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, October 30, 2015

Artwork Reveal: Apocalypse Right Fucking Now, Man!


Crisp.  Cool.  Autumnal weather.


The day before Halloween.



There was a nightmare that the heroes of THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO were trying to escape.  And artist Ashley Powers has captured it beautifully (by which I mean horrifically) below.  Enjoy.

OH!  And one more thing.  Make sure to pop by THe GaL iN THe BLue MaSK's site today to finally see what I've done with all this glorious artwork.  Thanks, everybody.  And Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Top 15 Zombie-Killing Catchphrases (Guest Post from Cherokee Hall)

Blaaargh, zombophiles!  It's almost Halloweeeeeeeen and you know what that means:

I've got shit to do.  So here's a guest post.

15 Killer (Ha!) Zombie Extermination Catchphrases
Zombie hunting and killing will be all the rage in the upcoming zombie apocalypse so you better be ready for it!  And by "ready for it" we mean you should have a list of catchphrases planned out ahead of time to say after you've sent those undead bastards back to wherever they came from.  It may mean the difference between coming off looking like a stone cold zombie slayer and a one shot wonder.

We've come up with a list of catchphrases to say after an awesome zombie kill that you can use.  If you use these in the right way at the right time it may result in you becoming the baddest zombie hunter in all the land and earning all the accolades that go with that.  It should at least be worth some extra water or food and most certainly some companionship of the opposite sex...or same sex if you prefer (we don't judge.)

15.  "Humans: 1, Flesh-eating, brain-sucking, mumbling, stumbling, rotting zombies: 0!"

You may want to use this one when there is only one zombie around.  Before you know it you could be surrounded by them while you are halfway through it and then you'll just look like a newb.

14.  "You aren't turning anyone into zombie shit ever again!"

It might be gross and we aren't actually even for sure that zombies have a digestive system or not.  But if they do then that's what is happening to everyone they eat.  (SK: check out my story in AT HELL'S GATES I for a definitive answer on this oft-pondered matter.)

13.  "I love the smell of necrosis in the morning!  Smells like...victory!"

Paraphrased from "Apocalypse Now," this one will fit right in after you and your group battle a horde of zombies and the bodies are piled up knee-high in the wake.

12.  "Got your nose!"

After you've offed the undead reach down and rip his nose off with your finger and thumb and show it to him...then show it to your group for a good laugh.  Or more of the weird looks that they always seem to be giving you.

11.  "Fuck you and the undead horse you rode in on!"

A take on a popular catchphrase that was obviously started by someone who didn't like horses...or maybe they really liked them and was...never mind.  Anyway we don't expect the undead to ride on undead horses so use this one sparingly.

10.  "Looks like you should have had a better HUMAN SURVIVAL GUIDE!"

With the popularity of Max Brook's ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE it would be only fitting for the zombies to have a version of their own.  Maybe Max will write the sequel?

9.  "Tell the devil I said 'send more zombies!'"

We may not be for sure if the zombies go anywhere on death but if they do we are  damn (I meant dang) sure it's not going to be heaven where all the puppy dogs go.  So in that moment before the undead life leaves their rotting corpse see if you can get a message to main man of hell himself.  Mr. Mephistopheles.   If it works though I'd stop asking him to send more.

8.  "Now you see you don't!"

This is a one-in-a-million saying because like Babe Ruth you have to "call your shot".  You have to know before you swing that you are going to cut off their head or it will just come across as silly.  But if you do pull it off your crew will be talking about it for years to come.  Like how some of the old timers today talk about the Babe.

7.  "RIP" or "Rot in Pieces!"

You could use this one multiple times as long as everyone around you knows that it doesn't mean "Rest in Peace" but "Rot in Pieces".  Once they are all clear on that you can drop the explanation and just say RIP.  Feel free to add "bitch" at the end of this one if you want.

6.  "Can a zombie poop itself?  Because this dead one smells like shit."  (SK: see above note)

This one works on so many levels because zombies smell pretty darn bad already.  Make sure no one is taking a drink of water before you say this one because the chance of it coming out of their nose is pretty high and during the apocalypse every drop of water is needed.

5.  "Please someone tell me they took a picture of that!"

If all electricity has already been shut down and no one has a camera then pantomime taking a "selfie" with the corpse.  Then proceed to act like you are doing something else with the phone until someone asks "What are you doing?" to which you will reply "Hold on while I upload it to Deadbook" then sit back and wait for the laughter to die down.

4.  "Ding-dong, the zombie's dead!"

Everyone loves "The Wizard of Oz" so why not pay homage to this classic by dancing around like a member of the Lollipop Guild singing this classic tune?

3.  "Wax on, Wax off, head on, head off!"

Make Mr. Miyagi proud with this nod to "The Karate Kid."  Bonus points if you say this after killing the zombie version of Mr. Miyagi played by the late great actor Pat Morita.

2.  "Stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself!"

Once the crew has given you one too many "what's the deal with this guy?" looks it's time to take it up a notch.  On the next zombie kill immediately cut one of its arms off and start smacking it in the face with it while saying this catchphrase.  That should let the team know that all is good with you and they can rest easy knowing you are with them.

1.  "I'm sure you were an asshole when you were alive too."

Because more than likely they were.  Channel your inner rage for assholes on this kill, too.  Think of all the people that don't use turn signals, chew with their mouths open, take the last slice of pizza without asking, cut you off in traffic, take up two parking spaces, "friends" who borrow stuff and never return them! AHHHHH!

About Cherokee Hall:

Cherokee Hall is one of the people that runs one of the top blogs about zombies at Escape From Zombies.   He has always had a somewhat unhealthy interest in zombies and the eventual and upcoming zombie apocalypse.  He also enjoy writing and film making but those are on a more healthy level.  You can usually catch him watching zombie movies and telling everyone that will listen how he could have made it better if he had the same budget.  I mean seriously this guy won't shut up about getting a bigger budget some times.

You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and his blog.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Zombie Beauty Tips (Guest Infographic from Taylor Nagenast)

Big thanks to Taylor from Ogle School for reaching out with today's infographic, just in time for Halloween.  It's tongue-in-cheek of course but looks like some decent makeup tips.  Enjoy!

Zombie Beauty Tips
Zombie Beauty Tips Created By: Ogle School

Friday, October 23, 2015

Artwork Reveal: The Zealot

Drumroll please!  It's the penultimate post before next week's final artwork reveal here on the blog, and then the full GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO trailer reveal over on THe GaL iN THe BLue MaSK.  But let's not get ahead of ourselves.  There's still a gorgeous piece of artwork to salivate over (er...sort of...if you're not thrown off by zombie arms) this week: one of the most dreadful villains I've ever conceived, the crazed religious zealot Reverend Sonntag!

Pictured: Reverend Coughlin Sonntag

Monday, October 19, 2015

Never Mind Molly Ringwald (Interview with Christine Morgan, Author of MURDER GIRLS)

HAWM, loyal guildspeople.  Today we have a special treat for you.

I, like most horror-types, am a big fan of The Horror Fiction Review.  So I was really glad over the last few years to get to know Christine Morgan, reviewer extraordinaire for the HFR, and an incredible author and editor.  Christine was kind enough to take time out of her very busy schedule (seriously - follow her on Facebook to witness the craziness in real time) to talk with us today about the HWA, Vikings, unicorns, and all kinds of other stuff.  Let's briefly get to know the author and then jump right in!

About Christine Morgan

Christine Morgan spent many years working the overnight shift in a psychiatric facility, which played havoc with her sleep schedule but allowed her a lot of writing time. A lifelong reader, she also reviews, beta-reads, occasionally edits and dabbles in self-publishing. Her other interests include gaming, history, superheroes, crafts, cheesy disaster movies and training to be a crazy cat lady. She can be found online on Facebook and her blog.


SK:  Thanks for being with us today, Christine! You've been involved in gaming for some time. Can you give us a rundown, maybe a nostalgia-themed list and a current list, of your favorite games and why?

CM:  My pleasure, and thanks for having me! My experience with gaming started in 1981, when my mom came home and announced that some of her friends had this new game we should try. It was an odd way for anybody to be introduced to "Dungeons and Dragons" back then, especially a teenage girl, but it was great. I was soon running my own games for school friends. My first convention was OrcCon ‘83. And never mind Molly Ringwald movies; I got miniatures and paints for my sixteenth birthday.

In college, I discovered the campus gaming club and experimented with various other systems (what, it WAS college!) such as "Champions," "Villains & Vigilantes," and "Traveller." I once ran an all-female "ElfQuest" game at one of the Friday night meetings, which was quite a shocker to the guys in the club. Then "GURPS" came along, and that proved to be the system that suited me best. I still dabbled in a few others now and then – "Vampire: The Masquerade," and "TOON," for instance – but have pretty much been a "GURPS" gal ever since.

I’ve had a couple of long-running campaigns over the years, but the last of them kind of crashed and burned in a spectacular relationship-ending fashion, which left me gun-shy. Fortunately, right around then, I’d also fallen in love with the MMORPG "City of Heroes," and that helped feed my roleplaying craving. Its untimely closure was a devastating moment, and none others have yet even come close.

SK:  Your bio mentions that you're a former member of the Horror Writers Association. Personally I'm interested, and I suspect a lot of my readers would be interested as well, what are the pros and cons of HWA membership? What finally made you choose to leave?

CM:  I joined the HWA after my first couple of qualifying pro-rate story sales, but at the time, there just didn’t seem to be much going on with the organization that I felt I could really get involved with or benefit from. Or maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention. I don’t know. There was the message board, and that was really about all I followed. My decision to leave wasn’t even a decisive decision, more a matter of neglecting to re-up my membership and sort of drifting away. I probably should look into it again one of these days.

SK:  So, as an expert on all things Vikings, how do you feel about the History Channel's "Vikings?"

CM:  First off, much as I’d love to call myself an expert, I’m really more an aficionado. I love history, mythology, folklore, and culture, but it took me a lot longer than it should have to discover the Viking era was a true passion. There I was, into fantasy, into Tolkien, into pirates, but then finally I stumbled across Bernard Cornwell’s SAXON series, and a series of recorded lectures by Professor Michael D.C. Drout, and my inner Viking suddenly woke right up.

We even chose a Norwegian cruise for our family vacation a few years back and it was phenomenal … seeing the fjords, touring the ship museum in Oslo, visiting an Iron Age farm … BEING there, being able to stand there and take it all in, absorb with my mind and senses and imagination. Well, within reason. I am a total wuss and comfort-holic in real life, so being able to return to the ship for luxuries and buffets was just the best of all worlds.

That said, as far as the television show goes … enh, sadly, not much of a fan. I was excited when it first came out, but it just didn’t FEEL right to me, it seemed like it was missing something, the particular spirit of the Viking age that spoke most to me. I watched a few episodes of the first season, then a few more with the sound off just for scenery and ship porn, then stopped. I expect I’ll go back and binge-watch them all one of these days. And I am glad to see the show stirring up interest, making Vikings popular again. I’m also shameless enough to ride their coattails if that’s what it takes.

SK:  How did you get involved with The Horror Fiction Review? Aside from the Warren Buffett-level compensation, what's it like working over there?

CM:  Now, that, I think, is one legacy from my time in the HWA that I really can point to. I found out about The Horror Fiction Review back when it was ye olde school photocopied and stapled 8 and ½ x 11 ‘zine (I still have the back issues!). I’d been doing my own sort of rambling book reviews on my all-but-unread blog, so I kind of offered to send some their way, never really expecting anything to come of it. I seem to get into a lot of sweet gigs that way, half-joking or never really expecting anything to come of it, but I must be doing something right somewhere along the line.

So, I started sending in my reviews, and … they became kind of a hit … and then Nick Cato was asking if I had the time and inclination for some free books … I mean, HECK YES; I’ve always been a faster reader than my budget and local library could really keep up with, so this was a dream come true.

Then the dream-come-true got even better, because the next thing I knew, authors were contacting me with appreciative feedback. Edward LEE emailed me, thanking me for a review! I’d get requests! It boggled me. It still does. Boggles and humbles. Being able to go to conventions, be on panels, mention I’m a contributor to the HFR, and have authors approach me to see if I’d be interested in reviewing theirs – I met Michaelbrent Collings that way, and have absolutely loved everything I’ve read by him. Seeing blurbs from MY reviews in the “praise for” sections at the front of subsequent books is a thrill almost like an acceptance letter!

Of course, given some of the types of books I most like to read and review, it can be a little weird when a notification comes in that my review helped influence someone’s buying on Amazon … when I called Shane McKenzie’s PUS JUNKIES quite possibly the ickiest book of all time, for instance, and that convinced someone to buy it...Wrath James White’s books, Monica J. O’Rourke...I sometimes kind of feel like I should apologize for my part in any subsequent psychological damage...

SK:  You've written horror, fantasy, superheroes, erotica [takes deep breath] historical and it seems like a few others. Do you have a particular favorite? And do you ever worry about spreading yourself too thin?

CM:  I love it all, but yeah, the historical stuff … the Vikings for sure, and the other eras I’ve played with … ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt … the Maya and Aztec cultures … I’ve gone as far back as Mesopotamia, and further still to caveman days (I’ll try my hand at dinosaurs eventually; RAPTOR RED is one of my all-time favorite books) … Victorian, steampunk, Civil War, the Gilded Age, Old West, the World Wars … there’s so much to explore, and the challenge of story and language and character just delights me.

Speaking of challenges, another of my favorite things to do is mix and match, mash-up, cross over, and generally bring together things that might normally not ever seem a natural guess, and see if I can make it work. I ask myself, “can I” or some idea will hit out of nowhere. Lovecraftian elements are hugely fun to blend with others...I’ve done Lovecraft and Austen, various myth-meets-Mythos, Lovecraftian fairy tales, Lovecraftian smut. I’ve combined Poe and Ru Paul’s Drag Race. They gave me a special award at KillerCon one year for my Gross Out treatment of smutty Wodehouse. If it’s wrong, if it seems so, so wrong, so wrong it’s right, I want to try it.

I also love superhero universes, I think mostly because superheroes are our modern version of classical mythology. Also because, in a superhero universe, anything goes. Aliens, magic, psychic powers, high-tech … it all coexists and is simply accepted that way. Just, oh, okay, and everyone rolls with it.

I only worry about spreading myself too thin in terms of over-committing, or having too many projects going so that some fall through the cracks. There are some genres I think I’m unlikely to try my hand at (hard sci-fi, for instance), but even then, I don’t like to rule anything out. My muse, when she wants to do something, I cannot tell her no.

SK:  In addition to eeeeeverything else, you've also edited numerous anthologies, including the upcoming FOSSIL LAKE: UNICORNADO. That being said, how many fonts do you own?

CM:  My husband being the font-slut of the family, he got custody of most of those in the recent divorce (I got the cats). I’m a little anxious about UNICORNADO, actually, because while I have loads of experience on the editing end, I am not at all up to speed on all the layout and such. That’s going to be a scary learning curve these next few months.

The editing gigs, though, I also sort of meandered into in some roundabout ways. I put together our college gaming club’s newsletter, and the resident-written one at the first psych facility I worked at, and did one for my daughter’s Girl Scout troop for a while. I – now, this is top-secret confession time – used to write a lot of fanfiction, and became very involved in the "Gargoyles" fandom, to the point I took over a fanzine called "Avalon Mists" and did four fanfic anthologies for the conventions. We had the online "Sabledrake Magazine" for many years.

All that, and I still didn’t (and don’t!) really think of myself as an editor. Not a REAL one, not compared to the ones I’d worked with. Some of my editing gigs happened because another editor had to back out of a project, so I volunteered to help out (a couple of times, I’d already had a story accepted, which is why the upcoming GRIMM BLACK, for example, might look like double-dipping).

The FOSSIL LAKE phenomenon, though, was where I really found myself having fun. Except for sending out rejections. That part sucks no matter which end of it you’re on. I will never like that part. I mean, yes, rinky-dink small beans market and all, but people send me stories … a lot of stories, really GOOD stories, more than I can use, and I am constantly blown away by the amount of trust and talent and willingness to work even with the likes of me that these really awesome people continue to show.

SK:  Well, thanks so much for being with us today, Christine. Before we part, do you have any closing words or anything you'd like to mention that we didn't cover today?

CM:  More words? Like I haven’t done essays here already? Well but hey, give a mouse a cookie and all that; give me a chance to ramble and I will do it. So. Yes. Ahem.

First off – buy books. Mine, sure, yes please, ones I wrote, edited, contributed to, reviewed, whatever...I have a daughter in college and four cats to feed...but really, just, buy books. Buy books, read books, give them as gifts, tell your friends.

Secondly – enjoy, play and enjoy. Language is amazing. Writing is amazing. Creativity, imagination, characters, emotions, travels of the mind, it’s all there. It’s passion. It’s telepathy. Art and invention and language and storytelling, in all their various forms, are what we’re meant to do, what fuels and feeds the soul, what really does make us human.

And, finally – when you find your niche, your community, your place to belong and feel at home … cherish that. I’m finally getting there myself, and it is, simply, the best and warmest and most incredible be where you’ve always been meant to be.

Coming soon:

Friday, October 16, 2015

Artwork Reveal: The Warlord

The next piece of artwork from the world of THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO is one of the coldest and most loathsome villains I've ever created: the remorseless warlord Sinclair Fall.

Pictured: Admiral Sinclair Fall

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Let's talk about your brand.  It's important to have a brand, especially as an author or a small business owner (which, as an author, you essentially are.)  So here are three tips to having an effective brand:

1.)  You need to be watching "The Godfather."  You need to be watching "On the Waterfront."  And, yes, you even need to suck it up and watch "The Island of Dr. Moreau."  Brando should be an important part of your brand.

2.)  Every morning (and yes, I mean every morning, god damn it) you need to wake up and pour a big bowl of cereal.  You can top it with milk, sprinkle raisins on it, slice up a banana and stick it in there; I don't care.  Bran needs to be a part of your brand.

3.)  The third part of the trifecta may be difficult to run down, but most registered tattoo parlors and skin scarification centers will be able to point you in the right direction.  You're going to need a red hot cow poker, yes, but the most important part is that you have a qualified professional to hold it.  Don't just run down to the nearest farm and ask Rancher Bill to burn you, because he probably won't do it right, and there's aftercare involved.  Just remember that the most important part of your brand is your actual brand.

So there you have it folks: the three keys to mastering your brand.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Are Old School Halloween Costumes Still Cool? (Guest Post by Sam Williamson)

Howdy, loyal fans!  It's nigh on Halloween.  Have you gotten your costume yet?

Well, if not, I'm very excited to have a somewhat unusual guest who reached out to me this year: Sam Williamson, owner of Zombie Costumes World (which I guess makes him a haberdasher by trade?)  Anyway, Sam's written a post on the difference between chic and classic costumes, which seems particularly relevant this time of year.  Enjoy!

Guest Post

Halloween is coming up, and I’m a nervous wreck. I’ve been checking out my friends on Facebook (I say friends, I mean people that I met once at a party) and it seems like there’s gonna be a lot of competition this year. I’m not talking about competition to see who can get the most candy (nobody can beat me and my moped anyway) I’m talking about costume competition. One guy has already sorted out his ‘crying Mars’ outfit, to celebrate the news that NASA found water on Mars. Then there’s a girl who’s dressing up as a Donald Trump Heffalump. And then there’s me. I was gonna be a vampire. Don’t get me wrong, it was gonna be a really scary vampire. But still, it’s just a vampire. And that’s not funny, or memorable, or unique. So in the eyes of these Facebook folk, it’s essentially worthless. 

But why should it be worthless? Surely the point of Halloween is to dress up as something scary that will freak people out! Apparently not. The days of werewolves and vampires seem to be a thing of the past, which might sound like great news to all of you monster hunters out there. But this extinction of these Halloween classics signals a new era for this holiday.  If it ain’t worth sharing on social media, it ain’t worth jack. 

Fortunately, all hope is not lost. While people collectively roll their eyes at the latest "Twilight" films, or hate on the latest series of "The Vampire Diaries," there is one Halloween classic that has remained a favorite for decades. The humble zombie. On his own, the zombie can barely be described as a threat. But coming face to face with a group of these brain-hungry creatures is a prospect that still sends shivers down the spines of the young and the old. And their popularity is cemented by the huge success of series like "The Walking Dead," which attracts an obscene amount of viewers on a weekly basis. 

But don’t get me wrong, its not like every single zombie-related film, book, or comic book is absolutely top notch. In many ways, the word "zombie" has never been associated with as much garbage as it is right now. You’ll find the majority of zombie films are on that shelf at the back of the video store, right next to "Sharknado 6" and "Titanic 2 – Ice Breaker." But unfortunately, these braindead guys are our last hope at saving Halloween. We’re holding out for a hero, and they’re missing several limbs and only eat brains. Oh dear.  

So are zombies still cool? Maybe. But they’re definitely not safe from extinction. Unless you’re dressing up as dead Paris Hilton, chances are your Facebook buddies won’t care about your zombie costume. But so what? Let them dress up as whatever the hell they want. Because at the end of the day, that’s not the point of Halloween. It’s the one holiday where you can freak people out to your heart’s content, and you’re gonna dress up as Paris Hilton? The only thing scary about her is that she is now a successful DJ. And people say that zombies will be the first sign of the apocalypse. 

About Sam Williamson

My name is Sam Williamson, I run a website dedicated to Halloween costumes, and If I was in a zombie apocalypse, I'd probably just have a pint and wait for it all to blow over.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Artwork Reveal: The Genius

It's another Friday in October and that means it's time to reveal the next piece of art for my planned GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO trailer!  This week is the first of the three dreadful villains of the piece, the billionaire industrialist, genius, and all-around loathsome individual Rand Bergeron!

Pictured: Rand Bergeron

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Streets Paved With Pork Roll (Interview With Chris Prynoski, Emmy-Nominated President and Owner of Titmouse, Inc.)

Children, I know you love to ignore me.  It's one of your favoritest pastimes, no doubt.  But when I told you earlier this year about the power of asking, you should have listened.  I know I did.

And through the power of asking (patent pending) I have secured an amazing guest today.  As president, founder, and owner of Titmouse, Inc., Chris Prynoski is responsible for bringing such mindblowing shows as "The Venture Bros.," "Metalocalypse," "China, IL," "Moonbeam City," [deep breath] "Megas XLR," "Motorcity," "Turbo: F.A.S.T." and countless others to your eyeholes.  And before all that he worked on "Beavis and Butt-Head," "Daria," and was nominated for an Emmy for "Downtown."

Just listing a few of our guest's credits is making me winded, so let's meet him briefly and then jump right in with the interview!

About Chris Prynoski

Chris Prynoski began on shows such as "Beavis and Butthead" and "Daria" for MTV in the early 90s. MTV's "Downtown" earned him an Emmy nomination. In 2004, Prynoski founded the animation studio Titmouse, Inc. where he has continued his string of hits with projects like "Metalocalypse," "China, IL," "Black Dynamite," "Superjail!," "The Venture Bros.," "Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja," and his own creation, "Motorcity" for Disney XD.  He is currently executive producing a number of shows, including "Turbo: F.A.S.T." for DreamWorks, and directing a 2-D animation feature that he’ll be submitting to Sundance later this year.


SK:  Thanks so much for being with us today, Chris!  I’m absolutely spoiled with things to talk about with you, but I don’t want to impose too much on your time so I’ll just try to stick to my usual format of five topics and then give you the last word.

That being said, we absolutely have to talk about “Moonbeam City” first.  This show looks like nothing else on television and like nothing I’ve seen since the ‘80s, when, presumably, artists weren’t trying to achieve this effect ironically.  How do your animators create that Reagan-era feel?

CP: Well, we totally owe a lot to Patrick Nagel on this one. He was clearly the inspiration for the character designs. If only he was still with us, we would have reached out to him. As a young teen I enjoyed many a Playboy spot illustration drawn by his hand. Jo Jo Park did a great job channeling him. She is an incredible draftsman with an eye for fashion! And Antonio Canobbio (the art director) and Brandon Cuellar (the background supervisor) also killed it like Sonny Crocket's gator attacking a sockless maritime intruder.
"Ah, a bowling metaphor.  Now I'm interested."

SK:  Let’s take a step back and take kind of a bird’s eye view of your career.  My dad used to work at the Ocean Spray plant in Bordentown, NJ, so I actually know that area a little bit.  What was the road like for you from the mean streets of Bordentown to the gold-paved (I assume) Titmouse headquarters in LA?

CP: The Ocean Spray factory! It smelled so good! That factory was the holy grail of jobs when I worked at Hilltop Exxon. Everyone wanted a gig there. It had great wages and benefits! I, unfortunately, never got to step inside - although I did eat some ice cream from the Häagen-Dazs factory store next door. I left B-Town for New York City in the early nineties to attend the School of Visual Arts. From there I moved on to MTV to storyboard and direct on such projects as "Beavis and Butt-Head" and "Daria." Then I moved to LA when my show "Downtown" was cancelled. After working for the major studios, I started Titmouse with my wife Shannon. Our streets are not paved with gold, but imported New Jersey pork roll.
The Titmouse Studios (artist's conception)

SK:  Just looking at your IMDB page there are so many shows I want to ask you about.  But it looks like there’s some big news coming about “Metalocalypse,” so let’s talk about that.  Can you tell us once and for all for the record: why is Murderface so obsessed with urine?  (And also do you have any super secret squirrel “Metalocalypse” scoops you want to share with us?)

CP: Unfortunately I can't share any "Metalocalypse" scoops! Murderface is obsessed with urine because it's funny. Everyone knows Planet Piss is a great band name. Here's a tidbit for you: Brendon Small and Tommy Blacha both recorded all five voices for the pilot of "Metalocalypse." I cut the radio play and got to decide who played who - so you can blame me if you think Skwisgaar and Toki's voices should have been switched.
There are precisely zero secrets to be revealed about this show right now...

SK:  So, “Downtown” and “Motorcity” seem to be your “babies” (or at least the shows you’re most deeply involved with.)  But considering they were at such different times in your career and for such different companies (MTV vs. Disney) how was the experience between making them different?

CP: They were very, very different. MTV was a crazy company back in the late 90's. They pretty much let me hire anyone I wanted. That is unheard of out here in Hollywood. My college buddies, George Krstic and Jody Schaeffer were brought on as writers and directors. They then went on to create "Megas XLR" which I directed and produced on! When "Motorcity" came around Disney wanted to do stuff for "older kids" and we tried to push it as far as we could but we had to make a lot of compromises with the writing. I was able to blow the roof off of the animation though! I'm super proud of how much production value we were able to squeeze out of a TV budget.

SK:  Let’s talk about pacing for a minute.  I don’t have any experience writing for television so I’m interested in the timing differences between an 11-minute (quarter-hour when it airs) and 22-minute (half hour) show.  Now two of the shows you’ve worked on, “Metalocalypse” and “China, IL” switched from 11 to 22, and then “Metalocalypse” even switched back.  Can you tell us a little bit about what prompted those (fairly major) format changes and how it affects the storytelling?

CP: Yeah, 11 and 22 minute episodes are really different beasts. You need more story in a 22. In a quarter hour you can have a simple premise and then pretty much shit on it at the end. As long as you go out on a funny joke, it generally works. A half hour needs a plot. And it needs your characters to care what happens. That's one of the reasons we went back to 11s with "Metalocalypse" - It's hard to make a group of characters who don't care about anything function in a longer story. Basically, the creators wanted to try the longer format, and [adult swim] is cool as shit, so they let us.
Except for Penn State, obviously.

SK:  Well, thanks so much for stopping by the blog today, Chris!  I really appreciate it, and as I said, I admire so much of your work, and we could only really reasonable cover a small slice of it today.  But bearing that in mind, is there any subject that we didn’t get to talk about, or just anything you’d like to say to your fans before we go?

CP: Thanks for watching our cartoons. We try to make quality shows at Titmouse. I'm glad people dig them. Look out for the next season of "Venture Bros." on Feb 7th, a new Brad Neely show called "TV Sucks" not too long after that, and a bunch of other stuff I can't talk about yet!

About the Shows

"Moonbeam City" currently airs on Comedy Central at 10:30pm EST, right after "South Park."

"The Venture Bros."  - Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Season 4, and Season 5 are on DVD

"Metalocalypse" - Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, and Season 4 are on DVD

"China, IL" - Season 1 and Season 2 are available on Amazon Video

"Megas XLR" - Season 1 and Season 2 are available on iTunes

"Turbo: F.A.S.T." - Season 1 is available on DVD

"Beavis and Butt-Head" - several versions are available on DVD

"Daria" - the entire series is available on DVD

Monday, October 5, 2015

Am I Jealous of You? Yes, Yes I Certainly am.

I'm going to confess something here I probably shouldn't, but I think it's important to talk about these sorts of things, so here goes:

I get jealous of other authors.

I know that doesn't seem groundbreaking and maybe some of you are even laughing right now or, if not laughing, wondering if I made a joke that fell flat.  But, no, this is a serious discussion. 

You see, authors are not supposed to get jealous of other authors.  I've even talked about it before on the blog.  We're supposed to be good members of a small fraternity and celebrate one another's successes and commiserate in one another's times of tribulation.

We're supposed to know that a rising tide raises all boats and that what's good for one author is good for all authors and that we're not in a competition for readers, because readers buy lots of books and not just one book in a lifetime.

And I do know all of that.  I know the hell out of it.  I grok it even.  I've cheered and raved and shared in the successes of other members of my tribe and I've held their hair back while they puked their guts empty of all the sorrows they drowned.  And I've never shit on another author (in public) and I've never been anything but welcoming and supportive to the other members of my community, my tribe, really.

And yet...

That doesn't really change the fact that I'm jealous.  And I don't mean like, I'm jealous of J.K. Rowling's millions and movie deals and world-changing impact.  I mean, I am, sure, in an abstract way, but really people like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling are the people I'm least jealous of.  Because they may as well be quasars, or quarks, or, I dunno, some other obscure astronomical q-word.  Their success is miraculous essentially, the one-in-a-million shot wrapped in an unheard-of burrito, with a squirt of creamy once-in-a-lifetime brand sour cream on top.  What's even the point of being jealous of someone like that?  You may as well be jealous of the King of England.

No, I mean I'm jealous of my peers.  And midlist authors.  And debut authors.  And complete fucking n00bs.  And it's not just once in a while.  It's constantly.

I'm jealous when I see someone has better reviews than me.  I'm jealous when I see they have more reviews.  I'm jealous when I see they have more books out (how dare she be more productive than me?)

I'm jealous when they get an agent.  I'm jealous when they get interest from an agent's grad school assistant.  I'm jealous when they get a book deal.  I'm jealous when they get a book sale.

I'm jealous when they meet a hero.  I'm jealous that they have heroes.  I'm jealous that they're better read than me.

And, yeah, sometimes I'm jealous that they're dumber than me.  I'm jealous they don't know how hard this fucking row is to hoe.  I'm jealous that they don't know how hard it is to sell a book.  I'm jealous of their never-say-die, never-give-up pluckiness.  I'm jealous of their youth.  (Sometimes I'm jealous of their age and wisdom, too.)

Sometimes I get jealous of stupid shit, too.  Not that anything I just mentioned is particularly germane, but I mean especially stupid shit.  I'm jealous when somebody else's name get mentioned.  Or they get called "a great person."  Or that they have a better haircut than me.  Or that they have cute kids.  Or that they have a better day job than me.  Or that they have some other talent, some actual talent that isn't just putting words together which essentially everybody can do, like art or something.

So why am I admitting all of this?  Why am I essentially putting myself out there as a pariah and confessing that as much as I toe the line (and tell other people to toe the line) of love, peace, and respect in my behavior, in my heart I feel differently?

Because I think it's natural.  And I think it probably happens more than we expect.  In fact, I think it probably happens as constantly to other people as it does to me.

And I sort of wish in a way that there was a word for "jealousy" that didn't carry those negative connotations, but I couldn't think of one.  "Envy" is just as bad and "admiration" doesn't really capture the point.  Because even though I'm jealous of you doesn't mean I don't still love you and want the best for you and revel in your successes and weep over your losses.

In fact, I think there's a certain amount of healthy jealousy that all authors feel and that, in fact, we need.  It prods us on.  It encourages us to do more, write more, write better, beat the odds, beat that other guy (even if I love him and his stupid awesome haircut.)  Maybe make him a little jealous no matter how perfectly coiffed he is, and maybe make him secretly weep into his booze a little later tonight.

We're running a race and other racers make us better.  We want to pass the one in front of us, and then the new one in front of us, and then the new one in front of us.  But that doesn't mean we should be tripping the other racers, and it doesn't mean we should be spitting in their Gatorade at the end of the race either.

Because there's also unhealthy jealousy.  There's also poisonous, venomous, dripping toxic jealousy that gets into your pores and drives you nuts.  It's the kind that turns a writer into a has-been, or never-was, who dismisses the whole community as Philistines.  It's the kind that turns a writer into a basement-dwelling troll who has nothing better to do with his time than to harass other people.  It's the kind that holds you back instead of inspiring you forward.  It's the kind that stymies your career, stymies even your capability for human interaction.  The kind that makes you give up because "how could I ever accomplish that?"

I guess really jealousy is like the Force.  There's a dark side and a light side.  And you can end up a Sith Lord, dealing only in absolutes and cackling over the villainy and cruelty you've spread.  Or you can end up a Jedi, fighting alongside thousands of other Jedis, but not being able to marry for some reason.  I guess the metaphor kind of falls down at the end, but there you go.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Artwork Reveal: The Smugglers

I've long had a desire to create a GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO trailer in the style of this "Dune" miniseries trailer that has stuck with me a long time (15 years at least, I guess):


I always admired how the characters of "Dune" are so iconic, so beloved (or hated), and so instantly recognizable that the trailer focuses almost exclusively on them.  Unlike ordinary trailers which focus on the action or the hook or the twist or whatever to entice the audience.  In "Dune" it is the characters who entice above all else.  And that was always my goal with THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO, debatable as the outcome may be.

I knew to make this trailer I would either need to hire actors - which would be prohibitively expensive for what amounts to a fun arts and crafts project - or use artwork.  Those of you who know me know I'm terrible at art.  I had some proclivity for it as a child, but as the narrator of "The Royal Tenenbaums" would say, "failed to develop."  I don't even really have much of an eye for art - I have to rely on trusted confidantes to judge my book covers for me.

I finally stopped dawdling this year and hired an artist, the incredibly talented Ashley Powers (check her out here and here) to finally put a face to my characters.  The end result is that I'm finally ready to release my trailer, and I'll be doing so on THe GaL iN THe BLue MaSK's blog on October 30 as part of her "31 Days of Halloween" extravaganza.

To build up some anticipation and to have a place to host this incredible artwork in non-video form, each Friday from now until October 30 I'll be posting one of Ashley's commissions.  This week I thought I'd start with our intrepid heroes, the smugglers of the Rey Gould:

Pictured (left to right): Hannibal Mo, Captain Henk "Howling Mad" Martigan, Leona "Butch" Candiru
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