Monday, November 30, 2020

Interview: Being Very Mean to Leonard Delaney

P.T. Phronk
A post by P.T. Phronk,
of Forest City Pulp fame
Hi. I'm P.T. Phronk. It's my turn to do an interview here on ATB, so I thought I'd reach out to fellow Forest City Pulp author Leonard Delaney. Leonard is a close friend. In fact, he's as close as two different pen names can be.
Delaney achieved brief viral popularity a few years back, when he released Conquered by Clippy, an erotic short story about Microsoft's annoying digital helper who only old people remember now. He was interviewed by media from Vice to Men's Health, for some reason. Even today, academic examinations of Delaney's work help define the 21st century, as in this treatise from the future: A Literary Review of Sex and Technophobia in Leonard Delaney’s Digital Desires: Taken by the Tetris Blocks.
So it is an honour to speak with Leonard today, who joins us from rural Ontario, where he has been in quarantine since 2017.

You can find Leonard Delaney on Twitter by using this hyperlink.
P.T. Phronk: Okay, give us an intro.
Leonard Delaney: Oh, this is one of those interviews where I do all the work, cool. I'm Leonard, and I write technology-and-pop-culture-focused erotica. I've written about having sexual relations with everything from wrist watches to planets. 
It's Leonard Delaney.

PTP: What work would you say you're best known for?
LD: My novella Motherfucking Wizards is selling best these days, because people are still weirdly obsessed with Harry Potter, and it's kind of a parody of that. Maybe it's also because J.K. Rowling became dumb and anti-transgender, so people are looking for better alternatives to her stories, and Motherfucking Wizards is a lot better as long as you are an adult who can handle sexual wizardry.
Conquered by Clippy was the story that people really gravitated towards, though, so I'm best known for that.

PTP: I heard that the creator of Clippy is aware of the book.
LD: Kevan Atteberry, yeah. He was actually pretty mean about it in one of his interviews (he probably means this one —PTP), where he admitted to pirating a PDF of my book and thought the writing was bad so he didn't even finish reading the book he stole. He's wrong, though, because I Google almost every word I write and make sure it's spelled right, so my writing is really good. This guy can't even spell "Kevin" so what the crap does he know? And he liked artwork depicting a pregnant Clippy, so maybe the issue is that he's got very specific fetishes about his creation.

PTP: Why do you think people describe your books as "erotica by a virgin"?
LD: That's actually a really mean thing to say. First the creator of Clippy is mean to me, and now you are mean to me. The definitions of things like "virgin" and "sex" are very fluid in this year twenty twenty, so what would that even mean? I think if you read some papers about human intercourse you'd find that my writing is very realistic.
PTP: Fine, so, changing subject, you said you've been in quarantine since 2017, but the pandemic only started in 2019?
LD: My books have always been future-facing, so I suppose I am ahead of my time. I was already spending a lot of my hours inside, because it's warm in here and I have to feed my mom's cats, but the pandemic emphasized that it's actually important and selfless to stay inside. Heroic, even. So am I a hero? Many people are saying that, but as a man staying in my house all the time, I'm really only doing my duty, as a man, which also gives me more time to write.
PTP: But you haven't published anything since 2017 either.
LD: Look, fine, so I kind of went into hiding. People are mean to me, as you’ve seen first-hand. Plus, the whole novelty erotica thing was starting to feel like it was getting old. And it felt wasteful to write about topics ripped straight from the headlines, because the headlines change every day … even faster in the last few years. So I'd do something like My Racist Robot Lover, and a few days later nobody would even know what it's referring to. Do you remember Microsoft's problematic millennial chat bot, Tay? I barely do.
PTP: I have the same memories as you. But I'm surprised you didn't write anything about the coronavirus.
LD: That would be a bit tacky. I know COVID-19 erotica has been done, and authors like Chuck Tingle are still plugging away and doing a really good job of erotically covering current events without being too negative or exploitative. Maybe there's still a place for tech-focused erotica, though. I don't know.
PTP: Does that mean there's hope for a Leonard Delaney comeback?
LD: If the time was right to do something fresh again, sure, maybe. You said yourself that it's hard to put in the work to create something great during periods of difficulty, and that affects me too. But ... maybe. Follow me on Twitter dot com and other online hangouts in case I make any moves.
PTP: Where can people find you online?
LD: This question is unnecessary. Please Google my name and put links at the top of this interview, or you can go back and hyperlink all the stuff I've said in this interview before you post it. Don't you know about linking on websites? Websites are amazing.
PTP: Thank you for the advice about websites, and also for the interview. We'll keep an eye out for that comeback you're definitely staging.

Monday, November 23, 2020


Another quality post brought to you by Steve!

Hey, everybody!

For those of you who have never experienced the pleasure (or horror!) of collaborating with another author, it's difficult for me to recreate the experience.  It is, I imagine, a bit like raising a child as both parents try to impart their values on a single individual.  It is a breathtakingly beautiful, but painstakingly difficult process of melding two authors' voices perfectly, so that each is equally represented and neither is diminished.  Sometimes we will pore for hours over our words, with a scalpel-sharp level of attention to detail, discussing individual commas and word choices for hours at a time.

For my latest novel I worked with Wile E. Young, a truly exceptional young author who is known for capturing with marvelous gusto the exacting language patterns of his native Southwest.  Like the wind blowing through a cove of cacti, Young's prose has an uncanny, almost preternatural capacity to capture the very essence of Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and the surrounding environs.

So for today's Back Jacket Hack Job I thought I would set myself a difficult, perhaps impossible task.  I'm going to try to recreate the back jacket copy in my writing partner's voice.  Any success I have will be solely due to his mentorship, and any failures, of course, are my own.  Please feel free to let me know how I did in the comments.


Howdy, pardners and pardnerinas!  My name's Wile E. Young and when I'm taking a break from throwing my ten-gallon hat up into the air and blasting it with my shooting iron, I sometimes get around to writin'.  That's writin' with an apostrophe, not no fancy writin' with a "g" liking you have up New York City way.


Now, when I came in the other week from shooting some new oil holes in one of the many oil fields I own, I was done approached by none other than that coyote-eating varmint Stephen Kozeniewski to work on a thick set of reading papers for folks to read out of.  And we sure enough came up with a story lonesomer than a sunset down on the bayou:


But is it really perfectly fine?  Well, shoot, pilgrim, if you think that, then I've got an oil field to sell you up Muskogee way!  (Actually, I really am trying to sell my Muskogee oil field, so if'n you're interested, post me up some signing papers.)

But anyway, read it and I guarantee you you'll be more satisfied than a prairie dog in a corn silo, assuming corn is actually something that prairie dogs eat, which I do.  

Also, there's ghosts!


Thursday, November 19, 2020

The Miracle of COVID-19

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By Cheryl Oreglia

We are learning so much during these tumultuous times, but we are not at war with a virus, that's about hatred, violence, and destruction, as it turns out our best defense is love, not hate. I think we're rediscovering the innate value of family, our neighbor, and community, but most importantly how creativity might be our saving grace if we ever hope to fully understand what I'm calling a modern-day miracle.

This year everything looks different from just about any other and our ability to adapt our lifestyle to continually shifting restrictions has been challenging to say the least. Thanksgiving dinners across the country will most likely be smaller events, Christmas might not include relatives from across the country, or grandparents who remain our most vulnerable population. We've not only put off grooming, socializing, traveling, worshiping, mourning, but celebrating life and our most cherished traditions.

I think it's interesting to note how science fiction writers have historically taken on threatening pandemics, zombie apocalypses, and alien invasions, presenting worst-case scenarios, and our less than stellar human response to the unknown, especially when livelihoods are threatened, common goods are in short supply, and we resort to hoarding, hunkering down, amassing weapons, and preparing for battle.

We're such a vindictive species!

We have fought against many different threats in our past, at first with sticks, swords, spears, cannons, machine guns, and finally atomic bombs as we squabble over land, power, equality, and necessary commodities that were pertinent to our survival.

Here we are in 2020 with our established constitution, policies, two-party government, allies, well-supplied military, but currently it is our susceptibility to a complex virus that is creating animosity between us.

As we race towards a vaccine, a solution, a panacea if you will, the world watches and waits, but maybe the disease is not the virus, maybe we are the disease?

This virus could care less about borders, nationalities, cultures, skin color, social status, or the strength of one's military. What we need to establish is a strong sense of personal responsibility and collaboration if we hope to overcome this virus. It's as counter-cultural as Jesus was in his time, calling for compassion, mercy, justice, solidarity, kindness, and peace in a time when survival depended on the strength of one's clan when confronted by violent regimes.

The message recently launched by Pope Francis is "no one is saved alone," and that seems particularly relevant to our current situation. We are called to be altruistic in a society that prides itself on individualism and independence. Cooperation is going to be key in terms of our eventual salvation both spiritually and physically from this plague.

This worldwide lockdown is in response to a contagion that has taken advantage of our "congested" lifestyle. Crowded markets, sporting events, theaters, churches, bars, travel industry, cruise ships, prisons, weddings, funerals, and communal celebrations have spread this invisible virus to every known part of the globe, and we can no longer ignore the need for separation, restraint, and personal responsibility.

I wake up every morning comparing and contrasting my old life with this new one and the difference is striking. As I try to envision what a post-coronavirus world will look like I'm struck by the importance of storytellers. People are writing about the pandemic from every corner of the world, sharing their unique perspective, their victories, and their failures so the rest of us can benefit. This is likely the most curative thing we can do.

Was it only eight months ago when I was confronted by this new reality? At first, I thought it was sort of exciting, I figured we'd be in lockdown for a few weeks, maybe a month, and now we see how this virus has deceived us all, we'll most likely be under the influence of COVID-19 for decades to come.

I believe it takes obedience and humility to do what is asked of you, that is miraculous, that is what it means to be saintly. We can all do this today. This contagion is intermingled with the air we breathe, and it has brought us to our collective knees, some are more vulnerable than others, but no one is exempt. It will take all of us working collectively to fully eradicate this virus from our world and that in itself is miraculous indeed.

When I'm not writing for Across the Board, I'm Living in the Gap, join me anytime.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Have Book, Will Travel

 My favorite part of traveling, by far, is that hour (or two) I spend in front of my shelves, paging through old favorites, deciding which two (or three, or four) to take with me. As COVID-19 spreads across the country, opportunities for travel are few and far between. BUT KATRINA, you say, I’M TIRED OF STARING AT THESE APARTMENT WALLS.

Me too, dollface. Me, too.

But we care about ourselves and our fellow humans, so instead of ignoring the wisdom of those smarter than us, we’re going to settle in, pour a drink and dig into one of these transporting novels.


I will never write a list of Books To Read that does not include this novel. Atmospheric and magical, Erin Morgenstern crooks her finger from the first page, inviting the reader deep into the Circus of Dreams. Around each corner is something beautiful and tragic. Something that pulls you deeper into a world of black and white, with delicate, precious splashes of red.

Grab your sunscreen, bathing suit, and hand sanitizer, it’s time to head to the Florida Keys. While the Florida of Carl Hiassan’s novels, at first glance, lifts the couch cushions to expose the dirt and stickiness beneath, his love of the state’s imperfection is clear from the first page. I dare you to get through this book without cackling.

My wife and I went to London on our honeymoon, and I got particular joy out of finding the nooks and crannies of the city Neil Gaiman describes in this fantasy. Exploring the notion a city is never the same city to each person, Neverwhere gives readers the chance to see London through different eyes.

Look, I know we’re not best friends with Russia at the moment, but the Russia of Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy pre-dates Putin by several hundred years. In The Bear and the Nightingale, Russia is at the crux of an identity crisis. Watching the world unfold through the eyes of a young woman with one foot in reality and one…somewhere else, will transport you.

Prohibition era New York is one of my favorite settings, but few put the magic into it the way Libba Bray does. A group of teens with supernatural ability get caught up in a war bigger than them all, desperate to save the people and the city they love. If you’ve never been to the Big Apple, Bray will take you there.


Delia Owens will make you sweat with descriptions of mangrove-dotted swamps beneath a sweltering sun. You’ll hear mosquitoes buzzing in your ears and reach for a cool drink as the slow-burn mystery pulls you in.

Like most of Christopher Moore’s novels, the streets of San Francisco take center stage. The city is flamboyant and fun and full of loud, larger-than-life characters. The way Moore tells it, you can almost believe finding vampires in San Francisco isn’t all that much of a stretch.

Pour yourself a mint julep, darlings, we’re heading to Savannah, Georgia. This one is non-fiction, true-crime if you’re keeping track, but John Berendt writes it like fiction, the characters vivid and the mildly sinister southern charm oozing off the page.

Another circus? Perish the thought. This, my dolls, is a freak show, where the rules don’t matter and before the day is over you’ll be covered in sweat, with an ornary snake draped over your shoulders. Tessa Fontaine travels from Gibsonton, Florida (founded by Carnies) to the rest of the country and back again, clad is a corset and enough body glitter to choke a cow, all while clawing through the fog of her grief.


Let’s travel together. Drop your suggestions below for your transporting fiction recommendations.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Leaving on a Jet Plane


Hey Boarders! The title of my blog today is a tiny bit misleading - I'm only dreaming of leaving on a jet plane. Anyone else feel like they might never fly again, with the current state of affairs? *Raises hand.* So, no international travel on the horizon, but, sadly, I am leaving Across the Board.

I've LOVED sharing this corner of the interwebs with all of the readers and writers here. I had to look back to double check when I joined and can you believe it's been 5 1/2 years?? Time definitely does fly when you're having fun!

Thank you so much for being part of my journey here and for always being so welcoming. It's such a bright spot in an industry that can feel very solitary so much of the time.

My leaving is a byproduct of the need for a little more time, as well as focus. One thing I've realized in this pandemic is that my focus for writing is only good for so long. I've never been one of those people who can crank out 10K words per day, but I always thought I could if I had the time. Welp. I've had the time (especially with England in its second lockdown) but my word count has remained much the same. The number of "good" words I get written in a day is flat, and includes words written on my books, of course, but also newsletters, marketing, ads and, yes, even blog posts. 

Mileage may vary depending on the state of the pandemic and global politics, but this was a pretty shocking revelation to me. *Maybe* if I took myself off on a writing retreat, I'd write a million words, but it's a big maybe because I don't think my brain works that way.

And of course, "time" is relative right now, isn't it? On paper, I have more time than ever, but in real life, my family is around A LOT more. Yes, I love them, but they're so LOUD. We do not have a large house. That's all I'm saying  about that. 

But, something had to give and, sadly, it's my contribution here. I'm often on Twitter, or you can keep up with my book releases on my website. Thank you again for all of your support and I wish all the words for you for the rest of 2020. Happy writing! - Brenda xo

Monday, November 9, 2020

The All or Nothin’ Approach to Writing

A post by Mary Fan
“How much do you write per day?” That’s a question we writers often get, from fellow wordsmiths and non-scribes alike. During the month of November, aka National Novel-Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), there’s a daily goal of 1,667 in order to hit 50,000 words by the 30th. The official NaNoWriMo website even rewards you for getting your words in daily via badges. And, of course, there’s the ever-present advice to “write every day,” even if it’s just 500 words or a few paragraphs.

That’s sound advice for some people. I always envy those who have a set schedule of waking up an hour earlier than their families every morning and knocking out a few pages while the rest of the world is making its coffee, or who settle down every evening after dinner to get their word count in for the day. I get how that kind of routine works well for creatures of habit – this is writing time, and writing shall be done.


Problem is, I’m the opposite of a creature of habit. Every time I’ve tried to set a daily schedule for myself for anything, be it work, writing, exercise, or music practice, it’s been a disaster. Oh, it’ll be nice for a few weeks, this daily rhythm of knowns, but soon, an agitated instinct pops up, going “Every day, it’s the same stupid thing! Can I blow off this one?” The next thing I know, I look forward to the blow-offs, until I’m back to my usual chaotic habits.


When it comes to writing, saying “okay, 500 words a day, come hell or high water” or something can be fun for a spell. I remember during NaNoWriMo 2017, I managed to get my 1700ish words in en route to and while vacationing in Arizona, typing them out on my phone and emailing them to myself. But the moment I hit that 50k, even though there were still a few days left to November and I still had half my novel left to go, I was like “Mmkay, I’m done.”


I’ve managed to write an 8,000-word short story in a single day, and then refused to touch a word of fiction for the next three weeks. I’ve cranked out half a novel one month, then ditched it for another, then picked it up again and cranked out the other half in a few frenetic weeks. Basically, for me, it’s all or nothin’. I’m either banging out thousands of words over the course of three-plus hours, or I’m binge-watching Netflix comfort shows and pretending there is no book. In fact, I can’t even bring myself to sit down to write unless I have at least two hours to dedicate to it. “Oh, there’s an hour before I have to head out? Can’t get anything done, might as well faff around on Facebook.”


So, how much do I write per day? It’s complicated. What about you? Do you write every day, or is it feast or famine?

Thursday, November 5, 2020

1,667 Words A Day: Nanoing During An Election

 Hello, readers! Like all of you, I am constantly scrolling through Twitter for any kernel, crumb, speck of information that can alleviate my anxiety and tell me who is going to win this election, and equally important who is getting my state of Pennsylvania--because, dammit, I worked hard for this. And like you all, I also have to work, parent, cook, check homework, and Nano (yes, I'm using it as a verb). 

What was I thinking tackling NaNo in 2020?!

I'd stopped doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) a long time ago. I had made many, many, many attempts to write 50K words in a month and I had always fallen short within the first week. And as we know, once you fall behind, it's hard to make up the word count. It seemed like so much undue pressure, and I had always failed. But, alas, this year (of all years) I have decided to try again.

Sisters in Crime, which I belong to, decided to take up the NaNoWriMo mantle and they hosted a killer opening day crowdcast featuring brilliant mystery authors such as Kellye Garrett, Catriona McPherson, Sara Paretsky, Lori Rader-Day. Everyone popped in for a little bit and offered  their tips for drafting quickly. It was so inspiring and so communal that I realized I can write 50K words in a month. Hell, I've written 5K words a day. I can do this and I want to. Also I need to finish this draft before the year is up.

As I get older, I've become a more efficient writer and I've accepted that I can write crappy and polish it up in revisions. And even in this hectic of hectic times, as long as I set up 90 minutes, I can drop 1,667 words into the draft. Not amazing words, but they're there nevertheless.

Which reminds me, I must get drafting. Maybe when I'm done, we'll have elected our president.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Why Retirement is Easier for Writers

P.T. Phronk
A post by P.T. Phronk,
of Forest City Pulp fame
Hey, do you like money? Cool, cool, yeah, me too. I've been thinking about money a lot lately, maybe because I'm at the stage in my life when I've managed to pay off most of my debts to other people, and now have to start thinking about debts to my future self. Someday, I'd like to have enough money to "retire."

Why do I put retire in quotes? Because I think retirement means something different for writers than it does for people with normal brains. Some people picture the end goal as sitting on the beach drinking Cobra Kais or whatever (sorry, more of a whisky guy), or at least contributing to the statistics that portray retirement homes as endless orgies. Other people can't fathom not working. "What would I do with my time?" these people ask.

For writers, the answer is easy: we'll write! 
If you're not familiar with the life of a writer, here's a secret. Writing is almost never a full-time job. Even the writers you've heard of, and even the writers at the top of the Amazon charts, probably have a day job. But they wish they could write full time! So that's what retirement is for many writers. Retirement is having time to write.

That solves the "what will I do?" problem with retirement. Writers have another advantage when it comes to getting out of the rat race: we are used to living frugally. Our needs are simple, because we're generally pretty happy as long we have a laptop, an Internet connection, and a towering pile of unread books—all things we already have. So maybe more than other people, we only need enough money in retirement to pay the bills and not die.
Devil on your shoulder illustration from Die Muskete, 1916
Aaand another thing: most writers have this little voice on their shoulder that says "if only I could write full time, instead of during the exhausted scraps of time between other jobs, I could really do something great, and maybe even make a few bucks from it." That little voice is probably spewing fantasy, probably not healthy to have there, but it's there, and … maybe it's right sometimes?

I'm making some big assumptions here, like that young people today will ever be able to retire, that the world will be inhabitable by humans by the time retirement age hits, and that issues like healthcare won't keep everyone chained to a crappy job (I'm lucky enough to be Canadian so that's less of a worry, but if you're in the U.S., hey, remember to vote tomorrow). But we might as well try, right? Save a bit of money here, make a few investments there, and maybe we'll reach financial independence someday. I like to read early retirement and finance blogs for inspiration—there are lots out there, but I'll recommend Of Dollars and Data, which provides some nice numbers-driven advice.

Do you think it's a bit easier for writers to get to retirement, or am I out to lunch here?
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