Tuesday, December 18, 2012

ARENA now available - and The Next Big Thing

Hey folks. I should've mentioned this earlier but you know how it is. Anyway, my novella ARENA OF THE WOLF is now available in limited hardcover editions. Yes, it's been in Pre-Order Hell for a long time, but it's out now, with a bus ticket in one hand and a garbage bag full of personal effects in the other. I don't have any word on when paperbacks will be out - I'll have to remember to ask DRP. You can find it over to your right there, just click on the cover. If that link is broken you can also click here to go to DRP's website.

It feels weird talking about a book that I wrote almost two years ago, that I sold some people paperbacks of last year, like it's new. But it kind of is. And anyway it might be new to you. I guess this is kind of typical for writers - physical books can take a long time to get from the writer's hands to the reader's. Just how it goes. Ebooks are faster and that's part of why they're exciting. DRP is really gearing up under its new leadership and they recently put a bunch of books in digital format on Amazon - none of mine yet last time I checked. Another thing I need to ask about.

I hate blogging and often "forget" to do it so be sure to follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter to get the news the fastest. I really should update my blog more, I know, it lets people know I actually exist. It's not like I'm not good with tech, like so many writers. Honestly most of the time I just think "what the hell do I have to blog about?"

Well, today I do have something. Fellow ATL resident James A. Moore is a horror writer and also could probably bench-press me. Anyway, he recently did a blog post using this "The Next Big Thing" meme that's been going around. The idea is that you answer a bunch of questions about what your latest completed project is, and then you "tag" other writers to do the same. Supposed to be some kind of logrolling, I guess. Anyway I haven't been tagged because I have no friends since I'm an evil nocturnal hermit. That's okay since I kinda hate memes anyway. This one, however, is not so bad - and since Jim decided to just "tag" everyone in his post by making it an "open challenge" (I guess he just couldn't think of anyone ... yeah) I figured I'd take the opportunity. Like I said I've been meaning to get more serious about marketing - which, I hate the term, but it is necessary. I try to think of it as just letting people know I exist and my books exist. I often think that if I could just get people to read my damn books I'd be a superstar.

Anyway, I know my last entry was about SMARTASS OF MARS, which is still in search of an agent, but that was four months ago so why not remind you? And anyway it might get me some more attention. Somehow.

What is the working title of your book?

Dude, I just said. SMARTASS OF MARS. Look, it's in all caps, you can't miss it ... wait, hang on.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

Basically I'd been getting into so-called "sword-and-planet" fiction again - I've always been a fan but reading Joe Lansdale's UNDER THE WARRIOR STAR reminded me how much I liked them. And yes, since you're asking, I liked the Gor books too, at least the first five or six until they got really porny. Anyway it struck me how similar they were, like no one had ever tried to do anything really different with them. Like some things were just assumed, you know?

So what I did was I outlined all the conventions of the sub-genre I could think of and reversed just about all of them. The only things I kept were having my hero be a male and the planet being kinda barbaric and crazy - changing those two would've made it a really different story than what I wanted to write. So the hero, Chance Shifflett, is not an amateur athlete who hates the modern world, but a basement-dwelling loser who is pushing 30 and has no prospects. I thought that it might be more accessible to modern readers and interesting for fans of the genre, to finally do something really different and have it be awesome. But it wasn't just me trying to write a book I thought people would read - I also loved the idea. It was my chance to play with all these toys and sort of do an homage to all these books I loved.

What genre does your book fall under?

Who wrote these questions? I just covered that. Well, I call it "Postmodern Planet Fiction" to distinguish it from your typical sword 'n planet stuff. It's kind of like JOHN DIES AT THE END meets John Carter, a "Young Adult" book for adults who maybe haven't really grown up yet although they should've, or know someone like that, or were like that once. I guess in the bookstore you'd put it in "Fantasy" or "Sci-Fi/Fantasy" if they don't have separate sections like those non-halal bookstores that don't understand that you must SEPARATE THE UNCLEAN.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie version?

 The hero is easy - I think D.J. Qualls would be awesome in the role as Chance is very skinny and not at all in any kind of shape - no offense to D.J. of course. Plus Qualls is great with comedy and though the book isn't intended to be a laff-riot from start to finish there are a lot of funny moments/lines in it. As for the other main characters - hmm. Honestly I don't get too attached to movie actors and tend to believe with things like this that you could find unknowns who are a better casting fit than trying to squeeze in someone with more star power.
Maybe Jessica Simpson or Christina Aguilera as the girl, Ella, since she's supposed to be zaftig (yeah, okay, I left in the distressed damsel but it's totally cool, trust me). I bet they would be kinda bad at acting but that would work for the character, I think. And hey, you never know.

Chance's great-great-great-great-whatever grandfather, John Byrd, is physically imposing, middle-aged, and has a Southern accent, so an actor who was like that would be great. I keep thinking of guys who are past their prime for the role, though, like John Voigt. Maybe if Mickey Rourke could do a passable High Virginian? I really would just want Mickey Rourke in the movie somehow because he's awesome. Stallone is too short ... Joe Don Baker is too fat ... yeah, get back to me.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of the book?

 Ooh, that's tough. Did you check out Jim Moore's synopsis? He's great at that, fucking pro. Hang on, lemme light a cigar and think.

OK, try this: A puny Internet nerd transports himself to the planet Mars and discovers that our Solar System is wilder than anyone on Earth knows. Plus he kicks a lot of ass and rescues a princess.

Is that okay? That shit is harder than it looks, people. You take it for granted but you try it sometime.


Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Well, like I said when I hyped it back in August, I'm shooting for getting an agent. I really want to take a crack at going mass-market, being in bookstores, that kind of thing. It's my way of challenging myself since (not to sound full of hubris) I think I could find a home for it in the small press without too much trouble. I've also considered going "indie" (it's not self-publishing anymore ... that's for losers, you know) ... but I want to be fair to the New York City crowd and give them a chance to get on the Awesome Train first. Also if you wanna do a self-pub book right you gotta lay out some money and I'm a cheap bastard.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? 

I don't really keep track of these things - I tend to start and stop on projects. But ... maybe six, eight months? I know I finished it right around the time my daughter was born, which was in July. I actually typed "THE END - MOTHERFUCKER" (just kidding - wait I should totally change that) just a few days before she was born. I know, synchronicity, right? And I started it, I want to say, Fall or late Summer of last year. Why is that important, anyway? What is this, an exhibition?

What other books would you compare this story with in your genre?

 OK whoever wrote these questions needs to go back and pare them down a bit because I already covered this shit. You could technically compare SMARTASS to every book about a guy who gets teleported to a planet and runs around with a sword. But it's not really like any of them because I deliberately wrote it to be different. The closest comparison, I'd say, would be George Alec Effinger's Maureen Birnbaum, Barbarian Swordsperson, because he was kind of doing the same thing (though his story was straight parody - mine isn't).

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

 See, this could've folded into the previous question -- and the one a couple of questions back ... "SMH" as they say on Twitter. Anyway, I'll just take the opportunity to directly point at the books that were my major inspirations for SMARTASS. Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom books, obviously, were the starting point (I actually started the MSS as a Barsoom book, assuming it was public domain, then had to switch things around - fortunately my memory of a lot of the details of John Carter's life was pretty bad so I didn't have to do too much work).

Philip José Farmer's WORLD OF TIERS series was also a big inspiration for not only the second half of the book but also for the way he really tried to breathe life into these worlds while still staying true to the ass-kicking ethos. In a way they planted the seed because in one of the books there's this world that's been created to basically be a real-life Barsoom and it made me think about how so much of this genre was untouchable, I guess out of a sense of nostalgia.

Finally I guess it was reading Lansdale's book that really made me want to start this project. No offense to Joe Hissownself but even as I was enjoying it, while I was reading it I kept thinking, "It's 2011 and we STILL have to do this story by the numbers?" Not that it was bad, but it was obviously written out of that same sense of nostalgia for those old Burroughs and Kline books, wanting to be a book that could've been contemporary with them apart from the use of the language, the science, and the hero's home time period. It made me want to do a planet fiction book from today, for today's readers, since I thought a lot of great ideas and story elements got left on the table.

What else about your book might pique the interest of readers?

What else? What else?! Okay, seriously TNBT-guy, next time you do a meme you need to sharpen these questions up. I've just about covered everything I wanted to say ... well, lemme think.

Okay, I know I throw a lot of shit on Chance in my synopses and all that, but really what I wanted to do with this book was take a totally mundane, mostly-normal character and throw him into the crazy alien world of sword 'n planet fiction. I never liked how the heroes of these books are already big, tough badasses at the beginning of the book, and they're bored with modern life because in their hearts they want to be riding horses and wearing armor and cutting up bad guys like fresh provolone. Maybe the reader might like to think he is like that, but realistically he knows he isn't. He is probably a fat guy in a wolfshirt, or a skinny nerd who lives on Mountain Dew and Cheetos, or just an average guy who's a database administrator and likes to while away his spare time reading adventure books. I wrote this book for those guys - because I am one of them. Instead of starting off the book thinking, "Gee, I wish I was an Olympic-level fencer/weightlifter/gymnast" you can just be you and go from there. I also thought it made for a more interesting story - a guy who has to use an inhaler and can't lift a fifty-pound weight over his head is going to have a hard time on a planet full of dudes who want to kill him!

The only other thing I haven't mentioned, if it wasn't obvious, is that you shouldn't take my use of the term "post-modern" to mean the book is politically correct and sanitized for modern sensibilities. In fact I deliberately went the other way, that's the whole point. The Mars of SMARTASS OF MARS is a world where the men kick ass and the women cook dinner - okay, they do sometimes kick ass but not so much that you wonder why the hell they bother with men (I'm looking at you, JOHN CARTER OF MARS the movie). I don't have paragraph on paragraph of women expressing their desire to be enslaved (NORMAN!!!!) but it's fundamentally a book for men to enjoy. I think women could enjoy it, too, but I didn't deliberately put anything into the MSS to appeal to them or appease anyone who might get offended. Like I said, that's the point - the hero goes from a world which is full of that stuff and ends up on a planet where if you can't ride, shoot, use a sword, and fuck three times a night you're not a real man - and then he has to survive there. It's a journey. The book is "post-modern" in the sense that most of the genre strives to adhere closely to the formula set up by ERB and I didn't do that.

Jesus, that was a lot of writing. Okay, now I need to think of some people to tag ... who haven't done this yet ... wait, is this old news already? Shit. There's gotta be someone ...

Okay, I bet these guys haven't done it:

Victor Gischler writes great pulp/crime fiction and comic books. My writing is something like his in that I tend to write something funny and then have a dog get run over by a car. It is nothing like his in that he is better at it than me. I bet I can drink more wine than him, though. LET'S FIND OUT. Okay, bad idea.

Anthony Neil Smith writes hard-core crime/noir mysteries. They are not "ha-ha" funny. More like "ha-ha humanity is awful" funny. What's really funny is these books come from a guy who watches THE AMAZING RACE and made a Facebook page for his dog. It makes you wonder about all those women writing cozy mysteries about cats that solve crimes. WHAT ARE YOU HIDING

D.A. Adams writes books about dwarves (dwarves rule) and is a bro. He looks kinda like Kenny Rogers thanks to his long hair but I don't hold that against him. He's been toiling away as a self-pub author for years and finally got into the small press with Seventh Star. He also blogs a hell of a lot more than me AND he has a book coming out soon so he should relish this chance. I could've sworn he did this already but it doesn't look like it. Keep roastin' that chicken, Kenny.

Andersen Prunty is a bizarro writer so he may consider himself too cool for this shit. Not that he's a dick but the bizarro crew tend to think on a whole 'nother level and pride themselves on being outsiders. I don't know if he has anything he's working on right now but even if he doesn't I bet his blog entry would be better than mine. "What inspired you to write this book?" "Pancakes." ZING OWNED

And ... okay, fuck it, the fifth slot (it was five, right?) is a wild card. If, like me, no one has asked you to do this because you fail at life or because you are unjustly being shut out by THE MAN or whatever, feel free to consider yourself the fifth person. It's okay if someone else already did it, I figure since I didn't pick anyone everyone can share this slot. Just link back to me, goddamn it.


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