Inkshares Interview - Joseph Asphahani & THE ANIMAL IN MAN

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An artifact of immense power puts Maxan in the middle of a secret war between mighty guilds. To overcome the resourceful and sinister masters who would use him, use everyone, as puppets, he must decide which nature defines him. Animal, or man?

Who is Joseph Asphahani and what's THE ANIMAL IN MAN all about?

Legends say that Asphahani was a high school English teacher [turned corporate stiff], and that he cut his literary teeth by helping his students analyze the techniques of effective rhetoric and then refine their own writing. Nowadays (referring to that jab about being a corporate stiff), he helps a multi-million dollar logistics software corporation with their online marketing. By day, not so creative, perhaps, but it pays the bills. By night, he's a proud father of two rambunctious daughters, showing them the wisdom of Samurai Jack and Powerpuff Girls, and he's a sci-fi-fantasy writer into the wee hours of the morn. "The Animal in Man" is a fictional exploration of some questions that have come to bother him for decades. Are we addicted to violence? Is being violent part of our nature? Do we have to be violent to release something worse from our souls, and if so, what? The story of The Animal in Man takes a shot at answering these by following a fox-man named Maxan as he's pulled into an ancient conflict between two powerful, secretive groups. He gets his paws on a weapon that could turn the tide of that shadow war - a mind-altering device capable of turning everyone around him into ravaging beasts - and must ultimately decide what to do with it. A decision that defines who he truly is. ......The story is so complex and epic, to this day its author struggles with summarizing it. Forgive him.

Where did you get this idea, and what made it worth developing for you?

(Switching to first person now...) Almost all the stories I've ever conceived or written have focused on just one theme in some form or another. Deception. Lies. Manipulation. Whether we lie to others to gain control over them, or we lie to ourselves to pretend we're happy... I often wonder what is the deeper reason for telling lies. Why do we want that control? Why do we seek false happiness? For my own part, I was once lied to by someone very dear to me, and it destroyed me utterly. And yet, finding the truth ultimately set me free. It's very much like the age-old allegory of Plato's Cave. The idea of "The Animal in Man" was born from this need to explore how lies can control individuals, groups, entire nations. What if their innate desire to harm one another turned out to be part of some malicious plan? Would they keep fighting, since it's all they've ever known? Or would they at least try to lay down their arms and find peace? ............Oh, and the book is also very much about anthropomorphic animals. There's an important reason for that. Like how - in this world - we may call someone crazy, and we say "he's an animal!" Is he though? Isn't he still human? What is a human? And is a human really any better than an animal? These kinds of questions fascinate me, and I believe writing this book is my attempt at answering them.

Why Inkshares?

Just look at this place! The website is clean and user-friendly. My book stands shoulder to shoulder with some other really fascinating books on this platform. Self-publishing on Amazon, to me, is like trying to launch a ship into the ocean, only the ship is made from duct tape and cardboard. Inkshares provides the author/boat-builder with better materials to make it, a better pier to launch it from, and a network of support from other builders to keep you going. Your ship is much more likely to sail (and sail in style!) when it sets out from Inkshares.

What books have captured your attention lately?

I'm following so many books, it can be hard to explore all of them. (That would be like a full time job!) But there are definitely some that rise to the top. Honestly, taking a closer look at YOUR book "Wrestletown" is what got me in touch with you to begin with! I would probably not be here answering these questions if I hadn't been mesmerized by the amazing cover-art. The synopsis hooked me, and the first couple chapters reeled me in, man. Besides that, Peter Ryan's novel "Sync City" grabbed my attention and wouldn't let go. (Like, seriously, I can feel it's meaty grip pulling my neck around by the ear right now; if you read the first chapter you'll understand what I mean.) Peter's a talented author and worth paying attention to. His second book "Destiny Imperfect" is one I'm closely following. Outside of Inkshares....... There's this one book called "The Buildiers" by Daniel Polansky that was absolutely thrilling. It's a quick read. You can finish it in 2-3 hours. It comes with my highest recommendation. It's also about animals killing eachother: A salamander with knives, a badger with a gatling gun, and a stoat (NOT a skunk!) with a French accent. And so much more.

Who are your greatest influences?

Hmmm... Influences on my writing style are constantly shifting. I'd say that right now, it's Joe Abercrombie. I read "The Blade Itself" a while back, and have just begun the second book in his First Law trilogy, "Before They are Hanged." If you're an author who's heavy on writing an action scene (like me), you can learn A LOT from a scene out of Abercrombie's work. I also like how he handles weaving a character's thoughts into a scene - something that's crucial to how I'm telling the story of "The Animal in Man." Besides Abercrombie, I've carried a copy of Gary Whitta's "Abomination" in my laptop bag since I first started writing (after publishing via inkshares became a reality). I knew who Whitta was, having been a super-fan of The Book of Eli, and I found his writing style in the novel to be really crisp. I am constantly re-reading scenes from Abomination to study how I can keep moving plot, speaking dialogue, relaying thoughts, and describing action, all on the same page, all as engaging as possible. (Also, I'm a huge fan of Dark Souls - the video game franchise - and I found "Abomination" was hitting all those dark-grotesque-monstrosity notes for me.)

What's next for you as a writer?

I have about eight projects that are always kicking around in my mind. I wrote a pretty heavy Game Design Document as my Master's Thesis for Full Sail University - called "The White Shadow." It's pretty frikkin' rad. I'd like very much to shop that around to game development studios and see if a team of creative designers, artists, and programmers would be willing to help me make the damn thing. Other than that, I have an idea for a Y.A. novel in which a young, orphan girl wonders why real life can't be like the life she sees in movies and games, and soon begins to see the lines between them blur thereafter. Finally, I'd really like to tell a branching narrative story I'm calling "Curses and Mists" in a choose-your-own-adventure format. I grew up on those books! I'd really like to see them make a comeback, and Curses' particular story of darkness and insanity would really lend itself well to the genre. Stay tuned, I'm always working on something.

You can read a sample & pre-order THE ANIMAL IN MAN on Inkshares.

Inkshares Interview - Matthew Poat & SQUIDS IN

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When the world’s best online gamer turns out to be an octopus, it’s not long before he goes missing...

Who is Matthew Poat and what's SQUIDS IN all about?

Squids In is an adult oriented story about a guy called Toby and an octopus which gets stolen from a military animal testing lab by activists and dumped into Toby’s pool. It turns out that the octopus is a demon at playing video-games and so Toby creates an online account for the creature, who he calls Hendrix and they take part in an assortment of player versus player death matches for cash prizes, with Toby amassing quite a wealth and becoming an online gaming celebrity. This all comes back to bite him however when Hendrix gets stolen from him AND the military animal testing lab pull him in for intense interrogation over the animal lab break in. The last portion of the book revolves around Toby’s search to get Hendrix back. It’s very much written in a “Pineapple Express” style so if you like that kind of thing, this is definitely the book for you.

From my side, I’m a qualified Motorsport Engineer who currently works as Technical Sales and Marketing Manager at a company called Race-Keeper and is based at Silverstone race circuit in the UK. I write as a means to switch off my race car brain and can generally find solace in the weird and wonderful stories I frequently come up with. Everyone needs a form of stress relief and this is mine.

Where did you get this idea, and what made it worth developing for you?

My seven month old son was given a “Hank” cuddly orange octopus that stars in the upcoming Finding Nemo sequel “Finding Dory”. When the topic for the Nerdist June writing competition was announced on Inkshares as being video-game related, I just sat on my sofa looking around for inspiration and Hank caught my eye. It was as simple as that. I drafted my idea really early after the contest was announced and it started gaining traction with people. At this time I began thinking that I had a pretty unique story concept compared to the other entrants and this I believe is the books greatest strength. That and of course the wonderful illustrations and front cover created by Eugene Karasz over on DeviantArt.

Why Inkshares?

I was first introduced to Inkshares via the Geek and Sundry website, when they announced they were running a writing competition for hard sci-fi novels. I don’t write hard sci-fi and rarely read anything that fits into that genre but I followed the link anyway and discovered this wonderful community of writers who were helping each other to achieve their goals, offered support and motivation. I think that was something I needed in order to get on and write and probably the reason I stuck around. There are some truly great people on Inkshares. I may have underestimated the shear amount of time and effort it requires to have a truly successful crowdfunding campaign, but if I finish in the contests top 3, it will all have been worth it. If I don’t, its great experience for next time.

What books have captured your attention lately?

Wow, there are so many but I will list a few from Inkshares that have really captured my attention. First it is my fellow Nerdist contest entrant Regina McMenomy and her book “Mothering: The Game”. Just like Squids In, it is such a different take on the whole “write a book around the theme of video games” and it is all the more awesome for it. Second it would have to be “Monkey Business” by Landon Crutcher, a book that is now in full publication. It’s an absolute riot to read and if you like a book with a good injection of comedy, you should pick up a copy of this one. Finally “Tantalus Depths” by Evan Graham caught my attention enough to place an order, even though it is in the hard sci-fi genre and I mentioned before that this isn’t something I’m all that in to. The thing “Tantalus Depths” has going for it is an extremely engaging tale told by a highly skilled writer.

Who are your greatest influences?

I guess the biggest influences on both my writing style and choice of topics have got to be Hunter S. Thompson, Walter Moers and Ben Aaronovitch, however I must say that I am an extremely avid audiobook fan. Since I do a lot of travelling, for long flights or car journeys, there is nothing better than putting on a good audiobook and listening to a great story. I actually created a list of my favourite Audiobooks and posted it on my LinkedIn profile. Feel free to go check it out - https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/audiobookbook-recommendations-those-long-journeys-we-all-matthew-poat?trk=hp-feed-article-title-publish

What's next for you as a writer?

My ultimate short-term goal is to finish in the top 3 in the Nerdist video-game contest with Squids In, which would guarantee publication. If the book does not finish that high, I’m not sure if I really want to limp on to quill. That’s something I need to figure out in a few weeks depending on how things go. I would love to publish the book properly however, just so that everyone gets a chance to enjoy this silly story and the wonderful illustrations by Eugene. I have also been toying around with writing something about a guy who comes to consciousness on the floor of a music festival tent. A series of flashbacks would propel the tale forward and explain who he was and why he passed out. Some of the story will be autobiographical, like the bit where he takes magic mushrooms, gets tangled up in the ropes of someone’s tent and then when that person pops out to see what’s going on, he hallucinates a spider coming to eat him after trapping him in its web. That’s something that actually happened to me a number of years ago at the Reading music festival. We will see if that tale ever makes it onto the page. Maybe some things are better left to memory.

You can read a sample & pre-order SQUIDS IN on Inkshares.

Inkshares Interview - G.A. Finocchiaro & THE KNIGHTMARES

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9 geek-culture loving, bantering punk kids are pitted against an evil, sexy succubus from another dimension and her demented plans for revenge. There are ghosts and pirate treasure and alien gods and alchemy and exorcisms and lots of weird stuff too.

Who is G.A. Finocchiaro and what's THE KNIGHTMARES all about?

G.A. Finocchiaro is a single 37 year old Creative Director and writer living in Philadelphia, PA. Born to be a storyteller and never one to pass up a fun analogy, G writes through the lens of the strange, like Joe Dante and John Landis had a brainchild nine months after they invited Don Coscarelli over for a threesome (yeah, he went there). An oddball lover of all things geek, G hopes to inspire as he was inspired for the next generation of genre fans to come.

THE KNIGHTMARES is about 9 geek-culture loving, bantering punk kids that are pitted against an evil, sexy succubus from another dimension and her demented plans for resurrecting her long lost warlord lover. At its heart, The Knightmares is a story about loyalty and friendship, and the kind of crazy inside jokes that develop within those kinds of close knit circles. There just happens to be this crazy villainess named Nexus who comes in and ruins the party, along with her cloaked acolyte minions, a horde of mercenary werewolves, and a lunatic with a possessed stuffed toy elephant.

Where did you get this idea, and what made it worth developing for you?

I was inspired by my friends back in college, and the crazy things that we experienced together. Each character was loosely based on someone I know. I’ve always felt that writers and artists should create things they themselves would enjoy, and so THE KNIGHTMARES grew from there. I am a huge fan of the supernatural and supernatural fiction, and what better way for me to create and write than to take the things I love and put my own spin on it.

I have always wanted to be published, but to be published and inspire others to do the same is really the full dream. To me, that is what makes it worth developing.

Why Inkshares?

I submitted many queries to traditional literary agents and many times received rejections less than 15 minutes after I submitted. I realized that many of these agents weren’t even reading my pitch, and those that did gave me feedback to keep trying as the industry is very subjective. Inkshares gave me a destination, a benchmark to hit rather than an unending amount of research and hoping that one of those agents will pay attention and appreciate the first paragraph enough to want to read more. Crowdfunding is difficult, but it’s more tangible and you are more in control of your fate by finding potential fans than by emailing agents that may never even respond.

What books have captured your attention lately?

I recently finished The Magicians trilogy by Lev Grossman, which was excellent. I also finished David Wong’s Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits, which was another great novel by someone I hold up as one of my largest influences.

I also recently started Monkey Business, an Inkshares book by Landon Crutcher. I’m about halfway through and thoroughly enjoying it. I’m looking forward to more from him, but also I was pleasantly reassured that Inkshares has some great writers on board. It’s a professional reassurance that we belong on bookshelves.

Who are your greatest influences?

My influences are very wide ranging and not limited to books and authors. I am a huge John Carpenter fan. His work, like Big Trouble in Little China and Prince of Darkness, have really been the backbone of my inspiration.

David Wong has had a huge influence on me. His ability to write comedy and scare at the same time is excellent, and I can’t wait for more work from him. Neil Gaiman and his wide ranging books of fantasy have inspired me more than any other author.

Everything from Doctor Who to Monster Squad, to John Cusack classics like Say Anything and One Crazy Summer, to Joe Hill’s book Horns and Dan Harmon’s TV show Community, all have inspired me greatly. I could go on and on...

What's next for you as a writer?

Well, first I want to make sure I concentrate on THE KNIGHTMARES and pushing it through crowdfunding to Quill. I am about three-quarters of the way done on my own third round of edits on the manuscript, and will be finishing that up as well.

After that, I want to do my due diligence and continue to promote THE KNIGHTMARES by going on the convention circuit and hitting up as much of the potential fan base as I can, and try to get the word out there.

And while I’m working on that, I have several more books I am either wanting to write or currently writing, including my next book, VEXED, which is currently up on Inkshares as a draft. It still has a ways to go, and lots of editing to be done, but the tone and the subject is vastly different than THE KNIGHTMARES. I think it’ll be a hit in its own right.

 

You can read a sample & pre-order THE KNIGHTMARES on Inkshares.

Inkshares Interview - Evan Graham & TANTALUS DEPTHS

Tantalus Depths

The Diamelen’s survey mission to Tantalus 13 takes an unexpected turn when the entire planet turns out to be an ancient artificial structure. What lies in the heart of Tantalus? And why is the crew’s AI, SCARAB, willing to kill to keep its secret?

Who is Evan Graham and what’s TANTALUS DEPTHS all about?

It’d be great if there was an easy answer to “who is Evan Graham.” That’d be awesome. Alas, I’ve been asking that question for almost three decades now and I can’t say I’ve come anywhere near a satisfactory answer.

I have a Bachelors in Education Studies from Kent State University, along with the triple minor of reading, writing, and theatre. It took me ages to graduate, since I changed my majors and minors no less than four times, and ultimately I’m not even really using the degree I have. I never felt drawn down any specific career path. Mainly, this was because I couldn’t muster up much interest in the comings and goings of the world I live in. I always had my attention on better things.

By that token, call me a dreamer. I’ve always had my head in one fantasy world or another. I refused to grow out of my childhood obsession with fictional worlds and universes. I’ve been writing stories since I was a kid, creating and sharing my own fictional universes with family and friends. Though I’ve dreamed of publishing a story since my youth, I never dared to try until this year, with Tantalus Depths.

Tantalus Depths is the first story I’ve written that I felt was truly ready for prime time. It’s a solid sci-fi thriller with a complex world, multi-layered characters, a dark mystery, and gripping action. It arose out of my love for classics like 2001: A Space Odyssey, and carries the same kind of theme of humanity’s desire to explore the stars despite its childlike lack of perspective for its own cosmic importance.

As the Crew of The Diamelen arrives on Tantalus 13, they find themselves immersed in an ancient celestial mystery. Tantalus 13 isn’t a planet after all, but a planet-sized artificial construct of unknown purpose. What does it do? What was it for? What happened to its creators? Why did they go to such lengths to camouflage Tantalus 13 from the rest of the universe?

If it wasn’t enough that the crew of The Diamelen had these answers to seek, they must also contend with the will of SCARAB: their artificially intelligent base of operations. Despite being programmed to serve and defend its human masters at all costs, SCARAB seems to hold its own agenda: an agenda it will kill to pursue.

Where did you get this idea, and what made it worth developing for you?

Aspects of Tantalus Depths had been tumbling around in my imagination for quite some time, but they didn’t congeal into one single story until one of my advanced creative writing classes in college. I was given an assignment to write a story from the perspective of a person unlike myself. I’d been thinking of writing a story with a female protagonist for some time, as sort of an homage to Ripley from the Alien franchise, so I elected to put some of those ideas onto paper for the class assignment. Originally, it was only to have been a short story, between 15 and 25 pages long. Once I got into it, though, the pieces really began to fall together. I saw huge potential, and started drawing from even more influences, fleshing out the world-building, developing the characters. It wasn’t long before I realized I had way too much content for just a short story, and what had originally been a 15 page short-story assignment eventually evolved into a 50-60 page final project. I wrote the first three or four chapters in that class, then picked at the story for a while until I finally finished it in a different creative writing class with the same professor.

As much as I love writing, I don’t do it unless I have something really worth writing about. Tantalus Depths is important to me in many ways. I wanted to give the world another solid female protagonist (far, far too uncommon in this genre). I wanted to give the world a new take on the classic “evil AI” antagonist. I wanted to instill readers with an existential dread while also stimulating that wonder of discovery that Sci-Fi does so well. Above all else, though, I just wanted to tell a good story. So I did.

Why Inkshares?

I’ve dipped my toes into the world of publishing several times over the years, but always yanked them back out again immediately afterwards and ran off back into the house to cry in the corner. I looked into self-publishing once or twice, but realized pretty quickly that it was no place for someone as socially anxious as I am to find any kind of success. I looked into traditional publishing, then went onto a literary agent’s website and say the foreboding words “Just so you know, we get about 500 submissions a week, so we probably won’t pay much attention to your five-page excerpt at all. Nothing personal.” Well, it was something like that. Again, I was discouraged, and gave up before I even tried writing a good query letter. This year, I made exactly one New Years resolution for the entire year: I would get Tantalus Depths published somewhere, somehow. A couple months into the year, though, and I still hadn’t made any progress.

Then Inkshares all but literally fell into my lap. I follow several shows on Geek and Sundry, so I visit their site often. Then one day, I popped in and saw an announcement about a hard sci-fi competition, the winner to receive full publication and distribution. I stared blankly at the announcement before reality finally set in: here it is. This is how Tantalus Depths gets published.

I knew pretty quickly that I wasn’t going to win the contest. I didn’t find out about it until it was almost a month in, but as I familiarized myself with Inkshares, I came to realize that it is a place where you can really see results if you try hard enough. With self-publishing, you are on your own with the editing process, and you’ll only sell as many copies as you’re able to personally convince people to buy. With traditional publishing, the odds of any publication house even noticing you are slim, much less picking you up for a contract. Inkshares meets you halfway. It takes a huge amount of work to reach those publishing goals, but when you do, your efforts are rewarded with  a real, honest-to-goodness publication deal. I honestly think services like Inkshares are the future of publication, and I kind of feel like I’m getting in on the ground floor of something big. Assuming I do make it, that is.

What books have captured your attention lately?

One unfortunate side effect of running a campaign like this is the way it just about consumes 100% of your free time. I’m typically a compulsive consumer of all kinds of media: books, comics, video games, movies, new media, etc. But right now, when I get home from work, when I get up in the morning, and from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed, I’m working on getting new readers for my book. This hasn’t left me much time to check out other books. On the other hand, I’ve become aware of many new authors also funding on Inkshares. So far the only actual book I’ve been able to pick up from an Inkshares author has been Abomination by Gary Whitta (which, from the first two chapters, is quite good), but there are several other books I’m looking forward to getting a hold of that are either currently in the production process or still funding. And the Wolf Shall Dwell, by Joni Dee, Capes’ Side Bay by James Rasile, and Rune of the Apprentice by Jamison Stone are my top 3 right now. I eagerly look forward to getting my hands on copies of all three, but I’m also going to need to look into getting a new bookshelf for all the other books I’m going to be getting from Inkshares once they get through the production process. The place is an absolute literary goldmine.

Who are your greatest influences?

In the scientific community, scientists and theoreticians build upon the discoveries and research of each other. It’s a free exchange of knowledge, and no one could be where they are if not for those who came before. With science fiction writing, it’s much the same. I think it’s safe to say that I’ve taken notes from virtually every sci-fi writer that I’ve encountered, on some level.

Tantalus Depths takes most of its influence from three separate inspirations: 2001: a Space Odyssey, The Forbidden Planet, and Alien. I could write an essay on how those stories have influenced this one, but that would be shockingly dull to read. Suffice it to say, those are the big ones, and anyone who’s familiar with them will undoubtedly sense some familiar flavors when they pick up Tantalus Depths.

There are other influencers that are less obvious or direct. Most notably, I’ve made use of Isaac Asimov’s laws of robotics, with some modifications of my own. Inspiration has come from everything from the Mass Effect video game series, to Stephen King, to ancient Greek mythology. Though it doubtless sounds like a jumbled grab-bag of influences, I assure you they fit together surprisingly well.

What’s next for you as a writer?

What’s next? Finishing my campaign. Getting Tantalus Depths through the production process. Putting it on shelves and in e-readers. Sharing it with the world. That’s the hook.

Once Tantalus Depths is out, I can properly begin to share my stories with the world. Tantalus Depths will have two sequels, for one. Beyond that, though, I have many other stories to tell. Tantalus Depths and its sequels will exist in a sort of anthology universe, where I will tell other stories set in different times and places with different casts of characters, united with the common theme of dark cosmic mystery. One story I know I will tell at some point is Proteus: a sci-fi adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard III set on a multi-generational deep-space colony ship. Outside that anthology universe I have dozens of other stories to tell, ranging from gritty action-heavy space operas to tongue-in-cheek sci-fi comedies, to high fantasy epics. I’m placing no limits on myself. Once Tantalus Depths gets the ball rolling, it’s not going to stop. This is where my writing career launches.

You can read a sample & pre-order TANTALUS DEPTHS on Inkshares.

Inkshares Interview - Tony Valdez & DAX HARRISON

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In a space-faring future, an alien war criminal seeks vengeance on humanity, and a celebrated-but-bumbling hero is forced back into action... whether he likes it or not.

Who is Tony Valdez and what's DAX HARRISON all about?

Tony Valdez is a fledgling author who has decided to write silly stories, and he also feels equally silly talking about himself in the 3rd person. :) I'm also a big nerd, a mediocre podcast host, an occasional musician, and full-time maker of funny faces in the bathroom mirror.

DAX HARRISON is a fast-paced, action/comedy novel set in a spacefaring Star Trek-like future. The story focuses on Commander Harrison, widely known as a legendary soldier and hero, a Captain America for the space age if you will. Dax made his claim to fame a decade ago, winning a key victory in an alien invasion war which threatened to wipe out humanity as we spread out into space. ...Or so we've been led to believe...

Since then, Dax's career has faded into obscurity. However, the legend of the commander has grown immensely in the public eye through pulp stories and media based on exceedingly embellished versions of his exploits. Dax has not-so-humbly allowed himself to enjoy a bit of that fame (and a few royalty checks) while coasting into retirement on cushy assignments. But as he counts the days until he can disappear on a beach somewhere, naturally, fate has other plans.

A dangerous shadow from the past puts a wrench in Dax's easygoing existence, and he is forced to finally live up to his grandiose legends, whether he likes it or not.

Where did you get this idea, and what made it worth developing for you?

Dax began as a humble idea for a low budget comedic sci-fi short film about a bumbling space captain, who drunkenly falls asleep at the wheel and nearly crashes his ship. A simple one-off scene (which remains one of the first scenes in the book) that I planned to film with friends and post online for fun. Unfortunately, I fell hopelessly in love with the characters, kept writing, and ended up with a feature film script. While proud, I quickly realized I had absolutely no budget, resources, or Hollywood contacts to possibly make the giant spectacle come to life.

Eventually, I decided this was a good thing. As much as I adore movies, I didn't want to spend years pushing, wheeling and dealing, and/or begging for my story to see the light of day. I just wanted to tell it. So I set my mind to adapt the script to a novel and self-publish via Amazon.

Why Inkshares?

Inkshares provided a number of opportunities that self-publishing didn't. Were I to secure enough pre-orders, Inkshares would fund the publishing run, including physical and ebook copies, provide full editing services, cover design, and marketing. Furthermore, I discovered the company via an announcement of a joint contest with Nerdist Industries, offering guaranteed publishing at a lower pre-order total, so long as I managed to be in the top 3 against the other competing authors.

I didn't win the competition, but I eventually secured the standard number of orders necessary for a "light publishing", which Inkshares now markets under their Quill imprint. I'll still be doing a bit of heavy lifting, but Inkshares will take care of copy edits, get physical copies into the hands of my backers, and continue offering physical and ebook copies through their site and the other major online retailers. The team is currently patiently waiting for me to finish editing the manuscript (which I aim to complete this weekend - 6/25 - 6/26) and hand it in to continue the production.

The process of campaigning on Inkshares also granted a major and unexpected benefit: Connecting with an amazing community of fellow authors. As the resident goofball who originally "just wanted to make movies", I was touched by the unbelievable support by other campaigning writers, working together to encourage, offer guidance, and help each other build reader bases. It's been incredibly humbling, and I couldn't have done it without them.

What books have captured your attention lately?

Too many. This might sound like a pandering answer (I swear it's not). I'm mostly looking forward to a few books from my fellow Inkshares authors. I just started diving into my copy of Monkey Business by Landon Crutcher (You can find my endorsement on the cover). I'm itching to start my ebook copies of The Life Engineered by JF Dubeau and Ageless by Paul Inman. She Is The End by A.C. Weston (once it publishes) is also at the top of my list. Basically, I have a massive backlog thanks to being fully engrossed in putting the final touches on Dax. ...I also have a very fancy edition of The Complete Sherlock Holmes sitting on my bookshelf. Shhh, don't tell my mother-in-law I haven't read it yet. She bought it for me several Christmases ago.

Who are your greatest influences?

For Dax in particular, it's an unusual answer. As I said, it was intended as a big Hollywood movie, so my immediate influences are more cinema-minded rather than traditional authors and books. Dax comes from my love of Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and other classic Spielberg and Lucas adventures. The hero is also a rogue and somewhat of a selfish cad. A blend of Ash Williams from Evil Dead/Army of Darkness and Zapp Brannigan from Futurama.

In general, I just love good stories in any form. Adventures in particular. Grand stories from books, movies, TV shows, comics, videogames and so on. Anything that makes me laugh, cry, cheer and/or leaves me in awestruck wonder. I eat that stuff up.

What's next for you as a writer?

DAX 2 is the obvious answer. Haha! I have the beginnings of an outline, and I'm excited where it's headed. But first I may run to the hills, live in a cave for awhile, tackle my backlog of books and videogames, and come back with my creative batteries recharged. I'll invite my wife to the cave too. She's missed her husband dearly while he's been glued to the computer over the past year. :)

You can read a sample & pre-order DAX HARRISON on Inkshares.

Inkshares Interview - Stephen Carignan & THE SLEEPING MAN

NYC (1)

The last of the dreamwalkers seeks for answers in the long lost Compendium, but the greatest mystery lies within his own past.

Who is Stephen Carignan  and what's THE SLEEPING MAN all about?

Well, at least we didn’t waste any time with simple questions, as not only what one uses to define themselves indicates quite a lot, but how they prioritize what they use to create said definition. In essence, I’m just a man. Most of my choices center around my daughter and my ability to provide for her and my ex-wife. I was doing stand-up and acting in Chicago when we split and had no way to move to LA, provide, and be there for those all important moments, so I joined the Navy. My test scores were very good, and I became an IT Technician. The Sleeping Man is the confluence of inspiration and discipline. I have always been writing something, it was something my mother taught me to combat severe dyslexia. I was in second grade and unable to read because of what they wanted to call ADHD and my mom called just being a kid. She sat with me and read and reread Stuart Little  until I could read. Then I was doing homework before class ended because everyone was moving just so damn slow. The idea for this work came to me when I was sixteen, among many others, but I couldn’t flush it out. Well, years later the Navy is paying for me to get my Masters degree in writing and the discipline provided allowed me to revisit some ideas, and in this case, finish this actual book.

The book itself is about the last of the Dreamwalkers known only as The Sleeping Man, a nomadic people characterized by their striking violet eyes, and his quest to find any means of stopping the Volto Empire. He is capable of seeing and entering the Dreamscape, a collection of projected dreams from the conscious world around him, and uses this ability to read a person’s intentions, emotions, and secret desires. Along the way he discovers secrets about his own past, abilities, and finds the long lost Compendium. The lattermost is said to be the seat of all knowledge and guarding by ferocious creatures, but The Sleeping Man has one thing the Volto Empire does not, a clue.

Where did you get this idea, and what made it worth developing for you?

This idea, like all great ideas, didn’t come from anywhere, but rather a piece of a lot of different things gets locked in my brain and I don’t know if it was in the shower or waking from a dream, but the first sentence popped into my head. A featureless desert, grey and devoid of landmarks. I knew this guy was crossing it, which is supposed to be impossible, and I knew he would do anything to accomplish this.

The reason I’m pursuing this, is simply because I believe in it. When I was acting and doing stand-up, there are times when you have to audition. In these times, you are physically putting yourself out there, and whether or not you are feeling confident, you have to project confidence. As I was writing The Sleeping Man, I kept plodding through because I had a word goal and now the Naval discipline and Masters training to keep going rather than let the idea die off and wait for inspiration. Now that it’s done, I don’t remember which parts frustrated me, I just see parts I need to fix.

Why Inkshares?

I chose Inkshares initially because of a contest hosted by The Nerdist. I felt that I would be able to finish the first draft and if it sold and published I would have to finish. If it didn’t, then I would move on to another idea because people weren’t having it. Well, I didn’t win the contest. Afterwards the CEO called me and talked about my project. He said there was definitely something there and he felt there were some things I could have done marketing-wise to help myself. That was what kept The Sleeping Man alive, because I wasn’t going to try again. Instead, I took what he said and felt if I focused more on a few keys elements: larger reader base, more social networking, etc, I would be able to publish. Then the Quill goal was introduced and I thought to myself, if I have enough readers to hit the Quill goal, I will be published. I can do that. Once I hit enough readers, I opened up the pre-orders again, and in just over a month, I’m sitting at 202 pre-orders and there’s still just under three months left. I’m confident The Sleeping Man will be published. In essence, writers oftentimes don’t know if they’re heading in the right direction, and you can ask people you know, but it’s better to have support in the form of constructive criticism, recommendations, and commenting on excerpts.

What books have captured your attention lately?

Most recently I’ve read Sapiens, Trekonomics (An Inkshares success!), On Basilisk Station, and An Unattractive Vampire (Inkshares again!). Things like The Martian, Ready Player One, The Time of Discontent, and others were all within the past three months or so. I alternate between audiobooks and physical/digital copies.

As far as Inkshares is concerned, one of the ways I’ve increased my reader base is by reviewing every single book that is recommended to me. Perhaps my ADHD and overcoming my dyslexia have somehow combined into my ability to read exceptionally fast. I also sometimes use speed reading apps to flash text in a more efficient way then reading left to right. It’s hard to pick out, but I’m fairly excited about Too Many Controllers which is an anthology of some of Inkshares best, Deus Hex Machina because of the amazingly imaginative world, and These Are My Friends on Politics makes me laugh.

Who are your greatest influences?

Aside from the obvious influence my mother had on my ability to read, once that gate was unlocked I devoured books. The Redwall  series as a kid, then later Wheel of Time, Sword of Truth, and Lord of the Rings. These are all amazing series, but once I deviated off the beaten path there H.P. Lovecraft blew my tiny mind out of my head. When Stephen King deviated off his won beaten path with the Dark Tower series, I was equally amazed. Paulo Cohelo also was an influence, and then I began to gravitate to these works that are set in no where worlds, complete with their own rules and laws. Most recently I’ve been finding self-published authors like Hugh Howey, and then now finding Inkshares writers.

What's next for you as a writer?

Since I have no doubt The Sleeping Man will be published because this go round I’ve had blog posts like this one and interviews which have brought in so many readers, my next step will be to finish the second draft of The Sleeping Man. The third pass should be faster, and then it’s off to editing (knock on wood). I don’t have the idea for a sequel at this exact moment, but one idea I made as a joke which might come to fruition is Zombie Pirates v. Vampire Ninjas. This is a tongue in cheek poke at cashing in on genres popularity that is partly inspired by Lesbian Zombies from Outer Space, an independent comic written by Jave Galt-Miller.

I don’t know what will be next for me as a writer. I just know I started writing at a very young age and just have never managed to stop.

You can read a sample & pre-order THE SLEEPING MAN on Inkshares.

Inkshares Interview - Prescott Harvey & In Beta

When two friends realize they’re NPCs in a video game,  they hack reality to make their lives awesome and wind up targeted for deletion.

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Prescott Harvey's IN BETA is one of my favorite books currently funding on Inkshares. Harvey's the author of The World of Warcraft’s Guide to Winning at Life, and creator of the viral video/open letter telling JJ Abrams how to make Star Wars great again, which Abrams incorporated into The Force Awakens. All in all Harvey sounds like a pretty cool dude, and I'm digging what I've read of IN BETA.

Elon Musk thinks we’re living inside a video game, and this novel is primed to run with that notion and then some. This is an awesome high concept paired with a brilliant proven quantity in Prescott Harvey — dude, sign me up as an IN BETA-tester! - Daniel H. Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of ROBOPOCALYPSE

Who is Prescott Harvey and what's IN BETA all about?

I tend to think about my life like this: My 20's were about expanding my universe, and my 30's are about shrinking it back down.

My 20s were for adventure. Traveling abroad, trips to Burning Man, living a feral existence out in the woods, sailing the Pacific Coast. Etc.

Now, in my 30s, it's about living in a neighborhood, biking to work, getting to know a community, giving back, establishing roots. It's about depth over breadth.

So that's a narrow overview of me. IN BETA is a book about two lazy high schoolers who realize they live inside a simulated reality. Instead of trying to escape, they hack reality to make their lives awesome. And then they get targeted for deletion by a systems admin.

Where did you get this idea, and what made it worth developing for you?

It's been years in the making. I don't say that to imply that it's some sort of masterpiece; more that it's been a very difficult story to develop.

I'm a fan of bad movies, and a friend recommended I watch "The Miami Connection." I did, and was blown away. The movie is not nearly as good / bad as the trailer makes it seem, but it's still amazing how quintessentially 80's the movie manages to be. If you haven't seen it, it's about a group of friends who are in a rock and roll band, and they're also all blackbelts in karate, and of course an evil ninja clan threatens one of their girlfriends. It has kung fu, (surprisingly good) music, machine guns, motorcycles... basically, everything you'd want in an 80's movie. And I started thinking "God, wouldn't it be amazing to push this even further?"

So I started by researching all my favorite 80's cliches. From lightsabers, to time machines, to hoverboards, to Nazi's, to rock and roll, to video games. Even cliche 80's phrases like "lock and load", "let's roll", "let's ride" etc. I don't even remember what was on the list, but it was long. The working title was "Awesome Movie." (and yes, it was originally going to be a movie).

But I needed some sort of device to tie it all together and make it work. How can you effectively have every awesome thing in a story, without it all falling apart? The device I came up with was a magical VHS tape that got struck by lightning to release a Jumanji-style 80's experience. But even that was still a little too loosey goosey, and I was having a hard time staying invested in the story. Which, when you're whole premise is one schlocky joke, that's of course going to be an issue.

Around this point, the trailer for Kung Fury came out. Not only did it beat me to the punch, but it did an awesome job of it. And then Lego Movie came out, and I started realizing I wasn't the only one pondering a 'more-is-more' approach, where everything and the kitchen sink could be refreshing and fun.

Long story short, I got to rethinking my premise. I finally struck upon a device I enjoyed (The Matrix as a comedy) that allowed me to do the things I wanted, but could still ground the characters and give them depth. I personally am already starting to tire of the "more is more" approach. And if I am, I'm willing to bet others are, too.

So I started thinking that if I wrote it as a book, I'd get to spend more time with the characters, not focus as much on gags, and could explore interesting existential tangents without sticking so purely to genre conventions like a movie would require me to do. A book sounded more and more appealing, and here we are.

Why Inkshares?

I'd been aware of Inkshares for a bit. I even had a different novel that I was planning to crowd fund, maybe next year. Then they announced their videogame competition with Nerdist, and suddenly it was (to quote another 80's cliche) "go time."

What books have captured your attention lately?

I'm going to be honest, at the risk of alienating people. I don't read a lot of new books. I mean "new" in the sense of recently published, and also just books that I am unfamiliar with.

When I tell colleagues and coworkers this, they always look at me like I'm some elitist snob. Which, you know, I hope I'm not, but I've heard the accusation enough (mostly from my wife) that I'm willing to consider the possibility.

Here's my rationale:

Reading books takes time. Just like watching a movie or a TV show (which I'm also careful about). When I do venture out and read a new book, I am nine times out of ten disappointed. It's probably because I'm older now, and have less free time, but I have no stomach for mediocrity in storytelling. I have my selection of favorite books. When I re-read them, they move me. I laugh. I cry. I put them down and regard life. There is so much in each of them, so much to be gained on every re-read, it saddens me to think I will probably only read them a dozen times before I die.

Here are some of the books on this list: Lord of the Rings, Sometimes A Great Notion, Watership Down, Confederacy of Dunces, Wind in the Willows.

I just finished The Once and Future King for the second time, and it's going on the list. I'm about to start The Fountainhead for the 3rd time.

Now there is a tremendous and obvious downside to only rereading your favorite books, and that is you don't get exposed to new things. I'm very aware of this, and try to rectify it as best I can. I do take recommendations from trusted sources. Two years ago I read House of Leaves on a friend's recommendation, and absolutely loved it.

But yeah, I'm actively working to not be such a snob.

Who are your greatest influences?

The Simpsons, Michael Crichton, Ken Kesey, and Disney's Beauty and the Beast. A random list I know. For better or worse The Simpsons have shaped my sense of humor. I started watching in 2nd grade. Now I can trace the rhythm and meter of my every joke back to a classic Simpsons line.

Michael Crichton because, as a kid, I read him more than anyone else. I still study his books to find how he keeps his readers hooked. Other authors (Stephen King) are arguably better writers, and I enjoy King, but I love that Crichton re-inventing and re-popularized the victorian adventure novel. Genius.

Ken Kesey nailed (perhaps formed?) my worldview. Especially in Sometimes A Great Notion, his melancholy world tinged with awe and beauty, and the mixture of defiance and despair his character's grapple with... he more than anyone is responsible for showing me the themes I want to explore.

And lastly: Beauty and the Beast. A good friend once tried to tell me that Jame Cameron's AVATAR was the pinnacle of human artistic achievement. What, he argued, was more aesthetically amazing than that movie? The Mona Lisa? The Sistine Chapel? I thought for a moment and then responded BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. With the exception of one gratuitous and superfluous song ("Be Our Guest"), this movie is the pinnacle of storytelling. Every story beat has a purpose, serves multiple functions, and flows together beautifully. And while the orchestral score is not as iconic as other movies, I would challenge anyone to find a score that better serves its purpose.

What's next for you as a writer?

Get better!

I'm lucky enough to write for a living, working as an advertising copywriter. Writing in different brand voices, writing headlines with only have 3 - 5 words... this has helped me immensely. My goal, for the rest of my life, is to continually get better. I want to be a great writer. There. I said it. Gauntlet thrown.

But that's not a very tangible goal, so: There's a book after IN BETA. It's not as lighthearted or "fun" as IN BETA. It's a Crichton-esque book that (hopefully) has a little more depth. It's a Western that takes place in the last remaining slice of American wilderness, and it's inspired by "Heart of Darkness." And that's all I'll say.

You can read a sample & pre-order IN BETA on Inkshares.

DON'T GET CAUGHT with Kurt Dinan

Annnnnd we're back! It's been difficult to keep up with the blog as of late, but I have some plans to keep it going, beginning with a series of interviews of some friends and colleagues with books coming out this spring. We're kicking things off with KURT DINAN and his YA debut novel, DON'T GET CAUGHT, which hits the stands on April 1st - tomorrow! Nice marketing trick for a book about pranks, eh? Well played, SourceBooks.

Kurt Dinan

You may recall Kurt giving me the third degree on his blog a few months ago. Here I return the favor, though I gotta tell you - it's tough when a book is so great. Yes, Kurt is a fantastic writer and a good friend of mine, so I'm biased...BUT prior to cracking DON'T GET CAUGHT I hadn't read much (if any) YA and just a few of Kurt's short stories, so I felt pretty good going in blind. Kurt kills it in his debut. You should grab this book because it's a ton of fun, but also for Kurt's use of voice, handling of an ensemble/team and tight plotting. Early reviews are excellent (especially over on Goodreads, where the book has been on fire for months.) But enough of this sweet praise. Read on!

Don't Get Caught

Chris: YA fans are over-the-moon for DON'T GET CAUGHT. What's going on here? Give a quick pitch and sell the rest of us on this big debut.

Kurt: The quick pitch: DON'T GET CAUGHT is a fast-paced, funny, and prank-filled caper novel about a group of outcasts out for revenge.  Or if you want the Hollywood elevator pitch, it's Ocean's 11 meets The Breakfast Club, but with a lot more dick jokes.  At least that was my intention when I wrote it.

Chris: Mmmmm, I smell a movie. Speaking of which, the voice of the narrator, Max Cobb, (my favorite aspect of the book) screamed film voice-over in the best way, taking me back to movies like The Sandlot and Stand By Me, among others. How did you go about developing it? Balancing the innocence and teenager hijinx. Did it naturally roll off onto the page?

Kurt: Oh man, I'm glad to hear that because I struggle with voice so much.  I honestly don't think it was until the 4th or 5th draft where I finally heard his voice and could write it.  If I remember correctly, I think it was writing, "This is a terrible idea.  It's stupid, irresponsible, and borderline suicidal.  But I'm going anyway"  as my opening lines where everything clicked.  Now, those lines don't start the novel in the final draft, but something in there made Max come to life.  After that, I had to go rewrite the whole novel to fit that voice, but it was fun work because I finally had it.

Chris: That's some serious persistence! Was fine tuning the voice part of the process of finding your footing writing YA fiction? What was it like moving from Horror to YA? Or were you always writing both?

Kurt: The move from horror to YA was easy because if I'm being honest, horror wasn't a good fit for me.  Like a lot of people I know, I spent my high school years reading Stephen King.  So when I started writing I wrote what I knew best.  I had some success with a few horror stories, yeah, but I learned that I'm not really that dark of a guy by nature, and it's hard for me to get myself in the right place to write that way.  YA though?  Writing smart-assed, euphemism-slinging, antiauthoritarian teenagers?  That's much more natural for me.

Chris: Speaking of smart-assed, euphemism-slinging, antiauthoritarian teenagers - you feature quite a few pranks in this book. What was the process like inventing them? Any you had to scrap during the editorial process?

Kurt: I did a lot of research on pranks, and then steroided them out to make them bigger and better.  The fun part was figuring out how to make a team pull the prank off, and then write it in such a way that the reader doesn't know exactly what's being done until the very end of the chapter.  I like to think of myself as a problem solver, so it was a fun exercise with each prank, thinking, "Okay, how exactly would you make such and such happen?"  I did scrap one prank from an early draft in which the Chaos Club had turned around the first ten rows of seats in the auditorium so that everyone faced each other like in a subway car.  I ditched that scene just to get the novel moving faster.  And at one point Wheeler had a different prank than the one he pulls in the novel, but for the life of me I can't remember what it was.  I do know that I wrote the prank he pulls on the football practice field on the writers' retreat where you and I met.  My only goal that weekend was to write that chapter, and I was worried I wouldn't get it finished.  I was in such a prank planning mode though that I knocked it out in a few hours, a first for me.

Chris: That was a great writers' retreat! I'm glad to hear you got some serious work done...unlike myself. It's all about the social interaction though, right? I'll keep telling myself that. Any retreats/conventions/tours lined up for this year? I saw you hit the big time at the American Bookseller Association's Winter Institute in Denver back in January.

Kurt: I just found out my book release party is on April 6th here in Cincinnati, so I'm looking forward to that.  I'm also a guest at the Ohioana Book Festival in April, and the Pickerington Teen Book Festival in June.  There are a couple of others in Ohio I'm hoping to attend as well.  But yeah, the ABA Winter Institute was big time, and I spent most of my time looking over my shoulder worried that the book police were going to arrest me for slumming.  I know you're supposed to "act like you've been there" and all of that, but putting me in a signing room with Richard Russo and Kwame Alexander is a bit ridiculous.

Chris: Getting back to the kids for a moment - I was on a panel the other day at Boskone and we were discussing the idea that every character in a story is a hero, that they have their own story where they are they hero, even if it isn't the main narrative. I think this idea applies to DON'T GET CAUGHT in how you really developed the whole cast. They have their own struggles, problems at school/home in addition to the group's goal/conflict throughout the book. How did you go about developing each story? Do you have a favorite?

Kurt: It's funny you brought this up because I gave each of the five characters an arc thinking I had to.  It wasn't until I got into revising that my agent and editor both told me I didn't have to go to that length.  But I love ensemble casts and used The Breakfast Club as a template.  By the end of that film you know a good amount of each of those characters.  I wanted each member of the Water Tower 5, the kids looking for revenge in the novel, to each have his/her motivation for doing what they do.  Of those five, I think I like Wheeler's arc the most.  I like the idea of the classic screw-up deciding to turn things around while still not changing who he is at his core.  Like Wheeler says, he upgrades who he is, but doesn't do a new install.  So he can be more responsible without being completely responsible, which no one would like.

Chris: I love that line about upgrading versus a new install.

It wasn't until I got into revising that my agent and editor both told me I didn't have to go to that length.

I find this statement fascinating as it reads to me like they said the book was good enough as is and that you didn't need to go the extra mile. Could this be attributed to the YA market/readership? Can you expand on this a little? Terrible plans, eh? Keeping them in high school? Do you envision ever taking these characters post high school?

Kurt: In an early revision note, I'd been asked to make Stranko, the vice principal, and sort-of-antagonist in the novel, a little less moustache-twirly.  I humanized him some, and then wondered if I needed to do the same with the other four characters in Max's crew.  I'd given them all arcs on purpose, but wasn't sure if I'd gone far enough.  I was told, yep, you're fine.  Actually, giving those characters arcs is what helped me figure out the pranks.  Adleta, the lacrosse player with the terrible father, had to have a sports-related prank, and Malone, with her sexting scandal, had to get revenge on the girl who sent her picture around.  It really was pretty helpful.

Keeping anyone in high school is torture, for sure, but as much as I dig these characters, I'm not planning to write about their post-high school lives.  I would at least like to mess around with them during the senior year though.

Chris: You know every interview is going to bring up the sequel(s). Anything outlined/planned out? What's next?

Kurt: I have the basic idea for a sequel, and know a few of the pranks that will be pulled and why.  I've started an outline and even some of the writing, which is a fun task because I like these characters so much.  Hopefully I get approached to write a sequel soon because I have terrible plans for all of these characters.  I mean, there have to be repercussions for the pranks they pulled, right?  Do any of us really ever truly get away with anything?

Chris: Do any of us really ever truly get away with anything? - now that's a hell of tag line for a sequel. I'll let you have the final word!

Kurt: The last word?  Okay, I can do that.  Look, reader of Chris' blog, I get it, you read a lot of crime, and, like Chris, maybe you don't read a lot of YA.  But here's the thing, I read a lot of crime, too.  In fact, I pretty much bow at the altar of Donald Westlake, the master of the comic caper novel.  DON'T GET CAUGHT is in that vain, just with high school kids and a lot more dick jokes.  If you happen to read the novel and not like it, Chris promises he'll refund your money.  What a good guy he is!

Get your copies of DON'T GET CAUGHT

LOCAL

AMAZON

a book a week 1.7

The Horror! Autumn has finally arrived and that means it's time to delve back into one of my favorite genres. Without further ado....

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Jack & Jill by Kealan Patrick Burke

As a big fan of Burke's work, I was psyched for the chance to get my hands on an early read of his latest novella, JACK & JILL. Having read four of his novellas (and way past due on the rest) I can say that Burke has mastered this short form - providing tight pacing and plots that pack an emotional punch, along with his style of scares and dread that has become so well known.

The novella follows Gillian, one half of 'Jack and Jill,' as an adult, and deals with her struggle with recurring nightmares/dreams from events of her childhood.

JACK & JILL is one of my favorite reads of the year. The beautifully odd - and sometimes ugly - dream sequences took me back to the opening pages of Burke's novel, KIN, and one of the best scenes I've ever had the pleasure of reading. The images of Gillian's 'dream version' of her father are truly frightening, especially when...well I won't spoil that. Likewise, near the end of the novella (no spoilers) there is a pivotal moment that hangs on one phrase, and just when you might think there isn't enough space to pull it off, you realize Burke had already set the foundation and it makes perfect sense.

JACK & JILL hits the stands (e-book) in November 2013.

BREW

Brew by Bill Braddock

Holy smokes... you know when you read, "His eyes focused on her abdomen, just below the floating rib, where several inches of plump, externally herniated intestine shone in the light. He licked his lips. What would it taste like?", in the first few pages, that you are in for a ride. It's the Hell Yeah kind of ride that took me back to what I love about horror, and reminded me why I was so taken by the genre many years ago.

One minute the city of College Heights is party central and the next...well, green ooze dripping psychos are going to town on each other. BREW nails survival horror - tight pacing, blistering action, and well-developed characters (spread throughout the city/campus, natch) who are real and whose decisions throughout the course of the novel make sense (crucial). When done poorly, survival horror boils down to a handful of paragraphs detailing whatever creative deaths the author could conjure up. When done well, or as in the case with BREW, very well, you hang on every word.

EveryHouseIsHaunted

Every House is Haunted by Ian Rogers

Some of the best dark/horror fiction these days can be found in short story collections. Ian Roger's EVERY HOUSE IS HAUNTED is no exception.

EVERY HOUSE IS HAUNTED lands smack in the middle of some of my favorite kinds of horror. It's haunting (as the title suggests) but more than that, it carries a ghostly vibe throughout. The stories are moody and thought provoking, odd and sometimes bizarre. The story "The House on Ashley Avenue" was nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award this year. My other favorites were "Autumnology," "The Currents," "Leaves Brown," "The Rifts Between Us," "Hunger," "Inheritor," and "Twillingate."

Rogers has also pulled together a little commentary on the collection. While it didn't make the book, I recommend you check it out HERE after you've read the stories. I'm a junkie for that kind of 'behind the scenes' look - there is always something fascinating behind excellent short fiction, especially when you veer into dark/odd/haunting tales.

Sacrifice Island

Sacrifice Island by Kristin Dearborn

SACRIFICE ISLAND is a novella about a pair of paranormal investigators who head to the Philippines in search of material for their latest book. It's difficult to delve into more of the plot without getting into serious spoiler territory, but suffice it to say, Dearborn does an excellent job of reinvigorating what may seem like an old story and worn tropes. She doesn't waste time with pieces of the mystery that you can put together early on, instead focusing on the characters and their unique traits which are cleverly revealed along the way. Overall, what appeared at first to be an easy trek through the jungle, turned out to be much more and a fun read. Another great example of why I love the novella. Looking forward to Dearborn's novel, TRINITY.

Candy House

Candy House by Kate Jonez

Roland, a brilliant young scientist, loses his prestigious job and is forced to move back home with his parents. If that weren't bad enough, his neighbors are a family of witches, imps and demons.

It has been quite a while since I read any Dark Fantasy, but I'll be seeking out more after reading CANDY HOUSE. I found Jonez's writing to be very engaging, especially the scenes at the neighbors. The vibe of CANDY HOUSE reminded me of Brother's Grimm and Alice and Wonderland - full of odd/bizarre moments, unreliable characters, and dream-like sequences. It took me a little bit to get into the book, but once the full extent/agenda of the neighbors is revealed, I was hooked.

So...what's next? My TBR pile is ever-changing, but with the end of the year fast approaching, these are the five I have my sights on:

Snowblind     The Thicket     Country Hardball     The Inner City     The Last Porno Theater     Day One Kenyon

The Moment

That moment when you just knew you had to write. Do you have one? A time and/or place that's burned into your memory, when a little voice told you, I need to write a novel/short story/poem/etc.

I do. I don't remember the exact time or place, but I guess I was maybe seven or eight years old when I first saw the film, BACK TO THE FUTURE.

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At the very end Marty returns home and finds that his father is a successful science fiction author. Something about that scene, when George McFly opens the box and shows off his latest book (influenced by Marty's actions in the past) just clicked with me. I needed to write a book one day. Perhaps it was a need to create more than anything else.

I went through some bins of school work at my parent's house last year around the holidays. Found a short story from seventh grade, "For the Love of Money." A crime tale set in 1925.

A car careens around a corner firing bullets at an unseen vehicle...

Frank Castle and Commissioner Gordon make an appearance, no less. There is a car chase, a lot of gunfire. I'd probably be suspended or put on some watch list if I were in school today. But at least it appears the bug stuck with me.

It took me 20 years, a go at short stories, and more than a few false starts before I'd written a novel. The need is still great as ever.

On to the next one.