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, September 30, 2015

Die, Hipster Reviewer Assholes, Die!

A Question

In "Night of the Living Dead," the movie which gave us the modern conception of  zombie, how many times is the word "zombie" uttered?

A Few Facts

Actors and theater-types are notoriously superstitious.  You've probably heard the term "break a leg" used in lieu of "good luck" because saying "good luck" is actually bad luck.

Similarly, many theater-types will never utter the word "Macbeth" backstage, rather referring to it as "The Scottish Play."  Supposedly the witches chant in the beginning of "Macbeth" is an actual witches chant, making the entire play cursed, and to reference it is to literally curse yourself.

An Answer


Wait, what?

A Longer Answer

"Zombie" was never a term that Romero used in "Night of the Living Dead."  How exactly it came to be applied to Romero's iconic creations would be the subject of a fascinating linguistics dissertation.  It was only used once in the sequel "Dawn of the Dead" - by that time Romero had learned the term society had decided to apply to his creations.  The term most commonly used in the original film was "ghoul" but a wide variety of euphemisms like "them," "those things," and my particular favorite, "murder-happy characters" were used by the characters in the film.

Who Gives a Shit?

Well, I'll tell you who gives a shit for a start: zombie authors, for one.  All walks of life have their superstitions and traditions.  Using wooden bats and growing out your beard for the playoffs are two examples for baseball players.  Sure, not every guy grows out his beard, but it's a pretty common practice.

And, similarly, it's a pretty common practice for zombie authors to never use the z-word in their books.  They do it partially as a tribute to Romero, and partially as just an acknowledgement that there is some actual goddamn tradition in this field.  For a master course in z-word (or as they call it "zed-word") avoidance, go back and watch "Shaun of the Dead."  In fact, you may be surprised how many authors follow this practice and you never even noticed.

So...Wait.  Who Gives a Shit Again?

I.  Am.  So.  Fucking.  Tired.

(deep breath)

Of hearing this fucking hipster bullshit argument again and again, over and over, from people who don't know the difference between "Dead Alive" and "Death Becomes Her" that it's sooooooo fucking stupid that nobody in "The Walking Dead" ever says "zombie."

"Why don't they just call 'em zombies.  Eh hurk eh hurk eh hurk," such people will say, I assume before going to take a swim in their cement ponds.

Look, Robert Kirkman and I have differences.  There are things, you know, I disagree with in terms of the path of his show.  But let me tell you shitheads something:

Robert Kirkman knows what the fuck he's doing. 

He obviously loves the genre.  He's obviously contributed greatly to it.  And he has obviously decided to take one of our most cherished traditions and apply it to his work.  The fact that you don't know enough about the zombie genre to recognize what he's doing tells me all I need to know right there.  And Greg Nicotero and all those guys behind the scenes at the show, obviously also know their heads from their assholes and have decided to continue this fairly well fucking documented tradition as well.

Does That Mean I'm an Asshole?
Okay, so, first of all, not everyone does follow the "no z-word" rule.  For one thing, there are a lot of younger authors out there who are starting to get their zombie educations second-and-third hand.  Fifteen, twenty years ago, all we really had was The Holy Trilogy, a smattering of movies, and a scant handful of books, mostly short story collections.
And even the people who were around in that era don't universally follow the rule.  Some of my favorite authors throw "zombie" around like it's going out of business. 
So to clarify: you're not an asshole for not using the "no z-word" rule.  You're not even an asshole for not knowing about it until now.  But if having read this blogpost, you ever make the argument that "they should just call 'em zombies, not walkers, we know what they are, he-hyuk" then you are a bigger asshole than Harry Cooper.
Here endeth the lesson.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Zombie Apocalypse: Could It Happen in Real Life (Guest Post)

Howdy, blogketeers!  As you (hopefully) know by now I have an open-door guest policy and pretty much anybody who's interested is welcome to come on the blog.  That being said, I usually end up having to reach out to folks to keep the guests (and the Year of Interviewing Dangerously in particular) coming.

Not so today, however!  A few weeks ago a gentleman by the name of Bryan Fuller reached out and asked if I would host a guest blog.  But of course!  And you folks out there in internetland should feel free to ask the same thing, because God knows it saves me from having to come up with content three times a week.  Now, the actual author of this guest post is Dan of Dan's Writing Services, so make sure to check him out if you're looking for someone to do a little ghostwriting work.

Now, all this is preamble to say that I think today's subject is going to be pretty exciting to all of my fans, so let's just jump right into it:

Vitoria - Graffiti & Murals 1127 01

Zombie Apocalypse: Could it Happen in Real Life?

Zombies – we have seen them in popular television shows, movies, and online games. They are often depictions of horror in ways more than one. The way they look and the way they act can make you cower in freight and scream because of fear. For many, however, zombies are nothing but fictional characters from creative geniuses. Nonetheless, it is important to note that if you are just going to look at various evidences, there is a way proves how a zombie apocalypse can indeed happen in real life. Although it is hard to imagine, there is a possibility that their infestation can ruin the world where we live in. Keep on reading and learn more about some of the things that support claims on their possible assault to our civilisation. 

Mad Cow Disease 

This is perhaps one of the most significant factors that can possibly give rise to the catastrophe that will be brought by zombies in our real world. Also known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, this refers to a virus that damages the nervous system of a cow. With this attack, the cow resorts into acting in a weird manner and shows uncontrollable behaviour. It is a parasite that can be transferred in humans through the consumption of meat. 

Toxoplasmosa gondii

Also known as brain parasites, scientific studies in the past have shown how such is evident in rats. Being infected with such alters the behaviour of rats. Meaning, if they use to stay away from cats, once they have been infiltrated with this virus, they become braver and tend to attack cats rather than stay away from them. Humans and rats are not that much different. This explains why rats are used in testing medications. Therefore, a virus that infests them can also infect us, and this is another risk that can lead into the potential of zombie infestation. 


While we have a lot to be thankful with technology because of what it does to our life, it can also be destructive as it has the potential to lead into a zombie apocalypse. Recently, scientists have developed microscopic robots that can practically destroy anything. It is believed that in the future, scientists can design such robots that will infiltrate human brain and will alter the way it works, possibly turning us into zombies. 


Neurotoxins are poisonous to humans and can impede our bodily functions in ways more than one. A well-known source of such poison is the Japanese blowfish. Once the toxin is ingested, you can be considered as dead. Nonetheless, there are drugs that can be used for your revival, but you will typically be in a trance state and will have an absence of memory. Technically, it may not lead into an apocalypse, but it can be used to turn humans into zombies. In Haiti, which is asserted to be where zombies started, it is believed to have happened with a man who died in 1962 and later seen wandering in a local village.

Friday, September 25, 2015

I'm Mr. So-and-So Dick. I've Got Such-and-Such for a Penis.

Remember when we talked a few months ago about meta-text?  One great example of meta-text comes to us from the world of whodunits.

If you're a fan of procedural shows like "Law and Order" and "CSI" you've probably noticed that it's a lot easier to identify the culprit based on the cast list.  Sometimes just seeing the names of the cast flash along the screen at the beginning of the episode is enough.  If someone warrants a "with Special Guest Star" billing, odds are they're going to be the killer.

Because of course they are.  If the showrunners managed to swing getting Gina Gershon or Robin Williams to appear on their show, odds are it's not going to be as the red herring character.  We, the audience, know something which the fictional characters don't.  A famous actor is going to be granted the opportunity to act...and that means they're most likely going to be the last man standing.

Which brings us (as it so often does) to "Rick and Morty."  I'm beginning to think of "Rick and Morty" as the smartest show on television.  Or, at a minimum, the show with the smartest writers on television.  Let's take a look at last week's episode, "Interdimensional Cable 2: Tempting Fate" (in synecdoche.)

I'm usually pretty anti-.gif, so you understand how big a deal this is for me.
I know you can't tell because this is a .gif but that alien guy right there?  That's Werner Herzog, legendary director and possibly the only man on Earth with more gravitas than Walter Cronkite.

Now, I could bring you into the context of the show and tell you exactly what was going on here, but it's not entirely necessary.  I just want you to grok this: that wheelchair-bound alien who gives the thirty-second speech about the importance of dicks on planet Earth is never seen or heard from again.  That's right: the creators of "Rick and Morty" got Werner Fucking Herzog to do a cameo on their show for the purpose of stating a point that in no way had to be made.

There is literally no one on Earth who is confused about this point.  The importance of phalluses and phallic symbols to mankind (specifically to mankind) is universal across cultures.  Werner Herzog alien brings absolutely nothing relevant to the viewer's attention.  Why is he even there?

Because it defies every expectation.

An alien diplomat should say something profound.  Instead, this guy says something that any frat boy could tell you.

Werner Herzog should be used to maximum effect.  Instead, he's wasted on a throwaway gag.

Every second of a thirty minute (22 minute, really, taking into account commercials) show should be dedicated to the important business of telling a story.  A full thirty seconds is wasted on this.

And it works on every level.  It's so ridiculous, and calls into such stark relief all of our expectations about storytelling, that practically for the rest of the night I was struck by every single layer of this marvelous piece of storytelling.

Not to mention the fact that it was a dick joke, and those are always hilarious.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Five Things I Rate About You (Guest Post with Kit Power and Rich Hawkins)

Well, this is just a saga now.

It started so simply. Two indie authors plan to release their novels on the same date. No big deal. Happens all the time.

And then it got weird.

First, each author put out a press release accusing the other of stealing the launch date. Then, head of the genre mafia and owner of Ginger Nuts of Horror Jim McLeod ran the press releases, before angrily accusing both writers of an obvious and shallow publicity stunt.

Pictured: James "Big Jimmy Fingers" McLeod
In the comments section of that very article, both writers rejected the charges of a publicity stunt, and indeed ended up setting a wager: That at the end of the first week of sales, whoever had the lower Amazon sales ranking would need to present the winner with a signed copy of their book at FCon in October.

Then Gef Fox put on his investigative journalism hat on over at his book blog ‘Wag The Fox’. He figured that a quick series of questions to both parties would soon flush out the truth.

That didn’t work out so well.

Gef Fox portraying the piano genius Shiney McShine in the movie "Shine."

Following that little fiasco, things escalated further on Facebook, until a challenge was issued - a rap battle, hosted by legendary blogger THe GaL iN THe BLue MaSK, with the winner to be determined by public vote as each contestant's minions were to state unequivocally either #teampower or #teamhawkins. (I, like all right-minded people, declared myself #teamneither.)  The rap battle went about as well as you might expect...

The GaL iN THe BLue MaSK (artist's conception)

Kanly, it seemed, had been declared.  Then, like the sudden passing of Shai-Hulud through the desert, peace broke out. Don Jimbo got back on his blog to demand a ceasefire. And both authors agreed to host a joint launch party on Facebook, to prove that they’d buried the hatchet.

Still, lingering doubts remained. Here at Manuscripts Burn, we decided to put this new-found spirit of friendship to the test, so we invited the two authors to take turns explaining what they liked and admired about each other. The results are printed below. Is the rivalry really over? Judge for yourself, as we ask Kit and Rich to explicate...

Five Things I Rate About You

Kit Power: Well, I think the first thing I’d have to say I rate about Rich is his intelligence. It was a genius move, deciding to put his book out the same day as mine, if you think about it. It made sure that my millions of fans worldwide would notice his book just by association. And inevitably, some of them would get curious to maybe check out his book too. That’s smart, isn’t it? I think so. Real smart.

Rich Hawkins: The first thing I rate about Kit is that he’s very gracious in defeat, as witnessed after I’d won the rap battle. It takes a great guy to admit he was comprehensively ‘out-rapped’ and, quite frankly, humiliated. But he took it on the chin. Yeah, a swell guy.

KP: You know, that reminds me of another great quality of Rich - his humility. I mean, he only won the rap battle by one vote, and he was just so gracious about it - in fact, it was almost like he hadn’t even noticed, like it was beneath him or something. I guess the fact that the battle was declared invalid by the UK Battle Rap governing body might have something to do with it. Still, bloody humble, amirite?

RH: Okay, putting aside the fact that Kit is such a good loser, the second thing I rate about him is that he’s so Scrappy Doo or SuperTed. (Note for our non-British audiences members: no one knows what that is.)  I mean, he realises that he hasn’t much chance of winning against someone who’s pretty much nailed-on for a British Fantasy Award, but he still gives it his all. He’s like the sidekick to the superhero, and I’m Batman.

KP: Ah, there it is! See, that humility even extends to his BFSA nomination - I mean, sometimes, as long as 10 or even 15 minutes can go by in conversation without him mentioning it! I love that about him - like, if you only talked to him for 8 or 9 minutes, you might never know that his first novel was BFSA nominated, because he’s just that flippin’ humble. It’s really kind of inspiring. Like, he even waited for his second reply here before mentioning it! So very, very humble.

RH: Another thing about Kit is an ability to disguise his envy so well, despite it being so obvious that he’s mentioned my British Fantasy Award nomination more times than I ever have. Some might say he’s obsessed with it. I just think he’s a great bloke, and the rumours about him hanging around goat farms are completely untrue. 

KP: One of Rich’s most impressive characteristics has to be his generosity. I mean, how many other authors do you know that would agree to donate a signed copy of his book to his ‘rival’? And yet, with our week one sales bet, that’s exactly what he’s done, given the inevitability of his defeat. That’s some high class generosity right there.

RH: I'm glad Kit picked up on my generosity - I’m just hoping that he’ll read THE LAST OUTPOST and it’ll have a positive effect on his own writing. Maybe it’ll inspire him. I’m always happy to help out writers who haven’t yet been included in any kind of prestigious award shortlist of an award that Stephen King once won. I’m just sharing the good vibes. That’s another thing I rate about him - his willingness to learn from writers who HAVE been nominated for an award. A real stand-up dude. 

KP: Finally, I think I have to salute Rich’s courage. There’s a desperate bravery to the way he’s approached this whole rivalry - be it agreeing to a losing bet, cheating so badly at the battle rap that the governing body had to step in and declare the competition null and void, then bragging about the win anyway, or his brazen vote-grubbing in general - there’s a frantic, almost despairing energy to it that I can’t help but admire - a total commitment to leaving no tactic unplayed, no matter how underhand, to somehow prevent the inevitable. It’s a lot like the Dunkirk spirit, only without any of the nobility. Admirable stuff.

RH: A great thing about Kit is his ability to project his own, less savoury, characteristics onto others - it’s a remarkable talent and he should be applauded for it, especially when it’s projected towards a writer whose last novella went as high as 137,542 in the Amazon Kindle Horror Chart. But Kit’s a really great guy, despite his tendency towards envy and bitterness, so I forgive him. I’m very forgiving like that. I just hope that he manages to let go of my coattails and get some success that isn’t because of his association with me. But he’s a top man. Have I already said that? Yeah, a great bloke. Yeah, definitely. 

Well, there you have it.  GODBOMB! and THE LAST OUTPOST both launch on September 28th with a virtual launch party on Facebook.  If the newfound ‘friendship’ continues this way, we at Manuscripts Burn suspect this is one virtual release party you won’t want to miss.  The saga of Hawkins-Power is far from over...


The sequel to the British Fantasy Award-nominated novel, THE LAST PLAGUE, THE LAST OUTPOST continues to chronicle the events as a devastating epidemic reduces the UK to an infected wasteland.

Great Britain has fallen to the Plague and the war is lost. The few people left alive scavenge in the desolation of a ruined country. A lone man wanders the ravaged land, looting houses for food and hiding from the monstrous infected. Guilt-ridden for failing to save his family, there is nothing left for him but memories of the old world - until hope is whispered in a radio transmission promising safety and shelter from across the North Sea. He joins a group of desperate survivors and heads for the coast in search of transport and salvation. His last chance to make amends. But will they survive the journey, hunted by the infected and the desperate men who stalk the land? Will they find sanctuary at...THE LAST OUTPOST?

"One of the most intriguing post-apocalyptic novels I've read in a long time."
- David Moody, author of AUTUMN and DOG BLOOD

"A blistering and visceral read!"
- Daniel Marc Chant, author of BURNING HOUSE

"A new voice in infection fiction."
- Sean T. Page, UK Minister of Zombies

"Great debut!"
- Paul M. Feeney, Ginger Nuts of Horror

It's available now for preorder via Amazon US and Amazon UK.

About Rich Hawkins:

I'm Rich Hawkins, horror writer and loveable rascal. I was born in the wilds of Somerset, England. I've loved horror since I was a kid, when I first saw John Carpenter's "The Thing" and was immediately hooked. I've since moved to Salisbury, where I live with my wife and my pet dog. My first novel THE LAST PLAGUE is due for release in summer 2014. My literary influences are H.P. Lovecraft, Conrad Williams, Stephen King, Tim Curran, David Moody, Gary McMahon, Wayne Simmons, Adam Nevill, and Laird Barron. I know that's a lot of influences, but I need something to read while I wait for Cthulhu to rise up and enslave us all.

Find me on Twitter, Facebook, and my website.


Somebody wants answers.

North Devon, England. 1995. A born-again revival meeting in a public building. The usual mix of the faithful, the curious, and the desperate. And one other – an atheist suicide bomber. He's angry. He wants answers. And if God doesn't come and talk to him personally, he's going to kill everyone in the building...

It's available now for preorder via Amazon US and Amazon UK.

About Kit Power:

Kit Power lives in the UK and writes fiction that lurks at the boundaries of the horror, fantasy, and thriller genres, trying to bum a smoke or hitch a ride from the unwary.

In his secret alter ego of Kit Gonzo, he also performs as front man (and occasionally blogs) for death cult and popular beat combo The Disciples Of Gonzo.

You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and his website.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Quick and Dirty Update

Hey all!

Sorry I'm running a little late today.  I'm feeling a little frazzled from the Brooklyn Book Fair and haven't been able to shake the post-cons yet.  Overall it was a pretty great event.  The foot traffic was immense and we sold a ton of copies of BRAVE NEW GIRLS.  I sold a few of my other works, too, but that one was the clear winner for the weekend.

Meanwhile, if you haven't heard yet, The Horror Show will be running some fan favorite episodes in December.  If you never listened to my episode, you should absolutely listen to it now.

It's easily the highlight of my career to date.  And if you enjoyed it, why not vote for me?

Thanks much, all.  I'll hope to have something more substantive for you all on Wednesday.  Maybe I'll be able to pull my head out of my ass by then.  Take care!

Friday, September 18, 2015

I'll be at the Brooklyn Book Festival this Sunday!

Hey everybody!  Just a quick reminder: if you live anywhere in the New York/New Jersey area, I'm going to be at the Brooklyn Book Festival this Sunday along with science fiction author Mary Fan!  We'll be selling and signing all of our books.  (Though a quick note to our regular convention goers: due to space restrictions we won't be carrying any of our colleague's books as we often do.)

The official address is:

Brooklyn Borough Hall and Plaza
209 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Though to be fair it seems to be a bit...expansive (as you'll see when you check out the map below.)  We're going to be at booth 244.  The festival runs from 10:00 am - 6:00 pm, Sunday, September 20, 2015.

All festival events are free.  You do not need a ticket.

Click to expand or right click to open in a new window.  The red star marks our booth.
Oh, and if you're a publishing professional or you somehow otherwise wrangled an invitation, we'll also be at the BKBF Gala on Saturday night in case you want to shake hands, buy me a drink, or punch me in the back of the head.  Hope to see you there as well!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


In a shocking revelation that everyone's been fully aware of for going on thirty years now, legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto finally "revealed" that Super Mario Brothers 3 was, in fact, a stage play.  I mean, intrepid players may have guessed this from the curtain which rises in the beginning and closes in the end, not to mention the curtain call of all the levels and...but I digress.  It's now at least revealed to be canonical.

I wanted to be able to get riled up about this.  I'm not that hard to rile up about things, really.  And Super Mario Brothers 3 is a game I've played quite possibly longer and more often than any other, to include the original SMB.  We never had a Super Nintendo growing up, and only about 4 or 5 games, so SMB3 was a staple of my gaming life from its release in 1988 (actually, before that, considering I first learned about it from watching "The Wizard" in the theater...) until I finally got my next generation system, the Nintendo 64, in 1998.  So ten years.  And it's not like I ever really stopped playing it - I have it on my Wii even now.

So, point being, SMB3 is important to me, maybe even more important than it is to the average video gaming nerd.  And instead of being infuriated or whatever the expected response is to finding out that it was "fictional," I found myself unable to ignore the ridiculousness of the concept.

I mean, of course SMB3 is fictional.  It's exactly as fictional now after this Shyamalanesque reveal as it was the day I first picked up a controller to play it.  There's real and there's non-real, and SMB3 has always been decidedly non-real. 

I mean, you can raise the "Inception"-style question of what "level" of reality SMB3 takes place on.  Let's take SMB1 as an example.  There are basically two planes of reality.

1 - Reality
2 - The Mushroom Kingdom

I occupy reality, and Mario occupies the Mushroom Kingdom.  Most fiction is this basic.  Now let's take a look at SMB2.  Here we have three levels of reality.

1 - Reality
2 - The Mushroom Kingdom
3 - Subcon

I occupy reality.  According to the premise of the second game, Mario is in the Mushroom Kingdom.  He falls asleep and enters the (fictional?) world of Subcon.  Theoretically, SMB2 is two layers of reality removed from me.  But,'s all made up, right?

So now let's look at SMB3 with our "new" data.  Like SMB2, we now have three layers of reality.

1 - Reality
2 - ???
3 - The Mushroom World

I occupy reality.  One layer down from that someone is conducting a stageplay.  The stageplay is The Mushroom World.  Perhaps the level where the stageplay is occurring is meant to be ostensibly "real" but in the same sense that "Days of Our Lives" is meant to be ostensibly "real" but it's still fiction, this level is still fictional.  And it may, alternatively, be overtly fictional, like the residents of the Mushroom Kingdom decided to put on a show and this was it.

The reason I don't give a shit is because it's all fictional.  Just because "Mousetrap" is positioned as a play-within-a-play in "Hamlet," neither "Mousetrap" nor "Hamlet" is real.  Nor is "Hamlet" any more real by dint of not being "Mousetrap."  They're both equally fictional.

"Inception" made great hay out of this concept.  To a lesser extent, so did "The Matrix."  "Inception" at least had the balls to hint that reality may not be what it seems, while I remain disappointed to this day that the last scene of "The Matrix" wasn't Neo realizing that the world he thought was real was really simply another Matrix.  (I had that shit pegged from the first time he had magic powers in the real world - but alas, he really did have magic powers.  Although, of course, he didn't because he's not real...ugh, this is making my head hurt.)

I guess my point is I've always thought this was a stupid thing to worry about.  People often complain about the "just a dream" ending.  Like, remember how upset people were when it turned out that "St. Elsewhere" took place inside a child's mind? 

I've been confused about this shit forever.  Did you think that when it was happening on your TV it was real, but since it turns out that it was happening a level down in the mind of a kid who was on your TV that it was suddenly unreal?  Like, what difference does it make?  The stakes have literally not changed.  Your investment in a fictive character remains the same whatever level of fictionality he exists on.

One of my favorite shows, "Life on Mars" turned out to be all a dream - a simulation of a dude in cold sleep on his way to Mars.  People got really upset about this because I guess because they felt like their time had been wasted because (and I want to reiterate this point) they weren't watching a real fictional cop show, they were watching a fake fictional cop show.

I dunno.  I know the "just a dream" ending pisses a lot of people off.  And I guess if it's just crap writing it would piss me off, too.  But when it's not crap writing, when it really turns out that something was just a dream - why be any more irritated about that than anything else?

Feel free to sound off in the comments.  I know from experience a ton of you feel super strongly about the "just a dream" thing.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Total Immersion in a Novel World

I'm very excited to be forging a new path of sorts with San Francisco company RPGlory.  If you're not familiar with what an RPG is, it's short for "Role-Playing Game," the most famous of which is, of course, "Dungeons and Dragons."  A real person pretends to be a character and a gamemaster serves as the narrator.

RPGlory is taking role-playing into a different place by creating custom-made worlds based on works of fiction.  Up until now, if you love a book like, say, HARRY POTTER, you had to hope it was famous enough to be made into a theme park to be totally immersed and "live" in that world.  Now RPGlory is making that possible for the rest of us...including, yes, me.

Ganesh City of BRAINEATER JONES is going to be one of the places you can visit through RPGlory's simple, Skype-based gaming interface.  On October 4 we'll be playing a newbie-friendly game set in the BRAINEATER JONES world.  If you want to participate, all you have to do is contribute $50 to RPGlory's Indiegogo campaign.  I'll be in the game as well, playing the parts of all your favorite characters, like AlcibĂ©, the Old Man, and even Jones himself.
Think this idea sounds fun but you're not too keen on playing a Prohibition-era zombie?  Well, not to fear gentle-yet-treacherous reader.  Other authors participating include T.M. Williams, S.G. Browne, and even the man, the myth, the legend, Mr. Craig DiLouie.

Oh, and in case you don't notice, there are two other exciting perqs that I'm offering:
1.)  Have a character named after you in an upcoming novel of mine
2.)  Create a character and have them appear in an upcoming novel of mine
More ways to immerse yourself in fiction!  Here's a video telling you a little bit more:

Interested?  Click here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Short Screed

I'm sure at this point we've all heard quite enough about Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who defied the Supreme Court.

I'll not rehash the details of the case.  You've read that all elsewhere.

I'll not go over the politics of the case, either.  You can probably guess my thoughts on that and you have your own.

I'll not be attacking Ms. Davis as a person, either.  I know about the nepotism and the divorces and her personal appearance, etc., that people seem to find quite amusing.  I also know that she's given water to thirsty protestors (against her) on hot days and that she visits prisoners every week.  We're all complicated people and everyone has their unsavory moments and their saintly ones.

But what I do want to say (and I'll try to keep it brief) is that Ms. Davis really fucked up on this one. 

I admire a person of principle.  Everyone admires a person of principle.  Ms. Davis is not a person of principle, at least not in this matter.

The law changes over time.  There will come times when a change in the law leads to a person no longer being able to fulfill the oath of office they stated.  That's understandable.  That happens.  "This is not what I signed up for" is a perfectly valid complaint.

If Ms. Davis was a woman of principle, she would have resigned her position in protest the moment the law changed.  As much as I disagree with her politics and beliefs, I would have admired that.  I think we all would have.  But the truth is we probably wouldn't have heard about it.

But Ms. Davis is not a person of principle.  She's a glory seeker.  An attention hog.  She wants to have her cake and eat it, too.  She wants to go on drawing the $80,000 salary of a county clerk without fulfilling her duties as one.  This is unseemly behavior and it has nothing to do with one's personal political or religious predilections to find it so.

A principled stand that was unconcerned with wealth or fame or personal glory, would be to step aside and refuse to do what is to you anathema.  To gum up the works, to make a public display of yourself, to involve lawyers and the media and protestors - this seems more like a calculated move to raise one's public profile.  Get a book deal, maybe a television show, at worst go on the lecture circuit.

And that's all I have to say on the matter.  But feel free to let me know what you think in the comments below.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Happy Labor Day!

Hi, everybody!  Happy Labor Day!

Labor Day I think might get the most short shrift of any of the Federal holidays - with the possible exception of Columbus Day.  But honestly, it might be one of the most important.

Without organized labor we wouldn't have weekends, the forty-hour workweek, child labor laws, and dozens of other life-saving and life-improving workplace benefits.

It's pretty in vogue right now to run down unions, but the truth is that the decline in union membership over the last thirty years has a direct causal connection to stagnant wages and countless other labor relation issues.  Labor Day seems like a good day to remember the sacrifices of all the marchers, protestors, strikers, and negotiators who brought us out of the times when corporations could abuse and even kill their employees with total impunity.  But it's also a day to remember that we have a long way to go.  America is only as strong as its workforce.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Review Week! Part 3: KING OF THE BASTARDS by Brian Keene and Steven Shrewsbury

Howdy, pardners.  In case'n ya didn' know, it's Review Week! here on yonder blog.  Enjoy!


Rogan has been many things in his life as an adventurer — a barbarian, a thief, a buccaneer, a rogue, a lover, a reaver, and most recently, a king. Now, this prehistoric bane of wizards and tyrants finds himself without a kingdom, lost in a terrifying new world, and fighting for his life against pirates, zombies, and the demonic entity known as Meeble. And even if he defeats his foes, Rogan must still find a way to return home, regain his throne, save his loved ones, and remind everyone why he's the

It's available on Amazon, Barnes and NobleApexAbeBooks, Kobo, Book Depository, and you can discuss it on Goodreads.


When people complain about "Game of Thrones" being too violent or too eager to kill off characters, I often roll my eyes. Life's pretty fucking short and miserable for the vast majority of the world's population these days, and I can only imagine what it was like in the Middle Ages when most people were just the property of a few rich assholes whose only real sport was killing other rich assholes. (Actually, maybe not so much has changed after all.)

But I digress. KING OF THE BASTARDS is set in a grimdark world full of characters who cast aside even the tiny veneer of civilization that the rich assholes of "Game of Thrones" wear. Rogan, the titular King of the Bastards, is a particularly brutish human being who apparently thinks nothing of shitting into an enemy's gaping wound on the battlefield. He has no respect for anything or anyone and only his unwavering loyalty to his blood relatives could be considered a positive character trait - albeit, he usually expresses that loyalty through gruesome bouts of Burgessian ultra-violence.

This is my first time reading Shrewsbury's work, so quite a few references were lost on me. The story is self-contained, but I gather that Rogan has already had and will go on to have many adventures all over his world. From what I can piece together, Rogan lives in a version of our world with Bronze Age aesthetics. He took over the throne of Albion (England) got bored and took to the ocean, where he wrecked on what seems strongly implied to be North America.

Now, I am more familiar with Keene's work, and we quickly learn that the antagonist of this self-contained story is Meeble, one of the Thirteen deicidal extradimensional beings from Keene's Labyrinth Mythos. All signs point to a showdown between Rogan and Meeble, and our intrepid authors do not disappoint.

This is very much a grimdark fantasy by way of extreme horror - about what you'd expect from these collaborators. From Rogan's first fight on the high seas to his final showdown with Meeble, countless gallons of blood and miles of intestines are spilled, eyeballs are popped, and corpses are mutilated. Horror and fantasy fans alike will find a lot to enjoy about this novel.

About Brian Keene:

BRIAN KEENE writes novels, comic books, short fiction, and occasional journalism for money. He is the author of over forty books, mostly in the horror, crime, and dark fantasy genres. His 2003 novel, THE RISING, is often credited (along with Robert Kirkman’s "The Walking Dead" comic and Danny Boyle’s "28 Days Later" film) with inspiring pop culture’s current interest in zombies. Keene’s novels have been translated into German, Spanish, Polish, Italian, French, Taiwanese, and many more. In addition to his own original work, Keene has written for media properties such as Doctor Who, Hellboy, Masters of the Universe, and Superman.

Several of Keene’s novels have been developed for film, including "Ghoul," "The Ties That Bind," and "Fast Zombies Suck." Several more are in-development or under option. Keene also serves as Executive Producer for the independent film studio Drunken Tentacle Productions.

Keene also oversees Maelstrom, his own small press publishing imprint specializing in collectible limited editions, via Thunderstorm Books.

Keene’s work has been praised in such diverse places as The New York Times, The History Channel, The Howard Stern Show,, Publisher’s Weekly, Media Bistro, Fangoria Magazine, and Rue Morgue Magazine. He has won numerous awards and honors, including the World Horror 2014 Grand Master Award, two Bram Stoker Awards, and a recognition from Whiteman A.F.B. (home of the B-2 Stealth Bomber) for his outreach to U.S. troops serving both overseas and abroad. A prolific public speaker, Keene has delivered talks at conventions, college campuses, theaters, and inside Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Langley, VA.

The father of two sons, Keene lives in rural Pennsylvania.

You can follow Brian on his website, Facebook, and Twitter.

About Steven Shrewsbury:

STEVEN L. SHREWSBURY lives, works, and writes in rural Illinois. Over 360 of his short stories have appeared in print or electronic media along with over 100 poems. 9 of his novels have been released, with more on the way. His books run from sword & sorcery (OVERKILL, THRALL, BEDLAM UNLEASHED) to historical fantasy (GODFORSAKEN) extreme horror (HAWG, TORMENTOR, STRONGER THAN DEATH) to horror-westerns (HELL BILLY, BAD MAGICK, and the forthcoming LAST MAN SCREAMING).

He loves books, British TV, guns, movies, politics, sports and hanging out with his sons. He’s frequently outdoors, looking for brightness wherever it may hide.

You can follow Steven on Facebook and his website.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Review Week! Part 2: PHOENIX ISLAND by John Dixon

Ahoy, me hearties!  'Tis the first ever Review Week! here on ye olde blogge.  Enjoy, ye scury dogs.


The judge told Carl that one day he'd have to decide exactly what kind of person he would become. But on Phoenix Island, the choice will be made for him.

A champion boxer with a sharp hook and a short temper, sixteen-year-old Carl Freeman has been shuffled from foster home to foster home. He can't seem to stay out of trouble, using his fists to defend weaker classmates from bullies. His latest incident sends his opponent to the emergency room, and now the court is sending Carl to the worst place on earth: Phoenix Island.

Classified as a terminal facility, it's the end of the line for delinquents who have no home, no family, and no future. Located somewhere far off the coast of the United States and immune to its laws, the island is a grueling Spartan-style boot camp run by sadistic drill sergeants who show no mercy to their young, orphan trainees. Sentenced to stay until his eighteenth birthday, Carl plans to play by the rules, so he makes friends with his wisecracking bunkmate, Ross, and a mysterious gray-eyed girl named Octavia. But he makes enemies, too, and after a few rough scrapes, he earns himself the nickname "Hollywood" as well as a string of punishments, including a brutal night in the sweatbox. But that's nothing compared to what awaits him in the Chop Shop: a secret government lab where Carl is given something he never dreamed of.

A new life. . . .

A new body. A new brain.

Gifts from the fatherly Old Man, who wants to transform Carl into something he's not sure he wants to become.

For this is no ordinary government project. Phoenix Island is ground zero for the future of combat intelligence.

And for Carl, it's just the beginning. . .

PHOENIX ISLAND is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo, and you can discuss it on Goodreads.


This novel is truly remarkable. The truth is, I wasn't 100% sure what I was getting myself into when I picked it up. I had read the back cover which suggested one thing, but I had also watched a few episodes of "Intelligence," the TV show this book inspired, and that told another story, and I also knew that this novel recently won the Bram Stoker Award. So I was fairly perplexed on whether PHOENIX ISLAND was an espionage thriller, horror, YA, or what.

If I had to put PHOENIX ISLAND in a category, I'd say it most closely resembles a classic. The sort of thing you had to read in school. A clean, trim sort of book with only a few characters and only a few locations that manages to draw you in.

Speaking of classics, Dixon obviously wears his love for LORD OF THE FLIES on his sleeve with this one - there are wild pigs, feral kids, and enough LOTF Easter eggs that I was sort of surprised nobody sounded a conch by the end. There's also a lot of the DNA of ENDER'S GAME in here. But where PHOENIX ISLAND really carves its own niche is in the way boxing is woven throughout.

Dixon is a Golden Gloves boxer and he brings a breadth and knowledge of fighting experience to this book like I've never seen before. Whenever the main character Carl fights the book transforms into something akin to ballet where you just have to admire the beauty of the prose as the scene unfolds.

I read this book in four days. It's been a long time since I've devoured a book that fast. I'm still not sure whether to quite call it horror, thriller, YA, or something else entirely. But I'll stand by my label of "classic." I really hope this ends up in classrooms in the future. I can't imagine kids not loving it.

About John Dixon:

John Dixon's debut novel, PHOENIX ISLAND, won the Bram Stoker Award and inspired the CBS TV series "Intelligence." The sequel, DEVIL'S POCKET, comes out August 4th, 2015, from Simon & Schuster / Gallery Books.

A former boxer, teacher, and stone mason, John now writes full time. He lives in West Chester, PA, with his wife, Christina, and their freeloading pets. When not reading or writing, he obsesses over boxing, chess, and hot peppers.

You can follow John on his website, Facebook, or Twitter.
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