. 

About the Ghostwriter:

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.

Synopsis of RAISING CHAOS:

When good fails, chaos rises to the challenge.

The daily life of a chaos demon is delightfully sinful—overindulging in Sri Lankan delicacies, trespassing on private beaches in Hawaii, and getting soused at the best angel bar on the planet. But when Bedlam learns that the archdemon Azrael has escaped from the Abyss in order to wreak vengeance against the person who sent her there—Bedlam’s best friend, Khet—he can’t sit idly by.

Only one relic possesses the power to kill Khet, who suffers immortality at Lucifer’s request: the mythical Spear of Destiny, which pierced Christ’s side at His crucifixion. Neither angel nor demon has seen the Spear in two thousand years, but Azrael claims to know its location. Bedlam has no choice but to interpret woefully outdated clues and race her to its ancient resting place.

His quest is made nearly impossible by the interference of a persnickety archivist, Keziel—his angelic ex—and a dedicated cult intent on keeping the Spear out of the wrong hands. But to Bedlam, “wrong” is just an arbitrary word, and there’s no way he’s letting Khet die without a fight.

Excerpt from RAISING CHAOS

Be sure to purchase RAISING CHAOS at:

Barnes & Noble

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