Category Archives: Fridays with BQB

#FridaysWithBQB – Interview #7 – Sean P. Carlin – A Couple of Gen Xers Talk About Movies, Screenwriting and Zombie Prison Breaks

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I first virtually met Sean P. Carlin in 2015. Wow, has it been that long? I was surrounded by hideous undead brain biters during the infamous East Randomtown zombie apocalypse which, if you’re one of the 3.5 readers of my blog, then you know that was a thing that actually happened. Check out #31ZombieAuthors on Twitter for more information.  I was interviewing authors of zombie fiction, getting their advice on how to keep my brains safe and low and behold, Sean reached out on Twitter to offer what assistance he could.

By the way, the rest of you people reading this offered me no assistance against the zombie hordes whatsoever, so you’ll all have to live with that guilt and shame for the rest of your lives. Sean, on the other hand, can go on with a clear conscience.

My God, 3.5 readers. Look at that smile Sean is flashing. What reason could anyone possibly have to be that happy? Did he just win the lottery? Did someone give him a cookie? Has he concocted a maniacal, supervillain plot to hold the world for ransom?
Perhaps all those reasons and more are in play, or maybe he’s just pleased that his novel, “Escape From Rikers Island” will be out soon. Maybe he’s happy he’s a screenwriter during a new golden age of television and cinema, where streaming technology is making it possible for more projects to be greenlit than ever.

Maybe it’s just gas? I don’t know. Let’s ask him.

BOLD = BQB; ITALICS=Sean

QUESTION #1 – Sean, I’m utterly miserable 24/7. I’ve tried yoga. I’ve tried meditation. I’ve tried tai chi and chai tea (at the same time.) Nothing ever works. I’m stuck being a mopey prick. So I must ask, why do you look so happy in the picture above? Is it due to any of the reasons I listed above?

And while we’re at it, are we really in a new golden age of TV and movies thanks to streaming or is that just something I made up in a fever dream? I did eat some bad taco salad earlier so hallucinations on my part are entirely possible.

RESPONSE #1: Well, that particular photo was taken in Badlands National Park in South Dakota in 2016, during a three-week road trip my wife and I took through the western United States, so I was in a pretty good mood! (I think I’m also somewhat smiling in goofy disbelief at the sheer force of the wind blowing against my face, as evidenced by the Ace Ventura–style sweep of my hair!)

But, regardless, I consider myself a pretty happy guy! I’ve got a wonderful wife, the best friends a man could ask for, and I get to “traffic in my own daydreams” for a living, to borrow the phraseology of UCLA screenwriting chair Richard Walter. Not too shabby.

When I get gloomy, and God knows we’re living in some strange days, I try to remember something my late father once said: Each of scored an invite to the Big Party — life itself. When you stop to consider the astronomical odds against simply being alive, and the finiteness of that life (however long it may last), it’s hard to justify wasting such a miraculous opportunity on perpetual cynicism and negativity.

On the subject of wasting time (just kidding — sort of): Are we in a Golden Age of Television? In terms of both an abundance of quality material and creative opportunities for writers of all different stripes and backgrounds, yes, I would say so. Television has certainly eclipsed cinema with respect to the narrative and thematic complexity of its storytelling. Movies simply don’t matter the way they once did; they don’t drive the cultural conversation like they did in the twentieth century. Television — if one can even identify the medium by that antiquated designation anymore — has assumed the mantle of cultural conversation-starter.

That said, though, there’s too much of it. There are something like five hundred scripted shows in production at present across the various platforms, and most of them are structured in this ongoing, serialized format, which requires you to watch every episode, in sequential order, for years on end. You know what I’m saying? If you’re going to commit to a show like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead, you are required to start from the beginning, follow every episode, and stick with it for however many seasons its open-ended, ever-expanding narrative can continue to run. Sometimes that’s fun, but more often than not, I’m starting to find it exhausting. It’s such a breath of fresh air, in a way, when a show like Seth MacFarlane’s The Orville comes along, a series in which each episode tells a closed-ended, perfectly self-contained story with a resolution and — anyone remember these? — a point. You can watch any episode of The Orville, in any order, and follow the story of that particular installment without confusion. Unlike virtually every other drama on TV right now, it doesn’t demand to be watched week in and week out. Good for MacFarlane for daring to be square. Who would’ve imagined, back when we were growing up, that old-fashioned, standalone storytelling would one day be subversive?

QUESTION #2 – I’ve got to be honest. I interview a lot of authors on this fine blog, but I’ve never read any of their works. I’d like to, but I don’t have the time. (FYI if you’re reading this and you’re an author I interviewed, please know I’m not talking about you. I read all of your stuff and it was great. I’m talking about all those other chumps who aren’t you.)

All that being said, “Escape from Rikers Island” sounds like something I’d actually be interested in plunking my hard earned money down for. In fact, in January, I made 12 cents off of a book I self-published on Amazon, so I’ll probably put that towards a copy of your book.

The description you give on your blog intrigues me. A detective has to work with gangbangers he put behind bars to escape a zombie infestation that has broken out on Rikers Island, the infamous New York prison. I can see it now. Backstabbing, intrigue, revenge, and brain biters. Surely, if one of the zombies doesn’t eat the detective’s brains, one of the criminals with a grudge against him will try to bash them in.

Not gonna lie. I can see this as a movie. I’d go see that and eat lots of popcorn to it. Tell my 3.5 readers more about this. What inspired you to write what will surely turn out to be a masterpiece? More importantly, when this book becomes a bestseller, will you remember the little people, like me and my 3.5 readers, or will you go all Hollywood and forget us all?

RESPONSE #2: Far from my ensuring my seat at the table in the halls of Hollywood power, I’m actually hoping Escape from Rikers Island will signify my long-desired escape from L.A.! The concept was originally devised as a spec screenplay in 2011; we even had Ice Cube attached to star and produce for a Los Angeles minute. But as is so often the case in the movie biz, the project didn’t move forward, and I moved on to other things (that also didn’t move forward!) with other producers.

Eventually I grew frustrated with the inability to get new materials sold and/or produced in Hollywood, and I’d been privately entertaining the notion of writing a novel, anyway. This was in 2014, when the riots in Ferguson were making headlines, and that, along with the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner (among, unfortunately, many others), were catalyzing this uncomfortable (but overdue) national conversation about the militarization of the police, and their strained relationship with underprivileged communities. At the same time, the stop-and-frisk program of racial profiling was coming under intense critical scrutiny in my hometown of New York, and I thought, “Well, maybe I’ll revisit Escape from Rikers Island, but this time do it as a novel where I’ll really have the canvas to explore some of those sociopolitical issues with depth and nuance.” Because the real-estate limitations of a screenplay just don’t allow for that kind of philosophical digression or thematic complexity.

So, yes, EFRI is about a white NYPD detective and a black gangbanger — men on different sides of the law who also happen to share a complicated, contentious history with one another — who are forced to set aside their considerable differences and work together to escape New York’s sprawling, 415-acre detention center during a sudden zombie-like outbreak among the 15,000 inmates there! It’s a mashup of two popular subgenres I’ve never really seen combined: the “prison break” and “zombie outbreak” narratives. That was an exciting place to start, because I could immediately see all these very familiar tropes and conventions “remixed” and presented in a new way.

And I could’ve set the story in any old prison — one of my own invention, even — but Rikers Island is such a fascinating, labyrinthine place with a bizarrely sordid history, and what makes it all the more compelling is how little most people really know of it. And I’m talking about New Yorkers, mind you: Most lifelong residents couldn’t even find Rikers on a map! And I thought, “Yep — that’s my setting.” And when you put two men who really don’t like each other in a place that’s dark and dangerous under normal circumstances, and then throw the undead into the mix, all the tensions simmering between them are exacerbated, and you don’t know if these guys are going to survive each other, let alone the zombie outbreak in this inescapable fortress.

So, I took the premise, plot, and set pieces from the screenplay I’d developed a few years earlier, and then I used the breadth the prose format afforded to really dig deep into the psychologies and characterizations of these two native New Yorkers: to learn their backstories, to portray the complexity of their lawman-and-outlaw dynamic, and to use their perspectives as guys who grew up as lower-class kids in the outer boroughs to say something about the world as it is right now. I think good horror has always done that; certainly Night of the Living Dead, the first contemporary zombie tale, operates on two levels beautifully: It’s a chilling monster story with a profound sociocultural conscience.

Question #3 – Is the zombie genre dying? Is it dead…er, or undead? Personally, I love “The Walking Dead” but I do think the “survivors banding together to traverse the zombie infested landscape” bit is jumping the shark. Perhaps that’s why authors are turning to new ways to put humans amidst zombies, i.e. in your case, a prison full of brain chompers. It’s not that people are tired of zombies but just that authors need to find new ways to put brains into peril. Thoughts?

RESPONSE #3: I don’t think any genre is ever dead. Sometimes they become creatively depleted for a time, until someone comes along with a new spin. I remember a few years ago, when Twilight was all the rage, and people were saying, “Vampires are in vogue again!” When weren’t they, exactly? I mean, at what point during the twentieth century alone did vampires fall out of fashion? During the silent-film era, we had Vampyr and Nosferatu. Then Bela Lugosi reinterpreted the archetype in formalwear. Hammer came along and brought vampires out of the shadows of expressionism and into living Technicolor. Then Anne Rice took the genre and reimagined it as a domestic drama — Ordinary People with vampires. The Hunger gave us lesbian vampires, which was kind of a big deal in the early days of the AIDS epidemic. The Lost Boys was, incredibly, the first to do teenage vampires, which became its own subgenre with Buffy and Twilight and The Vampire Diaries. Every time the genre starts to slip into self-parody — and we’re certainly there now with the whole emo-vampire thing — somebody comes along again with a fresh take on it, and everything old becomes relevant anew.

Zombies are no different, really. Max Brooks repurposed them for the post-9/11 era, as an allegory for bioterrorism and so forth. What Kirkman did so brilliantly was that he took this zombie-apocalypse narrative we love — notably Dawn of the Dead, but pretty much any of them adhered to the same basic template — and said, “But now what happens?” In the closed-ended structure of the Dead movies, Romero used the metaphor of the zombie apocalypse to comment on some sociological concern, be it civil rights or conspicuous consumption or what have you. With The Walking Dead, it’s the structure itself — the open-ended, nonlinear, What now…? format — that is the social commentary, such as it is, of the show: In a Digital Age that has completely upended our traditional understanding of beginnings, middles, and ends — of linear narrative arcs — The Walking Dead becomes a reflection of a worldview in which there is no resolution, no helicopter that’s going to show up in the final reel to airlift us away from the existential intractability of our problems. And that’s exciting… for a while. But it can become tedious, too. And I think the viewer fatigue with the show you point out indicates a longing for a conclusion — Where’s the damn helicopter already? — or some kind of point to it all, like we get each week from The Orville. But to those waiting for that, I would refer you to Lost: It ain’t gonna happen because the entire point of the show is that it’s simply meant to keep expanding until, like the well walker from season two, it finally collapses under its own bloated weight.

And then perhaps the genre will go into remission for a while, until someone figures out a way to reinvent it. Certainly with Escape from Rikers Island, I made a very conscious choice to subvert popular convention and tell the story of a contained outbreak, not an apocalyptic one. In that sense, structurally, EFRI is much closer to Jurassic Park than it is to The Walking Dead. One way isn’t better than the other; you just have to make a creative decision that best serves the story you’re trying to tell.

Question #4 – On your blog, you discuss how every villain has a backstory. Villains aren’t born. They’re made. They all have some reason why they turned bad. As you point out, Jason Voorhees was left to die by incompetent camp counselors, while the ghosts in “Poltergeist” weren’t happy that suburban homes sprouted up on their burial grounds.

I find myself in agreement. Let’s face it. Darth Vader carries “Star Wars.” In any given story, is the villain more interesting than the hero? Should any aspiring writers who happen to be reading this put extra effort into crafting their baddies?

RESPONSE #4: I think every character in a story should be as interesting as possible! The theme of a good story is reflected in the protagonist’s arc: If you look at Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod Crane is a man who rejects faith in favor of science; he lives exclusively in the quirky intellect of his own head (hence his surname). And then the Headless Horseman comes along, whose very existence challenges Crane’s worldview, because this is a supernatural creature, unexplainable by science, without a head! Protagonist and antagonist are perfect physical and spiritual opposites, and through that opposition, the story’s thematics are fully and richly explored. That’s an extreme, almost on-the-nose example, but I think it illustrates why a hero and villain should be designed to work like counterparts in a Swiss watch, each one indispensably integral to the story’s conflict and, ultimately, its meaning.

Some story models, like the superhero genre (of which The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi are a part), require a more defined or overt villain than others. (There’s no villain, after all, in When Harry Met Sally…, or Forgetting Sarah Marshall, or even Star Trek IV.) But a good villain should definitely have a logical point of view and corresponding agenda, and should always be designed with an eye toward how he affects the protagonist externally (the story’s major plot conflict) as well as internally (the hero’s transformational arc). Darth Vader is certainly one of the all-time greats, because in addition to being visually striking and psychologically layered (we learn a bit more about him in each movie), he serves as a stark example for the idealistic, sometimes overeager Luke of what can happen when great power isn’t tempered with moral discipline. Being the Chosen One comes with a terrible burden of responsibility, and true heroism is often far from a Romantic ideal; the Luke of Return of the Jedi understands that in a way he simply didn’t before his harrowing confrontation with Vader at the climax of Empire.

Right now, the high-water mark in cinematic villainy has probably yet to be surpassed by Heath Ledger’s Joker. And it’s an amazing performance, for sure, but absent Ledger’s captivating interpretation, you still have a very dynamic characterization right there on the page: The way he challenges Batman ideologically gives The Dark Knight a depth it wouldn’t otherwise have — that the original Burton movie certainly doesn’t have — if he was merely a physical threat. Batman, like Luke Skywalker, is made wiser for his contest with the nemesis; there’s no story without either one of them, so both are equally important.

Question #5 – Can we talk about “The Last Jedi?” You wrote an extensive post about it, focusing on Gen-Xers’ feelings towards it. I’ll get to Gen X in the next question, but I’d like your overall thoughts on the film. Or rather, I’ll tell you what I thought and then you can tell me if I’m right or wrong.

I thought this movie sucked with the gale force wind of a thousand hoover vacuum cleaners. That’s not a charge I toss out easily, as my 3.5 readers will attest, I’m fairly kind to most movies I review.  I mean, hell, any movie that has been made is better than mine, because I haven’t made one, so who am I to judge?  But I stand by my claim here.  It really sucked.

Ironically, I enjoyed “The Force Awakens.” However, (SPOILER ALERT), the ending of that movie gives us this broad, sweeping scene where Rey meets the long-lost Luke Skywalker. The two lock eyes and you’re like, “Oh my God! Rey has found the master who can teach her the ways of the Force!”

So, I went into “The Last Jedi” expecting a lot of awesome training montages where Luke would become the Mr. Miyagi to Rey’s Daniel-san, but instead, all I got was an old man whining about his misspent life. At no time ever does he offer Rey anything in the way of practical advice and I just felt like if I wanted to see an older person bitch and moan about lost youth, I’d just record myself, but no one wants to listen to that, so I’m not sure why anyone thought people would want to hear such ennui from Luke Skywalker.

In short, I came in the hopes of Luke teaching Rey awesome light saber tricks and instead, I got to watch an old man turn a young girl into his discount psychiatrist, telling her all his problems, that frankly, she probably didn’t want to here.

Am I right? Wrong? What say you?

RESPONSE #5: Boy, it’s so hard to know where to start with The Last Jedi. I thought — and there are many who disagree — it was a very sloppy, indulgent, tonally uneven piece of filmmaking. Also, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a blockbuster movie that displayed such open contempt for its own fan base. It’s hard to guess what Rian Johnson was thinking when he made it, and I certainly can’t find logic in the decision to hire a nostalgic director for the first one, then pass the baton to an iconoclastic director for the second one. I think Disney needed from the outset to pick a creative direction, one way or the other but not both, and see that vision through. Trying to have it both ways has been, it would seem, a mistake.

But that actually goes to a much bigger challenge Disney is now facing with this franchise. They paid through the nose for one of the very few branded IPs that everyone adores: Star Wars is the holy grail of four-quadrant appeal. But what I don’t think they took into account was how the very history of the series complicates its relationship with the different generations of fans, right? On the one hand, you’ve got the first-generation audience who grew up with this series in real time, and thusly feels very proprietary about it; they’ve also spent the last thirty-five years both waiting to see Luke Skywalker back in action, and wondering if that would in fact ever even happen. So, for them, The Last Jedi is the culmination of literally a lifetime of hopes and dreams, a reunion with a childhood hero they didn’t know for certain they’d ever see again.

On the other hand, you’ve got the third-generation fans, for whom forty years of history is binge-experienced — compressed and consumed in short order, like a season of television that streams on Netflix — so what a ten-year-old expects from Star Wars isn’t what a forty-year-old does. The “return of Luke Skywalker” doesn’t carry the same emotional weight or sense of expectation for them, therefore they aren’t disappointed with his controversial depiction in The Last Jedi, or Anakin’s in The Phantom Menace, for that matter; to their eyes, it’s all just one more episode in the never-ending continuum of the saga. And they’re not wrong to feel that way — it’s simply the perspective they have on the narrative, having made no temporal investment in it. It’s the difference between showing up for the harvest versus having sown the seeds and tended the crops.

Consequently, Disney finds itself trying to service two incompatible and irreconcilable demographics. And I suspect what you’re going to start to see moving forward is a Star Wars that exclusively caters to younger and newer viewers. Even the nostalgic-to-a-fault J. J. Abrams is limited now in how much fan service he can indulge in Episode IX, what with the onscreen deaths of Luke and Han, and the off-screen death of Carrie Fisher. For better or worse, Star Wars is going to be a new thing now, for a new audience, and my generation is going to have to learn to accept that and, if they don’t like it, move on from it, because, if we don’t, Star Wars will only continue to disappoint us — that much is undeniable now.

We all wanted these new movies to put us back in touch with the child within. I’m honestly not sure that would’ve been possible even if this sequel trilogy hadn’t been so ill-conceived from Day One. Some very questionable choices got made — from signing the original troika to the project and then not giving them any storylines together, to teeing up a big backstory for Rey only to tell us, “No, there isn’t one, actually, and you were idiots for expecting otherwise” — and there’s no reversing that now. But the good news, such as it is, is this: We are finally free to let go of Star Wars. We don’t have to keep retuning to this franchise with Pavlovian fealty, because the thing we wanted so desperately from it is never coming to us. But there can be solace in acceptance, though acceptance by nature is bittersweet, because we only have to learn to accept things we wish weren’t so.

QUESTION #6 – You mention in your post you saw “Return of the Jedi” in the movie theater. I did too. Ergo, I’m going to venture a guess we are roughly within the same age range. (How do you stay well preserved? Are you a vampire or something? I wake up everyday looking like someone clocked my face with a brick, but I digress.)

In your post about fan reactions to “The Last Jedi,” you discuss how Gen-Xers love their 1980s pop culture and how they often are let down by modern day reboots. As you paraphrased Roy Batty, the villain from “Blade Runner,” all those feelings that Gen-Xers had about the pop culture from their youth are gone, “like tears in the rain.”

I agree. Whenever I watch a reboot of a franchise I enjoyed in the 1980s, I try to remember a) it’s about today’s kids. I had my time to be a kid. Now today’s movies must appeal to today’s kids and b) a reboot doesn’t take away the old movie. The new “Ghostbusters” didn’t remove the Bill Murray classic. I can still watch Murray and Akroyd clown around with proton packs on their backs any time.

Ultimately, if a franchise has to be changed in order to make today’s kids happy, I’m for it. Where I get critical is when the source material is tinkered with just for the sake of change, i.e. some Hollywood suit just wanted to do something different just to make it his/her own.

It’s a double-edged sword. In some respects, 1980s source material may not hold up for today’s youth. Then again, there’s a reason why the source material was so popular, so radical deviations from a tried and true formula may leave the filmmaker with egg on his/her face.

OK. I’ll stop rambling on and on and ask what you think about all that.

RESPONSE #6: In order to fully appreciate how we came to be stuck in this Era of the Endless Reboot, you have to look at Gen X’s place in history from a sociological standpoint. (I am an Xer myself.) Barring an actual zombie apocalypse, which I think many of us would welcome at this point, we are the last generation in the history of humanity — really consider this for a moment — that will retain any memory of the bygone analog world in which every moment we experienced as we experienced it wasn’t being recorded and posted online, and one could actually run down to the grocery store and be out of reach for twenty minutes without setting off a family-wide panic. In the span of a single generation, human civilization went from a linear sense of reality (as we’ve understood it for the past several millennia, and as reflected in our closed-looped fictions like Star Wars: A New Hope and Night of the Living Dead and TOS and TNG) to a hyperlinked one (as exemplified by Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead and Mr. Robot). Make no mistake: We are deeply traumatized by the passing of the analog world into the new, ever-on, always-interconnected Digital Era. Millennials don’t have this problem, because they were born into a digital world. (They have other issues as a result of that, but that’s a different matter.)

And that’s where all the incessant recapitulation of 1980s ephemera — Star Wars, Ghostbusters, Transformers, Lethal Weapon, Cobra Kai — comes in: It’s a coping mechanism. We’ve escaped into the bedtime stories of a less-complicated era — Star Wars serves as a reminder of the straight-line, analog pleasures of the lost world in which we came of age — and we’ve kind of gotten ourselves addicted to that nostalgia. Which would be bad enough in itself, but as the current custodians of pop culture, we’re force-feeding today’s kids the stories and heroes of a previous century, and I think that’s a pretty irresponsible abdication of our cultural obligation (and I’m calling out filmmakers like J. J. Abrams for it). They deserve their own heroes, their own legends, not our warmed-over second helpings. But, then, we’re not really making Star Wars or Transformers for them; we’re making it for ourselves. Which makes us a generation that’s submitted to willing infantilization, doesn’t it? So when we start finding ourselves prematurely put out to pasture by the Millennials — which is, to be clear, already happening — we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves. We’re a generation about looking behind, not ahead. And our pop culture is a pitiable testament to that.

So all the reboots, therefore, act as a sort of Groundhog Day-like time warp in which we get to perennially relive the eighties — that fragile, fleeting, blissful moment right before our collective worldview was irreparably shattered. I mean, that’s the essence of Ready Player One, isn’t it? While the world is going to hell around us, we’ve retreated into this immersive, orgiastic virtual-reality simulation of an eighties pop-cultural time capsule. It’s The Goldbergs meets The Matrix. Ready Player One is just an exaggerated fable of what we’re actually doing, and we should be troubled by what it says about us.

BQB EDITORIAL NOTE:  Yikes, you’ve convinced me.  I think I’m going to go lie down in the grass and let the moss grow over me, but first, let’s carry on with this interview.

QUESTION #7 – I think your use of the “tears in the rain” quote sums up Gen-X’s attempts to relive youth via reboots to no avail succinctly. My parents were baby boomers and all they had to offer me from their time was literally 90,343 cowboy movies. I can’t even imagine what watching TV from 1950-1970 was like. “Do you want to watch a cowboy movie? No thanks, I’m already watching another cowboy movie.”

All the cowboy movies were the same too. Stoic hero wants to save the town. Villain wants to destroy the town. Townsfolk turn on the hero, tell him to let the villain win or else things will get worse for the town. Hero displays great courage and has a shoot out with the villain in the end.

Somewhere around the 1970s, Hollywood retired all the six-shooters. We got “Star Wars.” We got “Aliens.” The 1980s gave us “Terminator,” “Goonies,” and a slew of Schwarzenegger and Stallone action flicks.

Ultimately, movies, at least when it comes to special effects, were just starting to become great when we were kids. I suppose there’s an argument that many old black and white films were good too, but I didn’t really appreciate those until I became an adult.

What I’m saying is children of the 1980s got to see things that were never seen on film before. It all even got better in the 1990s. “Jurassic Park” ushered in a whole new era of CGI.

It was fun, but now that the special effects have been around for so long, we’ll never be able to relive that simpler time when all of the stuff we were seeing on screen seemed like real life magic, will we?

RESPONSE #7: We’ve mythologized the 1980s the way Boomers did the fifties. But even at that, our parents didn’t fetishize their childhood heroes and fantasies the way we do. That’s an idiopathic characteristic of Generation X. I will certainly agree, as someone who experienced it firsthand, that Lucas and Spielberg and their contemporaries, in the ’70s and ’80s, conjured a level of cinematic wonder and wizardry the likes of which had no precedent, and stories like Ready Player One are nothing if not a sincere and loving paean to that. (And now we’ve come full circle, with Spielberg directing the RP1 feature adaptation.) As you observe, those were magical movies. They were more than movies; they were visions. And when you couple that with the fact that they were the first movies we ever saw, it made for some very profound childhood impressions, but perhaps it also got us hooked on that special brand of astonishment to the point where we’ve spent our adult lives chasing that initial high. That’s what I mean when I say we have an addiction to nostalgia. We want those analog pleasures back — we would happily trade every convenience of the Digital Age for them — but they’re tears in rain, like you say. The analog world isn’t coming back. Our innocence isn’t coming back. Ever. It’s all gone. But it doesn’t mean we can’t find new pleasures and meaningful experiences yet, we just need to learn to live in the here and now. We’re still at the Big Party, after all! Let’s make the most of it. Let’s agree, collectively, that the Skywalkers had their day — those stories were indelible and cherished parts of our formative experiences — but this is a new day now. I’m reminded of that old Guns N’ Roses lyric: “Yesterday’s got nothin’ for me/ Old pictures that I’ll always see/ I ain’t got time to reminisce old novelties.”

QUESTION #8 – I thought the 2014 reboot of “Robocop” was actually pretty tight. It captured the spirit of the movie, the ennui of a man who sort of remembers his past but doesn’t really, how he’s this badass machine yet there’s not much of the human part of him left so he doesn’t feel very whole. There were updates for modern times yet I walked away thinking it was a reboot that did the original justice.

Have you seen any reboots out there that Gen X and Millennials can agree on?

RESPONSE #8: The one that springs to mind would be the recent Planet of the Apes trilogy, though I confess I haven’t yet seen the third movie. That’s no easy feat they pulled off, operating as a faithful prologue to the Charlton Heston classic — and giving it a contextual backstory that’s enlightening rather than redundant (à la the Star Wars prequels) — but also existing as its own thing that doesn’t require franchise familiarity to enjoy. They also, like the original, have something directly relevant to say about the folkways of the era in which they were produced, which good sci-fi, like good horror, ought to do.

It also took tremendous courage on the part of the storytellers to make Caesar the protagonist, and not sideline him in favor of a human surrogate. Michael Bay’s Transformers movies made that mistake: Rather than letting the robots be the main, front-and-center heroes, as they were in the old cartoon series, they got skittish and told the story through the eyes of a human character — first Shia and later Mark Wahlberg. I bet they worried that audiences wouldn’t relate to a nonhuman protagonist (which is pretty ironic considering how emotionally vacuous Bay’s movies have always been). Planet of the Apes proved that audiences can empathize with an anthropomorphic hero even in a live-action movie. I mean, yes, they had the benefit of photorealistic CGI and Andy Serkis’ motion-capture mastery, but it was the artful characterization of Caesar that made us empathize with him. Those movies are very emotional, in complete contrast with Transformers.

QUESTION #9 – Suppose my 3.5 readers are aspiring screenwriters. What’s the first thing they should do to get started?

RESPONSE #9: I hold bachelor’s degrees in both cinema and English, and it was only when I became a working screenwriter that I realized how little I knew about storytelling craft. Why doesn’t college — or even high school — offer a basic Storytelling 101 course? Instead, they talk a lot of theory. And theory is interesting, and not without value, but someone who wants to learn the nuts and bolts of storytelling — for any medium — needs to learn, practice, and master three fundamentals: structure, genre, and characterization. And to do that, you need to study a codified methodology — a program of unified principles that can show you how you build a story from the ground up and create an emotionally engaging narrative experience. You can write a great script intuitively once, perhaps, but in order to know how to do it on command, you have to develop your toolbox. So, for that, I would recommend studying Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey for mythic structure, Blake Snyder’s three Save the Cat! books for an overview of the ten types of genres (or story models), and David Freeman’s Beyond Structure workshop to learn the techniques of effective characterization. That’s all you need to know to master the discipline, and it’ll only cost you about $300 total, versus what you’d spend on a degree to learn nothing especially useful. But you’ll need to reread and practice those materials often, for several years, before they become second nature.

Those three pillars of storytelling are what aspirants need to be worried about learning. Then, if you want to be a screenwriter, you can read Syd Field’s Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting, which will teach you the formatting requirements of that particular medium; if you want to be an author, which has its own syntactic demands, read David Morrell’s The Successful Novelist; Dennis O’Neil’s The DC Comics Guide to Writing Comics can give you an overview of that specific form. But that all comes later; first and foremost you have to commit to learning the fundamentals of narratology.

The last point I would add is that, as my mentor David Freeman is so fond of saying, there are no rules, only tools. Aspiring screenwriters often cling to absolutes, and they look to industry-standard instructionals like Save the Cat! to provide those: If I do X and Y, I’ll get Z. If my inciting incident hits on page 12, and my first act break on 25, I’ll have a story that works. If only. Storytelling is about applied craft, for sure, but there’s no magic formula. A hammer is only as effective as the carpenter is skilled at using it.

QUESTION #10 – My condolences. You’ve been convicted of cutting that little tag off your mattress in the first degree and have been sentenced to life in prison without parole. Sorry, but mattress tag laws are very strict.

You’re just beginning to adjust to prisoner life when a zombie outbreak, similar to the one in your novel, occurs. You look inside a random cell, hoping to find items you can use to save your brains from the undead.

Alas, the only three items you find are a) a ukulele b) an origami unicorn and c) a 50-foot long licorice whip.

How will you use these items to defend yourself against the incoming zombie horde?

RESPONSE #10: Do you have any idea just how resourceful and inventive prison inmates are? There’s no telling what they could devise from those three items! I’m not nearly as imaginative as someone who’s been confined indefinitely to a six-by-eight concrete box, but I’d wager they could use the origami unicorn as a “kite” — a coded message passed under cell doors — to coordinate an escape. The ukulele? Hell, that’s an armory unto itself: the neck and headstock could be fashioned into a stake; the strings used as garrotes; the body could be splintered into shivs. As for a fifty-foot licorice whip… well, how else you gonna climb down the outer wall? But you’re gonna want to use a tough, rubbery brand, and not the soft, chewy kind. Stale Twizzlers, maybe; steer clear of Red Vines. You’d think the chances of encountering any one of those articles in jail is pretty slim, but you’d be surprised the kind of contraband that turns up. Licorice is the least of it.

BQB EDITORIAL NOTE: My BQB HQ supercomputer indicates this response has roughly a 93.49% chance of successfully warding off a zombie attack, so good show.  Thank you for stopping by, Sean, and let my 3.5 readers know when we can get our hands on a copy of “Escape from Rikers Island.”

 

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#FridaysWithBQB – Interview #6- Sydney Everson – Young Adult Novels, Children’s Books and Sweet Romance

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Author Website

Hey 3.5 readers. Your old pal Bookshelf Q. Battler here. Today’s guest on #FridayswithBQB is Sydney Everson, a writer of children’s books, young adult novels and sweet romance. She’s also a recovering lawyer who ditched the old rat race to focus on the more important things of life, namely, raising her son and concentrating on writing.

Seriously, readers. Take your elbows off the tables and suck in your guts, there’s a respectable lady present.

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QUESTION #1 – Sydney, welcome to my blog. My apologies. It’s a mess around here. I’d pick up, but honestly, I don’t want to. You seem too good of a person, much better than the usual pack of vagrants who hang out around here, so I’ll try to get you on your way as quickly as possible.

We first virtually met on Twitter when we had a quick little chat about concentrating on one writing topic. I don’t recall what exactly was said, but generally, we were talking about how it’s not the best idea to deviate from one idea to another. A certain amount of stick-to-itiveness is required to get the job done, even when you’ve been working on an idea a long time and feel the need for a break.  It may seem satisfying to scratch that itch of a new project, but you’ll never get your old project done if you do.

You’ve completed several projects. What keeps you sticking to it?

ANSWER – I know the temptation well – you’re working on your baby, this book idea you’ve fully developed and thrown yourself into writing, but now you’re editing, you’re on draft two or three, and it’s starting to become a slog. Out of the blue, a bright, shiny new idea comes along to tempt you. It’s so fresh and exciting and you want to start on it right away. For me, I know if I chase the “shiny” I’ll never come back and finish the current project, I just won’t have the motivation anymore. But I do want to keep this nascent, fragile spark of an idea alive for when I can work on it, so I make notes. I start a new file where I jot down the ideas that come to me for the next book – plot, scenes, characters, anything that comes to mind, I jot it down and save it. Meanwhile, I keep plugging away at the current project and when it’s done, I’m ready to start on the “shiny” and already have some headway made.

QUESTION #2 – On your website, you mention you’re a member of a writer’s group in your community. Personally, I despise most people and prefer to live the life of a hermit rather than converse or share my thoughts and/or feelings with anyone. Also, I just feel I am a genius who is so intelligent that people with lesser brains could never possibly tell me anything I don’t already know, and I say that with all humility.

But, for all the normals out there, would you recommend joining a writer’s group as a means to share ideas, get feedback, stay motivated, that sort of thing?

ANSWER – Absolutely, but it may take a bit of “shopping around” to find one that’s the right fit for you. If you go to one and aren’t feeling it, don’t force yourself to keep going, but don’t give up either. Try to find another, or start your own! I’ve been to meetings of a few where I knew those just weren’t for me. Whether it was the writers’ personalities, differing goals, or even just different ideas about what the group’s purpose was, they weren’t a fit, but I’m currently in two that I love. In one group, the writers have become very good friends and are a wonderful source of support and advice. The other is a critique group which I find very helpful. Sometimes the advice is good, and sometimes it’s not, but the main thing is, by writing for it once a month, I’m forcing myself to step out of my current project for just a moment and knock out something short, quick, and creative. I find that really helps reset me sometimes and get the creative juices flowing again, especially when I’m in editing mode on one of my projects. So I guess the short answer is yes, they can help you stay creative and they can support an author’s journey to publication, but you have to find the right group for you and your goals.

QUESTION #3 – Let’s talk about young adult fiction. I don’t care for that genre myself. I mean, seriously, all these kids running around with zero life experience yet somehow they manage to save the day in the end, while leaving time for blossoming romance? Seems unrealistic to me as these kids aren’t worried about paying mortgages or credit card bills or finding the cheapest yet most effective brand of hemorrhoid medication. Don’t even get me started on what it takes to get a good life insurance policy these days.

Oh, wait a minute. I think I figured out why I don’t like young adult fiction. It’s because I’m an old adult and after a lifetime of seeing every dream I ever had flushed down the crapper, the idea of a happy ending seems like fiction to me.

You seem like a better adult than I am but still, is it hard for an adult to turn off that “adult” switch in order to put him or herself into the shoes of young characters? How do you do it?

ANSWER – I think there are a number of reasons adults enjoy young adult literature, both reading and writing it. The themes in YA lit are often ones we “adults” still struggle with, like figuring ourselves out and why we’re here, what we’re meant to be doing with our lives. I’m [censored]-ty years old and yet in some ways, I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. Even as adults, we’re not stagnant. We change, adapt, and evolve based on our experiences and the people we meet in life. The heroes and heroines of YA lit are doing the same. The things they struggle with are not exclusive to teenagers – acceptance of self and others, expressions of our individuality, issues with our families or friends, how we handle crises, etc. Those aren’t just kids’ issues, adults wrestle with them too.

Also, I think there’s an element to youth we as adults want to experience again through literature, and that is this sense of possibility. Do you remember getting in a car with your friends when you were seventeen or eighteen years old on a weekend evening and feeling like literally anything was possible –adventure, love, who knows what, but the whole world was out there and anything could happen? It’s an amazing feeling and one adults get to relive through books. Let’s face it, at my age, if I go out for an evening my friends, I know will have a glass of wine, be home in sweats by 9:30, and wake up tomorrow with a wine hangover from that one glass of chardonnay. Through YA lit, I get to relive that magical sense of open-ended possibility.

BQB EDITORIAL NOTE: I prefer to eat a bag of Chips Ahoy alone while watching old re-runs of “The Golden Girls.”  Blanche is such a card.  I’d invite friends over but then I’d have to share my cookies and I don’t want to.  I’m at an age where I value cookies over friends.  Also, I have no friends.

QUESTION #4 – You also write children’s picture books. What advice do you have for a writer who wants to get into that genre?

ANSWER – This is one I’m still trying to figure out. A lot of people think knocking out a quick picture book is easy because it’s so short, but it’s actually incredibly difficult. You have to get an entire story across in very few words and do so with heart, humor, whimsy, and, oh yeah, you might need to write the whole thing in verse. That’s insane. I’d suggest doing some research first. Publishers create picture books in fairly rigid formats, so your words and pictures may need to fit a predesigned layout of, for example, thirty-two pages. It’s a good idea to create a “dummy” layout and see how your wording fits.

QUESTION #5 – Suppose you want to write a children’s book but you have zero artistic skill. You’ve got the words planned out, but how do you go about getting the artwork? Collaborate with a designer? Are there resources out there for writers who need some illustrations for their picture books?

ANSWER – Many picture book publishers want to have the flexibility to choose the illustrator to go with the manuscript they like, so I’d say if you aren’t an author-illustrator, which I’m definitely not, you probably don’t need to worry about finding an illustrator and pairing up before you submit to a publisher as the publisher may want to choose their own illustrator. If you do want to team up with an illustrator though, a great place to start is the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). They are a wonderful resource.

QUESTION #6, Part 1 – I’m toying with the idea of writing a children’s picture book called “Get a Job and Stop Being a Terrible Financial Burden on Your Parents.”

Page 1 = Mommy and Daddy fighting over bills.
Page 2 = Kid gets a job as a bus station janitor.
Page 3 = Kid gets a job as a short order fry cook.
Page 4 = Kid gets a job as a bus driver. How he got a license I don’t know.
Page 5 = Kid gives his hard earned money to his parents who don’t have to worry about bills anymore.

The End.

Do you think I’d make a mint with that book or should I not quit my day job

ANSWER – Haha, sounds good to me! You never know what will find the right market and appeal to people. I mean, Adam Mansbach and Ricardo Cortés’s book, “Go the F*** to Sleep” was a huge hit, so who knows?

QUESTION 6, Part 2 – OK. There was actually a method to my above madness. You probably have to have a special source of optimism to be a children’s book writer, right? I assume you have to think positive thoughts and bottle up joy and happiness and distill that onto the page? Cynical schmucks like me shouldn’t apply, but how do you do it? How do you beam so much positive reinforcement out there into the world?

ANSWER – I’m a big fan of escapism. The real world can be a hard, depressing, difficult place to live sometimes, in fact, rather often, so escaping into a book either through writing or reading, is a wonderful thing. I love creating worlds people can escape into and feel love and joy, and while there’s usually some peril, I always deliver a happy ending. We don’t get enough of those in real life.

QUESTION #7 – Let’s talk about your foray into the genre of sweet romance. Personally, I’ve never experienced a romance that didn’t end with a woman spending zero amount of her time with me while she spends one hundred percent of her time with fifty-percent of my stuff. I should have hired you to be my lawyer. You could have talked those women down to forty-five percent of my stuff easy.

But I digress. For those of us who are romantically challenged, please explain what the sweet romance genre is. Bonus points if you tell us what inspired you to get into it as a writer.

ANSWER – Sounds like you may need a little of that escapism into a sweet romance too! Sweet romance is basically just a love story without things getting steamy. (Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with steamy, I have several good friends that write awesome love stories with plenty of heat). For me though, sweet romance is kind of like the Disney version of love stories, where in the end, the characters realize they are in love and seal it with a kiss. I think the fun is in the falling. I love stories that bring characters close, but then pull them apart until they finally come together in the end. I jotted down ideas for romances for a while, but never wrote them out until I learned that Hallmark was starting to publish sweet romances in the vein of their Hallmark Channel movies. I’m a not-so-closeted addict of Hallmark Channel’s movies so I decided I had to give it a try! Whether ultimately Hallmark likes my sweet romance manuscripts, or another publisher does, or I self-publish remains to be seen, but I definitely enjoy writing them.

QUESTION #8 – I notice on your website you mention you are querying many of your projects. How’s that process going and what advice do you have for anyone out there trying to do the same?

AMAZON – Well, the website implies I’m continuously querying when really it’s more in fits and starts unfortunately. I tend to finish a project, send out a handful of queries, and then follow that “shiny” I talked about earlier. In my eagerness to work on the next project, I tend to neglect querying a bit so if I give advice here, it’ll be something I need to learn to take myself. Writing is so much more than writing, it’s plotting, outlining, editing, querying or self-publishing, and marketing and every author knows how difficult it is to find time for all of that.

Nevertheless, it’s important to make time to get your work out there if you want to be traditionally published. No one’s going to publish your book if you don’t ask. So ask, and keep asking. Rejections are a part of the process. I would be shocked if there is any published author out there who hasn’t been rejected at least once, most get rejected many times. But it just takes one – one agent or editor who believes in your story and will champion it so that it gets into readers’ hands. I’d recommend researching successful query letters, find a format that works for you, and research agents, making sure they are a good fit for your story. Manuscript Wish List is a great site for finding agents who are looking for books like yours. Then keep at it! (I’m talking to myself here too).

QUESTION #9 – Have you ever thought about self-publishing? Ever since I made a whopping 12 cents off of a book I self-published, I have become a self-appointed ambassador for the self-publishing industry, trying turn as many converts as I can. Come on over, the water’s fine and Jeff Bezos is passing out entire cents like candy! “One of us! One of us! Gooble, gobble, one of us!”

AMAZON – Definitely. I have quite a few author friends in the self-publishing world. I’m watching what they do very closely to try to learn what works and what doesn’t as far as marketing. My goal right now is traditional publishing, but self-publishing offers a lot of perks so I am definitely not ruling that option out.

BQB EDITORIAL NOTE: Since conducting this interview, I made another staggering, astounding, earth shattering 35 cents!  So many cents!

QUESTION #10 – Sadly, every author who submits to an interview on this poor excuse for a blog must explain how he/she would escape a scenario of doom using three unlikely items. Don’t worry, one day you’ll have an entourage who will keep you away from such nonsense. Until then, here’s your scenario:

You’re riding a train to wine country because, who wouldn’t? Wine country is fabulous this time of year. Suddenly, the lights flicker off. When they’re turned back on, you learn that everyone who had been sitting in your general vicinity was a werewolf the entire time, and they’re looking at you like you’re a fresh bowl of kibble.

You reach under your seat, hoping to find a weapon but alas, you find a) a half-full can of spray-on silly string b) a rolled up poster featuring the grim visage of Vegas crooner Wayne Newton and c) a tin of Altoid mints.

How will you use these items to extract yourself from this fury feeding frenzy?

ANSWER – I’m on a train full of wine-loving party animals headed to wine county. This isn’t as dire as it may seem. First, I’ve been noticing two of the passengers, now revealed to be werewolves, eyeing each other throughout the trip so far, so I give the mints to one and suggest he make his move. I do enjoy a good love story after all. That takes care of two of them. Then I spray silly string on my jaw like mutton chops and hold up the Wayne Newton poster to indicate that I’m clearly one of them. I mean, with those sideburns, was there really ever any doubt about Wayne? They’re warming up to me, but not yet convinced, so I offer to pay for their wine tastings which puts them in a cheerful mood and then I distract them with a heated debate over which is better, oaked or steel-casked chardonnay? They take the bait, follow the “shiny,” and before the day’s out, we’re all half wine-drunk, best of friends, and invited to the wedding of the cute were-couple on the train. See, aren’t happy endings great?

BQB EDITORIAL NOTE: I’ve run this answer through my supercomputer and it has determined a 94.8% chance of success, so well done.  Werewolves love wine country and Wayne Newton is a werewolf.  Surely, that explains his longevity.  You heard it here first.

Fun fact, this is the second time an interviewee on this blog has escaped a doom scenario using a sticky novelty substance and a celebrity photo.  Readers may remember Robert Bevan used spray cheese to paste a photo of Bea Arthur to his face in order to scare away a cavern full of monsters.  Read more about that tried and true sticky situation extraction trick here.

Thank you for stopping by, Sydney, and 3.5 readers, if you enjoyed this interview which, frankly, if you twist my arm and ask me to brag about my interviewing skills then I’ll tell you this puts anything Barbara Walters ever did to shame, then be sure to give our guest a shout out on Twitter.  “One of us, one of us…”

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#FridayswithBQB – Interview #5 – Find Your Inner Steampunk with Dakota Kemp

 

 

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Author Website

Amazon Author Page

North Dakota? South Dakota? He’s just Dakota. Dakota Kemp first flew under my radar when he asked a question of my resident alien brainiac, the one and only Alien Jones. After participating in that tomfoolery, I knew he’d fit in as a friend to my fine blog. He grew up in Oklahoma, which, as you may have heard from the musical of the same name, is the place where “the wind comes sweeping down the plains.” Odd, I never really thought of Oklahoma as a windy place. Seems like there’d be a lot of dirt, and hot weather, and rattlesnakes and tumbleweeds, perhaps a vulture circling around in the air, waiting for you to drop from heat exhaustion so your carcass can be his next meal.

But I digress. Note to self: don’t insult your subject’s home state. Anyway, Dakota’s an officer in the U.S. Army, which makes me feel bad because while he was doing all that training and hard work, I was busy whining about my neighborhood convenience store being out of Twinkies. I mean, seriously, is it too much to ask that they keep a few extra cream filled snack cakes in stock?

Yikes. I digress again. Dakota is a big fantasy guy. You should check out his latest work, “Ironheart: The Primal Deception,” now available on Amazon. I’ve never been much into steampunk myself, but you 3.5 readers probably are. It’s not that the whole genre doesn’t look interesting, it’s just that I already have enough strikes against me getting laid without having to add a top hat and goggles to the mix.

Enough from me. Let’s hear from the man of the hour.

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QUESTION 1 – Dakota. Dakote-ster. Dakote-a-rama. Welcome to the Bookshelf Battle Blog. Let’s assume for a moment that my 3.5 readers have no idea about the steampunk genre. Maybe they heard a little about it. Maybe they saw some goofball walking down the street dressed like a high-tech Victorian and thought that seemed interesting.

For the ill-informed, what is this genre all about? Give us a primer for newbs, the very basics of what a beginner needs to know.

ANSWER – Well, the steampunk genre is pretty varied, BQB, but the main element of a steampunk story is that it is set in an environment where Victorian Era technology has been science-fictionalized. Also, Victorian England’s fashion, culture, and diction are often used in steampunk stories, lending a historic impression to a decidedly eccentric future.

QUESTION 2 – Do you personally ever dress up like a steampunk? Have you ever put on the top hat, the goggles, the cloak and such? If so, do you think your Army buddies would make fun of you?

ANSWER: They would absolutely make fun of me. I’d never hear the end of it! But, no, I’ve never done a steampunk cosplay; I’m afraid I’m not that interesting. Besides, goggles, top hats, cloaks, and such would clash horribly with my uniform.

QUESTION 3 – So, self-publishing. What made you want to dip your toe into those funky waters?

ANSWER – Originally, I tried the traditional route. I soon found, as every author , that breaking into the traditional publishing scene is much more about who you know than what you can do with paper and pen. I’m a small-town boy from nowhere Oklahoma; I didn’t know anyone in the publishing industry. I didn’t even know if I actually wrote good manuscripts because I couldn’t get anyone to read them!

So I decided to find out if my stories were any good the dangerous way: by putting them directly into the hands of the audience.

It’s been a great experience. I’ve learned loads, and while it would be nice to get more exposure through traditional publishing, that simply may never happen. If it does, great! If not, I’m quite happy seeing that people are experiencing my stories and being touched by them. Receiving emails from readers is a fantastic feeling, and I might never have seen how my stories affected people if I left them locked in a drawer until a publisher plucked one from the proverbial haystack.

QUESTION 4- I remember you once advised me to not take on too much, i.e. I had been musing about just putting out tons of books in one year, whereas you felt, in true tortoise fashion, that “slow and steady” wins the race. Do you find that is true? Are you winning the race and what advice do you have for impatient writers like me who type three words into their laptops and wonder why they aren’t the toast of the town already?

ANSWER – Personally, yes, I think the tortoise is the hero of that fable for a reason. With a few notable exceptions, big-name authors usually become popular in their late thirties to early sixties. That’s because they slowly improve over the years, honing their craft, building up a catalogue of worthy stories that people come to recognize as trustworthy. I say put maximum effort into every book. The readership’s trust is more important than how much space you take up on the shelves. Eventually readers will recognize that you produce wonderful stories, but only if you put out solid content consistently. You can release a library of formulaic, speed-written books, but if they suck? No one will take your work seriously. Quality over quantity. Journey before destination. A successful storyteller runs a marathon, not a sprint. Put full effort into every manuscript, and you will find an audience that appreciates them.

QUESTION 5 – You’re an Army officer but you still find time to write. Sometimes I think about writing but then I’ll get distracted by a box of cookies and eat the cookies while watching funny cat videos on my computer. Before I know it, I’ve eaten all the cookies and I’ve watched ten hours of hilarious feline footage, but there’s no new written content on my computer.

Any advice for the schmucks out there like me who can’t seem to find the time to write?

ANSWER: I’m going to sound like a soldier for a second, but just bear with me until I get past it.

Discipline. Plain and simple. At the end of the day, cracking open my laptop and tapping on the keyboard is the last thing I want to do. All I really want after I get home is to go into a Dragon Age mini-coma. Or perhaps read the next Brandon Sanderson novel. Or sleep forever. The point is, there’s nothing for it but to put your butt in the chair and write. Sometimes the inspiration is there and sometimes it’s not. There are people waiting on your stories though, and you’ve got tales to tell. You can do it! If you don’t finish, there are readers – maybe just one, but thousands – who will miss out on something unique.

You’ll probably have more fun if you don’t master discipline, but you’ll be disappointed in yourself later, knowing you could have changed something. Whether it be the world or just one person.

QUESTION 6 – Ironheart. Give us the skinny. The lowdown. The pitch. What’s it all about?

Ironheart is about a world dominated by a race of deities called Primals. The protagonist, Jack Booker, is a gangster who grew up on the streets, struggling his entire life just to survive in the ruthless underworld that leeches off the gods’ decadent society. But when a mob boss makes a dangerous gamble to move up the criminal ladder, Jack’s life of cautious survival is ripped away, and he is thrust into the center of it all.

While Ironheart is a mash-up of sci-fi/fantasy with elements of hard-hitting action, Jack’s story is, at its core, an allegory of the concepts and emotions that we, as humans, impose on the world around us. It’s about exploring the dichotomies we must reconcile in a complex world and what it means to live for something greater than ourselves.

QUESTION 7 – What’s the next project you’re cooking up in your word kitchen? What, if anything, can you tell my 3.5 readers about it?

ANSWER – I’ve got a small project (somewhere between a short story and a novella) finished and ready to be released soon titled “The Omens of a Crow.” It’s pretty cool, in my clearly unbiased opinion, if you’re into gritty, dark medieval fantasy. I hope you are, that’s my jam.

Also, long-term, I’m writing slowly but surely through Ironheart’s sequel, which should be ready for release around August (hopefully).

QUESTION 8 – You rub a magic lamp. A genie pops out. He sounds nothing like Robin Williams, but he tells you sorry, he can’t make the writer thing happen. He tells you that you can have your next closest dream. In other words, if you could be anything OTHER than a writer, what would you choose and why?

ANSWER – Here’s the deal, BQB. I love being an author, but that’s not, oddly enough, why I started writing. I started writing because I love stories. Of all kinds, shapes, and sizes. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good book, but there are tons of storytelling platforms out there, and I dig ‘em all. The reason I decided to write my stories instead of tell them in some other format is because literature was the form of storytelling I could begin working on immediately with little to no special equipment, and which I could do alone. (Yes, like most authors I am a huge introvert, but I refer more to not needing a plethora of specialists.)

So, I guess I’d just have the genie make me a movie, stage, or video game director. I’d still create stories for people, just in a different way.

But a space cowboy would also be cool. Or a jedi. Or a knight. Or a friggin’ wizard. I’m already a soldier, and being a space soldier probably wouldn’t be that different. I’d just be exhausted in the mud on some alien planet instead of exhausted in the mud in Georgia. So that one is probably out.

QUESTION 9 – What’s the biggest mistake you made when you began your self-publishing career? How can my 3.5 readers avoid it

ANSWER: I suppose my biggest mistake was not knowing/researching enough before beginning the self-publishing journey. Initially, I assumed that all I had to do, as the author, was write the book, publish it online, and wait to see what the hundreds – if not thousands – of readers would say about it. Would it receive rave reviews and become a bestseller? Would readers around the world trash it because it was as super sucky as I’d feared it might be?

Neither, as it were. Because nobody read it.

It turns out that you have to be competent in a lot of skill sets to succeed in self-publishing. Just being a good writer is not going to cut it. You could put out the next Harry Potter and nobody would ever know the damn thing was out there. Marketing, formatting, cover design, professional-level editing, social media promotion – the list goes on and on. And you have to do them all. As I’ve continued publishing more and more stories, I’ve gotten better and better at the all the steps in the process, but initially I was flabbergasted that nobody read the book that I toiled over for so long. I mean, it was in the marketplace. Why was nobody reading it? They can’t read something that they don’t know is out there. 

QUESTION 10 – You’re trapped in a dungeon with my arch-nemesis, the Yeti, an incredibly boring fuzzy snow monster/international war criminal. Three items are in the room – a jar of mayonnaise, a tactical spork, and a CD of Barry Manilow’s greatest hits. You seem like a resourceful guy. How would you use these items to extract yourself from the Yeti’s clutches and escape to freedom?

ANSWER – Honestly, I’d probably just stab him to death with the tac-spork, but maybe that’s a bit extreme for such a wholesome blog as this, with sweet, naïve guests like Uncle Hardass appearing to give advice to the innocent 1.5 children who frequent the Bookshelf Battle pages.

So how ‘bout this? I’ve got the perfect tools for seduction. Barry Manilow’s greatest hits? “Copacabana” will put the Yeti in the mood for some sweet, sweet lovin’. A jar of mayonnaise? There’s likely nothing sexier than my decidedly mediocre body slathered in white condiment. And if the Yeti doesn’t find all things tactical as sexy as I do, then at least he’ll be thinking about all the ways he can use that tac-spork to scrape mayo off my sultry skin, bit-by-bland-sticky-bit.

Just when he thinks he’s about to score, I’ll switch off the Manilow, freeing the Yeti’s mind from the romantic fog of baby-making music. He’ll see me there, naked and covered in mayonnaise, realize what he was about to do, then suffer a heart attack as the mere thought burns through his horrified brain – much as is no doubt happening to the everyone reading this. You’re welcome for that lasting mental image.

BQB EDITORIAL NOTE:  Don’t worry about mentally damaging too many people.  Only 3.5 people read this blog anyway, and they were all mentally damaged to begin with.

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#FridaysWithBQB Taking a Week Off

Hey 3.5 readers.

BQB here.  We just had 4 interviews, one a week for the past month, all self-publishing authors.  I’m a bit tied up lately but this fine interview series will return.

In the meantime, feel free to peruse the past interviews.  And if you want to be interviewed, let me know.

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#FridayswithBQB – Interview #4 – Amy Engle – Future Technology in Fiction (Or, When Are the Robots Coming for Us?)

up-at-5

Author Website

When I search the deep recesses of my mind to access the proverbial “Hall of Famous Amies,” i.e. women named Amy I can remember, two come to mind. First, there was that woman who was in all the Kevin Smith movies in the 1990s who played “Chasing Amy.” She sounded like Jennifer Tilly and looked like Renee Zellweger and I’m not about to look up her name now because for the past twenty years I have referred to her as “that actress who sounds like Jennifer Tilly and looks like Renee Zellweger” and by God, I’m not about to stop now. OK, fine, she’s Joey Lauren Adams. Where were you in the 90s, IMDB?

The second famous Amy that pops into my mind is the one from “Gone Girl” who (SPOILER ALERT – LOOK AWAY IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE OR READ THE BOOK) totally fakes her own death just to get revenge on Ben Affleck. Since seeing that movie, I have avoided all relationships as I mean, holy crap, you just never know when a woman is going to get a little uppity over something and fake her own death and send you to jail. “What? You want me to pass the salt? That’s it! I’m faking my own death!” Thanks Hollywood. Thanks a lot.

Now, there’s a new Amy, author Amy Engle, and I don’t believe she would fake her own death (without a good reason) and I remember her name because she’s always in my Twitter feed, promoting her latest masterpiece.

As I am one of the Internet’s foremost nerds, she’s piqued my interest because she writes social science fiction which examines up and coming technologies and how they will affect mankind. Alteration of humans to make them more powerful and time travel are just some of the topics she explores.

Forget time travel. Just give me an edit button on my Twitter posts and I’ll be a happy camper. Anyway, 3.5 readers, please put all seven your hands together to welcome Amy Engle to this exceptional blog.

BQB=BOLD; AMY=ITALICS

QUESTION #1 – Amy, welcome to my blog. I hope you only have to stay here until a \kindhearted motorist sees your thumb sticking out and gives you a ride to a better interview. Until then, let’s talk about the future of technology. One concern that I have is that I’m going to be dead. I mean, I’m adding a lot of fiber to my diet to put that inevitability off for as long as possible, but if what happened to my cat, goldfish and grandma are any indication, I’m not going to get out of life alive.

So, to get to the point, my concern is that there will be a lot of awesome technologies that will be invented in the future. Cures for diseases that have long plagued humanity, devices that turn difficult chores into a quick and easy task. Solutions to poverty and war and all of society’s ills. And honestly, I fear it’s all going to happen in a way that will spite me. Like one minute before I die, someone’s going to come up to me and tell me, “Hey BQB, they just patented a drug that will cure what’s killing you and also, they just invented robot women!” Just my luck.

Enough from me. What’s the future look like? Will technology turn the world into the utopia I just described or will it make the world worse? While cures and solved problems are nice to think about, I suppose it is also entirely possible that technological advances could lead to more efficient war machines, more ways to pollute the environment and let’s just face it, we’re all going to be bowing down to our robot masters someday, aren’t we?

All the rambling above distilled into a simpler question – technology! Will it make the future better or worse?

ANSWER #1—Technology brings both the helpful as well as some kind of nasty side-effect. Diseases might all be eradicated someday, but then the resulting population boost will consume all the remaining resources at a swifter rate than normal. We might invent robots that do every little thing for us, letting us have easier lives and yet leaving us incapable of surviving on our own. (All I see in my mind now is the helpless, fat people in the floating chairs in “WALL-E.”) The frightening list goes on and on. Although I love technology, I also have a healthy level of fear. I’ve recently gotten into Netflix’s “Black Mirror” series. Although I’m relieved to know that there are other people whose brains think similar to mine, I’m also left absolutely frightened at the future implications of burgeoning tech. Now that I’ve revealed to the internet one of my deepest fears, I’ll just caution that we need to be aware that it can be used for immoral purposes as well as positive. But I really do hope  to see more and more advancements before I die as well.

QUESTION #2 – What’s a specific piece of technology coming down the road that you think will benefit humanity? In contrast, what tech will make life worse? Alternatively, is there technology that might have positive and negative ramifications?

ANSWER #2—I love seeing videos of people in third-world countries finding simple solutions to deal with a big problem. As someone who writes speculative science fiction, I’m always interested in how a technology affects society. I hope there will be newer forms of social media that could further spread knowledge and awareness of moral injustices and allow the human race to unite as a positive force. With that said, I have absolutely no idea what kind of technology that would be.

QUESTION #3 – Your book, “Undoing Life” is about Sal Chancellor, a man who obtains a time travelling watch he uses in the hopes of turning his lousy life around for the better, but as it turns out, he’s being observed by people from four hundred years in the future. You describe it as “The Truman Show” meets “The Butterfly Effect” meets “Groundhog Day.”

The description alone speaks to me. I’d love to have Sal’s watch and change my past. Ex-girlfriends I messed things up with. Opportunities I wish I’d taken. Hell, even if I could talk my past self into working out more and hitting the drive-thru less.

When it comes to time travel, there seems to be two schools of thought. The most popular is that we should never change the slightest thing about the past because we never know how it will change the future. So for example, I could turn my past self into a model boyfriend and keep that girl I lost but you never know, maybe we were supposed to break up because our son would have become the next Hitler.

Alternatively, when we’re young we’re handed a myriad of important choices to make. We have little life experience so we make the best choice we can with the limited knowledge we have at the time. When we’re older, we get all the spoilers, i.e. we figure out how our past decisions turn out. Would it be that bad to whisper a few tidbits of advice to our former selves?

Tinker with the past or leave it alone. Which course of action do you think is best and why?

ANSWER #3—Ha! You have touched on a number of things I explore in “Undoing Life.” Sal uses his time-travel watch to fix a romantic relationship and undo several life-mistakes. However, it corrupts and mangles his mind as the power consumes him. And I believe that this would happen to anyone who tried to play God and alter time. There are just too many unknown variables to really say for certain if time-travel would be a “good” thing. And it certainly wouldn’t be advisable to let the masses all manipulate time at once. It would need to remain in the hands of a couple over-seers. But my short answer would have to be to leave time alone and just let it do its thing.

QUESTION #4 – Perhaps one sign of progress is that every generation envies the technology that the new generation has full access to. My grandma marveled at my Nintendo games as if they were dropped off by a space alien. Conversely, I’m a little miffed that today’s 20-year olds can start their own YouTube shows, start their own blogs, write their own e-books and have years ahead of them to build a following on social media.

Personally, I would have loved to have had all of this self-publishing technology when I was 20 and able to stay up all night and write for three days straight fueled on nothing but Cheetos, energy drinks and unearned confidence, but at my age, I think about self-publishing a lot but then I just take a nap.

In my own twisted way, that leads me to ask if self-publishing is worth it. Consider all the time and effort you put in. Are you getting satisfactory results? If my 3.5 readers ask you if they should start self-publishing, would you advise them to get into it or to run away, kicking and screaming?

ANSWER #4—It’s a little too early to say for sure if self-publishing is “worth it.” This is technically my second attempt at self-publishing. I was exclusively on Kindle for almost two years and made approximately $60 in that time-span. I’m now publishing through Ingram Spark, which means that my stories will supposedly be available in every other format except for Kindle. (I can’t publish through them for at least a year after I am no longer exclusively with them.)

Yes, I’m putting a lot of effort and money into getting all my stories self-published, I’m still in the hopeful stage that this will all be worth it someday. I’ve got quite a few books I need to sell to break-even, but I’m learning enough about marketing to allow me to keep expanding my influence and find new readers to buy my books.

I would like to pass on one little tip: do your research! Google is full of information about both indie-publishing as well as traditional publishing. Don’t be afraid to take risks and make mistakes—as long as you learn from them and try again if/when you fail for the first time.

QUESTION #5 – Your book, “Iris” talks about alteration of humans. Should humans be altered? I mean, I’d love to be altered so that I could run really fast, lift cars, and fly, but I’d settle for more hair and the ability to eat fast food burgers without going up a pant size. Human altering – will it save mankind or ruin us all?

ANSWER #5—Oh, Bookshelf Q. Battler! You keep asking me questions with only two options. I’m not a “black-and-white” sort of person. I don’t think things are either one way or another. There are so many different variables to consider and evaluate. I think human alterations are inevitable. And yet, I don’t think it will happen quite in our lifetimes. It very well might solve a handful of problems while also adding a new set we hadn’t anticipated. In “Iris,” many of these Alterations died due to the radical changes that were forced upon their bodies. Several of those who survived are now hiding from their creators, hoping not to live the rest of their lives as weapons.

QUESTION #6 – “Reps and Royals” features space colonization. Just gonna throw it out there. Does alien life exist? If so, should we try to contact the aliens to see if they have any solutions for our toughest problems, or will that just let them know we are here so they can send their ships to conquer us all?

ANSWER #6— I grew up on “Star Wars,” so I love the thought of meeting aliens someday. I hope we can learn from them and maybe pass along some wisdom as well. I don’t think they will solve all our problems. And of course, there’s the possibility that they might try to enslave us. Sadly, though, there aren’t any aliens in “Reps and Royals”—just humans living on a different planet. I haven’t finished my “alien” story quite yet!

QUESTION #7 – You’re a middle school English teacher and a drama club director. Please put on a production of “Chicago” immediately. “They had it coming! They had it coming! They only had themselves to blame!” Sorry. I digress. I love showtunes.

My 3.5 readers and I talk a big game about self-publishing. We’ll list out all the goals we want to achieve, but then we just sit around and eat cookies and watch Netflix. You seem to be hitting all your marks even while teaching and drama directing. Are there any time management techniques you could share?

ANSWER #7—I’m guilty of wasting hours binge-watching Netflix after a long day of teaching and directing. But I’ve realized that life-style makes me even more tired than when I’m writing all night long. I’ve only recently been able to chip away at my movie addiction. It’s been a few years that I’ve been trying to be more disciplined with my writing time. I just keep telling myself that I’ll never be able to write full-time if I don’t WRITE. So I set aside about an hour every night to revise, with a couple hours on weekends and holidays. I don’t write EVERYDAY, but I fit a good 10+ hours in every week. As far as actual management techniques, I don’t have any great trick that helps me. You’ve got to figure out what works for you and your schedule. Prioritize and figure out what you can really do without in order to find time to work on what matters the most to you.

QUESTION #8 – As a self-publisher, what’s one lesson you learned the hard way? Can you share it with my 3.5 readers to help them avoid the trouble?

ANSWER #8—I learned that writing takes time. I remember being in college and thinking that I was going to squeeze out a best-seller in a few months and that would cover the cost of tuition and living expenses. When that didn’t work out, I still misjudged the amount of time it took to fix up a decent manuscript. I’ve been writing for about ten years now, and I’m still struggling to “make it” in this business; it will likely also take me a few more years as well. Don’t get discouraged when things don’t go according to your plan. That wastes precious time. Instead, set another goal when the previous plan fails. Repeat that direction as much as needed until you figure it out. Remember: no two authors have the same journey to publication!

QUESTION #9 – If time travel ever is invented, what is one time period you’d like to visit, even if it’s just as a casual observer who doesn’t interfere?

ANSWER #9—As a woman, traveling far back into time doesn’t appeal to me. I like living in a period where females have rights and can do about anything they set their minds to. But I think I’d like to visit the early 1900’s during the Women’s Suffrage Movement. I’d want to give the ladies encouragement in their endeavor to allow women to vote.

QUESTION #10 – You are a student of karate and as far as I know, because I know very little about Arizona, you may very well be one of the greatest karate masters in all of Arizona, punching tumbleweeds and cacti with reckless abandon and showing them who’s boss.

First sub-question, is it possible to kill a man with your pinky finger and if so, can you share that information with my 3.5 readers, who I assume are all good people and would not use that knowledge for evil?

Second sub-question, do those karate skills come in handy as a writer? Maybe they help you relax and focus. Maybe you know how to write better fight scenes?

ANSWER #10—I can’t help but be humble and explain that there are many who have trained a lot harder than I have and could easily take me on. Although, I do have my fair-share of strengths to overcome my many weaknesses. I’ve been studying American Kenpo on and off for a dozen years now; however, I only have about six and half years on cumulative training.

As far as the pinky goes, I don’t know how to kill someone with it. There very likely is a way to do it, but I know dozens of other ways that would be more effective and less-likely to break that finger. And yet as I’m writing this, I’m having a flashback to an old lesson when my instructor barely touched his pinky into a pressure point in my foot. I’ll just say that it was exceedingly painful and left a vivid memory that I can still recall years later. And, yes, I will definitely agree that my martial art training comes in handy. Not only is it an outlet for my stress, it has also allowed me to write some pretty awesome fight scenes.

QUESTION #11 – Time travel has been invented! You meant to travel to the 1980s to party with Menudo, but alas, the dial on your machine got stuck and you end up in the Jurassic age. When you step out of your machine, you find yourself surrounded by vicious, hungry raptors, you know, the really smart dinosaurs who are so intelligent they can break off into teams and chase little kids around a kitchen if Stephen Spielberg’s beliefs about dinosaurs are accurate.

As luck would have it, a technician at the time travel lab left his briefcase inside the time machine. You open it in the hopes there will be a weapon, but alas, you only find a rubber band ball, a rotten tomato, and a box set of bubblegum cards featuring the 1972 lineup of the Oakland Athletics, with the bubblegum stick still intact, though whether or not it is still chewable is beyond my grasp of medical science. I probably wouldn’t chew it myself.

How would you use these items to avoid becoming raptor lunch?

ANSWER #11—This touches on so many themes of one of my WIPs (Works in Progress). But I’ll gloss over that, as well as the fact that I don’t know who Menudo is.  So I only have a rubber band ball, a rotten tomato, and a box set of bubblegum cards with bubblegum? Oh, and I have the briefcase, too! I don’t have much of a chance, do I?

Sadly, engineering isn’t one of my strong suits—unless it’s LEGOS. Using my teacher experiences, I’ll keep calm so as not to rile up the raptors. I’ll then have to rely on my martial art training to dodge their teeth while using the briefcase as a shield. See, this is hard to hypothesize over since I have no idea how many dinosaurs there are. I’ll plan on three then. I will expertly shoot the rotten tomato into the eyes of one of the raptors, using a slingshot I made out of the rubber bands. As the other two move in, I’ll toss some gum into the open maw of one. While he is confused by its sweetness, I’ll confront the last raptor. Making Wolverine claws with the bubblegum cards, I’ll slice at the dinosaur. At this point, hopefully he realizes I won’t be an easy meal, so he goes on his way to find a less troublesome breakfast.

BQB EDITORIAL NOTE: My supercomputer at BQB HQ calculates this response to have a 94.7 percent chance of working in an actual author vs. raptor combat scenario.  Bravo!  Also, Menudo was the latino version of “New Kids on the Block.”  Either that, or NKOTB was the white version of Menudo.  Sigh.  Time to get that retirement home brochure.

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#Fridays with BQB – Interview #3 – Historic Fiction with T.A. Henry

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Author Website

Amazon Author Page

T.A. Henry. The Hankster. Hank-o-rama. I first virtually met T.A. in 2016, when I was writing the first draft of my upcoming (and when I say upcoming, I mean, “sometime between now and when I croak”) novel, “How the West Was Zombed.” Cowboys + zombies = Zombie Western.

T.A. had a lot to say in the comment section of my fine blog, and was a stickler for historic accuracy. I mean, yeah, she gave me an allowance for zombies, but she urged me to try to be as historically accurate as possible, to pay attention to whether people from the 1800s would say a certain thing, act a certain way, wear a particular piece of clothing, use a type of invention. In short, she made it clear that what I thought was going be a pretty easy novel to write would require a whole lot of research.

She kept commenting and I kept writing and I’ll be honest, she didn’t give me the glowing, flowery praise we all secretly want, but rather, the swift kick to the back of the pants criticism that I needed. Everyone needs a persnickety commenter like T.A. If you can make her happy, then you’ll probably do OK with the reviewers on Amazon, who live on a steady diet of writer tears.

History is T.A.’s bag. On her Amazon page, you can find two novels, “Scripting the Truth” and “Ostrich Mentality,” both of which take place in the Twentieth Century, which doesn’t seem to me like a long time ago but apparently it is. It really is.

BOLD = BQB; ITALICS= T.A.

QUESTION 1 – T.A., welcome. I could be wrong, but you seem like a serious person, so I thank you for lowering yourself enough to be interviewed on a blog run by a man who swears he talks to aliens. I’m telling you, hang on a year or two and you’ll be interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, who only acts like he is a space alien.

History. You might have told me but I don’t remember because I’m not a good historian, but I’m wondering how you got into writing historic fiction. Give the history of your historic obsession to my 3.5 readers, or to my 2.5 readers, since you are a reader.

ANSWER: One day the window got left window open and I crawled out on to the ledge. Uncle Bob tried to chase me back in but I was scared, who wouldn’t be? Uncle Bob is creepy, and so I jumped up on the roof. Bob kept coming though. He got out this weird metal contraption and bam it slammed into the edge of the roof. So I ran to the other side. But the shingles were loose and as I tried to jump to the nearby oak I slipped. And fell. 3 stories. Into the road. Amazon was making a Prime delivery and wouldn’t you know it, I got hit by a load of….wait what was the question?

Oh, how I came to be a historical writer, yeah. I fell into it. What else do you do with a degree in history and no chance to teach because your hubs got transferred and you have no connections in the local community college scene.? LOL.

QUESTION 2 – When it comes to historic fiction, I think the average writer understands the basics. In other words, if your story takes place in 1776, you don’t want a scene where George Washington watches the latest news on the American Revolution on a big screen TV.

For me, it seems like the old cliché is true. The devil is in the details – the littlest details. What would a person from a certain time period say or do? How would they act? What would they wear?

Hollywood types can call up a renowned history professor and pepper him/her with questions for days. Alas, unknown self-publishers like myself don’t have that kind of pull. For us peons, what resources are available? What advice do you have if we have a question about whether or not a little snippet of our fiction jives with the historical record?

ANSWER: Research. But it doesn’t have to be all difficult. You’d be amazed what you can find online. Google really is your friend.

I have the advantage of a huge base knowledge of the time period I write in, which means I am only looking up tiny little specifics. But you could can do that with anything. What did the average sheriff in a small western town get paid circa 1870? You will get answers.

QUESTION 3 – Seriously, I don’t mean to state the obvious, but setting your story in the past is difficult. As I wrote my Zombie Western, I found myself with all sorts of questions. For example, a character eats a candy and I start to wonder if that candy would have been present in the Old West.  Is all that tedium worth it?

ANSWER: Probably not. It seems to me like most people don’t care about the reality of situations. They want a good story, big explosions, better special effects. Of course if you’re trying to write for an intelligent audience, they will catch you. And they will huck the book across the room and give you the dreaded one star review.

QUESTION 4 – Your new book, “Ostrich Mentality” takes place in 1990 and involves a small pox plot. Take it from there. Tell the other 2.5 readers you read my blog with what this tale is all about. The title seems cool but I’m wondering what’s the significance? I know I always prefer to stick my head in the sand and hope all problems disappear rather than face them. That usually works, right?

ANSWER: Ostrich Mentality started out as a little question that I couldn’t shake while I was reading an interview with a Russian scientist who defected in the 90s. He claimed that not only did Russia have weaponized small pox but it was missile dispersible and….they lost 20 tons of it during the break up of the USSR. FUCK!

This book is my take on what might have happened after that. How three spies and a know it all analyst save the world. LOL.

“With your head in the sand and your ass in the air, you’re ripe to get screwed.”

QUESTION 5 – By the way, why are you trying to make me want to jump of a bridge by setting a book in 1990, like that’s some long ago, ancient time? God, I was just a little kid then. Oh well, I suppose time flies. What do you think historians of the future will say about the time period we live in right now?

ANSWER: Are you trying to make me feel ancient? Little kid in the 90s. Pffftt. I was in flipping high school. Ass. I don’t talk current events. Wink. Wink. Nudge. Nudge.

QUESTION 6 – Your first novel, “Scripting the Truth” takes place after World War II, where a writer tries to scheme her way into a movie studio to reconnect with the soldier she once loved who has since become an actor. Tell the other 2.5 readers more about this. What inspired you to pen such a romantic story?

ANSWER:  Laughing…um…”Scripting” actually started as a dream – a rather naughty dream about a girl finding work in the porn industry. Laughing…but I wasn’t going to write that.

The rest just evolved. It’s not really a romance. It’s more about a woman challenging the ideas her family has saddled her with. Challenging what the world would have her be. Figuring out who she is and how to make that work. Yes, there’s a guy, because there’s always a guy, but he’s not really the important part.

QUESTION 7 – “Scripting the Truth” is an interesting title. Is it possible for people to script their own truth? Perhaps “truth,” or an understanding of who people are and how they got there can be malleable? Maybe the wise person tells his/her life’s story in the best possible light?

ANSWER: I think we script our own truths every day. We all tell ourselves little stories to get through the day. We tell ourselves and each other little lies to grease the wheels of society.  In “Scripting,” Molly tell herself a lot of lies. She discovers everyone is lying about something. And then she makes the best of that.

QUESTION 8 – My addiction to buying covers for books I have yet to publish remains unabated. Honestly, it has come to the point where I might start engaging in unsavory activities in back alleys just to score some dough so I can run out and buy another unnecessary book cover. I’m sure you’ll find me on the street one day, clinking my tin cup, shouting out, “Brother, can you spare a cover?”

I don’t know why I do it. I jump from one story idea to the next, like a bumble bee with ADD, moving all willy nilly from one flower to the next, never focusing on just one flower until he’s sucked all the nectar out of it.

Oh right. I should work a question in here somewhere. I remember you talking about working on a spy novel at least a year ago, maybe even two. Now, all this time later, your spy novel is real and people can buy it on Amazon. You stuck to one idea and saw it through and you’re reaping the reward. What advice do you have for people like me who jump from one idea to another without staying put and seeing one idea through to the end?

ANSWER: Bwahahahaha. No really.  Bwahahahahahha.  I started writing “Ostrich” 5 years ago. FIVE. In between I wrote and published “Scripting.” I wrote a murder mystery. Abandoned said mystery. Wrote for and was published in an anthology. I dropped “Ostrich Mentality” at least half a dozen times. It had a rough ride through beta. It was pulled apart, redesigned, thrown in the garbage masher on the detention level more times than I can count. Not to mention the struggle, see below….

I don’t know that I have generic advice. Ok maybe I do. I think people jump around so they never have to publish and face the heinous truth that it is brutal out there. You can pour your heart and soul into a book and it can be Pulitzer level material or “Saturday Night Live” level material and then you sell 12 copies, and it feels like someone stabbed you in the heart. You’ll gladly climb into a grave and stay there, licking your wounds. It takes so much more guts to climb out of that space and publish for the second time. I’m talking here to Mars and back again exponential guts. By jumping around you get the morally superior ground of being so prolific you can’t stay focused. Your flaw becomes a virtue. Script that truth my friend.,

QUESTION 9 – Will you ever write a novel that doesn’t take place in the past? If so, would you set it in the present or in the future? Fun fact: if you wait too long to write a novel that’s set in the present, it will become a novel that is set in the past.

ANSWER: I am in the middle of writing a cozy procedural trilogy which I will publish later this year. It is set in present time in the PNW, where I live.

Tell you more you say? Well, ok. The three books track a serial killer bumping off middle aged successful white men and cutting off their dicks. (Smiles. )

Laughing. Come on, it’s funny. “The Dismember Killer” is what the media calls him. LOL
Book one solves a copy cat. Book two takes place in the cold case squad where they solve a couple of unrelated murders and find a case that might have bearing on the serial killer. In book three they catch him.

It’s been interesting writing it because the detectives all text each other – all the time. Something that never happened in my previous books. It ups the immediacy and forces me to get more creative.

BQB EDITORIAL NOTE: I’m investing in lockable metal underpants.

QUESTION 10 – You wake up to find yourself stuck in a log cabin in the middle of a secluded forest. You have no idea how you got there other than a vague recollection that accepting a drink mixed by Bill Cosby was a bad idea.

You look out the window and hundreds of brain chomping zombies are closing in, ready to feast on your gray matter. Furiously, you search the cabin for any items that might help, but you only find three things: a squeaky, rubber duck, a sealed bag of Cool Ranch Doritos marked “Best used by March 1, 1997” and an oversized, novelty foam finger.

How will you use these items to save your brains?

ANSWER: Are my brains really worth saving? I mean really? What have I done that’s so extraordinary that I should be saved by extreme measures? And if I was dumb enough to accept a drink from Bill (Cosby or Clinton) I deserve what I get.

Are these fast zombies or slow zombies? Are we talking “Night of the Living Dead”(original) or like “I-Zombie?”

Spread the Doritos on the floor so I hear when they are in the cabin. Use the foam finger to block the chimney behind me, so no soot falls down, as I frog climb up to exit out the top like some reverse Santa Clause. Make a run for it as soon as they are inside.
Find you and stick the rubber duck up your ass for proposing this little question. LOL.

BQB EDITORIAL NOTE: That’s the twelfth time this month my backside has been threatened with the introduction of a rubber duck.  It isn’t easy being mediocre Internet celebrity.

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Fridays with BQB – Interview #2 – Bloodsucking Fun with Rick Gualtieri

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Author Website

Amazon Author Page

Fortune. Hot groupies. Hair. Rick Gualtieri has none of these things, but what he does have is the highly beloved “Tome of Bill” series, which gives a shot of nerdy humor straight into the arm of the ever-so-played vampire genre.

I first heard of Rick when he was a guest on the Self-Publishing Podcast and he seemed like a nerd’s nerd, a geek’s geek, and a poindexter’s poindexter. I could be wrong, but he reminds me a little of myself, i.e. a nerd who is proud of his nerd-dom.

After all, the man maintains a priceless collection of vintage Transformers so he can’t be all that bad.

BQB = BOLD; RICK = ITALICS

QUESTION 1 – Rickster, let’s cut to the chase. Self-publishing. Writing advice. We’ll get to all that in due time but first, my 3.5 readers and I are dying to know…what’s the best piece in your vintage Transformers collection? Mine is a 1980s era Soundwave complete with one of those little cassette tapes that turns into a killer bird. Can you top that? Damnit, I know you probably can.

ANSWER:  Color me jealous. I never did manage to add Soundwave to my collection. So it’s probably a good idea if you don’t turn your back on me down any dark alleys. Accidents happen and all that … just saying. As far as my own collection goes, my prized possessions are all five of the original Dinobots. Thirty or so years later, they still kick all sorts of ass.

BQB NOTE TO SELF – Please remember to make an addition to my Last Will and Testament, naming Rick as inheritor of my vintage Soundwave, provided that he promises to rub the toy with fine scented lotions for three hours a day, including all Federal holidays, and allows an inspector to be named by me to make monthly observations of this ritual to ensure that it is done.

QUESTION 2 – Are geeks born or are they made? Suppose my 3.5 readers are geeks who are just trying to figure out how to make it in a world full of people who scoff at their glasses and nerdyness and obsessions with 1980s action figures. What advice do you have for them?

ANSWER: Be you. The most liberating thing in the world is not giving a single crap what people think about you or what you like. Worry about making yourself happy, not the rest of the world. The rest of the world is mostly stupid. Don’t listen to them!

QUESTION 3 – “Tome of Bill.” Let’s get to it. What’s it all about? What does a newb to this series need to know before diving right in?

ANSWER: Tome of Bill is basically an epic-sized mockery of more serious vampire stories. It’s the story of a gamer / geek who gets bitten – due to his own lack of foresight in realizing that some women are out of his league. And when he wakes up, he’s still him. Despite all the weird and wonderful powers of the undead, he’s still a dork and happy with that fact. Pity that the rest of the vampires aren’t nearly as pleased with him.

There’s tons of snark, action, blood, bad jokes, cursing, more snark, and eventually a plot that revolves around Maple syrup. I like to think it’s got it all.

QUESTION 4 – Do your readers appreciate the humor/vampire combo? I dabble in humorous horror myself, but sometimes I fear that horror fans just come for the blood spatter and don’t want to laugh, and comedy fans come for the yuks but don’t want their mellows harshed with blood and guts. How do you keep both camps happy?

ANSWER: I think it’s all in the expectations. When you go into, say, Army of Darkness, you kind of know you’re getting a mix of gore and jokes. That’s why it works. Conversely, if you turn on the Exorcist and suddenly Max von Sydow’s character starts cracking one-liners, it’s going to be a bit of a WTF moment. I think horror comedy works best when you give people a hint up front as to what they’re getting into that way you don’t tick off the hardcore splatter crowd.

QUESTION 5 – As an author of vampiric fiction, I’m going to say you’re qualified to opine on all vampiric matters, so let me ask you a question that has plagued me for years.

Whenever you watch a serious vampire movie, why the hell are all the victims so scared of becoming a vampire? Seriously. You stay young forever. You never die. Sure, you have to murder people and drink their blood to survive which could get tedious but you don’t have a conscience anymore so really, it all comes out in the wash. You live forever so you can study and learn a lot. Travel the world. Learn all the different languages. Glamour hot chicks into being your love slaves (which my lawyer advises me to say in this highly sensitive climate we live in that this would be wrong, totally wrong!) Plus, if you live forever, you can save forever so really, become a Wal-Mart stock-boy for 100 years and by the end of the century you’ll be loaded.

Am I missing something? Is there a downside to becoming a vampire? I’m thinking about just lying around a cemetery with some hot sauce on my neck in the hopes I’ll become a vamp victim.  Can you talk me out of it?

ANSWER: I personally think it’s more the fear of dying … and what happens if the process either doesn’t work or the vampire has no real intention of turning you. It’s like “Hey, congrats, sucker. Now you’re really dead.”

I mean, heck, otherwise it would be no different than going to the hospital for some minor surgery and waking up with superpowers (and maybe a sun allergy). There’s probably more that plays into it. Fear of never seeing a sunrise again maybe (not a big deal for those of us who avoid beach days), or possibly fear of losing our minds and slaughtering everyone we know. That last one is pretty much the only issue that kind of bugs Bill after he gets turned.

But heck yeah. Aside from that, sign me up for a couple hundred years of compounded interest.

QUESTION 6 – Vampires. Zombies. What’s the next horror monster craze? I’m betting chupacabras. Lots of angsty teen dramas about goth kids who give their teachers plenty of guff by day and sneak onto a farmer’s ranch by night to eat all of his goats.

ANSWER: Personally, I’m all about killer sasquatches myself. But those have limited terror appeal in a city setting. Whatever it is, I want to be at the crest of that wave. Maybe a story about C.H.U.D.s … our hero wakes up one night with an insane urge to live in the sewers and dine on human flesh. Hilarity ensues.

Hmm, let me go write that one down now, while it’s fresh in my head.

BQB EDITORIAL NOTE: And here I thought I was the only one talking about C.H.U.D.s.

QUESTION 7 – The self-publishing game. Is it worth it? I know for me, there are times when it feels like its just one giant hamster wheel and I’m a furry little rodent just waiting for a piece of cheese that will never come. Are there times when you just want to say “screw it” and go take a nap and/or eat cookies and/or watch TV? If you never feel like that, what keeps you going strong? If there are times when you feel like that, what helps you get past it?

ANSWER: I won’t lie. The self-publishing game is only going to get tougher because we’re in a maturing market. The boom days are ending. There’s a lot of people making short term bank right now via a variety of ways (ie. churning out books faster than a puppy mill), but I try to view it from the long term. My goal has been and continues to be writing (hopefully) good stories that people will want to read today, tomorrow, or years from now. Even then, it’s a tough business to be in.

There are always going to be times when I get discouraged, want to walk away, don’t want to do something et cetera. But realistically that’s not any different than any other job I’ve had. What keeps me going is that I really love doing this. It just feels right.

And even if somewhere down the road I have to hang up my hat and move on, I can do so with my head held high. I’ve done far more than I ever thought possible. Nobody can take that away from me.

QUESTION 8 – You’ll never believe this. One of my 3.5 readers just told me she wants to begin a journey towards a self-publishing career TOMORROW! Note that I said this person is a she because #2018 and I’m trying my best to stop being a knuckle driving caveman but it’s really hard sometime because I was alive during the 1980s. What advice do you have for this person? What is the very first thing this person should do?

ANSWER: Despite all the advice on building a platform, creating a marketing machine, or owning social media, she has to have a good product first. Make sure that book is the very best she can make it. Seek advice and honest opinions. Polish it up. And while she’s doing that, take some time and study the market. Explore the covers, blurbs, et cetera of those who are selling well. Then try to do what they do, but better.

QUESTION 9 – Bram Stroker comes back to life tomorrow. Is he surprised to see what the vampire genre he invented has become? Is he happy about it? Sad? Are vampires as cool as they used to be?

First I laugh, because you called him, “Bram Stroker.” That is definitely my new porn name. After that, I stake the bastard before he can suck my blood! Okay, fine. I’m not that tasty.

Seriously, I’d like to hope he’d be flattered in some ways, although, I wouldn’t blame him at being a little horrified either. We’re sort of coming down from a bit of a high in the vampire craze. He’d probably wish he’d come back when Buffy was still on the air. I know I would.

BQB EDITORIAL NOTE:  That’s the last time I hire a chimpanzee to proofread my questions. 

QUESTION 10 – A maniacal supervillain has locked you in his secret lair. You are surrounded by hideous, bloodsucking vampires. Like seriously, not the hot “True Blood” kind but the ugly kind, the ones that have gone all pointy eared and feral.
There are three and only three items in the room. A lasso. An album autographed by 1990s hip hop group Bell Biv Devoe and a taco seasoning packet.
How will you use these items to save your neck?

ANSWER: This one is easy. I pull out the album and fling it at one vamp like it’s a ninja star … then watch in horror as I completely miss and it shatters against the wall. But at least I’ve spared myself from listening to it.

So then … I hook one of the vampires with the lasso, drag him in, and then pour the taco seasoning in his ear in the hope of totally frying his brain. In the chaos, I whisper to him that he’s actually a horse and together we ride off into the sunset, or at least as far as I can get in the sunset before he dissolves into goo.

It’s that or I die horribly, realizing that I should have watched a lot more MacGyver growing up. Damn you, Richard Dean Anderson!!!!

BQB EDITORIAL NOTE:  Everyone should watch more “MacGyver.”  The old one, not the reboot.  I’ve run it past my advisors and they all remarked this escape plan sounds valid, though they note that while Bell Biv Devoe may not be for everyone, everyone can always benefit from the key piece of advice these noble philosopher poets offered to the world, namely, to “never trust a big butt and a smile.”

Wise words indeed.  Thank you, Rick.  May your All-Spark never dim.

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#FridayswithBQB – Interview #1 – Robert Bevan of Caverns and Creatures – Where Fantasy Dick Jokes Meet Real Life Success

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Robert Bevan

Author Website

Amazon Author Page

If you were to take a blender, dump in a heaping helping of fantasy roleplaying game nerdiness and sprinkle in some comedy, you’d get the “Caverns and Creatures” series by Robert Bevan. Fantasy RPG geeks put in hilarious situations, titles produced via naughty word play (“Sticky White Mess” and “The Fuccubus” just to name a couple) and a catalog large enough to keep you occupied for a while – you’ll find all that and more on the man’s Amazon Author page. Personally, as the proprietor of a website that is only read by 3.5 readers, I needed to reach out to this guy, because he has over 20,000 Facebook likes so I have to know his secret.

BQB = BOLD

ROBERT = ITALICS

QUESTION #1 – Robert, welcome to my fine blog and I hope you only have to stay here long enough until you find directions on how to get away from here. It’s not that I want you to leave, it’s just that I don’t even want to be here myself.  Have you seen this place?  It looks like someone fired the maid.

Anyway.  War. Famine. Plague. Poverty. There are so many important issues we could discuss, but I heard you have a dog named Speck. Pee Wee Herman reference or just a coincidence?

ANSWER: That is indeed a Pee Wee Herman reference, and I judge people based on whether or not they get it. So congratulations.

QUESTION #2 – Could you give the newbs out there a primer on “Caverns and Creatures?” What inspired you to start writing this series? What’s it all about? What do we need to know before we dive in?

ANSWER: The bare-bones premise is that it’s about a group of gamers who get sent into their fantasy game world for real, in the bodies of their fantasy game characters. As the title suggests, these people aren’t exactly heroic. They’re barely able to function in their own society. How much harder will they fail in a hostile fantasy world?
You shouldn’t need to know much before diving in. One of the characters is new to the game, which both helps to explain certain things to non-gamers, and provides some thinking-outside-the-box moments in the story.

QUESTION #3 – Are fantasy roleplaying board games as big as they used to be? Sometimes I wonder if the Internet, video games, increased access to all kinds of media and so on killed board based RPGs. Try as I might, I just can’t seem to find a gaggle of nerds willing to sacrifice a Saturday to sit around a board, roll some dice and pretend to be elves, orcs, wizards and what have you. Any advice on how to get an RPG group started?

ANSWER: First of all, I should make it clear that these aren’t board games, because there isn’t a board. Depending on their style of play, some groups may use large, highly-detailed maps, while others may simply scribble a quick dungeon on a scrap of graph paper, while still other groups use nothing at all. The entire game takes place in the imaginations of the players and Game Master as they weave a story together interactively.

Now as far as technology goes, I don’t believe any of this stuff you mentioned in your question has killed tabletop RPGs at all. A tabletop RPG is more than just a game. It’s a social experience. As a matter of fact, the reason I started playing again after fifteen or twenty years away from it is that a group of my married friends and I were looking for something less expensive to do on Friday nights than hang out in bars and get shitfaced together. Dungeons & Dragons turned out to be a way more fun (and cheap) way to get shitfaced together once a week. That’s a whole different experience than drinking at home alone playing World of Warcraft.

Also, technology has made it possible to come very close to a tabletop experience while being hundreds or thousands of miles away from your fellow gamers. I’m part of a podcast called Authors & Dragons, in which we play via Skype and record it.

As for advice on how to get an RPG group started, I’m afraid I can’t be of much help there. I’ve recently moved to the Atlanta area, and haven’t had much luck in that regard.
I will advise you, however, to give any group a couple of trial sessions before you make a commitment. There are a lot of gaming styles out there, and you might find yourself weirded out by a particular group. Make sure you jive with the people you play with.

QUESTION #4 – You’ve got over 20,000 Facebook likes. Your books get tons of reviews. Clearly, you have a rabidly loyal fan base. What did you do to recruit all those nerds? I’m only followed by 3.5 nerds and I’d like to turn that figure into 20,000 nerds so any tips you have on how to build a following, feel free to share them.

ANSWER: It appears I misunderstood what you meant by “3.5 readers.” I thought you meant readers who are mainly interested in the 3.5 edition of Dungeons & Dragons. You’re actually claiming to have three and a half readers on your blog? What the hell does that even mean? Who’s the .5th? Are you being insensitive to a little person or an amputee? What’s wrong with you?

To answer your question, the 20k Facebook likes have come from a variety of sources. Much of it has been acquired through people enjoying my books, looking me up on Facebook, and liking my page. Some of it has come from targeted Facebook campaigns to more aggressively build up a bigger following. But I believe that most of it comes from striving to provide content (mostly goofy RPG-themed memes) that my followers want to share with their Facebook friends, putting my name out there to a wider audience.

QUESTION #5 – I suppose we could waste our entire lives worrying about what society thinks, but sometimes as writers we have to think about it. Right or wrong, I generally find that a lot of people think of fantasy RPG as kid stuff geared towards a younger audience. Yet, you write a comedy series involving fantasy RPG that is packed with all sorts of naughty words and unsavory situations. Was this a gamble?

If it was, I assume it paid off since there appears to be a lot of adults who, according to your stats, love raunchy fantasy RPG comedy. Were you ever worried that fantasy fans may not care for the adult themes? Were you ever concerned that comedy fans might not be interested in magic and make-believe? What advice do you have for authors who mix genres?

ANSWER: It wasn’t a gamble because I wasn’t really risking anything, and I didn’t go into it with unrealistic expectations. I wasn’t a public figure with a reputation to protect. I wasn’t quitting my job to do this. I simply had a story idea in my head and a style I wanted to tell it in. If people wanted to read it, awesome. If not, they could go fuck themselves.

Also, I don’t look at it as “mixing genres” because I regard comedy as more of a template than a genre. As far as genre is concerned, my C&C books are fantasy. Most books will have some funny moments, regardless of the genre. I just like to crank it up a bit in mine. I’ve dabbled in science fiction similarly with Space Puppies, and in horror with the first book in Authors & Dragons’ new Shingles series, The Ghost of Hooker Alley.

QUESTION #6 – Piggybacking off of Question #5, here’s a dilly of a hypothetical pickle. Imagine a stereotypically vapid Hollywood suit knocks on your door with a fat bag of cash in hand and says, “Robby Baby, take out all the naughty stuff and water down ‘Caverns and Creatures’ so we can turn it into a PG-13 movie and this cash bag can be yours.” Do you take the cash, because, I mean, hey, that’s a big bag of cash, or do you wait and hope for a Hollywood suit who shares your artistic vision? Is there an audience out there for an R-rated fantasy comedy film? I mean, I thought “Your Highness” was funny but I don’t think the general movie going public did, bunch of squares that they are.

ANSWER: The obvious answer is that it all depends on just how fat that bag of cash is. If I said there’s no number that could make me disregard the sanctity of my precious dick jokes, I’d be full of shit. And I’d laugh because the word “sanctity” has “titty” in it.

As it happens, the film rights to my books are currently optioned out to a small-time producer who’s working his ass off to try to get a TV series off the ground. Fingers crossed!

QUESTION #7 – Comedian Dave Chapelle recently opined in his latest Netflix special that everyone’s getting so sensitive these days that it’s getting harder to be funny. Is comedy dying?

Personally, I feel like I haven’t seen a goody comedy film that made me laugh out loud since “The Hangover” and that came out in 2009. These days, Hollywood puts out a lot of so-called comedies where the jokes are safe and predictable – stuff that might tickle your grandma’s funny bone but is useless to a comedy aficionado.

You’ve got political correctness. You’ve got the “rush to be offended” culture out there. You’ve got everyone and their uncle on social media, ready to bloviate about how the littlest joke ruined their lives beyond all repair.

I fancy myself a humor writer. I mean, my aunt told me I’m funny anyway. But as a humor writer that actually earns money off of his humor, do you find it’s harder to be a comedy writer these days? Should aspiring comedy writers who are just starting out even try?

I just feel like at the rate we are going, if the general public doesn’t lighten up, “Saturday Night Live” is just going to be a collection of “Why did the chicken cross the road?” style jokes by the year 2050.

ANSWER: I’m personally not worried about this at all. If anything, a more sensitive society just makes the envelope that much easier to push. Hollywood has always tended to play it safe for the most part. But with mainstream media losing ground to Netflix, Amazon Studios, and however many little independent internet-based startups out there, content providers will find it easier to meet the demands of every niche out there.

Are there a bunch of lame network sitcoms out there playing it safe? Sure. But there are also the South Parks, the Rick and Mortys, the Archers, making fortunes by scratching the itches that aren’t being scratched by Friends, and Will and Grace, and… shit. I don’t know. I haven’t watched regular TV for a while.

Do I get negative feedback from the content of my books? You betcha. Aside from the excessive swearing and characters shitting and pissing themselves, my work has been called racist, homophobic, sexist, other “-ists,” etc. I write these books in part to poke fun at the bigoted society I grew up in. I find it encouraging that most of the people who read my books get that.

QUESTION #8 – Self-publishing. Cruel mistress or loving partner? Is it worth it to get into? As it turns out, my 3.5 readers are all aspiring self-publishers. Is there a lesson you learned the hard way that you could teach them and possibly save them some trouble?

ANSWER: I didn’t know dick about publishing going into this. Like many aspiring writers in 2012, I thought self-publishing was a better-than-nothing option for those whose books weren’t good enough to get picked up by a “real” publisher. After getting rejected by a few “real” publishers and agents, that’s kind of the attitude I went into it with. My tune changed when I started to move a few books every month. Taking a long-term view, imagining what might be possible if I actually put some effort into marketing the books, promoting them, and writing more of them, I soon had a completely different outlook on self-publishing.
If a “real” publisher wanted to sign me on now, they’d have to offer me a very fat bag of cash indeed. There’s not a whole lot that they’d be able or willing to do for me (aside from keeping a much higher percentage of the money my books are making) that I can’t do for myself, and better.

The only advice I have specific to self-publishing is to not look at it as an excuse to take shortcuts. This self-publishing revolution is great in that it’s leveled the playing field. The readers have spoken, and they don’t give a shit who published a book if the final product is something that they enjoy reading. But on the flip side, you do need to have work that competes with what the big boys are putting out.

QUESTION #9 – You released a book entitled “Potty Mouth,” the cover of which features a multi-sided game die wearing a Trump toupee with an open mouth that is being urinated in. So many questions come to mind, but I’ll just ask two.

As a general rule, I try to avoid being political because whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, I would like you to become a fan of my blog that only 3.5 people read. Was this book a risk? Do you fear you’ll lose fans? Maybe somewhere out there is a nerd who wears a wizard cape emblazoned with a “MAGA” logo who voted for Trump who will see this book cover and be all like, “How dare you, Robert Bevan? I shall take my book purchasing funds elsewhere!”

Second, must we inject politics into everything? I watch the news when I want to know about all the political turmoil going on. I seek out comedy when I want to laugh and escape from politics. Call me George Costanza, but I don’t want those two worlds to meet. Am I wrong?

I’m mostly interested in appealing to the sorts of people who read books.

QUESTION #10 – You’re an eighth level orc mage. You’ve wandered into a cavern filled with some of the worst creatures imaginable – dragons, ogres, trolls and telemarketers trying to sell you anti-fungal cream over the phone. You roll a five and according to the rules of the hypothetical fantasy roleplaying game we’re enthralled in, that means you can pick up a suit case that contains the following items: a can of spray cheese, a swizzle stick and an autographed photo of “Golden Girls” icon Bea Arthur. How will you use these items to escape the cavern and win your freedom?

ANSWER:  Simple. I poke nostril and mouth holes in the Bea Arthur photo with the swizzle stick, so that I’ll be able to breathe. Then I use the spray cheese to paste the photo over my own face. Who’s going to fuck with Bea Arthur? No one, that’s who.

BQB EDITORIAL NOTE:  That is the best escape plan I have ever heard.  Admittedly, this is also the first escape plan I have heard as this interview series just began, but it is the one to beat.  

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Fridays with BQB

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Hey 3.5 readers.

So, you’ve heard of “Tuesdays with Morrie?”

Well, the bad news is that I’m not a feisty old man with a zest for life and a lot of wisdom to impart.

The good news is that I’m not dying.

Wait, you all think that’s BAD news?  Why, with 3.5 friends like you, who needs 3.5 enemies?

Anyway, I need to promote more, to get this fine blog out into the Inter Webs more and to be more social, so I’m going to start a new feature.  Every Friday, there will be an interview, usually with a self-publisher but I’m sure I’ll branch out to bloggers, podcasters, YouTubers, any creative person who is doing it on his/her own.

Anyone interested in participating?  Anyone know of a good candidate?

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