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."

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

"M" is for "Meaning"

I'm a big fan of "Easter eggs" which are references, especially meta-references, to a work of art hidden in another work of art.  I'm immensely guilty of this.  I think partially it's because my creative process is so chaotic that I'll have a tendency to say, "Oh, I should include that in my current work" when I see something on TV or in a movie or whatever.

BRAINEATER JONES, in particular is a patchwork of influences, and not just from horror and noir, though those are the primary ones.  My tendency to lay Easter eggs is so extreme, in fact, that my publisher got worried I might be putting one over on them and might accidentally (or deliberately, depending on my level of malfeasance) stumble into lawsuit territory.  So they asked me to make a list of every reference in the book.  Trust me, if it hadn't been at someone else's behest I never would have combed through a book to do this, so good luck GHOUL and BILLY fans.

Anyway, I've never shared this file publicly, but at the suggestion of Brian Keene (who happens to be one of those Easter eggs - not to mention the only man to ever notice the "Unforgiven" one) I'm doing so now.  There are well over 100 Easter eggs.  So, without further ado, the secret meaning behind all those confusing lines in BRAINEATER JONES:

Character Names
Jones - drug culture slang for "craving"
William Hinzman - the name of the first actor to portray a modern zombie, "Night of the Living Dead"
Ernst Rothering - similar to Ernst Röhm, chief victim of the Night of the Long Knives.  "Rothering" is German for "red herring."  Rothering is also commonly called "the fat man" also what Sam Spade calls Gutman in THE MALTESE FALCON
Lazar/Russ - suggests Lazarus of the Biblical story, a man who rises from the dead
a.k.a. Bethany - Lazarus's hometown
a.k.a. Forday - i.e. "four day," that is, the fourth day, the day after Jesus rose
Gnaghi - the gravedigger from "Cemetery Man."  Originally his name was Dampé, the gravedigger from "The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time."
Baumer - probably a reference to Richie Tenenbaum's nickname from "The Royal Tenenbaums"
Ed and Joey - the grave robbers from "Return of the Living Dead 2"
Sailor Joe - a reference to Sailor Jerry, a famous tattooist and rum
Henk - a reference to another famous tattooist, Henk Schiffmacher
The Infected - a term for non-zombie zombies in "Resident Evil IV," "28 Days Later," et. al
Mighty Dull - reversal of "Dolemite," 1970s Blaxploitation character
Brigid - Brigid Shaugnessy, THE MALTESE FALCON
Kumaree Tong - a real-life Thai necromancy device, brought up in "Dead and Breakfast."  Originally her name was Humma Kavula, Zaphod Beeblebrox's antagonist in the 2005 film version of "The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy."
Skaron - reminiscent of Scarrans, primary antagonists in "Farscape," hinting that Skaron is a villain
Francoise - French for Franky, i.e. Frankenstein
Delamort - French for "of the dead."  References Romero's films, and, by association, "Dellamorte Dellamore," the Italian title for "Cemetery Man"
Manny - I think this was the doorman in "The Single Guy"
Argento - Dario, the composer for "Dawn of the Dead" (1978) or his daughter Asia, star of "Land of the Dead"
Mr. Land and Mr. Day - i.e. Land of the Dead, Day of the Dead
Alcibé - latinization of Alcibiades

Place Names
Ganesh City - Ganesh is the Hindu god of wisdom and placing/removing obstacles, hence this refers to Jones's quest for his identity
Altstadt - German for "old city" the nice part of Düsseldorf specifically
Kelly Park - refers to Grace Kelly, i.e. "upscale"
Keene Ave - Brian Keene, author of THE RISING, et al.
Lionel Ave - Lionel is the main character in "Dead Alive"
Hallowed Grounds - the coffee shop in "Dawn of the Dead" (2004)
Rm 217 - this was the first room the National Guard guys cleared out in the Philadelphia slum, "Dawn of the Dead" (1978)
Three Rivers - Pittsburgh is sometimes called "The City of Three Rivers."  Romero films and/or sets most of his movies there.
Buffalora Cemetery and "Resurrecturis" - refers to the cemetery and inscription from "Cemetery Man"
68th and Russo - "Night of the Living Dead" was released in 1968 and produced by John Russo
Hat Scratch Fever - play on the disease "cat scratch fever," basically, if a guy was sitting with his hat covering his crotch he'd be scratching it because of his erection at Mighty Dull's brothel
Port-au-Pauper - Little Haiti.  The capital of Haiti is Port-au-Prince and plays on the story The Prince and the Pauper.
101 Gateway Lane - address of Nick Knight, a vampire detective, in "Forever Knight"
44 Bow Street, Apartment 3C - address and apartment of the main characters in "Mission Hill"

1 Nov
Dead narrator/hero facedown in a pool - alludes to "Sunset Boulevard"
Three sunken statues - alludes to THE SIRENS OF TITAN by Kurt Vonnegut
Inscription - entrance to the gates of Hell in Dante's INFERNO.  Yes, this implies that Ganesh may be a Hell or Purgatory.
p. 3 - "dust in the wind" - Kansas song
p. 10 - "Clean.  And well-lighted."  Alludes to Hemingway's "Clean and Well-Lighted Place."

2 Nov

p. 18 "the 1-2-5" - the fictional police precinct from the U.S. version of "Life on Mars"

3 Nov

R51 - alphabet code for RE1, the original Resident Evil

4 Nov

p. 29 "they call me Braineater" - this is the first time (I think) Jones refers to himself by the name others call him and alludes to the same instance in "Samurai Jack," which I think may itself allude to “they call me Mr. Tibbs” in "In the Heat of the Night"

p. 33 “as a squid on Tuesday” - in Futurama Zoidberg says he’s “friskier than a squid on Tuesday” one episode for unclear reasons.

p. 37 - “Sonny Jim” - Klaus calls Ned this in "The Life Aquatic"

5 Nov

Grim Reaper - references perhaps our greatest national cultural treasure, "I Know What You Did Last Summer"

6 Nov

Liber Mortis - a fictional grimoire in the Warhammer world, source of all necromantic knowledge
Malleus Maleficarum - trans: "The Hammer of the Witches," a real-life instruction manual for Catholic Inquisitors
De Vermis Mysteriis - a fictional grimoire, originally a Bloch creation, arrogated by Lovecraft
Necronomicon - a fictional grimoire, originally a Lovecraft creation, now probably better known for its appearance in the "Evil Dead" series.
"Even a play about some guy wearing yellow." - "The King in Yellow," an imaginary madness-inducing play referenced in the horror collection THE KING IN YELLOW by Robert Chambers, later arrogated by Stephen King
"That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even death may die." - recurring Lovecraft quote, not generally used to reference the undead

9 Nov

p. 54 - “I’m the guy with the gun.” - Army of Darkness

10 Nov

"Bill or Billy or Bud" - Sheryl Crow, "All I Wanna Do"

17 Nov

p. 86 – "sometimes it’s nice to be abused" – paraphrase of quote from Fyodor Karamazov, THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV by Fyodor Dostoevsky

18 Nov

p. 80 - "cryptkeeper" - "Tales From the Crypt"
p. 81 - boomstick - Ash calls his gun this in "Army of Darkness"

20 Nov

p. 90 - "Every living thing..." - references "Donnie Darko," "Every living thing dies alone."
p. 95 - Norma Rottencrotch - GySgt Hartman mentions this name to the recruits in "Full Metal Jacket"

21 Nov

p. 105 - "blind stinking sober" - Bender describes himself this way in one episode of "Futurama"

23 Nov

p. 108 - Fisher King - references the Arthurian legend of a sleeping king who wakes, i.e. undeath
p. 108 - "out, out, damn Fido" - "Macbeth" and the movie "Fido"

25 Nov

p. 121 - snicker-snack, et al. - "Jabberwocky"
The cakebox is vaguely a reference to "Se7en"

26 Nov

Yorick, goodnight sweet prince - "Hamlet"

29 Nov

p. 124 - "this isn't the Old West" - see next note
p. 127 - "So I came here to kill you, Rothering, for what you done" - William Munny says something similar in "Unforgiven."  A lot of this chapter (rain, liquid courage) evokes the finale of that movie

30 Nov

p. 132 - a brain in a jar - a reference to the French film "The City of Lost Children" featuring a brain in a jar

1 Dec

p. 148 – “Call Me Lightning” is a Who single

Monday, April 27, 2015

I'll Be on "The Horror Show" with Brian Keene this Thursday

Most of you probably know that if I hadn't picked up THE RISING in 2003 I wouldn't be a horror author.  And if you didn't know that, well, let's just say there's a reason that Braineater Jones lives on Keene Avenue, and it's not because of that "Family Circus" douche.

You can imagine, therefore, that it was a great honor for me to be invited on Keene's podcast, "The Horror Show."  We'll be recording tomorrow and I believe the podcast will be released this Thursday, but I'll keep you up to date on the specifics of that.  Hopefully you'll be able to hear Brian's dulcet tones over the sound of me squeeing.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Literally Just a Chunk of Congealed Cow Blood (Interview with Phronk, Author of STARS AND OTHER MONSTERS)

I think it was Walt Whitman who once said:

Friends.  Romans.  Countrymen.  Lend me your ears!

Let's compare with a more modern (though no less noteworthy) quote:

"Fart fart," fart.  Fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart fart.

Sadly, Walt "I'm too good to reply to my fans" Whitman declined my request for a review.  The author of the latter gem, however, has agreed.

Friends.  Romans.  Fartrymen.  I present to you the inimitable Phronk.  If you've ever heard me speak in person, you've heard the story of this impressive gentleman.  Presented with the proposition that anyone "...can literally write the word 'fart' 100,000 times and slap a cover of [a] baboon urinating into his own mouth, then upload that cool motherfucker right to Amazon" our hero Phronk saw not a sarcastic critique of the state of self-publishing today, but rather a challenge.  The result was BABOON FART STORY: part novel, part prank, part political statement, part Dadaist performance art, part string of 100,000 instances of the word "fart."

Today we talk to Phronk about BABOON FART STORY, as well as his real (?) art, his work as a doctor, and various other things that you would ask history' greatest genius.  Let's meet the man (?) and dive right in!

About Phronk

Phronk writes a lot of odd things. His stories involve things that don't exist, things that might exist, and things that shouldn't exist.

He received a PhD in psychology after writing a dissertation about what makes horror films frightening. So yeah, he wrote the book on horror, and continues to write horrific things by cover of night. By day, he writes about technology, helping people out of modern digital nightmares.

Phronk is also the creator of Putting Weird Things in Coffee, which is a blog about putting weird things in coffee.

He lives in London, Ontario, and has an unhealthy relationship with chocolate.

Find him on his website, Facebook, Goodreads, or Twitter.


SK:  Welcome, Phronk!  Let's get the obvious first question out of the way.  A lot of people were shocked and angered by the ending of BABOON FART STORY.  (Spoiler alert!)  Specifically, I'm referring to the famous "fart" scene, which is comparable in its notoriety only to the ending of GONE GIRL or "The Sixth Sense."  Do you feel you could have ended it differently without jeopardizing your artistic integrity?

P: I wanted to make the ending special. Readers had invested so much time in reading the word "fart" 99,000 times, that I wanted those last 1000 farts to really say something. Like, really say something, you know? Artistically speaking. So the final pages take on an angry, feverish tone, before our narrator reels in the chaos, and brings the story full circle to expel a message of hope. The final word says it all.

SK:  As a doctor, have you ever pounded repeatedly on a dying person's chest yelling, "Live, damn you, live?"

P: Dying person? No. Dead person? Well ... keep in mind that I write about undead things, and my PhD is in horror films.

SK:  You've been called (by certain owners of this blog) "history's greatest genius."  How do you respond to such obvious and puerile attempts to curry your favor?

P: Facts is facts! This particular blog owner needs no currying to gain my favour though. In high school, I thought I was going to be an artist. One of my greatest works of art at the time was -- this is true -- titled Billy and the Cloneasaurus. It was a drawing of a creature with a dozen eyes, six tentacles, and two or three vaginas. So maybe different than your BILLY AND THE CLONEASAURUS, but I have a deep connection with the title.

SK:  Can you tell us about the origin/meaning of your pseudonym?

P: That also originated in high school. I was a quiet kid, so in the first few days of school, I guess I never told anybody my name. For whatever reason, a name was chosen for me, and that name was Phronk. It might have some hidden meaning that embodies that special level of cruelty that only high school kids can pull off, but it stuck, and it's easy to Google.

SK:  Your work (your non-prank work, anyway) is a mixture of the horrific and the strange.  Do you consider yourself a bizarro author?  Considering you've written treatises on horror I'd be interested in your thoughts on the sub-genres.

P: I think the bizarro genre is one of the most interesting things happening in fiction. Especially in this age of the Internet and self-publishing, it's harder than ever to show readers something they haven't seen before. Bizarro fiction puts shock and novelty front and centre, often right in the book titles. It's a force against Internet overload ennui, but also thrives in a globally connected network where weird-ass people can find stories that tickles their weird-ass fancies. 

I wouldn't say I write bizarro yet, though I aspire to. One reviewer said I ride the edge between bizarro and accessibility, which is a very nice compliment.

SK:  What is the strangest thing that you have ever put in coffee?

P: The strangest in recent memory was blood sausage. That shit is literally just a chunk of congealed cow blood. I blended it into coffee and dreaded taking a sip, but the weirdest part was that it tasted pretty good. My tastebuds liked it even though my brain was repulsed. Kinda like when you get a weird boner at something you shouldn't, and you're like "well, I guess I'm sexually attracted to artisanal cheese now." You know?

SK:  Do you find that, in the wake of the BABOON FART STORY, you've become an internet celebrity?  And if yes, do the people at your day job know about it?  And if no, does that make you, for all intents and purposes, a real-life Batman?

P: It's become almost cliche to point out that Warhol was right, though fifteen minutes of fame was being generous. I've been lucky enough to have several allotments of fifteen minutes, which is amazing. One of those allotments came when BABOON FART STORY was seen by millions of people over a few days. It doesn't come up much now, but it was so awesome for connecting with writers who got a laugh out of it. Those connections have outlasted the fame.

A few people at work know about my life as Phronk, but I try not to make it obvious that I have a non-millionaire non-superpowered secret identity. I did have a little kid come up to me in a bar with hand-drawn BABOON FART STORY fan art once though, which was pretty much the best moment of my life.

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

P: Buy my book so that someday I actually do have fans to leave closing words for. Oh, and I'm working on a sequel to STARS AND OTHER MONSTERS! The first book compared celebrity power to vampire power in a gore-splattered romantic comedy plot structure. The sequel's plot resembles one of those "adult goes back to high school" movies, like "Never Been Kissed" or something, except there's no school and it's more about evisceration than kissing. Anyway, it's going in some uncomfortable directions, so I'm excited to see what happens.


Stan Lightfoot is the perfect paparazzo. He and his talented canine companion can track down anybody, anywhere. He’s on the hunt, and with the next flash of his camera, Stan could ruin a celebrity’s life and become a millionaire. His work has gone unappreciated by everything from beefy bodyguards to vicious Chihuahuas, but this time he’s interrupted by something new: a vampire.

When she discovers Stan’s talents, the fanged woman demands his help in introducing her to her celebrity crush. It’s an offer he can’t refuse: Stan must deliver the world’s biggest movie star on a non-silver platter, or find himself on the menu instead. He’s forced on a twisted road trip through nightmare America, and his new companion doesn’t mind driving through the night.

Stan has a few days to figure out this perplexing woman with a monstrous hunger for blood and an all-too-human obsession with fame. Her power is god-like, but he’s been in tough situations before. Maybe he can at least save his dog. The bigger conundrum is that to the perfect paparazzo, a star who doesn’t want to be found is as dangerous as any monster.

Get it on Amazon and tell your friends about it on Goodreads!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

"L" is for "Luck"

There is a single question which underwrites (ha!) the aspirations of the entire writing community:

"Why is that person famous and I'm not?"

It's a question that's not entirely unkind and not entirely motivated by jealousy, with the caveat that, yes, sometimes authors are also capable of being unkind and jealous.  (Go fig, right?)  But I don't think it's unkind or unfair for me to state, rather categorically, that I'm a better author than Stephanie Meyer, E.L. James, or Dan Brown.  I probably ought to feel bad for picking on the three people in my profession that seem to get picked on the most, but that's also the reason why I chose them.  Each is incredibly rich, famous, and popular, and each is acknowledged rather broadly by the critical and popular community as being pretty bad at crafting prose.

Anyway, the point is, rather than spend a post arguing the relative merits of various authors, the purpose of this post is that merit is not necessarily the driving force toward success.  An author, for example, might be a genius for marketing and only so-so in the actual storycrafting department.  Or a story, however objectively poor, might capture the popular zeitgeist.  Some people even just have the good fortune to be born into money, wealth, fame, power, or connections.

If Max Brooks were not Mel Brooks's son, would he have the same level of success he currently does?  If Joe Hill were not Stephen King's son, would his success level be the same?  Sure, we're talking about someone who has distanced himself from his father's name in the latter case, but that doesn't change the fact that Stephen King would know agents, publishers, industry professionals, and all of those connections would be available to a young Joe, even if he was trying to set out on his own.

In the case of Christopher Paolini, whose ERAGON is, by any understanding, a middling to poorish book on its own merits, his family was wealthy and willing to invest significantly in his success.  We're probably more familiar in general with glitzier show biz types.  Taylor Swift and Emma Stone had essentially Paolini's experience: parents who were willing to gamble everything on their children's success.  It's also hard to deny that Charlie Sheen probably wouldn't be famous if his father hadn't been before him...or Angelina Jolie, or Kate Hudson, or Bridget Fonda, or any other famous person's child.

It's my personal belief that there is a certain baseline level of competence necessary for fame and success, but beyond that point your main indicator to actually achieve success is luck.  So, yeah, if Ozzy Osbourne's son or Will Smith's son (sorry, kids) are just terrible, terrible actors, no amount of sticking them in front of the public eye is going to catapult them to success.  But if they are relatively competent and capable of learning - and someone like Kate Hudson is certainly capable of acting to a reasonable standard - luck can send them the rest of the way to the top.

What does this mean for those of us who didn't win the genetic lottery?  Well, lots of things can contribute to your luck.  Meyer, James, and Brown weren't scions of a legacy of fame and fortune.  Who knows which particular winds blew in to raise them from their baseline competence to world-crushing success?  Stephanie Meyer was a Mormon who drew on a network of Mormon mothers to push out a novel that had been well-crafted to their particular cultural tastes, and caught on like wildfire.  Which is not to diminish her hard work, which no doubt she did, but no doubt other people have worked harder and been less fortunate.  (Hmm, perhaps the buffoons in one of our major political parties could learn something from that...not to turn this into a political post.)

And what it boils down to for me is the sneaking suspicion that Yo-Yo Ma is not the greatest cellist in the world, nor Stephen King the greatest author.  Beyond a certain baseline of talent I suspect fortune leads us all to our various places in life, far more than we would even care to admit, though Tolstoy, himself a wealthy landowner, probably had a suspicion of that.  No, I'm pretty sure the greatest cellist in the world is probably playing on a street corner somewhere, and the greatest author in the world probably has a stack of manuscripts in a drawer that have never been published.  And we shall never know the names of either.

Luck is a bastard.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Ten Rules (Guest Post by Katrina Monroe, Author of SACRIFICIAL LAMB CAKE)

Willkommen, meine Damen und Herren!  Today we have a very special and exciting guest on the blog, the one, the only...*checks notes*...Katrina...Monroe?  That doesn't look right.  Yeah, I guess that's who it is.  Katrina is the very talented author of SACRIFICIAL LAMB CAKE, comin' at ya from Red Adept Publishing.  Katrina has written some...rather unconventional rules for writers to follow.  So let's meet the guest and then dive right in!  And, as always, make sure to stick around to the end for a giveaway!  Giveaway, yeah!

About Katrina Monroe:

Katrina Monroe is a novelist, mom, and snark-slinger extraordinaire.

Her worst habits include: eating pretty much anything with her fingers,  yelling at inappropriate times, and being unable to focus on important things like dinner and putting on pants.

She collects quotes like most people collect, well, other things. Her favorite is, “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.” – Dorothy Parker

Readers can revel in her sarcasm at her website or follow her on Twitter.

Guest Post

Before you get your panties in a bunch—but Katrina! We’ve heard ALL THE RULES about writing!—Yes, you have. I don’t have any writing rules for you other than to sit your butt in the chair and do it. These little nuggets of wisdom are simply my rules for adulting; for getting through life without bungling it up too badly. 

1. Buy an umbrella.

This is one of those things NO ONE thinks about until you’re standing on the sidewalk, drenched, fumbling for your keys in the wrong pocket because you’ve got the groceries in the wrong hand AGAIN. As a matter of fact, buy three. While you’re at it, get some fabric softener. You’re an adult, damn it.

2. Embrace the use of profanity.

I’ve always taught my daughters that there are no such things as “bad words.” There are only special words that require skill in their proper execution. If I call my jerk of a cat a twat-waffle because she tracked litter all over the hallway again and it offends you, then maybe you need to spend some time in a writing classroom. Words are awesome and crazy and useful and wonderful. Stuffing them beneath a rock because you’re “offended” by their use is no way to live. Remove the stick from your sphincter, friend.

3. Polka dots over stripes EVERY TIME.

This is just common sense. Moving on.

4. Read ALL the things.

Fiction, genre fiction, non-fiction, the Campbell’s soup label, the back of the cereal box… You will always find out something you didn’t know either about yourself or your world—both of which are invaluable.

5. Don’t over-analyze.

Sometimes, the ink blot is just an ink blot. It is not your great Aunt Edna back from the dead to tell you that your life is spiraling out of control; it’s just a shadow. The world isn’t falling apart because you didn’t get that job/contract/sweater. Calm down. Take a breath. Try again.

6. Laugh at everything.

This ties in with number five. As a comedic writer (or what I imagine writing comedy to be—I could be nine miles on the ugly side of Dead Wrong), I find it important to find the funny in every day. It’s especially important to laugh at yourself occasionally. It’s either that or suffer emotional breakdowns every time you start the Keurig without a mug beneath the spouty-thing.

7. Never over accessorize. Or do. Whatever.

I’m not here to tell you what to wear. Neither is anyone else. Put clothes on your body. Put more clothes on. Or less. Wrap yourself in garbage bags and Christmas lights. Shave your head. Grow your hair out. Shave. Don’t shave. Paint scales on your face and change your name to Flounder. You’re the only person who can be you, so you might as well do it LOUD.

8. Cocktails taste better with straws.

Particularly those bendy, fluorescent ones that change color with the cold.

9. Get the extra shot of espresso.

Carpe caffeinum! You’ll need it after all those color-change tests, conducted with various combinations of ice in your rum and coke. 

10. Do something you love.

Not everyone has the chance to work in a field they truly love. Anyone who tells you their life’s passion is to take shitty photos at the DMV is lying. Despite your job situation, make time for something you do love. Write. Paint. Compose music. Weld weird shit out of old silverware and aluminum. Or don’t do anything creative. Learn a new language. Go roller skating. Lay in the grass and count the number of ants that crawl across your nose. Whatever it is that balances you—that puts a hole in the stress balloon—do it and never feel guilty for it. Unless your thing is murder. Maybe don’t do that. 


Oh. My. God.

Rain Johnson escaped the insanity of her radical environmentalist family, only to end up waitressing for a living. Her scale of success—with her at the bottom—only goes as high as that college degree she never got, until she gets one hell of an epiphany from a Trinity Corporation public-relations guy who calls himself Jude. He tells her she’s the Lamb of God, and it’s time for that whole Second Coming thing. But when her first minor miracle gets her arrested and an ecoterrorist using the name Messiah starts blowing up pesticide plants, Rain and Judas are in for way more apocalypse than either of them expected.

Jude scrambles to save his personal plan for salvation, but Lucy, the devil herself, has her own well-laid plans. It doesn’t matter that Rain’s a conflict-avoiding lesbian and Jude is history’s worst traitor. They’re all that stands between humanity and an end of the world that wasn’t supposed to happen.

Get your copy on:

Barnes & Noble
Google play

And tell your friends about it on:


Read an Excerpt

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Cover Reveal: STAKE-OUT by Lily Luchesi

Hello, everybody!  Very exciting news today!  I'm sure you all remember our good friend Lily Luchesi.  Well, today's a very special day for her.  Cover reveal day!  Yay!  I won't waste any more time on this introduction (especially since you've probably already skipped it) and just jump right into this beautiful cover:

Make sure to go join the Facebook event!  Now now now!

Friday, April 17, 2015

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming...

I've been very, very good about blogging this year.  Part of that I have to credit to external forces, one being Tonia Brown's 26 Week Blogging Challenge, and the other being my own, self-imposed Year of Interviewing Dangerously, which has been going reasonably well.

All things considered, though, except for MLK Day (which I warned about in advance) I've kept to the MWF schedule without fail so far this year.  And I'd like to keep doing that, but sometimes external forces dictate otherwise.  For instance, I have a cover reveal which ideally I would like to post today, but since it is a cover reveal I have to post it at a certain time and date.

So, all of this is a long-winded way of saying, make sure to check in at 6pm EST on Sunday for today's post.  Although, I guess this is also a post.  But I ALSO have a pre-scheduled post that has to go up on Monday, so it couldn't have taken THAT slot, either.

Ah, the trials of being a blogger...

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

"K" is for "Keys"
I remain impressed at the covers that can be achieved with ClipArt

So, here’s the situation in America at the present moment.  Girls and boys, while growing up, are both given to the same proclivities.  They play in the mud, they do sports, they want to be scientists when they grow up.  Then, at a certain point, societal pressures set in and suddenly there are “boy proclivities” and “girl proclivities” instead of just proclivities.

So, all of a sudden, at age eight, let’s say, a girl is told not to play in the mud.  A boy is told not to play house.  Suddenly youthful passions are put aside in the face of fitting in. 

Gender roles are societal.  In fact, “gender” is a wholly made up concept, in contrast to the sex of a child, which is innate and biological.  I once had a biology professor who posed to us this question: “Why is pink feminine and blue masculine?  Who chose those two colors and why?”  Honestly, even (mumble, mumble) years out of college I’ve still never come up with a satisfactory answer.  And you know why?


Pink and blue are completely pulled out of somebody’s ass.  It could’ve just as easily been green and yellow.  So we could argue all day about gender norms and their role in history and society (no, seriously, we could argue all day about it) but there is at least one that is literally dangerous to the short and long-term security and prosperity of our country.  And that’s that math and science is “boy stuff.”

So back to my original premise.  Two kids are growing up.  Up to age seven or six or, you know, it doesn’t really matter because it’s not a real, quantifiable date, but anyway, they both love science.  They admire architecture and engineering and they’re watching TV and they see the labcoats walking around solving crimes and they say, “I want that to be me when I grow up!”

Then they hit that imaginary mark and if it’s a boy, his parents buy him a chemistry set and his teachers encourage him and all that early, baseline stuff puts him on a path to be a world-class engineer.  If it’s a girl, though, they get discouraged.  They get told that girls should be studying poetry and cooking and should be planning on a liberal arts education.  (Actually, the scary truth is they’re probably being encouraged to just be pretty and shut up and find a nice husband, but that’s a darker part of the whole story that I don’t even really want to get into.) 

And so she would have to push through all those societal pressures if she wants to persevere and be a scientist anyway.  But more likely she’ll be discouraged from such a path.  It’s tough to defy such a headwind.  And she’ll probably end up majoring in college in one of the more “feminine” subjects.  And the proof is in the pudding.  Our nation’s STEM (short for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) jobs are somewhere between 3:1 and 10:1 in male to female ratio.

Basically, the reason we have a STEM brain drain in this country is because we’re eliminating 50% of the potential workforce right off the bat.  And STEM is what’s going to keep us competitive on the world stage into the 21st century.  The keys to our prosperity in the 20th century were coal, steel, and manufacturing.  Today they're computers, information, and technology. 

Enter the BRAVE NEW GIRLS anthology, curated by Mary Fan and Paige Daniels.  This charity anthology’s purpose is twofold.  First, all proceeds are being donated to STEM scholarships for women.  Second, the book itself features young women protagonists who are all mathematicians, scientists, and engineers.  For instance, my story, “The Keys to the Stars” is about a teenage girl in the ‘50s who contacts an alien species thanks to her interests in math, code-breaking, and radio science.

Make sure to check it out when it drops this June!  And support women in science!
Illustration courtesy of Adrian DeFuria

Monday, April 13, 2015

What the Hell am I Even Doing Here?

Sometimes I feel like I'm flailing.  I'm not even going to lie.  You all know me to some extent.  You know I'm not usually the type to gush.  I don't wear my heart on my sleeve.  I generally don't let my emotions out at all, except to rage against some stupidity.  Maybe that's because I think that's the only thing the internet is interested in.

I find myself approaching a point of exhaustion.  Maybe exhaustion isn't the right word.  Maybe it's just disappointment.  I know it's wrong to worry about people like Rebecca Black and Justin Bieber becoming insta-celebrities (just add YouTube!)  It's not worth my time to focus on the times when lightning strikes, because that belies all the times that years and years of hard work went into someone "breaking out." 

Remember the band who did "Stacy's Mom?"  Yeah, I know, that's sad, I can't even think of their name now.  But I do remember a tale about them.  They won "Best New Artist" or some such award, which was ironic because they had been playing together for years and had released multiple albums.  What the industry was saying was, "Fuck you, that time before you were popular doesn't count."  And then they went on to be a one-hit wonder.  Maybe that just says it all.

So here I am.  In that period of doing all the work.  Do you know I've kept this blog for six years?  I don't think anybody reads it.  This is the kind of thing that people give up usually after the first post.  Seriously.  I've watched friends of mine, lots of them, start a blog with all kinds of good intentions, post once, and then disappear.  Supposedly most blogs never make it to six months.  Here I am at twelve times that mark.  Hooray!

And I was sitting here today, thinking about what to do.  I've done interviews here before.  I've done them straight, I've done them wacky.  I've done guest posts.  I've done videos.  I've done pictures.  I've done excerpts from my work.  I've posted whole works.  Novels.  Screenplays.  Short stories.  You would think after 6 years of doing this shit, something would have gone viral, right?  That's what initially made me worry about the Rebecca Blacks and Chocolate Rains of the world.  I keep thinking, "Hold on, wait for the wheel, you never know when you're going to blow up."  And then I never do.  I haven't sold a book in months.  I don't know what the point of continuing is sometimes.

But I don't think I'll stop.  Despite my April Fool's Day prank (you did realize that was just a prank, right?) I don't think I'll be giving up the ghost anytime soon.  The weird thing is, you go through these doldrums, and then all you need is one little thing, a nice review, maybe, or a sale, or a kind word, even, and then you're juiced and your back.  I just wasn't feeling it today when I sat down to write this post.  So, here, you all get a doldrum post.  Knowing my luck, this will be the one that goes viral.

Friday, April 10, 2015

BRAVE NEW GIRLS Illustration Reveal!

Everybody, take a look at this beautiful illustration for my story in BRAVE NEW GIRLS, an anthology of YA sci-fi stories in support of encouraging young girls to go into STEM careers:

This is courtesy of Adrian DeFuria, a fine young artist and all-around nice guy.

So what's going on here?  Well, I was hoping by this point that my sci-fi novel THE HYENA would've been published shortly before or around the same time as "The Keys to the Stars," which serves as a sort of prequel to that universe.  There are even a few Easter eggs in the short which will now go unappreciated until the novel finds a home. 

I'll try not to spoil the story, but this delightful creature is called a Clorofin.  The Clorofin race was not, in fact, introduced in the first HYENA novel (well, I think they may have been mentioned) but a major Clorofin character will be introduced in book two.  So the short was supposed to be both a prequel to the first novel and an introduction to a species that will become more prominent in the second.  But, of course, the short stands on its own, and I hope you all will enjoy it!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

"J" is for "Jokes"

So, last week Patton Oswalt tweeted a story in 53 tweets regarding the Trevor Noah kerfluffle.  And by "kerfluffle" I mean Noah, the newly anointed host of "The Daily Show" has tweeted some racist, sexist, and anti-Semitic things over the years.  Boiled down to contrarian viewpoints, one side says "A public figure given such an important role shouldn't be a bigot, and casual statements like this prove an inherent bigotry" and the other side says, "Comedians push boundaries, and besides how are you going to punish somebody for something they said on something as ephemeral as Twitter?"  Or something like that.

Oswalt takes a more nuanced view of the discussion.  Well, anyway, he exposes it in satire.  It's well worth reading all 53 tweets, especially since it'll take you all of four minutes, but his basic argument is "Humor is subtle, and finding something funny is a matter of audience and context, and if you really want to go down the rabbit hole all humor, if not all human behavior, is ultimately mean-spirited and objectionable if you want to find it so."

Oswalt raises an interesting point, in that people can take offense to anything if they care to, and similarly have a capacity to accept just about any horseshit if they care to.  It's at the root of tribalism, after all.  If I like a guy, if a guy is good, then anything he does is good, even if it's objectively wrong, and if I dislike a guy, anything he does is wrong, even if it's objectively right.  So, yeah, animal rights advocates could take umbrage at any old chicken-crossing-the-road joke and advocates for the hearing impaired could get pissy about knock-knock jokes because they belittle the real-life struggle.   The path of which has a tail that tends towards the silly and ultimately the preposterous.

But then again...

We're not talking about knock-knock jokes and chicken jokes, are we?  We're talking about real, pretty honest-to-God anti-Semitic and racist and misogynistic jokes.  Said in a public forum, no less.  So the whole "man throwing butter out a window" crack seems a bit disingenuous.  Yes, people can take umbrage at any silly thing, and do all the time, but it's not like in this case people are taking umbrage at silly shit.  They're taking umbrage at bigotry.  It's not like the KKK is forming a lynch mob and people are demonstrating against it, but it's not like a wacky, "Three's Company"-style misunderstanding either.

So.  More compelling is Oswalt's argument about context.  In context we are talking about a comedian making jokes to his self-selected audience.  So, there's some value in this.  No one's making anyone follow Noah on Twitter.  And anyone who follows his Twitter feed and realizes his jokes are a bit risqué for them can leave any damn time.  And comedians!

Let me tell you about comedians.  I know some comedians in real life and on social media, and I can tell you one thing they all seem to share in common: they feel that comedy is sacrosanct.  Comedians sincerely believe that they should be allowed to joke about anything, no matter how foul, no matter how contrary to the social mores of the time, no matter how sacrilegious, sexist, racist, or otherwise.  Their raison d'être, to hear them tell it, is to be Diogenes, so far outside the system that no one can attack them, shining a light on all of society's little flaws.  With poop jokes.

I actually understand this argument.  It is, honestly, what comedians do.  To elicit humor you need to outrage, and people today are far harder to outrage than almost ever.  And I think it comes from a shared coastal spiritual home.  Comedians come up in either New York or LA, which are metropolitan areas, where race and gender and sexuality are in your face as a part of everyday life.  Then you take that show on the road and maybe it doesn't play in Peoria or Luverne.  And then you say, "Look, this is what I do, don't fucking censor me, I'm a comedian, if you don't get it, don't watch, and also fuck you."

But we're also living in 2015.  And at the risk of disappearing up my own asshole, 2015 strikes me as a unique moment in history.  In the '90s we were vaguely aware of making an attempt to not hurt other people's feelings.  We called it being "politically correct."  And it was largely phony, if possibly good-hearted.  Now, though, we know, instantaneously and with a deafening roar, what actually bothers people.  Through the wonders of the internet and that selfsame Twitter I now know what hurts people's feelings, what microaggressions are, what #yesallwomen suffer through.  I know about police abuse and white privilege and systemic sexism and all the things which in the era of old media would literally have been invisible to me.

So.  Context.  Here's a context.  With my old friends who I came up with in high school and everything, we're horrible to each other.  We call one another every racist term in the book, tell jokes, whatever.  Because...this is in context, mind you...the love is there.  It's proven through years of having one another's backs.  Crossing a line with them is essentially impossible.

What about at work?  At work, I am a mask, a cipher.  No one knows me.  They don't know I write, they don't know anything about me fundamentally.  I wouldn't crack wise with someone at work except maybe about those kooky hacks in HR.  At work, crossing a line is so possible, it's almost a certainty.  If you're not professional in all your dealings, you will, at some point, cross a line.  And potentially face termination.

Now, here's an interesting one.  A new friend of mine, a minority, one who I don't have years and years of having her back.  We joke, we let our guard down, but there's no essential unspoken understanding.  One time we're talking about this and I say, "Is it really that big a deal if I tell a joke about minorities?"  And this is where she got me really thinking.  She said, "Maybe not.  Maybe it doesn't bug me.  But maybe it does.  Maybe you say something that really bugs me.  Then what?  Then if I don't laugh along, I become the bad sport.  Even though you put me in that position.  So what are you going to do?  Are you going to put me in that position?"

That really struck me and stuck with me.  And I could get into how words have power and insults become problematic (sorry, Patton) when there's a power differential.  But that's fodder enough for a whole other blog post, if not books and books and libraries and libraries.  But when you cut right to the heart of it, the answer is I don't know.  I know context is important and I know polite behavior is an ever shifting amalgam of individual personality and what society thinks, and society's outlook is shifting now faster than ever.

So what do you think, dear reader?  Are there jokes that simply shouldn't be uttered?  Is comedy sacrosanct, an outgrowth, perhaps the last bastion even, of our freedom of speech?  Or is it all contextual?  And if it is contextual, was Trevor Noah in the right or the wrong context?  I'd be fascinated to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to chime in in the comments below.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Alt Covers

Did you know before I was published a friend of mine, Greg Lynn, created mockups of the covers for BRAINEATER and GHOUL?  Let's take a what could have been...

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

"I" is for "Inescapable"

Well, everyone, if you've talked with me in any meaningful way recently you've probably known this was coming for quite a while, but I wanted to make the decision final with this announcement. It's with a fulsome heart that I must face the inescapable truth.  After some heavy soul-searching and long discussions with my family and closest friends, I've decided to give up writing. I'll be pulling all of my books from Amazon and all the other sales venues at midnight tonight.  You have until then to get your last few copies if you so choose.  After that they'll become I suppose you would say "collector's items."

I suppose you're wondering what prompted this.  There's no easy reason why. I could say the deafening silence of agents, critics, and the audience is a sure sign from the universe not to continue. If you're reading this, of course, I can assure you that you were not the problem.  I am eternally grateful to my loyal fans.  It's not because of you that I'm giving up, but it is because of you that I've persevered as long as I have.  I could say the muse has abandoned me, and I haven't gotten any real pleasure from my art in a long time. I could even say that what was supposed to be a fun hobby has gotten in the way of work, family, and the real important things in life.  There's so much that I'm not getting done right now that needs to be done.  I can't get fired from my day job because I'm always off doing interviews or soliciting reviews or writing that next chapter.  I can't let my marriage or friendships fumble out of my hands because I'm so distracted by my writing.  Imaginary characters can never take the place of real people.

The truth is it's quite a number of reasons and yet, at the same time, none at all. There are a million little reasons and yet there's really just one big one: I don't have whatever "it" is that is required to make it in this business.

Some people are great.  I've met some greats even just in my short time in this business.  Those with the chutzpah, the tenacity, the will, and the sheer talent to succeed.  To those of you reading this (and I think you know who you are, but if you don't I'll probably be contacting you directly shortly) thank you for all the inspiration.  I know you'll do well.  And I hate to leave your hallowed ranks but it's something that has to happen now.

So, if you are reading this, and you've read my books or just followed along with me on this crazy career path, I just want to say thanks for all your support over these past few crazy years. I'm sorry I couldn't make a go of it, but sometimes these things happen, and it doesn't for one instant change how deeply each and every one of you fans has touched my heart. Goodbye and good luck, everybody! (Don't worry - the kids still say that.)
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