It’s The New Year Review – Coming Right At You!

Boy, that title made me feel old.

Anyway, I could spend this time making with the blabbity-blab about how my year was as a writer, but I can encapsulate it like this: things were great and I expect them to get better in 2015.

For those of you who demand details, here’s what you can look forward to:

  • Action Figures – Issue Four: Cruel Summer (spring 2015)
  • Action Figures – Issue Five: Team-Ups (fall 2015)
  • Action Figures – Issue Six: Power Play (spring 2016)
  • Action Figures – Issue Seven: The Black End War (fall 2016)

Yep, I have the series plotted out through next year! I’m obsessive like that.

Need more reading? Then let me share the love and give you a list of some of the interviews I’ve conducted with fellow indie writers over the past year…

Shopping Small: The Indie Author Edition

Over on my personal Facebook page, I indulged in what has become an annual tradition, in which I pimp out my many creative friends’ small business endeavors and exhort folks to spend some holiday cash with them instead of big box stores that dupe you into getting up at the ass crack o’ dawn on Black Friday so you can fight massive mobs for a limited quantity of deep-discount sale items.

I’ve decided to do something similar here for the benefit of my many indie author buddies, as well as for anyone who might be looking for some new hidden gem of a book. Click on the images to jump to Amazon.com (or the appropriate direct sale site) to grab a copy.

YA – SUPERHERO FICTION

Obviously I’ll start with my own books, but I won’t belabor the point since 99 percent of this blog is dedicated to that. Go here and you’ll fund all the links you need to grab any or all of the Action Figures series, or check out this post to learn how you can grab signed copies.

HISTORICAL FICTION

Jake Hawking and the Bounty Hunters – J.M. Aucoin

SYNOPSIS: The Caribbean. 1715. Jake Hawking — pirate, rogue, and scourge of the Spanish Main — is known for his quick blade and cunning wit. It’s earned him some friends in the Caribbean, but it’s also earned him his fair share of enemies. The governor of Havana has hired three of the most dangerous bounty hunters in the West Indies to track and capture Hawking and his crew. It’s not an unusual predicament for a pirate to find himself — hunted to the end of his days — but if the Spanish governor manages to persuade the lot to fly under a single banner, it could make life a little more interesting than Hawking wishes.

With the giant ex-slave Little Queen and the rest of Hawking’s crew aboard the snow-brig Broad-Wing, they’ll need every ounce of wit, sail, and steel if they’re to survive and out duel the bounty hunters. Included in the collection are the first three Jake Hawking short adventures — “A Pirate’s Honor”, “The Royal Bounty Hunter”, and “Little Queen’s Gambit” — previously only available as eBooks (also available on Amazon). This edition also includes a foreword by J.M. Aucoin, the original single story artwork, and four bonus pirate stories and swashbuckling poems.

Inspired by the swashbuckler tales of the early 1900s as well as the likes of Errol Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks, the Jake Hawking Adventures promise to thrill readers with swordplay, daring, intrigue, and plenty of high adventure.

CREEPY CHRISTMAS

The Stocking Dead – Dean Calusdian

SYNOPSIS:

A sleighful of pop culture satire and a splattering of the zombie genre, The Stocking Dead will chew at your funny bone and gnaw on your heart strings.

It’s the day before Christmas and all the elves of christmasville are getting ready for santa’s big ride, but one of Santa’s helpers isn’t so merry.

Nothing ever goes right for poor little Wendell. Bored at his job, picked on by the toy shop bully and unnoticed by the elf of his dreams he hopes that somehow this Christmas will be different.

His problems are about to get worse. Much worse.

When a bite from a toxic bunny starts turning all the residents of Christmasville into flesh eating fiends, Santa’s winter wonderland becomes an undead wasteland.Wendell and a small band of survivors must desperately attempt to escape the carnage, but the zombie plague is spreading faster than Christmas cheer.

With all hope dwindling, it’s up to our holiday heroes to save Christmas, but can they even save themselves?

Wight Christmas – Rob Borkowski

SYNOPSIS: Wight Christmas, a flash fiction short, tells a cautionary tale of the consequences of interfering with holiday spirit.

Saving Christmas: A Feel Good Macabre Tale – Jess MacLean, Dan Desilets, Rhiannon McCulloch

SYNOPSIS: It’s all your fault. You could have stopped this from happening. Belief in Santa Claus begins to fade and Christmas is in jeopardy. Santa is despondent and his well meaning elves take it upon themselves to “Save Christmas”. Try to remember that their hearts are in the right place as the blood begins to fly.

Saving Christmas is a lighthearted romp through the “Feel-Good Macabre” genre. As you laugh, sigh and cringe your way through this delightfully grim tale, remember this. You are just as awful as we are for enjoying it.

CHILDREN

Ricky’s Spooky House – Micah Edwards, Tom Brown

Edgar Allan Poe is one of the greatest storytellers ever, and you’d like to share him with your kids. But isn’t he too scary? No longer!

Ricky’s Spooky House, the first in the Li’l Eddie series of books, is a retelling of Poe’s classic The Fall of the House of Usher. The beautiful pictures and entertainingly tamed story would horrify Poe, but will delight children and parents alike.

Saving Santa’s Seals – T.M. Murphy, Adam Taylor

SYNOPSIS: When 8-year-old Ryder asks Santa to help his Uncle Ted overcome writer’s block and create another amazing story, he cannot know that they’ll both be getting the best present ever–a wild adventure. But is it real, or just a wonderful Christmas dream?

URBAN FANTASY

The Life and Death of Lily Drake – T. Michelle Nelson

SYNOPSIS: For Lily Drake, slaying vampires is easy…Dating them is the hard part. Lily Drake is your everyday hard-working single mom…until a gorgeous vampire shows up on her front door who she mistakenly assumes is her blind date for the evening. As one crazy scenario after another unfolds, Lily finds herself falling in love with two vampires, slaying the evil ones, and being prophesied as the savior of the entire undead race.

Deciding between pizza and Chinese take-out will no longer be one of the hard decisions facing Lily Drake once she is immersed into vampire society. Humanity or immortality? That doesn’t hold a candle against this question – which of the two handsome vampire cousins? The Life and Death of Lily Drake is not your typical vampire love story. It’s a tale about the humorous mistakes a woman makes simply trying to survive not only life, but the dating scene. How will Lily manage working full-time, taking care of her young son and fighting the undead at every turn? Lily will have to figure it out, but who better to save the world than a mom?

YA – ROMANTIC THRILLER

Mobster’s Girl – Amy Rachiele

SYNOPSIS: Gripping my chest is the only way to hold myself together or what’s left of me will fall out. The past week has enlightened me on one thing-I don’t care. Megan, Mobster’s Girl I didn’t even hesitate. I took two strides and blasted him in the face with my fist. He was ready for it this time-unlike in church. He tried to hit me back but I ducked and smashed him again. Antonio, Mobster’s Girl You can’t help what family you’re born into or what lies they keep from you. You can’t help it if they mold and shape you just the way they wanted. Are monsters born or made? Antonio and Megan have a timeless issue. They were told to stay away from each other. They try, they really do. But they are drawn to each other. Antonio is eighteen and the up and coming mob boss of Palmetto, New Jersey. Megan is a girl uprooted from the grassy plains of Ireland at the age of five. Now she’s seventeen and faced with horrors she never thought existed.

PLAYS – COMEDY

WHACKED – Scott Kegler

SYNOPSIS: A full-length comedic play, “Whacked” follows the life of Jack Murphy, whose wife walks in on a private moment and makes an embarrassing discovery the night before Thanksgiving. The next day, all the in-laws come to celebrate and promptly notice something is not quite right in the Murphy’s little love nest, so they decide to play the parental guessing game. The family of course overshoots numerous times causing the pressure to mount and explode into an array of immoral confessions, misguided religious interventions and plenty of excessive holiday drinking. A Thanksgiving farce stuffed full of sex, family, awkwardness and hilariously needless shame. In the end, the message is clear that (of course) everyone is blameless for their own self-gratification— but that doesn’t make it good dinner conversation.

Weekend Shenanigans

At last, it’s back to work on Action Figures – Issue Four: Cruel Summer!

The author during his outing as a medieval plumber, and no, that is not a joke.
The author during his outing as a medieval plumber, and no, that is not a joke.

Last weekend I was otherwise occupied working the Connecticut Renaissance Faire, mostly with my wife (Veronica of Storied Threads), and one day with my friend Scott Kegler, assisting him with his street act for the show…not that he needed me, because the man is a dynamo of comedy. Watching him was a serious education in the art of clowning.

I got to work the faire on my favorite of the show’s theme weekends, Time Travelers Weekend, when patrons are encouraged to go a little crazy with non-period costuming. My wife took advantage of the looser rules on participant garb and helped mastermind an Avengers-themed presence among other merchants and the gaming crew. As you can see from one of the photos, no less than Clark Gregg himself approved of the Marvel-inspired surcoats created by my wife.

My friends Carlos, Greg, and Artemis in their cool Marvel kinghtly surcoats.
My friends Carlos, Greg, and Artemis in their cool Marvel kinghtly surcoats.

That weekend also featured the Doctor Who costume contest, co-judged by my wife, who dressed for the occasion in her Tenth Doctor-inspired ensemble, and our friend Krystal (the winner was a kid who built with his family’s help a full-sized Dalek outfit).

My wife and Krystal hosting the Doctor Who costume contest.
My wife and Krystal hosting the Doctor Who costume contest.
My wife in her Loki outfit and a friend as the Enchantress.
My wife in her Loki outfit and a friend as the Enchantress.
My friend Christian after a dramatic reading of book three. And yes, he read it in character. It was a riot.
My friend Christian after a dramatic reading of book three. And yes, he read it in character. It was a riot.

Credit where it’s due: photos by Lauren Dubois, Eric Tetreault, and Jamie Tarbell.

Playwright Interview – Scott Kegler

Something a little different today! Instead of a fellow independent author, I present to you an interview with an independent playwright, my friend Scott Kegler, who recently realized a career dream and had his play WHACKED! published by JAC Publishing & Promotions. WHACKED! is also available on Amazon.com.

A bit of background: Scott and I met in 2007, when I was on the writing staff for the Connecticut Renaissance Faire and Scott was portraying the Green Knight in that year’s production (you can check out a key scene featuring the Green Knight here). We didn’t really connect as friends until a few years later, when we were both performing in the New England Pirate Faire, and we bonded over our respective statuses as happily married men (which I say without any irony or sarcasm. We both have awesome wives).

Okay, Scott, introduce yourself to the readers, and tell them what else have you done outside of writing this particular play.

I began writing when I was in high school and found that my stories were best told through dialogue. I wrote screenplays and by the time I was through college had almost a hundred different shorts, with only a couple of full length scripts.

I have had the advantage of being able to have performed on the stage and directing for the stage. These opportunities have really helped me have a larger understanding of theater, and how to pace a script.

What are your professional influences? 

My writing style is definitely fast paced and almost always plays within the absurd. I think a lot of this comes from my childhood, and what I watched. While my friends were usually watching Saturday morning cartoons, I was filling my mind with rerun episodes of Whose Line is it Anyway?, MST3K, and Blackadder.

I do enjoy however the styles of comedies from the 30’s and 40’s, where you see these very straight laced protagonists thrown into settings filled with insane, broad characters.

Now, onto WHACKED! What inspired you – or perhaps I should say, what possessed you to write a sex farce?

Poster by Amanda Marie.
Poster by Amanda Marie.

Ha. Well, I was actually in rehearsals for the Scottish Play. Yes, Macbeth. I was backstage with one of my cast members sitting on a couch, and we were talking about comedies. We were talking about the classic sex farce and how they are usually all over the place, and the sex is just a general theme. I commented how it would be interesting to focus on one sex act, and more importantly a socially taboo one. When I made the claim that an entire play about masturbation could be interesting. My friend stated it couldn’t be done. So, I opened my laptop and started while waiting for my cue. The first draft was done in 6 days.

You’ve mentioned that there are some elements in the show that were inspired by real-life people or events. What were those real-life inspirations (feel free to change any names to protect the not-so-innocent)? 

In general, I always have some actor’s voice in mind when I write anything. But with WHACKED, I had one character in particular that was if at the very least a parody of my father. The character David in the play is a combination of both my father, and how I see my own voice in a few decades. The biggest influence for the show being my father’s ability to speak primarily in factoids. I can’t argue with the results.

Most of the show is pretty grounded in reality, but there are bits in the show that are completely over-the-top (Jesus Bill comes to mind). In retrospect, do you wish you’d pulled those wilder moments back a little? Or made the rest of the show crazier? Or are you happy with the balance?

A lot of my comedies depend on the absurd and often the fantastic. So, it was fun to tease the idea of the show going for a “fantastic” ending, only to end up being just another ludicrous turn. Jesus Bill was never an intended part of the show when I set out. Maybe it was the lack of sleep, but I remember just snapping at one point and saying, “The hell with it. Jesus appears in the door way.” Since I am a recovering Catholic, I couldn’t resist bringing Him into this show.

What made you decide to submit this particular play for publication? Did you ever worry it was too risqué or weird to be accepted for publication? 

I think it was the response. I have written a lot of the years, but this show just seemed rocket propelled. At the first table read I had at a local pub, the actors were practically demanding I get this produced. The rest happened pretty quickly.

Chances are some people reading this are familiar with the process of submitting a novel for publication, but what is the process for submitting a play?

The process is similar once the show is a proven commodity. The biggest difference is that almost any publisher/agent would like to see that the show/script has been performed in front of a paying audience.

If you have a script with which you are looking to move forward. I would recommend getting some actors together for a table read, and then getting a location for a stage reading. See what sort of response you get and then pursue a production. Once you have been able to that, you should be able to write your query letters and proceed.

What’s up next for you, writing-wise?

I am putting the queries together for two shows that were produced earlier this year. A full length show and a one act, which are about ready for that next step. I am working with a group on a web series currently as well, which I have gotten through about 3 episodes. I would like to find the time to finish two new works that are written, but needing some edits and reading, but there is this thing I have been involved with since the beginning of July. New baby or something? The wife says he is mine, and she is usually on the up and up. I figure I should raise him either way. You know…for appearances.

Your Last-Minute Shopping List

Christmas is coming up fast. Have you finished your shopping yet? No? Slacker.

Well, I’m going to throw some suggestions out at you. I’ll get the selfish one out of the way: buy Action Figures! You need to get book one so you’ll be able to understand what’s going on in book two (which is now off to my test-readers. Woo!).Pirates Honor

If swashbuckling historical fiction is more your style, my friend/fellow writer Justin Aucoin has his trilogy of piratical shorts in the Jake Hawking series, all available for the Kindle and the Nook. Start with A Pirate’s Honor and go from there.

For a faster read in a Christmasy vein, check out my buddy Rob Borkowski’s Wight Christmas, a flash-fiction short that’s available on Amazon.com for the Kindle.

For an early Christmas gift for a theater lover, snag tickets to this weekend’s final performances of my friend Scott Kegler’s play WHACKED!, at the Hole in the Wall Theater in New Britain, Connecticut.Loki Doll

For something a little more kid-friendly (or adult geek friendly), check out my friend Jess Maclean’s shop Geeky and Cheeky on Etsy. My wife Veronica has a growing collection of handmade G&C dolls, including a complete set of Avengers dolls.

Speaking of my wife, go visit her new Storied Threads website! It’s been re-launched with a focus on her clothing and fandom items, while her Etsy store will focus more on her original embroidery designs.

Now, go forth and shop — and in doing so, you’ll be supporting independent artists and small businesses, which is always a great thing to do.

Dangerous Minds

To get the selfish stuff out of the way: draft two of book two of Action Figures is almost done. Tomorrow is a dedicated writing day, and I don’t know if I’ll finish the climax, but I’ll come damn close.

Behold my commercialism!
Behold my commercialism!

Aside from writing book two, I’ve spent a lot of the past month promoting book one. Mailers have been sent out, I’ve assaulted the Internet regularly, and I took out my first Facebook ad, which has been mildly successful in driving some traffic. I plan to revive the ad during Thanksgiving week to promote a 99 cent Cyber Monday sale, which will hopefully result in some sales.

Another new initiative is a little more cooperative. My friends and fellow self-published authors Justin Aucoin and Rob Borkowski and I established the New England Self-Published Authors Group to promote our work, first and foremost, and eventually the work of others indie authors. We added one new writer, Jennifer Aqualaney, who is working on her debut novel, and we’re hoping she’s the first of many who will join the group.

Ah, but my creative writer friends dabble in areas other than prose — to wit, my buddy Scott Kegler (of Commedia Mania fame), who is putting the finishing touches on his new play, WHACKED, which is about “turkey and masturbation.” I have tickets to opening night next Friday, and I expect to be both entertained and horrified. FYI, it’s not too late to get in on the madness, just got to the Hole in the Wall Theater web site and buy your tickets now.

Yes, the show will be as disturbing as this poster suggests.
Yes, the show will be as disturbing as this poster suggests.