Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

CadiganSorry about the long absence. I was backed up putting together the quarterly newsletter for the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers, and I just went through a bout of the flu. That’s the bad news. The good news is there’s a lot of material from the newsletter that I figure I could run here. Just need to get permission from the editor, and … Oh right. I’m the editor. Well, OK then. Here’s a very good interviewer with Robb Cadigan, author of “Phoenixville Rising.” Since the newsletter is for a writers group, the emphasis is on the practicalities of the writing business. But even if you’re not a writer, I hope you find it interesting.


Interview With Author Robb Cadigan

by Tom Joyce

Editor’s Note: Author Robb Cadigan was recently spotlighted in “Poets & Writers” magazine’s feature, “The Savvy Self-Publisher,” for his efforts publishing and promoting his novel “Phoenixville Rising.” He agreed to an interview with “The Speculator” about self-publishing strategies.

Q: Could you tell us something about your background, and about “Phoenixville Rising?”

A: For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a writer. As a kid, I thought I would grow up to write and illustrate comic books. My love of reading and writing definitely came from DC Comics and an obsession with Batman.
I went to Bucknell University to study English and Creative Writing. But when it came time to get a job, I didn’t know anyone who actually had a career as a novelist. I had no role models for that path. So I headed for the next closest form of fiction: advertising.
For thirteen years or so, I worked in marketing and broadcasting at QVC and helped to build the shopping channel into the world’s most profitable television network. Although I enjoyed my career at QVC, I was still writing fiction during any spare time I could find. In fact, sometime around 2000, I took a sabbatical from QVC to finish a novel. I ended up getting an agent with that novel and, although that manuscript never sold to a publisher, the agent gave me the confidence to get serious about following my dream of being a full-time writer.
“Phoenixville Rising” came about when my wife and I moved to Phoenixville, Pa. After we decided that this small town was the place we would raise our family, I started to investigate the history of the place my kids would call their hometown. It really started just as a hobby to learn more about local history. But writers are always filling the well. And the more I discovered about this little town, the more the story of “Phoenixville Rising” started to take shape in my mind.
I actually wrote the first version of “Phoenixville Rising”  more than ten years ago. My agent loved it and shopped it around, but again there were no takers. It’s a tough book to market, because it’s cross-genre: it’s a coming-of-age tale, with a crime story and historical romance woven through it. The original version even had a ghost story in there. Sales departments at big publishers had a hard time with it. So after it got rejected, I put it in a drawer and went back to working on my craft. My objective is always to become a better writer.
About two years ago, I took the manuscript out of the drawer and rewrote it into the book it is today. And by the time the novel made it through the rewrite, I was happy to see the world of publishing had drastically changed …

Q: Why did you decide to self-publish?

A: I had a top literary agent and navigated the rough waters of traditional publishing for years. We received some of the “nicest” rejections letters around, but sadly no takers for my work. I just put my head down and kept working, trying to get better at the craft, (more…)

Gerry LaFeminaI recently reviewed poet Gerry LaFemina’s debut novel “Clamor” for Chamber of the Bizarre. Drawing on his own background in the punk scene, Gerry crafted a complex portrait of a middle-aged punk rocker that I found refreshingly free of the kind of clichés you usually find in stories about musicians. Gerry agreed to talk a little bit about his personal history with punk, and about “Clamor.”

Q: Could you talk a little bit about your background, and your involvement with punk rock?

A: I started going to punk shows when I was 14/15. I was an outer boro kid—a Staten Islander—and didn’t really fit in with my peers. I had access to a lot of counter culture music from my older sister, mostly Zappa and Neil Young and the Dead, as a kid, but it wasn’t my music. I discovered the Ramones and Bowie and the Clash when I was about 13 and then Kraut, a band from New York, on MTV (was it the Basement Tapes?) at a friend’s house. Then it was onward to the Dead Kennedys and Bad Brains, etc. I joined my first band with that same friend when I was 15, but really didn’t do anything as a hardcore musician until I was 16 and founded Expletive Deleted. We eventually played with a ton of great bands, starting with our first show ever, opening for Suicidal Tendencies at CBGB.

Q: What drew you to punk rock in the first place?

A: I didn’t fit in anywhere. I was one of the few kids at my school whose parents were divorced. I loved books and music and just kind of had my own private life. Punk allowed me to reject mainstream values in an environment where rejection was not only accepted but encouraged. It felt safe at a time when I was looking for safety. That said, it didn’t take me long to realize the inherent limitations of punk as a cultural philosophy—nihilism was never my bag, nor was conforming even to a brand of non-conformity.


Q: What inspired the book, and what were you trying to accomplish?

A: “Clamor” started at a family party: I was looking at my older sister and brother and tried to imagine what it would be like to turn the volume of our personalities up to 11 as it were. I mean, those characters aren’t us in the least, but that’s how it started. Then I had to think what was going on. I don’t write with an outline or an agenda. Once I figured out that the father had died, I had some sense that this was a kind of Prodigal Son story, but that’s not enough to go on

What’s funny to me is that one of the most interesting characters in the book, for me, is Jessica — Johnny’s niece. She didn’t even exist as an idea when I first started writing. That’s all it took.


Q: Is there anything about the punk rock scene that you consider to be widely unknown or misunderstood?

A: When I was shopping the book I had one agent ask me to make it more “punk rock” — by which he said he wanted “more heroin or cocaine and some more sex.” I wanted to avoid these clichés. I was much more interested in the family dynamic that exists. This is a family drama. The drugs, the fighting, all that, that’s a very young take on punk. The fact is when punks survive into their thirties and forties, their concerns are adult concerns — paying the bills, raising the kids, living a life. Touring, writing new music, maybe some sort of secondary income source, all of that is real. Being a punk musician is a job at that point.


Q: Do you have any new projects in the works?

A: Always. I’m working on the fourth draft of a new, untitled novel. I’m playing around with a few short stories, and maybe I’ll eventually have another story collection. But it always comes back to the poems. I’m working on a new book of poems that is tentatively titled “The Story of Ash” but that’s still at least another year from being finished. My first book of essays on poetry, “Palpable Magic,” comes out in early 2015. And musically I’m working with a band called The Downstrokes.



Alex SeguraAlex Segura’s debut novel, “Silent City,” recently redefined Florida noir. Alex agreed to answer a few questions for “Chamber of the Bizarre.”

Q: Can you give us some background about yourself?

A: Happy to! I’m a comic book publicist by day, crime writer by night. My first novel, “Silent City,” came out late last year from Codorus Press. It’s a noir tale set in modern day Miami and features washed up journalist Pete Fernandez as he’s swept up by the search for a missing woman, which involves a much deeper — and deadlier — underworld conspiracy. When not writing crime novels, I write comics — mainly at Archie — and spend time with my wife and cats. I live in New York.

Q: What inspired “Silent City?”

A:I got into crime fiction in my early 20s, somewhat late. I read the classics — Chandler, Hammett and so on, but it was a copy of George Pelecanos’s excellent “A Firing Offense” that showed me that you could have a very flawed and relatable protagonist. It opened up a world of possibilities for me, not only in terms of what I could read, but also got me thinking about maybe writing myself. I point to Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane’s “Darkness, Take My Hand,” Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan books, Lawrence Block’s Matt Scudder stories and Ellroy’s LA Quartet as the books from modern writers that made me think about possibly doing this myself. I should also note that I’m continually motivated and driven to keep at this by the work of other great writers, like Megan Abbott, Greg Rucka, Michael Connelly, Kelly Braffet, Reed Farrel Coleman and many more.

Q: Who are some of your influences, and how do you think they played out in the story?

A: Like I listed above, Pelecanos, Lippman, Lehane, Ellroy, Lawrence Block and older authors like Chandler, Jim Thompson and Ross MacDonald were huge influences. Pelecanos, Block and Lehane show up mostly in Pete — he’s definitely a distant cousin of Nick Stefanos, Matt Scudder and Patrick Kenzie, though there’s some Tess Monaghan in there, too. I think I learned a lot about mood from people like Chandler and Thompson, with Ellroy really showing me how important a role setting can play in a story. Which isn’t to say my book does anything in the same galaxy as these authors, but they definitely inspired and motivated me to be better, which I’m eternally grateful for.

Q: Why do you think Miami has proven so attractive to crime fiction writers?

A: It’s tropical, sexy, beautiful but with a dark and dangerous underbelly. It’s the perfect contrast — a beachfront paradise that houses the most dangerous criminals and killers. It’s full of possibilities, and can cover a wide range of genres even in mystery fiction — from hardboiled detective novels like John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee books to the funnier Carl Hiaasen stuff to Vicki Hendricks’s underrated, disturbingly dark and amazing “Miami Purity.”

Q: Was there anything distinctive you were trying to bring to a Miami-set crime novel that you feel other writers may have missed?

A: I think so. I think that was a big reason I wanted to set the Pete books in Miami. I felt like so many authors had done NY stories already that it’d be silly of me to take a stab at that out of the gate. I also had just moved to New York, so I didn’t feel as comfortable writing about it. Miami was my home and I felt like I knew it pretty well. I also didn’t feel like my Miami had shown up much in fiction — the suburban sprawl, the nooks and crannies I remember exploring as a kid. Those were fertile ground for me.

Q: What do you think makes for a good crime thriller?

 A: I think it starts with a good character — and the feeling of risk and potential threat. I’m drawn to characters that evolve. One series I really love are the Moe Prager books by Reed Farrel Coleman. They focus on an ex-NY cop who becomes a private eye. But each book pushes him forward — some even jump five years into the future, so you always have a new set of circumstances that are still true to the character. Good crime books keep readers on their toes while shining a light on society’s own problems. I feel like crime fiction can be the most socially conscious — because crime and criminals really show the cracks in the system and where government and society have failed. So, I guess I like my hardboiled stories to have some kind of message, too.

Q: Do you have anything in the works?

A: I’m hoping to have news on my second Pete novel, “Down the Darkest Street,” soon. I’ve got a few short stories in the works and my most recent Archie issue, #659, hit this month with #660 following in October. Keeping busy!

DickI believe I’ve mentioned on this blog before that I edit the quarterly newsletter, called “The Speculator,” for the writers’ group Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers. I like to include an interview in each issue. For the September issue, I had the opportunity to interview Dick DeBartolo — one of Mad Magazine’s most prominent writers and a childhood hero of mine.  (For more about my life-long fandom of Mad, read here.) Needless to say, I was thrilled. Here’s the story that ran in the newsletter. Since The Speculator is for and about writers, much of the emphasis is on the craft and business of writing. But even if you’re not a writer, I hope you’ll find it interesting. And I’d like to thank my good friend Doug for helping make contact with Dick. Doug, give me a shout if you ever need a kidney.


“Mad’s Maddest Writer” Dick DeBartolo on Writing Parody

By Tom Joyce

As you might guess from my membership in this group, and my editorship of this newsletter, I’m a big fan of speculative fiction. So don’t take the following statement as a dis.

Speculative fiction lends itself to parody.

Think of the works of speculative fiction that simultaneously serve as genre parodies and great stories in themselves. The writing of Douglas Adams, Christopher Moore and Terry Pratchett immediately come to mind. For further examples, you could go as far back as Fritz Leiber’s classic Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories, or head to your local multiplex and watch “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

So I thought it might be helpful for us as writers to get some insights from a parody writer. As luck would have it, I got to speak to one of the all-time greats.

Dick DeBartolo is one of Mad Magazine’s most prominent and prolific writers, having contributed to the magazine since the early 1960s. He specialized in the magazine’s movie and TV satires, which were always my favorite part of the magazine.

Dick also hosts a wonderful netcast about gadgets and technology called Giz Wiz, which is available on He’s a regular guest on segment on ABC News Now, and was recently interviewed on the public radio program Studio 360 (which is available online). He is also the author of “Good Days and Mad: A Hysterical Tour Behind the Scenes at Mad Magazine.”

Dick asked that the interview take the form of a phone conversation, rather than responding to e-mailed questions. So I’ll have to do some paraphrasing, as I wasn’t able to write down everything verbatim. But it’s worth it, because I’ve been a fan of Mad since I was a kid, and being able to talk to Dick made my week, month and year. As an added bonus, Dick turned out to be every bit as funny, charming and flat-out cool as I could have hoped.

So here’s the gist of what Dick and I talked about:

Dick said that he naturally gravitated toward movie and TV satires. And the bad movies were a lot easier to satirize.

“The more serious the movie was and the more pretentious it was, the more fun it was to make fun of it,” he said.

TV satires were more difficult, because they were more of a time commitment. He’d have to watch five or six episodes to get a feel for the show’s approach and its characters.

Unlike the movie satires, which would follow the plot of the source material, he would have to construct his own plots for the TV satires. That could yield some interesting results. When he wrote the satire for the campy science fiction TV series “Lost in Space,” he placed the characters on a planet with giant vegetation. Not long after, he encountered series star June Lockhart on the set of the game show Match Game, where he was also a writer. She jokingly asked him if the magazine had spies on its staff, because the plot of his parody mirrored one of an upcoming episode.

His propensity for making fun of movies meant that he was rarely invited to previews, but that was fine by him. He preferred seeing movies with audiences so he could take note of the scenes that got the biggest reactions from the crowd, and be sure to reference them in the satires.

He was apparently doing something right. No less a luminary than Roger Ebert once told Dick that he learned how to criticize movies through Mad’s dissection of them.

Here are Dick’s insights on:


— Your intended audience should be familiar with the source material. When you’re riffing off something, it helps if they get the references.

— Dick is a big fan of what he calls “The Rule of Three” for satire. You have two references to something normal to establish a pattern and set up the punchline, then deliver that punchline on the third reference.

For example: “Is this rocket going to make it to the moon?”

“Yes. We’re using the highest octane fuel, the most powerful engine, and a big bottle of Mentos and Coke.”

— Running gags can be very effective. Try to find a hook within the context of the story, and keep non-sequiturs to a minimum. For example, in his parody of “The Poseiden Adventure” about a capsized ocean liner, Dick made a running gag out of the characters’ linguistic confusion over “up” vs. “down,” which got more absurd and funny as the story progressed. (“I’m seasick. I think I’m gonna throw down.”)


The magazine was initially very male-oriented, for boys in the 10-through-15-year-old range. Initially, the magazine only satirized G-rated movies. Now its approach is more inclusive. He also describes it as “rougher” than it used to be, with edgier humor.

“When it came out, it was the only thing like it,” Dick said. “Now that’s all changed. Mad is like a mirror of society.”


“The Web is where it’s at,” Dick said “You can do so much with no money.”

Where social media is concerned, Google Plus users tend to be more interested in serious, straightforward information. Facebook and Twitter users gravitate toward the “silly stuff.”

“Make yourself a valuable information source on the Internet,” Dick advises. “You get followers. Follow your followers.”

I don’t know if I ever mentioned this here before, but I edit the newsletter for the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers. I like it, because it gives me a chance to conduct interviews with some really cool people. Here’ s one I did that for the most recent issue, reprinted with permission of … well … me, I guess, since I’m the editor. Enjoy.

When I was a kid, I was a subscriber to and avid reader of “Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine.” So I was thrilled when I saw a stack of back issues at a recent book event. I was even more thrilled when it turned out that the guy selling them — in addition to the many fine books he’s authored — was Darrell Schweitzer, one of the people involved in putting out the magazine back in the day.

Darrell was an editorial assistant with Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine from 1977 to 1982. He went on to serve as editorial assistant with “Amazing Stories,” and as the editor of “Weird Tales.” He won a World Fantasy Award for his work with Weird Tales.

Darrell has written three novels, more than 300 short stories, and a number of nonfiction and poetry books. He’s edited numerous anthologies.

He agreed to answer some questions for our newsletter, so here goes. (Note: I think we had a bit of a semantic mix-up. Darrell apparently interpreted “speculative fiction” as a synonym for “science fiction.” I understood it as more of a blanket term encompassing science fiction, fantasy and horror. Since Darrell was responding to e-mailed questions, I couldn’t really straighten it out in the course of conversation. No biggie.)

Q: First of all, I’m really enjoying “Echoes of the Goddess,” because the tone of the stories takes me back to the late 1970s and early 1980s when I was a kid watching the mail for my issue of “Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine.” I realize, of course, that there were a lot of different writers with distinct visions and voices. But do you think there was any kind of a prevailing quality that characterized the speculative fiction of that era?

A:   I think what makes you associate ECHOES with the 1970s and ‘80s is the Fabian art. The book very much has the LOOK of that period. The stories, which are fantasy, and not really “speculative” unless you believe the theology, harken back, I think, to a much earlier era. You can see a lot of Dunsany, Clark Ashton Smith, and Jack Vance (THE DYING EARTH) in these. (more…)

TeelHere’s an earlier post about my meeting with Teel James Glenn — author, stuntman, martial artist and all-around awesome individual. Teel agreed to an interview with “Chamber of the Bizarre.”

Here’s the abridged version of his bio:

Teel James Glenn
Winner of the 2012 Pulp Ark ‘Best Author of the Year.’ Epic ebook award finalist. P&E winner “Best Steampunk Short”, finalist “Best Fantasy short, Collection” Author of bestselling Exceptionals Series, The Maxi/Moxie Series, The Dr. Shadows Series, The Bob Howard Series and others.
visit him at
And here’s the interview:

Q: Could you talk a little bit about your background?

A: I was born in Brooklyn though I’ve traveled the world for forty years as a stuntman, fight choreographer, swordmaster, jouster, book illustrator, storyteller, bodyguard, carnival barker and actor. One of the things I’m proudest of is having studied under Errol Flynn’s last stunt doubles and continue to teach swordwork in New York.

I have had short stories published in Weird Tales, Mad, Black Belt, Fantasy Tales, Pulp Empire, Sixgun Western, Fantasy World Geographic, Silver Blade Quarterly, Another Realm, AfterburnSF, Blazing Adventures and scores of other publications. (more…)

AckleyDanielle Ackley-McPhail is an author and editor of the award-winning Bad-Ass Faeries anthologies. So what is Bad-Ass Faeries? Basically, it’s an attempt by Ackley-McPhail and her collaborators to revive the original depiction of fairies in old folklore, where they were far more likely to be dangerous and scary than sparkly and cute. I reviewed her novel The Halfling’s Court here.

Can you talk a little bit about your personal background, and how you got into writing?

I am the youngest of five children. By the time I grew up, most of them had already moved on to their adult lives. We lived in a brand-new housing development so there weren’t many kids. Consequently, I turned to reading for entertainment. I read anything and everything I could get my hands on … to my occasional detriment. Eventually I was so comfortable with the written word and storytelling that becoming a writer was a natural progression I didn’t even need to think about.

What exactly is the whole Bad Ass Faeries phenomenon, and how did it come about?

This series is our attempt to de-Disneyfy the faerie. Basically the concept came out of a chance encounter with an artist and a failed author event. I met Ruth Lampi at Albacon, where she showed me her sketches for warrior faeries. They were just pencil drawings, many of them on lined paper, but they were really good. I ended up commissioning Ruth to work on a number of projects with me. We had a local event at a friend’s store and the timing was bad. It conflicted with some other event going on and not many people showed up. We sat there for most of the day entertaining each other. During the conversation the question came up of how we met. That topic lead to speculating about the sad state of faeries in fiction, which lead to an anthology proposal of tough faeries that were more in line with the actual legends. From that, Bad-Ass Faeries was born!

Do you feel you’re correcting some mistaken perceptions people have about faerie lore? And could you talk a little bit about that lore?

Oh, most definitely! Up until very recently … say the last ten years, faeries had for the most part been pacified by popular media. Not by everyone, but by the majority. See, in traditional faerie lore and legend the fae were mischievous, malevolent, or warriors. Very few were kind or sweet. They were known for stealing children and tormenting livestock, for tricking travelers and murderous deeds. Yes, a few did helpful things, but the fae were to be respected because you never knew which way things would go. Literature and the media had for the most part lost respect for them.

What’s the reaction been to the Bad Ass Faeries books?

Oh my … talk about can-of-worms. They either love it or hate it … I get broad smiles or disapproving frowns, but seldom anything in between. It is by far our best-selling anthology to date, with thousands of copies sold just in the first year. It is the first book of mine that has a public awareness all its own.

In recent years, it seems fairies have become kind of a hot topic. There are festivals and even magazines devoted to them, and they’re popping up all over the place in speculative fiction. Do you think there’s any particular reason for this renewed interest?

Well, all things go in cycles and I think this just the faerie cycle. The primary genre characters never do go away, really, but the audience gets tired of it and moves to the next one in a perpetual circuit. The same goes with vampires and shapeshifters and zombies … anything with a cult following eventually gets another shot at the spotlight. Besides, people are rediscovering their sense of magic and wonder, and where best to turn than to the fae?

I know that some fairy aficionados prefer their wee folk on the benign and cuddly side. Has the Bad Ass series drawn any appalled responses from that crowd?

You know, I get more negative comments about it being too tame. Of course, I already mentioned those disapproving looks we get from time to time strictly in reaction to the title. But for the most part people either pick it up because it’s fun, or because it promises something they are looking for, so there has been a lot more positive response. Even the children’s education director at my church just thought it was funny, more than anything else.

When you’re writing about the nature and capabilities of the fairies, about how much of that is invention on your part, vs. elements lifted directly from the folklore?

For me it depends on the series. A lot of my fiction deal with the faerie folk. The Eternal Cycle series, which are my Irish novels, stick pretty close to the legends, with the inventiveness coming in just to fill in the gaps left by lost knowledge since the Celts had an oral tradition. On the other hand, my biker faerie novels, the Halfling’s Court and the Redcaps’ Queen, based on my short stories in the Bad-Ass Faeries series, are a bit more inventive since I’m not drawing on any particular legends there. Of course, I do use details from the myth and legend when I mention something specific, like Avalon. With everything I write, though, I tend to extrapolate from the information available and get creative from there. You would be surprised how often I find research later that substantiates things I thought I made up!

What are some of the things you’ve done to market your books?

Well, for the Bad-Ass Faeries anthologies specifically I commissioned faerie themed art for raffles I held at the launch party for each book. I also made faerie wings by hand for my street team to wear as they passed out flyers and tons of pixy styx. Eventually I created a dedicated website and a blog specific to the series and grab every promotional opportunity I could get. In fact, for about the last five years I’ve volunteered as a story teller at the Maryland Faerie Festival and I was a part of the very first Faeriecon, Faerieworlds annual East Coast convention.

Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to discuss?

Dark Quest Books just released The Redcaps’ Queen, the second of my Bad-Ass Faerie Tale novels, as well as Three Chords of Chaos, by James Chambers, the third book in the series that originated from stories that appeared in the Bad-Ass Faeries anthologies. Speaking of which, in the beginning of June we will resume production on the fourth Bad-Ass Faeries anthology, titled It’s Elemental, where the theme is all faeries affiliated with one of the five elements: Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit. That should be out sometime in 2014.

Jon Gibbs - author pic 2I’m a member of several different writers groups, including Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers, for whom I edit the quarterly newsletter.

Writer Jon Gibbs recently contributed a piece that I think is worth reading for any aspiring writer. He gave me permission to repost it here. And once you finish reading this post, be sure to check out his Website and his blog, both of which have a lot of informative and entertaining stuff.

So take it away Jon …

Give Yourself Permission to Fail

by Jon Gibbs

For many writers, rejections are a bit like a trips to the dentist. We’ll do almost anything to avoid them, rather than risk getting bad news.

You can understand someone being afraid of dentists (I know I am), but why fear rejection? What’s so terrible about someone passing up the chance to publish your work?

I think it’s partly because, no matter how much we like to pretend we don’t care, it hurts to have a story turned down.

And so it should. If you don’t care if your story gets accepted, why submit it there in the first place?

But I believe there’s more to it than worrying about the sting of being told ‘No thank you’ by someone you’ve probably never met.

Jon Gibbs - Barnums Revenge - cover pic - compressedA rejection, especially when we’re starting out, is a hammer blow to our self-confidence. The bad news for would-be writers is that you’re going to get rejected, probably quite a lot. If getting published is important to you, those rejections are going to hurt.

The good news is that it gets easier. The more knocks you take, the tougher you’ll get, and if you make the effort to improve your craft, if you’re willing to recognize your mistakes and learn from them there’s a good chance that you will get published.

So go on, give yourself permission to fail. Take a deep breath and pitch that story.
One day, your dream will thank you.

Born in England, Jon Gibbs now lives in New Jersey, where he is the founder of The New Jersey Authors’ Network ( and, Jon’s middle grade fantasy, “Fur-Face” (Echelon Press), was nominated for a Crystal Kite Award. The sequel, “Barnum’s Revenge,” is scheduled for release in February, 2013.

Jon Gibbs - Fur-Face cover pic - compressedJon has a website: and a blog: When he’s not chasing around after his three children, he can usually be found hunched over the computer in his basement office. One day he hopes to figure out how to switch it on.

drunken comic book monkeysIf you go to a book fair, horror convention or science fiction convention in the Central Pennsylvania region, you just might encounter a small collective of literary visionaries — made up of writers, editors and publishers whose mission is elevating speculative fiction to unprecedented levels of quality and craftsmanship.

You might also encounter The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys.

But seriously, folks. The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys are Brian Koscienski and Chris Pisano. I’ve run into them at a few events, along with their project manager and handler Christine Czachur.

They, along with editor and writer Jeff Young, comprise Fortress Publishing. I’ve become a big fan of their magazines “Trail of Indiscretion” (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) and “Cemetery Moon” (horror).

I also picked up their “Scary Tales of Scariness,” in which Brian and Chris pit themselves against a variety of adversaries, including Cthulu, zombies, vampires, and The Potato People (don’t ask). It’s really funny.

They’ve got a bunch more publications, including a sequel to “Scary Tales of Scariness,” that you can check out at their Website here.

Of course, the Federal Bureau of Nickname Registration would have long-since revoked their license to call themselves “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys” if they weren’t also a fun group.

So in the following interview, I try to convey the magic. The madness. The raw, unbridled sensuality that is … The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys experience. Read on. (more…)


David Groff is an American expatriate living in Japan, where he studies martial arts and translates classic samurai texts.

Wow. I feel like just typing that sentence made me cooler.

Anyway, I recently reviewed his translation of Miyamoto Musashi’s 17th Century work, The Five Rings. You can see that review here.

David agreed to a follow-up interview where he discusses his martial arts training, the challenges of translating a work like The Five Rings, and the always contentious issue of samurai vs. ninjas.

How did you end up in Japan, and handling this translation?

I came to Japan in 1997 as an English teacher. I’d been kicking around doing a variety of jobs since college, and did a brief stint teaching Italian at Penn State, where I realized I really enjoyed teaching. I thought about doing graduate study in Italian and pursuing teaching that, but then I thought, “Hey, my Italian is decent, but my English is really good. I bet I could teach that somewhere…” I’ve always had a bit of wanderlust, anyway, so I got an English-teaching certification and started looking for places to go, and I’d been interested in Japan for a long time… there were a lot of jobs here, and they paid well (I had a bit of debt at the time, and with the exchange rate a salary in Colombian pesos was just not going to make a dent in that); I had an interview in New York, and a few months later I was on a plane. (more…)