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, February 27, 2015

Stupid Dinosaurs (Interview with Tara Pratt, Actor on "Fringe," "Supernatural," and "Standard Action")

HAWM, blog followers!  We've got a special treat for you today.  Some of you may recall a few weeks ago I did an interview with Joanna Gaskell, writer and creator of the stupendous web series "Standard Action."  What you may not have realized at that time (although I hinted at it enough, Jesus Christ) was that that some of the other "SA" cast and crew agreed to come and swing by as well!

Today I'll be speaking with Tara Pratt, a very talented actress who in addition to starring as Wendy the Sorcerer in "Standard Action" has also had roles in "Fringe," "Supernatural," and a number of other productions both "established" (you'll see what I did there in a minute) and indie.

Well, that's enough of an introduction from me.  I know 50% of you already started scrolling down as soon as I said "Supernatural" anyway.  So let's meet Tara and then jump right in!

About Tara:

Tara was born in Edmonton, Alberta, raised in Calgary, and graduated from the University of Alberta Drama program with a Bachelor of Arts with Honours, thereafter performing in several productions as part of the Edmonton International Fringe Festival.

After her inaugural theatrical production upon relocating to Vancouver in 2006 ("Hamlet", Ophelia), Tara has appeared in several stage productions with Twenty-Something Theatre including Brad Fraser's "Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love", and the world premier of "Prodigals" in 2011.

Tara is represented by Emilio Salituro with Lucas Talent Management.


SK: Hello, Tara, welcome and thanks for being with us! So, you’re from Edmonton. That city’s famous for dinosaurs, right?

TP: Thank you for having me!

I think you’re right. People further south in, like, Calgary and Drumheller will say they have more dinosaurs, but we all know they lived in Edmonton and just started making their way down because it was too effin’ cold in the winter. Little did they know that winters all over Alberta are equally brutal. Stupid dinosaurs.

SK: So how did you get involved in “Standard Action?”

TP: I just saw the audition notice online, submitted my materials and auditioned for Rob, Joanna and Edwin. So you could say I found them the good old-fashioned way. Minus the casting couch.

Tara Pratt as Gwenevere (aka "Wendy") the Sorcerer and leader of the party

SK: In a recent episode (I guess we’re just going to have to dispense with the spoilers here) you got to play opposite yourself. In sort of a “Sliders”-style arc you got to play a sci-fi version of yourself meeting a fantasy version of yourself. What’s that like?

TP: Oh man. I don’t know if I thanked Joanna enough for writing that episode. She knows I LOVE sci-fi (but apparently not enough to win me any trivia rounds in the category...what good am I!?), and as much as I love Gwenevere in the "Standard Action" world, Joanna knows that my dream role involves some sort of Ripley-esque character fighting aliens or cyborgs or...alien cyborgs. It’s my absolute favourite genre to watch so I’ve always wanted to participate in it. Captain Wendy has no ties to the Gwenevere we already know, so I didn’t have the responsibility of being consistent with her character, which meant I could start from scratch and make an entirely new person. Having said that, it was also neat to find similarities between the two characters, too: the captain obviously overcompensates for her feelings of inadequacy, which is where Gwenevere started and kind of (hopefully!) grew out of as the series went on. The captain was also just kind of adorably ridiculous, whereas I think Gwenevere is almost too self-conscious to attempt the same grandiosity. I also loved that Gwenevere had an almost blase attitude about meeting her “other” version, because at that point she’d met many, but Captain Wendy didn’t know what the hell was happening. That was a fun juxtaposition to play.

SK: Okay, so I see in your credits that you were on “Supernatural,” which I knew would excite my followers, so rather than make up a question I crowdsourced this one. People want to know: “Ask her if Jensen Ackles is even hotter in person” and “Ooh ask if she got supernatural goo splashed into her at any point.” (These, sadly, were the best two questions.)

TP:  Aw, I’m sorry to disappoint on both fronts! I didn’t get to meet either of the brothers (I believe they were still doing the con circuit in San Diego at the time), and my character didn’t get too enmeshed in the “Supernatural” side of things to get any goo on her. My scenes involved the angels (whom I didn’t actually know were angels, being a small town mechanic and not up on the latest battle for humanity), and I encountered them briefly and sent them on their way. For what it’s worth, Misha Collins IS even hotter in person.

SK: Okay, sorry about that. As I said, I crowdsourced it. So I see you were also on “Fringe.” That must’ve also been quite an experience. What was that like?

TP: Ha! That’s okay, I like those kinds of questions. I feel like a star for a brief, shining moment.

"Fringe" WAS a cool experience. That was one of my first gigs on the set of an established series (I don’t like differentiating by using the term “professional” because I think that’s a better term to describe, say, conduct, and I’ve been on indie sets that were incredibly professional!). I had two lines, and I think as any day player will tell ya, it sometimes feels like you put more pressure on yourself the less screen time you have; you have a minute, and your sole function is to further the story or dole out a new plot point, so it’s not “about” you. So if more time has to be spent on your scene because you’re fucking up, that’s time taken away from the scenes and characters that ARE the most important to the story. You want to get in, do your job and then get out of the way. So I got to set, got into costume (fatigues, nice), got my makeup and hair done (beret, also nice), and when all was said and done I spent more time in my trailer than on set, it was all over SO fast. I had hours to go over and over my two little lines before we shot my scene, and before I knew it I was getting a ride back into town. But I got to keep my “Fringe Division” ID badge, the people were SUPER friendly, and I can honestly say I did my job and then got out of the way. :)

Tara's Fringe Division badge...or is it?

SK: Well, thanks for being with us today, Tara. Do you have any last thoughts or parting wishes for your fans?

TP: Thank you so much for having me, Stephen! I just want to say hi and thanks to everyone who’s checked out or supported "Standard Action;" we got to make three seasons of something we really love because of you! I hope you enjoy season 3 as much as we enjoyed making it. :)

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"D" is for "Drabble"

“What,” you may be wondering, “Is a ‘drabble?’”  An excellent question, my imaginary strawman friend, and one I shall attempt to set out to answer here on the blog today.

First, some prologue.  While ordinary readers commonly think in terms of pages, publishers, editors, and writers typically talk in terms of words.  Magazine editors and the like pay by the word.  You may know that Charles Dickens was famously loquacious because his novels were originally serialized, and thus he got paid more to spout off gibberish like “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”  (I mean, seriously, dude, it couldn’t have been both.)

The short reason for this is that you can more or less make any amount of words fit various page lengths.  Sure, if I put one or two words per page, it would look preposterous, but for the most part there’s a lot of wiggle room.  Imagine if I was getting paid by the page.  Then I (or my editor, or whoever) just double-spaced the document, suddenly I’d be getting paid twice as much.  Or if I changed the margins, or increased the font, and so on and so on.

So it’s easiest for professionals to talk in terms of words.  Now, the various lengths of fictitious works are generally also determined by word length, which also has a lot to do with pay and the market and so forth.  Long story short, if I try to submit a 40,000 word short story to GQ, it’s probably going to take up their entire magazine, even if they make the font like 6. 

So, without getting into the nitty gritty, and knowing that there are exceptions to every rule, and age differences, and so on and so forth, caveat emptor, here’s a good rule of thumb for word lengths:

more than 50,000 words – novel
20,000 – 50,000 words – novella
2,000 – 20,000 words – short story
less than 2000 words - microfiction

Microfiction (again with certain caveats and the like) is a fairly modern phenomenon, and is generally considered a pretty hot commodity.  I could pontificate on this matter – it probably has something to do with the rise of Twitter and the decline of attention spans – but I don’t really know anything about it for sure, so I won’t wade too deeply into that pool.

Anyway, microfiction is all the rage, and, like trying to cram as much data as possible into a 140 character tweet, some people revel in the challenge of cramming as much story as possible into the smallest space possible.  You may have enjoyed some of the recent two sentence horror stories that have been floating around FB and the like, for instance.

Which leads us to our word of the day.  A drabble is a somewhat unusual piece of microfiction in that it consists of exactly 100 words.  As hard as it is to get a story under a certain word count, it is increasingly difficult to get it to meet an exact, hard limit.

For instance, with the word “limit” I just hit my 500 word minimum for this blog post, but I still have more to say.  If I were writing a drabble I’d have to go back and cut, or maybe even change one word to two, or two words to one, and so on, to hit that exact 100 mark.
Such a creepy cover.  Too bad it's out of print.  Sigh...

A drabble was actually my first published work.  “Clockwork Offal,” a rather nasty little piece of work that finally exorcised one of my worst demons, was featured in the sadly out-of-print ANOTHER 100 HORRORS anthology.  If any reviewers are interested in reading my drabble (along with 99 others from some great authors) let me know and I may still be able to hook you up with a review copy.  Ordinary readers, sadly, shall have to suffer, unless I can work out a deal I’ve been trying to put together with the owner of the now-shuttered Cruentus Libri Press.

Oh, incidentally, I would be remiss in not mentioning that our good friend Jake Bible writes a drabble every Friday.  In fact, one of his novels was written entirely in the form of drabbles.  Fascinating, fascinating stuff and you should definitely check it out.

Monday, February 23, 2015


For some reason I can't entirely explain THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO has been having a bit of a renaissance lately in terms of sales and reviews.  I would never venture to guess what sparks anything in this damned, unpredictable bitch goddess of an industry, but it may be the result of this astonishing new audio trailer from Hollywood Book Trailers!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Zombie-Proof Your Apartment (Guest Infographic)

You guys may not know (or you maybe you do know, because I've been bitching about it so much this year) but I scramble to try to bring interesting, original content to this blog.  If you ask me, there's nothing more boring than a writer droning on about the craft or, God forbid, saying, "Here's an excerpt from a work-in-progress you don't give a shit about.  I wrote XXXX words today!"
So you can imagine I'm very pleased when someone reaches out to me with content, especially apropos content.  You'll all probably remember Naomi Shaw's infographic from Halloween.  Well, Naomi's company reached out to me again with another pretty neat infographic which you're probably already scrolling past all of this preamble to gawk at.  So, go ahead!  Enjoy!

Guest Infographic

Once the Zombie Apocalypse hits, you’ll want to make sure that your apartment is as zombie-proof as possible. You likely won’t have access to modern luxuries like electricity, phone or other amenities. So, you’ll have to make do with a lot of DIY knowledge. Follow these tips to ensure safety from zombies in your home.
Zombie Proof Your Apartment

Know Your Zombie
Not all zombies are created equal, so it’s important to be prepared for whatever version of the undead you may face. Here are a few classic types:

Basic walkers: These classic zombies are slow and steady in their quest for flesh. They’re relatively easy to neutralize but travel in growing packs, and once they start piling up against barriers, you better watch out.

Runners: Start training, because these zombies are fast. You will not outrun them, so you’ll want to fortify your apartment and wait it out.
Stalkers: These are the biggest threat to apartment dwellers. As quadrupeds, they can scale buildings, which means most apartments will become giant zombie vending machines.

Your Defense Starts at the Door
It’s all about the materials; here’s a breakdown of the strengths of various options based on the number of zombies needed to break through:

• MDF door (3 zombies)
• Solid wood door (7 zombies)
• Steel door (14+ zombies)

• Traditional knob (1 clever zombie)
• Knob plus security chain (2 zombies)
• Deadbolt (5 zombies)
• Bar lock (9 zombies)

Next Stop, the Windows
Your best bet for windows is finding an apartment with tempered glass, which is used in car windows, underwater equipment and for bulletproofing. It will also break into cubes rather than shatter into life-threatening shards if you need to escape. At minimum, it’s about four times stronger than standard window glass.

But since glass will never be strong enough to completely resist a zombie, the next step up would be getting your apartment iron bars to keep the living dead at bay. It might buy you time against an extra four or five zombies versus an unprotected window.

Blackout curtains are a must HAVE, not because of zombies but for potential raiders who might identify you as a target and come after your supplies.

Safeguard Your Stockpile
Ensure your apartment shelves have the minimum needed to survive, then pace yourself:

With risk of losing weight:

• 1,200 calories a day for women
• 1,500 calories a day for men

To maintain your current weight:

• 1,600 to 2,400 calories for women
• 2,000 to 3,000 calories for men

If you’re facing the classic brain-eating zombie, it would consume an average of 2,065 calories per brain!

Here are some essentials that are best to have on hand — in bulk:

• Peanut butter: high in protein and doesn’t need to be refrigerated.
• Whole grain crackers: high in fiber and edible (though maybe not delicious) well after the expiration date.
• Dried fruit: keeps for six months to a year and is loaded with nutrients.
• Canned soups, chilis and vegetables: will last for years, so buy plenty and buy often.
• Multivitamins: because eventually you just need the basics. They’re compact to store and come with a long shelf life.

Prepare for the Worst

Odds are good that if the zombie attack lasts long enough, you’ll start running out of the essentials. Here are a few things you can do to increase your supplies:

• Got a balcony on your apartment? Secure it and start a zombie-proof garden!
• Set up rainwater collection buckets to draw from when utilities like water finally go out.
• Many apartments get fantastic sunlight, so consider solar panels as a renewable energy source.
• It’s worth investing in a good sledgehammer or pickaxe … not only as the perfect tool for bashing in zombie heads but also to break through walls into neighboring apartments without risking infested hallways!

Battle the Undead

There are plenty of things in your apartment that you can use to eliminate the zombie threat. Anything blunt, sharp or heavy will do the trick. Here are a few items everyone should have lying around:

• Baseball bat: highly effective, simple to use and inexpensive
• Kitchen knives: remember to keep them sharp … really sharp
• Household tools like hammers and screwdrivers
• Pots and pans
• Fire extinguishers: All apartments have them; gather several to bash and distract unwanted zombie callers.
• DIY polearm: Duct tape a kitchen knife onto a shower bar to defend yourself at a safe distance.
• DIY mace: Lock a frying pan onto the end of a bicycle chain and swing it around like a mace for small groups of undesirable undead.
• Safety first! To defend yourself against bites, use a cooking board, cookie sheet or even the lid of your toilet as a shield.
• Remember to resist the urge to do things using fire or chemicals to fight the zombies, because you may harm yourself.

If you do go toe-to-toe with a zombie, heed your target’s vulnerabilities:
Head: 100% effective
Arms and legs (cutting them off): arms 40%, legs 75%

Plot Your Route to the Roof
If we know anything from movies, it’s that rooftop helicopter rescues are the way to close out a heroic and daring experience. Make sure you know exactly how to get to the roof of your building when the cavalry finally swoops in.

Ultimately, an apartment has pros and cons when it comes to surviving a zombie apocalypse. You have the benefit of a raised vantage point, but in the end, you could find yourself cut off by zombie-infested elevators and hallways. The best strategy is to buckle down and prepare for the worst.

About Amber Heckler: 

Amber is the Social Media Manager for For Rent Media Solutions™ and has been with the company since April 2007. In her role, Amber helps execute and optimize a social media strategic plan across multiple channels, as well as manages the company's social media product. This would include blogs, social networks, video sharing sites, and other conversational media. She spends a great deal of time building relationships with consumers, social media influencers, and bloggers to generate awareness of For Rent Media Solutions brand. Amber is also an avid lover of goat cheese and bacon (separate or together; it doesn't matter). She is also obsessed with Pinterest and puppies.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

"C" is for "Cloneasaurus"

It’s rare that I bow to the court of public opinion.  There was a long period during the early ‘00s (aughties?) when people said I shouldn’t wear black jeans.  Well, guess where those people are now?  Probably still in the same place I left them, honestly.  I haven’t really given it much thought.  But the black jeans?  Oh, yeah.  Those got worn.

If there was an overwhelming public sentiment regarding my work, which, let’s just be honest, there isn’t, but if there were, I think it’s that you all want a BRAINEATER JONES sequel.  That’s one of the sentiments I hear echoed now and again.  In fact, it’s the most common sentiment I’ve heard so far, although to be fair it might just be by dint of the fact that BRAINEATER is my most reviewed and most popular work. 

Just so you don’t think I’m going to leave you hanging on that regard as I move on to the real meat of this blogpost, I’ll just kind of say that for a variety of personal and professional reasons a “straight” sequel to BRAINEATER will not be coming any time soon.  That being said, for those of you who are absolutely chomping at the bit, a cartoon series is genuinely in development which I think will be better than a straight sequel because it will feature all of your favorite characters, which, as you know (SPOILER ALERT!) can’t happen in any sequel.  And there will also be an interquel short story which I just put the finishing touches on and I expect to be published later this year.  More on that in due time, but, again, the reason I did this was so that everybody can see their favorite characters and I don’t have to do the heavy lifting of creating a new cast.

Whew, that went on way too long.  What this post is really supposed to be about is the latest public sentiment I’ve been (kind of) ignoring.  The second most common statement I’ve been hearing from reviewers lately is that they want their own cloneasaurus.  For those of you who haven’t read BILLY AND THE CLONEASAURUS yet (and, to be fair, what are you waiting for if you haven't?) this is an artist’s depiction of one:
Notice this variant cover?

As you can no doubt tell, Cloney, as he is affectionately known, is a small, velociraptor-like creature that has been cloned from a roast beef sandwich.  Long story short, the geneticists of the future only really had access to cow DNA, but only really believed that creatures looking like dinosaurs existed.  Trust me, it’s funnier in execution than listening to me try to explain it.

So here’s where I hit a brick wall.  People seem to want their own Cloney.  And I’d like to give it to them, but I have no idea about the mechanics of that.  I feel like somewhere on the internet I should be able to find someone who would make plush cloneasauruses to order.  So I’m crowdsourcing this out to you, dear blog readers.  Understanding that by no means is my book popular enough to justify a 500 or 1000 stuffed animal run, are there any artisanal options out there?  Etsy or something like that?  I miiiight be willing to underwrite, say, a 100 stuffed animal run if I could get a few people to pledge to buy one.  But mostly I think a “create on demand” would be the best model unless Cloney plushies take off and start selling like ho’cakes. 

So let me know in the comments what you think.  Thanks, everybody!

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Pranking of a Lifetime

If you don't know me in real life, you should know I'm a fan of mischief.  Despite what some people will tell you, I mean good-hearted mischief, not trolling which is generally understood to be mean-spirited and with a goal of hurting people.  Things like pretending I was Katy Perry's Left Shark.  Or that I like dogs.  Which, if you believe either of those, I've got a bridge to sell you.

Anyway, I've developed a reputation for this sort of good-hearted mischievousness, particularly among my fellow authors, or so it would seem.  But little considering this, I agreed to read the first draft of sci-fi author Mary Fan's VIRTUAL SHADOWS, the conclusion to her JANE COLT Series.

For those of you who haven't read the books yet, the second one, SYNTHETIC ILLUSIONS, ends on a bit of a downer.  I mean, it was an upper and a downer.  Pretty classically for science fiction, it had a similar ending to "The Empires Strikes Back" like, "Gee, everything sucks, but we've still got hope."
The downer book in question

One of the reasons I and Mary's other friends had been so insistent that she make it a trilogy was to give her characters a genuinely happy ending and not just a "I've got you, babe" Sonny and Cher ending.  So, I'm reading VIRTUAL SHADOWS, and I reach the end only to find this:

Jane didn’t have time to think about how she’d screwed up, though. She yanked at the controls, trying to avoid a second hit, but the ship barely responded to her commands. Ahead, Venovi’s infamous rock formations filled the viewscreen.

She realized with alarm that if she continued going straight, the ship would crash. But no matter how she tried, the steering wouldn’t listen to her. Fear flooded her. Unable to change course, she tried slowing and landing instead. Another blast hit the ship, tearing through the hull. The howl of rushing air filled her ears. Beneath it, she caught the hint of someone’s voice.

“Hang on, Adam!” she yelled. When he didn’t respond, she glanced at him.

A spike protruded from his chest, and his lifeless eyes stared at the ground. She barely had a chance to scream in horror before the Dragonet barreled into the mountain. The impact sent an explosion of pain through her entire body. Rocks came tumbling down, and eternal darkness descended.

I flipped back a few pages to make sure I hadn't missed something.  Was this a virtual reality fake-out and I had missed it?  I spent almost a day fretting about it.  Had she really gone the Douglas Adams MOSTLY HARMLESS route and said, "Fuck it, no mo' sequels 'cuz no mo' characters!"

And the more I thought about it, the more sense it made!  She had been talking recently about things like, "It's time to end Jane" and "Sometimes I just want to kill off all my characters" and things that, at the time had just seemed like ordinary author whining, but in light of this super downer ending seemed more and more genuine.

And then it hit me like a ton of bricks.  BILLY AND THE CLONEASAURUS doesn't have the happiest ending, and THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO is only marginally better, a long-time complaint of Mary's.  And I had been the one insisting that Jane deserved a happier ending than she had gotten in SI. 

Instead, I had been pranked, and been given a Kozeniewski ending.  I had, in fact, thought it strange that my file said "for SK" but not so strange that I had mentioned it.  But, yeah, this was the "for SK" ending.  It turns out the real book goes on for another almost 200 pages after that scene, which had been mocked up strictly to cause me distress.

Well played, Ms. Fan.  Well played.  But just remember, the thing about pranks is, they only beget other pranks.  So, fairly warned.  Game on.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Behind the Potatoes and Molasses (Interview with Patrick McHale, Creator of "Over the Garden Wall" and Creative Director of "Adventure Time")

It was unusually cold this past Halloween so we cranked up the heat early this year.  The next morning, as my lungs filled with smoke, I had to question whether the house was on fire.  "Luckily," it was just that our furnace had gone completely kaput.  So I spent the unseasonably cold first week of November huddled under a blanket next to a space heater on my couch watching cable TV, like I imagine the pioneers did in frontier days.

It was then, cold to the point of numbness and barely able to do anything that involved moving from the warm cocoon of my couch-womb, that I discovered "Over the Garden Wall" on the Cartoon Network.  The story of two lost and often freezing boys spoke to me in a peculiar way, and I found myself absorbed and obsessed with what would happen next in a TV show in a way I haven't felt in, well, years.  Luckily this incredible and strangely moving show was a miniseries, the first ever Cartoon Network miniseries in fact, a delivery method that seemed oddly in keeping with its offbeat content.  So I was able to finish the story in that one frigid November week, and as soon as I did I immediately had to start over and watch again.  (Once you've watched it, you'll know why.)

I'm very pleased to introduce today's guest, Patrick McHale.  Patrick is the creator, executive producer, writer, storyboard artist, and songwriter of "Over the Garden Wall."  His short, "Tome of the Unknown," which was the basis for "Over the Garden Wall," won the Santa Barbara International Film Festival Award.  He was also the creative director for Cartoon Network mainstay "Adventure Time" and a writer and storyboard artist for "The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack."  There's so much to talk about with today's guest, I'm not going to waste any (more) time with folksy anecdotes and just jump right into the interview.
Patrick McHale


SK: Hello, Patrick, and thanks so much for agreeing to be with us today. Making television is a very collaborative process by nature, but what's the difference between working on something you created (like "Over the Garden Wall") as opposed to somebody's else's baby (like "Adventure Time" or "Flapjack?")

PM: Working as a storyboard artist on "Flapjack" was the most fun. I was learning a lot, and Thurop (the show creator) just let us run wild with our ideas ~~ as long as they were on-character, and the stories were clear & structured. He let us feel ownership over everything we did. It was great to just write & draw stuff, and let other people deal with making the show.
Captain K'Nuckles and Flapjack

"Adventure Time," on the other hand, was a lot harder because I was in a different role. I was Creative Director on the first couple seasons and my job was all about going to meetings, and dealing with people, and structuring stories, and giving notes, and improving gags, and cleaning up storyboards, and going over designs, etc. etc.  So... Even though I was putting my heart and soul into the show, I could never feel much ownership over anything. I never "wrote an episode" or "created a character". My fingers were in everything, but my hand was never fully submerged into the pot.  It's hard being a middleman.  That said, working on "Adventure Time" in that capacity taught me everything I needed to know to run my own show, and also earned me some trust with the network. It was also awesome to work with Pen, and with all the other "Adventure Time" folks. They're all the best people.

So... yeah, with "Over the Garden Wall"... I was doing the same jobs that I did on "Adventure Time"... except I was able to feel a lot more ownership over everything because I created & directed the show. It really helped my ego to feel like the work I was putting in would pay off. Making shows is hard. It builds you up, and crashes you down all the time. Half of your job is figuring out how to respond to e-mails or phone calls appropriately. Just trying to keep the engine running smoothly.  But it was nice to be able to have both sides of my brain firing on all cylinders.

I was also lucky to have a small, dedicated and incredibly talented crew.  And the network was very supported of the whole project. So it just went a lot smoother than the early "Adventure Time" days. 

I always feel like it's important to mention Nick Cross, the art director on "Over the Garden Wall," because the show probably would have fallen apart if he wasn't there. He did so much amazing work so quickly, and was constantly saving the day. He helped out with storyboards (without being credited), he did a ton of After Effects work, and he even animated a bunch of scenes. He animated the whole intro sequence in Episode 1, and the Highwayman dance scene in episode 4, and a bunch of other scenes here and there throughout the series.

SK: My friend has a theory that "Adventure Time" is about a game of D&D that young kids would play if they could somehow understand the rules of D&D but still believe in the stork and moon cheese. Is that about how you guys saw it?

PM:  Haha, well yeah I mean we were those kids. We were the DMs and the players at the same time. Just putting Finn and Jake into situations we thought would be neat, and then trying to figure out how to deal with those situations as those characters. There's definitely a lot of D&D influence in "Adventure Time" from a storytelling standpoint. There's a freedom that anything can happen, and the world is as infinitely amazing as your imagination.
What time is it?  Eh...noonish.

SK: (From here on out I'm just going to assume that our readers have seen "Over the Garden Wall." If you haven't, consider this a SPOILER ALERT.) So, you've said that you originally planned 18 episodes of "Over the Garden Wall" and that there are "ghosts" of stories between the episodes, which is sort of borne out by the conversations the boys always seem to be in the middle of as each episode begins. Can you give us some insight into what those episodes might have been? And why those 8 ideas didn't make the cut but these 10 did?

PM:  Sure, well... Some of the missing episodes were actually squished together. Like... Episode 6 ("Lullaby in Frogland") is an obvious one. Originally I had planned to have an episode about frogs, and a different episode about going to meet Adelaide. I think Episode 6 turned out surprisingly well for being so squished together, but it certainly could have been improved if it could have been split up into 2 different episodes. I had intended to have a slower build up to meeting Adelaide. Beatrice leaves Wirt and Greg... and the brothers set out to look for her, but run into the Woodsman instead. Then at the end of the episode, when they finally show up to save Beatrice, we reveal that she was in cahoots with her all along.  It would have been nice to have another full Woodsman episode, and more Adelaide.  But oh well!

Other episodes... lets see... early on there was an episode about an old man who made dice out of children's bones, and the children's spirits sang an eerie song from the basement to warn Wirt and Greg to leave the house. But I think that one got cut early, for obvious reasons. Also the one about the witch who took her/his skin off at night to fly around and dance on people while they slept. That one got cut early too. Uh... I'm trying to remember which ones were actually part of those 18. I think I had a story about Wirt becoming a gentleman burglar; like he gets caught sneaking into someone's house and the widow of the house is sort of thrilled about meeting this charming young man. This one was based on a true story from the Gilded Age that took place somewhere in western Massachusetts, I think. There was an episode about a town that looks like it's underwater, but Wirt and Greg can breath fine (foreshadowing the ending). Wirt and Greg got turned into animals for a few episodes at some point.

I'm actually having trouble remembering the missing episodes. There were so many different versions of the show after we started restructuring it that it's hard to remember. But none of this stuff is canon. The only stuff that's canon is what's in the show, and what's in that one Boom! comic.

SK: I believe I would watch an entire show of just Elijah Wood being a gentleman burglar.  In my extensive research (read: Wikipedia) it seems there are a couple of movies named "Over the Garden Wall" but they all reference an apparently lost film from 1919. When you picked the title was this a deliberate reference to early 20th century Americana and "lost" things? Or am I reading too much into it?

PM: You're NOT reading into it too much!  Bessie Love is my favorite actress of all time. Good find!
Bessie Love, star of...I'm gonna say...FIFTY SHADES OF GREY?

SK: So the main character Wirt's great love interest Sara always appears covered, either in her school mascot costume or her Halloween costume, which I found an intriguing choice. Was she supposed to be everybody's boyhood crush or did you guys run out of animation budget or what was the deal with that?

PM: Haha, yeah I guess I felt like... when you have a middle school or high school crush... or any crush, really... you're not necessarily seeing that person for who they really are. So there's that. But also... I think I was a lot like Sara in high school, and I always wanted to be a mascot... and I had a similar Halloween costume one year. So it also just came from personal experience. But yeah... when you're in high school you're definitely trying to figure out who you are, and you're basically always wearing a costume of some sort - or wishing you were. At least I was.

SK: Oh, that's true!  The putting your crush on a pedestal thing.  That hadn't even occurred to me.  So, the way I interpret the series is that The Unknown is where your soul goes when you're in between life and death. But it's not a metaphor, it's a real place, because Jason Funderburker the frog brought back the magical bell he swallowed and we also see the characters from the Unknown continue to exist even after the boys wake up. (I suppose I could be wrong, but I'll bet this is at least one of the interpretations you were expecting to inspire.) Have you heard any truly out-there theories about the show, either while it was running or now that it's over? Or would you care to settle once and for all what "actually" happened?

PM: Your interpretation makes sense to me. But maybe it's not only about life and death, maybe it's also about reality versus fantasy, and about dreams versus wakefulness. The Unknown is literally the unknown. There are stories that were once told, and are gone forever. Words that have been spoken and forgotten. Ideas that have been thought, but lost. And there's plenty of stuff mankind has never thought of, and will never think of. The Unknown is all that stuff. If there is more to the universe than what humans can perceive (and of course there is) then maybe everything that can ever be conceived is floating around somewhere unseen and unknown in some abstract way. So maybe Wirt and Greg get a glimpse of it, and make sense of these abstract concepts the best way they can understand it (goofy cartoon stories). Or maybe Wirt and Greg, and everyone else in the show, are just some made up characters used to express some ideas that would have otherwise disappeared.  Maybe everything on TV is a lie. Maybe all of your memories are lies. Maybe everything you perceive is a lie. But you have to believe in something, right? Believe in Stephen!

SK: I BELIEVE IN ME!  *claps hands*  Did it work?  Okay, I guess I'm still here, so I can keep asking questions.  Here at Manuscripts Burn we always strive to get "the scoop." So, Patrick McHale, creator of "Over the Garden Wall" and animation kingpin: when will season 2 be premiering?

PM: I don't think there'll be a season 2. I don't really have solid ideas that improve the series. Wirt and Greg's story is told. But they ARE making a new season of "Twin Peaks," so I guess you never know what'll happen!  I do have ideas for companion pieces to "Over the Garden Wall," so hopefully I can make one of those and that'll satisfy those who liked this miniseries.
The poster for the one and only (sigh) season of "Over the Garden Wall"

SK: Well, that makes me a sad panda, but at least it's the honest answer. And I'll definitely remind you in 25 years of this interview when you're the next David Lynch.  Well, thank you so much for being with us today, Patrick. I admire your work very much and it really means a lot to me that you'd come on and let me geek out. Do you have any final thoughts or parting wishes for your fans that we didn't get to cover elsewhere in this interview?

PM: Thank YOU!  Parting wishes? I don't know. Hope everybody is doing well. Happy Valentines Day.

Purchase Links

"The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack" Season 1 is available on DVD and Amazon streaming and maybe some other places.  I don't really know how people watch TV these days, which is why I still have cable.

"Over the Garden Wall" is available on Amazon Instant Video and the tie-in comic is available on Kindle.  T-shirts and other merchandise are available on the Cartoon Network Store.

"Adventure Time" has an entire Amazon Store, so just, like, go nuts with that one.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

"B" is for "Braineating"

Well, you all no doubt knew this post was coming.  BRAINEATER JONES was my first published work and it holds a special place in my heart.


Don’t run off just yet!

Because this is also a functional post, with lots of housekeeping and moving pieces.

So, for those of you who haven’t been paying attention (and, honestly, outside of myself and my publisher, there is absolutely no one on this Earth who should be paying all that much attention to this) BRAINEATER JONES has been Amazon-exclusive for the last…um…I’m not actually sure, but I’d wager about six months.

Let me double check and see if I have an actual record of when it went Amazon exclusive.  Okay, I can’t find an e-mail or anything, so it must have been a phone call.  So, the reason BRAINEATER JONES went Amazon-exclusive was because Amazon came out with a new program called “Kindle Unlimited.”  Oh, but, you know what, Kindle Unlimited didn’t really come into existence until September, so it was probably right around there.  Yeah, so about six months, like I said.

Kindle Unlimited, if you haven’t been following the news, is essentially Netflix for books.  You pay a flat subscription fee, I think $9.99 a month, and you can download as many titles as you can read.  So, I’ve got to be frank right here, even though I strongly encourage literacy, and not just for selfish reasons, but I don’t really see the value of Kindle Unlimited.  The number of people reading eleven books a month has got to be infinitesimal.  Well, maybe not infinitesimal, but I know readers, good readers, dedicated readers, who max out at a book a week.

I suppose if you’re picking up a bunch of $5.99 e-books on Kindle Unlimited, maybe that’s making it worth it.  I dunno.  Anyway, I don’t want to dissect that too much.  But the point is, BRAINEATER JONES was on Kindle Unlimited for a while as an experiment, but now we’re back in mass distribution!  I honestly have no idea whether it was good or bad for sales (I mean, I don’t have another six month period from September to January to compare it to where my book has been out.)  So I guess we’ll find that out this year.  Unless we go back on Kindle Unlimited.  Anyway, I could run around in circles worrying about that.

The good news is for those of you with a Nook, BJ is now back in the Barnes and Noble store.  It’s also available again on:

Google play

And, here’s the best part.  I sometimes get people asking what the “best” distribution method is to support me.  And up until now it’s mostly been a shrug, because all of those distributors take their cut of the vig.  But now I finally have a proper answer.  Red Adept Publishing just opened a direct purchase store on their website.  So, with no middleman, I’ll basically be getting my full 50% of your purchase royalties.  So the ideal place for any reader to purchase BRAINEATER JONES is now:

The Red Adept Publishing store

Monday, February 9, 2015

This Week Only: DOUBLE BOOK SALE!!!

These are exceedingly rare and exciting times we find ourselves living in, my friends.  For the first time ever two of my books are on sale for only $0.99!  (Or, if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, absolutely free!)  You can pick up BILLY AND THE CLONEASAURUS or THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO (or both!) for this ludicrously low price now through 3:00 am EST Friday, February 13.
But don't just take my word for it.  You can read all the internet buzz for BILLY or GHOUL yourself.  Here's what just a few of the latest reviewers have had to say:


- Kelly Smith Reviews

"...a fun story with a unique twist to your ordinary zombie theme."
- Jessica Kong, Sea-Anan Empire
- Christine Morgan, The Horror Fiction Review


- Una, That's What I'm Talking About

"But honestly, who doesn’t like a big old fat satire?"
- Kurt Schuett, Ginger Nuts of Horror

"This was the kind of story that was unlike anything I'd ever read. Kozeniewski is talented that way.  There were moments where it bordered between Horror and Science Fiction and I liked how the two melded together."
- Erin MacCallum, The Reader's Hollow

Friday, February 6, 2015

No Bonus Points (Interview with Joanna Gaskell, Writer and Actor for "Standard Action")

Good morrow, blog readers, whom I assume to be of gentle stock since ye canst read.  *doffs cap*

Eh, okay, that's enough of that.  I thought I could keep up the old timey talk for this whole intro, but nevermind.

So.  First of all, if you haven't been watching history's greatest web series, "Standard Action," go do that right now.  Watch every episode and then come back.  I'll wait.

Pretty nifty, am I right?  You stoked now?  Pretty stoked?  Well, guess what!  Actress, producer, writer, and, um, a bunch of other things of "Standard ActionJoanna Gaskell agreed to be on the blog today!  (And if the stars are right, she may not be the last of the "SA" crew to swing by this year, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it...)

So, without any further Ed-do (that'll make more sense after you read the interview) let's meet our guest and then jump right into the interview!  Yay!

About Joanna Gaskell:

Joanna was born in Victoria, B.C., Canada and trained as an actor at the contemporary East 15 Acting School in London, U.K. She moved to Vancouver in 2008 as a film actor, voiceover artist and writer, and moved into producing as well as performing in the new media industry with the creation of fantasy-comedy web series "Standard Action."


SK:  Hello, Joanna, and thanks for being with us today!  The first thing I want to ask you about is getting the band together.  How did the "Standard Action" cast and crew come together?  (Bonus points if the answer is, "We all met in a tavern.")

JG:  No bonus points for me... this time. Well, Rob Hunt and I created the concept from a few scripts that I wrote. Then, we brought on Edwin Perez (Fernando) because we'd been working with him on a feature film that Rob was directing and producing, and he turned out to be a closet D&D player. That was actually the tipping point, because he was a costumer as well - fantasy is complicated because of things like sets and costumes and makeup, and Edwin brought a skill set to the table that both Rob and I lacked. With him on board, we finally figured we could get this thing started. Then Carla Miller (our Art Director and First Cameraperson) and Ashley Young (Key Makeup Artist and Hairstylist) joined the team - they had both also worked with us in the past - and with the help of a couple of other friends we got the teaser shot for Season 1. You can now find that online as Episode 6.5; it was our first "Standard Action" effort, and was shot before the show even had a name. 

Once the teaser was out there, we got some great attention from other talented people who wanted to work with us - among them Vanessa Driveness, who became our primary Costume Designer and also an Associate Producer; and Ishnu, who worked as first season Sound Recordist. We then held auditions and met Daniel Johnston and Tara Pratt (Martin and Wendy) and we rolled from there. We've met a lot of other fantastic people along the way who have helped us out immensely - Jennifer Lyseng, Kersten Tennert, Edward Foy, David Pearson, and so many more.

SK: So does the actor you ever hate the writer you or vice versa? Like, do you ever realize you gave yourself a speech that's too hard, or you're not giving Edda enough lines or anything like that?

JG: Ha! We had a running joke on set that I always gave the least lines to myself. Wendy had all the planning and plot, Fernando had all the speeches... and I mostly just grunted or joked or fell over. And I never thought Edda had too few lines, that's for sure. As the Production Manager, I had way too many things to think about before and during a shoot day, and it was nice to not have to learn any massive speeches. On the final day of shooting principal photography for Season 3, I spent the entire shoot lying in the dirt, pretending to be unconscious. I had no lines. It was hilarious.

Some of the "Standard Action" crew with Joanna on the right as Edda the half-elf barbarian

SK: So, I have to wonder with a project on this scale that relies on goodwill and crowdfunding to exist, how much of the story do you already have planned? Like, for instance, is there a five-year plan so you can sprinkle hints about the future "Babylon 5" style? Or do you just write a whole season and if you get another, it's a gift?

JG: I never assumed that there would be another season after the one we were shooting. I often planted ideas about the world, or hinted at characters' backstories, so that if I had a chance I could explore it later; but I never relied upon it. Actually, in Season 1, we didn't even know how the season would end when we started shooting it. Season 2 and Season 3 had more planning behind them, of course, but even so, we often had to make major changes to plot due to actor availability, or even weather. Often weather.

It's actually wonderful how much Season 1 and Season 2 detail I've been able to explore in Season 3. I laid a lot of groundwork I never thought I'd be able to touch on again, and I've been given a fantastic opportunity to do so.

SK: I was going to ask which is your favorite character, but I just can't even do it with a straight face. Fernando is clearly the greatest. Can you tell us about developing such an ingenious comic invention?

JG: Ha! Well, Fernando was inspired by an actual Dungeons & Dragons character named Renaldo, who was created by Rob and played through many adventures. In turn, Renaldo was inspired by a black and white picture of Errol Flynn as Robin Hood, looking very dashing. Fernando was written to be the earnest, lovable and low-wisdom aspiring hero. A huge amount of what made Fernando what he was was brought to the role by Edwin, of course. He's such an incredibly genuine individual, and a fantastic actor. He also was willing to do absolutely everything the role required... like wearing a glowing codpiece. That thing had a waist-mounted battery pack.

Edwin Perez as Fernando Inigo Vespa of the Hairy Feet, sans glowing codpiece.  Perhaps we'll hear more from this rakish character later this year?

SK: What is the greatest fantasy movie ever made?

JG: Erm... "The Last Unicorn?" "The Empire Strikes Back?" "The Princess Bride?" No, wait - "The Dark Crystal!" Or.. hmm. "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy was pretty amazing... though so was "Pan's Labyrinth." I dunno. Pass.

SK: No, I'm sorry. The correct answer was, "Ladyhawke." Moving on, can you walk me through a day-in-the-life when you're actively shooting the series? Or is it just so random and hectic there's no real schedule?

JG: Oh, it's pretty structured. Structured with the caveat that we may have to change everything at a moment's notice. Usually those of us performers who needed complex makeup would be in the makeup chair by about 6:00am. We'd aim to be shooting the first scene by about 8:30 or 9:00, and we'd try to do two or three scenes in the morning. Then there would be a break for lunch, though often our core crew wouldn't leave set, and we'd just bring sandwiches to them. Then in the afternoon we'd shoot until we lost light, which was as early as 5:00 or as late as 7:30, depending on the season, and if we were shooting in the forest. If we had an indoor day, we could go longer, and people would be less wet and cold; though we'd still try to not ever do longer than a 12-hour day on set. Then gear cleanup and prop and costume teardown would be another hour or two after wrap.

SK:  What does the future hold for "Standard Action?"  And, yes, I am looking for a "scoop" here.

JG: At the moment, the future holds a full and beautiful and epic Season 3, and that's all I can promise. To be honest, that may be all there is - we're just not sure yet. There's a card game coming out, and a gaming module, that's for sure; and for the Season 3 Kickstarter I'm obliged (and excited) to write a feature film that delves into Edda's backstory. Those are coming for sure! But Season 4? We don't know! And if it does happen, it certainly won't happen right away. We've been producing "Standard Action" for four years now, and a lot of our cast and crew need to move on and try new things, and take a bit of a break from it. The wonderful thing about not having an executive producer breathing down your neck is that we really can do whatever we like... and we're not sure what that is yet. That's not really a scoop, is it? Sorry. :)

SK: Well, thanks so much for being with us today all the way from Vancouver, Joanna. Is there anything we didn't get to cover in the interview that you'd like to say or any parting words for your fans here in The States?

JG: The biggest thing I ever want to say to our fans is thank you! Thank you for funding Season 3, and for continuing to tune in, and spread the word about us. "Standard Action" is a huge, incredible world that has grown so far beyond its humble beginnings, and that's due to hard work fueled by fan support. And thank you, Stephen, for letting me blab on about it. I always enjoy doing that.

Joanna Gaskell as Edda the half-elf barbarian

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

"A" is for "Anthology"

Hello, everybody and welcome to my very first entry in Tonia Brown’s 26 Week Blog Challenge!


So, Tonia is a friend (it must be noted: a crazy friend) and she proposed a challenge for as many people as wanted to participate that we blog a minimum of 500 words once a week, starting February 1, for 26 weeks.  And, as you may have guessed, each entry is supposed to correspond to a letter in the Roman alphabet.

This week, being the first week, and the first of weeks being, the subject is “A.”  I pondered discussing Henry Winkler saying, “Eeeeeey” but aside from the fact that it happened, usually accompanied by a bang on a juke box, I don’t know anything else about that.  So instead I decided to choose “anthology.”

An anthology, friends, is a collection.  Actually, I have no idea what it is.  Hang on, let me go look it up on Wiktionary.  Okay, yes, a collection, specifically of literary works such as poems or short stories.  So it’s pretty much exactly what I thought it was, but I wanted to make sure I was saying the right thing instead of just sticking my foot in my mouth.

So, by extension, something like “The Twilight Zone” or “Tales From the Crypt” is an anthology television series – one, where, instead of following the same characters each week, each episode serves as a standalone, like a short story.  Often the stories of an anthology series are adapted from short stories.  It’s the same for a film, like “Cat’s Eye” or “Creepshow.”

Speaking of which, those have really fallen out of favor, haven’t they?  Can anyone think of an anthology movie that’s come out in the last, let’s say, ten years?  I mean, I’m sure there are a few obscure ones, but nothing major comes to mind.  I feel like all the big ones were in the ‘70s and ‘80s.  Well, tastes change I guess.

As long as we’re on the subject of anthologies, let’s talk about one of my favorites (and not just because I’m featured in it, but, yes, mostly just because I’m featured in it): AT HELL’S GATES!  The AT HELL’S GATES series started as the brainchild of horror authors Devan Sagliani and Shana Festa.  In Shana’s writing group we were discussing ways to boost our visibility as individuals.

One suggestion was to release a pack of novels, say a dozen, which has been a method that has been getting a lot of attention, both for good and ill, in the writing world recently.  The up side is, a reader gets 12 novels for $0.99.  The downside is the author is getting paid around $0.04 for each purchase of their novel, just slightly lower than Big 5 royalty rates.  (Zing!)

Anyway, we finally settled on a short story collection, and we decided to donate all of the proceeds to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund because, to be quite frank, The Wounded Warriors Project is run by a bunch of crooked fucks who don’t give their money to veterans.  The IFHF is much more honest.

So why not check it out?  The first and second volumes are out now!  Click the pictures for purchase links.

Monday, February 2, 2015


AT HELL'S GATES VOLUME II: ORIGINS OF EVIL, featuring my short set in THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO universe, "The Man With Four Scars," is now available in paperback and all major e-book format through the following venues:


Here are the other places you'll find info about AHG II around the web:

A post on James Crawford's Writing Blog
A spotlight on Bobbie Metevier's blog
A post on T.M. Caldwell's blog
A release announcement on Claire C. Riley's blog
A post on Frank Tayell's blog
A release announcement on Sean T. Smith's blog
A release announcement on The Sity
A post on the United Federation of Charles
A post on Sharon Stevenson's blog
A review on Apocalypse Yarns
A release announcement on The Bookie Monster
A spotlight on Lesa Anders's blog
An interview with contributor S.G. Lee on Crash Palace Productions
A review on Ginger Nuts of Horror
A spotlight on Author Aoife Marie Sheridan's blog
A spotlight on All Things Fantasy
A review on Booklikes
A review on Christoph Fischer's blog
A review on Patrick S. D'Orazio's blog
An interview on Blaze McRob's blog
A post on Patrick D'Orazio's blog
A sale announcement on E-Book Island
A sale announcement on Bargain Booksy
A sale announcement on Ereader News Today
An interview with Devan Sagliani on authorsinterviews
An article on Freebooksy
A review on The Horror Fiction Review
A review on Shattered Ravings
A spotlight on Risingshadow
A sale spotlight on Sharon Stevenson's blog
A review on AstraDaemon's Lair


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