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, January 31, 2018

Women in Horror Month 2018 Schedule

Hey everybody!  I'm super stoked to announce this year's lineup of interviews for Women in Horror Month.  Why do we need a WiHM?  I talked about that over here.

But first, a quick word.  When I was planning this year's schedule, I was looking back at the rosters for 2016 and 2017.  And I said to myself, "You know what?  This is such a wealth of riches, I am tapped.  I have used up every contact, pulled in every favor, to have two years of truly top tier talent."

I was this close to tapping out in 2018.  I've enjoyed presenting a fresh slate of interviews every year, and I pretty much thought I was done and would have to go back to the well this year.  But I reached out to some people I didn't know very well, and they all came through.  I'm very excited about this year's slate of interviewees, and I think you will be, too!

Suzi Madron - 2/2
Veronica Smith - 2/5
Jennifer Loring - 2/7
S.L. Perrine - 2/9
Pippa Bailey - 2/12
Kelly A. Evans - 2/14
Damien Angelica Walters - 2/16
Suzanne Robb - 2/19
Lisa Morton - 2/19 (will be posted on my group blog, Across the Board)
Claire C. Riley - 2/21
Christine Morgan - 2/23
Monica J. O'Rourke - 2/26
Shelly Rosamilia - 2/28

Monday, January 29, 2018

Revisiting Women in Horror Month 2017

Hey everybody!  Before we jump into our WiHM 9 interview slate, I thought it might be nice to take a look back at last year's incredible lineup.  (And while you're at it, why not take a quick peek at 2016's as well?)

Last year we spoke to:

S.C. Parris

Friday, January 26, 2018

My Lunch with Jack Ketchum

The horror world lost a tremendous voice this week in Dallas Mayr, better known by one of his many pen names: Jack Ketchum.

Facebook and Twitter are alight with remembrances of Jack.  (You'll forgive me, I hope, if I use his pseudonym throughout this post.  I didn't know him well enough to pretend like he was "Dallas" to me.)  All these recollections combine to paint a portrait of the kindly, beloved uncle of the horror genre; a titan of an author, but one who did not act like he was above everyone else.  By all measures, he seems to have been an avuncular, giving, and jovial person.  This was my experience with him as well.

I met Jack on only one occasion: World Horror Convention 2016 in Provo, Utah.  I flew in early and met up with Brian Keene just a few hours before he was planning to interview Jack for his podcast.  I strongly recommend you listen to that podcast if you haven't before.  It's a fascinating character study, going over his time as a literary agent to Henry Miller and how, as a family friend, he helped to encourage Lady Gaga's pop career.  In the background, whenever you hear ice cubes tinkling, that was me, trying to pour bourbon for Brian and Scotch for Jack (Dewar's, if memory serves) as quietly as possible, while failing by and large.  Simply being a fly on the wall for that afternoon was enough to give me butterflies in my stomach.

Jack was Brian's mentor, and Brian is my mentor.  Going farther back Robert Bloch wrote letters encouraging a young Dallas Mayr.  And H.P. Lovecraft, of course, encouraged Bloch.  It's a literary genealogy I can scarcely believe I'm part of, but one of many reasons why I was very glad to meet my spiritual grandpa (A term I suspect he would have hated, having a perpetually wry and youthful attitude towards the world.)

L to R: Brian Keene, myself, Jack Ketchum

The two men then invited me to lunch.  We walked a few blocks from the hotel to a New York-style deli.  It seemed like a serviceable place to get sandwiches in north-central Utah, but with Jack being from New York City I looked at him and jokingly said, "You must feel right at home."  A sour look crossed his face and he just shook his head and said "No."

We all talked a bit as I tried not to be "that guy."  I recall asking where he'd been when Kennedy was shot - probably we'd been discussing 9/11 for some reason and where we all were.  I remember flinching inwardly, because it had seemed like a perfectly natural question as it left my mouth, but immediately felt like I was calling him old.  If he was offended (or even noticed) he didn't show it, and told us his Kennedy assassination story.  And now I really wish that I'd written a journal of that weekend, because that's all I can remember discussing.  I recorded my more immediate feelings about the weekend on the blog here, but not a terrible amount about that lunch, which is a shame.  

The next time I encountered Jack that weekend was at the Gross-Out Contest, and, yes, he was doing a reading.  I went on to win that contest.  (You can read, or, more appropriately, don't, my winning entry here.)  In my valedictory speech I concluded with "I've waited all my life to be told I was a greater writer than Jack Ketchum, and tonight you've all made my dream come true."  I cringed again about that later, but at the time I was very drunk, and in any case, it made Jack and the whole room laugh.  

Brian told me later that Jack walked up to him after the contest, and in a tone that even in our brief acquaintanceship I could tell was pure, 100% uncut Ketchum, asked, referring to me, "He's one of yours, isn't he?"

Later, at a party in Brian's room, Jack was sitting, an unwavering smile on his face, drinking Scotch, wearing a scarf, and just generally being Jack.  Thinking to myself that this was possibly a singular opportunity, but still wary about being "that guy" I asked Brian if it would be okay to get a picture with him and Jack.

"I thought you were going to be cool," Brian hissed. "I'm not going to keep inviting you around anymore if you keep doing this shit."

A block of ice dropped into my stomach, and for the third time I worried that I had really stuck my foot in it, and now Jack Ketchum was going to hate me forever, and disown me as his grand-whatever.  But, of course, Brian was fucking with me, because of course he was fucking with me.  And then we got the photo pictured above.

I know that's not much, scarcely more than a long anecdote, but that was my experience with Jack Ketchum, and in that brief time he left a lasting impression on me.  As I've described him throughout, he was charming, kind, a little rascally, and perpetually a fascinating gentleman.  But the greater impression he'll leave is, of course, on the horror world, which has now lost one of its most singular and revolutionary voices.  

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Women in Horror Month 9 FAQ

Hey everybody!  October, a.k.a. "Horror Christmas" is, naturally, my favorite month of the year.  But it's almost February, my second favorite month of the year.

And why is February my favorite month of the year?  Because every year I get to showcase a bunch of great horror industry professionals.  That's right, it's Women in Horror Month!  The 9th year, in fact.

Starting February 2, and every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday thereafter (including a special bonus President's Day interview on Across the Board on the 19th) I'll be interviewing thirteen of the finest ladies working in the field.  But first, let's look at some commonly asked questions.

Q:  Why don't you interview women every other month of the year?

A:  I do!  Feel free to get in touch any old time if you're interested in being featured on the blog, regardless of gender.

Q:  Isn't it dismissive and parochial for you to have a month focused on women, as though they don't normally count?

A:  I'm of the mindset that affirmative action is required to combat pervasive institutional bigotry and misogyny.  In other words, yes, that means favoring groups which have been historically discriminated against, such as women.

Q:  No, but I mean isn't it dismissive and parochial for you to participate in this as a wealthy, white, cisgendered male?

A:  Maybe.  I've been very fortunate to be born who I was in the time period I was born in.  And it is my sincere belief that it is the responsibility of those who have to share with those who don't.  If I have a disproportionately strong platform just because of who I am, then you can be damn sure I'm going to use that platform to celebrate traditionally marginalized voices.  I'd rather be accused of trying too hard than of sitting on my hands.

Q:  Your answers make you sound like a PC-thug SJW.

A:  If you're the type of person who genuinely thinks "social justice" is a bad thing, then I don't really give a shit what you think of me, WiHM, or anything, really.

Q:  I have some further arguments against WiHM...

A:  All right, let me stop you right there.  I think overall WiHM is a respectful, well-meaning, positive celebration.  If you happen to personally not want to participate, I'm not going to force you.  Everyone involved has volunteered their time, and yes, I've invited people who have respectfully declined for some of the reasons we've discussed above.  But if you've heard me admit that the event is a little hokey, maybe a little controversial, but overall a bit of harmless fun, and you're still arguing with me, then I think you may just be a knuckle-dragger or a troll.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Across the Board

Hey everybody!

I just got finished posting the mother of all blogposts over on my group blog Across the Board.  And it was great.  It was about writing.  It could have been a "Making the Sausage" post here on Manuscripts Burn.  It was also talking about something I've never done before: collaborating in a writers room.

It was so good, in fact, that I was halfway tempted to just copy and paste it here.  And...technically I could have.  Our rule at the group blog is that cross-posting is allowed.  But I also didn't want to.  For one thing, it felt cheap.  It felt lazy.  And I don't want to be lazy with Manuscripts Burn this year.  I did enough of that last year and watched my stats tumble from "finally getting to be a tastemaker" all the way back to "damn, son, you started a blog?"

So, instead, I'm just going to write something brief encouraging you to go follow Across the Board if you haven't already.  You do know how to follow on Blogger, right?  Every blog has a widget with a series of pictures of all of that blog's followers.  If you have a Google Plus account (you probably do, and if you use Gmail you definitely do) you can just click the "Follow" button to join the fun.  (Or, to make it easier, you can click this link for ATB or here for Manuscripts Burn.)

If you click on the label Steve you can see all of my posts.  But you really shouldn't just do that.  We have an incredibly diverse cross-section of writers and readers and they all have great perspectives on all sorts of things.  It's not like this blog, with me just yammering at you all the time.

(Oh, and BTW, one of the simultaneously freakiest and funniest horror stories I ever wrote is over on ATB here.  See the kind of gems you might be missing out on?)

Friday, January 19, 2018

Biggest Events of 2017

Maybe it's because 2017 was the first year I drew a profit at this writing endeavor, or maybe it was something else, but I feel a lot like I'm at a turning point in my career.  So I thought it might be nice in early (er, mid-) January to stop and reflect on the year that was.  So here's some of the big, some of the small, and some of the amazing stuff that happened to me in 2017:

14.)  Attended Farpoint, Carlisle High School Sci-Fi Day, Scares That Care, Shore Leave, the Red Lion Street Fair, and Chessiecon

13.)  Appeared on "The Horror Show With Brian Keene" for a round-table discussion on working for exposure

12.)  Had my first short to appear in a magazine, "Tuesday's Dead" published in "Unnerving."

11.)  Released audiobooks for BILLY AND THE CLONEASAURUS and THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO, my first self-published work.

10.)  Had my short story "Deep into that Dark One Peering" accepted in CLICKERS FOREVER


8.)  Appeared on "The Horror Show With Brian Keene" for an episode focused on THE HEMATOPHAGES, where Brian names it the best book of the year

7.)  Completed my first collaboration, SLASHVIVOR! with Stevie Kopas, concluding my four-book deal with Sinister Grin Press.

6.)  Had my short story "All Dolled Up" accepted in WHISPERS OF THE APOC.

5.)  Got a blurb from Stephen Graham Jones for SLASHVIVOR!

4.)  Had a review of THE HEMATOPHAGES appear in Analog.

3.)  The release of CLICKERS FOREVER marks my first inclusion in a limited edition or a hardcover.

2.)  Appeared on a panel at Chessiecon with legendary comic writer Scott Edelman.

1.)  Had THE HEMATOPHAGES named the #4 book of the year by Bryan Smith

How about you?  What were some of your biggest accomplishments and achievements in 2017?  What are you hoping to get done this year?

Monday, January 15, 2018

MLK Day Thoughts

It's hard to know what to say today.  Dr. King had a way with words, a capacity for giving speeches which stands second to very few people in history.  How many famous speeches can you name off the top of your head?  I'm sure one of Dr. King's springs to mind.

I don't know if this skill came easily to him or not.  Likely not.  Likely it was a natural gift, tempered and honed over years and decades of hard work into a great tool - a tongue, as it were, mightier than the sword.

Last year I opted to say very little on the occasion of this remembrance.  A sign of respect, as it were, thoughtfulness, and no small amount of upset.  But to everything there is a season, and this year I've decided to honor Dr. King in a different way, a way he perhaps also would have approved of: by speaking.  By putting my natural talent to some small use and not burying it.

Let me be blunt: today is the first Martin Luther King Day in Donald Trump's America.  Let me be blunt again: these two things are antithetical.  They represent two divergent currents in the tide of history.

On the one hand, we have what its critics refer to as "political correctness" and what the rest of us just refer to as common human decency.  We have Dr. King's simple - and potent - exhortation to judge all men not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.  This was a powerful idea not so long ago.  The eighties and the nineties in particular were a time when the nation was grappling with the overt, unfettered, malicious racism of the past, and the only acceptable public behavior was to denounce it.  And this is what those with hate in their hearts refer to as political correctness - the idea that people shouldn't slur each other, shouldn't denigrate each other, should attempt to be decent to each other.

And no, our problems were not fixed over night, still aren't fixed, in fact, but bigotry was a problem that everyone seemed to be actively acknowledging, if not necessarily grappling with.  Which leads us to our second current of history: the movement of racism underground.  No, racism didn't go away in the latter few decades of the 20th century.  It was simply hidden away, plastered over, like a layer of paint over a rotting foundation.  The foundation was never fixed, and the paint, eventually, would begin to peel.

Then there came Trump.  The billionaire from Queens who painted himself as the salt of the earth.  The man who lost the popular vote by nearly three million and yet, by what can only be described as a fluke (although it increasingly seems likely a con), won the presidency.

The man who denied being racist, despite calling Mexicans drug dealers and rapists, despite equivocating on neo-Nazis and calling them decent people, despite leading the "birther" movement to discredit the first black president, despite (as recently as this week) calling Africa and Haiti "shitholes" and saying we don't need any more Haitians in America.

Worse, though, than any of his personal actions and words, was the tempest Trump's election released.  Immediately in its aftermath, the racists of old, who had gone underground, came crawling out of the woodwork, shouting "Welcome to Trump's America" at Muslims in the street.  All manner of vulgar, racist behavior happened on election day, and in the months since, perhaps culminating with a neo-Nazi rally in Charlotte this summer.  (At least we can all hope that was its culmination.)

I'm not going to waste anyone's time pretending the sudden explosion in hate crime and the election of the candidate neo-Nazis consider one of their own are unrelated.  Doubtless, Republicans will feel the need to equivocate on this issue, and point out that while all racists supported Donald Trump, not all Trump supporters were therefore necessarily racist.  Bully for you.  Rhetorical ass-covering complete.  I suppose if it makes you refrain from sending out a meme comparing Obama to a monkey for a solid twenty-four hours just to prove your point, I guess that's some kind of small victory.   He and his supporters equivocate and attempt to thread the rhetorical needle on every individual case of mortifying racism ("Haiti's not a shithole because it's predominantly black, it just so happens to be a shithole anyway, unlike Norway, which is a nice country not because it's white, but, well, you get the picture," etc.)  But at the end of the day, the pattern is blindingly obvious.

For the rest of us, living in reality, the equivocating is an insult to sense and decency.  Trump is the functional reverse of Martin Luther King: a man who stands up and says, "It's okay to give in to your worst inner demons.  It's okay to be racist.  America was better when racism was enshrined in the legal system.  Let's get back to those days."

So this feels like a dark day.  A reversal of fortunes.  A loss of decades and decades of hard work. 

There's little recourse, I suppose, than to wait for the pendulum.  Every revolution carries within it the seeds of its own destruction, and the Trump years represent a revolution of sorts.  A hateful, ugly revolution against civility and decency, but a revolution nonetheless.  Trump has already proven to be a miserable, laughable trainwreck, and the backlash against him has already been extreme.  Perhaps we can hope that in the long run this miserable experiment in recidivism will end with the pendulum pointed even further in the direction of equality than it was before.  Perhaps good people will see this, be reminded of what true ugliness is, and reject it.  The arc of history is long, after all, and bends towards justice.

Friday, January 12, 2018

2018 Appearances

Hey all!

Red entries are events that I attended in the past. I don't list any tentative events here - these are all confirmed. I have my own personal tentative list and as that changes I will update this list, so make sure to check back periodically for updates.

If you'd like me to make an appearance at a convention or other event you're organizing or attending, feel free to contact me and we'll discuss it. Most events in Baltimore or Philadelphia are a slam dunk for me to attend, but I'll consider travelling if invited.

Farpoint 25
Dates:  Friday, Saturday, and Sunday February 9-11
Delta Hotel by Marriott
245 Shawan Road
Hunt Valley, MD 21031
Friday 3:00 pm - Salon F - "How to Survive Your First SF/Media Con"
Friday 4:00 pm - Salon C - "Creating Immersive Worlds"
Friday 10:00 pm - Ball Room - Book Fair
Saturday 12:00 pm - "Monsters With Meaning: 50 Years of Night of the Living Dead (and Beyond)"
Saturday 1:00 pm - Salon E - Reading
Saturday 2:00 pm - Salon D - "Artists and the Never Ending Cycle of Social Media"
Saturday 3:00 pm - Autograph Session
Sunday 12:00 pm - Autograph Session
Sunday 1:00 pm - Salon E - Reading

StokerCon 2018
Dates:  Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday March 1-4
11 Dorrance St
Providence, RI 02903
Thursday 11:00 am - "Writing Horror in 2018: A Panel of Fresh Voices for your Collections" 

The Horror Show with Brian Keene 24 Hour Marathon
Dates:  Friday and Saturday May 11-12
Courtyard Marriott
2799 Concord Road
York PA 17402

Shore Leave
Date:  Friday, Saturday, and Sunday July 6-8
Location:  245 Shawan Rd.
Hunt Valley, MD 21031
Friday 5:00 pm - Salon F - End at the Beginning
Friday 10:00 pm - Hunt Valley Hallway - Meet the Pros
Saturday 12 noon - Salon E - Star Trek Adventures RPG (M)
Saturday 1:00 pm - Salon F - Bring Your Own Book
Saturday 4:00 pm - Salon F - Let's Put Them on Ice
Saturday 6:00 pm - Frankie and Vinnie's - Author Meet N Greet

Scares That Care Charity Weekend V
Dates:  Friday, Saturday, and Sunday August 3-5
Double Tree by Hilton
50 Kingsmill Road
Williamsburg, Virginia, 23185.
Saturday 7:30 pm - "Crossing Genres"
Saturday 10:00 pm - Reading


Dates:  Friday, Saturday, and Sunday August 24-26
Wingate by Wyndham Conference Center
1209 N Interstate 35 Frontage Rd
Round Rock, TX 78664
Friday 1:00 pm - "What the Hell?" (M)
Saturday 10:00 am - Mass Autograph Signing
Saturday 8:00 pm - First Annual Splatterpunk Awards
Saturday 10:00 pm - Deadite Press Presents The Gross-Out Contest

Signing at Protean Books with Brian Keene, Mary SanGiovanni, and Wes Southard
Date:  Saturday, September 8, 12:00 noon - 3:00 pm
Protean Books & Records
836 Leadenhall St
Baltimore, MD 21230

An Evening with Serial Box
Hosted by:  New York Review of Science Fiction
Date:  Tuesday, November 13th
Location:  Brooklyn Commons Cafe
388 Atlantic Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11217

Dates: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday November 23-25, 2018
Location: Red Lion Hotel Baltimore North
2004 Greenspring Drive
Timonium, MD 21093
Friday 4:15 pm - Greenspring 1 - "How Not to Get Published" (M)
Friday 5:30 pm - Greenspring 2 - "But What if There Really Is a Wolf?
Friday 6:45 pm - Greenspring 1 - "Running a Small Press"
Saturday 10:00 am - Greenspring 3-5 - "FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, 200th Anniversary"
Saturday 11:15 am - Greenspring 3-5 - "Walking To Mordor: A Panel About Pacing and Time Compression"
Saturday 12:30 pm - Greenspring 3-5 - "Turkey Awards Panel"
Saturday 5:30 pm - Greenspring 3-5 - "Rules of Writing, and When to Break Them" (M)
Saturday 6:45 pm - Atrium - Mass Signing
Saturday 9:15 pm - Greenspring 1 - "Where Does it All End? Turning Your Story Into a Cohesive Whole"

Sunday 10:00 am - Greenspring 1 - "The 50-minute Plot"
Sunday 11:15 am - Greenspring 2 - "Famous Animals in Fantasy"
Sunday 12:30 pm - Greenspring 2 - "They're the Protagonist, But Are They a Role Model?"

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Making the Sausage: Bookkeeping

I know it's gauche to talk about how much money you make, but for the purposes of the first Making the Sausage post of 2018, I'm going to give you, my beloved fans, a glimpse behind the curtain and tell you what I made in 2017:


Nope, that's not a misprint, joke, error, exaggeration, or any other way you might like to dismiss that number.  Now, no one is currently in arrears, but I haven't received payment for December from one of my publishers yet, so this number will go up slightly.  My absolutely honest prediction is that that $4.94 will go up to about $50 or $60 when that last payment comes in.  So I'm not showing you a clever fluke of timing or anything, either.

Five bucks.  No sleight of hand.  I made five bucks writing in 2017.  And you know what?  I'm not only happy about that, I'm pretty ecstatic.  Obviously, I'm more excited about the symbolic value of that $5 than the latte I may buy with it later, but this is still a major milestone for me.  See, for the past four years I've actually lost money at my writing career.

You might be wondering how that's even possible, especially if you're not a writer or are new to the game yourself.  Well, first of all, it's not only possible, it's probable.  Most writers do not make a profit off their writing.  Writers who write full time for a living are so rare that in the field we call them "unicorns."  I don't know the exact figures, but I'd venture to say that even if you disregard every grandpa with a funny story and a "publish" button on Amazon, and you just look at the people legitimately trying to make a career at writing, probably 95-99% of them have day jobs.  And of those 1-5% of working writers who are making a living, most of them are making their bucks with ghostwriting, technical writing, editing, and journalism.  In other words: work for hire.  Very, very few people are writing what they want and making a living at it.

So, understanding that I'm not a unicorn, how did it take me five years to make my first five bucks?

First of all, being as this is a Making the Sausage post, let me tell you how I keep my books.  I use an Excel spreadsheet and for each book I publish create two charts: one for cost outlay and one for profit.  Here for instance is my 2017 chart for THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGO:

So, on the left is where you're going to put things like shipping, ordering author copies of books, travel expenses, and if you're a self-publisher, costs for things like covers, editing, audiobook engineering, and the like.  On the right is your profits from events and, if you like to break it down by book, your monthly sales. 

Now, I picked this particular chart because it's a good example of two things.  First, you can see how I'm normally losing money.  I'm selling 1-3 of each book at an event, so at a good event I'm selling maybe 20 books.  That's not necessarily even going to cover the table cost for most events.

Second, you can see how in this business I'm essentially gambling on myself.  I bought 20 author copies of TGA, because I'm hoping that eventually I'll be able to sell those at events.  You can see my unit cost is about $8.05, and I usually sell books for $10 (but sometimes $12.)  So I'll have to sell 16 books before I've even broken even on that initial purchase.  Even if everything goes perfectly, I only stand to make $40 of profit by selling that entire lot of TGAs.  And I only sold 7 this year. 

Now, the obvious question is: why don't I just sell my books for more money?  Say, $20 and double my profit?  Yeah, well, first of all, I don't see anybody shelling out $20 for an unknown author's work.  But second of all, I don't want to gouge my fans.  And third and perhaps most important of all, I'm not worried about short-term profit right now.  I'm worried about building my fanbase so that I can stand to make profit in the long term.  I'd rather take a bath on a $10 TGA today, and possibly find a fan who will go back and buy my entire backlist.  If I do that, then I've made $70 in the long run.  But also the value of a new fan can't be measured in money.

So, to close out the Making the Sausage portion of the post, if you do this for each of your novels, and use Excel's handy-dandy adding formulas, you can show how much you're spending and how much you're making for a year. 

Now, you've probably already figured out how I've been losing money for the past four years.  See, I greatly enjoy conventions, street fairs, and other events, but even with the generosity of my con partners Mary Fan and Elizabeth Corrigan opening their homes to me and splitting costs, the cost of attending six or seven events a year has always outweighed the modest profits of my books.  But the three of us have kept at it all this time, trying to get our names out there and building our respective fan bases.  As I explained earlier, you take the initial loss to plan out a career where you can start to make money.

So, every year since BRAINEATER JONES came out in 2013, I've watched my small loss decrease.  The first year (which was really only a few months, since BRAINEATER came out in October) I had a small loss.  Then in 2014 I had a little bit bigger loss, because I did a whole year of events with only one, then by the end of it, three books to sell.  Then in 2015 the gap between profit and loss grew a little tighter.  In 2016 I nearly broke even.  Now, finally, in 2017 I have the symbolic victory of a $5 profit.  So what else has been happening?  I have a backlist now.  I'm not just selling one book.  The fans I've been developing are coming back to buy all seven of my books.  My backlist is slowly generating me money as my fanbase expands and they comb back through it.  I'm just starting to tip over from the "discover me" stage into the "now that you've discovered me, read all my stuff" stage.  And it feels damn good, even if it is just $5.

Monday, January 8, 2018

New Release Announcement: WHISPERS OF THE APOC

I'm delighted to announce the release of WHISPERS OF THE APOC, edited by my good friend Martin Wilsey and featuring some great authors.  WHISPERS includes my short "All Dolled Up."  I hope you'll pick it up now on Amazon and review it there and on  Goodreads.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Re-Animated #14: Sealab 2021

It's been quite a while since I did a Re-Animated blogpost, so if you care to get yourself back up to speed, you can do so here

It wasn't my intention to take such a long break, but actually, unexpected though it was, it happened at the perfect spot in our written history of adult animation.  The last entry I did was on the subject of the animated short "Rejected," which marked, in a way, the opening of a new chapter in our story.  Although I've been hinting at it all along, the history of adult animation could very easily be broken up into the segments "pre-adult swim" and "post-adult swim."

And today we will cover our first proper adult swim show.

Now, as I mentioned in previous entries, adult swim was a strange sort of "half a network" which aired at first late-night Sundays and was treated by Nielsen as a separate entity from Cartoon Network on which it aired.  Much of the time was taken up by anime and old canned and cancelled (and sometimes later revived) cartoon shows from other networks.  But the original flagship for the network was a one-hour block of original shows: "The Brak Show," "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," "Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law," and today's entry: "Sealab 2021."


A word on the term "original."

In the '90s Ted Turner acquired the old Hanna-Barbera library.  If you're not clear on what Hanna-Barbera was, just picture all of the crummiest cartoons of the '60s and '70s - "Scooby-Doo," "Huckleberry Hound," "Snagglepuss" and the like.  Yes, truly if "Looney Tunes" was The Rolling Stones of cartoons and Disney was The Beatles, then Hanna-Barbera was The Monkees.

So I'm sure it wasn't cheap, per se, but Turner probably got a lot of material for his buck, so to speak.  And he started playing all of the old Hanna-Barbera junk on his networks, Cartoon Network and later Boomerang.  So there was a little money to be made in playing those old reruns from the '60s.  But the people at Cartoon Network began to experiment with the catalog to see if they could get even more money out of it.

And out of one such experiment, "Sealab 2021" was born.

"Sealab 2020" was a Hanna-Barbera produced show, so I imagine it was grim to begin with, but it was also supposed to be an educational program about oceans and nature, so I can only imagine it was doubly grim.  (I've never watched it, except for the episode of "Sealab 2021" that I assume was an unretouched episode of the original.)  The Cartoon Network suits who were putting together what would eventually become adult swim, however, thought perhaps the animation, which was expensive to produce, could be paired with a new soundtrack and dialogue, which was easy to produce, to create a new, clever, perhaps avant-garde show, considering the dialogue would have to be tailored to pre-existing animation. 

The result was, apparently, unwatchable.  But the concept had set wheels in motion, and it wasn't a huge leap from using pre-existing animation with a new soundtrack to heavily editing pre-existing animation to make a still fairly cheap-to-produce show.  The avant-garde nature of the original experiment, of course, survived, and "Sealab 2021" became a pilot program of what would eventually develop into the adult swim ethos.

So the show itself was "about" a team of cracked scientists and pseudomilitary types living in a lab on the ocean floor.  Perhaps in homage to "Aeon Fluxx" the actual Sealab blew up at the end of every episode, with no reference to its loss in the official canon.  Rather than deal with actual sealife and interesting adventures a la "Seaquest," "Sealab 2021" focused on the stupidest possible antics of the crew.  In one episode, Captain Murphy is trapped under a vending machine the entire time and makes friends with a scorpion.  In another, they bicker over which of the men would be best to father Debbie's baby.

The writing was searingly hilarious and satirical, hanging in that odd grey area between being stupid, sexist, and racist and mocking stupidity, sexism, and racism.  If it clarifies anything: the creators would go on, in a few steps, to create "Archer," which shows much of its "Sealab" DNA to this day.

"Sealab" also was part of adult swim's rather unusual episode lengths.  Episodes clocked in at eleven minutes (fifteen with commercials) allowing for a single, unbroken viewing of each episode.  This allowed for a certain almost whiplash-fast speed for jokes, and densely plotted stories jammed into half the running length of a usual sitcom.  I suspect it meant that coming up with a full half hour of material and then being able to slice out half of the chaff allowed for only the best and brightest gems of humor to make it on the air.

Overall, "Sealab" is well worth a rewatch.  It remains a clever, transgressive show, and at eleven minutes an episode, watching a whole season is more akin to watching a long movie than binge-watching a show.  Definitely worth checking out.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Top Ten Posts of 2017

Hey everybody!  Happy 2018!  I hope you had a good holiday, and that your whole last year was smashing.

Let's kick off the New Year, as so many people often do, by reflecting on the old.  Here are the top ten most viewed Manuscripts Burn posts of 2017!

10.  An interview with Amber Fallon
9.  An interview with C.V. Hunt
8.  An interview with Somer Canon
7.  Some thoughts on Martin Luther King Day
6.  An interview with Crystal Connor
5.  An interview with Kayleigh Marie Edwards
4.  The cover reveal for RIGHT TO SILENCE by Lily Luchesi
3.  My "Give it Away Now" appearance announcement on The Horror Show podcast
2.  My 2017 appearances post

And (drumroll please) the most incestuous possible answer for the top post of 2017 was...

1.  The Top Ten Posts of 2016
Enter your e-mail address in the box below and click "Subscribe" to join Stephen Kozeniewski's Mailing List for Fun and Sexy People. (Why the hell would anyone ever want to join a mailing list?)