A couple of new things in the works – one is definitely happening, and one is actually pretty unlikely…
First the easy one. The event that’s definitely happening is an upcoming brainstorming session on The Roundtable Podcast. The RTP is a podcast for writers in which the host and guest hosts help a guest writer to brainstorm a story that (s)he is working on. They bring in a writing professional, and a guest writer (in this instance, the guest writer role will be filled by yours truly), and brainstorm a story idea the writer wants to flesh out.
In my instance, I’m pitching the basic synopsis for Warrior Clan. We will discuss it, pick it apart, find the holes in it, and put the pieces back together in such a way that those holes get filled in and (hopefully) improve the story. I’m really looking forward to the process. There is a problem I have at the beginning of the plot and I could really use more metaphorical eyes on the issue.
Anyway, the test run is tomorrow at noon. Recording the actual brainstorming session is supposed to take place this coming Saturday. We don’t have a firm time yet, but I imagine I’ll find that our during the dry run tomorrow.
I’m incredibly stoked about this, and just know I’ll get some great ideas from it.
Now, in the “highly unlikely” category… I’ve applied for a writing fellowship with the Tulsa Artists Foundation. A friend sent me a link last week, saying she thought it might be something I would be interested in (thanks Betty! ). At first, I didn’t think I would apply. As I said, the chances of my being selected are pretty slim.
But the more I thought about it, the more I began to question myself. Was I once again playing the role of my own worst enemy? Was I pulling the warm and comfortable blanket of imposter syndrome around my shoulders, as I so often do? I wrote about it in “WW29 – Moving, Writing, and Paranoia“. (Ironically enough, The Dead Robots’ Society podcast discussed the same thing just a few weeks later.)
So setting doubt aside, I said to myself, “Self, why not apply anyway? What’s the worst that can happen? They tell you ‘no’ and you move on about your business.” Besides, as slim as my chances are for winning the fellowship, they’re infinitely worse if I don’t apply at all. So I applied.
And I’m glad I did. The application process was enlightening. It’s not that it was actually difficult, but it forced me to review my reasons for why I write some of what I write. For instance, besides the normal requests for references and contact information, there was “What would an opportunity like this mean to your career now? How would you hope to engage with the Tulsa community?” (Oh, and by the way… please answer with 100 words or less, and 600 characters or less…)
That one stumped me for a while. I mean, what do I have to offer the local community? Specifically, the local writing community.
Ad the “Artistic Statement” that asked for my “Explanation and vision relating to (my) writing overall and the work samples provided.” (And don’t forget that 100 word, 600 character limitation…)
But they made me reflect for a bit, and that’s a good thing. Especially the request for an Artistic Statement. But after the initial deer in the headlights reaction, I realized that I had already answered this question in earlier posts here on the blog. I just had to condense my response to the 100 words or less format.
Interested? (I’m going to assume so, or you wouldn’t still be reading. So here goes…)
I want my readers to question themselves and the world around them. My characters are often non-traditional. I eschew the typical damsel in distress in favor of women of strength. I want my readers to understand that people of all ethnicities and sexual orientations are seldom defined solely by those traits, and that strength is more than a physical attribute. I want readers to relate to the weaknesses that we all have within – to show them that we can be flawed, yet still have the strength of character that will allow us to persevere in the face of adversity.
That’s it. When I think about my main characters, (Leeland Dawcett from Half Past Midnight, Kenni Anderson and Mark Roesch from The Road to Rejas, Amber Payne from Streets of Payne, Sima in Ghost Story, Layla Golden from The Burning Land…) all of them embody various characteristics of that statement. And I have to say, that makes me happy.
So whether I get the fellowship or not, applying for it has been an eye opener.
And that about covers the “unlikely” side of things.
So back to work. You guys stay safe, and I’ll talk to you next week.
And now, as promised, here for your reading pleasure from high atop Pulp Central Station… an interview with new author, Stephen Kozeniewski!
Queue applause track… queue cameras… WHAT? No cameras?!? All right, forget the cameras. Sound only…. no sound either? (sigh) All right, regroup, Let’s just go with the written interview… queue interview… aaaannndd GO!
Stephen Kozeniewski (pronounced “causin’ ooze key”), is the author of the new Red Adept Publishing release Braineater Jones. It’s the story of a man who literally wakes up dead and is determined to find out how he got that way. I just recently had the opportunity to read it and I have to say, this book is a fantastic representation of pulp noir. Very well done, Stephen.
Stephen’s Bio follows:
Stephen Kozeniewski lives with his wife of 9 years and cat of 22 pounds in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. He was born to the soothing strains of “Boogie With Stu” even though The Who are far superior to Zep, for reasons that he doesn’t even really want to get into right now.
During his time as a Field Artillery officer, he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. The depiction of addiction in his fiction is strongly informed by the three years he spent working at a substance abuse clinic, an experience which also ensures that he employs strict moderation when enjoying the occasional highball of Old Crow.
He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor’s degree is in German.
JLB: All right Stephen, that’s the canned biography, but let’s step a bit past that. First of all, thanks for your service in the military. Do you mind if I ask about the Bronze Star?
SK: Ha! Thanks for having me, Jeff. No, I don’t mind talking about the war, I just wish I had a sexier answer to give you. First of all, my BSM was for service, not valor, which is to say that there was no thrilling act of battlefield derring-do I did to earn it, but rather a million mostly tedious acts of logistical support and record-keeping. The easiest way I can describe how I earned it is that we started with about 50 people firing rockets from one location, then over the course of a year I was partially responsible (or at least responsible enough to be recognized) for having 200 people in 5 locations. It was a lot of moving personnel, ordnance, and equipment, which is challenging and rewarding work (especially under fire) but not exactly Dirty Dozen stuff.
JLB: Something else in your bio caught my attention, as I’m sure it caught the attention of several other readers. How do I put this delicately? …YOU HAVE A CAT THAT WEIGHS TWENTY-TWO FREAKING POUNDS?!?!?!
SK: Yes, indeedy. We assume young Felix is part saber tooth. We recently got a new kitten, Nibbler, who when we adopted her was 2.2 lbs, so he was literally ten times her size.
JLB: So how did your interest in writing begin? Was there a specific event or time that gelled the desire for you to put pen to paper?
SK: I recall writing as early as 7. Perhaps the real impetus for me to start writing was when my father bought the family’s first computer ’round about 1992. At the time I was just stunned to be able to open a word processing file and be able to go back and edit things without correction fluid and manually scrolling the paper.
JLB: Well, congratulations on the release of your book. Your first, right?
SK: Yup. I had a drabble (a 100 word piece of microfiction) published in the anthology ANOTHER 100 HORRORS. But this is my first full-length solo novel.
JLB: Why Pulp? … and zombies? … and Nazis? … and … I mean that’s quite the combination. What influences jumped into the blender to give you the world of Braineater Jones?
SK: When my editors asked me to make a list of easter eggs and references in BRAINEATER JONES, I came up with over a hundred examples, and I’m not certain I caught them all. The references were as diverse as Night of the Living Dead, Dolemite, Forever Knight, Mission Hill, THE SIRENS OF TITAN, Life on Mars, Army of Darkness, Unforgiven, Hamlet…the list goes on and on. My mind and work at any given time is a bouillabaisse of pop and high culture references.
JLB: You built an interesting alternate reality in Braineater Jones. Zombies in a prohibition era, pre-WW2 America. How did you approach your world building? What train of thought led you to the world of the Mat?
SK: My world-building for BJ was as close to unearthing a pre-existing fossil as almost anything I’ve ever done. Almost as soon as I realized that the zombies in my world were intelligent and fueled by alcohol, the rest of it just fell into place. Of course it had to be set during Prohibition, and of course the dead would have to live in their own ghetto. As the intelligent undead they would be atheists, having seen the light at the end of the tunnel and come back. It all just kind of tumbled into place like Tetris blocks. I actually scribbled the entire world-building in a steno pad during smoke breaks at work over the course of a single day.
JLB: So what is your writing process like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
SK: I’m not a big fan of the P-words. I tend to let things grow organically, but I usually know where a plot is going in a general sense. I’ll write myself notes or do world-building when I have to, so it’s not like I totally eschew planning. Recently I’ve taken to keeping a whiteboard on the wall to make physical charts, like character spectra or plot models. For instance, in my upcoming novel I broke down the characters into each of the nine alignments from Dungeons and Dragons. But I get most of my breakthroughs in the shower. Is that pantsing or plotting? I don’t know. Claim me for your side if you must, word nerds.
JLB: Are you disciplined about your writing? Do you have a set time and place where you sit and write, or do you just go when and where the mood takes you? What’s your writing environment like?
SK: Well, I wouldn’t say I have a routine or anything. I like to sit down at my desk whenever I have a few hours, which is kind of whenever. You can check out my office in any of the vlogs I’ve been doing this year. I like to listen to my “kitchen sink” music mix and burn a candle when I’m writing (sue me) and in ancienter times I demanded a cup of coffee and a cigarette to get anything done. But my house is non-smoking now.
JLB: What are some of your favorite pastimes (besides writing)? What does Stephen Kozeniewski like to do in his spare time?
SK: Well, this year I’m reading all 100 books on the Modern Library’s Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century, which explains the aforementioned vlogging. So, I don’t have a whole lot of spare time. But generally speaking I like to do karaoke on the weekends and I’m a big fan of Warhammer. Mostly painting, because I haven’t played in a good…seven years?
JLB: Let’s have fun for a minute. The movie rights are optioned, and the casting manager wants your input. Who should play Jones? Anyone living or dead… um, or undead? – Go!
SK: Dead? Humphrey Bogart or Gary Cooper. Living? Well…I didn’t really come up with one for that. But I’d like the Old Man to be voiced by H. Jon Benjamin. What I like most about this scenario is that, as we all know, the author of the source material is usually the first person the casting director goes to for advice…
JLB: So what’s next? Are you going to continue Jones’ journey, or do you plan to try something new?
SK: Well, I just signed with Severed Pressto publish my magnum opus THE GHOUL ARCHIPELAGOand I’m about a third of the way through the sidequel to that. (“Sidequel?” How’s that for pretentious author talk?) I’ve also got a couple of manuscripts in the can that need to be edited. One is a sort of play on BRAVE NEW WORLD, one is a roman à clef about my time in the army, and the one I’m currently working on is what I and fellow RAP author Mary Fan refer to as “balletpunk.” (That is, science fiction starring a ballerina. Yeah, I don’t know what to make of that trend, either.) Is Jones dead? Well, not if you clap your hands and believe, folks. But, yeah, if the fans demand it, I might continue Jones’s journey someday.
JLB: As a last question, are there any last words you want to leave for your readers?
SK: Thanks for reading my work. I know you have a choice in books (an overwhelming choice) and the fact that you would pick up mine is, frankly, humbling. And I’d also like to thank Jeff for having me. This is a great guy. He DDed for me the first day we met, and that’s a sacred bond I won’t soon forget. (SACRED BOND!)
JLB: Aww… shucks. ‘Twart nuthin’. Besides, if you were inebriated enough to get into a motorized vehicle with me behind the wheel, you were obviously in no condition to drive, right? (Just kidding folks – I was designated driver by simple virtue of the fact that I don’t drink much, and everyone else wanted to be extra safe. I don’t recall anyone actually being all that schnockered.)
So folks, if you are interested in picking up a copy of Braineater Jones, it’s available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iTunes. Go check it out. And oh yeah… Stephen and Red Adept Publishing are also running a Rafflecopter giveaway. So click and enter to win Amazon gift cards.
Well, Stephen, it was a pleasure meeting you (again), and thanks for giving me the chance to interview you. And I’d like to leave the audience with these words of wisdom…
If there is something you want in life, keep plugging away at it. Who knows, perhaps with enough time, hard work, and a bit of genetic manipulation, you too can create a gi-normous, part-Pleistocene cat!
For anyone who wants to find out more about the twisted mind that gave birth to Braineater Jones, you can catch up with Stephen’s latest projects on his blog, Manuscripts Burn, or hit him up on Twitter where he goes by the handle @Outfortune.
That’s it for now. So go out and write something. And as always. stay safe.
Well, it’s been quite an eventful week. Starting with last weekend, my wife and I went shopping for a decent desk for me to work on. I currently have an old Ikea computer desk that I really outgrew several years ago. It has little surface area, and no drawers at all. My better half convinced me that if I’m going to take this writing stuff seriously, I need a real desk with real storage in it. So we went shopping and found a great U-shaped desk with a credenza, hutch, lateral file drawers, bookshelves, and about triple the surface area that I currently have. However, since we’re also looking into getting new carpet, we need to wait for the furniture until the new carpet is in.
Oh well, patience is a virtue (or so they tell me).
Then on Monday, I was honored to be one of the guests on the Dead Robots’ Society podcast! It was so cool to be part of the podcast that rekindled my interest in writing to begin with. In case this is the first time you’re reading my blog, I was on DRS because I had a short story (The Burning Land) in their anthology, Explorers: Beyond the Horizon. I urge you to get a copy, and not just because I have something in it. I’ve read about half of it so far, and there are some really good authors represented in it. And as icing on the cake (for me), the anthology has received its first review:
Jul 05, 2012
Anita King rated it
As a fan of the Dead Robots’ Society podcast, I have long anticipated the release of their anthology project, and it does not disappoint.If I could give halves, I would give this a 4.5.
Overall, this anthology is a very enjoyable read. While a few of the stories have darker endings, the book carries a thread of hope and optimism throughout, especially appropriate for an anthology that focuses on exploration and the very human drive for discovery.
A couple of the stories near the end didn’t really strike a chord with me, but most of them were just what I was hoping for. A few that I especially enjoyed are “The Burning Land,” by Jeff Brackett, “A Mournful Rustling,” by Court Ellyn, and “Beneath an Orange Sky,” by Andrew Hawnt. This book has given me a whole new list of authors to look out for in the future.
Wow! I feel like pulling a Sally Fields – “you really like me!” Thanks, Anita.
And of course, this week was also the 4th of July. So belated Happy 4th, everyone! It sucked that it fell in the middle of the week this year, but c’est la vie. The worst part of it was that our dogs don’t much care for fireworks, so we got little to no sleep, then had to get back to work on Thursday. (sigh)
Thursday I saw a great piece of artwork online, and was able to find the artist. I contacted Ana Fagarazzi about doing a cover for me for Streets of Payne, and will hopefully have the cover in a few weeks. I’m really looking forward to this. Ana’s artwork is phenomenal.
And I got an email from my editor regarding “The Road to Rejas.” She says she’s finished the story, has her notes, and we are scheduled to discuss round one of edits tomorrow evening.
I just finished my first installment in “EBS”, the book that Ed Lorn and I are working on together. It is shaping up to be quite the fun tale. It’s finally reached the point where I’m no longer writing the characters – they’re now telling me how the story goes. I’ve never been involved in a project like this before. We have a cast of characters, and Ed and I have split them up. He writes some of the characters, and I write others. What’s really intriguing about this process is that we work off of each other’s pieces – Ed writes part, sends it to me, and after reading it, I write my character’s response. Then I send mine to him, etc. It keeps the story fresh and interesting for both of us.
And speaking of Ed Lorn, I mentioned a few weeks ago that he had asked me to write a guest blog for him on the subject of prepping. Well, I finally did it, and he’s posted it on his website. Read “Ruminating on: Jeff Brackett on Preppers” and leave a comment.
I’ve also gotten a little more done on Streets of Payne. Working to get cover ideas to Ana has helped clarify some points about the protagonist, Amber Payne.
On a more personal note, my better half an I sanded, spackled, taped off and painted three rooms in the house. We’re now officially empty-nesters, and are responding appropriately – we’re rebuilding the nest.
That’s it for now. It’s midnight, and I have to get up in five hours to go to work. So until next time, stay safe.
Below is the interview I had with new author, Edward Lorn. I “met” Ed (as much as you meet anyone on the internet) as a fellow client of Red Adept Publishing. I used Red Adept editorial services before they had an actual publishing arm, and now that they’ve launched as a full-fledged small press, Edward Lorn was one of the first authors they snatched up. His latest release, Dastardly Bastard , is currently for sale in electronic format, and should be out in print later this month.
The book description of Dastardly Bastard follows:
JEFF: I’ve recently had the opportunity to read both Bay’s End and Dastardly Bastard and my immediate impression is that your writing strikes me as very “Stephen King”-ish. I assume that King is one of your writing influences. Would you agree?
ED: I’m a huge Stephen King fan. With that said, I don’t really try to emulate him, so much as learn from his successes and mistakes. The man has this ability to give life to characters on a page. They transcend the novel you are reading and become a part of your life. You know these people, love them and hate them. I only want to write the best characters I can without using stereotypes or cop-outs.
JEFF:Who or what are some of your other influences?
ED: Richard Laymon is, by far, my favorite author when it comes to no-holds-barred horror. Before his death in 2001, Laymon saw success in the UK only. His books were always brutally violent and sexually graphic. I’m no prude, but he’s made me blush on more than one occasion. Everyone seems to liken “Bay’s End” with Stephen King’s novella, “The Body,” but a better comparison would be Laymon’s “The Traveling Vampire Show.” I won’t spoil anything about Laymon’s coming-of-age piece, other than to say that the book has absolutely nothing to do with vampires. The novel is about two boys and a girl, friends till the bitter end, and the struggles they must go through. “The Traveling Vampire Show” deals with sexual awakening, jealousy, the curiosity of young teens, and an event that will change them all forever. Yeah, Laymon was a master, though highly underrated. He normally scares new readers off within the first chapter or two. Fun times.
JEFF: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
ED: I started as a horrible liar. Everything that came out of my mouth was either terribly exaggerated, or completely false. From the time I could form sentences, I was telling stories. I got in quite a bit of trouble around school—I told one class my baby brother had died over the weekend, and I’d never even had a brother. My first grade teacher offered my mother a venue for my tales. “Have him write these things down. Let him get them out, and maybe he won’t feel the need to tell everyone every little thing that pops into his head.”
JEFF: Here’s one that most authors are asked at one time or another – where do you find your inspiration for your stories? I mean, you write about some pretty messed up stuff. I assume they’re not stories of your summer vacations.
ED: My inspiration is life. Everything has a story behind it. You just have to show enough interest in it, and it will cough up its wares.
As far as the darker content in my stories, I grew up in southern California in the ’80s and ’90s. My memories are filled with twisted things.
When I was ten, I saw a young man hit by a truck while trying to cross the street on his way to school. The vehicle knocked him down, and he was dragged under the chassis. The back tire treated his head like a piñata in a vice.
I lived through drive-by shootings, witnessed fights where knives were brought out, and even saw an overdose victim with a needle still in his arm. Years later, I do wonder if I ended up becoming a product of my environment, or if writing saved me from what I might have become.
I have no problem with being looked upon as twisted. But I would have people know that I don’t enjoy these things. I only know that they exist and choose to shed a light on them. If I can give away some of my nightmares, maybe I can start sleeping better at night.
JEFF: Getting back to your writing, are you a plotter or a pantser?
ED: What do you mean by pantser? I’ve never heard that term. I know I’m not a plotter, so I figure I’m a pantser.
JEFF: Ah! Sorry. It’s a relatively common term with writers these days. I mean do you plot your stories out, or do you write “by the seat of your pants”? I’ve also heard it called “Discovery writing” or “Intuitive writing.”
ED: Then yeah, I’m a pantser. Plotting kills my creativity. Every time I plot, one of two things happens. Either I grow bored with the story—because, heck, I already know what’s going to happen—or the plot changes so drastically, an outline was a complete waste of time. “Bay’s End” just kind of happened. I don’t know how else to explain it. I didn’t plot a single line of that book. I trusted my characters to tell me what was next. When Eddy walked in with those cherry bombs, I was just as excited as Trey was. I know, I’m crazy. But I love being insane. It’s so much more fun.
JEFF: You were chosen as one of the vanguard authors for the new Red Adept Publishing small press. What has your experience been like working with them?
ED: The entire crew has been a godsend. Lynn O’Dell is a fabulous editor, but she’s an even better human being. When you delve into the creative arts, family and friends are absolutely no help to you. They love you and do not want to hurt your feelings. Well, that kind of crap doesn’t help you grow. Lynn lays it out like it is, as does Michelle Rever, who did the initial content edit for “Dastardly Bastard.” I don’t need someone to tell me what I did right. I need to know what I did wrong.
JEFF: Why have you chosen to publish your books via Indie and/or small press, rather than via traditional publishing?
ED: If I had never met Lynn O’Dell, I would have stayed Indie—actually I never would have published anything of quality from the jump. I have no doubt about that. Once I heard she was starting up with the publishing side, I had to get in. With the bigger publishers, authors like me get lost in the mix. My book’s too short, the content is too controversial, blah, blah, blah…
Another big thing is length of time between novels. Lynn hasn’t—not yet, at least—put a cap on how many novels I can put out in a year. I write a lot. So that’s a good thing. I believe she’s of the same mindset as me. As long as they’re quality works, get them out there. No need to be a tease.
JEFF: Do you have any other writing projects in the works?
ED: Of course.
JEFF: LOL. Can you share a little of what it’s about?
ED: I don’t know, really. It’s hard to tell what will be next. I can keep up with three different books at a time. Right now, I’m doing just that. I have one that I’m working on more than the other two, but I have no idea if that will be my next book. I’m unearthing everything as I go. I am trying to give my readers something a little more substantial as far as length is concerned. There’s nothing wrong with a short book, but I know people like to get lost for a while. Up until now, I didn’t have a long story to tell.
I will add this: We’re going back to Bay’s End. I can guarantee that.
JEFF: For those of us who are beginning to learn our way around in the ever-changing business that is non-traditional publishing, are there any lessons you’ve learned that you’d like to share?
ED: I’m still learning myself, brother. I would love to divulge secrets, but I’m not privy to them at this time. Sorry.
JEFF: Any other thoughts, comments, or advice you’d like to leave us with?
ED: I try to lend an element of humor and truth to everything I write. If you can make someone believe your characters are real, that reader will follow you anywhere.
It’s really easy to fall in love with a person if they’re funny. Ask just about any woman on the face of this planet what she looks for in a man, and most will respond with “He has to be able to make me laugh.” They’ll have other criteria, of course, but that one’s almost always present. It’s how I managed to woo my wife, because Brad Pitt, I am not.
With truth, people must believe the motivations that drive your character. They don’t have to agree, but they must understand. The hardest chore I have as a writer is to not add my own reactions and emotions to a situation. Just because I would run from the beastie in the shadows does not mean my character would. There are plenty of people with more strength and will power than I in this world. But there are also weaker souls. Continuity is key. If your character acts off type, there has to be a reason. Have they finally broken? Has something presented itself to embolden them?
Good fiction finds the truth in the lie.
JEFF: Thanks, Ed. I wish you luck with Dastardly Bastard, and look forward to future books from you.