Down the Stream, Mightily Mightily

You probably didn’t notice this, but I finally broke down and spent the money to buy and use the AuctorLanxSatura.com domain name. It was all for your sake, reader, to save you the time and trouble of having to press “.wordpress” every time you wanted to read this space.

Bullshit.

WordPress had me by the balls. If I wanted to upload streaming media, I had to upgrade. Oh well, at least I’m not getting sucked further into the Googleverse like Blogger would have me do.

So, yeah, I did it to add audio files, which you can find on Auctor Lanx Satura’s new page. You’ll hear my own disembodied voice reading from and discussing my works. You’ll also hear kind souls telling you of my awesome prose stylings. For example, an extract from a review blog called DeFlip Side describes why Mighty Mighty was the best read of 2014.

This new page also allows space to stream video. Once I’m back at play vlogging from conventions, I’ll be sure to cross-post my images here as well as to my occasional YouTube channel.

This also positions me to post video of TV interviews, of which there is at least one likely to be upcoming. I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime,

(Mighty Mighty on Amazon)

90.1 FM and streaming

News from ‘Destinies’ broadcast: A reading, a discount, a podcast, and a bonus

I really enjoyed chatting with host Howard Margolin on Destinies: The Voice of Science Fiction this past Friday night. We didn’t get to all 58 questions he had for me in a 40-minute interview, but it was a thrill just seeing so many notes on a book I wrote. Somebody read Mighty Mighty! Somebody actually read it! (And, by Howard’s count, there are only four spelling mistakes and one factual error related to ophthalmology. Not bad.)

If you missed it, don’t worry. My sage comments have not been lost to posterity. Rather, they have just had all the uhhhs and ummms cut out. As of this writing, the podcast hasn’t been put up on the Web yet. But keep checking Capt. Phil Online, which hosts Destinies’ archives. It should be available within the next day or two.

Also, Howard and I went into overtime to record another 10 to 15 minutes of material we couldn’t cover in the November 15 segment. That recording will air sometime in the near future. I’ll keep you posted.

I started that live segment, though, with a couple pieces of breaking news.

First, I’ll be appearing at The Long Island Writer’s House in Huntington for the Mighty Mighty tour’s first Suffolk County stop, Thursday, December 4, at 7 p.m. More details are on the Appearances page, and Facebook friends and fans can expect an event invite.

Second, my frequent collaborator Ben Parris, who produced the comedy-horror flick Supernaturalz, is offering a special 50% discount on the novelization, which I co-wrote with him. Just follow this link to CreateSpace and check out using the code “7az4lned”.

Here’s hoping everyone has something to be thankful for this season!

Author Possessed! Lugh Speaks! Severin Draws the Badger! Mighty Mighty On Sale Now! (Wanna rep Pitch Ribbons?)

Hey, it’s been a long time since I posted, for which I deeply apologize to everyone who ever reads this blog. Sorry, both of you.

As you probably know, I got a new day job. It’s a responsible one, so I had to give it my full attention for at least a couple months, putting everything else on hold. But I’ve settled in nicely, and can now start thinking about promoting my writing again. Oh, yes, and actually writing again. The good news is that the new gig brings me into the City most days, so I can spend more time at Fantastic Fiction and New York Review of Science Fiction readings, as well as other local events. So I’ll get to see more of a lot of people whom I admire and find fascinating. Yay, Life!

As you also probably know, the local speculative fiction scene lost one of its mainstays overnight, C.J. Henderson. I got to see him one last time at LI-Con, where he signed a couple of his outstanding Kolchak comics for me. Per his Facebook request, I inquired about visiting at his home over the past couple weeks, during the final round in his bout with cancer. I got no reply, and now I know the reason. A writer whose fortune never equaled his fame, and whose fame never equaled his talent, his jovial presence at conventions drew in hundreds if not thousands of new genre fans, and he taught us all how to work the vendors’ room. Like many others today, I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to properly say goodbye to C.J., but I can imagine what he might have to say to me if I had:

“Why are you wasting your time talking to me? Go sell some books!”

So, with that imagined and blatantly self-serving advice in mind, I’d like to refer you to a web site that has kindly given Mighty Mighty a platform: fantasy/romance author Angela Korra’ti’s AngelaHighland.com. She agreed to let my character the Indomitable Lugh introduce the characters and plot of the superhero spoof he inhabits. Warning: Lugh has absolutely no internal filter, so don’t read this if you’re easily offended.

Thank you, Angela, for kindly sharing your space, and for calling to my attention the out-of-date links on this site, which have now been corrected.

Thanks also to Marvel Bullpen alumna Marie Severin, a longtime friend of my wife’s family, who once drew on the walls of the house I now live in. We (and our kids’ pediatrician, who’s an even bigger comics geek than me) visited Sev in her assisted living home, where she kindly agreed to pencil Lugh’s adversary, the chaotic force of nature known as the Badger. It’s very different from the authorized J.A. Fludd version, but Marie had the distinction of drawing in the presence of my wife Eileen, who inspired the character.

One last thing before signing off: Pitch Ribbons: A Cantata for Four Voices is finished and ready for submission. I always had ChiZine Publications in mind as a market for this work, a true story-inspired horror thriller that’s chalk-and-cheese different from anything else I’ve ever done or am ever likely to do again. But if Sandra and Brett take a pass, I’m open to representation. I know I could get it published through Rebel ePublishers, who have kindly and diligently distributed my prior work. But for this one, I want to see if I can go through an established press. Just to prove a point, I suppose. But still.

Hope you’re all enjoying this Fourth of July weekend, unless you’re English in which case, suck it. (Ditto for the World Cup quarterfinals.)

Interview: Nicholas Kaufmann

William Freedman: I’m chatting with Nicholas Kaufmann, author most recently of Chasing the Dragon, available through leading dark fantasy/horror purveyor ChiZine Publications. He agreed to talk about his writing process. So, Nick, when did you first become aware of “chasing the dragon” as a colloquialism for shooting heroin? When I heard Johnny Depp say the line in the movie From Hell it seemed to come out of nowhere.

Nicholas Kaufmann: Actually, the expression wasn’t originally about shooting heroin, it was Cantonese slang for inhaling heroin smoke out of a bowl, which is how opium was consumed for centuries before it became modernized in an injectable form. Later, “chasing the dragon” became a catch-all expression for heroin use. I had heard the expression before From Hell, but I’m at a loss to remember where and when. I’m pretty sure it was not the 1996 Lifetime TV movie of the same name starring  Night Court’s Markie Post as a suburban junkie mom. Though that would be an awesome story if it were.

WF: I’m sure you have any number of projects in folders on your desk or loops in your mind. What was the impetus for writing this particular book rather than pursuing another creative outlet?

NK: A writer’s mind tends to be a fertile playground for ideas, but the deep, dark secret no writer will ever admit is that the great majority of the ideas we get every day — like, nine out of every ten — are terrible. Just total crap that we’re embarrassed we thought of in the first place. But some ideas show a decent amount of potential and stay with me. Unfortunately, I’m not like other writers who can work on numerous projects at once. I tend to focus on one project at a time, so some ideas have to wait quite a while before coming to the fore.

However, Chasing the Dragon didn’t have to wait long. The idea came to me in 2008, at a time when I was focusing on novella-length
work. I’d published  General Slocum’s Gold the year before and been nominated for a Bram Stoker Award for it, and had just finished
another, still unpublished novella called In the Shadow of the Axe when the idea for Chasing the Dragon hit me. I started work on it pretty much right away, though in this case starting work meant doing research on heroin, addiction, and dragon mythology from around the world, before writing a single word.

WF: I understand how you’d research dragon lore, but what are the steps to researching heroin addiction?

NK: I should probably clarify so you don’t get the wrong impression! I researched online what items are needed to prepare a fix, how to actually shoot heroin, the physical and mental effects of the drug, and the side effects of jonesing. I just hope the NSA wasn’t tracking my Google searches those particular days!

“I just hope the NSA wasn’t tracking my Google searches”

WF: One thing I found remarkable about Chasing the Dragon was the way it sewed together so many seemingly disparate elements: dragons, drugs, Americana, zombies … Zombies? Really? Zombies?

NK: Ha! Yes, zombies. Here’s the thing. Over the past five or ten years, I’ve grown tired of zombies. Really tired. It’s like they’re everywhere now, and while I know there are still lots of people out there who can’t get enough of them, I’ve reached my limit. But it’s not really the zombies themselves I’m tired of, it’s that they’re being used the same way over and over again. In my opinion, the whole mindless hordes of gut-munchers thing has become overdone to the point of boredom. (I love you, George Romero, but what hath thou wrought?) I don’t see many people trying to do new and exciting things with zombies, other than inserting them into classic literature for comic effect, which also got old pretty damn fast. I had been wanting to do something different with zombies for a long time, and to that end I actually wound up going back to what zombies were originally meant to be. Rather than flesh-hungry corpses reanimated by a virus or a nuclear waste spill or what have you, original zombie lore had them used as slave labor by an evil mastermind. Even though that’s an age-old take on the trope, it felt fresh to me again after four decades of Romeroesque zombies eating the field barren. In Chasing the Dragon, I wanted to show just how terrible the Dragon is through her ability not just to kill people, but to infect their dead bodies with her will and use their reanimated corpses to do her dirty work for her. I don’t know how successful I was, but I hope I was able to make zombies — or at least my zombies — a little more interesting for readers.

WF: Which of these elements did you start with? And from the point of view of craft, which came first for you: theme, plot, character?

NK:I started with the title, actually! I rarely do that, usually a character or a plot thread comes first, but something about combining the legend of St. George with heroin and calling it Chasing the Dragon really appealed to me. From there I developed Georgia Quincey, the last living descendant of St. George, and her strange and tragic predicament. (By the way, bonus points to anyone who can figure out the secret reason I gave her the last name Quincey!) [My guess is it has something to do with Thomas De Quincey, author of Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, but that’s based on 0.13 seconds of research on Google. – wf] Oddly enough, the Dragon and her ability to control the dead came last for me. I didn’t know what the Dragon looked like or even what her goals were until I was well into the initial draft of the book! I tend to roll my eyes a bit whenever writers say they wait for their characters to tell them who they are, or that books sometimes write themselves, but even if it sounds goofy there’s some truth to it, more so with Chasing the Dragon than with anything else I ever wrote.

WF: What are you working on now, and how far along are you in the process?

NK:I’m just finishing up a fantasy novel that takes place in contemporary New York City. It’s like a quest fantasy, only our band of heroes are questing on the Upper West Side of Manhattan instead of through some imaginary medieval kingdom. It’s the first in a projected series, and I’ve got three books mapped out already. If it sells well enough, I would be happy to keep it going past that. I really like these characters, and I love writing about a hidden, magical New York City that most New Yorkers don’t know about, a city where an ancient dragon lives in the sewers and goblins hold midnight rituals in Prospect Park.

WF: You’re a member of a crit group [known as “Who Wants Cake”]. How does that help you as a writer?

NK: Enormously. I put together my own crit group back in 2003, hand picking writers whose work I admired and from whom I was certain I could learn. (It helps that I live in New York City, where there are no shortage of writers to become friendly with.) Luckily, all the writers I approached were interested. Since then, some members have left and new ones have joined, but it’s been amazing and gratifying to see how far we’ve all come. Several members have gone on to have successful careers as novelists. A few got published for the very first time. But most gratifying, to me, is how much I learned from everyone in the group. I wouldn’t be half the writer I am today without their help and support. I love them like family, and half the fun of crit group night is going out to dinner with them afterward and just chewing the fat.

WF: How closely does your group mirror your target audience?

NK: Very closely, in that they are all avid readers. I wish everyone read as much as these folks do. Most of us write speculative fiction –horror, fantasy, sf — but not all of us. We also have a couple of amazing literary fiction writers in the group, and their input has been just as amazing. They tend to focus their crits on character and emotion issues, something genre writers like myself sometimes forgot to pay proper attention to because I’m so busy working on the plot.

WF: What would you — or they — say you need to work on as a writer, and what are you doing to build yourself up along those lines?

NK: I know I struggle with dialogue sometimes, trying to make it sound as realistic as possible and frequently falling short. Luckily, this is where revision comes into play, cleaning up all the stilted dialogue that finds its way into the initial draft. It’s the same with pacing. In early drafts I sometimes tend to babble on, resulting in passages or conversations that can definitely stand to be condensed in revisions. But G.I. Joe was right, knowing is half the battle, and by being aware of these issues I can keep an eye out for them while I work. I’m one of those writers who believes every word you write makes you a better writer, even if that word gets deleted down the road, so with each project I hope I’m growing and evolving.

“every word you write makes you a better writer, even if that word gets deleted down the road”

WF: Looking forward, do you expect to stick with the dark fantasy subgenre or will you be branching out?

NK: I like to keep the door open. I started out in horror and seem to be edging toward dark and modern fantasy, but I also have ideas for mystery and suspense novels. What they all have in common, of course, is their focus on the darker things in life. I guess I’m attracted to that, at least when it comes to what I write. In real life, I have a much sunnier disposition!

Nicholas Kaufmann’s blog www.nicholaskaufmann.com can direct you to outlets through which his books are available.