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."

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween!

Copyright: Granamir

Hey there, boils and ghouls!  Horror Christmas is finally here!  In case you missed all the fuss last week, you still have a liiiiiiittle time left to grab BILLY AND THE CLONEASAURUS for free and HUNTER OF THE DEAD for only $1.99.  That way you have something to open up under your horror tree that's a little less awful than what Spike's getting into up there.

As for me, I'll be watching "Halloween" for the first time tonight.  I know, I know, I'm a total Philistine.  Hope the rest of you have a blast no matter what you're doing.  Let me know about your plans in the comments!

Friday, October 28, 2016


Hey everybody!  Okay, the week of Halloween craziness is almost over.  The second-to-last sale I'm announcing this year is an ongoing one.  HUNTER OF THE DEAD is on sale for only $1.99 all month long.  So right up until midnight Halloween you can grab this hardcore horror vampire epic.  Enjoy!

And finally, last and perhaps best, BILLY AND THE CLONEASAURUS is absolutely, 100% free.  What's the catch?  The catch is I don't know for how long.  And that's not like some kind of slimy car dealer come-on, either.  My publisher didn't tell me.  They didn't even tell me it was going on a freebie run.  So it might be perma-free.  Or it might just be for the next few minutes.  I have no way to be sure.  But I recommend grabbing it soon!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Contest: Horror October 2016 Flash Fiction Battle

Hey everybody!  I have a free short story, "The Quiet Life" over on Lipsyy's Lost and Found.  If you enjoy it, you can vote for it.  You should also check out the stories by our good friends Stevie Kopas, Lily Luchesi, and Alessia Giacomi.  But don't vote for any of theirs.  If you think theirs are better, just abstain.  

Monday, October 24, 2016


Hey, everybody!  It's that time of year when Halloween sales start coming hot and heavy.  Starting today BRAINEATER JONES is going on a Kindle Countdown sale.  That means for the next two days it will be $0.99, for the two days after that it'll be $1.99, and so on.  So jump in early to get the most savings!

THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO also went on sale for $0.99 yesterday, which will last until October 30.  So make sure to snarf that up, too.

There'll be more sales and events I'll be announcing all week.  Thanks for the support everybody!

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Poke Mongo

Some of you may be familiar with the recent dance craze "The Poke Mongo."  "Mongo" is, of course, the American version of "Manga," which is the Japanese version of "The Macarena."  So "Poke Mongo" is kind of like an omelette is my understanding.

There's an interesting story about the Poke Mongo.  A few years back, three contractors were working in my office.  One was a perfectly professional lady who was later hired on full-time when their contract was up.  Another was a weasely little guy who was constant over in my cube, tugging on my Team Lead's sleeve and begging to be hired full time.  Unsurprisingly, he was not.

And then there was the third contractor...

I cannot for the life of me remember the guy's name.  But let's call him Mike.  Mike was the kind of stereotypical Yoohoo-drinking, message-board-trolling neckbeard that you see all throughout pop culture and yet, strangely, only very rarely in real life.  Picture Comic Book Guy from "The Simpsons" blended with the Warcraft player from "South Park."  Yeah, about that level.

Now we didn't hear much from Mike.  At least, he didn't complain much, which was good.  But he also didn't really seem to do much work.  Which was not so good, but, hey, it's the government.  Hell, I'm writing this blogpost at work right now.

It turns out that what Mike the Neckbeard had been doing all day - in lieu of whatever we were paying him for - was playing a game called Ingress.  In fact, he was beta testing it. 

Now, Ingress is an augmented reality game.  The basic concept is that various real-world landmarks - say, your local church or that statue downtown - are portals through which aliens are trying to contact humanity.  The world is divided into the obviously superior green Enlightened and the deranged, worthless blue lunatics of the Resistance.  So your goal is to collect various tools to switch real world portals from green to blue, or to keep them the right color, or whatever.

Nowadays, if you say "augmented reality" - or, more likely, if you vaguely outline the concept - even muggles will understand what you're talking about, because of Pokémon Go.  But step back just a handful of years ago, and the concept was obscure, maybe even novel.

So Mike was walking around all day, marking various benches and landmarks as potential Ingress portals for the game company.  It would have been bad enough if he had just been slacking off at work.  But I work on a Navy base.  The dude was wandering around pointing his phone at things and hanging around random spots on base at all hours of the day.  Now, when you or I play an augmented reality game, we're at least cognizant of our surroundings and a little bit ashamed to be playing a video game in public, so we hide it to the extent that other people might be around and we give a shit.  However, I suspect shame played no role in Mike's behavior.
So when the MPs finally rolled up on him and asked him why he was hanging around our decorative anchor at 7:00 am, weirding out passersby, he started to babble on and on about virtual reality and aliens trying to creep into the world.  Which led to the MPs bringing him in to his supervisor, and, Mike being a contractor who wasn't doing any goddamned work and was creeping around the base scaring people, he was fired and escorted off base.

Now, that's kind of a funny story in and of it self, but there's a coda.  A few years went by and I picked up Ingress, in case you couldn't tell from my bashing those fucking Resistance Smurfs earlier.  And lo and behold!  I work right on top of a portal.  And there are five portals I walk by every morning from my car to the office, and another five or ten within easy walking distance.  So while I was playing Ingress, I benefited greatly from Neckbeard Mike's largesse in marking every fucking tree with a funny branch on it as a potential portal.

Then we flash forward to this summer, and the smashing launch of Pokémon Go.  It turns out that Niantic, the company that created Ingress, also created Pokémon Go.  And rather than start from scratch and spend years beta testing they just overlaid Pokémon over the Ingress map.  I don't know if it was deliberate or not, but functionally Ingress turned out to be a beta test for Pokémon's capabilities.

Which means that I'm also now working on top of a Pokéstop, and there are a bunch of Pokéstops within walking distance of me, and two gyms.  And all thanks to that one weirdo who worked here a few years ago.  Here's to you, Neckbeard Mike, whatever your real name was, wherever you are.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Cover Reveal: GEMS OF GRATITUDE by Lily Luchesi

Hey everybody!  You know I always love to support great authors and share the love.  So today we have a cover reveal for an anthology featuring our good friend Lily Luchesi.  Check it out!

Gems of Gratitude
Releasing November 14th, 2016

Author List:
Alana Madden
Chrissy Moon
Christie Stratos
Elizabeth Horton-Newton
Karen J. Mossman
LG Surgeson
Lily Luchesi
Markie Madden
(and one possible: Kristy Wagner)

From the Gems of Strength authors comes the second book in the Gems of Sisterhood series! The theme of this book is, of course, gratitude!

Meet Detective Cara Solino, a young woman following in her father’s footsteps. Can she solve the case he was unable to?

Find out how Chloe’s mother discovers a way to keep her daughter’s dream alive under the worst possible circumstances! Read about young Lady Iona, a child of the Elven Forest, as she struggles to give her daughter a fighting chance in a harsh world.

Cheer on Sharliss as she finally takes control of her own life, and becomes a better person. Meet Julie, who gathers information on history, and Jody, an elderly dog whose time to cross The Rainbow Bridge is near. These stories and more are within these pages, just waiting for YOU!

Pre-Order Gems Of Gratitude via:

Friday, October 7, 2016

Making the Sausage: Book Sale

Generally speaking, the whole thrust of your marketing efforts should be to get as many eyes on your books as possible.  Ideally everyone that sees your book will buy it, but the truth is that just doesn't happen.  There's tons of raw data on this, but I'll give you just one example.

I recently tweeted about BILLY AND THE CLONEASAURUS.  I pushed this tweet harder than I do my normal tweets, utilizing retweet groups and so forth.  The tweet got 30 retweets and a total of 2,587 views.  That's 2500 eyes on.  And how many link clicks did it get?  3.  And I'll go even a step further and tell you that based on sales that day, only one person that actually clicked the link bought the book.

If I could sell 2500 copies of my book based on a tweet, well, kids, I'd be retired.  But I don't.  There's a trickle down effect.  If 1 out of every 2500 people who see my book buy it (and that's just a wild guesstimate based on this one tweet), then 6,250,000 people would have to see it before I sell 2500 copies.

But that's not the whole story.

I've written here previously about what I somewhat tongue-in-cheekly call The Katy Perry Theory.  As a general rule (again, there's no magical number, just kind of what research seems to suggest) you have to hear about something seven times before you'll actually purchase it.  So the 2,499 people who didn't buy my book based on that tweet are not lost causes.  They are potentially racking up psychological tally marks pushing them towards finally breaking down and buying it.

Now one thing that can tip the scales in your favor is putting your book on sale for a discounted price.  Some people have already been primed by your ongoing marketing efforts to consider buying your book.  And they may simply be waiting for it to go down to $0.99 before they do.  So in that sense, all of your marketing efforts are building a foundation for a successful sale.  Having your book go on sale is an opportunity.  It's not a guarantee, just an opportunity.

So when a sale comes around, capitalize on the fact that this may be the culmination of all your hard work.  Don't just let it just pass by.  Push it hard, because maybe you've already pushed a whole bunch of people into the "maybe" camp and all they're waiting for is that little push to buy.  So here are some steps you can take to make sure everyone knows about your sale:

- craft a sale day blog post.  I'd recommend making it the day of the sale and not earlier.  Some people suggest you prime the pump, but my feeling is if you have their attention, don't expect them to wait a day or two before they can actually make the purchase.  One click, one buy.

- respond to any blog comments with a personalized thank you

- craft the perfect e-mail for the mailing list.  Personally I don't use my mailing list for sales, because I've promised not to.  But if you have a mailing list, by all means utilize it.  And, again, I'd recommend you e-mail people on the day of the sale.  If it's a multi-day sale, send the e-mail on the first day of the sale.  Yes, some people don't check their e-mail constantly.  But you still want to have that one click, one buy effect.

- send two separate e-mails, one for the people you know are real on the mailing list, and the other to the people you suspect are scammers

- clear the confirmed scammers out of your mailing list when their e-mails bounce

- answer congratulatory e-mails from your mailing list

- create the perfect Goodreads event well in advance of the sale, making the duration of the event at least one day for each thousand friends you have on GR

- invite all of your Goodreads friends to the event in blocks of a thousand, a hundred at a time, because Goodreads won't let you invite more than a thousand people to an event in a 24-hour period.  If the duration of your sale is less than the time you need to invite everyone, you have to make a hard choice between losing the "one click, one buy" effect by starting the event early or being more selective in who you invite when.

- respond to each "yes" and "maybe" on your GR event with a personalized thank you, and to some of the "nos" if they've given some kind of justification with an offer of some sort or possibly just a condolence

- mention your sale on any pertinent and apropos GR groups

- craft the perfect Facebook post for the business page and schedule it for release day

- like (or love) and craft a personalized thank you comment to each person who shares your FB post

- after determining interest has waned on your business FB post, share it to your personal FB wall

- also like (or love) and craft a personalized thank you for everyone who shares your personal FB post

- mention your sale on any pertinent and apropos FB groups

- consider a FB event for your sale.  I don't personally tend to do these as I'm not sure whether people enjoy them or even care.  However, you should definitely experiment with it before writing it off, because lots of people do it.  Have your author friends donate items to give away.  Have caption contests, share memes, and the like.  You can also enlist your friends to take over the event for, say, an hour at a time.

- craft the perfect Tweet

- take advantage of Tweet sharing groups, etc., to get more eyes on your tweet

- craft a personalized thank you for everyone who shares your tweet

- monitor Twitter for mentions of your sale that you haven't been tagged on and gradually retweet them and send personalized thank yous

- retweet every review or spotlight you've ever had for this book, and tag each reviewer.  If you've ever wondered if there was any practical value to my Info on My Published Works page above, this is one example.  You're doing the reviewer a favor by sharing their site, so they're extremely likely to retweet your tweet.  Unless you're Ashton Kutcher you probably can't get anything trending on Twitter just because you're tweeting about it, but you can turn your account into a mini shotgun, blasting news of your sale as far and wide as possible.  Here's the format I recommend: a short, punchy quote from the review + the reviewer's handle + mention the sale price + link + hashtags (if there's room.)  So here's an example:

"I give this book 5 out of 5 blood spattered stars." - @Jeanette_art
And you can own it now for only $0.99!

- monitor Amazon rankings, sometimes all night, in order to capture screenshots of your possible bestselling statuses, across every individual national Amazon store

- after determining your highest bestseller statuses, post screen caps, along with a thank you to your fans, on FB and Twitter

- mention your release on any pertinent and apropos message boards you may belong to/participate in

- submit your sale to any blogs you know that will share news of your sale for free

- consider paid ads on FB, pay-for-play websites, Fiverr, and so forth.  This is where art, science, and business blend into a murky stew.  No one knows for sure what, if any, value you'll get for your dollars.  There are thousands of websites offering advice on this, so I'll refrain from offering any here, except to say that most of those websites are run by snake oil salesmen.  I'd recommend you spend the years you're in this business experimenting until you get an idea of the kind of alchemy it takes to put how many dollars where to maximize your revenue.

That's everything I can think of that's sales "day" specific.  What do you think?  How much of this is wasting my time and how much is actually driving sales?  What do you do?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Re-Animated #13: Rejected

Today we're going to talk about a single animated short which debuted in July of 2000.

The "Re-Animated" series has, for the most part, been a chronological account of the advent of adult animation.  But when you have shows like "The Simpsons" that have been on for 27 years or "South Park" that have been on for 20, naturally the timeline becomes a bit elastic and so I've covered things that "haven't happened yet" chronologically.

One of the worst cases of this is my constant references to adult swim, a network which did not exist yet in July of 2000.  But perhaps it's apropos, too, that I keep hinting at something so huge coming around the bend.

Don Hertzfeldts's "Rejected" is so short and yet so seminal to our story, that I feel like it couldn't hurt for you to just watch the entire thing right now.

Hertzfeldt was (and still is, apparently) a man of conscience.  By this time in his life he had found some moderate success with making short cartoons, particularly "Billy's Balloon," and had been approached to do commercial work, a logical next step in a burgeoning cartoonist's career.  But Hertzfeldt despised commercialism and instead essentially torpedoed his chance for wealth and fame in order to continue pursuing the sort of art he wanted to do.

His response to the offer was "Rejected," a master class in surrealism as well as a scathing indictment of both Madison Avenue's greed and "educational" television's hypocrisy.  Chronicling an imaginary Hertzfeldt's descent into madness (and the suffering of his characters as a result) as he pursues a career making advertisements, "Rejected" was both a mission statement and a masterwork.  After being nominated for an Oscar and winning 27 awards worldwide, you can again imagine the crossroads that a young Don Hertzfeldt must have stood at yet again, only to reject commercial work and continue to make his own iconoclastic creations yet again.

If I'm being too hagiographic, I hope you can forgive me.  Obviously, Hertzfeldt's story is rare in a world where becoming popular enough to sell out is a goal for most artists, myself included.  To actually wrap your fingers around the brass ring and then say, "Eh, nah, fuck it" is a compelling path, one I can't even imagine myself taking.  It would be like if the Big 5 called me today and said, "Here's a million dollar advance, you just have to write horse ranch romances" and I said, "Nah, fuck it, I want to keep writing about zombies and losing money."  Admirable in theory, but you know the real me would already be researching ponies.

Anyway, that felt like a long digression.  Here's what's really important about "Rejected."  Or, you know, maybe not, because it does stand on its own.  Nevertheless, as a nine minute abstract cartoon it is a prototype and ur-example of what adult swim would start doing just one year later.  Most adult swim creators cite "Rejected" as the inspiration and proof-of-concept for their own work.  The influence of Hertzfeldt's abstraction and the bizarre humor is obvious.  But let's also talk about the length.

Today it's taken as a given that if your TV show takes an hour and eleven minutes, it takes an hour and eleven minutes.  Almost every drama on cable, and some comedies and even a bunch of network shows now, get some wiggle room.  But in 2000 television slots were exceptionally rigid, and there were really only two kinds of shows: half hour comedies, and hours-long dramas.  The only exception in the television landscape was "Saturday Night Live," which was an hour and a half.  But SNL was an institution and no one was watching anything else on a Saturday night, so it wasn't like a fat, glaring example of an exception.  And who watches a full episode of SNL anyway?  You just tune in and out, so having it run a bit longer didn't really matter.

Most cartoons that had been created for television were constructed to be a half hour long.  Cartoons, though, had a long history of being five to ten minute shorts which played before feature presentations in movie theaters.  A few cartoon shows in the '80s and '90s used the format of those old Warner Brothers and Disney cartoons.  "Tiny Toons," "Animaniacs," "Taz-Mania," "Pinky and the Brain" and the like would play three to six cartoons in their half hour block, often with either a framing story, a through line, or the characters from one cartoon cameoing on another to give the whole show a greater sense of cohesion.  You might have been watching six individuated cartoons, but you felt like you were watching a single half hour program.

adult swim's great innovation was splitting the half hour.  I have no doubt they understood from the start that their audience for late night cartoons would be either stoned or drunk, and therefore would have difficulty following a complex storyline.  Knowing that, making a show eleven minutes long meant that you were only taxing your audience to watch the equivalent of a Bugs Bunny cartoon - long considered perfect fare for stoners.  And doubling down on the concept, through the use of surrealism and abstract humor, it almost didn't matter if you were paying attention at all.  It wasn't about following a complicated story, it was about random silliness.

Watching a cottonball person bleed from his (her?) anus until it fills the room is the sort of thing that you can laugh at whether you've been following along with the story or not.  And so Hertzfeldt, somewhat unwittingly, had pioneered a new art form: the half half hour stoner cartoon.  Once "Rejected" existed, the idea of putting something like this on later at night when college students would watch was a logical next step.

So "Rejected," while it stands on its own, would also usher in a new era in adult animation.  Which we're going to visit more in-depth in the next few installments.

Monday, October 3, 2016


I don't talk about my day job very much here.  It's just...not very interesting.  But, if you'd like to know, I'm a bean counter.  I work for the U.S. Navy and I'm in charge of the government purchase card program, which means I oversee small purchases not worth drawing up contracts for, primarily office supplies.

I'm pretty good at my job.  I get regular promotions and my reviews are always positive.  It's also a pretty low-stakes gig.  Here are the stakes:

- if I make a pretty standard mistake, delivery of office supplies might be delayed or cancelled, which would be mildly irritating for the receiver

- if I make a moderate mistake, important goods might not be delivered in a timely manner, which could result in a work stoppage which would cost a few thousand dollars, or possibly result in an injury

- if I make a high-level mistake, I'm talking like Deepwater Horizon/Hindenburg/maximum level of up-fuckery possible, I might - might, mind you - be fired, and I might - might, mind you - go to jail for a few months

And that's it.  I'd be surprised if your risk matrix looks much different.  Basically, I'm not saying what I do is unimportant, but I'm not playing with lives and fortunes every day.

Now, one thing I'm not good at is sports.  I've never been very physical.  Gym class was the most despised combined hour and a half of my week in school.  I played after-school sports, mostly as a sop to my father or an occasional attempt to prepare my transcript for a military academy.  I rarely played and mostly rode the bench, and really never improved very much, except my physical condition was a little better than normal, so it wasn't a complete waste.

Even at my absolute peak of physical performance, when I was in the army working out five days a week, I rarely won pick-up games.  Now and then if I was on a strong team we might clinch a flag football win, but it was never because I was scoring the game-winning touchdown or anything.

Now I can picture a circumstance, probably in a movie made by Disney in the early '90s, where the head coach of the New England Patriots taps me as his new quarterback.  In this circumstance I'm envisioning, it's a movie probably starring Adam Sandler, where the Pats are having trouble putting asses in seats and some scummy executive decides that they're going to attract attention by putting an ordinary joe on the line.  It would probably be called "Normalback" or something equally asinine.  Sort of "Invincible" by way of "Billy Madison."

You're kind of picturing it now, aren't you?  Kind of a feel-good story, like "Rudy."  Maybe I just fuck up a whole bunch and then I realize my secret skills that I brought over from being a financial management analyst and use it to fuel one full down and then the movie ends because I've reached my potential and Meg Ryan or somebody kisses me and the sleazy executive gets found out and fired and maybe Tom Brady shakes my hand.  (Yeah, I know Tom Brady wasn't the quarterback back then, and Bill Belichick wasn't the coach, but, whatever, we're going to go with those two for this thought exercise.)

So here's the point: I am not a laughingstock in my office.  If, however, Bill Belichick decided to pluck me out of my cubicle and start me on the offensive line of the New England Patriots, nobody would be confused about my place in the grand scheme.  I would be there as a joke.  I would be roundly mocked.  It would be recognized for what it was: a stunt.  Belichick would be roundly mocked for his decision to play me as well, whatever had prompted it.  And why?  Well, let's talk about stakes again.

- if I make a pretty standard mistake, millions of fans will be disappointed

- if I make a moderate mistake, millions of dollars in advertising and revenue and hundreds, probably thousands of jobs will be in danger because football teams are huge organizations that lots of people count on for work

- if I make a high-level mistake, important, famous athletes (and millionaires) will get hurt and the entire team's fortunes will be endangered

I don't really have to explain this.  You pretty much get the difference.  I can be good at what I do, and not be ready for an intensely high-stress position that's way, way outside of my skill set.  And no one in their right minds would put a pencil pusher on the offensive line of an NFL team.

You could picture a similar situation, I would imagine, where a fairly harmless reality TV star, by some quirk of fate, managed to become the presidential candidate for a major political party.  He (or she) would be a clown, a laughingstock, an object of absolute derision.  You could make the argument that he had the skills to play a blowhard version of him- (or her-) self on TV, but if you tried to say that he (or she) was going to make a halfway decent president, you'd be dismissed as a buffoon yourself.  Defending him (or her) as a candidate would make about as much sense as defending a pudgy, thirty-something civil servant as a good choice for quarterback of the Patriots.
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