Dead Weight Blog Tour: All Aboard

deadweight-3“This is an amazing time to be a fan. At no other point in history has there been such a popular acceptance of geek and nerd culture coupled with the ability for independent artists to get their work out in front of the public…Without having to rely on corporate giants to decide what is worth presenting to the consumer, each artist, in this case M Todd Gallowglas, can present their material directly to the consumer. That gives us the power. We don’t have to read, play, watch, or listen to things created for the lowest common denominator or an overly broad and unfocused demographic, we can find exactly what we want, and give our money directly to the artist. I love this symbiotic relationship. If you want to immerse yourself in a story of a junkie bard veteran from a war where San Francisco was the front lines in an Unseelie incursion, you can. And believe me, I do.”

From the forward to DEAD WEIGHT: The Tombs by Damon Stone, Game Designer, Fantasy Flight Games

Welcome to the first stop on the DEAD WEIGHT blog tour. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been trading emails and IMs with various writer pals and websites looking for places to host me. I’ve had so much interest that I’ve had to extend the tour by a couple of days twice. With each new stop adding a day, I’ve always kept The Genre Underground as my first stop. In some ways both DEAD WEIGHT and The Genre Underground are my experimental labors of love.

I love to experiment and twist things around in everything I do. Back when I was teaching swing ballroom dance, I would mix up steps and moves. In gaming, I always want to push the bounds of the rules – usually to the chagrin of my game masters. Same with writing, airsoft, my storytelling show. To quote a great, yet horrible, man, “The status is not quo.”

DEAD WEIGHT started in the back of my brain after reading, “The Things They Carried,” by Tim O’Brien. After reading the story, a question popped into my mind: “What would a platoon of Marines have to carry with them on a mission into faerie. That was over five years ago. Since then, it’s simmered in the dark corners of my imagination. It’s made me ask more questions about the story and the world it takes place in. Over the last year, the story and the characters began speaking to me again, only the story became a disjointed mish mash of a timeline…as happens with anything when you add a dash of the fey.

When I first conceived DEAD WEIGHT I only meant it to be a short story, maybe a novelette at most. The trouble is, my brain generally thinks in terms a bit more epic than short stories, and DEAD WEIGHT is no exception. More than that, its storyline twisted, turned, and became more disjointed around its own timeline. As I worked on putting the final draft together, I realized I had the perfect chance to try an experiment with how to get it out into the world. Tanks to the indie book revolution, the serialized novel is making a comeback. Amazon is even rolling out a new serial program.

In my mind, DEAD WEIGHT was made to be a serial. Even before I dreamed of self-publishing, I kept asking myself, “How am I going to get this published?” In its completed form, it’s too “big” for the standard Urban Fantasy, at least as far as conventional publishing circles consider for Urban Fantasy. Never mind the cheesy, easter egg, geek/nerd culture references seeded throughout, which several industry professionals told me would be a hard sell. That was before I mentioned the part where it’s also a post-apocalyptic war thriller with aspirations of epic fantasy woven into the narrative. However, thanks to the changes in publishing, both for both creators and consumers, I can put DEAD WEIGHT into the world in the way I best think serves the story. It’s an exciting time to be an artist in any medium. I’m pleased to be able to put DEAD WEIGHT at the forefront of the revolution. Over the next two weeks I’ll be hopping around the blog-o-sphere talking about DEAD WEIGHT, my work, and some of my philosophies as an artist. Hope you enjoy my insights, and if you decide to pick it up, I truly hope you enjoy “The Tombs” at least as much as I enjoyed writing it.

To see all the stops on the DEAD WEIGHT tour, head over to my website:

Tomorrow, my pal Patrick S Tomlinson asked me to stop by and talk about how I got into this writing game:

Interview with J.A. Pitts

Bravado’s House of Blues by J.A. Pitts is a wonderful read of speculative fiction of dark and light, triumph and failure. His short story collection is the type of book to keep around, to read one story at a time, and to savor each one to its fullest. These stories all stayed with me long after I put the book down. Bravado’s House of Blues is published by Fairwood Press and is available in trade paperback and ebook form.

I had the chance to ask John a couple of questions about Bravado’s House of Blues.


1. This is your first short story collection. What kinds of things did you think about when selecting stories for it?

John: Right off the bat, I added in the 10 stories I’d sold in other markets.  Some of those markets don’t exist anywhere (e-zines) and some stories were sold to very small press.  I thought this would be a great way to get those gems back out into the world.  Then I picked out a few stories that I hadn’t sold, a few new ones and a couple related to my novels to help tie in fans.  It’s an eclectic collection, that’s for sure.


2. Do you have a favorite short story in the collection? If yes, which and why? If no, is there a reason for that?

John: Interesting question.  “The Hanging of the Greens” was the first story I ever got a review on.  That one’s special.  “Fucking Napalm Bastards” is fun for me because I was told it would never sell, and this is its third appearance in print.  “Black Blade Blues” holds a strong place in my heart because it launched the book series.  Each of them are special in some way to me.  It’s hard to pick a favorite.


3. You write novels as well as short stories. How do you approach writing short stories?

John: With novels I’m a detailed outliner.  With short stories, I’m a total panster.  I get an idea for a theme, scene, character, whatever, and see where that takes me.  It’s rather organic in nature.  I have a bazillion stories in my head just waiting to burst out.


4. BRAVADO’S HOUSE OF BLUES is published by Fairwood Press. What is it like working with a small press rather than a large one for a book project?

John: Fairwood Press is great.  Patrick Swenson, the publisher/editor puts out a very high quality product.  Putting together BHOB was a lot more agile than we both anticipated due to life interruptions, but we worked together to put out a great book.  New York has more hands in the mix, more eyes on the production, etc. so their process is more mature and less prone to flaky author hiccups.  I truly love both experiences.  It’s a broad tent.


5. What is something you’d really like to have your readers know about your short stories?

John: It’s funny, but writing shorter is harder for me.  With novels, I feel like I’m floating down this placid river, soaking in the sun and just enjoying every minute of it.  With shorts, I’m in the rapids and every paragraph is another rock threatening to flip my boat.  In the end, I’m told the quality is the same, it’s just the mental acrobatics that no one sees that shakes things up.  Also, my shorts are across more genres than my novel readers would expect.  There’s an eclectic mix of fairy tales, horror, science fiction and fantasy.  I’m hoping there’s something in this collection for everyone.


6. Where can we find all things J.A. Pitts related?

John: Well…. there’s Twitter: @japittswriter; Facebook:japitts; website:; and of course, your local bookstore (brick and mortar or digital).

The Science Fiction of Cyberpunk Has Become Science Fact

Two years ago, when I sat down to start writing on my first novel, THE CESTUS CONCERN, I had it in my head that I was going to be writing a futuristic cyberpunk novel loaded with science fiction. After all, the book was populated with high tech bionic men with abilities far beyond the norm, cybernetic rewiring of brains, and computer controlled minds.

Doing research over the past few months for my second novel, The Cestus Contract, I realized that most of what I had assumed was science fiction had become science fact. Now that book two is out, I’m not quite as sure how far off the science really is…and the realization has blown me away.

The lead character in my Weir Codex series is one Malcolm Weir. A former US Army Ranger, Mal wakes up to find his arms replaced with cybernetic weapons and his mind sharing space with a computer implanted into the base of his skull. Other characters are similarly enhanced — cyborgs with no hearts, men merged into giant robotic suits, and men and women being controlled remotely by computers.

Surely, none of these things are possible in today’s world? Right? That’s what I thought…and boy was I wrong. Let’s take a look at some of what is taking place in the real world of cyberpunk that now exists just outside your window.

Craig Lewis, a 55 year old man, had a continuous flow pump surgically implanted into his body to replace a damaged heart. The device allowed blood to flow through his system without a pulse.

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a an artificial “smart” skin that allows machines to mimic the sense of touch. The level of sensitivity of the skin is similar to that of a human’s fingertip. Not only is the skin a huge leap forward for robotics and human-robotic interfacing, but also for prosthetic limbs.

Right now, the US Army is testing what they can an antropomorphic exoskeleton, the HULC, that will enable its wearer to move faster than normal and increase their strength.

The field of bionics and robotic prosthetics has exploded over the past few years. There are now powered bionic appendages that are controlled by thought. Mind controlled bionic legs that possess a full range of motion, bionic hands that feel, and bionic eyes that restore partial sight to the blind.

Robotics is coming along just as fast, with the military testing humanoid robots, robotic “mules” developed to carry equipment and supplies into difficult areas for troops, gun-wielding telepresence battledroids, bird drones, and even a flying robotic “transformer” that will potentially replace manned choppers for troop transportation and resupply missions.

Beyond robots are things like the Kuratas , a Japanese-built mecha prototype. That’s right, I said the Japanese have built a working mech. The thing is about 13 feet tall, is controlled by a pilot who rides in its chest, and can be mounted with weapons. Even more insane is that fact that the Kuratas can be ordered online…

Finally, in the scariest piece of news, a researcher at the University of Washington has performed what is believed to be the first non-invasive human-to-human brain interface. The researcher was able to hook-up and crontrol his subject’s hand via the Internet. Telepresence via robots is one thing, but being able to control a human’s actions remotely is mind-blowing. The thought of what could be done with this particular technology is both terrifying and, now that I have children who must constantly be reminded to do their chores, intriguing.

With each passing day, Cyberpunk becomes less about the world of “what might be” and more about the world outside our windows.

To read more about the exciting cyberpunk adventures of Malcolm Weir, check out the first two novels in the Weir Codex: The Cestus Concern and The Cestus ContractAvailable NOW on Amazon.

Mat Nastos is a TV, Film, comic book, science fiction, fantasy & cyberpunk writer/director, known best for bad horror movies about giant scorpions, killer pigs & dinosaurs in the sewers. His work has been published by Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Warp Graphics, Playboy and Highlights for Kids, and has been seen everywhere from the SyFy Channel to Cinemax to the Disney Channel. He is the author of the Amazon #1 Best Selling Science Fiction Action novel, The Cestus Concern.

You can stay up to date with his latest work by going to his website at

A Book Born of Dreams

The Genre Underground chose Dreamwielder by Garrett Calcaterra as our Book of the Week for November 4, 2013. To gain a better understanding for our readers, we asked the author about his inspirations and his influences.


GCalcaterra_headshot2Dreamwielder, my epic fantasy novel from Diversion Books, was literally born from a dream. My mother mentioned to me during a visit that she’d dreamt about a magical girl and she thought it would make a good story. As an author I get this all the time—people suggesting ideas for me to write, and trust me it’s not coming up with ideas that are the hard part, so I always politely decline—but since this was coming from the woman who had birthed and raised me, I figured I at least had to humor her. It turned out the dream she’d had was utterly fantastic.

In the dream, a young woman is sleeping in a castle and her parents are frantically beating at her chamber door, trying to wake her. When her eyes finally flutter open, the castle disappears to be replaced by a one-room hovel. That was it, all she’d dreamed, but it tapped into some sort of primal archetype that resonated with me, and that was the beginning of Dreamwielder.

It’s only fitting seeing as how it was my mother who first introduced me to Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and as I got older to Anne McCaffrey and David Eddings and dozens of other fantasy authors I gobbled up. It was my mother who modeled for what a strong woman should be (and me being a male, how I should treat and respect women). So, while the story and characters stemmed from my own imagination, my mother was as much an influence on the story as all those fantasy authors I read growing up.

So, when diving into Dreamwielder, don’t be surprised to find that so many of the characters are strong females who challenge generic fantasy tropes, and that the subjugation of powerful women is a dominant theme in the book. Now don’t get me wrong! I’m not claiming to have turned the genre on its head—there’s plenty of classic fantasy action, and an epic final showdown between good and evil “that rockets to a thrilling and satisfying conclusion in the grand tradition” as the very gracious Misty Massey endorsed it on the book jacket. I’m simply paying my gratitude to those who influenced the writing of the book: Tolkien for his rich world, C.S. Lewis for his omniscient voice, McCaffrey for her strong female characters, Ursula Le Guin for her magic rooted in natural order, Tim Powers and James P. Blaylock for their industrial-steampunk backdrop, and last, but not least, my mother.

Thanks all! I hope readers find in Dreamwielder even a small fraction of the enjoyment I’ve been on the receiving end of.


Thank you, Garrett. Readers, be sure to check out our Dreamwielder page for more information.

Author Interview: Hugh Howey

hughhoweyI met Hugh Howey at Chicon7 in Chicago in 2012 and again in at Lonestarcon3 in San Antonio this year. Being that I was on the fence between traditional publishing and self-publishing, I was intrigued by his story. He had already published the Molly Fyde series with some success, but found an audience with a short story called Wool. When that story caught reader interest, he expanded the story into a full length novel by the same name and then other stories in the same universe. What began as a self-published story has now been picked up in print form by a major publisher, though Hugh retains the ebook rights. You can catch him at He agreed to answer a few questions for our audience:


What was the source of the silo idea?

I’m sure it had multiple sources, but the main genesis of the world of Wool came from 24-hour news. I wondered what it does to us to have our view of the world filtered through such a negative lens. Does that impact our degree of optimism and hope? Are those who want to fight for a better world heroes? Or are they dangerous?


What research did you do for the Wool series?

The research came from my life experiences and all my reading, especially non-fiction. I drew from my time as a yacht captain, an engineer, a world traveler, a roofer, an electrician, and a student of history. As in the life I have lived, I probably got more wrong than I got right.


What similar stories do you have planned?

Most of the stories I have planned are vastly different. I want to write across all the genres. I want the process to remain fresh and exciting. I do have another post-apocalyptic series planned, but it takes place in a very distant future and leans a little more toward fantasy.


What is unique about your Molly Fyde stories that make them stand out for you?

I like to think of that series as Pixar in book form. There’s an adventure story for all ages on the surface, but astute readers will catch all the deeper meanings sprinkled throughout. I credit Swift’s GULLIVER’S TRAVELS for inspiring me to view storytelling in this way.


How do you feel about other authors writing in your silo world?

I’m flattered by it. I think it’s wild that I’ve written about a world and others want to join in. I see fan fiction as a form of literary jazz. Someone hears a new beat they like, and they want to riff off of it. They want to jump on stage and join in or perform their own rendition. I completely support this. My hope is that these writers will delight my readership and draw them over to their own works, introduce them to more great stories. I know writers who are making a decent wage from their fan fiction, and as someone who knows how difficult it is to get paid for your art, nothing makes me happier.


Thanks, Hugh, for your thoughts.



Author Interview: M. Todd Gallowglas

(Originally posted here on 09/16/2013)

I met M. Todd Gallowglas last year at Conjecture Con in San Diego, California. Being a bit of a newbie on the small SFF convention scene, it was great to meet Gallowglas, a guy who was cheerful and welcoming, making me feel right at home. Gallowglas is a frequent attendee and panelist at SFF conventions, and a born storyteller. In fact, he has been a professional storyteller at Renaissance Faires and Medieval Festivals for over twenty years, and he began self-releasing two series of fantasy novels several years ago, to much success. I interviewed Gallowglas for my recent article at Blackgate, and am now excited to release my full interview with him here.

Welcome! Can you describe your writing career up to this point in a nutshell, and don’t leave out the part about being a Ren-Faire storyteller!

It’s funny that everyone asks about the storyteller bit, like it’s some secret. My professional writing career came out of my storytelling show, “Bard’s Cloak of Tales.” Let’s see…in a nutshell…A few years ago, I had this storytelling show to help make ends meet while I was seeking a position as an English teacher after having gone back to school to earn my BA in English (with a focus on Creative Writing, of course). My wife and a few friends sent me a couple of articles about this Amanda Hawking chick and John Locke dude, saying they were making a killing selling their self-published books straight to Kindle. I said, “Huh…interesting.” A few months later, I put some stuff up to see if I could make a little extra money by sending people from my show to my ebooks. At the same time I jumped into the self-publishing world, I wrote some Cthulu short stories for Fantasy Flight Games and
one of my stories received an honorable mention from Writers of the Future. After a few months, the ebooks made enough so that I could do print books, and now the books have taken over. I still do the storytelling show, but now it’s just one of the platforms for letting people know about my books.

How do you make ends meet? Do you have a day job or do any side work?

Pretty much everything comes through the writing and storytelling show now days. 2013 has been the year where we’ve transitioned out of me having a “day job.”

That’s great. Here’s to your continued success! So, you’ve clearly forged your own path as a writer. What’s worked well for you in finding an audience for your books? What hasn’t?

The show is a big part of it. I joke these days that I don’t have a storytelling show anymore, that I have commercials that look a lot like my old storytelling show used to. Really though, the experience I have with doing the show for so many years has taught me to go out where my readers might be.

I go to a lot of conventions. Before getting published I went to one or two a year. Now, I try and get to everyone I can, to get on panels. I think the fannish community is the coolest part about science fiction and fantasy literature. I can’t stress enough how important it is for new and hopeful writers in our genres to come and be an active part of this awesome community. If you show up for the fans, the fans will show up for you.

Now days, there’s a lot of “white noise” and “jazz hands” on the internet from people trying to get anyone with an eReader to buy their book. I’ve had some small success with this, but I think that’s because of my experience at conventions and Ren faires. Rather than spam out everywhere I can, I look for communities of readers. I show up and try to be part of the conversation/community before I even think about talking about my books. People are much more receptive to writers who act like real people and not the book infomercial of the day.

With the publishing world having changed so much over the last decade or so, do you think it’s even possible to follow the old-school template for becoming a successful author these days?

I’m not sure what the “old-school” template was. From hearing stories about some of the hugely successful “old-school” writers, many claim a lot of their success was based on luck as anything else. I don’t know how true that is, but I do know that publishing is changing at such a huge pace these days that nothing is certain. What worked six months ago, doesn’t work now, or at least it doesn’t work in quite the same way. I know this has a lot of writers and publishers freaking out to varying degrees. I find it exciting. It’s open game for new ideas. We’re in a place where people can’t say, “Don’t do that; it’s a bad idea,” without looking more than just a little ignorant, because a lot of people are trying and succeeding with ideas that are so far outside the box, that Schrodinger might as well not exist.

What’s the storybook ending for your writing career? If your wildest dreams came true, where would you be as an author ten years from now? 

Pretty simple, actually. I’d love to be writing and selling more books. Put my kids through college on royalty checks alone. Go to all the conventions that I’d like. Maybe be a guest of honor somewhere. The really wildest would be a Hugo nomination. That would be cool.

My wildest dreams, the ones that bend the fabric of reality as we see them today, aren’t about me. I’d like to see a change to SFWA that would allow for self-published writers to become members. I’d like to see a self-published category added to the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards. We get a lot of flak for having some really bad stuff out there in the self-pub world, but we have some really innovative work as well…some of it better quality than what I’ve seen coming out of traditional publishing. On the other side of that coin, traditional publishing hasn’t always knocked it out of the park.

It’s not so easy becoming a successful author. Why do you bother?

Beats a cubicle? I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t want to be a writer. I’m stubborn, and I don’t want any of those people from my past who said, “Don’t quit your day job,” to be right.

Mostly though, it’s the same reason I do the storytelling show, and the same reason I will keep doing the storytelling show, even if I make it really big, like Brandon Sanderson, George R.R. Martin, or Pat Rothfuss level of big… I have people who come to my shows, sometimes driving hours out of their way, year after year, to come and see me spin my tales. I see kids’ eyes light up with delight both during my show and afterward when their parents buy them one of my books and I sign it for them. I don’t draw as huge a crowd as some of the flashier acts, like the joust, and I may not have as wide a readership as some other writers, but my fans, both of the show and my books, find joy in the work I produce. They let me know this year after year and book after book. If I decided not to bother, I’d be letting them down. At this point, I don’t think I could bring myself to do that.

That’s awesome. Anything else you want to sound off on?

This is for readers: If you like a writer, any writer, take the time to write a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or just post something like, “Hey, I just read this awesome book,” on Facebook, Twitter, or your preferred social media. More than ever before, we writers depend on word of mouth from our readers to get the word out about our books. Those reviews and shout-outs help more than readers will possibly ever know.

Indeed! Thanks for your time and insights.

Garrett Calcaterra

Interview with Jennifer Brozek

(Interview by M. Todd Gallowglas)

I’ve known Jennifer Brozek for about a year, having met her at last year’s World Science Fiction convention. We’ve maintained a correspondence over that time and chatted similar interests and business at the occasional convention. She is one dedicated and hard-working lady, attending multiple conventions per year while and always has at least two or three projects in the wings waiting for her to wrap up work on the two, or three, or dozen she’s currently working on. I’ve found her especially welcoming to both fans and up-and-coming professionals. And with all this, she can turn that all off in a moment’s notice and scare you sheet white without even half trying, which is why she’s on her way to becoming the new first lady of horror.

The Genre Underground is pleased to have her on board for the Road to World Con event.

GU: When did you attend your first convention? Did you start as a fan or a pro?

JLB: The first convention I remember regularly going to was DunDraCon in San Ramon, CA. It is the largest west coast gaming convention. I think I started going back in 1994. I went as a fan. All my friends are gamers and we all went together as a group. I didn’t start going to conventions as a pro until August 2006. My first pro convention was GenCon.

GU: With the amount of conventions you attend per year, I think it’s safe to assume that you feel it’s important for pros and semi-pros in our community to attend conventions. Why do you feel it is so important for writers to attend conventions?

JLB: Editors and publishers are looking for new talent and new ideas. Authors are looking for someone to publish them. I’ve discovered that one good face-to-face meeting with the right person will open up doors like you would not believe.

I met author/editor John Helfers at GenCon in 2006. I pitched an anthology to him. He thought it was a great idea but it wasn’t quite there yet. Over time, I got to know John and he watched me work my ass off on other projects until in 2010 – after only meeting him and his editor wife, Kerrie, at conventions – he had me meet him for a business meeting. It was there he asked me to pitch him anthologies for DAW. Out of that meeting came the DAW anthology HUMAN FOR A DAY.

Not soon enough for you? Here’s me on the other end of the story. As an editor for my own magazine, I looked for new authors. In 2007, I met an author whom I invited to write for the magazine. As it turned out, he already had and been rejected—twice. We talked and I remembered both stories. I told him what was wrong with each and what was the next year’s theme and asked him to try again. He did and he got it.

That author is Dylan Birtolo. From there, Dylan and I ended up writing an RPG supplement for Colonial Gothic together, THE ROSS-ALLEN LETTERS. I have also published him in the semi-pro anthologies: THE BEAST WITHIN 2 and SPACE TRAMPS as well as the pro anthology HUMAN FOR A DAY. He is also in a forthcoming anthology, COINS OF CHAOS, and will always be one of my “go to” authors because of how easy he is to work with.

If I had not met Dylan in 2007, I don’t know if any of these other publications would have happened.

GU: What is your favorite part of going to conventions?

I think sitting down and talking with industry friends I only know online as well as meeting new industry friends. I love the social aspect of conventions and meeting people. Conventions are part of my job. They aren’t all fun and games. So, I take joy where I can and I learn what I can about the people I have worked with or will work with.

GU: What one piece of advice would you give to the neo-pro attending a convention for the first time with “PRO” on their membership badge?

Believe it or not, it is not all about you. It is very exciting to be a PRO and you want everyone to know about your books but if you only talk about you, your books, your stuff, no one is going to be interested. You want to demonstrate a depth and breadth of knowledge—other authors, other works, other editors you admire and try to emulate. When you are on a panel, illustrate your talking points with examples from other authors as well as your own work.

When you are at a party or in the green room or just in the hallway, just be you. Be a real person and not someone trying to sell your book. Eventually, the conversation will come around to you and what you do. That’s when you talk about you and your stuff. That’s when your conversation partner is interested.

GU: What one piece of advice would you give to the hopeful writer attending the convention hoping to make contacts and network?

Writing is a job. So is publishing and editing. If you are looking to network, in essence, you are looking to have an informal job interview. You need to look the part: clean and presentable. Personally, for men and women, I say no t-shirts because it makes you stand out. Men: polo shirts, bowling shirts, button downs. Women: casual nice, boat neck, blouse, tunic.

You also need to have good timing – bathrooms and, unless you are having lunch/dinner with your networking target, mealtimes are not good times. If they are at a dealer’s table, you need to know when to step to the side to allow them to do the job of selling their wares. No one appreciates having their tables blocked by someone who wants to sell them something.

I go into a whole lot of detail on this in my book, INDUSTRY TALK, because I’ve been pitched to in some of the most inconvenient places.

So, the short thought is: Writing is a job. Treat is and all contacts like a business with proper etiquette.

GU: With the rise of Indie and self-published writers leaping so easily in the market creating some controversy within the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror community, what place do you feel those writers have within the community of Fandom?

Considering I’m doing it all: self-publishing, semi-pro publishing, and pro publishing, I think there is a place. I think that self-published authors have a lot more work to do on the business side of things than they first imagine. They will have a smaller market share of the audience in general but if they do good work, get a good editor, treat their book with the respect and care it deserves, they will have a home in their chosen fandom.

I do think self-published authors have a hard road to travel. Especially if they don’t have a good reputation already to rely on. Those self-published authors who do not do their due diligence will reap the reward of a resounding silence.

There will always be pro authors who say self-published authors aren’t professional and there will always be self-published authors who say that pro authors are slaves to the big publishing houses. For me, I say find your niche and find your comfort zone and then write the crap out of it—figuratively and literally.

GU: Within your personal work, which project did you enjoy working on the most? Which do you think best defines you as a writer? What do you have in the works that readers can look forward to?

This is hard to answer. I really enjoyed writing INDUSTRY TALK: AN INSIDER’S LOOK AT WRITING RPGS AND EDITING ANTHOLOGIES because it encapsulated so much of what I have learned and wanted to pass on to other people. I get a lot of the same questions asked over and over and over again. So, I answered them in a book. I’m pleased with the book and think it’s pretty smashing.

But, at the heart of me, I am a writer. I love writing. I’ve got a number of things coming out in late 2012 that will be my new favorite thing. But, in the meantime, if you want to see the world how I see it, my favorite book is IN A GILDED LIGHT: 105 TALES OF THE MACABRE. Every story is under a thousand words and lasts all day.  I warn you, though. A bunch of reviewers had nightmares while reading this book.

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. We’ll see you at World Con.

Thank you for your interview. I’ll see you all at WorldCon.

Interview with Paul Genesse

(Interview by M. Todd Gallowglas)

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Genesse years ago at the World Fantasy Convention in Austin Texas, and I’ve bumped into him at many conventions since. The thing that impressed me most when I first met him, and continues to impress me when we chat at conventions or we interact online, is that Mr. Genesse is a consummate professional, at all times, cordial, pleasant, and fully attentive in every conversation I’ve seen him a part of. He is both a writer and a fan, and one of the strongest examples of why the symbiotic relationship between science fiction and fantasy professionals and fans is not only really cool but a necessity for our mutual growth.

The Genre Underground is pleased to have him take time out of his insanely busy schedule to speak with us on the Road to World Con event.

GU: Your convention schedule seems daunting to the point of insanity. On average, how many conventions to you attend per year?

Paul Genesse: Six at the most. Usually about five.

GU: Most writers, especially those hungry and hopefuls who dream of making it big, can likely see the benefits of attending big conventions like World Con. Why do you think it’s important for pros, or those hoping to be pros, to attend regional and local conventions as well?

Paul Genesse: It’s all about who you know, when you’re trying to sell fiction. You have to meet editors, publishers and agents. There are a few people who don’t follow this model, but very few. Once you’ve attained a certain level of skill in writing, personal contacts come into play big time. I believe that meeting the editors and other writers at various conventions, like World Con and World Fantasy are invaluable. Once you’re serious about selling something in the science fiction or fantasy genre, go to World Fantasy or World Con.

GU: What is your favorite part of going to conventions?

Paul Genesse: Seeing my fans, friends, fellow writers and editors who share so much in common with me. We all get to reconnect and support each other. I’ve been going to conventions regularly since 1997, and the people who have helped me along the way are like family, but family of my choosing, and without them I literally could not go on.

GU: As I said when introducing you, you are always the consummate professional. How important is it for neo-pros and hopeful pros to have this quality of interaction while at conventions?

Paul Genesse: It’s very important. Just be polite and treat the people you meet with respect. Don’t say anything negative, and behave in a very civil manner. Writers are normal people and we’re at the convention to meet people, so be cool and don’t stress too badly about saying hello. You can ask for advice, but don’t pitch your novel for five minutes. Don’t pitch your novel period, unless it makes perfect sense to do so. If they’re an editor, you can ask if they’re taking unsolicited submissions, and go from there. If they’re not, don’t pitch your novel. Coming up with an elevator pitch is crucial. Thirty words or less.

GU: You’ve been fairly active in the small-press world of publishing with last year’s release of The Crimson Pact Volume 1 (Volumes 2-4 are also out now) and, if I understand correctly, you are breaking into the Indie Scene a you’ve retrieved the rights to your Iron Dragon Series. With the rise of Indie and self-published writers leaping so easily in the market creating some controversy within the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror community, what place do you feel those writers have within the Fandom community?

Paul Genesse: We’re all writers. We all have something to say, and we all have a place in the community. My advice is that you don’t self-publish until you’ve reached a professional level. That’s hard to define sometimes, but if you find the right people, they can tell you if you’re ready yet or need more practice. Independent/self-published writers can be just as good as those who have sold to major publishers, but be careful, and don’t rush things out into the market.

In the Fandom community, self-published authors can take whatever role they want. There are awards in fan categories at World Con. The fans keep this business going and if you want to write fan fiction or whatever, enjoy yourself. Perhaps you don’t put your real name on it, but that’s your call. If your goal is to do something else and sell to a bigger publisher, it might be better for you to work on your own material.

GU: When can we expect to see the Crimson Pact Vol. 5? Do you have any other exciting projects in the works that you’d care to share with the Genre Underground’s followers?

Paul Genesse: I just met with the publisher of The Crimson Pact series, Steven Saus of Alliteration Ink at Gen Con 2012 in Indianapolis and we’ve decided that The Crimson Pact Volume 5 is going to happen. The deadline will be around February 2013. Stay tuned for news about it on and the possibility of submitting. The Crimson Pact Volume 3 just came out as a trade paperback, and Volume 4 followed as an eBook—and will soon be a trade paperback. Currently I’m working on a rewrite of my novel, Medusa’s Daughter, a love story set in ancient Greece about Medusa and the daughter I think she had. Also, I just had an essay come out in 8th Day Genesis, a World Building Guide for Writers and Creatives.

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. We’ll see you at World Con.

Paul Genesse: I’ll see you there and drop by my website, for more information.


Paul Genesse (juh-NESS—like finesse) spends endless hours in his basement writing fantasy novels, adding to his list of published short stories available from DAW Books and various other publishers, and editing the four volumes of the demon themedCrimson Pact anthology series. His first novel, The Golden Cord, book one of his Iron Dragon Series became the bestselling fantasy his publisher has ever had. Book two, The Dragon Hunters, and book three, The Secret Empire, all set in the treacherous plateau world of Ae’leron, are out now and available as trade paperbacks and eBooks. Learn secrets of the world, download the first ten chapters of The Golden Cord for free, and view maps by visiting

Interview with Christopher Kellen

Today’s Interview is with Christopher Kellen, the author many books, including the highly popular “The Arbiter Codex.” I conducted this interview after reading Elegy, and it is not necessary to have read the novel to enjoy the Interview.

MD: Central to your entire novel is the concept of manna. It drives everything about the plot and characters of this world. Can you please describe it, and the things that make it a unique magic/energy source in contrast to things it may be compared to?

Christopher: There are many fantasy stories and worlds that deal with some kind of life force, some central source of energy that wizards or others can draw from. When I began writing ELEGY, my central hypothesis was: what if that life force was actually deadly to everyone it touched? What if it drove them mad, turned them into monsters, outright destroyed them?

After I solidified that idea in my head, I realized that if the good side of the life force (which I decided to call ‘manna’) was deadly, then the bad side must be even worse. If it also had a bad side, there must be someone who was immune to the deadly power.

As of my latest Arbiter Codex book, LEGACY, more about the source of the manna, where it came from and just why it’s so deadly have been revealed, but I’ll avoid going into more detail to avoid spoilers.

MD: The title of the series is The Arbiter Codex. Could explain the roles of Arbiters in this world?

Christopher: Corrupted manna (that is, the ‘bad’ side I mentioned above) creates monsters. It turns normal things into hideous versions of themselves, and has actually nurtured strains of monsters going back generations that have become separate species.

The Arbiter’s job is to hunt down the places where the life force has become snarled. Normally, it flows like a river, but if someone exerts too much force on it, or if someone attempts to hoard it, the power spoils and becomes corrupted. This usually results in a great many terrible things: walking corpses, horrific monsters, and otherwise rational people gone insane. The Arbiters, working from their Tower, seek out those places, destroy the monsters, and return things to normal.

MD: The Arbiters have a few unique pieces of equipment and the way they interact with manna. Can you let us know of the heart blade, the manna blade and other things the Arbiters use to carry out their duty?

Christopher: I’ve dreamed about a crystalline sword for a long time. I have story fragments going back ten years or more that feature this particular concept, but none of them worked until I started writing ELEGY. There is heavy color symbolism featured in The Arbiter Codex, and the glow of the crystal manna swords represented it perfectly. It allows them to be instantly recognized, for no normal person could carry the power of the manna so closely to them.

The heartblade came out of a need to explain more about how the Arbiter’s world works. I debated heavily on just what it was that allowed the Arbiter to be immune to the power of the manna. Originally, the plan was for them to have been exposed to the power in small doses starting at a very young age, but that didn’t provide enough of the ‘hopeless world’ feeling that I wanted. Instead, I turned them into addicts; the heartblade is a tiny, needle-like blade that recharges itself over time (from a specific place, not from the manna as a whole) that must be driven into the Arbiter’s heart. It both recharges them and re-ups their immunity to the manna’s deadly influence. Without it, they would die.

MD: The Pulp influences on your novels is very visible. Let us know why you love this style of writing, and ways you incorporated it into your novel.

Christopher: I wrote ELEGY in 2008, for National Novel Writing Month. At the time, I had just finished a two-year stint as a graphic designer and formatter for a small press that was working with public domain properties like Tarzan, John Carter, and Lovecraft. During the process, I had learned a lot about the old pulp stories, and got introduced to Howard for the first time. I can’t really describe how immediately and thoroughly Howard’s work spoke to me. Around that time I was also introduced to Karl Edward Wagner, whose Kanestories I also count among my biggest influences, and I also discovered the work of Andrzej Sapkowski, the modern-day pulp writer ofThe Witcher.

From the moment I began writing, I imagined D’Arden Tal as a combination between Geralt of Rivia (the Witcher himself) and Solomon Kane – a religious zealot who is also an outsider, thought of with suspicion even though he is the only one who can save them.

Reading the pulp stories has led me to where I belong, I think. I’ve grown tired of stories where a ‘farmer’s boy’ finds some magic MacGuffin and saves the world from an overbearing evil. I like it when my characters are already competent before entering the story, when they’re already world-weary or at the top of their game. They face down some horrific evil, and they may change, or they may not. Conan took the crown of Aquilonia, but it never changed him. Wagner’s Kane was an immortal who never changed, no matter what he went through – he was always a magnificent bastard. Those are my favorite characters, and that’s what I’ve been striving for.

MD: The novel moves along at a very steady pace that makes it hard to put down. Is there anything specific you did to keep it that way, such as cut things out after your wrote it, make a conscious decision to not write anything that does not directly move the narrative along, etc?

Christopher: Well, I’m definitely glad that you feel that way!

Actually, ELEGY is sort of an interesting beast, because when I wrote it, I struggled for every word; and not in an angsty, ‘it-has-to-be-perfect’ way. For many years, it was very difficult for me to write any work, because they always came up short on the word count. I’d write what I felt was a complete short story and it would be 1,100 words. I’d try for a novel and get 13,000. Thankfully, this has now changed, but at the time it was very difficult.

Honestly, the reason that ELEGY is so tight is because every bit of plot was necessary to keep my words coming to hit the 50,000 goal for NaNoWriMo. In fact, in its first incarnation, ELEGY ended at precisely 50,000 words. I cleaned up a lot of the NaNo-isms and revised it so that it all flows together much more solidly now (and changed the ending significantly, which seems to be a theme for me) and it turned into a very tight, fast-paced (but short) novel.

MD: Are all your novels set in the same world? If not where else are they set in, and if so how do they tie together?

Christopher: Ever since I was very young, I’ve dreamed of having a world in which I could set multiple stories, at multiple times, in many different places. A world that I could explore, with characters that I loved.

At last, I think I’ve found that place, although I never expected it to come from where it did. When I wrote ELEGY, it was never supposed to have a sequel. It was just a discarded NaNo project. When I started revising it for submission to a now-defunct webzine, I began to realize that there was more potential in it than I had originally thought. It took a lot of thinking, but I finally decided that I would call the world “Eisengoth” and give it a heavily-Germanic influence.

Right now, I have three series set in this world of mine: The Arbiter Codex, The Elements of Sorcery (book 2 launched July 20, 2012), and Tales of Eisengoth.

The core story is found in the Arbiter Codex. The Elements of Sorcery is exploring the history of one of the secondary characters, the sorcerer Edar Moncrief. The Tales of Eisengoth contain other stories about the world, the characters, and their history.

MD: The instant feeling a lot of people get when reading your novel is “Conan meets Star Wars.” How would you describe your series in your own words, and how much of the above description seems true to you?

Christopher: I don’t disagree with that assessment, although the quasi-religious wanderer is inspired less by the Jedi than it is by Solomon Kane. The crystal swords certainly do evoke the idea of the lightsaber, which wasn’t entirely unintentional. I mean, come on. There’s pretty much nothing more awesome than a lightsaber!

Really, though, I like to think of my work as a spiritual aspirant to the great pulp work that has been mostly forgotten. People don’t think of Conan when they think of fantasy (a string of miserable adaptation attempts to bring it into the modern consciousness doesn’t help), they think of Tolkien, and Dragonlance, and Harry Potter (high fantasy, Dungeons-and-Dragons-derived-high-fantasy, and modern fantasy respectively). I want to bring the idea of heroic fantasy back to life in my work: Howard, with modern sensibilities; and Lovecraft, with just the terrifying monsters, and without the horrifying racism.

MD: What is your background with writing? Any formal training, influences, or early projects you did that drive how you write?

Christopher: The only training I have is the thousands of books and stories that I’ve read. I’ve never formally studied the writing process, but I started reading very young, and I’ve never stopped. I was also very fortunate to get brought into my parents’ D&D group at the tender age of 6, and when my Dungeon Master moved away, I became the DM for my group of friends at about age 12. That started me on the world-building process, and to this day I absolutely love gaming and collaborative storytelling.

Unfortunately, there’s also a downside to that last part: the tropes and methods of role-playing are so deeply ingrained in my consciousness that I often have to struggle against those instincts in order to write!

I started doing NaNoWriMo in 2005, and it was mostly just a way to have some fun during the month of November, since I kind of liked to write (but I would never finish anything that I started). Doing NaNo was really the propulsion that led me toward where I am now, and I would never have done that without my then-girlfriend (now my wife) telling me that I should.

All of those things combined, plus a healthy love for the methods of storytelling, some of Holly Lisle’s no-nonsense writing techniques, a deep desire to communicate, and a lot of encouragement are really what keeps me going.

MD: Do you have any dream projects you would want to work on? This could include original takes on existing properties, genres you have not written in before, etc.

Christopher: Well, I wrote a science-fiction short story (available as Dutiful Daughter) which I need to turn into a full-blown novel at some point. That’s definitely on the horizon.

I’ve never been overall too comfortable working in other peoples’ worlds or with their characters; I’ve always preferred to work with my own. Still, as a creative exercise a few months ago I re-structured the plot of the video game Mass Effect 3 to fit my sensibilities, and that was a lot of fun as a thought experiment.

Right now, my dream is really to keep learning and growing; to try out different genres and different kinds of stories, and to keep improving my methods. If something else should come up along the way, I’ll take a look at it.

I’d also like to (at some point) do a collaboration with another author. I think working on story genesis with another person would be a lot of fun!

MD: Do you have any novels coming up? If so let us know more about them.

Christopher: Well, I just released Sorcerer’s Crime, which is Lesson II of the Elements of Sorcery, on July 20. Right now I’m back in the planning and initial drafting phase for a project which I’m tentatively describing as a ‘steampunk/fantasy political thriller’, which will be significantly different than anything I’ve done before. Since it’s just in the initial phases, it’s hard to say when(or if, frankly) it might be done.

My short-range plans (next 6 months or so) also include the next entry in the Elements of Sorcery (since short fiction is much easier to write, edit and publish), and then I’ll get started on Book Three of the Arbiter Codex. Farther out than that… who knows?

Interview with Robert Eaton

(Interview by M.D. Kenning)

Today I will be posting and interview with Robert Eaton, the author of “The Hero Always Wins.” He is another member of the Genre Underground, and his first novel is both dark fantasy and comedic at the same time, and a very enthralling read.

Here is the interview:

MD: The world seems to be an interesting mix of seemingly familiar concepts (heroes, fire wielding bad guys, orders of knights with magic swords, etc) with original spins on them (exactly how the heroes work and the warlocks, etc). Are there any specific inspirations for this world and how it works, or was all of it an original world from the ground up designed to feel like a familiar type of tale?

Robert: As you’ve pointed out, the world of The Hero Always Wins is inspired by a number of traditional fantasy elements. I love Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, and the like, and wanted my book to have some of that feel. However, I think my world has a lot of original elements as well.

One aspect that is unique to the world of The Hero Always Wins is that the scale is much smaller than many other fantasy worlds. I didn’t want armies of millions where a single hero could hardly have an impact without god-like powers. Instead, I created world that could be travelled by horse in a matter of a few weeks, and large cities have populations in the thousands. A few hundred warriors constitute a sizeable army, and individuals can really turn the tide in battle.

MD: Tell us more about how the heroes (and the Leorht) work, and what makes them different from typical tales. Any world information you want to give, either that can be gleaned from the books, or that you had thought of but not necessarily spelled out in the book.

Robert: I love tales of magic, but one thing that always bothers me in fantasy is when a hero has too much power. So often I see fantasy series go off the rails because the hero is nearly invincible and only complicated loopholes can challenge him. To this end, I wanted to create a magic system that gave my heroes power, but kept them vulnerable as well.

Generally, my heroes have a very well defined set of abilities. Those that follow Leorht, for example, have the ability to wield properties of light. The move with a heightened sense of speed, and can summon limited amounts of electricity to aid them in battle. Beyond that, they are as human as any other warrior on the battlefield.

MD: Without going into spoilers, I will say I enjoy how as the book goes on, the reader cannot necessarily know where things are going with characters, even though at the beginning it seems to be very typical of its genre. This makes me wonder, did you know an overall outline before you wrote, including the twists, or did the twists come to you as you wrote. What is your process in general when writing in terms of you the author knowing the plot?

Robert: Most if not all of my plot twists are planned well in advance. I always develop an outline before I start the actual writing. At the core of my outline are a series of plot events which form the critical path from beginning to end. I also throw in specific lines of dialogue, bits of imagery, side plots, and other “cool” ideas I have that I want to work in. From there, I start writing, and ad lib the details of each chapter as I go. Sometimes the journey leads to changes in the original outline, but generally the major plot elements go unchanged.

MD: Your structure is a more typical chapter based structure, but I have noticed many modern idioms and phrases in the chapter titles. Was this a conscious decision to add some “tongue in cheek” elements to the story or a more unconsciously motivated decision?

Robert: Modern idioms and tongue in cheek phrases are central to my writing. When I first started writing, I tried to mimic typical fantasy influences from mythology. However it didn’t take me long to realize that I don’t care about mythology. Instead, I drew on those cultural elements that are near and dear to my heart: pop culture. So my books, though set in a “traditional” fantasy setting, are chock full of references to sports, music, and modern slang.

As for some of the “tongue in cheek” elements, I love a good pun. Some people may find it corny, but there is a playful cleverness to puns that amuses me. I also like to mix in elements of satire, which I think goes hand-in-hand with the cheekiness.

Basically, I live in 21st century America. Just because my head is in the fantasy world doesn’t mean my feet don’t touch the ground around me!

MD: Tell us more what got you into writing this book. Are there any specific trials or stories in your own life that occurred from writing this?

Robert: Honestly, this book is influenced by video games as much as anything else. I grew up on Dragon WarriorFinal Fantasy, andthe Legend of Zelda. I love heroes like Kratos from God of War, and villains like Arthas from Warcraft. I started writing partially because video game stories got in my head and I couldn’t get them out. Does that mean my books would make a good game? I don’t know, but I’d like to think so.

MD: What is your background/training as a writer, or any prior experiences in writing?

Robert: I don’t really have any formal training in writing. I do have two Ivy League degrees, and took a few writing classes along the way, but never majored in English, Creative Writing, or anything like that. I owe most of my writing ability to genetics and my high school English teachers. I always did very well in writing throughout school, and I had a few teachers along the way who really helped me understand how to channel my ability into a decent story.

MD: What would you say you focus on as a writer; themes, plot, or characterization? If it’s a combination of these, let us know which you feel you focus on the most, and why?

Robert: Definitely characterization. I love my characters, and have a vision for them from cradle to grave. I don’t generally have characters who managed to live boring lives as simple farmers or blacksmiths until the age of eighteen. Instead, my characters have colorful backgrounds chock full of adventures that happened before my book begins. My writing, however, concentrates on what I consider to be the main adventure of a character’s life, the adventure that leads them to ultimate glory or ultimate demise.

My characters have real emotions and real motivations. They are driven by the same things that drive us all: love, greed, fear, and duty. In the end, every one of them is doing what they think is right, either for their nation, their loved ones, or themselves.

MD: What makes you the rock and roll star of fantasy writing?

Robert: Rock and roll has always been central to my life. I grew up in the late eighties and early nineties, watching glam rock and metal morph into grunge and rock-rap. I always identified with the wild, lustful, and dark undertones in rock music, and I carry those undertones into my writing. In my mind, every one of my characters looks like someone you could find at a music festival. Some are on stage, some are carrying equipment, some head-banging in the audience, and some are selling weed behind the porta-potties. They’re all there though.

MD: Finally is there anything you would like to tell us about your upcoming book?

Robert: The last question is actually a good segue. My upcoming book, the sequel to The Hero Always Wins, takes the rock and roll from backstage to center stage. Music is part of the plot, and one of the settings is a fantasy version of the Sunset Strip circa the mid-80s.

All your favorite characters are back, with the action picking up right where the first book left off. The mood is darker, the battles bloodier, and the plot twists crazier. It’s taken a little longer than I’d hoped, but the book is finally coming out this fall, and I couldn’t be more excited. If you loved The Hero Always Wins, stay tuned; the sequel is going to rock your world!