Monday, July 25, 2005


Fred Schoeneman is a pretty interesting cat. He's an ex-Army Ranger and hull diver who lives in the Bay area. His website is a politically charged and well-reasoned blog that cuts a chain-saw-like swath through the heavily liberal slant found in much of the artistic community. Unafraid to voice his oft-dissenting views, what you won't find is a multitude of columns serving as personal manifestoes. Instead, it's often a link-fest of information and blunt commentary. He's drawn heat for some of the politically incorrect frivolity inspired by his "Would you hit it?" polls, but in his typical bold fashion, he doesn't shy away from it. Another reason to visit his site, you'll find links to some of his other work: short stories such as "Mr. Browning is a Dick" (originally published in Carve Magazine) and "Diamond Dog", which won the The Bocock-Gerard undergraduate fiction prize..

As a fiction writer, Schoeneman commands the same blunt force and startling power in his prose style. He's not a writer who takes you by the hand and gently leads you on a journey. He whacks you over the head and shoves you in the middle of a situation. This style is perfectly suited to the subject matter of his first novel, Army Porn, where Fred takes us through the training of a "tabless bitch" in a Ranger platoon – and beyond.

It'd be easy to write him off as one of the cadre of up-and-coming ultra-masculine, cock-and-balls dick-lit writers who're attempting to regain a market share from the currently estrogen-laden bookshelves. But that'd be selling him short – way short. His story in the August issue of Zyzzyva, "The Bottom Buster", is a good example of his nuanced appeal and deeper talent. Though the prose is forceful and commanding, it's not long into the story before you realize that the surface appeal is just enough to draw you in and drag you deeper. And much like the water itself, under the surface is a churning, vastly engrossing world teeming with life.

So would I hit it? Abso-fucking-lutely.

And then I'd make him my bitch.

1) Who are some of your favorite writers, and how do you think they've influenced you?

George MacDonald Frasier has a series of novels I started reading as a kid, and have come back to read through again several times since. He does a marvelous job with the anti-hero in historical fiction, bringing it alive, making it funny and real -- so much so that when the first American edition of "Flashman" was published in the late 60's, the NYTimes reviewed it as non-fiction. Frasier knows enough about structure to discard the three-act format -- he wrote the screenplay to "James Bond in 'Octopussy'"" -- and still succeed. He has good style and advanced technique, and I've tried to imitate that in my own work.

Though not as prolific as Frasier, Robert O'Connor is another of my favorites. As far as I know, his only published works are "Buffalo Soldiers," which was made into a movie of the same name, and a story in Granta about a guy running a creative writing workshop in prison. I read "Buffalo Soldiers" back in 1995, while doing a tour as a prison guard at GITMO.

Yeah, that GITMO.

The book got me thinking there could be a market for some of the things I was thinking about and later, when I was in college and trying to get some easy credits in a fiction-writing class, I copied O'Connor's style for "Diamond Dogs." I've modified the style some, but Army Porn grew out of that story, so I owe him a lot. If I find a publisher for the book, I'll wait until it gets remaindered and mail a copy out to him.

2) What do you think is your greatest strength or asset in your writing? Your biggest weakness or flaw?


3) You've written novels and short stories. Which would you like to focus on in the future?

Novels, unquestionably. I appreciate the short story form and all, but right now there are too many people practicing it; too many people jerking off in MFA programs trying to get published by the New Yorker, or trying to get a MacArthur grant, or an NEA grant or whatever, just so they can get lit cred within the short story community and some kind of teaching sinecure at a liberal arts college and fill their days with readings of other semi-famous writers in front of nubile, awe-struck young students. I say: There's a fine line between being a short story writer and just another useless poet.

In the interest of full disclosure though, I tried for a Stegner Fellowship and submitted to the New Yorker. Got neg'ed on both counts. I'd jump on either of those opportunities if they came up, which, well, let's just say that I doubt the opportunity will come up. But it's instructive to look at the two writers I mentioned above, GMF and O'Connor. GMF has written at least a dozen books and O'Connor has only written one. GMF worked as a journalist for most of his adult life, and O'Connor has been a creative writing teacher. Draw your own conclusions. Or, okay. I'll draw them for you: MFA programs are full of writers. Writers are neurotic. Being around neurotic people can make one neurotic, too much a slave to detail, a perfectionist, and this can get in the way of output.

4) "The Bottom Buster" is about a hull diver and Army Porn is about a Ranger – both high-testosterone and dangerous jobs which you have experience with. Are you a thrill-seeker, Fred? And if so, do you think this sort of "bravery" helps you in your writing to go deeper?

First off: I'm a pussy -- which, I try to make that clear in my writing. I hated jumping in Battalion, whether it was jumping onto an airfield, or jumping at night, or jumping at night onto an airfield, or jumping onto a nice sandy DZ without any combat equipment on a nice sunny day. Some guys from Battalion like jumping, though. So no, I'm definitely not a thrill-seeker. The only reason I signed the Ranger contract is because it offered more money for college than any of the other stuff, and I thought the extra $150 per month in jump-pay would be nice. Until I realized I hated jumping. But there are some good guys in those units, and you learn a lot about yourself in them. The most important thing I learned is that some men are killers, and I'm not one of them.

The thing I liked most about that life was the patrolling, walking around as part of a fire-team or squad. Sometimes it's wet and cold, but other times it can be very calming. And I can still trust those guys with my life.

5) Your "style" is pretty unique and addictive. Is the cadence and phrasing something you put a lot of effort into, or once you set the initial tone does it come fairly easily? You're also great at turning pithy and punchy phrases. Do you slave over those, or are you that witty?

Thanks for that. People don't understand the Army, or at least not the guys who end up as career NCO's. With the military stuff, I just think of some of the squad leaders I used to work for and try to write like what they would write, if they weren't so busy watching UFC. I'm just a good mimic. As far as the pithy and punchy phrases, yeah, I slave over them. Sometimes, I go over the top with one.

Incidentally, the guy I learned metaphor from is one of my Junior College professors named Gary Hoffman. He wrote a composition book called "Adios, Strunk & White." If you know anyone who teaches freshman English, tell them to check it out and consider it for their syllabus.

6) Stock question: Dinner with anyone, dead or alive. Who is it?

My Grandfather. He enlisted in the Royal South African Army Corps of Engineers during World War II, but died of leukemia in 1945. My mother was four at the time. My Grandmother, a beautiful and graceful woman back in her day never remarried. She keeps a shrine to him on her dressing table now, some 60 years later. I'd like to know more about why.

7) One CD, one book, one DVD and a desert island. What book, CD, and DVD do you take?

That's too hack.

8) Other than fiction writing, what's the biggest lie you ever told?

"I'll pull out."

9) You can't have both: Would you rather have respect from your peers and critical acclaim (but not making cash from writing), or would you rather be a bestselling author with the fat coin?

The latter. I want to write books that entertain people first and make them think about things second. I think Stephen King is a good writer, and so is Michael Connolly. Norman Mailer, on the other hand, is critically acclaimed and so was "Armies of the Night;" but personally, I'd rather read back issues of Grit. I guess the interesting thing about this question is, who are my peers? I hope my peers aren't other writers. Writers are boring in person, you know? They (we) write because we're lonely, we've never really fit in, or we're ugly, or we're hiding some big secret of self-loathing. I write because I hope one day to have an audience of actual readers for the things I write, not just a bunch of "peers" cupping my satchel. I want readers, I want fans; I want those readers to invest, and figure the best way to get them invested is to have them pay for my books.

When those books are published, that is. Which, okay, that has not happened yet. And which might not ever happen, I admit that. In which case, I may have to sit around cupping my own satchel.

10) And this is just a question for my personal knowledge: When I go see the A's play, what's the best thing to eat from the concession stand?

Wrong answer, Susan. When you watch the Athletics's play, you do not take time out to go to the concession stand. You do not take time out to pee in the restroom. What you do is buy all your food from the dude with the corn-rows walking up and down the aisles, and you pee into someone else's empty beer cup when they aren't looking.

If you manage to get to the game early, though, I suppose it would be acceptable to buy ten of those dollar hot-dogs (which is the limit), and eat one per inning.

Monday, July 18, 2005



Poet and short story writer Tom Saunders is a dashing Brit with a polished prose style.

His debut collection of short stories, Brother, What Strange Place Is This? is a richly varied tapestry full of eloquent language and stories that range from whimsical to melancholy.
In 1995 he was an award winner in the Ian St James international short story competition and his story "The Philosopher Nabel at the Kaffeehaus Eleganz" was published in the anthology Pleasure Vessels.

Tom's work can be found extensively online, including some of his poetry: Play for Me, The Acrobat, and some of his prose:
The Red Train
Sweet Mercy Leads Me On.

1) Who are some of your favorite writers, and do you think they've influenced you?

I wanted to write because of Kurt Vonnegut. His writing strikes me as being brave and true. He accepts no alibis from the human race, yet he's kind and compassionate. I don't think my writing style has been influenced by him, however. I wish! I use irony (I know everyone claims this one, but I actually use it from inception onwards) and humour in my stories, so that could be a connection. I suppose the biggest influences on my approach (I use varying styles) would be Dickens and Angela Carter. I admire prose that has flair and vigour. I'm a fan of Raymond Carver's, but low-key realism isn't for me.

2) What do you think is your greatest strength or asset in your writing? Your biggest weakness or flaw?

I'm not bad with words and I have a strong imagination, but I'm sure everyone would say that. My biggest weakness would be a tendency toward whimsy and a fondness for puns and wordplay.

3) You're also a poet. When writing Brother, were you conscious of language and word choice and cadence and structure, or do you take a more relaxed approach for prose?

There's nothing relaxed about my writing technique. I go over every sentence time and time again. I do believe there's such a thing as the perfect word choice and the perfect rhythm. Now you see why I'm not a novelist!

4) How does the inspiration for a story usually hit you – in a flash, or after much pondering?

I dreamt the first line of The Seal Man, but apart from that my stories come out of a thinking process - one that can take several days or weeks. I need to get two or more ideas working off each other, hitting sparks, complicating and deepening the main theme. That's the hope anyway.

5) You're not an avid traveler, and yet there are stories in Brother set all over the world and in different time periods that you seem to capture effortlessly. Is it more difficult for you to conjure these foreign locations?

No, I think you have to distinguish between stories that are about other places and the ones that are set in the other places. I don't think you can write the first kind without actually having lived in a place for a considerable time - even visiting isn't enough. I write the second kind and research gives me the background I need.

6) Stock question: Dinner with anyone, dead or alive. Who is it?

To be honest I'd be too frightened to meet any of my heroes. If I had too choose it probably be jazz saxophone player Charlie Parker. I love his playing, but he's a complete mystery to me as a man.

7) What's the best scent of summer in England?

Newly cut grass or the scent of honeysuckle at dusk. Something unique to the UK would be a seaside smell, vinegar on hot fish and chips.

8) One CD, one book, one DVD and a desert island. What book, CD, and DVD do you take?

The Beatles first LP - it changed everything. The Great Gatsby - a perfect novel, intellectually satisfying and beautifully written. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - what it's all about and what we must never forget.

9) You can't have both: Would you rather have respect from your peers and critical acclaim (but not be making cash from writing), or would you rather be a bestselling author with the fat coin?

I couldn't do both! It would have to be the first because there's no hope of the second. I wouldn't mind making some money rather absolutely none. A few pounds, maybe.

Friday, July 15, 2005

G.C. Smith in Dead Mule

Gerard C. Smith has a poem live in Dead Mule: Humingbird.

Thursday, July 14, 2005



Multi-talented and multi-pubbed Lisa Renee Jones knows her way around romance. Specializing in steamy, suspenseful page-turners, once you pick up one of Lisa's novels, it's hard to put it down.

Formerly a corporate shark, Lisa quit her day job to devote herself full time to pursue her passion – writing. So far, it's been paying off as she's authored over ten novels, seven of which are currently available. The latest, Protector, is the first of a new paranormal series she's releasing with Ellora's Cave, the premier venue for "romantica" (that's a cross between romance and erotica). To get a flavor of her work, she also has a new "quickie" available from EC, the super-sizzling Addicted, which is currently available for just $2.99.

Back in her corporate days, she owned a staffing agency. Although she gave that up, apparently some of her workaholic ways stuck, as did her ideals. Back then, she serviced clients and got people jobs. Now, aside from writing, she also manages her brainchild, The Author's Red Room. This is a promotional service site for writers and online readers' community. So, basically, she services clients (readers) and helps people get and expand their jobs (writers).

Generous and energetic, Lisa is an inspiring person. Sometimes very funny, often full of suspense, and always provocative and steamy, her writing is sure to inspire, too.

1) Who are some of your favorite writers, and how do you think they've influenced you?

My favorites are each very different. I love them for their unique flavors:

Historical : I don't read historical but I stumbled onto these two authors and they write so beautifully. I read them and just am amazed at how perfectly they paint the pictures. That would be Galeen Foley and Nicole Jordan. Galeen especially. Amazing talent, that woman. The emotional connections and brilliant sensuality always makes me stumble and say, 'you think you can ever be good enough to be on the shelf next to them?' They inspire me to improve.


Feehan: I never like this genre until someone talked me into reading a Feehan DARK series book. I read one and zipped through 6 in a few weeks! Her earlier books in this series just amaze me. She really had a brilliant concept with this series. The mates and the ultimate 'I want to but I can't' that is so critical to a good story. And she is a great writer. In some of her newer series she jumps heads a lot. I like the older Feehan.

Kenyon - she does characterization like no other. She is my idol in that area. I aspire to make my characters as alive and perfect.


I don't have any particular favorites in this area.

Stella Cameron - she is so wonderful at weaving a cast of people with troubles who all impact each other. And she does a damn good macho hero.

Brockmann- I have loved the SEAL series. She does a great job of giving you a big cast you want to know about but not making it confusing. I also met her parents and amazingly humble and proud. I listened to Suzanne speak as well and she is so down to earth and approachable.

A few other notables...Like paranormal, I thought I didn't like first person. The Anita Blake series proved me wrong. I love those books! Her humor is terrific as are those characters. And the time put into world building is huge and well done!

2) What do you think is your greatest strength or asset in your writing? Your biggest weakness or flaw?

Well, lets ask my agent that question GRIN. This is an interesting subject actually. When I started writing I wrote full size novels. I plotted and built a good structure. Then, I started spitting out shorts and shrinking. I have now realized it impacted my writing. I have such better skills as a writer but my pacing and characterization got all screwed up with the short novellas. I did some retraining. Much like Tiger retraining himself on his swing lol only I am not in his class...I feel like I have grown immensely the past few months. And we shall see. The product of that growth is now on NYC desks.

3) Your work so far is quite varied: Hidden Instincts is a legal thriller, Man Made Delights is a romantic comedy, and your new Underground Guardians series is paranormal. And they all have very steamy romances intertwined in the plots. So you've proven you can write, and succeed, in nearly any genre. That said, do you have a favorite niche that you most enjoy working in?

Another interesting subject. I wrote contemporary at first because its what I knew. As I grew confident and found my voice and skills, I felt the freedom to explore. An editor who just read my contemporary told my agent she wanted to see paranormal from me. I laughed because that is what has become my joy. That my writing felt like it should be in that genre to an editor was interesting. My newer work is dark, erotic, and suspenseful. Gone is the lighter side. Well, I do have a funny contemporary coming out with EC. THOUGH despite the humor in it, it very erotic, and I think a bit dark as well. Even with all of this said, I still write in multiple genres. I have Romantic Suspense with some editors being read and paranormal with others.

4) You write very strong female leads. What do you think is more important – character or plot? When you first conceive of a story, novel, or series, does it originally grow from the set up or from the characters?

Well, there again, this has been a HOT topic with my agent. Character for sure! You need a strong premise and plot without question though so I am not dismissing that. The key here is that premise and plot must be solid. the CHARACTERIZATION makes it unique and different. There are only so many basic plots. The characters make the book shine.

My initial idea tends to grow off the premise though its not always completely clear in my head. BUT, now, after working with my agent, I couldn't write past chapter one without doing character arcs. I often write chapter one or the outline rather, just to get the idea rolling. Then, the character arcs which are very detailed (check out what Galeen does on her website! Talk about detailed!). And even more unusual to my past habits, I need a synopsis. An outline of where I am going to avoid major plot problems. I think this comes from submitting to editors on proposal. You have to learn to write a synopsis that gives a good plot and character outline without ever writing the entire book. I hate writing the synopsis so before this recent window of time I would never have seen it as the tool I now do.

5) You've been quite successful so far with so many novels published novels. What, to you, is the hardest part of the business of publishing and what is the best part of it?

The eworld is a good place to learn but you have to be careful to keep your eye on the carrot and to continue to grow your skills to a level that will get you there. Finding a good agent is like marriage. You must find the right one. I picked the first one who said yes the first time around and lost a year plus in my efforts. The minute I signed with my next agent things changed. I feel closer to the dream than I ever have and my agent has a HUGE role in why and how that has happened. So remember, an agent is good. BUT, pick the right one. Don't be so happy someone says yes that you forget to take that step back and research and ask questions. In truth, I might not have been ready for an agent that first go around. I don't think my current agent would have said yes as I look back on my writing from that period of time. None of us want to be NOT READY but when its your time, the right agent will know it.

6) Stock question: Dinner with anyone, dead or alive. Who is it?

My kids. They remind me why I am blessed.

7) One CD, one book, one DVD and a desert island. What book, CD, and DVD do you take?

Janet Jackson's JANET CD. Why? 1) reminds me of a fun time of my life 2) very sexy music that gets me in the mood to write 3) She had just transformed her body and you can feel that new feeling of confidence she had in her songs and her voice. Its that empowerment I want my female characters to have.

8) Other than fiction writing, what's the biggest lie you ever told?

That I don't like diamonds. lol.. Back in my broke days (the first time around. I am now living the second time around lol) I would say that and I actually believed it. Then during my corporate executive years when I had money I got all into jewelry. I sold it all to follow my dream. To write. So, do I like diamonds? No. That's my, I'm poor, and in denial answer.

9) You can't have both: Would you rather have respect from your peers and critical acclaim (but not making cash from writing), or would you rather be a bestselling author with the fat coin?

I spent years making money and doing something I hated to try to make my kids futures better. I am living the part of my life where I want to do something that makes me happy. However, being this dang poor while I do it isn't all that enjoyable. To be comfortable and do what I love would be a blessing.

Ok. I usually only ask nine questions, but you get ten since you're special:

10) The HEAT. The SIZZLE. The SEX. This is an area that so many writers are unwilling to delve into. I go there, happily. And it seems like you do too. Is this a conscious effort on your part to work in this genre, or do you think the sensuality and romance flows easily from you? And, most important, what do YOU think is your hottest story yet?

The hottest story yet is on editors desk now. My writing has gotten more sensual as I have evolved. This comes, in my opinion, from getting more comfortable putting down what I feel is natural on paper. With experience, comes confidence.

I believe that sex and love come hand in hand (or should). To me, to write a romance, you must live the experience that all new found loves do. That hot, can't get enough of you, passion that burns like a fire on your skin. I also think sex is a normal human need. To deny we want and need is crazy. People who sneer at the sex I write make me upset. My response I should write serial killers who strangle and rape the victims and you would brag that you know me? Hello? That is not healthy or normal. Sex is.

Writing for Ellora's Cave, I think I am mild in comparison to other authors. I don't use certain words. I don't do threesomes. However, my characters are hot for each other and they act on it. Of this, you can bet. They can't help themselves. Just like I can't help but let them go for it!

Susan, thanks for inviting me to chat! And I love your site!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Fred Schoeneman in August Zyzzyva

Fred Schoeneman has a terrific story in the upcoming August issue of Zyzzya.

The story is called "The Bottom Buster" and it's fantastic. Zyzzyva is a terrific and tough market, and this story earns its place.

Fred's also a pal of mine -- a very cool guy. His writing is dominating and forceful, but unlike some of the other "masculine" writers working today, there's also a trenchant, subtle longing in his work.

Pick up a copy, and check him out. And for more info, visit his website to get some other samplings.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Seedy and Unsettling

Seedy and unsettling. That's a recent description of my book, 24/7.

I couldn't be more proud.

I won't lie. At first, before I knew the context and only saw the "rating", I was mortified. Appalled. Embarrassed. Ashamed. A little depressed. And very disappointed in myself.

The backstory: I knew my books (mandatory plug: 24/7 and Trattoria) were being reviewed in the latest issue of Romantic Times magazine.

So I went and checked the website to get the rating. They don't post the text of the review on the website for two months, only the star rating. You have to purchase the magazine to get the text of the review.

So. Anyhow. What I found was this:
A four star rating for Trattoria, and a two star rating for 24/7. Let me explain that for you just in case it's not evident. Four stars is pretty freaking good. Two stars means the book sucks.

I freaked out.

I mean, I was upset.

So now I will speak frankly about my two books. I wrote 24/7 first. Once it was finished, I was convinced it would never sell because it was too long and too extreme. So I purposely dialed myself down and wrote Trattoria. Trattoria is tamer and cuter. Though many reviewers still shy away from it and tag it with "sexy, edgy, strong language", ect, it does pull much more toward the middle of the road than 24/7 does.

Basically, on a 1-10 decibel level, Trattoria is me dialed back and hushed down to about a 4.5. 24/7, on the other hand, is me turned to about a 7.5.

I'm proud of Trattoria because I set out to do something specific (write a more mainstream chick lit but still infuse it with some "cool" and character and some pop and punch while keeping it somewhat traditional) and I think maybe I accomplished some of that.

However, since 24/7 is much more in my natural style, it also has a lot more of my own blood and sweat in it. 24/7 isn't me *trying* to be something or to shoehorn into a market. 24/7 is an honest representation of my personal tastes and proclivities. I love the romantic and cute stuff. Helen Fielding is just aces with me. But I also love Anais Nin, Charles Bukowski, Elmore Leonard and Chuck Palahniuk. These are writers with pulp and zing. And I thought -- why can't these worlds/genres/literary ideals be combined?

So I wrote what I'd want to read: Hot sex, head-fucked characters, action sequences.

I understood that it would never make the cut as genre romance. And that's ok with me.

But I figured, I'm not the only person out there who digs "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pretty Woman".

Luckily, my publisher didn't think I'd be the only one either.

Even luckier, I got some really heartening reviews right out of the gate.

And then I pulled up the RT site and saw that two star review.

Holy fuck.

I know, ok, I know that you can't have everyone like your stuff. But I was really shaken because I didn't read the text and I thought maybe I was a sham and my writing did actually suck so hard. I tried with 24/7, I tried really hard. And maybe I'm just pretentious and stupid and lacking talent. (I'm quite certain I'm all of those things, but Christ almighty, WHY did people have to figure it out so quickly?)

So. Anyhow. Then I started to rationalize and hope. I thought: Wait. Maybe. Maybe there's a possibility that in the review she doesn't say it's "boring" or "badly written." Maybe this is it. Maybe I've found someone who's after traditional genre romance and 24/7 was too hard edged for her. That would be better than alright. That'd be fucking great!

So, dumb-fuck author me popped the cash and bought an issue of RT to see what it said.

So here I give you the greatest two-star review I could ever hope for.

Susan DiPlacido

Marina Martino loves Las Vegas and has a knack for counting cards. She prides herself on never taking chances with cards -- or her heart. But when she meets blackjack dealer Miguel Rodriguez, all bets are off. Marina is knocked off balance by her immediate desire for him and his seemingly mutual lust for her.

Despite the warning bells set off by his violent past and some scary encounters in the present, Marina wants to follow her heart and believe in a future with a man for the first time in a long time. Will Marina win big or lose everything -- including her life?

DiPlacido does a good job drawing the reader into the glitter and seediness of Vegas. Unfortunately, Marina and Miguel do not fare as well as their favorite city. These two are definitely not the boy and girl next door, but DiPlacido shows us very little of what is good about them, making it difficult for the reader to sympathize with them.

Everthing about Marina and Miguel -- from their language to their lifestyle to ther intense lovemaking -- is rough and hard. It is the pervasive violence and seediness, mediated by too few positve expressions of emotion, that ultimately makes this book more unsettling than enjoyable.

reviewed by Stephanie Schneider
Romantic Times Bookclub Magazine

The only thing I'd love to change about that review is the word "lovemaking". Precisely because that's the point. This isn't a book about "lovemaking". It's about FUCKING.

I had worries that I'd written some really sappy and overly sugary scenes and dialogue along the way. The kind of Nicholas Sparks bullshit that makes me want to barf when I read it. And I'm quite sure I did go over the edge at times into "too sweet" territory.

But I'm so goddamn happy that at least one person thought this book was too rough and hard and seedy and unsettling.

It was supposed to be!

I'm so relieved. I'm so happy!

There's only one thing that could be better: If I can get someone to say it's "lurid and disturbing". That's my next goal.

I don't need to have everyone like my stuff. As long as they hate it for the right reasons, that's just fine.

Bottom line. If you want to read a romance about perfect, perky, straight-arrow people, read some Nicholas Sparks. If you want something "romantic" that's boozy and sexy and where the characters more likely crawled out of a Sopranos script than a church-hall, then read 24/7.

My next book, I'm gonna turn it up to 9.

Are you ready for that?



Humorist, satirist, and blazingly talented Biff Mitchell is on a roll. His novel, The War Bug hits stores in paperback within the next couple of weeks. A couple of his short stories from his collection, Surfing in Catal Hyuk are appearing in the current issue of Projected Letters: "The Nickel" and "Fishing the Moody River". And he's hard at work on his fourth novel, Murder By Burger.

Set in a technological future, The War Bug is a fast and frantic race as a programmer, Abner Hayes, is forced to team up with the most lethal computer virus ever created, known as The War Bug, to extricate his wife and daughter from the virtual landscape to save their lives before their entire world comes crashing down. Sound a little bit crazy? It is. Sound exciting? It definitely is. Sound a bit confusing? It's not.

Heavily influenced and inspired by the IT industry in which he works, Biff, whose other novels include the superb Heavy Load, and my personal favorite, the uproarious and ingenious Team Player, crafts a stunningly vivid – and completely understandable – adventure through this dazzling landscape.

You can also get a taste of Biff's work at a very low cost. He's got a couple of novellas published as dollar downloads: Smoke Break and The Baton. Though different in tone and subject from his novels, they both carry the inimitable Biff Bang.

On his website, he offers a free download about ebook marketing for writers. And he was this year's "Read an Ebook" spokesman.

Often strange, always entertaining, and 100% talented, meet Biff Mitchell.

1) Who are some of your favorite writers, and do you think they've influenced you?

My favorite writers are Tom Robbins, Christoper Moore, Crystal Hayter, Richard Brautigan, Douglas Adams, Kurt Vonnegut, Kinky Friedman and Susan DiPlacido. No shit. These writers are all on a different plain of existence than the rest of the world. I've read Richard Brautigan's "In Watermelon Sugar" at least a dozen times. I read Moore's "Island of the Sequined Love Nun" before I start writing any of my own novels. I can't read Hayter's "What's a Girl Gotta Do?" enough, even though my daughter says the cover is lewd and suggestive, but I tell her, "That's a very good description of life, sweetheart."

2) What do you think is your greatest strength or asset in your writing? Your biggest weakness or flaw?

My greatest asset is my ability to drink vast quanties of beer and wine while I write without passing out. There are reviewers who point to piddling things like characterization and descriptive language, but they obviously have not had enough beer and wine while they were writing their reviews or they would realize that true art comes only when the artist has destroyed hers or his abiltiy to deny the truth through inebriation.

My biggest flaw is my inability to estimate how much beer and wine it takes to write a novel.

3) Many times I can see a writer working very hard at stylish prose or to crack a joke. However, your stuff reads so smooth and easy, and yet it's also quite polished. Your "funny" also seems to come organically and seemingly effortlessly. Does the prose come naturally, or do you work at it? How about the "funny" – does that seem to just work its way in, or do work at it?

I don't know what you're talking about. There is no humor in my writing. I'm a serious writer tackling serious themes like the inability of writers to estimate the required quantities of beer and wine it takes to create art. I have an honours degree in English Literature, but I've learned over the years that my degree counts for shit when it comes to writing anything other than an essay on somebody else's writing while I quote extensively from a bunch of asshole academics. Beer, wine and your life experience. Rely on these and your voice and talent will surface without you ever having to have a single rational thought.

4) You're in the IT industry and this has obviously given you plenty of fodder for your stories. Do most of your stories start off with seeds of reality before blossoming into their full-blown unique strangeness?

I get all my inspiration from Diana, the goddess of the moon. She speaks to my only when I've had the appropriate quantities of beer and wine.

5) You write some very weird things, Biff Mitchell. And by that, I mean, there's just some weird stuff going on in your books that you have written. I never have trouble "accepting" what's going on though, because it all seems to develop in such a full-blown reality that you create. So here's the questions. What is the weirdest thing you wrote that you're most proud of? And – does all this weirdness just sort of occur to you, or do you have to put your imagination into overdrive to come up with scenarios and then make them "fit" and seem so believable and as natural progressions of the plot?

I have two favorite scenes...the description of the Great Nano Canyon in The War Bug and the description of how the Leaning Tower of Pisa came to be in Team Player. Neither of these are weird. They are factual descriptions of things that are historically accurate even though one of them takes place in the future and the other describes the actions of a dead person.

My imagination had nothing to do with either scene since I was merely quoting historical fact in the future and in another dimension.

6) Stock question: Dinner with anyone, dead or alive. Who is it?

I would love to have dinner with all three women under the fountain along the Green by the St. John River. Then I could interview them before I write the story in which they drive me crazy by.....well, that story is yet to be written. In the real world, I will someday have dinner with Susan DiPlacido, probably on at Ceasar's Palace.

7) What do you look forward to most in the summer?

Swimming outdoors. Swimming outdoors. And swimming outdoors.

8) One CD, one book, one DVD and a desert island. What book, CD, and DVD do you take?

Easy question: Morrison Hotel, In Watermelon Sugar, Apocalypse Now (the first one...the extended one sucks and should never have been released).

9) You can't have both: Would you rather have respect from your peers and critical acclaim (but not be making cash from writing), or would you rather be a bestselling author with the fat coin?

I'd rather have the kind of fame that leads to a situation in which I walk into a room and a dozen unimaginably beautiful women say, "Hey! There's Biff Mitchell. Let's all fuck his brains out."

I mean, c'mon, look at the alternative: I walk into a room and a bunch of aging, irrelevant literary critics say, "Um, yes. That would be Biff Mitchell, the writer. Let's pick his brain apart."

If you were me, which would you choose?

Monday, July 11, 2005

Tom Saunders' new blog

Talented author Tom Saunders has just started a new blog. It's called What Strange Place Is This.

Tom is the author of a truly marvelous collection of short stories, Brother, What Strange Place Is This?.

I'd previously written a review of this book for a book review 'zine that I worked for, but it's now gone offline. But here's what I thought of this debut collection from Tom:

British author Tom Saunders' debut collection of short stories, Brother, What Strange Place is This is a glorious success. Multi-layered and eclectic, the work showcases the literary talents and broad imagination of its creator. Saunders breathes life into a multitude of styles, characters, and settings, weaving strings of charming wit, gorgeous description, interesting plots, and heartfelt pathos into this gorgeously crafted tapestry.

From the title story, turn of the century brothers, one a talented pianist relegated to a mental institution and the other desperately trying to reach and understand him, to a modern-day father coming to grips with daughter's independence, he never fails to strike a unique and human chord. The language and phrasings are thick and lush, nearly an embarrassment of delightful, dizzying prose. Saunders has a keen knack for plucking unusual, but perfectly suited, words to highlight and accompany the themes and voices and tones of the pieces. His styles and subjects have a diversity and range. He plays with the clever and cheeky, such as in "Not For What You Are", which tells the story of a baker who believes he is the reincarnation of painter Dante Gabriel. And he doesn't shy from the tragic, such as in "The Seal Man" - the story of a man shipwrecked on a small island with brutal people. He takes a leap inside an abandoned zoo in "Nave Nave Mahana", where the homeless congregate and make shelter for themselves while finding hope in a stray monkey.

This is a captivating read, where the stories are fresh and engrossing, unpredictable, sometimes disturbing, and all of them are rendered with precision and a finely-tuned wordsmith's care.

Me in

And we're back to me again. did a nice feature on my book Trattoria. The article/review is by Chris S. Witwer and I'm very thrilled and honored to be featured there.

Tripp Reade in Skive

Tripp Reade has a great story live in Skive Magazine. It's called Word Problem. Not only can you read it, you can listen to an MP3 of him reading it, which is really cool!

Congrats Biff!

Congrats to Biff Mitchell for finishing the Duncan Hadley Triathalon this weekend!

This was such a huge undertaking and he succeeded in a huge way.

Best, us readers will reap benefits when he writes about it in the upcoming sequel to The War Bug.

For more info on Biff's Triathalon adventure, please visit his website or his blog.

In honor of this, we'll be having a big Biff feature here a little later this week, so please stop back in for more.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Biff Mitchell in triathalon

Biff Mitchell is one of the most talented and entertaining writers alive. No joke. Check out his novels Heavy Load, The War Bug, and Team Player if you think I'm exaggerating. But not only is he gifted, he's also a crazy fucker.


If you don't believe me, please check out his website to get the full details of the triathalon he'll be competing in this weekend. As part of the sequel to The War Bug, one of the characters competes in a triathalon against a sentient software personality. And Biff figured he'd better get the details right. So on Sunday, July 10th, he'll be running, biking, and swimming in the Duncan Hadley Triathalon at Killarney Lake.

And, then, hopefully, when he survives that, he'll be finishing the book.

For full details, he's been keeping a daily blog about his training, and that can be found right here: Biff's blog.

So, good luck, Biff. I admire the hell out of you, and wish you great luck (and speed and endurance)!

You crazy fucker, you!