Last week I found out that Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem is a finalist for the Colorado Book Award for Best Anthology! My story, “Hyde Park,” appears in this anthology alongside 22 other stories celebrating monsters and the movies.
Edited by Kevin J. Anderson, KJA, this anthology was put together by a cohort of students in the publishing graduate program at Western Colorado University.
Thanks also to Sam Knight for typing up the full table of contents of authors who have stories in this one!
JONATHAN MABERRY LUCIANO MARANO DAVID GERROLD JESSE SPRAGUE C.H. HUNG KEVIN PETTWAY DAVID BOOP JULIE FROST SHANNON FOX BRENDAN MALLORY LINDA MAYE ADAMS SAM KNIGHT HAILEY PIPER RICK WILBER STEVE RASNIC TEM BEN MONROE CHARLES MACLAY IRENE RADFORD JAMES A. HEARN RYAN F. HEALEY KARINA FABIAN B.D. PRINCE FRAN WILDE
Parr never meant for any of this to happen. All he wanted to do was pilot the Aurora around the galaxy and avoid his royal duties for a while.
Now, in the wake of his parents’ mysterious demise, it’s time to un-fake his death and take up the mantle meant for him since birth.
Unfortunately, it won’t be easy.
A pirate king and the galaxy’s most dangerous bounty hunter stand between him and the gates of his home, Bilena Epso Ach.
Parr will need the help of two unlikely friends. Manc Yelray, a wise-cracking old pirate with money on his mind and an appetite for strange similies. And Ren, a smooth-talking outlander with a plan, and a shadowy secret of her own.
But do they have what it takes? And what will they eat along the way? Because there’s only one rule in space: never eat the hot snack.
ANYTHING but the hot snack.
Let me start by saying it’s been a LONG time since I read five of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy novels (I’m unclear if there are more than five. I read the big compendium version), but from the very beginning, Space Throne gave me strong Douglas Adams vibes. And I do mean from the very beginning – I was lucky enough to read an early draft of this book from Brian. Which I loved and never quit loving. Now, there’s a book in the world I had a hand in shaping!
Lest you think my review is extremely biased (I mean, I’m sure it’s at least a little biased) let’s start with what Space Throne isn’t. It’s not a serious book. It’s not a sweeping treatise on the human condition (though it does succeed mightily in comically skewering some facets of our existence). It’s not a true space opera (though I might call it a comedic space opera).
Instead, Space Throne is a fun romp through a galaxy far, far away. It’s a breezy weekend read to distract you from the general madness of 2020 and the bat-shit crazy madness of the weeks leading up to the 2020 election. Ever wish you could escape to someplace where COVID-19 doesn’t exist, the news headlines don’t resemble a screwball comedy, and the good guys still mostly triumph over evil? (I refuse to comment if that last bit is a spoiler or not.) Here’s your ticket. Space Throne just released into the world today! If you like accessible world-building, colorful characters, wacky hijinks, jokes on jokes on jokes, and a plot you WON’T see coming a mile away, give Space Throne a try.
To celebrate Space Throne’s release day, I have Brian back to do another interview for the book. Some of you longtime readers might remember when I interviewed Brian after his first book, Ghost Bully, came out. I lured him back by promising not to ask (all) the same questions.
Shannon Fox (SF): What inspired you to write Space Throne?
Brian Corley (BC): One of my earliest memories is watching Star Wars at a drive-in theater outside of Dallas, TX. I was two years old and just the right age to grow up with the original trilogy.
(I also remember being extremely jealous of the kids beside us that had a pallet set up on the roof of their van with blankets and pillows … that sure was a next-level 70s family)
My earliest foray into storytelling were scenes staged with the old Kenner Star Wars action figures, so it was really a no-brainer for me to have a go at my own little Sci-Fi adventure.
SF: What do you hope readers take away from the book?
BC: A desire to write glowing reviews everywhere they can and purchase other books by me.
I want people to have a good time with it. I meant it to be a breezy read with a nuanced message if you want to look for it.
SF:How was writing this book different than writing Ghost Bully?
BC: Both had kind of a false start. I wrote the first couple chapters of Ghost Bully then set them aside for a year or two, but once I picked it back up, it came together all at once. With Space Throne, I got about 30,000 words into it before setting it aside for a while. Once I picked it back up, I finished it at a more methodical pace.
Of course, the most significant difference was workshopping Space Throne with my writer’s group. Shout out to Tornado House.
SF:What was the hardest part of the book to write? The easiest?
BC: Once I figured out everyone’s voice, it was pretty easy. Manc started with a voice like the tordaver, but I switched it up about halfway through (that was a tough re-write).
SF:Who is your favorite character in Space Throne?
BC: Manc Yelray. Not even close.
I’m not sure if it’s because Parr, Ren, and our antagonists did most of the heavy lifting to drive the plot, but Manc’s parts were super-easy to write. I mostly wrote him with the characteristics of Peter Ustinov in Blackbeard’s ghost, but with a deep, gravelly voice somewhere between Vin Diesel and Hagrid.
Although, someone in our writing group said that she thought of him as more of a Jason Mamoa type, and I couldn’t help but work that in on subsequent passes.
SF: If you, like Parr, found yourself living in self-exile in the Sixteen, how would you survive?
BC: I think these COVID times, or whatever we’ll end up calling them, give me a great sense of what I’d do. Work a set amount of time each day, exercise for a little bit, then consume as much media as possible via Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, and Prime before falling asleep.
I think I have a leg up on Parr since I can garden and go outside without a breathing apparatus*.
*Except for last month when we couldn’t go outside because of the air quality in Portland.
SF: What has it been like finding your style as a cross-genre humor writer? Any tips for anyone who wants to get into writing humor? Or make their work more humorous?
BC: I guess like the Talking Heads sang, “Same as it ever was.”
I’m not really trying, it’s just the way I tell stories right now. What’s cool about indie publishing is that if my style changes, I can just write those books too.
I guess I’d say, don’t force anything. That doesn’t mean don’t try, you have to try. Just keep working on the spot where you want a joke or comedy until you’re happy with it. You won’t always nail it on the first go.
Listen to people you trust—if no one thinks it’s funny, don’t be afraid to either hone or cut it.
SF: When I last talked to you, it was shortly after Ghost Bully came out. What have you learned about indie publishing since then?
BC: Oh man, I want to say “so much,” but it doesn’t feel like it.
Indie publishing is kind of this mercurial troll market. Just when you think you know where things are or where they’re going—poof, they’re gone.
I think the biggest thing I’ve learned since the launch of Ghost Bully is the power of AMS ads. Amazon has something like 70% of the book-buying market place, so their ads are targeted at just the right people.
Newsletter promos help too, but I usually save those for special occasions like Kindle Countdown deals.
Was that too inside baseball?
SF: What’s next for Parr, Ren, and Manc?
BC: Two more books, hopefully. We’ll see how Space Throne does.
(Two more books for two of the three of them, maybe)
SF: And what’s next for Brian Corley, the man behind the curtain?
BC: Me? Who knows. If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s to stop thinking I have any idea of what’s coming next.
Writing-wise, I’m working on a contemporary fantasy set in and around my new hometown of Portland, OR. I already have a book with ghosts, one in space, so now I need some weird, trippy elves in my life.
It should be out next year.
Hopefully, I’ll be on Book Two of the Space Throne trilogy shortly after. Come visit me over at www.brian-corley.com and read Chapter 1 of Space Throne for free!
(Thanks for having me, Shannon!)
How to Win a Free Signed Copy of Space Throne
Thank you to Brian for agreeing to give you a chance to win a signed copy of his newest release! All you have to do is leave a comment below with the name of your favorite sci-fi adventure (book, movies, or tv) to enter. For extra chances to win, hop over to my Facebook and Instagram.
In an effort to become a better writer, I’ve been doing a lot of things lately that are kind of outside my comfort zone:
1. I joined a writer’s group. I’m still not sure why they like me, but I’ve spent enough time around horses to know not to look a gift horse in the mouth!
2. I went to a writer’s conference. Which I realized I still need to review on the blog. More on that later then.
3. I signed up to go to a second writing conference in May.
4. I got tickets to go see Neil Gaiman speak in San Diego.
The last one is notable because I bought a ticket without finding out if I knew anyone who wanted to go with me. At the time I was thinking I’d probably find someone to go with and we could carpool. Which did not happen. So I’m super proud of myself that I didn’t flake especially because I had to drive myself downtown to go.
Anyway, back to the event. I really had no idea what to expect. It was billed as “An Evening With Neil Gaiman” which is all I really needed to know. What I didn’t expect was how many other people find Neil Gaiman as cool as I do.
Earlier that day I was explaining to someone how the event I was going to was at the San Diego Civic Center. To which they pointed out that it’s an enormous space for an author to book. I looked this up later – The San Diego Civic Center seats 2,967 people. While not every seat was filled, the majority were. And that is just so cool for an author to fill that many seats with booklovers and wordnerds. I’ve been to concerts and sporting events, but there is just something so uniquely magical about gathering a crowd of overly excited introverts together to talk about books.
The setting itself was just as dramatic: a single podium on that massive stage. No signs, no backdrop, no video screen. The whole evening was blessedly free of pomp and circumstance. Just Neil and a microphone.
As could be expected, he did some reading of his work. Nothing I had actually read before so it was nice to experience it for the first time being read by the author. He read a story from his book Norse Mythology and he also read a short story about a genie.
Apparently Neil had also been accepting questions prior to the event. I didn’t know about this, but it was okay. He had quite a stack of questions up there on the stage which he picked from. Some of the questions required longer answers, some just a few words.
Overall, I really liked how the evening was unscripted and fun. It ended up feeling like a very intimate event, despite the fact that perched high on the balcony I had to squint to see the tiny figure on the stage. My only real complaint was that 90 minutes was over much too soon.
If you get the chance to hear Neil Gaiman talk, I highly recommend! He’s as lovely and entertaining as all the Twitter posts have led you to believe.
Jodi Picoult is the author of multiple novels about women and families. Though decidedly more of a women’s lit author, I enjoy her work immensely, much more than any of the other flotsam and jetsam that washes up in chick lit. Not that her work is really chick lit. It’s more literature on women’s issues. And cool stuff. Like magic. See Keeping Faith.
Picoult’s language is very beautiful. Maybe flowery for some people’s tastes, but I love it. I think she puts together words and phrases like poetry. The other notable thing about Picoult is that she is/was a layer and as many of her books figure trials, those scenes are incredibly realistic, compelling, and clever. If you’re a writer looking for examples about dealing with crime/investigations in fiction, I recommend studying Picoult’s trial scenes. She handles them with ease.
If you’ve seen the movie or heard anything about My Sister’s Keeper, probably the most famous of her works, you know that Picoult is known for tackling tough topics. Which she does with dignity and aplomb while reaching deep and manipulating the reader’s emotions.
I’ve always had the experience (with the exception of Song of the Humpback Whale, her first novel) that her books are quick reads. They’re lengthy books, but they draw you in. Picoult is a masterful storyteller, one of the best writing today.
My first Connolly book was The Book of Lost Things. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I was intrigued by the summary on the back which reads thus:
High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own — populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things.
Taking readers on a vivid journey through the loss of innocence into adulthood and beyond, New York Times bestselling author John Connolly tells a dark and compelling tale that reminds us of the enduring power of stories in our lives.
I wholly enjoyed this novel. It’s a story for kids and then it’s not-it’s more gruesome than you would expect. I also enjoyed the take on fairy tales that aren’t all happiness and rainbows. Connolly projects a world that is decaying and being overcome with darkness. Within the pages, we recognize bits and pieces of the stories we learned as children, but they are not as we expect.
Connolly’s prose has the right degree of enchantment to it. He is a lovely writer who compels us to keep turning the page, to follow the type into this magnificent world he’s creating.
The next Connolly books I read were definitely for children and young adults. The Gates and the sequel, The Infernals. These books explore the story of an English boy, Samuel Johnson and his dachshund, Boswell, as they attempt to prevent the encroachment of evil into our world, fighting the minions and emissaries of The Great Malevolence.
While the first Connolly book was sort of ambiguous as to its audience (part of the dedication page reads, “For in every adult dwells the child that was, and in every child the adult that will be”) and the latter two books clearly aimed at children, they are still wildly entertaining. Connolly employs the art of nuance to lasso his adult readers; the books are full of references and subtleties that children will simply pass over.
Connolly does have a dedicated adult following; I have one of those books, The Lovers, sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read. While I can’t comment on his style in those books, if my previous three Connolly excursions have proved anything it’s that he’s an author worth picking up.
I have a big soft spot for Russian literature. My first foray was with Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. What I remember most about the novel is how difficult it was for my then fifteen year old self to get through. I hated the novel much more than I loved it. But when I was done, I was struck by the beauty and elegance of the novel. The themes were so sweeping and universal. My next Dostoevsky novel was Crime and Punishment which, while retaining the same beauty and universality of theme, I enjoyed reading so much more. My final Dostoevsky was The Brothers Karamazov. That one I read primarily on a flight to Paris and the exhaustion of the flight probably killed that book for me. Nonetheless, I still consider Dostoevsky one of my favorite authors, though I confess I haven’t attempted to reread any of them, they still loom large in my memory.
I think what I like most about Dostoesvky is the care and attention he takes with his characters. He builds up his microcosms of Russian society so delicately that at times it seems like he’s describing the goings-ons of a real family, rather than an imaginary one. The most stirring complexity of the work is the names. As a non-Russian reader, the names and shifts in names get confusing. And I’m not saying I know enough about patronymics to speak to this, but the care that he takes sorting out the names of every character is admirable. I mean in all honesty, if you’re writing a 600 page book, are you really going to bother figuring out all the different nicknames certain characters use for a given character? I wouldn’t. Given name, family name, nickname, done.
He is also deft with the symbolism. Especially in The Idiot which you need only to look at the cover to know is rampant with Christ references. But the symbolism is always subtle and provides the reader with so much to unpack upon contemplation. Crime and Punishment, probably the best known of his work, needs no real introduction from me except to say that there’s a reason it frequently finds its way onto High School Reading Lists (you know, the non-compulsory kind, since I’m pretty sure this book has long occupied a spot on the Banned-Book list): Crime and Punishment is fairly easy to read and even easier to turn into the subject of an essay.
Whenever someone asks what my favorite books are, a Dostoevsky inevitably springs directly to the forefront of my mind. Like Tolstoy, Dostoevsky was one of the greatest authors of his age. And like Tolstoy, he is one amazing author worth reading.
In my opinion, these guys have a lock on the thriller genre. And for good reason. In a genre that counts among its authors, Dan Brown, Jack DuBrul, James Patterson, Clive Cussler, Greg Bear, Iris Johansen, James Rollins, Raymond Khoury, David Lynn Goleman, William Gibson, and a bunch more, these guys really only have competition from Michael Cricton, who’s probably the undisputed God of this genre. Let’s talk about the fact that this is a convoluted and ambiguous subset of fiction. I think that most of the books one could term “thriller” also have their fingers in a separate genre. According to Amazon, my interests are apparently in “action & adventure fiction”, “science-fiction adventure”, “mystery & thriller”, “suspense thrillers” (really, Amazon?) and “techno thrillers”. Makes sense, yeah? Good, moving on.
I suppose you could say I’m a Preston and Child Completist. To-date, I’ve read (including solo efforts):
-The Cabinet of Curiosities
-Still Life with Crows
-Dance of Death
-The Wheel of Darkness
-The Book of the Dead
-The Ice Limit
-The Monster of Florence (non-fiction)
-I’m currently in the midst of reading Cold Vengeance.
About the only thing I haven’t read yet is Douglas Preston’s non-fiction and the “Gideon” books.
So what is it about these guys? These are thriller novels, not literary fiction. With the exception of the Pendergast series, the characters aren’t deep. But the writing is tight and quick, propelling you to an insane conclusion, one that you can’t reason out from page one. There isn’t any lag-time in these novels. You don’t even have a chance to get bored. Much as you don’t have a chance to stop reading the book. Sure, if you’re hardcore against these novels, I suppose you won’t enjoy them. They do require suspension of belief. But it’s not really a hard-sell. But I’m not convincing people who hate these types of novels to give them a shot. I’m explaining why these guys are at the top of their game and why their novels are absolutely top-notch. I started with Relic. That would be my suggestion to anyone looking to break into the series. The Pendergast set is what made them famous and for good reason. I read the series in order though, in the midst of waiting for the new releases (I’d estimate I started these books in the winter of 2006), I read their other stuff. The Preston solo efforts are a bit stronger than the Child projects, but they are all nonetheless quite good. Out of all of these, I probably liked The Codex the least.
These guys are masters of plot. They can spin subplots and subtext like woven wool. To read one of these novels is to embark on a ride you didn’t know existed. With the passing of Michael Crichton (whose later works were certainly less brilliant and whose career included some unfortunate missteps) this pair is the worthy successor to such a dynasty. They rarely write anything that isn’t excellent (though I haven’t heard good things about the Gideon series, though apparently Hollywood is trying to turn it into a movie, so go figure) and whenever I get my hands on another of their novels, I always start it next. Case in point: I got Cold Vengeance for Christmas and I started it on the 26th, right after finishing The Fellowship of the Ring.