Thursday, September 21, 2023

Always Pressed for Time

It is 3 weeks away from the next Comic-Con in NYC and I've overbooked yet again on appointments. The plan is to focus exclusively on comics this time given the writer's strike (comics don't have a union). Though there are ongoing talks at this very moment that the strike might actually end today.

I'm not sure what the plan will be anymore. I haven't since January of this year. 

I am trying to organize how to go about doing everything between my comics work, some book work, and some conventions. However lately, I'm feeling overwhelmed. Nothing seems to be working out as planned. Everything feels like it's not really doing okay despite on the surface level seeming peachy keen. 

We've got layoffs and higher prices on goods of everything, gas prices on the rise, a housing market that's high in interest rates, and an even higher cost of ownership. Debt up the wazoo. Government shutdowns. Multiple recessions across countries such as China, Canada, Germany, and just about all of Europe. Plus food shortages in the UK. These are supposed to be better times... It certainly doesn't feel like it.

I'm genuinely worried about the near future and that anxiety never went away this year. It got me thinking about the nature of time recently. In college, I was a large supporter of humanistic psychology. My mentor at the time was a proponent of Martin Heidegger's 'Being in Time', though I won't focus on that as much given Heidegger's association with the Nazi party. 

What was important was this idea Heidegger had called 'Dasein'. 

Being and Time. The experience being reflective there within capable of experience at this moment. How we are always in a perpetual flux of being in relationship to our objective reality and how that dynamic within this moment influences who we are right now. Thus it reflects who we become later and see ourselves then. Time is reflective. Time is... short. Time seems to be the one thing no amount of money can ever recapture. And our memories, the one thing we have that makes someone themselves - are mostly nothing but frozen moments of time. 

I worry because I think I am almost out of time. 

Before you know it... there it goes. A lifetime,

Passes you right by.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Every Adam Nevill Book Ranked

Hi everyone! I hope you're all well and have been enjoying good movies/games/shows/books! Speaking of books, I recently finished reading every novel by my absolute favourite writer, Adam Nevill, and I ranked them. If you're interested, you can click on the video below!

I realise that a video link is cheating a little, as it isn't an article per se, but I have been absolutely swamped so I hope this will suffice! I happen to know that the main man himself enjoyed this video, and was even kind enough to mention it in his most recent newsletter (mind blown!).

I'll be back next month with more musings!


Friday, September 8, 2023

It's a Shore Thing

To be extremely reductive, there are two kinds of people. Beach people and non-beach people. 

Do you love the sun? Is there nothing better than stretching out on hot sand and reading a trashy novel while sipping a cold beverage? Do you enjoy the waves rolling in on your feet as you walk along the beach at sunset, holding hands with your love?

Or are you Anakin Skywalker?

I come from a mixed family. My mom spent her summers at the Jersey Shore, going to Wildwood with her big family every summer. To this day, she and her siblings rent a house on the shore for a week after Labor Day. 

My dad thought Anakin liked the sand too much. He hated the beach, hated getting hot, hated sand getting in everything. The only thing he liked less was standing in line in the sun, which is also why we never went to Disneyworld as kids. 

Still, I'd head to the beach when I could. Since we were in Halifax, NS, and swimming in ocean water, it was really only warm enough to go once or twice each summer. We'd go with friends or Dad would drop us off and then drive away, tires squealing.

Fortunately, I married a beach person. My wife grew up on the Connecticut shore, living only blocks from the beach. We now go on many beach trips together. 

We recently took a brief end of summer trip to Ocean City, MD. It is a classic Shore Town. Which got me to thinking, what makes a Shore Town? There are plenty of beaches, but just having a beach is not enough. 

Well, I am here to provide you with a list. Every Shore Town has to meet this criteria. Sorry, that's just how it is. 

1) Beach

I mean, that's obvious. Not every beach is a Shore Town, but every Shore Town has a beach. You need a warm, sandy beach. You need umbrellas and pop up canopies. You need fish-belly white tourists (like me) overdoing it and turning lobster red. (I keep telling my wife that I need to get my base burn for the summer, but she is not having it.) 

You laugh, but once the burn fades, I am golden brown. 

You need frat boys playing football. You need kids trying to boogie board. You need those crappy foot showers to attempt to rinse off the sand. If you don't, don't even bother. 

2) A Boardwalk

This is key. You need a boardwalk to stroll along. The boardwalk has to be packed full of just the best, most terrible food options - hot dogs, pizza, funnel cake, fried dough, french fries, lemonade, etc. You know how to tell if the food is good? Check out the seagulls. If you have some big ass gulls that look like they could carry off a toddler, then you've got some good food. They've spent the summer feasting on leftover fries and are now ready to fight you for your hot dog. 

Fries? Where?

You also have to have a plethora of shops selling just the most offensive t-shirts possible. If you don't have a boardwalk stall selling "I Heart Sluts" shirt, are you even trying? 

The shops in Ocean City had the Trump mug shot shirts out, and were selling both GUILTY and NOT GUILTY versions. I told my brother he was getting a NOT GUILTY one for Christmas. He was not amused. 

3) A Crappy Amusement Park

It can be better than crappy, but honestly? Crappy is kind of better. You really aren't getting the full experience if you aren't doing a haunted house ride, where the scariest thing about it is the smell of mold and the surly teen shoving you in. Or a big slide where your mat is so damp it sticks to the slide and will not move. Or a thrill ride where the thrill comes from the question of whether or not the bolts stay bolted. Bonus points if the park is on a pier, and the pier is supported by what looks like rotting telephone poles. 

4) Horrible Puns

Everything in your Shore Town should be named as if a committee of Dads got together and voted on the worst puns possible. You need a restaurant called Crabby Pete's or Crabby Dick's. You need a place with Rusty in the name, like The Rusty Scupper. You need a hotel or a cottage called the Sea Plus. No pun is too bad. 

5) Pastels

Your Shore Town should look like the design team of Miami Vice decided on the color scheme. Bright, light colors everywhere! Remember, you want to look sun kissed, not like you've been hiding under a rock. Bonus points if the pastels are the result of your bright primary colors being sun baked and not retouched. 

6) Mini Golf

You have to have mini golf and it has to be an acceptable theme. Acceptable themes include:

    - Dinosaurs

    - Pirates 

    - Sea Creatures

I will also accept vikings as a subset of pirates. Dragons qualify under Dinosaurs. At the very least, you need a windmill or a waterfall. 

It's important to meet all these criteria, because in the depths of winter you will find some sand in your car mats. Or a crumpled up scorecard from the X-Treme Mini Golf center showing how yo absolutely DOMINATED your family on the T-Rex hole. Or a wrapper from some salt water taffy in your jeans. And you will remember what it was like to be warm and strolling on the sand, fighting off seagulls. 

See you on the Shore!

Victor Catano lives in New York City with his wonderful wife, Kim, and his adorable pughuaua, Danerys. When not writing, he works in live theater as a stage manager, production manager, and chaos coordinator. His hobbies include coffee, Broadway musicals, and complaining about the NY Mets and Philadelphia Eagles. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @vgcatano and find his books on Amazon

Monday, September 4, 2023

Book Review: Wasps In The Ice Cream

 "Wasps In The Ice Cream" by Tim McGregor. 

"Wasps In The Ice Cream" by Tim McGregor

Summer, in the 1980s. Mark Pruitt and his two best friends, Eric and Kevin, are inseparable. That is, until the day Kevin chooses to play a cruel prank on the Farrow sisters. The aftermath of the prank leaves Mark feeling terrible and wanting to make amends. What ensues is a unique relationship with George (Georgia) Farrow that will take you on a journey of loss, grief, first love, and friendship. 

Last year, Chad Lutzke posted his top books for the year, and this story was on his list. The title and coming of age aspect of this story is what attracted me the most, but the character driven story and beautiful prose are what kept me reading. 

Mark and George had such an interesting dynamic. I loved their character interaction and how complex both sets of characters were. 

I also really appreciated the nods towards Shirley Jackson. The reference towards "The Lottery" was great. That's a story that has stuck with me, much like "Wasps In The Ice Cream" will now. 

Realistically, this story could be a few things; a ghost story, a love story, a coming of age horror novella. I personally didn't consider it horror, but it did emit all of the creepy vibes. No matter what you're looking for when you sit down to read, I guarantee you'll find it inside these pages. 

Monday, August 28, 2023

Anarchy in the UK 2023!

Another quality post brought to you by Steve! 

Hi-diddly-ho, neighborinos!

What's that, you say? Why the change in normal greeting?  Well, let me tell you.  I am drunk.  And I have not slept in weeks.  Drunk at noon, you say?  Fuck you, says I.  I have been editing, editing, editing...oh, and filling out contracts and sending out rejections and crushing dreams and making payments.  Never let anyone tell you that you should ever edit an anthology!

But since I already did the hard work, I hope you'll all tune in on Wednesday to see how THE PERFECTLY FINE NEIGHBORHOOD (that's right, I tied it all back together) will look.  I hope to see some of your smiling faces at the big Table of Contents announcement on Wednesday. 

Here's the link, which you can click right now to add it to your schedule of events, or just click at the appropriate time.

Anyway, I spent the last year or so planning for a big trip to Europe.  The day I got back was actually when my last ATB post went up (don't worry, I scheduled it weeks ahead of time.)  But knowing that I would eventually want to share all of my experiences here on the blog, I made this video.  And now I can finally share it!

Since I ended that video by starting to eat some of the British snacks, I decided I'd better eat them all for your viewing pleasure.  So the next week I basically made a mukbang as a direct sequel.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Launching a New Podcast: Monomythic

monomythic logo

Hey everyone!

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. I've been juggling a lot of creative projects atop the usual journalism work and so have fallen behind on staying on top of these.

One of the biggest of my projects lately has been this new podcast I just launched. It's named after my company MONOMYTHIC (my writing LLC I made for projects and creative work) and in it, I interview authors, creatives, and people working in the industry about their own hero's journey and what they're promoting.

First, starting with a few comics folks like my buddy Trevor Fernandes-Lenkiewicz about his latest indie comic, then with Fantagraphics creator Natalie Norris, and then horror writer and Marvel Unlimited published author Clay McLeod Chapman (whom you may remember from my interview with him from before.

Then, of course, I brought on fellow ATB: Writer and wonderful author Mary Fan as we talked about her superheroic origin story. Followed by another comics interview with comics legend Mark McKenna, an original member of John Romita Sr.'s Romita's Raiders and my current boss for my first indie project!

Yes, that's right. I have my first big comics publication to come soon hopefully. We're planning to launch a Kickstarter real soon this Fall. All-in-all I've been busy. But I'm still here. Still shooting stories. Still supporting in spreading the news of fellow creatives. 

If you want to be a guest on the podcast, give me a shoutout. I'd love to promote your book and talk stories. You can check out the podcast (link below) to listen to what I do, and if you enjoy it, please like and subscribe. I'll be interviewing lots of creatives in the future and this will be my own private flagship to give you the experience of getting to know fellow creatives. All with a person-centered approach to interviewing. Questions? Yes. But about the artist. About the journey of making things.

And most importantly: About actual people. 

(Click here to head to it in case the embedded episode doesn't work below)

This Awesome Podcast with Mary Fan! Thanks again Mary!

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Mobile Game Ads are Stupid


Celeste Ng on Twitter: "Has someone written about the rise of those  demented game ads yet? I am morbidly fascinated." /  X 


If you’re addicted to social media like I am, you’ll notice a lot of ads for mobile games popping up periodically. I’ve got to say, I am getting sick of these ridiculous ads. 

One thing I have noticed is that for one, most of these game ads have crazy plots that don’t have anything to do with how the actual game is played. They somehow are blatantly able to get away with outright lying to you about what kind of game you’re signing up for. A good example is a game called Empire of the Ants, which I played for a short time. It’s basically just a building game with some strategy involved, but the ads would have you thinking you’re waging war against giant insects and fighting crazy battles. It’s literally just a building game, and it’s dumb. Seriously, these ads would not work in any other medium. Imagine seeing an ad on TV for a utility knife that boasts it can help you kill a bear and then prepare its corpse into bear steaks, and then when you actually order it, it’s a plastic spork. 

Another thing I’ve noticed, is the games almost always involve a woman (usually pregnant), and sometimes a child getting kicked out of their house by an abusive man, and made to live on an island or in a jankity ass house with no heating or plumbing. What is the deal with that? Is there an appeal behind using puzzles to rescue a wayward woman and her kids from certain doom? I saw one the other day of a woman getting KICKED OUT OF AN AIRPLANE by her boyfriend and landing on a deserted island where, big surprise!- she must clear bushes and build a farm to survive. Is there something fun about seeing people in despair and using matching games and farming as a way to save them?

The fashion based games are just as bad. Usually, the plot involves an extremely disheveled woman with wild hair, covered in garbage, her face a mess of pimples and boils. She's typically trying to impress some rich pretentious asshole who will only be nice to her if she looks good. The goal is to dress her up pretty to make him love her. Somehow, the person playing the game in the ad fails and the woman ends up crying on the street corner or even worse, IN PRISON! Oh yeah, she's usually pregnant too.


What is it with mobile games and violence towards women and kids? And am I overthinking it?

Less frequently, I see ads for games about animals that usually involve the animals being injured or abused in some way. Somebody shoots a dragon full of arrows, and you save it by matching eggs together or something. I don’t know. Almost all of these games are the same. They are matching, building, or puzzles. It’s all the same crap. I fail to see how any of these games profit off of using violence and abuse as a selling point when the game itself is pretty benign. 

Sometimes they go the other direction though. Sometimes they use romance as a way to lure in gamers. It still usually starts with some kind of horrible event happening to a woman, but lo and behold, there is a really nice man with a pie or something who will save her and help her open her own shop. A lot of times the romance games delve into supernatural stuff and even straight up bestiality. I'm afraid to even try these games, so I can't even tell you how accurate they are.

Last thing. Why do these games insist on showing us the worst possible way to play them? They’ll show a disembodied hand doing the match part of the game and doing it badly. Usually somebody dies or starves to death as a result of these poor choices. I’m guessing this is a way to get people to play them so they can show that they can do it better. It’s still really annoying and I do not understand where these advertisers get their ideas.


 Do any of these games actually appeal to people? Can we just be honest and say it’s a puzzle game and leave it at that?

These tactics must work or else I wouldn’t be seeing ads like this all the time. I’d like to know if they are actually tricking people, or if people are just bored and clicking on them for the sake of it.  

What’s your favorite bad gaming ad?

Stay weird folks.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Gen Con 2023: A Lookback

Hey everyone! Mary here, still somehow recovering from Gen Con even though it's been a week since the almighty gaming convention. Brave New Girls co-editor Paige Daniels and I have been doing this con every year since 2015 (except for 2020, of course), and our shtick has evolved quite a bit since then. 

For instance, it took three years for us to figure out that we should brand ourselves as something... enter The Sci-Fi Gals (kind of by accident... in 2017, we realized we were the only table that had only sci-fi on it, whereas most people around us had fantasy). So in 2018, we showed up with a "Sci-Fi Gals" sign to give our booth cohesion. In 2021, we realized that our big "Sci-Fi Gals" sign, which featured four Brave New Girls covers and a cartoon robot, made it look like we only had children's books (when all of Paige's books are actually aimed a grown-up audience and rife with f-bombs). So last year, I printed a second sign with all our grown-up titles and a more serious sci-fi-looking background. 

This year, a new thing we tried was bringing a tall collapsible bookshelf to stand behind our table, giving us more space to display our ever-growing collection of books (we seriously have so many now, some things have to go spine up to make room... interestingly, that doesn't stop people from noticing them; in fact, several make a point of pulling out the spine-up ones to see the covers). It definitely helped in terms of expanding our display space.

Another thing I've been doing with my series is having little signs displaying the discounted price for buying multiple books (for instance, the Jane Colt trilogy is $15 for one book, but $35 for the set). We kind of accidentally A/B tested this because Paige didn't have an equivalent deal for her Non-Compliance trilogy. The result? She sold out of Book 1 but was left with a bunch of sequels. I sold out of trilogy sets before I sold out of standalone Book 1s (which I'd brought more of than the sequels). 

Since Paige sold out of Book 1 halfway through Sunday, with a whole afternoon of shopping left, she steeply discounted her sequels, the pitch being that you could get them directly from the table (and get them signed) for cheaper than they'd be on Amazon, then go home and order Book 1 to complete your set. She didn't think she'd get any takers, yet 3 people ended up walking away with the sequel sets.

I remember back when I only had the first 2 books of Jane Colt, it was tough getting anyone to pick up Book 2, even as part of a two-book deal. But it was easier to sell 3-book sets once the trilogy was complete. Which makes sense as a buyer... either you just want to dip your toe in with Book 1, or you want the whole thing. I wouldn't want to risk buying an unfinished series either. Which is why I wasn't too concerned when no one really picked up Starswept's sequel when I only had Books 1 and 2 out. Once I had my trilogy sets though? People began scooping up the whole collection.

It's impossible to predict what people will want year to year, though. Last year, copies of my cryptid tale, Found Footage, kept walking off the table. This year, I literally sold two. No one even wanted a closer look at them. Maybe cryptids aren't trendy anymore?

Another new thing we did this year was printing short stories as mini books, between 50 and 100 pages long, and selling them as $7 for 1, $12 for 2, or $15 for 3. Lo and behold, people were happy with these low-commitment impulse buys and they walked off the table (I sold out of 2 of my titles).

And lastly, we did a new "mystery book" thing this year because we have so many titles between us (I think it's literally like 30 now), some people just can't decide. Plus, this is a gaming convention, and a little risk is fun. All our paperbacks are $15, and all our hardbacks are $20, so we set it up so that you pay $15 to roll a D20, with each number corresponding to a book. Most are paperbacks, but the higher numbers (16-19) are hardbacks. Nat 20 gets you a whole trilogy. We didn't get a ton of takers (I think maybe 6 over the whole weekend), but those who did do it had fun.

Anyway, I'm sure we'll try new things next year as well. I was very happy with how Gen Con went overall this year... it was our best yet for sales. That could be because it was the most populous Gen Con ever (they sold out of 4-day badges and Saturday badges), but I like to think it's at least partly because we've gotten better at running our table.

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Artificial Indolence, or Why AI May Take Over Television

It's the summer of strikes in the entertainment industry. 

The Writers Guild struck on May 2nd, with the Screen Actor's Guild following on July 14th. Both unions shared many of the same complaints - shortened seasons causing less pay for the actors and writers, the absolute dearth of residuals from streaming services, and the use of artificial intelligence.

There's been a surge of interest in the topic lately. Much of it was kickstarted by the introduction of ChatGPT late last year. ChatGPT is a large language model chatbot that has been getting scarily good at mimicking human writing. Coupled with the surge in AI generated art, there's a real feeling that this might mark a significant step forward in artificial intelligence. (At least once the AI figures out how many fingers humans have.) Still, things have progressed far enough that the new Marvel show on Disney+, Secret Invasion, used AI to generate the opening credits. 

The WGA has demanded that no AI be used to write or rewrite scripts. Now, after having seen some attempts to get AI to do writing based on prompts, you might be saying "What's the big deal? Those writing prompts were terrible." And that is true! G/O Media tried to experiment with some posts on their websites that were written by AI, and it was a disaster. The AI wrote a post for their science fiction site,, that was listing the Star Wars movies in order of their release and it got it wrong. This is something that you could find on any number of websites, and the AI could not scrape it together. (Just as an aside, AV Club, io9, and Deadspin were some of my all-time favorite sites to read and comment on, and G/O Media has utterly destroyed them over the last several years. G/O Media can go right to hell.)

So if the AI cannot look up something like "Star Wars films release dates" on Wikipedia or IMDB, then how could it possibly write something truly original and creative?

Here's the thing. 

I am not worried about AI or ChatGPT writing a masterpiece. 

I am worried about them becoming mediocre.

I do not think an AI is going to write the next Slaughterhouse-Five or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or Everything Everywhere All At Once. AI bots scrape the web for existing work and add it to their database. No AI is going to create a personal, inventive, or heartfelt original story. 

I do think that AI may get to a point where it can spit out ten episodes of a cliched, cop show pastiche.

People watch shows differently that they used to. There are very few shows that demand your rapt attention, like Game of Thrones or Succession, where you'll miss a huge plot reveal if you look away to scroll through Twitter (I refuse to call it X.) or play a round of Marvel Snap. (God, that game is like crack.)

TV is just on for a lot of people. Goodness knows, I've done that. I like having Law & Order on in the background while I do chores or write. I don't have to catch every word, since I know the plots are basically on rails. I just like hearing Jerry Orbach and Sam Waterson. Also, it's the only reason I've ever seen Bones. I've never once in my life said "Hey, you know what I want to watch? Bones! That show with the improbably hot scientists." Yet I have seen dozens of episodes because it came on after Law & Order on TNT for a while and it was just okay enough of a show that I didn't change the channel. 

Bones! Just engaging enough so you don't turn it off!

So what if instead of Bones, TNT put on a procedural "written" by an AI? Suppose the AI scans enough scripts from decades of cop shows that they can put the cliches together in the right order. Maybe the show has two mismatched partners. Maybe one is a gung ho rookie, paired with a jaded veteran. Maybe one is a straight arrow, and the other plays by his own rules. And they have a hard ass lieutenant who gives them 24 hours to crack the case. If you weren't paying close attention, would you even notice or care? 

I probably wouldn't. If I was deep in writing a chapter, I might poke my head up when the new theme song started but I probably wouldn't care enough to change the channel. 

But the networks and producers care! If the bar is "just ok enough that I don't instantly change the channel," that's low enough for them. They're quite happy to pump out garbage if it means lower costs and fewer residuals to pay out. 

Now, you may ask “so what?” If a show is bad or forgettable, who cares if it was written by a human or a computer? 

Well, you should, for one. You know how TV writers learn their trade? By working on shows, and they can’t all be The Wire. They break in, working in the writing rooms and then they get hired on other shows. George RR Martin wrote about his experiences starting off as incredibly green writer on the Twilight Zone in the ‘80s. That was how he learned how to make TV shows. And if computers write the crappy shows, humans aren’t going to get the experience they need to write the good ones. 

Netflix and Amazon produce an incredible amount of content, most of which you've never heard of. NPR pop culture writer Linda Holmes asked her Twitter followers if anyone realized that a remake of the 1994 Meryl Streep movie The River Wild was being released, now starring Leighton Meester and Adam Brody. Only about 7% had heard about it. That's a film based on a recognizable title with actors you've seen in things. It's not something they dredged up from the depths of Tubi. If the streamers just need CONTENT, why bother with making it good? Why bother advertising? Cut your costs, make the shareholders happy, and get your golden parachute packed.

In the battle of art vs. commerce, commerce will usually win. The streamers and studios have the money and don't want to share it. They will be perfectly happy to have one intern scan scripts into an AI and produce dreck rather than fairly compensate the writers. They will count on us all being too passive and distracted to notice. 

Maybe they're right. 

But I take solace in Barbenheimer. 

Audiences have flocked to Chris Nolan's three hour biopic about the creator of the atomic bomb and the sly comedy that Greta Gerwig made out of what should have been - by all rights - a two hour toy commercial. Both are very personal and creative takes that could have in no way been created by an AI that read a Wikipedia article. 

Barbie is on track to make over a billion dollars and Oppenheimer is on pace for about half that. There is money to be made if you are willing to let smart filmmakers do something creative. 

Will studios understand that? Or will they instead try and write a Hungry Hungry Hippos movie with an AI?

We'll find out soon. 

Victor Catano lives in New York City with his wonderful wife, Kim, and his adorable pughuaua, Danerys. When not writing, he works in live theater as a stage manager, production manager, and chaos coordinator. His hobbies include coffee, Broadway musicals, and complaining about the NY Mets and Philadelphia Eagles. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @vgcatano and find his books on Amazon

Monday, August 7, 2023

Book Review: Broadstreet Bastard

"Broadstreet Bastard" by Chad Lutzke. I was sent my copy in exchange for an honest review. 

"Alcohol was my demon. Weed was its less attractive sister. She kissed a whole lot different but still had a nice tongue." 

Jex is eighteen, in recovery, and living in his first apartment. Staying out of trouble isn't something he's good at, and he's even worse at forming and maintaining relationships. While working his twelve steps, Jex finds himself in a murderous situation, begging the question, who could possibly want him dead? 

Just one question of many, Jex struggles to maintain his sobriety and schooling, taking us on a journey of relapse, self discovery, and grief. 

"And then she unknowingly ruined the moment by pulling a small bowl from her purse, as well as a baggie that held a single green nugget. I hadn't been near the stuff in six months. When I saw it, I knew I wouldn't say no and that tomorrow would bring another day of grief, where I mourned the loss of dignity I thought I had."

Jex is yet another character of Lutzke's that just completely rips your heart out. His recovery and addiction journey really resonated with me, as I'm in recovery myself. He was a relatable character, while maybe not the most likeable. 

I appreciated the elusiveness of Moonie's character. She's mentioned just enough to keep you guessing on what she's about to bring to the table. 

When it comes to Jex, I have a lot of unanswered questions. Did he finish school? Is he still sober? Did Jason ever find out about what Jex did? Was he angry? I need answers!! 

Thankfully, Lutzke said some of these answers can be found in "Slow Burn On Riverside". and "The Same Deep Water As You". All of these books can be read as a stand-alone and are available on Amazon! 

Monday, July 31, 2023

Google Search: How Do You Edit an Anthology?

Another quality post brought to you by Steve! 

Hey, kids!  It's my turn to do a Google search post, and there has been only one thing on my mind for the last six plus months, so naturally I typed in:

That's right!  In case you didn't know, my erstwhile writing partner Wile E. Young, Across the Board's own Kayleigh Marie Edwards, and myself are putting out our very first anthology this October.  It's going to be THE PERFECTLY FINE NEIGHBORHOOD, consisting of stories set in the world of Wile E. and my own THE PERFECTLY FINE HOUSE.  Kayleigh, Wile E., and I brought on some real heavyweights in the form of Jeff Strand, Candace Nola, and Brian Keene for the invitational portion of the anthology.

And for the back half, we put it out to you, the writing world, for over the transom submissions.  And you did not disappoint!  Now, Google has been of little assistance to me, but here are some things I learned from personal experience (and from asking our very own Mary Fan, who has edited, like, seventeen anthologies at this point.)

1.)  Set your Kickstarter goal low.  

This was a piece of Mary advice.  Kickstarter will fund precisely nothing if you don't meet your goal.  So the best way to get funding for something like an anthology is to set a low goal, then offer stretch goals.

2.)  No matter how clear your instructions, people could fuck up a glass of water.

I'll admit: the rules of our open call are a bit esoteric.  We weren't doing vampire stories here or, god forbid, a truly open submission.  But even so.  I got some very, very strange ones which I will not mention here because it would be unkind to the authors, but definitely ask me the next time you see me drunk at a convention.  I also got plenty of "Dear Editor" even though we asked people to choose one of our names, a number of works attributed to William Hope Hodgson (since that was the famous author I used for the template), and I even got a submissions that weren't Word docs.  Yeah, those will be fun to edit.  I'm flexible, but some of these departures from the call rules, or even just basic business professionalism were very, very peculiar.  That's all I'll say about it.

3.)  Everyone will submit on the last day.

We received almost exactly as many submissions on the last day of the open call as we did in the entire preceding six months.  I don't know why this surprised me.  I've never submitted to an open call sooner than twenty-four hours before closing myself.  And it certainly happened this time.

4.)  Selecting a TOC is haaaard.

This anthology turned out to be a mish-mash for us.  I wanted to do double blind submissions, since there were three of us and it was doable.  But we also wanted to actively encourage diversity among our submitters.  And then, coming in at the last minute, a few authorial heavyweights outside of the invitational pool showed up with submissions.  So we are now attempting to balance quality, marketability, and diversity, a very difficult proposition.  It's going to be impossible to do it fairly, if fair even has meaning in the literary world.  But we'll try out best to balance out our three priorities, and I know I'll have a newfound respect for anybody who has ever put together a TOC before.

I could go on, but I want to hear your thoughts.  Have you ever edited an anthology?  What lessons did you learn?  Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, July 24, 2023

Interview with Kit Power

Kit Power has been one of my favourite indie writers ever since his debut novel, GodBomb! I've been yelling at everyone about him for years, because he's one of those writers that should have an enormous audience, major book deals, and movie adaptation rights galore. He's such a talented writer with such great fiction ideas, and then just to add an extra kick, he also excels with non-fiction. He's also a sincerely kind person, which makes supporting his work just that little bit extra delightful.

Disclaimer: throughout this article/interview, you'll find sales links to Kit's work wherever they're highlighted. Kit didn't ask for this, I've just gone ahead and taken the liberty of linking things for your ease if something takes your fancy and want to check it out.

Between his fiction and his My Life in Horror article series on Gingernuts of Horror, he's been entertaining me with his word-wizardry for years. Some might call me a bit of a superfan.

After taking him off-guard by pouncing from a tree like a flying squirrel and taking him hostage... er... I mean, asking nicely, he agreed to this interview with me, and I'm thrilled to present it to you fine folk!


Kayleigh: Do you have a book/story that you're most proud of?

Kit: Oof! That’s a really tough question; whilst I never quite buy the thing some writers talk about where they equate stories or novels to children, it’s true that I had to care enough about a given story to want to write it in the first place. So while I do think some were more successful than others, in terms of getting at what I was trying to get at, I do have some level of emotional connection to all of them. And of course, I’m still trying to get better every time I sit down to write, which tends to weight my preferences towards more recent works.

All that said, I’ve still got a lot of affection for GodBomb! - my debut and so far only novel. I still think the core idea was/is a solid one, and I still think it contains some of my best writing. And I know it was the best version of the story I was capable of telling at the time, which is all you can really ask.

In terms of short stories, I still don’t think I’ve topped 2018’s Fish Hooks, which appeared in New Fears 2 and Years Best Dark Fantasyand Horror 2019 (Paula Guran). That was my first pro-rate short story sale. I sat down with the express intention to write the best short story I’d ever done, and I think I succeeded. Why I don’t do that every time is a perfectly reasonable question I’ve avoided asking so far…

And out of my novellas, I think I have to pick The Finite. I remember being at FantasyCon in 2015 when Adam Nevill won best horror novel for No One Gets Out Alive, and in his acceptance speech, he talked about how writing novels like that felt a bit like chipping off a small piece of his soul, and thinking ‘come on mate, that’s a bit much!’ Then I started working on The Finite, and by the end of it, I knew exactly what he meant. I doubt I’ll ever write anything that personal again. I certainly hope not. I’m very proud of that one, but it was not fun to write.


Kayleigh: The Finite is a truly excellent piece of work, and my personal favourite of your books to date. Which piece of your work did you enjoy writing the most?

Kit: Hands down A Song ForThe End, my most recent novella for Horrific Tales. I’d always wanted to write a pulp horror longform piece in the style of Herbert’s The Rats, utilising that brilliant format of ‘meet someone, see them die horribly, meet someone else, they survive (probably therefore the hero), meet a second person, whoops, they're dead’. No idea if Herbert came up with that first, of course, it’s just the first time I can remember reading it. And while A SongFor The End doesn’t follow that formula to the letter (and doesn’t contain murderous critters, for that matter) I found the core concept almost as funny as it was horrifying, making it a blast to write.

Kayleigh: A Song For The End is tremendous fun (and my favourite subgenre!). Do you enjoy the editing process after the first draft? How many drafts do you typically write, and do you also use an editor? Typically, do you tend to add to or cut your word count, or does it stay about the same?

Kit: I definitely don’t enjoy editing as much as writing. I try and follow King’s advice in On Writing, meaning that as much as possible I bury my inner critic/editor while writing the first draft, because I can't get anything done if I’m endlessly second guessing myself. But that can make the second draft a bit of a painful process, as (hopefully after a gap of a month or two) I switch roles to give the piece a critical look. As to how many drafts, for a short story, typically three or four; sending the second draft out to critical readers, then using that plus a further edit pass to tighten things up before sending it out, with a potential fourth draft if a commissioning editor likes it but wants changes. Anything longer will take longer (my novel Godbomb! ran to eleven drafts in the end, I think), and yes, for self published works like my first short story collection or My Life In Horror, I always pay someone for professional editing services; even though I’ve edited other peoples work for anthologies, I never feel comfortable doing that with my own work; it’s always too easy to read what I meant to type rather than what I actually did.

As to cut or grow wordcount, I’m always aiming to cut - King’s advice in On Writing is that your second draft should always be 10% shorter than your first, and I think that’s a good thing to aim for, especially in a short story where every word counts - but for longer pieces sometimes I’ve discovered that I actually need a third act (A Song For The End) or that a secondary character should actually be the co-lead (a recently co-authored novel, unpublished), so sometimes I end up adding a lot more. In either case, what I’m hopefully doing on that pass is working out what the thing is actually about, and making changes to reflect that (on a first draft, I have no idea what any of it is about - that’s why I’m writing it!).


Kayleigh: You put a lot of work into your writing and redrafts, and it shows! Next question - you're published in several anthologies. Do you prefer to work to a theme, or to have complete freedom?

Kit: I really enjoy both. As a kid, one of the few things I enjoyed about school was English tests when I’d be given a list of 5 or 6 titles and asked to write a short story about one of them; themed anthology calls take me right back to that mode of storytelling and I enjoy the challenge of that. It also sometimes makes me think about narrative in different ways - when I was invited to contribute to Ebb Tides, the brief was that the story had to be set in a location where the land meets the sea. Part of the initial negotiation was making sure that the authors picked different locations, so I went for sea caves, because that felt like it had the most dramatic potential for the kind of horror I like to write. So then the whole story evolved from ‘how, exactly, does a person end up stuck in a sea cave?’ Which was great fun.

At the same time, I’m constantly worrying at various short story ideas, and have a half a dozen or so that are close to submittable. I’ve yet to have a pre-written short story fit snugly into a themed anthology call, but I live in hope.

 Kayleigh: Can you tell me a bit about your writing process?

Kit: I tend to fly by the seat of my pants, most of the time; I realised relatively recently the common thread that unites my fiction and nonfiction work is that, for me, writing is an act of exploration, a way to try and understand to make sense of something I don’t fully understand. That’s where the juice is. To that end, I try and shut out the world as best I can - I have ADHD, so that can be quite a challenge at times - and I’ll usually use music to do that. Generally speaking, I need to find an album that matches the feel of the piece I’m working on; music is such a fundamental, important part of my life, it makes sense that it also acts as fuel for my creative processes.


Kayleigh: As I'm sure you know, Stephen King doesn't keep a notebook because he thinks it's the best way to immortalise bad ideas. Do you keep one? (I do!)

Kit: I did for a while but I kept losing them (did I mention ADHD?). There’s probably stray notes on my phone/in my Google docs, but given I don’t know for sure, and therefore don’t revisit them at any point, I guess by default I’m more like King (Springsteen was a notebook guy for decades, but I think more recently has come around to King’s way of thinking - mind, that guy used to write a song a week for the first couple of decades of his career, so).

Kayleigh: Can you talk a little bit about books/films/music that has inspired you?

Kit: I don’t think we have that kind of time! Also, the My Life In Horror series does a pretty good, if incomplete, job of listing many of my big influences, so just check out the ToC there for a list. For more on that, the podcast series I have with George Daniel Lea (called What The Hell Is WrongWith Us?) covers other early influences alongside some more recent works that have gotten our attention.

Kayleigh: Note for the readers: Both My Life in Horror and What The Hell Is Wrong With Us are absolutely worth your time - enjoy!

Your MLIH series on GNOH is the stuff of legend, and many people loved those articles. What prompted it? And why did you decide to compile them into books afterwards?

Kit: The idea came out from a series of conversations between Jim and I back in 2014. He was looking to expand the number of regular contributors, and I’d just written what became a somewhat infamous piece about RoboCop that he’d really enjoyed. And after a bit of back and forth, we came up with the idea of a series about childhood horror influences. The idea was that it’d be part review, part essay, all personal; I’d hit some of the big 80’s tentpole horror franchises (the Elm Street and Hellraiser movies) but I’d also talk about novels, albums, TV shows… I knew from early on that part of what I wanted to do was expand the definition of horror a bit, find it in some more mainstream and also unusual places, rather than sticking with what the marketing teams tell us is horror. And Jim, bless him, went for it with both feet, even when it meant he was running essays about 50’s biker movies, old rollercoasters, or Bruce Springsteen albums. He really had faith in what I was doing, right from the beginning, and I’ll always be grateful for that.

I think I’d worked out there was at least one potential book in the project quite early on, but it came into focus in a hurry in 2019. I was at EdgeLit in July, talking with Neil Snowdon (of Electric Dreamhouse Press) about Stokercon, which was due to be coming to the UK for the first time in April 2020, and at some point in the conversation he made me realise it would be the perfect place to put out a My Life In Horror book. And of course, I’d let it too late to pitch to publishers (did I mention ADHD?), so the Volume One crowdfunder came out of that. And once that manuscript came into focus, I realised thirty essays made for a good length book, and made for a natural halfway point for the blog project, which in turn made a final Volume II inevitable.

Kayleigh: You write characters extremely well, particularly in the first person - is the writing process different at all when you do this as opposed to writing in the third person?

Kit: That’s an interesting question; obviously the process must be different, but it doesn’t feel much different. I think my love of first person goes back to my youth theatre days; for me, acting was mainly about trying to get my head inside somebody who wasn’t me, feel out their thought processes, their view of the world, then put that out there, using the script as a map or guide to the characters interiority. So when I’m writing in first person, I slip back into that mode, seeing the events of the story entirely through that perspective. And what I enjoy about that is the degree to which first person allows me to play with voice, using syntax and sentence structure to give psychological clues as to the thought processes of the narrator, and also the capacity for subjectivity and surprise (there’s no such thing as a reliable narrator, after all).

That said, the attractions of third person are obvious; it’s more cinematic, allows for multiple perspectives, and ups the ‘risk factor’ in terms of the vulnerability of the characters - after all, with a first person narrative, you know the person telling you the story is still alive to tell it (well… most of the time). I like going 3rd close, so I still get to play with interior thoughts and aspects of perception and physical experience, but with just that half step remove. But ultimately, which approach I take depends entirely on the type of story I'm trying to tell.

Kayleigh: Are there any topics you absolutely will not write about?

Kit: Nope. Some I’ll approach with more trepidation, and where I think it’s helpful, I’ll employ sensitivity readers as part of the critical reader/editorial process, but nothing's off limits, I don’t think.

Kayleigh: A Warning About Your Future Enslavement deserves to be studied in writing classes. The format and the framing device is so unique and clever - can you remember coming up with the idea? It's really difficult to thread everything in a collection together like that and you pulled it off so well. I'm wondering if you had difficulties along the way, whilst putting it all together?

Kit: Oh, wow, thank you - yeah, A Warning was actually kind of a nightmare! I thought, when I initially came up with the concept, that it was really just a relatively simple/fun framing device for my first short story collection (plus a way to sneak in a couple of early essays that I liked and wanted to reprint); it wasn’t until I started putting it together that I realised I’d created a monster! I think it then became an interesting combination of sunk cost fallacy and ego/bloodymindedness. I remember Dion, who worked on the editing of that for me, was absolutely invaluable, in terms of helping me assess what pieces were really earning their keep; but, of course, once a story or article is shuffled/replaced, there was a ripple effect on the bridging material that would then require a rewrite. I’m glad I hadn’t appreciated what a pain in the arse the entire thing would be, because I honestly don’t know if I would have started the process if I had! But I am pretty happy with how it ultimately came out, and I do enjoy the positive, if often slightly baffled, reviews. That said, I really can't imagine trying anything like it again :D

Kayleigh: Note to the readers - by Dion, Kit means Dion Winton-Polak of 'The Fine-toothed Comb' editing services.

What's your favourite genre to read in horror (and can you please name some favourite books)?

Kit: I like most if not all kinds of horror (and also crime, and once in a while sci-fi, historical fiction, fantasy, biography, history… books are good, basically). But my favourite subgenre of horror is non-supernatural horror; novels like Manhunter and Silence of the Lambs, Misery, The Wasp Factory (though I suppose that last is technically debatable), and short stories like King’s The Ledge and Lumleys The Viaduct. King I think is especially effective on the rare occasions he goes full-on non-supernatural; I recently reread Mr Mercedes, purely on a whim, and while I recognise it’s not without flaws, I loved the whole experience.

Kayleigh: I loved the Mr Mercedes trilogy and thought the real-world aspects were the strongest parts, for sure.

If you're working on something at the moment, can you tell us a bit about it?

Kit: Having written two novellas that bring the end of the world to Milton Keynes (The Finite and A Song For The End), the trilogy will be completed (if I ever get back to it, recent life events have conspired to keep me away from the blank page) with Millionaire's Day. I’m currently twelve thousand words in, and rounding the first hour of the day in question, and one of my POV characters is about to kick a door down, behind which something incredibly dramatic will occur. What? I’ve no idea. I should really go find out…


Kayleigh: Consider my interest piqued!

Can you tell us a bit about your podcasting?

Kit: Man, you nearly got out clean! Yes, sure. Umm. I do a lot of podcasting. I have my own show, Watching Robocop with Kit Power, which I think is probably explained by the title. That show is on an extended hiatus, but if you go to the feed (see the next answer) you’ll see that I’m using it to broadcast some of my other podcast work, with George Daniel Lea where, in a project not dissimilar from My Life In Horror, we have extended conversations about the works that messed us up as kids - mainly books and movies, but there’s the odd album and even video game thrown in the mix from time to time, alongside the occasional guest.

Also with George, we’re working our way through Clive Barker’s Books Of Blood collection (which, to my shame, I’ve never read before, though George is an enormous Barker fan). That series, along with what The Hell Is Wrong With Us? is on his YouTube feed.

Over on Patreon, I have two exclusive, occasional shows that I’m working on. One features Jack Graham and Daniel Harper, as we read through the Sherlock Holmes canon in order, and another where I’m embarking on a read through of the Discworld series with my 13 year old daughter.

Finally, back on my Robocop feed, I recently launched yet another new series, which will involve taking on the entire studio album catalogue (plus a few carefully selected live recordings) of the legendary Bruce Springsteen, in the company of the equally legendary James Slater Murphy. We recorded the pilot (covering late career masterpiece Wrecking Ball) a little while back, and I can’t wait to get back on mic to talk about 1973’s Greetings From Asbury Park.

Because, clearly, I don’t have nearly enough to do.


Kayleigh: Gimme all your links for everything so I can point people in your direction!

Kit: All of it?!?!


Patreon (just $1 a month gets you something new every week)

Newsletter (an email a month, featuring pet pics alongsideauthor/podcast news) 

Podcast feed:

Amazon UK author page

Amazon US author page

Black Shuck page (publishers of The Finite and Voices)

- The Finite

- Voices

The Sinister Horror Company (publishers of GodBomb! And Breaking Point): 

- GodBomb!

- Breaking Point

George’s Youtubechannel:

Gingernuts of Horror

Twitter: @KitGonzo


And here are the links to Kit's other work not listed in the batch above:

My Life in Horror: Vol 1

My Life in Horror: Vol 2

(Due to a massive technical nightmare, Kit's My Life in Horror articles are no longer available on GNOH, but you can find the articles of Kit's successor, George Daniel Lea there (and they're awesome!)

A Song for the End


Tommy (Midnight Movie Monographs)

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Underused Monsters in Film

So, I love a good Creature Feature. My favorite kind of horror movie involves something of the predatory kind attacking humans in the scariest and most savage ways. I guess it's because I'm an animal lover, and people are just kind of...meh. 

There are all your classic monsters: werewolves, giant snakes, killer sharks, rabid dogs, and even aliens, but there are a few monsters on my list that have yet to see a decent portrayal on the big screen, and I'm here to bitch about it. I know there are movies out there involving these monsters, but there simply just aren't enough, or they're not very good. These are the monsters I want to see in more movies.


The Loch Ness Monster

Sure, there are a few Nessie movies out there. Most of them involve kids and a friendly misunderstood beastie of some sort. I have been wanting an updated, more viscious version of Nessie all my life. When I heard they were making Steve Alten's book 'The Loch' into a film, I was ecstatic. They have yet to deliver, and I'm still waiting...kind of like how we're still waiting for a good lake monster photo.

The Fae

I know what you're going to say, 'Leperchaun' is technically part of the Fae category. There have been several movies involving evil fairy-type creatures out there. We had 'Maleficent' a few years ago, and more than enough variations of the Tooth Fairy. I want one that is based on the real lore of the Fae folk, preferably based in Appalachia. I want a fairy movie that will make you forget all about 'Fern Gully'.

Ice Age Animals

I hate to say it, but I'm burned out on dinosaur movies. There are so many dinosaur movies. Most of them are low-quality. The one and only exception is the Jurassic Park franchise. Dinosaurs are as played out as sharks. We don't have any mainstream movies involving creatures from the Ice Age. Sabretooth cats, beardogs, dire wolves, the list goes on. There are a myriad of terrifying ancient mammals out there just waiting to rip into some tender human flesh. With today's advances in CGI, a Jurassic Park quality film involving Ice Age animals would be great right about now.

I've got more. I've got PLENTY more. Call me, Hollywood!


Stay Weird.

Monday, July 17, 2023

In Praise of Filler Episodes

Hey everyone! Mary here, writing from green, green Vermont, where I am decidedly NOT getting any work done on my novel... I don't know why I always kid myself into thinking I'll get some writing done (beyond blog posts) on vacations. For whatever reason, I've fallen absurdly far behind on my work in progress, and I'm struggling with motivation. I think I'm a little burned out... it's happened before. Hopefully, it'll resolve itself soon.

So what have I been doing instead? Well, lately, I've been watching a lot of Star Trek. As in I rewatched the entirety of Voyager and am pretty far through my rewatch of Deep Space Nine. The current Trek kick started with the third season if Picard, which brought back the Next Generation crew for one last grand adventure, and also introduced a new character who (spoiler alert) turns out to be Jean-Luc Picard's son.

After action and twists galore, show builds up to a big final father-son scene where Picard has to convince his son to come back to the light side... basically, the ending of Return of the Jedi, except with the generational roles reversed. Despite the two actors emoting their hearts out and all the dramatic background nonsense a prestige show can give, the scene... didn't really hit for me. And after watching the finale, all I wanted was to go back and nostalgia-watch the Next Generation and the other shows from that era (I spot-watched a few old Next Generation faves before moving onto my Voyager and Deep Space Nine rewatches). Despite connections to the classic characters, none of the new characters from Picard really got me to care for them the way I'd cared about the casts of those older shows.

And I realized the reason was because Picard, like most shows in the streaming era, is designed for breakneck pacing and "mind-blowing" twists, to generate shock and buzz and, therefore, attention, views, and whatever metrics the execs want to present to investors. There are much, much fewer episodes, and each one is in service to a larger story arc. There are certainly shows that benefit from this "leaner" style of TV (Severance comes to mind), and the older shows definitely put out some stinkers while trying to fill a 26-episode season.

Yet while watching the Next Generation-era shows, especially when I was picking and choosing old favorites (before I realized that resistance was futile and just did a straight-up rewatch), I found myself gravitating toward the "filler" episodes... the self-contained, sometimes low-stakes tales that aren't "necessary" for any larger story arcs. And I noticed that even episodes that were part of a larger story arc (particularly on Deep Space Nine) often contained a character-centric B story that was light on plot but added to the characters' personal lives.

The result of all these "filler" episodes and scenes was that we got a chance to get to know these characters as people, not just players in a twisty-turny-attention-grabby plot. And that's what makes them linger, like old friends, in one's memory, and makes you invested in seeing what happens to them next. It gives a chance for their personalities to shine through, and make them seem more human.

Because none of us have a single, straightforward plot to our lives. I doubt even the most focused person in the world follows just one mission every waking moment. Yet we've been trained that characters in a "tightly" written story should do just that, and any "filler" in between ought to be cut. Something is definitely lost when that happens, though, something that makes it hard to feel invested in a fictional character.

Elsewhere in the Trek world, Strange New Worlds and Lower Decks have returned to the episodic format of yore, complete with filler galore. And they have been very well received by fans (personally, Lower Decks is my favorite of the New Treks.) I think as time goes by, these are the shows that will remain with fans... at conventions this year, I've seen plenty of Strange New Worlds and Lower Decks cosplay, but none for Picard (though, of course, Next Generation cosplayers will always be populous). 

I know I've been guilty of trying to make my stories "lean," perhaps at the expense of some characters and world building. Maybe it's time to try pulling back a bit, and every so often, letting characters just be.

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