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, January 30, 2015

The Power of Asking

At 5am this morning I received an e-mail that...well, I don't want to jinx it by telling you all about it.  Let's just say it could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.  The response had come as a result of my cold-contacting someone, and it reiterated for me a point that I've long since accepted:

If you want shit you've got to ask for it.

Some day I fully intend to write a hippy-dippy New Age bullshit self-help book called THE POWER OF ASKING.  But until I do, the basic tenet boils down to this: you may not get everything you ask for in life, but you'll never get anything you don't ask for.

Being an author, especially at this stage in my career, I have to ask for everything.  I'm serious.  My "career" (such as it is) is based entirely on a fundament of supplication.  And I am a fastidious person; I keep records of everything.  I asked 104 agents and publishers to take a look at BRAINEATER JONES before one finally accepted it.  And that's not counting my two trunked novels, sitting at 54 and 145 rejections respectively. 

I had to ask 200 times before someone published me.  And once I was published, the asking didn't stop.  At the time of writing I've asked 341 reviewers to look at BRAINEATER JONES, 200 to look at THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO, 73 to look at BILLY AND THE CLONEASAURUS, and 13 to look at AT HELL'S GATES.  (Okay, I guess I'm kind of slacking on that last one.)

That's about the end of my deluge of numbers, but you get the point: I can ask for favors in my sleep.  I've gotten every kind of rejection in the book, including the worst kind: gaping silence.  But all of these little asks don't even compare to the big asks I've gone through.

I've asked for blurbs.  I've asked for beta reads.  I've asked for favors so obscure from people so famous you would probably think I was kidding if I listed them all. 

But early on in my career I had a very pleasant experience that informed my attitude going forward.  You've all heard this story before, but I handed a signed copy of my book to World Horror Grand Master Brian Keene at a signing, and he took it.  He went on to name BJ the #12 book of 2013. 

Short of getting a blowjob from Roger Daltrey, this is about the most amazing thing I could have ever gotten from an icon of mine.  (I'll bet that last sentence is going to be the one everyone comments upon.)  And it kind of opened up a new attitude for me.  Instead of finding reasons not to ask people for shit, I just looked for reasons to try.

What cemented it for me was when I contacted Matt Mogk at the Zombie Research Society.  I want to clarify that Matt doesn't know me from Adam, and his website doesn't typically run book reviews.  What he does have is a huge fanbase of rabid zombie fans.  So I e-mailed him and said, "Do you ever do book reviews?  Because I just released this BRAINEATER JONES book."  And do you know what his response was?  "We never have before.  But since you asked..."

And that's been about it for me.  I've been amazed at some of the stuff I've managed to make happen just by asking.  I think people are quick to come up with reasons not to ask for favors, which is reasonable, and nobody wants to feel like a mooch.  But I've also found that people in positions of authority or power or fame or wealth or whatever, who we kind of think of as being up on a pedestal, really don't mind doing things for people.  People just don't ask.

This year, as I've mentioned before, I'm taking my mantra to a new level.  I've already scored interviews with Shawn Coleman and Guy Haley, who I would normally consider way out of my league, and the creator of Standard Action has also said she'd come on the blog.   And have I asked some famous and semi-famous people and been greeted with total crickets? 


Fuck yeah, I have!  That's part of it.  But I'm going to keep on asking.  Don't be afraid to shoot the moon, you little shits, is what I'm trying to say here.  You might surprise yourself.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Review: EVE BRENNER, ZOMBIE GIRL by A. Giacomi

Hail, blogketeers!  As you know from my guest policy (you have read my guest policy, right?) I'm not accepting review requests at this time, and I don't really read books quickly enough to ever turn this into a review blog.  That being said, I do owe favors all around town, so from time to time I do actually review books, and, when they're particularly deserving, crosspost to the blog.  A. Giacomi is a stellar new talent, not to mention a downright decent human being, and I really hope you'll check out her debut.


Eve used to be an ordinary girl, from an ordinary town, with ordinary dreams, but her dreams rapidly turn into nightmares when one grave mistake leaves her a little less than human and a lot less average.

Eve’s not quite the same girl she used to be. She desperately clings to her humanity as new desires, new abilities, and new urges take over with each passing day.

Eve Brenner: Zombie Girl is a tale that takes you on an emotional and terrifying journey as Eve struggles to cope with her new life and find a cure for her strange illness before time runs out. She desperately clings to her humanity as she tries to control the monster she knows is lurking inside her.

Turns out living was the easy part.

Purchase it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and Kobo.


I was delighted to receive an advanced reader's copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Equal parts sexy and gory, hilarious and heartwrenching, EVE BRENNER: ZOMBIE GIRL is an astonishing debut.  I can think of little to compare it to outside of Stuart Gordon's film version of Lovecraft's RE-ANIMATOR.

It's rare to read a debut novel written with such confidence, not to mention such momentum.  EVE BRENNER covers a lot of ground: geographically from small-town Canada to the Egyptian ruins and back again, and emotionally from a tight-knit trio starting college together to total zombie pandemonium.

The story begins as our eponymous heroine is learning about ancient Egyptian anthropology and stumbles upon a taboo gravesite, where she is infected after a strange scuffle.  For our characters, Eve's new condition is a mystery, though I don't think it's a spoiler to say that the audience will have guessed from the third word of the title what Eve has become.

And from a beginning so well-trodden as to be almost a cliché, EVE BRENNER takes a hard left turn deep into undiscovered territory.  Combining elements of the zombie, mummy, werewolf, and vampire mythoses, Eve is nevertheless a unique monster.  She and her best friends from childhood, Cameron and Alex, must come to grips with Eve's burgeoning bloodlust as they are also learning the ropes of college and adulthood.  

The classic coming-of-age tale and questioning of childhood relationships that comes with that territory is thrown on its ear when your childhood friend turns into a bloodthirsty monster.  Cameron's long unrequited crush on Eve suddenly becomes a dangerous, potentially lethal liability.  Eve's hiking trip to Lover's Lane one night (easily the highlight of the book for me) turns from an abortive ménage a trois into an orgy of violence.  This book is packed with love bites that lead into braineating, soft caresses that end with rending flesh, and romantic rivalries that turn into one-armed chainsaw duels.  Giacomi has truly accomplished a feat with this novel and, as I said, I can't think of anything else quite like it.

I'm eager to gobble down the next three books in this promising new series.  EVE BRENNER is a great book and Eve Brenner is a great character.  I'm terrified to admit I've fallen in love with both, especially knowing what happens to everyone who falls in love with the zombie girl...

About A. Giacomi

A. Giacomi is the author of the wildly entertaining Zombie Girl Saga, a four part series from Permuted Press. Eve Brenner: Zombie Girl is A. Giacomi's debut novel. You can catch the latest updates about her writing on her blog.

A. Giacomi is a wife, and mother to one small human child. She is a Canadian born writer, educator, and artist. She proudly waves her York University Alumni flag and continues to thirst for knowledge and devour books. She is a zombie enthusiast, lover of all things Tim Burton, Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Marvel, Star Wars and just generally just loves film, essentially she's a fangirl.

You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and her blog.

Friday, January 23, 2015

"Justified" is Back

In case you're not aware, one of my favorite shows came back to television this week: FX's "Justified."  That'd be Tuesdays at 10:00 pm EST for those of you who care, and any old time for those of you with access to BitTorrent.

"Justified" is a great show.  Not quite "Breaking Bad" or "Mad Men" great, but definitely head, shoulders, and belly above most of what's being put out there.  I asked around this time last year how two of my favorite shows, "Justified" and "Archer" (both on FX, incidentally) could have fallen to such mediocre depths that season, and whether they could bounce back.

Now, in the interim I rewatched season 5 of "Justified" and in spite of its flaws I enjoyed it much more the second time around.  I think partially it was about lowering my expectations. 

You see, every season of "Justified" up until 5 had a Big Bad, sometimes even two, that just about made you shit your pants when they were on screen, and inevitably served as a brilliant foil for the show's protagonist, Raylan Givens.  Quick breakdown:

Season 1 - Bo Crowder
Season 2 - The Bennett Clan
Season 3 - Quarles/Limehouse
Season 4 - The Detroit Mob

Each of the gangs that Raylan had to deal with in seasons 1-4 were genuinely dangerous.  I mean, it's TV and he's the hero, so you knew he was going to win, but each criminal enterprise was either so tightly entwined in the fictionalized version of Harlan County, KY, that serves as the show's setting that you couldn't imagine how Raylan was going to root them out (Crowder, the Bennetts, Limehouse) or so immensely well-backed that they could make a genuine play for taking over Harlan (Quarles, Detroit.)

This was your basic "Justified" season arc setup.  Then Season 5 brought us...the Crowes.  The Crowes seemed like a family of dull-witted Florida gangsters, albeit with a flash of animal cunning in patriarch Darryl and the suggestion of a clever consigliere in Haitian ally Jean-Baptiste.  But the promised danger of the Crowes just never materialized.  They turned out to be just as incompetent and penny-ante as they had seemed at first blush.

I'm not sure if this was a deliberate choice on the part of the writers, or if they just thought that Darryl Crowe actor Michael Rapaport's admittedly massive and threatening frame would communicate the bulk of the Crowe threat.  But, as has been pointed out by reviewers far smarter than me, watching Raylan Givens and deuteragonist Boyd Crowder match wits with savage professional criminals is a delight, whereas watching them match wits with a couple of half-cocked ankle-cutters is a lot like trying to make yourself cheer for a bully.

I don't know.  Like I said, maybe it was a deliberate choice on the part of the writers to send in a non-threat in Season 5 to show that Raylan's behavior all these years only looks sexy and exciting when he's fighting someone worse than him.  Because, believe me, despite his tin star, white hat, and constant speechifying about the difference between right and wrong, Raylan Givens is a deeply ambiguous anti-hero.  In Season 5 he even admits to a Memphis pot dealer that the if they got into a shootout, even one he started, his star would ensure that it was all nice and legal.

Is that the whole point?  Disappoint the audience a little bit but force them to reexamine their cherished character?  Sort of a DUNE MESSIAH of a season?  Or was it just that the Crowes were always supposed to be Quarles-level badass and the chemistry just never quite materialized on screen?  I can't say exactly.

But, as I said, after a rewatch of season 5, already knowing that it was never going to lead to an epic showdown, I found a lot more pleasure in it.  And now, after seeing the first episode of season 6, I'm confident "Justified" is going to go out with some dignity, so at least they didn't throw out the baby with the bathwater last season.  (Maybe they were just saving all the best scripts for the swan song season?)  I'm sorry to report "Archer" has not bounced back, although I also haven't rewatched its last season with lowered expectations, so that could still be a perspective issue.

What I do know is that I'm sure I'll have more to say about "Justified" in the future.  If you haven't been watching it...well, it may be a bit too late to catch up before the finale.  You've got about 12 weeks if you think you can binge 65 previous episodes plus the new ones to get caught up.  So, maybe give it a shot.  And for those of you who are already caught up, I'll meet you there at the finish line.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Feeling All Britishy (Interview with Guy Haley, Author of THE RISE OF THE HORNED RAT)


If you don't know me in real life, you may not know of my lifelong love affair with the tabletop wargame Warhammer.  I've played Warhammer since the early '90s, and always as the lovable greenskinned monsters the Orcs and Goblins.  And if you haven't been following Warhammer lately you may not know: the world is coming to an end.

In late 2014 Games Workshop aka GW (the company that makes Warhammer, Warhammer 40,000, and the Lord of the Rings game) began releasing models and books about the end of the Warhammer Fantasy setting, dubbed The End Times.  At first casual gamers like me assumed it was going to be an expansion or campaign like the Nemesis Crown or Storm of Chaos of years past.

All signs now point to tectonic shifts in our beloved hobby.

Which brings me to today's guest!  Guy Haley is (not even fucking around) one of my favorite authors.  And he makes me look like a positive neophyte in greenskin lore, having literally written the book on Orcs and Goblins, SKARSNIK from GW's Black Library aka BL publishing house.  He also used to work for GW's in-house magazine, White Dwarf or WD.  The man's such an orcspert (ha!) in fact, that BL asked him to write THE RISE OF THE HORNED RAT, settling the End Times affairs of some of our favorite greenskins, Dwarves, and the rat-like Skaven*

Guy has very kindly agreed to stop by all the way from Yorkshire in the UK today to talk about The End Times, his career as a journalist, and his original fiction.  First, let's meet the chap, then let's dive right in! 

*by decree of the Grand Theogonist of Altdorf I am required to inform you that "Skaven" or "Chaos rat-men" do not actually exist.

About Guy Haley:

Guy Haley is a long time science fiction journalist and writer. He has been deputy editor of SFX magazine, and editor of Death Ray and Games Workshop's gaming magazine White Dwarf. He is the author of REALITY 36OMEGA POINTCHAMPION OF MARSCRASH, and BANEBLADE, among others.

You can find hundreds of reviews, interviews, opinion pieces, free pieces of fiction and more on Guy's blog.


SK: Welcome, Guy! Thanks for being with us today. So, I understand you've been playing Warhammer since its inception.

GH: I have, from the very first edition. I've always had goblins, by the way.

SK: Have any of the End Times events come as a surprise to you? Or is this about how you figured it would play out? Or as a former White Dwarf staffer have you always known all the behind-the-scenes secrets?

GH: It was a complete surprise, and I knew nothing about it. GW
 understandably keep their secrets very, well, secret. Even in the End Times writers briefing, we were told only as much as we needed to know. Being an ex-WD editor counts for nothing!

SK: So, as far as I know, SKARSNIK was the first Black Library title to feature Orcs and Goblins from their own perspective. I mean, there were a few scenes in the GOTREK AND FELIX novels and that sort of thing, but really you broke the green color barrier. Some people even used to say it couldn't be done. So how did you get into the head of a greenskin?

GH: With GW fiction, I just try to stick with the way the subject matter is defined in the material. All the races are exaggerated archetypes of particular forms of human behaviour. The trick is to make them seem real enough so that they're not one note, but keep them within the archetype. Otherwise they just become people with masks on. That said, I have a great affinity with goblins. They're sneaky and little, a bit like me. I have been known to claim to actually be Skarsnik, after all.

The problem with greenskins, and the reason they had not been tackled before, is that BL were afraid writers would go off down the comedy route. It's important to remember that although the greenskins' antics are amusing sometimes, orcs are built for war and would eat you, whereas goblins are vicious little backstabbing horrors, and would torture you to death, and then eat you.

Bearing that in mind, they also have to have societies that function, reasons to have any social cohesion at all and, in the space orks' case, be believable as a starfaring race. It's fun figuring all that out while sticking within what's there in the game lore. Stick all that together and it starts to form up nicely. It's all about being true to the material, not my interpretation of it, or how I think it should be, or any of those other things you see on forum message boards, but how GW want it.

SK: And how did you convince your publisher it was worth getting into the head of a greenskin?

GH: The way it came about was fairly convoluted. I pitched a couple of ideas to BL when I was still at GW back in 2007. One was BANEBLADE (because they had just made the kit), the other was SKARSNIK (because I love goblins). Or maybe Nick Kyme suggested it? He and I worked together on WD before he went to BL. Whatever. I think they mulled it over for a long time before deciding that if anyone could do it, I might be able to. It was daunting, but I like to think their faith in me paid off.

SK: Do you hate Grimgor Ironhide as much as I do? (Audience: I promise this is the last of the Warhammer super nerd questions.) You can feel free to do with this what you like, but I envision a novel called NECKSNAPPER. What happens is, Grimgor is stomping around being the worst Mary Sue ever as he is wont to. Then a speck appears off in the distance, coming from the east. And he spots it and then bam, suddenly his head goes flying off somewhere and Morglum returns to reclaim the title of "only Black Orc character." What do you think? Solid gold, right?

GH: Grimgor is a fine character. I have no problem with him at all. I don't see why some people don't like him, really. He is a bit... limited, but that's in keeping with what he is - the ultimate expression of orcyness. Morglum is a different kind of Black Orc. I like the contrast - it goes back to what I was saying about finding shades of a character within narrow archetypes.

 SK: So, you've worked primarily in journalism and just recently made the switch to fiction.

GH: Well, I dunno. I've been doing this for five years now. But on the other hand, I was purely a journalist for twelve. So I suppose you are right.

SK: Do those skill sets jibe or do you find yourself trying to break bad habits from one discipline or the other?

GH: The skills are exactly relevant. Being a journalist taught me to write to a brief, not to be precious about my words and how to write large numbers of words to a high standard in a short space of time. It taught me how to brutally cut said words if there wasn't enough space. It taught me how to take criticism, and how to adjust my work without complaint if it was not deemed fit for purpose. It taught me how to edit other peoples' work, and look at my own more objectively. And - super crucially - it taught me to respect deadlines. All these things and more have proved invaluable to me as a writer, especially when writing in other people's universes. It is all writing, after all.

SK: I think you're the first guest I've had on the blog who has written licensed work, which for the benefit of our audience means writing in a pre-existing world, possibly with pre-existing characters (i.e. when George Lucas gives permission to Thomas Pynchon to write about Luke Skywalker's wedding or whatever.) So can you tell us a little bit about that?

GH: It's a bit different to writing original fiction, but not much. You have less freedom, which makes it easier in some ways and harder in others. One big difference is that you have to remember it is not 'yours'. If the client (GW in my case) want something done a certain way, or if they want to give one of 'my' characters to someone else, then that's what happens. Fair play. That's their prerogative.

There's a financial difference too. Writing licensed fiction is a good way to make regular money. It generates a predictable income, but there is also an equally definable upper ceiling to that income. With original work, you stand a small chance of hitting the big time, but the odds are you will not make anything beyond your advance. I've yet to have a "break-out" original work, as they say, mostly because it's hard to get noticed these days. GW gives me a good platform, my words will get read.

My original books have not enjoyed huge sales, but they have been well received enough that I keep getting asked to do more, so I hope one day one will make it.

SK: Is the sense of pride or affection different for licensed work vs. original work?

GH: That's a tough one. I can point at one of my original books and go "I made that up all myself". The sense of ownership is different, thus the sense of achievement possibly greater. On saying that, SKARSNIK is one of the two books I am most pleased with.

It's important I do at least one original piece a year, otherwise I find myself getting stale with the BL material. An original tale freshens me up for my next round of future war.

SK: Do you get a list of ironclad rules or is it more of a "we hired Guy because we trust he knows his stuff" kind of thing?

GH:  Both. They hire me, I think, because I can turn round work of a good quality quickly, and I understand both the settings and the way the company operates. There are some explicit rules, and other unwritten ones that you sometimes fall foul of without realising. But it works out pretty well for both sides. I like working with them.

SK: So, with the publication of THE RISE OF THE HORNED RAT you've now created original characters (Richards & Klein, etc.), written licensed characters (Skarsnik, etc.), and even inherited characters from another author (Gromvarl, etc.) I'm interested to know how you make sure your characters always ring true. I would think original characters would be the easiest to write, but maybe that's not always the case.

GH: Like I say above, make them people, but not necessarily human. With established characters, like Gromvarl, I read what other authors have done and try to follow it carefully. As a fan, it's important to me that there's continuity to these worlds. David Guymer read an early draft of HORNED RAT, and said I'd written his dwarf characters exactly the way he would, which was a huge compliment. Original characters, on the other hand, are different. Not harder, just different. The big challenge there is to make sure they're not all just bits of me. I'm not sure it's even possible to get away from that, but I try. Licensed characters, being pre-defined, at least give you a shove away from yourself. 

SK: Well, thanks for being with us today, Guy. Is there anything we didn't cover in the interview or anything you'd like to say to your fans here across the Pond?

GH: Nope, other than to say: try out my original stuff if you like SF and my GW books. CHAMPION OF MARS, REALITY 36, OMEGA POINT, and CRASH. A shameless plug that gets me feeling all Britishy and ashamed of myself, but it has to be done! Thanks for having me.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Help Me Find Some Good People to Interview

Hey, kids.  Just a brief missive today.  Now, having said that, it will no doubt balloon out to two thousand words, just like every one of my attempts to blog concisely.

So, I don't know if any of you have noticed, but I've made a real concerted effort to keep up a three days a week blogging schedule in 2015.  So far I've succeeded (he said, not even three weeks into the new year...) but with that being said I will probably beg off posting on Monday in honor of Martin Luther King Day.  Please remember that MLK Day is a day about service to the community, so please consider finding a way to volunteer on Monday.

Now coming back on Wednesday I've got a very exciting guest that I'm positively geeking out about.  It's only January and I've already had three absolute slam-dunk guests on the blog this year, and all three have been way, way outside of the circles that I usually travel in.  When Shawn Coleman agreed to come on the blog, I decided to make 2015 the Year of the Interview here on Manuscripts Burn.  It's not going to be all interviews (obviously), but I want to start interviewing some people way, way out of my usual comfort zone.

To that end, I'm going to start asking some bigger wigs than usual on Twitter and Facebook if they want to swing by the blog.  I think I'm going to shoot the moon and try to land among the stars.  If I start getting J.K. Rowling and George Romero to swing by, great.  But I'm hoping seriously to get some bigger authors, webcomic artists, and maybe actors and entertainment industry types?  Who knows?

So, if you want to come by the blog, or you know someone who's fun, famous, or interesting, check out my guest policy and drop me a line.  2015: The Year of the Interview!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Good Small Jars (An Interview with Lily Luchesi, author of STAKE-OUT)

Welcome, blogophiles!  Today we have a very exciting guest.  Instead of vamping (ha!) around for a while I'll just introduce her.  Oh, wait.  I guess if you didn't know she was a vampire author that last joke didn't make any sense.  Well, what do you want from me, I'm just one man.  In any case, today we have the extremely talented Lily Luchesi here on the blog and she's agreed to answer a few of my nutty questions.  So without sucking (ha!) up too much more of your time, let's introduce her and then jump right in to the interview.

About Lily Luchesi:

Lily Luchesi is a young author/poet born in Chicago, Illinois, now residing in Los Angeles, California. Ever since she was a toddler her mother noticed her tendency for being interested in all things “dark”. At two she became infatuated with vampires and ghosts, and that infatuation turned into a lifestyle by the time she was twelve, and, as her family has always been what they now call “Gothic”, she doesn’t believe she shall ever change. She is also a hopeless romantic and avid music-lover, and will always associate vampires with love, blood and rock and roll. Her interest in poetry came around the same time as when she was given a book of Edgar Allan Poe’s complete work. She then realized that she had been writing her own poetry since she could hold a pen, and just had not known the correct terms. She finished her first manuscript at the age of fourteen, and now, at twenty-one, has two contributing credits in anthologies and a debut novel, STAKE-OUT, is soon to be published by Vamptasy Publishing on May 19th, 2015.

Make sure to purchase the WISHFUL THINKING anthology, featuring her short horror/sci-fi story "Kill 'Em With Kindness."  You can also pick up the poetry anthology THE STRUGGLE, featuring her poem "Aftermath."  And make sure to check out her debut short story "The Ghost's Guitar" for free.

You can follow her on her blog, Twitter, her personal Facebook page, her professional Facebook page, Instagram, and Goodreads.


SK: Welcome, Lily! I'm a bit of a pun fanatic, and I'm disappointed in myself to admit that the only police/vampire puns I could come up with were "stake-out" and "assault and bat-tery." Can I assume you have a few more great ones up your sleeve, perhaps even a few that made it into the final manuscript?

LL:  Hello! Thank you for having me!

Yes, I have a few but they go into the next two titles of the trilogy only. The second is only a police term, based on a new character's name: Miranda's Rights. The third will be Life Sentence, because becoming a vampire is a life sentence. I made a few other puns within the story and then decided to remove them, as they really didn't fit the tone of the story in the end. By the way, I like "assault and bat-tery!"  I didn't think of that one.

SK:  Yeah, coming up with that was like pulling teeth (ha!)  We've spoken a few times before so I just so happen to know your secret identity. Of course, I won't reveal that here, but I have to say, "Lily Luchesi" sounds like the perfect name for a vampire author for reasons I can't even really consciously identify. Is there a special significance/meaning behind your pen name?

LL:  Yes, there is! I was originally supposed to be named Lily at birth, but that didn't happen. I always felt like that name fit me so I used it. The original surname I had planned was "Rochester", after the character in Jane Eyre, but then I was rereading "The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe and the faceless character used as a lure to another character is known only as "Luchesi". I am Italian, and I liked the sound of the name so I decided to use it.

SK:  Ah, intriguing.  I had a character named "Montresor" in a trunked novel.  Moving on, I've read that you're a sports fan. Do you think soccer will ever become one of the Big Four sports in the U.S. (or, you know, I guess it would be Big Five then?) Or is it just going to be mild interest every four years?

LL:  Mild interest, unfortunately. If it was going to be a more popular sport, it would have been when David Beckham was playing for LA Galaxy. Humans as a rule are usually interested in something when other people are interested, or when there is a physically attractive and/or famous person involved. Even he didn't generate a more mainstream following for the sport!

As a former soccer player, I'd like to see it become more mainstream, but I don't see it happening soon. Hell, they've taken the NHL and most of the MLB off of network TV, too. Networks need to know that people watch more than football and basketball.

SK:  Well, I'm not so sure networks or even TV will be around much longer, but that's a whole other discussion.  Here's something I've been meaning to ask you, though.  I remember being a bit younger and some Christian groups were boycotting HARRY POTTER because of the witchcraft elements. There always seems to be some kind of headbutting (at least as far as the media is concerned) between the horror community and the religious community. You're both a devout Christian and a horror aficionado, so how do you square those two seemingly contradictory impulses? I've mentioned this to you although my readers probably don't know, but I was a bit terrified to send you my own GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO because of the sacrilegious elements.

LL:  Well, I'm not devout, or else I couldn't write what I do or identify as bisexual, but I believe in God and the basic Christian teachings. I believe that, regardless of who we sleep with or what forms of media we enjoy, as long as we are good people it doesn't matter.

God, in my opinion, doesn't mind if we get tattoos or watch "Supernatural." He doesn't care about Harry Potter or Dracula. Perhaps the extremely evil newer films disturb Him, but the book you wrote, the books I write and read aren't as terrible as Bible thumpers proclaim them to be. It's just fiction. It's fun. I don't go around in real life killing people or performing animal sacrifices (like my villains do in STAKE-OUT), so I think I've got a good chance of being on His good side.

That's what people need to remember: it's not real. It's just harmless fun. Stephen King doesn't go around killing people (as far as I know) in real life, right? Us horror writers might have twisted minds, but we also have good small jars on our desks. Haha!

SK:  You make some good points.  I've actually made the argument that horror writers are even better adjusted than the average joe because we exorcise our demons right there on the page.  Speaking of which, how have you been finding the horror community treating you as a new author? Or is it not so much the horror community but the vampire community? Or something even more/less specific?

LL:  I was already accepted and welcomed in the poetry community two years ago when I started getting serious about publishing, and recently I have found that the horror and paranormal communities are absolutely wonderful. My publisher, Vamptasy, has multiple imprints that veer into steampunk, erotica and general fantasy, as well as horror and paranormal. It's a big family there and I'm happy to be here.

I have also recently connected with authors outside of the company via Facebook and they are all very welcoming to me and all the other new authors. I was unsure about whether or not I'd be welcomed, being so young and new, but I'm glad to say that the publishing industry is filled with wonderful people.

SK:   True dat.  Final question: what do you think would happen if we found out vampires were real tomorrow?

LL:  A question for a question: who says they aren't?

SK:  Oooh, the hairs on the back of my neck just stood up.  Or was that a fang?!?!?!?  Well, thanks for being with us today, Lily!   Any final words for your fans?

LL:  Thank you so much for having me! Well, I have a couple things to say to them. (Wow, it's hard to believe I actually have fans! It's so surreal!) Number one: whatever you want in life, DON'T give up on it. Be it a certain career, a lover, anything. Keep working and believing in yourselves.

Number two: thank you. I know I'm not the next Stephen King or Bram Stoker, but I honestly appreciate your following, your support and your encouragement. As an indie author with an indie company, every reader is special to me. I worked so hard on STAKE-OUT, and I am so excited to have you all read it on May 19th!


Detective Danny Mancini is on a case, following a murder suspect. When he catches him, he finds out that the perp isn't even human: he's a 200 year old rogue vampire!

The department doesn't believe him, and puts him on early retirement, despite his many years of service to the Chicago Police Department, which sends him into a downward spiral.

Two years later, Danny gets an invitation from the beautiful, young and very attractive Detective Angelica Cross to join a secret branch of the FBI to help her track down Vincent, the wayward vamp.

But renegade werewolves, meddling immortal witches and Danny's strange visions of a life lived a century ago with Angelica make things more difficult than it should be.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Cousin Skill

I don't know if we have a name yet for misheard lyrics.  You know, like Jimi Hendrix's eternal, "Excuse me while I kiss this guy."  They're sort of like spoonerisms...well, sometimes they can be spoonerisms.  I dunno.  Anyway, we need a term for those. 

Oh, correction: Google informs me these are known as "mondegreens." 

Aaaaanyway, some of you may have heard my interview on the Books and Booze podcast.  Sadly, Books and Booze is going off the air, so they've been soliciting farewell messages on a special hotline (951-290-8002) to play during the final episode. 

As soon as I heard about this I called immediately.  It was around 1am on a weeknight, so naturally I was about three sheets to the wind, and I stepped outside into the literal wind so as not to be disturbing the other members of the household with a telephone conversation in the middle of the night.  In any case, I don't really remember what I said.  But the next day I got this message on my Facebook, advising me of a nigh incomprehensible mondegreen:

You said, "Hi, this is Steve Kozeniewski, author of Braineater Jones" and the voicemail app transcribed that as, "Hi. This is Steve cousin skill to bring your insurance."

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

I Wonder if this "Homer Nixon" is any Relation

Paul McCartney's back in the news today, for the same reason he only ever seems to be back in the news lately: frothing anger that people might not know who he is.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, let me encapsulate what I'm going to term "The McCartney Rage Spiral" as it has happened before, happened this week, and will happen several more times before he finally dies:

a)  Paul McCartney, being a legend, appears in an idiosyncratic or slightly out-of-character place, like the Teen Choice Awards, because as a legend he is welcome anywhere.

b)  A few of the children (note I say "children") that the slightly out-of-character place is targeted towards, Millennials, say, or whatever the generation after Millennials is, since we haven't named it yet (may I recommend Karma Cha-millennials?) do not recognize Paul McCartney, take to Twitter or some other form of social media and ask, "Who is this old dude?"

c)  A few Baby Boomers who are social media savvy (or possibly their fellow travelers from one of the younger generations) curate a list of increasingly improbable-sounding declarations of ignorance as to the identity of 50% of the remaining Beatles and report it back to the mainstream media.

d)  Baby Boomers go ballistic and decry the younger generation as not only lazy and ill-mannered, but clearly stupid, too.

The last few times this happened I've commented on Facebook about how Baby Boomers need to get the fuck over themselves, but now that we've established that this is a pattern that will be happening for the rest of Sir Paul's life, I don't feel bad dedicating a blogpost to it.

So, again, to reiterate: Baby Boomers need to get the fuck over themselves.  I want to point out, just for the sake of making you feel old, that the Beatles broke up in 1970.  That's 45 years ago.  Beatlemania was at its height 50 years ago.  That's half a century.  That's two and a half generations.  If you think the Beatles are as pertinent as they were in 1965, you just need to get the fuck over yourself.

Your expectation, as I understand it, is that your literal grandchildren, or, if not, then the generation that would be your grandchildren, should be so thoroughly familiar with the pop culture of your era as to know the name of the bassist of your favorite band.  Just as you no doubt know the name of the bassist of your grandparent's favorite band.  (Hint: Count Basie?  Maybe?  I don't fucking know.)

"Ah," but you are no doubt saying, "But The Beatles are extremely influential and important to pop music and therefore everybody should know who they are."

Again, this would be one of those places where I would wonder, should everyone therefore recognize a picture of Benny Goodman or Louis Armstrong or Miles Davis?  Would you, Strawman Baby Boomer?

For that matter, what if we flipped the script?  Would you know today's analogue of Paul McCartney by sight?  I'm going to level with you here: I don't even know who that would be.  I would never be able to recognize him or her.  Would it be one of the kids from One Direction?  Selena Gomez?  Miley Cyrus?  Are those people even still popular?

I don't know.  But I also know I wouldn't flip shit if some kid today didn't recognize Michael Jackson or Tupac Shakur or, Christ, one of the individual Spice Girls, or some other band that was popular in the '80s or '90s which, theoretically, I should feel the same way about as you do about The Beatles.

What is so freaking special about Paul McCartney that you think his visage will transcend the ages?  What is it about the idea that there are a few kids, somewhere on the planet, who don't recognize him that offends you so much?  I've heard some people say, "It's not about the ignorance, it's about the pride about being ignorant.  They could've googled it." 

Yeah, okay.  Maybe they could've googled, "Who is that guy playing with Kanye?"  I'm exaggerating, but you know, as wondrous as it is, the internet can only answer questions with good input.  There are kids who may not have caught the name "McCartney."  And there are others who just recognized him so little that they found it worth commenting about on Twitter.

A tweet, incidentally, carries about the same weight as a fart in the wind.  People don't curate their tweets to even a tenth of the degree that they curate their Facebook posts.  So an idle, random thought, a wondering question, this is all perfectly acceptable for Twitter as a platform.  No, I don't fault kids for not knowing who Paul McCartney is, and I don't fault them for not immediately looking it up.

But I do fault Baby Boomers (and a few of their fellow travelers) for getting upset about it.  I think I know why they're so upset about it, although they would never admit it.  The fact that some people no longer recognize Paul McCartney means that their monolithic, decades-long death grip on pop culture is finally lessening.  It means, in a word, the Boomers are getting old.

The first Boomer turned 60 in 2005.  The last just turned 60 this year.  As hard as they've tried to fight it, as much as they've tried to insist that only their music has value, and only their creations are relevant, the truth is that Boomer culture is in decline.  The Beatles were that one thing that Boomers could always say, "At least we had The Beatles" about.  And I guess they don't even have that anymore.  It seems a few more people have heard of Jesus than have heard of The Beatles here in bright, beautiful new 2015.

I have some real problems with the Boomers (in case you couldn't tell) and sure, maybe it's all just Mommy/Daddy issues, but I like to think I'm cogent enough to recognize the difference between my parents and my parents' g-g-g-generation.  My problem with the Baby Boomers is they've tried to cling on to relevance far, far too long.  I feel like the Greatest Generations stepped aside for their kids, quietly taking all of their culture and norms and everything (perhaps with a shake of the head) to the retirement home.  And the Boomers have just, quite frankly, never done that for us.

Why is The Tea Party a thing?  Why did George W. Bush get elected into office?  Why do Baby Boomers cling to the reins of power in government, industry, finance, everywhere?  Why won't they retire?  It's like they just want to stay cool and relevant and in charge for-fucking-ever.  Having people whose formative years were the '60s and '70s in charge in the '80s and '90s was fine.  That was progress.  Having people whose formative years were the '60s and '70s in charge in 2015 is a goddamned crisis.

Kids today don't know what segregation is, formal or informal.  (My mother once complimented me on my "diverse" group of friends in high school, making it very clear there was no such thing when she was a kid.  Some of my friends were Korean, Jewish, and Indian.  It had quite simply never occurred to me that there was another way to do business.)  Why are people who grew up in the '60s (when segregation was law, miscegenation was a crime, and not getting lynched was considered progress) in charge of our modern race relations?

Every kid today has gay friends.  They have no issues with homosexuality.  There are quite a few kids today who have quite literally never lived in a world without gay marriage.  Why are people who grew up in the '60s (when coming out of the closet was unheard of, sodomy was a crime, and homosexuality was considered a mental illness) in charge of gay rights?

Shall I go on?  Gender politics?  Jesus, what about technology?  Do the Boomers who are upset about what people said on Twitter even know how to use Twitter?  Or is ignorance only worth condemning when it applies to stuff that's important to you?  Does it feel like you're getting old?  Does the idea of people not knowing who Paul McCartney is drive home the point that you're no longer the golden gods who will be in charge of everything forever and you might (gasp!) someday have to step aside and let Millennial culture have a few seconds in the limelight?

Boy, this rant really went some places I wasn't expecting it to.  I don't even know if it made sense.  Oh well, it's not like anyone reads my blog anyway.  But, yeah, I don't really see the failure of a few individuals to recognize Paul McCartney as the sign of the complete downfall of Western Civilization.  In fact, it might even be a good thing.  Now, if those same bastards had failed to recognize, say, John Entwistle, all bets would be off, motherfuckers.

Monday, January 5, 2015

A Lil Between the Sheets (Interview with Shawn Coleman, Arranger and Co-Composer of "Too Many Cooks")

Welcome, blogketeers!  Today we have a very special treat for you: Shawn Coleman.  And not just "a" Shawn Coleman, but "the" Shawn Coleman, musician extraordinaire!  As the long-time sound designer, sweetener, mixer, and composer for [adult swim] powerhouse "Squidbillies" (or, as my wife calls it, "Squiggly-wigglies") Shawn has written such classics as "Hoofprints," "Rusty's Power Ballad," and "The Bin Laden Boot Scoot" (not making any of these up.)  He's also voiced Paul, the domestically challenged albino kaiju on "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," and most recently arranged, performed, and co-composed the music for super-mega-smash infomercial "Too Many Cooks."  Needless to say, I pooped my pants a little bit when he agreed to an interview.  So let's dive right in!

The man himself

SK:  Thanks for agreeing to be with us today, Shawn.  What was your path from the mean streets of Pittsburgh to the sound department of "Squidbillies?"

SC: I played in rock bands as a kid but was also pretty good with academics, so I thought “why not a recording engineer?” when college time rolled around. I went to University of Miami and got a degree in Music Engineering Technology which is a bachelor's in music with a minor in electrical engineering. I also got to meet/play with/record a lot of incredible young musicians and got hip to music that I hadn't checked out as a teenager.

Shawn, animated "Squidbillies"-style, from the episode "Clowny Freaks"

SK:  Which musicians inspired you coming up?  Johnny Cash?  Tom Waits?  Aqua?

SC: I was mostly into hair rock in my formative years. This is late 80's/early 90's. I liked the technical proficiency these dudes had on their instruments plus they were pretty like a girl. Of course Nirvana came along and wrecked that whole thing. In college I got really in to Phish for a bit; they were a great gateway band to different styles and sounds since they “do it all”. I thought they were the best funk band ever, then I heard Mandrill. I thought they were the best jazz band ever, then I checked out actual jazz. I also listened to a whole lot of hip hop around this time. I wasn't too in to country until I moved to Atlanta and joined a sort-of Americana band. Now I feel like I appreciate all styles (such a cliché) except I don't really mess with pre 20th century stuff. I'm waiting to get old to like that.

Shawn with Neko Case and Kelly Hogan

SK:  When we first "met" on Twitter, I recall you told me "I have my pants put on me one leg at a time, just like you."  Seriously, though, what's it like being an industry power player?  Do you have a Scrooge McDuck-style swimming pool full of gold coins?

SC: Well if you're getting in to audio post-production to get rich you may want to reconsider. I've been a staff engineer at Doppler Studios in Atlanta for coming up on 18 years and my gold coin swimming pool is only half finished. I do feel a certain amount of envy for hip hop and pop producers that can do the whole “I get $500,000 a track” trip. Is it because they worked 200+ hours on it the way I did on "Too Many Cooks?" I doubt it.

SK:  So, let me see if I'm telling this story correctly.  You and Michael Kohler sat down separately and wrote your own versions of the "Too Many Cooks" theme.  Michael's version gets picked because it's the stronger one, so that makes him the composer of the piece.  Then you took the initial theme and made all the changes for the "Battlestar Galactica" parody, the "Dallas" parody, etc., so that makes you the arranger.  Is that about right?  Can you tell us a little more about the process?

SC: Pretty much, but the style changes are extensive enough to grant me co-composer status. I re-tracked Michael's demo, programming drums and keys, playing guitar and singing both male and female parts. Then (writer/director) Casper Kelly and I worked on all of the false endings and little internal intricacies to get to the first style change (cop show). There was a lot of experimentation and trial and error to make it work. For example on the round table shot where we start adding the African-American characters I went for a joke where the music gets “blacker”. Maybe these white singers really go for it on the melisma. We ended up dialing it way back though.

Since it's one long music piece, everything has to dovetail into the next section without some weird 5/8 bar that throws you off. It was actually pretty difficult to keep everything organized and set myself up for the next style change in some pleasing way. I also did all of the sound effects and dialogue mix, so if I was starting to go crazy trying to work out some compositional moment I'd switch to doing Katie Adkins' footfalls as she's running away or some such thing.

I worked on "Cooks" off and on for a year, and frankly I probably could've poured another 2 months into it. But Adult Swim was like WE NEED THIS NEXT MONDAY and so I worked a bunch of overtime and weekends to get it wrapped up, since I was mixing "Squidbillies" at the same time.

Shawn's on-screen credit during the "G.I. Joe"-esque section of "Too Many Cooks"

SK:  So, I want you to picture the moment you finished work on "Too Many Cooks."  You pressed STOP or switched off the microphone or whatever.  Did you think to yourself, "This is going to be a viral hit" or was it just another day at the office or what?

SC: I'm not trying to be cute or coy when I say I had no aspiration for it to be widely seen. My goal was to put something on TV that made people say “what in the actual hell”, and hopefully hop on Twitter and recount that sentiment. I joked with Casper and (editor) Paul Painter the week that it aired that next time we shouldn't name the show after a famous idiom because my twitter searches of “too many cooks” were mostly people complaining about their recent sales managers' meeting.
I was excited when it was finally posted on YouTube because I could show it to my Facebook friends that didn't bother to tape it. Then on Twitter I noticed some tastemaker blogger types starting to talk about it and share it, and then it really blew up from there. I woke up one morning and Zooey Deschanel and Billy Eichner are singing it on Instagram. Simon Pegg tweeted about it several times. Luke Skywalker tweeted about it! I mean, come on.

SK:  Are you more of a Rusty or an Early?

SC: I'm definitely more of a Rusty, the pragmatic and sensitive one. But I'm a Lil between the sheets.

And a Lerm, politically, no doubt...

SK:  Well, thanks for being with us today, Shawn!  Do you have any parting words for your fans, or anything you'd like to say that we didn't get to with this interview?

SC: My fans?? I love you Mom & Dad, see you next Christmas.

I'm sure you will, Shawn.  I'm sure you will.

If you're one of the two or three remaining people on Earth who haven't seen "Too Many Cooks," it's free to watch on YouTube or the [adult swim] website.  Or, you know, in the embed above.

Season 9 of "Squidbillies" is airing in reruns on television and seasons 1-5 are available on DVD:

Season 1
Season 2
Season 3
Season 4
Season 5

The other seasons are probably streaming on Hula-Hoop or something.  I dunno.  I don't know how kids watch TV.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Anthology Acceptance Announcement: BRAVE NEW GIRLS

Anybody feeling ready for a bit of a departure?  I'm pleased to announce that my short story, "The Keys to the Stars" has been accepted for a (get ready for this - you might want to sit down)

- Young Adult
- Science Fiction

anthology!  Not my normal milieu on two counts, but are we any better than animals if we never stretch our wings?  (Except for, you know, birds, which constantly stretch their wings.)  I'm actually rather proud of the way my story turned out, although apparently being ten doesn't make you a "young adult" according to the genre Gestapo, so I guess my protagonist's age is getting changed somewhat.

Aaaaaaanyway, what is NOT so strange for me is that this is a charity anthology and the money it raises will be going to a good cause, which is encouraging young girls to take up careers in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields.  I work for the Navy in my day job and so far the Navy and this anthology are the only two entities I've seen really pushing STEM as important to our nation's future.  Which, you know, it is.

So remain glued in your chair, constantly pressing refresh on my blog for updates.  The antho won't be coming out until June 15, but I could really use the blog hits.
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