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#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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Daily Discussion with BQB – What’s the Best Way to Make a Living as a Writer?

Hey 3.5 readers.

I’m asking the above question, not as it applies to most people, but to me, your old pal, BQB.

I’ve been working on a novel about an alligator who eats people on the toilet for over a year now.  The first draft is done.  The second draft, I think, could be done within a month, two at the latest.  It will need a third draft, I can already tell.  Earliest I can get it to the editor will be May – June.

Then it’s a whole process to get it edited and ready for publication.  Basically, if it gets up by Christmas that will be a win.

In short, it’s taking a long time.  I’m not sure at this rate I’ll be able to make a living as a writer.  Perhaps if Toilet Gator rakes in a modest amount of dough, that will give me the incentive I need to work harder, crank out another book faster.  There are a lot of people in my life who impose on me to drop whatever I’m doing to help them with their mundane bullshit.  If I can point to a piece of paper that proves I’m not just screwing around on the computer but am engaging in a money making side business, they’ll figure out how to live their lives on their own and get off my ass.

Anyway, long story short, I am wondering if perhaps I need to move away from novel writing and into just general blogging and opinion writing.  Sometimes I feel I’m at my best when I rant on a subject.  Blogging is conducive to the limited free time I get.  It takes nearly 2 years to get a novel out there, but I can get a post daily.

The issue would be is that I’d probably have to stop talking about pop culture and, sigh, news and politics.  Rant and rave about things going on in the world.  Actually pick a side and sigh, lose 50% of you because that’s what happens when someone expresses a political opinion.  I’m not saying that politics were ever peaceful, but I do feel up until like 2005, people were able to agree to disagree.  Now social media allows people to retreat into their bubbles and point fingers at, “the other.”

Eh.  I don’t really want a bunch of people to hate me.  I’m too adorable for that.  I might split the difference and try to rant about general life topics that you’d think everyone could get behind.  One of my heroes has long been Dave Barry, the humor columnist who is basically the Godfather of humor opinion piece writing.

He wrote humorous thoughts about everything from home improvement, to love, to just generally crappy little things that drive us all crazy.  I could probably do that, though the only thing I worry about is Dave found success during a more innocent time, whereas I could write something like, “Men, don’t you hate it when your wife yells at you when you forget to put the toilet seat down?” and end up getting a twitter campaign to label me a vile male chauvinist pig or something.

To express any kind of opinion these days, even a seemingly safe one like, “My word, what lovely weather to day,” is to risk offending someone so…I don’t know.

I think I’ll keep plugging away.  The first part (roughly 40,000 words) of the Last Driver is in the editing process now, and I’ve come too far on Toilet Gator to quit now.  So, I’ll see if Toilet Gator gets me anywhere and see where I am next year.

Just saying, at some point, I’ll need to turn a profit or quit, realize this is a young man’s game and it’s not my fault the world didn’t invent the gatekeeper bypass technology until I was an old bastard (people seem to be declared old bastards earlier and earlier now) and just go smell the roses and lie down in the grass and wait for the moss to grow over me.

Thanks for listening to my rant 3.5 readers.  If you wanted the short version its, do I a) keep novel writing b) change gears to write opinions and try to monetize the blog or c) just give up and smell roses.  Why does everyone smell roses?

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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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Why 1 Million People Need to Each Pay Me 1 Dollar for My Fabulous Book

Hey 3.5 readers.  BQB here.

Take a knee, will you?

You know, 3.5, I’ve known all of you for a long time now and none of you have given me any indication that you’re bad people.  If anything, you’re good, God fearing people, folks who probably give to the needy, donating your time and money to help the poor.

Perhaps you even donate to charitable organizations that seek to cure diseases, help the homeless, or educate young folk.

Look, I don’t know how to break it to you, but y’all are 3.5 chumps.

Charity is a racket and you know what you get for donating to charity?  Jack Squat.  Seriously.  For as long as you’ve been alive, have you ever donated to a cause only to later learn that the problem that donation was intended to help alleviate was solved?

Cure cancer?  Please.  Cancer will be around forever.  Your Uncle Fred, your Cousin Larry and even your cat Mr. Snickerdoodle will all get it.  AIDS?  That’s sticking around too.  Hell, Mr. Snickerdoodle already has the cat version.

You want to donate to help the homeless?  Fine, but there will just be a new crop of homeless people next week.  Since the dawn of time, there have been people with money and people who beg for money.  Even in Ancient Roman times, there were plenty of rich Romans and then there were always a few panhandling Romans, looking for some spare coins from the wealthy Romans.  That’s never going to change.

Sure, just keep tossing your money down that charity hole.  People will still be sick, poor, ugly, fat, bald, gross, unemployed, rabies infested, trudging around aimlessly with gangrenous genitalia.

Don’t even get me started on saving the whales.  The whales are fucked and really, who cares?  What did a whale ever do for you?

Do you want to keep throwing your money away on charities that will never, ever solve the problems they claim to be working on?  Sure, you can if you want to, but why not actually, for once in your life, donate to a cause that will actually yield a result.

3.5 readers, it’s all very simple:

My book is priced at 99 cents.  That’s right.  If 1 million people would be willing to donate 1 dollar by buying my book, then I, BQB, will be able to get laid by women who are way, way, way, ridiculously way out of my league.

Look, 3.5, I don’t want to tell you how to spend your money.  If it gives you the warm and fuzzies to spend your dough sponsoring third world kids even though, if we’re being honest, all of those kids have been shipped off to a sweat shop to build your next smart phone…or you can help a pathetic nerd have sex with hot chicks.

3.5 READERS: But, BQB.  Helping you have sex with hot women is not a worthy cause.

No, but unlike all the problems you’re throwing money at with nary a result,  it’s a problem that can be saved with money.  Your money can yield actual, honest to God results when it comes to my sex life.

If 1 million of you buy my book for 1 dollar, then:

  • I’ll be a millionaire.
  • I’ll be able to self-publish all my other books in style.
  • I’ll buy fancy clothes.
  • I’ll buy a swingin’ bachelor pad in Malibu.
  • I’ll be able to hob knob with hot, morally challenged women who are willing to touch my sad, pathetic micro-phallus because a) remember, I’d be a millionaire and so I’d be able to throw impressive parties to invite hot women too, buy hot women gifts and take them to Paris and shit.

3.5 READERS: But BQB, good women will not be concerned with your money but your personality.

True, and if you’ve been paying attention to this blog, my personality sucks and besides who said anything about good women?  I’m looking for hot women with super loose morals, preferably ones who prefer to go at it in a best two out of three topless jello wrestling competition for my amusement.

Hell, 3.5 readers.  I’ll tell you what.  If you guys turn me into a millionaire, then I’ll gladly post the evidence of how your donation worked to achieve something – namely, the vast improvement of my life.  Sure, it will be creepy to see photos of a man who is best described as “Fat Nosferatu” be surrounded by super hot chicks but hey, that’s life.

Bottomline:  I know money is tight.  I know you have many options to choose from when it comes to donating.  And of course, I’m not seeking a donation.  I’m asking you to buy a book.  If you buy it, you’ll laugh, because it’s funny.

At any rate, if 1 million of you get together, each put in a single buck, then you will achieve an actual result, namely, you will turn me into a man that is popular with super hot gold digging bimbos.

Is that a good result?   A bad result?  All I know is that it’s a result, and that’s more than I can say than any of the other places you’re throwing money at.  You can’t solve all the world’s problems, but you can help a nerd get laid.

Throw your buck in, 999,999 of your buddies to do the same, and this blog will become a recollection of my exploits as a millionaire/stud for ridiculously hot chicks who would never be with an uggo for me, but for the money that you gave me by buying my book.

Or just keep donating to save the homeless, the whales, to cure diseases, and then in 20 years, I’ll accept your apology when you tell me, “You were right, BQB!  Homeless, diseased whales are still running amuck.  If only I had given that money to you to get you laid!”

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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.

ITALICS=Dakota; BOLD=BQB

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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I have edited 100,000 words of Toilet Gator

I think this thing actually has a legit chance of making it’s way to your Amazon Kindle.  God bless you, Jeff Bezos:

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My Book is Still Free

Hey 3.5 readers.

My book is still free.  You can’t do better than free.  Help me out with a download or better  yet, a review:

 

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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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A Rap About the 12 Cents I Made Off My Book in January

Hey 3.5 readers.

I made a whole 12 cents off this fine book in January:

I was so excited about the 12 cents I wrote this rap:

BQB: Yo.  Sometimes a man dreams for so long,

That it he don’t know where his spirit went.

But then his whole world changes.

He wakes up to find he’s got an extra 12 cents.

CHORUS: 12 cents!

Two nickels or a dime!

Isn’t it so fine?

BQB: Oh, 12 cents!  Let me hear you all over the world, tell me you want my 12 cents!

CHORUS: 12 cents!

BQB:  2 pennies too!  Or a dime and two pennies, what you gonna do?

The light goes off inside my head socket.

All these jingly coins, deep inside my pocket.

CHORUS: Here come the hoes!

BQB:  Oh lord, the hoes!  No one wanted BQB when he didn’t have a 12th of a dolla.

Now the bitches line up at my door, lookin’ to make me holla.

Hoes to the east and hoes to the west.

It’s my writing prompt money that they want best!

Will I travel the nation?

Will I cave in to temptation?

Will I be with a woman who is true?

Or be with the hoes who just want my penny boku?

CHORUS: Oh, the bitches love 12 cents!

BQB:  I used to get so little pussy, it was a mutha-humpin’ crime.

Now all the hoes want to knock boots for my pennies and my dime.

“Look at me, BQB,” say all the hoes from every hood.

Aint no one want me when my cent game was no good.

CHORUS: They all thought you was a loser!

BQB: Now they all a bunch of users.

Chickenheads who want my copper Abe Lincolns.

They don’t want me for me,

And this whole mess is stinkin.’

CHORUS: It stinks real bad!

BQB:  Hoes just want my tiny portrait of Franky D. Roosevelt.

Oh baby, baby you treat me so bad, if only you knew how my ass felt.

CHORUS:  His ass feels bad!

BQB: Mo money, mo problems.

Aint that the truth.

Wish I’d never been like Shakespeare,

And wrote my ass a book, forsooth.

Shit.  2018 was the year I got all this coin instead of the green.

The self-publishin’ game sure is mean.

Think I’ll tell these hoes to get they asses on a bus.

Cuz a fifth of vodka’s the only friend I trust.

I’ll keep my 12 cents close to my heart,

So I never forget, the man I was.

How no one gave a fart.

Damn, son.  Pour out two drinks.

One for me.  And one for all my homies who were never lucky enough to make 12 cents.

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