Rambling On

Anthony R. Cardno's Fiction and Commentary

Archive for the ‘interviews’ Category

Linda Poitevin

Linda Poitevin

It’s always a pleasure to welcome Linda Poitevin back to the site to talk about her latest. This time out, we’re discussing SINS OF THE LOST, the third book in her four-part series The Grigori Legacy. Linda is also the author of the contemporary romance GWYNNETH EVER AFTER. You can read all of my previous interviews with Linda, and get a sense of how The Grigori Legacy series has developed, by clicking HERE.

ANTHONY: SINS OF THE LOST, book three of The Grigori Legacy, comes out this month. Now that you’re several books into the series, what roadblocks or character moments did you hit while writing the new book that caught you by surprise in comparison to the earlier books?

LINDA:  I was actually surprised at how difficult the entire book was to write, to be honest…probably because I had to do so many awful things to my characters. I’m not sure I’ll ever recover from the trauma, lol!

ANTHONY: There’s been a bit of a gap from the publication of book two, SINS OF THE SON, to book three. You published GWYNNETH EVER AFTER, a stand-alone romance, in between.  What caused the long break from TGL?

LINDA: There were a number of reasons for the gap: (1) it took a while to settle on a contract with my publisher; (2) when I’m not under a fixed deadline, I tend to drag my heels on writing; (3) this really was a tough story to write; and (4) I met with a dog-walking accident (hint: one should not have the leash of a 127-pound dog wrapped around an index finger) that put me out of commission for almost a month with a bad sprain.

ANTHONY: OUCH! How much time has passed for the characters, and where do we find them at the start of the new book? (And can you answer this question without major spoilers, haha?)

LINDA: Very little time passes between the books; Sins of the Lost picks up a scant two weeks after Sins of the Son left off. Alex and Seth are back in Toronto, struggling to make a go of their fledgling relationship in the aftermath of the events in Vancouver, and Alex is just returning to her job.

ANTHONY: Assuming we will be spending plenty of time with Alex, Aramael, Seth, Lucifer and the rest … are there any new characters we should be excited for / wary of?

LINDA: One very important new character is hinted at in Sins of the Lost, but you won’t actually get to meet her until the fourth and final book. Apart from that, there’s a return of an old enemy and more of the Archangel Michael…who really is one of my favorites. 😉

The Grigori Legacy, Book Three

The Grigori Legacy, Book Three

ANTHONY: Color me intrigued! SINS OF THE LOST is only out in e-book format, right? Why the change from the print versions we got for books one and two?

LINDA: Sins of the Lost is what my publisher is calling “digital first” — which essentially means that there’s a possibility of print, but no guarantee (it will depend on sales figures). The change occurred because sales on book 2 slumped a little, as second books often do, apparently. But, while that slump generally spells death for a series, my publisher (and my amazing editor) really likes the series and wanted to give it another chance. Talk about a vote of confidence! 🙂

ANTHONY: That is a great vote of confidence. Please thank the publisher for giving it another go. So many fun urban fantasy series do seem to fail with book two. Now, the cover art is also a bit different. It seems that Alexandra Jarvis is not on the cover for the first time. Does this bode unwell for our heroine?

LINDA: LOL…Alex is safe, Anthony, I promise. Horribly tortured, perhaps, but safe. 😉 The change in art was made because of the switch to digital-first. Too much detail doesn’t show up well on the widgets you see online, so we needed to simplify the design a bit. We also wanted to place more emphasis on the angel aspect of the story.

ANTHONY: Which makes sense, given the events of the book.  And not that I’m rushing you, but what will book four be called and when will it be done? No, like, seriously. When? 😉

LINDA: This book is going much faster than the last one, lol. It’s tentatively entitled Sins of the Warrior (expect a lot more Michael in this one), and I plan to have the first draft done by the end of March. No word yet on publication, however…sorry! 😉

ANTHONY: Well, you know, if you need a beta-reader for it, you have my email address. 😉  Instead of my usual “what’s your favorite book” question, which I think you’ve answered several times, tell us what your resource on Angels and their mythology has been most helpful/influential on you in creating the Grigori series.

LINDA: Google was my best friend when it came to research for this series. Because I knew I would be twisting angel mythology to fit with my own nefarious purposes, I didn’t need accuracy as much as I did inspiration—and the Internet is rife with sources for that. I read extensively on Bible study, Catholic, and new age sites, taking bits and pieces from all over in order to construct my own world for the series. The diversity in the takes on angel lore was utterly fascinating and made for great fodder…and I barely even scratched the surface of what’s out there.


The gentlemen of The Go To

A few months back my pal Cruise Russo turned 21 and his band Reverse Order played a Birthday Show for him at The Architekt in Butler NJ. A bunch of bands I wasn’t familiar with were on the bill, including a New England based quartet called The Go To. They impressed me with their energy and stage presence and the sound of their originals, and they did a pretty damned fine cover of Neon Trees’ “Everybody Talks.” I contacted their manager, set up an email interview, got their answers … and finally, a month later, I’m posting the interview here. Hopefully, the new music they talk about in this interview will be available for purchase soon. Meantime, here’s our chat.

ANTHONY: Hi guys!  Thanks for taking the time to chat with me.  Let’s start with the usual: how long has the band been together and how did you form?

MAT:  Hey!  The current line-up of TGT (Mat, Austin, Cory and Alex) has been together a little under a year now, but TGT has been around about a year and some change.  I have been writing music and performing for such a long time, and then Austin and I started jamming around three years ago.  We just decided that we wanted to bring what we were doing the public, so that’s really where the heart of TGT began.  Then we found Cory on YouTube playing a RHCP song on bass and knew we had to have him, and also met Alex around that same time.  Ever since the four of us started playing, it just clicked and we knew that this is the band we wanted to take to the top.
ANTHONY: I know you were asked this question at the show where I first saw you, so I have to ask: how many times have Mat and Cory been asked if they’re brothers?

MAT:  Haha, well it seems like every time we play a show in a new area to people who haven’t seen us live yet we get asked that, so I’d say at least a thousand times by this point.

CORY: I’m asked at least once every show if I’m Mat’s brother. It’s gotta be at least 50 times.

ANTHONY: And honestly, how many times has Mat been told he looks like (and has the stage presence of) a young Ricky Martin?

MAT: This is the first time anyone has actually given us that comparison…  But now everyone is on to me.

ANTHONY: For a while you were posting bi-weekly cover song videos on Youtube. The first cover video you did in that project was “Everybody Talks” by Neon Trees, which I saw you do live at The Architekt. It struck me that song really fits your style and Mat’s voice and stage presence, better than almost any other song you’ve covered. How do you guys decide which songs you’re going to cover, and is there any song you absolutely would never cover?

MAT:  As a band we have a tendency to obsess over certain songs together.  It’s almost like every week we’re all running around each other singing a new song, old or now, non-stop.  Like right now we’re currently hung up on Rap God off Eminem’s new album, but like a month ago Wrecking Ball was the newest one haha!  I guess our method to picking songs to cover is which ever non TGT has gotten our total intention.  As for songs we’d never cover, I guess you can say we’d cover anything we possibly could.  I mean, just this past weekend we playing a Johnny Cash (Cocaine Blues) cover to a packed room at Pearl Street in Northampton MA.  It was a total fake out before our on encore, but it still counts!

ALEX: We pretty much just all throw out song suggestions until we all agree on the best one, and we are pretty open to our cover suggestions.

CORY: Usually during practice if we need a new cover, well all throw out ideas. Other times we might hear a song we all love and just need to cover it. I don’t think Mat would EVER do a one direction song because of how often he gets compared to Harry.

ANTHONY: Okay, of all the singers Mat reminded me of, Harry Styles didn’t come to mind at all! Will you be doing more cover videos, and what songs can we expect?

MAT:  Right now since we’ve released the “Too Sore” music video, most of our YouTube efforts are being out into promote that, but we plan on doing some higher quality cover videos soon, and also releasing some great live footage.  Just gotta stay tuned. 😉

ANTHONY: Your self-titled EP has been out for a while.  The five songs on it are all originals. What was the song-writing process like for those songs?

MAT:  It’s funny, most of the songs on the EP are songs I had written a long time ago and finally got the chance to start sharing so I jumped on those first.  Back then I would simply grab my guitar and a note pad and scribble down lyrics and chord changes and commit it all to memory.  Now my process is much different because I record ton and tons of demos on my iPad with all the instruments I have in mind, and send them to the band.  They get a few every week!
ANTHONY: I like the whole EP, but “Me Oh My” and “Too Sore” are probably my favorites. As a writer, I hate when people ask me the “where do you get your ideas from” question, so I won’t ask that. But I am curious how extensively you draw from life experiences versus just thinking “hey, that would be a great story to tell.” (I always tease my family and friends: be careful what you say, or you’ll end up in a story.)

MAY:  I draw a lot from my personal life!  Sometimes I tell stories of things I’ve gone through, or elaborate on a certain emotion.  An example of the latter is one of our new songs “Upside Down” which is a song I wrote totally on the idea of feeling like I was watching the world from the outside in.   But on the other hand, another new song “Conundrum” is me singing about dealing with a relationship when one person has moved on and the other is still hung up on it, which is something I personally was going through at the time.

Alex, Mat, Austin, Cory

Alex, Mat, Austin, Cory

ANTHONY: The “Too Sore” video has hit 21,000 views (which is about 20,700 more than either of my cover videos). Congrats on that. Are you planning videos for any of the other songs on the EP?

MAT:  Most likely not from the EP, but we are working on some new tunes and have a pretty cool game plan coming up that may entail another video!

ALEX: We haven’t quite decided if we are going to do another video from the EP yet but we are definitely going to be shooting a video for one of our newer songs hopefully in the near future.

ANTHONY: I know you’re answering these questions during a weekend in the studio, so what can you tell me about the new stuff you’re working on. With one EP under your belts, has the songwriting process changed at all? How about your sound?

MAT:  As I stated before, I have a home studio that I used to record demos and such to send to the band, but this has also opened me up as a song writer.  I have the ability to add as many instruments and experiment with new sounds.  It’s so great, and it’s much more expressive then some of the older stuff.  However, it’s still just as catchy, and hopefully you’ll still be singing all the new ones too!

AUSTIN: Our sound has matured incredibly in the past few months! The only way I can prove this is by telling you to come out to a live show. It’ll change the way you look at us. I can almost promise you that.

ALEX: The new songs that we are working on sound incredible! They are very strong and catchy tunes. And as far as sound goes, since our first EP dropped our music has matured into more of a Rock feel with that little bit of a pop feel still there.
ANTHONY: How extensively have you toured, and when are you headed back on the road?

MAT:  Actually, TGT has never done any extensive touring, but have played ALL OVER the north east!  We do have some plans for the summer though… But that’s all I can say.

ALEX: We are hoping to go on our very first tour very soon. We have been working very hard to get to where we are now.

CORY: We’ve gone out to New York, Cape Cod, Connecticut and a few other states around here but we haven’t gone on a full blown tour yet.

ANTHONY: And my usual closing question: Since I’m a writer, I’m always curious to know — what is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who hasn’t read it to convince them that they should?

Mat:  I’m actually a huge fan of Stephen King, and my favorite book is “Pet Semetery”.  Crazy book, man.  That’s all I can say, don’t want to spoil it at all.

ANTHONY: Thanks, guys!

THE GO TO:  Thank you too!

You can follow find The Go To on Facebook, Instagram,  on their own website, and follow them on Twitter: @theGoToBand,@TheGoToMat, @TheGoToAlex, @TheGoToCory, and @TheGoToAustin.


And of course you can subscribe to their channel on Youtube.  Here’s their video for “Too Sore” to whet your appetite:



I’ve been a fan of publishers J.M. and Randy Lofficier’s writing for decades now, and I was honored in 2013 to become one of the authors published by Black Coat Press, their small press focused on new and reprinted adventures of classic French pulp magazine characters such as Harry Dickson, Judex, Rouletabille, the Black Coats and more.  I conducted this interview with J.M., about Black Coats’ history and mission, months ago and owe him an apology for how long it’s taken to post this.  Read along as we discuss French pulp characters, Philip Jose Farmer’s Wold Newton concept, and the overlap between the two, among other subjects:


ANTHONY: How long has Black Coat Press been in existence, and where does the company name come from? What was the company’s first published title?

JM: We started Black Coat Press in the Summer of 2003, just in time to be able to release our first book — Arnould Galopin’s DOCTOR OMEGA — for the San Diego Comicon of that year. The name “Black Coat” was taken from Paul Féval’s ground-breaking criminal saga which we intended to translate and publish at some point. I’m pleased to say that, thanks to Brian Stableford’s industriousness, we were able to release all seven volumes (plus a few related titles). The last one was released in 2011, so it did take about eight years!


ANTHONY: Where did you love for the pulps in general, and French pulps in particular, start?

JM: Like most of us, during my childhood and teen years. There is one major difference, however, which is that most English-language “classics” were readily available to me in the same paperback imprints as their French counterparts. For example, the Livre de poche imprint released editions of Holmes and Lupin, Fantomas and the Saint, Poirot and Rouletabille. Marabout published the Black Coats and Rocambole next to the Scarlet Pimpernel, Doc Savage next to Bob Morane. So the “universe” of pulp literature to which I had access was vastly greater than the ones accessible in the US or the UK.


ANTHONY: It seems, in the US at least, we’re experiencing a “pulp resurgence,” with publishers like Meteor House, Dynamite, Moonstone and others bringing back every 1880s to 1940s adventure character they can get their hands on. What is the attraction for modern readers to these classic, and sometimes campy, pulp characters?

JM: Some of it is nostalgia, of course. But I think there is a perennial aspect to the best pulps that transcends time and changing fashions. Sherlock Holmes, The Three Musketeers, Tarzan, The Count of Monte-Cristo, The Shadow, Arsene Lupin (to name but a few) have survived the test of time and will likely be remembered forever; their modern-day descendants are to be found on television. The TV series, especially today with its complex plots, character arcs, etc. is the inheritor of Alexandre Dumas and Paul Feval. The same people who rushed to the New York harbor to get their next installment of Monte-Cristo in the French papers (at a time when a lot of educated Americans knew foreign languages) are the same today eagerly waiting for the next episode of LOST or MAD MEN.


TotS Vol. 10
includes a story by
your humble interviewer

ANTHONY: The idea of having classic characters meet up is not a new one in world literature, although in the modern day I think Philip Jose Farmer deserves a lot of the credit, through his Wold-Newton Family concept, for making such crossovers more than just fun mash-ups. In your TALES OF THE SHADOWMEN anthologies, you encourage writers to cross the French pulp characters who are your forte with just about everything else in the pop culture canon.  What criteria do you follow for those stories?  Is any “crossover” concept just too out there?

JM: Jess Nevins wrote authoritatively in his intro to Win Eckert’s CROSSOVERS about the history of “crossovers”, going back to Jason and the Argonauts, the Round Table tales, etc. So yes it is hardly a new phenomenon, although I think Maurice Leblanc’s bold initiative of having Lupin cross swords with Holmes deserves a lot of credit. Regarding TALES OF THE SHADOWMEN, my only two criteria are: (1) there has to be a character from French fiction (being Black Coat Press, this comes with the territory) and (2) the story has to be in continuity and respectful of the original materials. No funny ha-ha pastiches, no killing off heroes, no dark reinterpretations. That’s all. Other than that, I welcome any crossover, the more outré, the better. To quote but a few of the more unexpected crossovers, we had stories featuring The Little Prince and Doc Savage, Zorro and Jean Valjean, The Wizard of Oz and Richard Matheson’s Born of Man and Woman, Jerry Cornelius, Pere Ubu and the movie Alphaville… This year, for example, we have a story that conflates Boulgakov’s Master and Margarita, Jean Ray’s Malpertuis and Marie Nizet’s Captain Vampire… As you can see, we roam pretty far and wide.


ANTHONY: What’s the weirdest crossover you’ve seen submitted to you, the type of thing that made you think ‘this can’t possibly work’ but then it did?

JM: The ones I mentioned above all fit the bill. I myself wrote the one mixing The Wizard of Oz with Richard Matheson’s horror tale Born of Man and Woman because someone challenged me to do it. I have another one mixing Enid Blyton’s Famous Five with the Marquis de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom, but I haven’t written it yet.


Harry Dickson:
a new anthology
coming soon!

ANTHONY: I’m sort of excited but disturbed by that concept. Did you intend TotS to be an annual anthology event when you put the first volume out?

JM: Yes, I always did, which is why I put a #1 on the spine of the first book! 🙂 That’s a clue. 🙂 Since then, we’ve also released some character-themed anthologies that include about 50% of already published stories (usually from TALES OF THE SHADOWMEN) and 50% new stories. We’ve had anthos dedicated to Arsene Lupin, Dr. Omega, the Nyctalope and Judex, and I’m preparing one on Harry Dickson.


ANTHONY: The 10th volume came out a few months ago. Has your process for choosing stories or putting the book together changed at all?

JM: Not in the least.


ANTHONY: Do you have any plans to bring the TotS books out in ebook format in the near future?

JM: Yes, I have been slowly making our catalog available as ebooks, but it is a slow process. I still have the Black Coats series to do and then I’ll tackle the Shadowmen. I’m also working on converting our huge library of comics (in French) for Comixology, and that is a long and time consuming process, and there are only so many hours in the day — and I’m basically the only person doing all this.


ANTHONY: I really need to get a tablet I can read comics on. Right now I just have the Nook Simple Touch (I’ve been slow to move to e-readers) and it’s not really good for comics. I want to circle back to the Wold-Newton concept for a moment. Farmer created a pretty distinct family tree and linked them to a particular event, the crash of the meteor at Wold-Newton.  People have referred to Black Coats’ output as “The French Wold-Newton Universe.”  Have you ever posited an event similar to the WN meteor to explain what Farmer would call “a supernova of genetic splendor” in France?

JM: No, not at all. At best, I piggybacked on Farmer’s concept; he already had ancestors of Arsene Lupin and Monsieur Lecoq at Wold Newton, because there were the two French characters he knew best. So I merely suggested a few more, a notion that has since been coopted by a few other authors. I also added some French historical content (as it were) by suggesting that the French characters at Wold Newton had a political agenda, which resulted first in the French Revolution, then, later, the ascent of Napoleon. That notion was first put forward by Alexandre Dumas, so it is not mine, entirely, but it blended rather well with Farmer’s. You can read it in greater detail here:


ANTHONY: In addition to “new pulp” books like the TotS series, you also publish a large number of translations of French pulps into English (the Harry Dickson and Madame Atomos books, most notably, but too many others to list here).  How do you decide what to translate and what authors to use to do the translating (when, that is, you don’t do the translating yourself)?

As far as deciding what deserves to be translated (or in some cases retranslated), obviously, I use my own judgment of what is really important. If you were doing it the other way, you would translate Doc Savage, but perhaps not Jim Anthony. So I think characters like Mme Atomos, Lupin, Fantomas, Harry Dickson, Doctor Omega, Sar Dubnotal, Rouletabille, etc. deserve to have at least a reasonable sampling of their adventures made available in English. I’d like to do Jean-Claude Carriere’s six remarkable Frankenstein novels but they’re not in the public domain and the rights aren’t available. Rocambole is something I’d like to do too, but someone else already put out a good series of abridged / condensed versions that pretty much cover it. I rely on Brian Stableford, Michael Shreve and a few more hand-picked folks to help me with the translations. The great majority of the books we publish ARE important; they all contain some ground-breaking idea, some new stylistic inventions… Whether we’re talking vampires or space travel, mystic heroes or cloaked avengers, criminal conspiracies or super-detectives, French popular literature contains a huge number of truly wonderful works which deserved to be made accessible to the English-speaking audience.


Doctor Cornelius
available now

ANTHONY: What is upcoming from BCP in the near future?

JM: We tend to plan ahead, so for what’s coming up, you can check this link:

Pulp-wise, in 2014, we’ll have all 18 MYSTERIOUS DOCTOR CORNELIUS novels released in a big, fat trilogy of books; hopefully the last two never published before in English FANTOMAS novels; the last two DOC ARDAN stories (a French young Doc Savage-type hero), the end of the MADAME ATOMOS saga; a new FU MANCHU novel; a series of books from the early 1900s about DR. CARESCO and PROFESSOR TORNADA, two mad scientists and another early Martian saga.


ANTHONY: I think the sound we hear in the background is my bank account collapsing. So let’s go to my usual closing question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who has not read it to convince them that they should?

JM: If you’re a pulp mystery fan, the BLACK COATS (INVISIBLE WEAPON would be my recommendation) or JOHN DEVIL by Paul Feval; if you’re more sf-minded, anything by Maurice Renard is really quite good — he wasn’t nicknamed the French HG Wells for nothing.



One of the Kickstarters I backed in August of 2013 was for a two-person card game called “Tessen.” I found out about it through a co-worker, James, who is friends with Chris and Suzanne Zinsli, the founders of table-top gaming design firm Cardboard Edison.  Chris and Suzanne agreed to an interview in the fall, which I have long delayed posting due to various scheduling problems.  Here it finally is, complete. Thanks, Chris and Suzanne, for being so patient. And folks, check out Cardboard Edison’s games! They’ve got lots of great stuff out there.


ANTHONY: How long have you been designing your own board and card games, and how long has Cardboard Edison been around as a company?

Suzanne: We’ve been designing games for about two and a half years. We sort of fell into game design accidentally. Chris was designing a website that would create alliterative phrases, and one day Purple Rain was on the TV. I put the phrase into the program and asked Chris if he could guess what I had typed based on the alliterative phrases from the website. We thought it was fun, and we had a few friends play the game soon afterward. Everyone was enjoying it so we decided to design a real game, which became our first design, a word party game called Skewphemisms. We’ve been designing games ever since.

Chris: We came up with Cardboard Edison about a year later. As we learned more about the board game industry and the whole process of game design, from prototyping to playtesting to publishing, we realized that there were a lot of new designers like us looking for information about the hobby. Board gaming is a niche industry and it’s filled with friendly, helpful people, so there are lots of resources for designers out there. The problem was that there wasn’t just one place for that information, and tracking it down took a lot of time and determination. So we decided to create a single place online where board game designers could find all the tips and resources they would need. We called it Cardboard Edison, a synonym for board game inventor, and we’ve posted more than 1,000 links so far.

ANTHONY: What’s the first board/card game you each remember playing, or the games that had the greatest influence on you?

Suzanne: As strange as it may sound, I think the game that has had the biggest influence on me as a designer is Triominoes. When Chris and I lived in an apartment in Bayonne, N.J., we would go to the laundromat on weekends, and we would bring games like Travel Scrabble and Triominoes to play in the coffee shop next door as our laundry was running. I really enjoyed those lazy Sundays. It was just a simple time, sitting together, playing a game, enjoying some coffee. As a designer I want to give other people that kind of experience.

Chris: The first game I remember getting into seriously as a kid was Phase 10. I would play it constantly and take it with me everywhere, trying to get family members to play too. It’s the game that taught me how to shuffle cards–and there were a lot of cards! I also think Phase 10 defined tabletop games for me for a long time. For the first year that Suzanne and I were designing games, pretty much every idea I had used cards with just one or two pieces of information on them. Now that I think about it, our first published game is also a card game with very simple cards.

ANTHONY: You recently concluded a successful Kickstarter campaign for TESSEN, “a quick-playing card game set in fuedal Japan.” What do you think are the key components to a successful Kickstarter campaign, specifically campaigns geared to kickstart games (versus books, music, etc)?

Suzanne: We were fortunate enough to find a great independent publisher for Tessen, A.J. Porfirio of Van Ryder Games. He ran an amazing Kickstarter campaign for Tessen, and he did all the right things to make it successful. For board game Kickstarters, you have to show people that you can create a quality product, you have to have the game’s rules available, you have to have outside reviews, and you have to be open and honest with your backers at all times.

ANTHONY: Walk us through the story and mechanics of TESSEN, if you would.

Chris: Tessen is a two-player card game that takes place in a mythical version of feudal Japan. The wise Shogun has declared an end to clan warfare, and he has come up with a clever way of resolving disputes, a competition he calls the “Tessen challenge.” Each clan’s warriors will hunt eight mystical creatures using only their Tessen, or war fan, and the clan that captures more animals will win the dispute. In the game of Tessen, each player controls a clan and tries to collect sets of animal cards. They also have warrior cards that they can use to try to steal their opponent’s animals. The game is played in real-time, so there are no turns. It’s a fast-paced game that takes about 15 minutes to play. It’s light enough that kids can play, but there’s enough strategy to make it interesting even to long-time gamers.

ANTHONY: So many card games (collector card sets, especially) feature text-heavy cards, and with TESSEN you went in the complete other direction. Why?

Chris: Maybe it’s the Phase 10 influence, but the cards in Tessen were always text-free. Since it’s a real-time game, it was important that players could recognize cards at a glance. Any reading would slow down the game.

ANTHONY: What were the challenges in designing a game with text-light / no-text cards?

Chris: A lot of games with text-heavy cards use complex card powers to alter the rules of a simple core game. Because we didn’t have that luxury with a real-time game, we had to make sure the core game itself was compelling and fun.

ANTHONY: How many “drafts,” for lack of a better term, did TESSEN go through before you finalized the design and play rules for the Kickstarter?

Suzanne: The core of the game hasn’t changed much since we came up with the idea, but we did play around with the number of cards in the decks. The theme did change from what it was originally: Christmas elves packing up presents on a conveyer belt. When we licensed the game to Van Ryder Games, A.J. led development to really polish the game. One of his additions was the “super warrior” cards, which add a lot to the game and bring it to the next level.

ANTHONY: Tell us a bit about the artist for the cards in the deck.

Suzanne: A.J. found the artist, Wayne O’Conner, on BoardGameGeek. He’s an amazing artist, and his work has exceeded all of our expectations. We love his work!

ANTHONY: You also offered, to backers of the Kickstarter only, a “TESSEN Classic” deck with different artwork. How did that come about?

Chris: Tessen Classic uses authentic historic Japanese artwork that’s gorgeous and evocative of the era of the game. We used that artwork for our prototype of Tessen, and everyone who played the game loved it. A.J. had the idea to offer the game with the classic artwork as a limited-edition pledge level on Kickstarter.

ANTHONY: Are there any plans for expansion decks for TESSEN?

Chris: As a matter of fact, the base game of Tessen comes with two expansions already in the box! There’s the Dragon, which protects the animals and must be fought off with your warriors, and there’s the Sacred Beast, which values one animal above the rest. We also have two other expansions ready to go in case the game takes off. There’s the Ronin, who sweeps across the table during the game, and The Walls, which can be built to protect the animals you’re rounding up.

ANTHONY: Where can people who missed out on the Kickstarter obtain their own copy of TESSEN?

Suzanne: From the publisher’s website: www.vanrydergames.com. You can order Tessen there now!

ANTHONY: What do you think are the essentials of board/card game design?  What’s your development process like?

Chris: One big difference between board game design and most other creative pursuits is the ability to get feedback from your audience while you’re still working. Board games are designed, tested, redesigned, tested again, thrown out and started over, and tested again. The playtesting process is one big strength of this particular creative form. Designers who don’t make the most of it by getting their game to the table and learning from people’s feedback are missing a big opportunity.

Suzanne: Our development process varies with each game we design, and we’re still new to board games, so we’re also still figuring out what works for us. Chris and I approach games from very different directions, and that has turned out to be a big strength for us because I see things that he never would have, and vice versa. With Tessen, Chris led the design, and I suggested solutions to problems he was working on. But for our current game design, we’re working even more closely together. It’s a much heavier game than Tessen, so we’re spending almost all of our free time on it.

ANTHONY: Rumor has it your next game design is called “Cottage Industry,” and it’s aimed squarely at me … and my fellow Once Upon A Time fans. What can you tell us about the game?

Chris: It’s true! Cottage Industry is a board game about running a business in a fairytale land, so we’re taking a lot of real-world events and business concepts and applying them to fairytales. You know how Once Upon a Time cleverly puts fairytale characters into modern roles, like how Rumpelstiltskin becomes Mr. Gold the pawnshop owner? It’s kind of like that.

Suzanne: We’re still in the playtesting phase for Cottage Industry, but one aspect of the game that your readers might be interested in is the storybook. As you play the game, you get to tell a story about what’s going on in the kingdom. You decide what happens, sort of like in a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book. Your decisions determine how the story unfolds, and what effect the story has on the game.

Chris: The game is set in a land called Fiscalia, and there’s been an economic crash and recession. The kingdom has implemented all sorts of new regulations to keep greedy businesspeople in line, but the business owners have found clever ways to live up to the letter of the law, but not its spirit.

Suzanne: We’re really excited about this game. All of our playtesting so far has been extremely positive! We recently took the game to Metatopia, a gaming convention in Morristown, N.J. We got some great feedback. A few playtesters stayed to talk with us after one session for two hours until one in the morning! One player stopped us later in the weekend to tell us he was excited to see the game published, and another player asked when she could play the game again. We were so honored that people were so generous with their time and so enthusiastic about the game!

ANTHONY: What other projects are you working on?

Suzanne: We have lots of other game ideas, but right now our energy is focused on finishing Cottage Industry. As for our blog, we’re planning to do some original interviews and previews in addition to the useful game design links we have always done.

ANTHONY: And my usual closing question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who hasn’t read it to convince them that they should?

Chris: Gamers always have a hard time picking a favorite game, and choosing a favorite book isn’t any easier! I’ll go with Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties. It’s a great piece of analysis with an amazing scope, moving from the specific notes The Beatles chose on particular records all the way through the huge societal shifts of the 1960s.

Suzanne: That’s a really hard question. While I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s my favorite book, the book that I’ve read recently that has stuck with me the most is The Road by Cormac McCarthy. It makes me think about how I would react in some of the horrific situations it depicts. Any book that I can’t get out of my head like that is an amazing read.

You can find Chris and Suzanne’s work at the following links:

Cardboard Edison website
Van Ryder Games
Tessen Kickstarter


This has been a long time in coming, this interview with my friend Win Scott Eckert. I’m not sure how long ago I first became familiar with Win’s work, but it’s been several years at the least. He plays in the playground I love, that giant sandbox where everything in popular culture, from gothic heroines to modern masked men, can interact … and he plays in it so well. His recent stories featuring the Green Hornet and The Avenger stand out, and of course he’s learned the art of finding character connections from one of the greatest such sleuths, Philip Jose Farmer, with whom Win co-wrote THE EVIL IN PEMBERLEY HOUSE.  Here’s our long chat, with lots of illustrations:

ANTHONY: Win, thanks for taking the time to be interviewed.

WSE:  Thank you, Anthony.

ANTHONY: You’re most well-known currently as the lead “banner-carrier,” so to speak, of Philip José Farmer’s Wold Newton Family concept. What was your first exposure to Farmer’s work and how has it influenced your own writing?

WSE:   My mind-blowing introduction to Farmer was his “pseudo-biography” Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, at the tender age of eight. I recently had the pleasure of editing an updated and definitive edition of the book, which is a companion to his Tarzan Alive. Both books follow the Sherlockian tradition, known as “the Game,” of treating their subjects as real people who actually lived (or… still live!). In my new foreword to Doc Savage, I abandon my usual practice of penning forewords and afterwords within the context of the Game (see my pieces in the recent Farmer reissues by Titan Books), and step out from behind the curtain, so to speak. The piece is an unabashed love letter to the book and to Farmer. Which is a roundabout way of answering your question about how it has influenced my own writing. Without Doc Savage, there is no Win Scott Eckert, author–for better or worse.

The definitive, hardcover reissue of Doc Savage is available from Meteor House. It’s a true labor of love, and I hope folks will check it out.

the new, definitive edition of
Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life

the most recent edition of
Tarzan Alive


ANTHONY: You had the chance to collaborate with Farmer, completing The Evil in Pemberley House. I know you’ve written in other forums about how that project came to be. I’ve read the book and honestly can’t tell where Farmer ends and you begin, so I’d like to hear a little about the process of completing a novel started by someone else. What challenges did you face and how did you solve them?

WSE:   First of all, thank you for commenting that the transition from Farmer to me was seamless. I take that as the highest possible compliment. I had been reading Farmer all my life, and continue to reread his work, so undoubtedly I absorbed some of his stylistic tendencies through osmosis. That said, I was also conscious of many of Phil’s writing patterns and made sure to incorporate them into the prose when it was natural to do so, as I took over writing where he left off.

The process felt straightforward to me. Immerse myself in the chapters he had written. Study the outline for the remainder of the novel and flesh it out, where necessary. Consult the accompanying notes and follow them as closely as possible. Make judicious changes to bring small details in line with what had been published in his other Wold Newton works, particularly in Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life (for the uninitiated, Farmer revealed, in the biography Doc Savage, that the real name of the man upon whom the fictionalized Doc Savage pulp novels was based was Dr. James Clarke Wildman, Jr.; The Evil in Pemberley House introduces us to Doc Wildman’s daughter, Patricia Wildman); in line with this, do not alter Phil’s words, except where absolutely necessary for continuity. This latter point is extremely important to me, and has also guided me when participating in bringing other previously unpublished works by Phil to publication, or when preparing manuscripts for reissue by Titan: do not have the audacity to rewrite Philip José Farmer. He’s a Hugo-award winning author and a science fiction Grand Master!

Once the polished outline was approved by Phil and his wife Bette, I proceeded to write, and sent bundles of chapters to them for their review and comments. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Evil in Pemberley House
is not what you think!

And The Scarlet Jaguar
is not who you think!

The Evil in Pemberley House came out in 2009 and is now out of print although I believe Camelot Books may have a few copies left in stock of both the trade and limited editions. I’m writing a series of follow-up novellas. The first is The Scarlet Jaguarand is “volume II of the memoirs of Pat Wildman,” out now from Meteor House.


ANTHONY: Your short stories all feature classic pulp or adventure fiction characters, which means you constantly get to play “what if X met K…” Given free rein, what are your dream match-ups that you haven’t gotten a chance to write yet?

WSE:   I would love to take on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Avengers (Steed and Emma Peel). And of course Farmer’s own pulp hero analogues, Lord Grandrith and Doc Caliban, from his novels A Feast Unknown , Lord of the Trees, and The Mad Goblin. Interestingly, Farmer left a fourth novel featuring Caliban, The Monster on Hold, unfinished.

ANTHONY: And I know I’m not the only one hoping that someone, someday, will finish The Monster On Hold and bring it to print. 😉 You’ve written tales of Zorro, the Green Hornet, Sherlock Holmes, Captain Midnight, and the Avenger for various anthologies, as well as a Honey West / T.H.E. Cat novel (co-written with Matthew Baugh). What’s your writing process like for these stories? I understand it all starts with being invited to participate, but how do you proceed from invite to publication?

WSE:   The “bible” is key. I come into these projects with a high degree of familiarity with the characters, but sometimes the publisher has a particular take to which the writers need to adhere, and that’s outlined in the bible. This is particularly important when there are several versions of a character to be addressed–or ignored, as the case may be. Adherence to canon, and honoring the character, is paramount (of course, even reasonable people can sometimes disagree on the definition of canon), and Moonstone shares these sensibilities, which is why I enjoy working with them so often on their licensed properties. For example, in the thirteenth Avenger pulp novel, Murder on Wheels, Richard Benson loses the ability to mold his face, and his hair reverts from shock-white to black. Moonstone felt that this removed perhaps the primary interesting feature of the character and mandated in the bible that the stories features the white-haired, white skin Benson with the moldable facial features–a decision I heartily endorsed. But this mandate also causes problems for some writers, like me, who also feel that adhering to canon means adhering to a realistic chronology of a character’s adventures. How to tell a story of Benson later in his career and also have him white-haired? I solved the problem in my first Avenger tale with a reference to the recent reappearance of his powers and white skin and hair. A few other writers also wrestled with this and addressed it in a similar way.


Two great sleuths
in one fun novella!

Another example is Honey West. The Moonstone version is an amalgamation of the eleven novels and the television series with Anne Francis, which ran for one season. Both have different supporting characters. The Moonstone bible takes the best of both. But I wanted to take it one step further. To guide writing the novella A Girl and Her Cat (co-written with Matthew Baugh), I worked up a Honey West timeline. This is the sort of exercise which helps me get centered for the writing process. Fortunately, the television series (and the Moonstone comic and stories) can be neatly placed in a gap between the ninth novel, Bombshell, which came out in 1964, and the tenth novel, which came out in 1971. Creating a timeline usually reveals gaps which can be filled in. For instance, in 1971’s Honey on Her Tail, it’s revealed that Honey and Lt. Mark Storm have not seen each other in several years. So we wrote their “goodbye” scene into A Girl and Her Cat. In the 1971 book, Honey has given up her private eye practice and is now a secret agent. While we don’t show that career change in A Girl and Her Cat (Moonstone doesn’t care for Honey’s secret agent phase), we do take Honey along the path of that transition.

By the way, Honey West and T.H.E. Cat: A Girl and Her Cat, is due out from Moonstone in January 2014 in a limited edition hardcover. It’s listed for order in the November 2013 Diamond Previews catalogue. The Diamond Item Code is NOV131140. It can also be ordered from Things From Another World at a nice discount!


ANTHONY: Well, I pre-ordered mine from Midtown Comics in NYC. And for those interested: apparently the Diamond ordering deadline is December 6th, which is just a few days away as I post this interview. So click those links, especially if you’re a fan of 60s spy/crime/thrillers with strong female leads!

Now, You’ve also annually contributed stories to Black Coat Press’ Tales of the Shadowmen series. Those anthologies are themed rather than focusing on a single character, so how do you choose the lead characters for those stories? How involved in character and plot choice are the publishers?

WSE:   Fortunately, even though each annual book has a theme, the theme is a suggestion rather than a requirement. So, I rarely feel bound by the theme and instead focus on which French characters interest me. The publisher, Jean-Marc Lofficier, is quite ready to suggest French characters, or characters created by French writers, but is equally willing to give the writers latitude, as long as there is some kind of substantial “French connection.” Jean-Marc has plot approval, of course, to ensure that the tale meets quality standards and comports with the generally understood canon of the characters–but again, he also gives the writers a nice amount of leeway.

I’ve had the opportunity to write several stories about Doc Ardan, Madame Atomos, and the Scarlet Pimpernel, among others.

Crossovers, Volume One

ANTHONY: Sadly, you’re not in the current Volume 10: Esprit De Corps … But I am! (Sorry to highjack your spotlight for just a second there, but I couldn’t resist. Moving on…. Your Crossovers: A Secret Chronology of the World, Volume 1 and Volume 2, is a pretty exhaustive look at the history of literary interconnectedness that Philip José Farmer really popularized. In your researches, what connection between characters did it surprise you to discover? And are you constantly looking for new connections to make? (For instance, I recently read Jess Faraday’s The Affair of the Porcelain Dog, which has a number of Holmes connections including a lead character named Ira Adler, and Lester Heath’s The Case of the Aluminum Crutch, featuring a teenage detective named “Sherlock” Jones. You can imagine the paths my brain traveled in both cases.) And to piggy-back on that question: new crossover stories, including your own, are constantly appearing. How often, if at all, do you plan on updating Crossovers?

WSE:   There are thousands of crossovers noted in the books, and it’s very hard to pick out just a few highlights. Turning the question on its ear, the crossovers that really inspired me, captured my interest, and led me down the OCD path of creating a cohesive Crossover Universe, were those found in the writings of Philip José Farmer (such as the Sherlock Holmes-Lord Greystoke novel The Adventure of the Peerless Peer); the unnamed cameos of Doc Savage and the Amazing Five in Dave’s Stevens’ magnificent The Rocketeer (and The Shadow in the follow-up); Ron Fortier and Jeff Butler’s wonderful four-part comic series Sting of the Green Hornet; Cay Van Ash’s Fu Manchu-Sherlock Holmes novel Ten Years Beyond Baker Street; and David McDaniel’s fantastic Man from U.N.C.L.E. novels, particularly The Dagger Affair and The Rainbow Affair.

I’m sure I’m leaving many on the table, but these are the ones that immediately come to mind.

I’m always keeping an eye out for new crossovers, and taking note of them. That said, it’s a monumental task that tends to displace all other activities, and I’ve put aside the formal documentation of additions to the Crossover Universe for the foreseeable future, in order to focus on writing fiction.

Crossoves, Volume 2

This is a good a place as any to announce that Sean Levin, a fan and expert on both Farmer and crossovers, and a wonderful and talented guy, has taken over formally tracking and documenting crossovers. He’s following my Crossover Universe framework to a “T,” and doing a better job than I could have ever hoped for. So, there will be Crossoversvolumes 3 & 4 in the future, although I don’t have any further details or information to announce right now in that regard. These books are multi-year efforts, so stay tuned!


ANTHONY: Of course! You’ve co-edited three volumes of Green Hornet short stories with Joe Gentile (the third volume was also co-edited with Matthew Baugh), both from Moonstone Books. How do you break apart the editing chores?

WSE:   It’s very organic, a lot of back and forth. We had a lot of input into the bible, including settling once and for all on the 1960s television continuity as the setting for our books. On the first book, The Green Hornet Chronicles, Joe solicited writers and I took the first several passes at copyediting. Joe then took final passes; it was his baby, after all. For the second book, The Green Hornet Casefiles, I took the lead on author selection, although of course Joe had a lot of say. On the third book, I just had too much going on and suggested we bring in a trusted third, Matthew Baugh. Again it was organic. Sometimes Matthew took the first pass, and sometimes I did. Joe once more did final passes. I’m very proud of the work we did on those books, both in terms of the quality of writing and the proofing/quality control processes we utilized. In fact, the third book, The Green Hornet: Still at Large, won the 2013 Pulp Ark Award for best anthology.

The most recent
Green Hornet anthology


ANTHONY: Congrats on that! Have you edited or co-edited any other anthologies recently? Are you editing or co-editing any other anthologies in the near future?

WSE:   I co-edited, with my good friend Christopher Paul Carey, the recently-released Tales of the Wold Newton Universe, for Titan Books. The book collects, for the first time ever in one volume, SF Grand Master Philip José Farmer‘s Wold Newton short stories, as well as authorized tales by other Farmerian writers.

I should add what a pleasure it was to work with Chris on the book and our introduction, which can be read online at SF Signal; he’s such a talented writer and editor, and I know he’s going places–big places.

I don’t see any editing projects in my future. If another “can’t say no” opportunity like Tales of the Wold Newton Universe comes along, I would have to rethink that answer, but editing anthologies requires a time commitment of Brobdingnagian proportions, and right now I’m focusing on my own writing.


Tales of the Wold Newton Universe
available now

ANTHONY: We’ve established how much fun you have working with all these classic characters. Are you working on a novel or series-recurring character of your own creation? (In other words, what does the near future hold for fans of your writing?)

WSE:   Well, I do plan on at least three or four more Pat Wildman novellas. These would bring Pat through the 1970s and into the early 1980s . . . which, not coincidentally, is about when the unfinished Monster on Hold occurs. The Doc Caliban tales take place in a parallel universe to the Doc Wildman / Pat Wildman stories (see my introduction to the Titan Books edition of Lord of the Trees and my chronology in the Titan edition of The Mad Goblin), but nonetheless there is a tight connection between the two universes. The Pat Wildman books, taking place in the Wold Newton Universe, will lead up to the events of The Monster on Hold in the Grandrith/Caliban Universe.

Of course, I should emphasize there are no firm plans–yet–for The Monster on Hold. But I do have a lot mapped out already. So, fingers crossed it will come together. In the meantime, I plan to have fun revealing Pat Wildman’s next adventures, and I have high-level ideas for at least the next two or three.

Matthew Baugh and I are also deep into mapping out a Honey West / T.H.E. Cat follow-up for Moonstone Books. It’s a caper taking place in Europe in the early 1970s and I can tell you it’s going to be quite sexy and fun. I really enjoy the creative jamming back-and-forth Matthew and I have on these books.

I’m writing a Pat Wildman / Kent Lane short story for Meteor House’s The Worlds of Philip Jose Farmer 5. And I’ve been approached for a short story for a licensed character anthology which is going to be super-cool. I can’t discuss that further right now, but I’m really jazzed about it.

I also plan on writing a Sherlock Holmes novella for Meteor House. It flows out of the already-published short story “The Adventure of the Fallen Stone” (Sherlock Holmes: The Crossovers Casebook) and will be called The Dynamics of a Meteor. The time-frame for this one is 1919, and will take place shortly after Farmer’s authorized Doc Savage novel, Escape from Loki: Doc Savage’s First Adventure.

And . . . I’m tacking my first comic book script, a Honey West tale for Moonstone. This one is going to fill in a pretty important piece of Honey’s history, and will be illustrated by the super-talented Silvestre Szilagyi, who has done some of the other Honey comics.

ANTHONY: Well, this conversation has wandered far and wide, and could keep wandering, so I’ll bring it around to my usual final question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to convince someone who has never read it that they should read it?

WSE:   Which brings us full circle back to the beginning of this interview. My favorite book is Philip José Farmer’s Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life. If you love 1930s and ’40s pulp heroes, fictional biographies, and metafictional mashups such as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula novels (and by the way, both Alan Moore and Kim Newman acknowledge their debt to Farmer and the Wold Newton mythos), then this book (and the companion biography, Tarzan Alive) will be right up your literary alley.

 ANTHONY: Thanks, Win!

WSE:   Thank you very much, Anthony! This was fun.


You can find Win all over the internet: on his own website, on Twitter as @woldnewton, on Facebook, Pinterest, tumblr, Goodreads and Amazon and of course at most of the links embedded in the interview.

Note: If you’re interested in Meteor House, you can find my interview with publisher Mike Croteau HERE. And later this week, I’ll also be posting an interview with Black Coat Press publisher J.M. Lofficier, so be sure to come back for that!


SayWeCanFly, aka
Braden Barrie

A few months back, Braden Barrie and I ended up following each other on Twitter. I can remember now if Twitter recommended him to me or vice versa, but we connected and I started listening to his music, which led to this interview. To quote his Facebook page: “SayWeCanFly is a one man acoustic act from Ontario, Canada. Frontman Braden Barrie has devoted his teenage years to playing shows across Canada and the US, building his following and writing relatable music for his fan base. Growing up in a small town and feeling a sense of abandonment, he shows listeners that no matter what struggles we face, we always have the power to make it through. Braden writes lyrics based around the belief that the world is lacking a connection between humans on an emotional level, and wants to re-establish that bond through his art.”

ANTHONY: Let’s start with an easy one: Where does the name “Say We Can Fly” come from?

BRADEN: I was 14 years old, trying to decide what to name my YouTube channel. I was literally laying on my bed for hours, trying to come up with something that sounded cool, and SayWeCanFly popped into my head. This was before I had actually started writing and recording, but it stuck with me and eventually made more sense.

ANTHONY: I feel like we’re seeing more and more solo acts taking on band names instead of performing under their own name. Timmy Rasmussen, who I’ll be interviewing soon, does it as 7 Minutes In Heaven, but the first person I can remember doing it was John Andrusik performing as Five For Fighting. What are the advantages/disadvantages of using a band name even though you write and perform solo?

BRADEN: I think it’s great to be able to use a band name, because in my opinion it is much easier to create a brand, logo, and throw meaning behind it. I have a lot of people who assume that I have a full band, and it’s always nice to be able to tell them that it’s just me, because I think it’s somewhat of a shocker sometimes. Using a band name also gives my fans room to invest themselves in something, get creative, and feel like they are a part of it.

ANTHONY: When did you first start performing, and what was your first instrument?

BRADEN: I started playing when I was just a young guy, I think about 8 years old. The first instrument I ever picked up was a violin, but it didn’t quite cut it for me. Guitar was always what fascinated me most.

ANTHONY: When did you write your first original song, and what was it?

BRADEN: I wrote my first song the year before I started high school. It was called “Feels Like Rain”, and it was all about Jesus. I was raised in a Christian school so it was what was going through my mind at the time.

ANTHONY: You’ve got an extensive back-catalog on iTunes, an EP a year since 2011. How would you say your sound has changed from HOME through DANDELION NECKLACE to the current HEAVEN IS HELL?

BRADEN: Sometimes it’s crazy to listen to my old stuff, and hear how I have progressed. I think my voice has become stronger, and I always notice a little more power in it at this point. Lyrically, I think I have maintained the same style. I find that I still write about the same types of things, just from a different angle. I definitely feel that adding in drums, electric guitar, etc., on my new album has given me more of an edge than ever before.

Braden Barrie in
a thoughtful moment

ANTHONY: What’s your songwriting process like?  Do you sit down with a firm idea and then put it to music, does the music come first and then lyrics?

BRADEN: It’s honestly different almost every time. Generally though, I come up with a cool melody and maybe one or two lines of lyrics, then I grab my guitar and start from there. Sometimes I like to just play the same chords for hours until I come up with a vocal melody.

ANTHONY: Do you collaborate with anyone, or write everything solo?

BRADEN: I always write my songs on my own. I’ve tried to collaborate with people before, but for some reason I have a really hard time doing it. I’ve had a couple people sing with me, and featured another vocalist on one of my tracks, but at the end of the day I really like to do it solo when it comes to the actual writing.

ANTHONY: How much does a song change from your first draft to the final product in the studio, if at all?

BRADEN: Strangely enough, it barely changes at all. The core of the song is always the same, the only thing that changes are the instruments I add to it in the studio.

ANTHONY: You’re working on new music now, right? Having had the chance to hear some of it, I have to say I really like both “Stacy’s Song” and “Sparks.” When will we get to hear the new music?

BRADEN: I produced a little acoustic EP for my fans to make up for not being able to make it across the border for tour. I released that album a few weeks ago, and it’s available on my soundcloud. (www.soundcloud.com/saywecanfly).

ANTHONY: When are you headed back out on tour?

BRADEN: I am planning to hit the road again in March and April, hoping to do a whole bunch of Canadian dates, and see where I am at after that. I want to hit the US as well whenever makes most sense.

ANTHONY: And my usual closing question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who has never read it to convince them that they should?

BRADEN: One of my favourite books is called “The Tao Of Pooh”. It takes the cartoon Pooh Bear, and breaks down a whole bunch of life lessons, morals, and values that were taught by all of the characters in a way that makes sense. I used to love that show when I was a kid, and it’s crazy the things I actually must have learned from it, and brought them with me through my life.

You can find SayWeCanFly on Facebook, on Twitter as @SayWeCanFly, on his own website, on Youtube, and on Purevolume.
Here’s Braden’s latest single, SCARS:




And a slightly older song, “Dandelion Necklace”:



Mira Grant’s Parasite

Posted by admin under authors, interviews

The lovely, and deadly, Mira Grant

Mira Grant, author of the NEWSFLESH trilogy (one of the few zombie books I’ve enjoyed) has a new book out today: PARASITE. She’s graciously agreed to answer a few questions….


ANTHONY: Let’s start with the basics: What is PARASITE about?

MIRA: Parasites.  No, that isn’t fair, even if it’s accurate!  It’s about genetic engineering, and the uneasy marriage of science and profitability, that place where smart people do stupid things in the name of making a buck.  It’s about finding yourself.  And it’s about that sharply indrawn breath before the end of the world.

ANTHONY: I had the chance to read the first chapters, which were included in the ebook edition of LIGHTSPEED magazine’s October issue. And I have to say:  even in that short space, you managed to make me shiver. I anticipate a lot more seat-squirming before the book is done. Should readers expect a lot of bodily fluids to fly, since we’re dealing with intestinal parasites?

MIRA: Not as many as you might think!  Parasite is an intentionally ‘dry’ book in the body fluids sense, because there’s so much horror inherent in the concept that dumping buckets of blood on top just seemed, well…silly.  Like, why would you bother, when everything has already been ruined forever by the sheer existence of intestinal parasites?  I brought a big box of nope to page one, and spend a lot of time unpacking it.

ANTHONY: One of the things I love about your writing is the strong, but often emotionally damaged, female protagonists. Can you tell us a bit about Sally Mitchell?

MIRA: Sally Mitchell–who prefers to be called “Sal,” thank you, Sally was another country–was in a very bad accident several years before the start of the book, and she’s still dealing with the after effects, which are mostly psychological at this point.  She’s dyslexic, she has a severe fear of cars, and she has no memory of her life before the crash.  She’s a very kind person.  She wants to be good.  She’s just not always completely certain that she understands what that means.

ANTHONY: This takes place only a decade in the future, correct?  I know you love to research, so I’m curious as to what current medical breakthroughs you see leading to this potential future?

MIRA: I think that the breakthrough described in this book, harnessing controlled parasites to deal with certain allergies and auto-immune disorders, is coming.  I think we’re a little bit more, well, balanced about it than the people in this book.  I also think that we’re sort of holding our breath right now, because we need to get the politics out of science and really look at the human body–male and female–without ideological blinders getting in the way.

Mira Gran’ts PARASITE

ANTHONY: If memory serves, this is the first Mira Grant book to debut in hardcover. How does that feel?

MIRA: Terrifying.

ANTHONY: PARASITE is the first of a duology called “Parasitology.” Any hints as to when we can expect the second book and what it will be called?

MIRA: Nope!  I don’t mean to be stubborn, but I can’t really say much about the second book without giving spoilers for the first, and we’re still debating the title a little bit.  I’m hoping it’ll be sorted soon.

ANTHONY: You know I have to ask at least one question related to your Newsflesh universe. As we discussed on #sffwrtcht on Twitter a few weeks back, Mahir Gowda has become a fan favorite. What is is about him (as opposed to, say, Georgia and Shaun Mason) that people seem to gravitate to?

MIRA: Mahir is the Horatio of the piece.  He’s the guy who exists to see things unfold, and he’s not untouched by them, he’s not some omniscient narrator: he’s a part of the story he observes.  He just doesn’t get to have a glorious death or an unequivocally happy ending.  He’s us.  He’s still searching for his answers, and he always will be.  I love him so much.

ANTHONY: Okay, two questions. The novella “How Green This Land, How Blue This Sea” was released in July, featuring Mahir exploring how the Uprising affected Australia. Can we expect more world travels in novella form in the near future? Perhaps next summer?

MIRA: There are currently no further Newsflesh novellas under contract with Orbit.

ANTHONY: The internet cannot see the Sad Face I’m making, but I’ll hold out hope that there’s an unspoken “yet” at the end of that answer.  Now, we’ve chatted so many times now that my usual “favorite book” closing question is probably a bit played out. So here’s a variation: What one text on virology/parasitology would you recommend to someone who becomes interested in the topic because of reading PARASITE?

MIRA: Carl Zimmer’s Parasite Rex is probably the ‘pop science’ work on parasites.  It’s factual but accessible, and will provide an amazing jumping-off point if you want to learn more about the factual world of our intestinal buddies.


Want to know more about the SymboGen company and their work? Go to Symbogen’s website.

You can follow Mira Grant, aka Seanan McGuire, on Twitter @seananmcguire. You can check out both her Mira Grant and Seanan McGuire websites. And of course you can buy PARASITE on Amazon and on Barnes & Noble as well as purchasing it from all respectable (and probably some not-so-respectable) brick-and-mortar bookstores.


“The Show Needs An App!”

If you had told me ten years ago that I’d have a chance to interview Sean Astin, someone I’ve been a fan of since The Goonies, I’d have laughed. Honestly, if you’d told me even two years ago, when I started doing interviews for this site, that I’d interview Sean, I’d have been skeptical. But it’s happened. Sean recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for his radio show Vox Populi: The Voice of the (Occasionally Interested) People. I’ve listened to the show, and I think Sean does exactly what he says in the show’s mission statement: he brings people together to talk civilly and calmly about the hot topics of the day, without regard for sound-bytes or better ratings. It’s about talking, and about listening.  So I backed the Kickstarter, and took a chance to ask Sean if he’d do an interview for my little personal website. He agreed to it, “after I run the Chicago Marathon.”  So here it is. It’s a short interview, but hopefully we get across why Vox Populi is a project worthy of being funded and more. As of today, there are 4.5 days left in the campaign, and it is funded… but Sean would like to hit the $60,000 stretch goal to build the show an app. The video at the end of this interview explains why he’s so passionate about this despite adding it late in the campaign.  I’ve seen KS campaigns raise much more than $20,000 in much less than 4 days, so like Sean I believe it can be done.  But enough of me …


ANTHONY: Let’s start with an easy one: After such a strong acting career, what led you to start a political radio talk-show?


SEAN: Well, I think I would have done some kind of political show regardless of my career. My mom was president of the Screen Actors Guild and hosted a morning tv show in LA when I was a kid. So, the desire for citizenship and using my voice was placed in me by my family. The fact that I’ve been blessed with a long career, just makes the transition easier. Lots of people are familiar with my name, so it’s easier to build an audience. At least on paper, encouraging people to see someone in a different light, particularly when it’s politics, takes work. Also, it’s not the only thing I do. In fact, it’s a hobby for me at this point; a hobby that I’m extremely passionate about, but it’s not about money, yet. It might be in the future. I am currently acting in a show for FX with Guillermo del Toro directing. So, life, particularly with my wife and three daughters is sailing by. The political show gives me the satisfaction that on some level, I hope, I’m making a difference!


It’s Our Time For An App!

ANTHONY: Your focus is on “civil discourse,” and I really admire the way you let people have their say, even if you disagree with them. But I’m sure people wonder: what would make you cut a discussion short or lose your cool with a guest?


SEAN: Ha! Fun question. Well, as the HOST I get to disconnect the call if someone flouts the premise of the show and behaves in an uncivil manner. I might get nervous about doing that, but I would do it because I must protect the integrity of the show. I think in most instances, when people are directed to “be nice” and then given the time and space to express themselves, they usually become the best contributors. I lose my cool sometimes at events in the world, Sandy Hook, Benghazi… but I believe that the HOST role carries responsibilities and I like to be responsible.


ANTHONY: I’m sure you get this all the time, but I have to ask: what was your favorite part of filming The Goonies (one of my top five life-time favorite movies)? And, more seriously: can you tell my readers about your marathon experiences and the #Run3rd movement?


SEAN: One of my favorite things about making The Goonies was driving onto the Warner Lot and feeling like a big shot. The pirate ship, Dick Donner, Steven Spielberg, My Goonies friends, the Crew, Waterslides…it was a great adventure. I love talking about running. I would direct your readers to my Mission Statement and our official Run3rd.blogspot.com site. Just know that I choose now to dedicate my runs to people, causes, ideas. I declare before 5k’s,10k’s, 1/2 & Full Marathons that I “#run3rd for (insert person etc..)” It started as a twitter campaign, which offers a prompt to people to make dedications themselves. When I or you or anyone dons the emblem #run3rd on their clothes or whatever, they are said to be running on behalf of all of the dedications. I ran 3 marathons this year, LA, SF & this month, Chicago. These events inspire the heck out of me. I just love the challenge, the community everything. Running is more than a sport to me, it’s a sacred experience!!!


ANTHONY: And my usual closing question: what is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who has never read it to convince them that they should?


SEAN: I don’t know anymore. I studied English and History at UCLA. At certain periods of my life, I was a voracious reader. In recent years, I haven’t dedicated myself to reading very much. It saddens me to say so, but it’s true. I think when I was kid, I was probably A.D.D. That may have come back. My usual answer is Candide, by Voltaire. It sound high faluten, but basically it’s a great adventure story with a powerful bit of philosophy and morality mixed in for good measure.


ANTHONY: Thank you again, Sean!  Now, what’s all this about “The Show Needs An App?”




And finally, most importantly: the Kicstarter page. All you need to do is go to www.StartTheVox.com.  That will take you directly to the Kickstarter page where you can see all the Backer Rewards Sean is offering, as well as Sean’s original video explaining the show and the project, and of course, where you can back the project yourself. Every little bit helps!



Zach Callison

Through my interviews with Sam Lant, Brandon Tyler Russell and Austin MacDonald and my friendships with their parents, I’ve become connected to a small group of young actors who have interesting projects (film, radio, television and charity work) to share. My latest interview from this “Burbank gang” is with Zach Callison. Zach has a great number of voice-credits under his belt that may be familiar to any of my friends with small children who watch Disney Channel. Zach’s also heavily involved in charity work. Since Zach’s celebrating his 16th birthday today, it seemed like the right time to post our interview.

ANTHONY: What was your first professional acting job?

ZACH: I began working in St. Louis when I was eight years old.  I booked a local grocery store commercial.  Following that I booked a small role in an independent film entitled ‘Kingshighway’. It was then that I knew I wanted to work in film and television and began working on my parents to help me pursue my dream.

ANTHONY: What is your favorite type of performing?

ZACH: While I love voice over work and have done quite a bit of it, my first love is on camera film and television. I am so excited that I just recently booked and worked on camera role.  It is my first love.

ANTHONY: How did you book the role of Prince James and did you work with the director on creating the character?

ZACH: Booking any voice over role requires recording an audition and sending it in. The studio will usually do a call back session and put you through the paces by giving direction to see if you can follow it and still deliver what they need. Prince James’s voice is my natural voice only with a little more energy.  James is a positive character with a lot of spunk.  It is usually the actor who creates the voice for the audition and gets the job if the director and studio likes what they hear.

ANTHONY: Has anything in your approach to the character changed as you moved from the movie script to an on-going series?

ZACH: Not really.  Doing a voice over role requires consistency so that the character is recognizable throughout.

Zach is Prince James in “Sofia The First”

ANTHONY: Do you think “Sofia The First” is not only entertaining but also educating younger children? If so, what lessons is the show imparting?

ZACH: ‘Sofia’ is an amazing show in so many ways.  It is teaching lessons through stories.  It is a departure from the recite and repeat formulas of so many shows targeting young children.  The lessons imparted are morally based like kindness, sharing and belief in oneself.  I hear from parents all the time how much they like watching the show with their children and the lessons they learning.

ANTHONY: Who do you play in the upcoming DreamWorks feature film “Mr. Peabody and Sherman”? What was it like to record it?

ZACH: I play King Tut in the film.  I love the voice I created for this film.  It was so much fun to record and Rob Minkoff who directed the film was amazing to work with.  My mom is so excited about this film as she remembers the original cartoon and the episode with King Tut.

ANTHONY: It was one of my favorite cartoons, too. Can’t wait to see the movie. You’re not always acting. What do you like to do in your spare time?

ZACH: I am a big gamer.  Right now I am obsessed with League of Legends.  I play online with my friends and I am looking to begin league tournaments soon.  I can’t get enough of it!

Zach in the studio recording “Sofia”

ANTHONY: What charities/causes are most important to you?

ZACH: I am a Youth Ambassador for Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.  I promote the organization and educate others about the importance of protecting our oceans and ocean life.  Sea Shepherd campaigns in the Southern Ocean have been filmed and documented by the Discovery Channel for the show ‘Whale Wars’.  They are a direct action organization making a real difference!

Other causes that I support are helping the homeless via ‘Little Red Wagon’, ‘LA Mission and Habitat for Humanity, as well as children’s charities like ‘Ronald McDonald House’ and the Children’s Hospitals of LA and Orange County.

ANTHONY: I’ve interviewed Zach Bonner recently about how he started the Little Red Wagon Foundation. How did you get involved?

ZACH: Zach Bonner and I met when I went out to support him when he was finishing his walk across the country.  I made the last 3 mile journey with him to the Santa Monica Pier.  We have become friends and I have been supporting him and his organization in any way I can.  I recently arranged the space and rounded up some of my friends to help him stuff backpacks with school supplies for homeless and under privileged kids.  We are also looking for more projects in the future to work together and bring funds and awareness to homeless youth.

Zach’s next project
on Cartoon Network

ANTHONY: What other acting or charity projects do you have coming up?

ZACH: I am so excited about my new show on Cartoon Network titled ‘Steven Universe’.   I play the role of Steven.  The show is hilarious and I laugh in the studio every time I record.  The show is airing later this fall.  Rebecca Sugar is the creator of the show and she holds the title of the first female show runner.  She is incredibly talented and our cast is fantastic.

I am also working on a new project that I can’t say much about at this time. It is being produced by Sean Hayes and Todd Milner and it is hysterical.  I will share more when I can, but I am thrilled to be working on camera again with an amazing cast and crew.

ANTHONY: And my usual closing question: What is your favorite book?

I haven’t had a lot of time for recreational reading lately but one of my favorite series of books is the ‘Hunger Games’.   I loved the action and the character development of the books and the theme of the story is semi-original.  Only second to a Japanese film titled “Battle Royale” released in 2000.

ANTHONY: Thanks for chatting, Zach!

ZACH: Thanks Anthony for the opportunity!


The latest from
Jeremy C. Shipp

It’s been a while since I’ve interviewed my friend Jeremy C. Shipp (he of such bizarro fiction as Vacation, Sheeps And Wolves, the Stoker Award nominated Cursed Attic Toys (editor) and Always Remember To Tip Your Ninja, among others). His shorter tales have appeared in over 60 publications, the likes of Cemetery Dance, ChiZine, Apex Magazine, Withersin, and Shroud Magazine. Jeremy enjoys living in Southern California in a moderately haunted Victorian farmhouse called Rose Cottage. He lives there with a couple of pygmy tigers and a legion of yard gnomes. The gnomes like him. The clowns living in his attic–not so much.

He’s doing a blog tour throughout October, with each interviewer asking him FIVE ODD QUESTIONS. Here are mine:


ANTHONY: What’s the best recipe for Smurf you’ve found?

JEREMY: Smurf brain tacos. First you break open the skull with a nutcracker shaped like Gargamel, and you remove the brain. Put the brain into cold water with a tablespoon of vinegar. Leave the brain submerged in the water and then gently remove the membrane. You can check out the rest of the recipe in my cookbook HOW TO EAT SMURFS AND OTHER TINY CREATURES.

ANTHONY: Attic Clown or Bozo the Clown: Who would win in a fight?

JEREMY: The Attic Clown has a lot of respect for Bozo, so I doubt any argument they had would actually resort to fisticuffs. But if they had to fight each other in a Battle Royale-type situation, the Attic Clown would definitely win. The Attic Clown is a demon equipped with a whole arsenal of silly weaponry, such as exploding balloon animals and rubber chicken nunchakus and flaming pies.

ANTHONY: Complete the sentence: “Green is the color of ___________.”

JEREMY: Green is the color of projectile pea soup vomit. Green is the color of Vulcan blood. Green is the color of retromutagen ooze. Green is the color of Piccolo’s skin. Green is the color of Good Luck Bear’s fur.

ANTHONY: What really lurks in the subsurface strata under Denver ?

JEREMY: Underneath the substrata exists Bizarro Denver, a place devoid of sun, snow, and breweries. It’s an awful place.

ANTHONY: Why are Garden Gnomes so misunderstood?


MYTH: Gnomes eat children.

TRUTH: Gnomes are vegan. Some Gnomes simply cook children for ogres, to exchange for shoe horns.

MYTH: Gnomes use urine to clean their windows.

TRUTH: That’s disgusting. Gnomes actually use chupacabra vomit as a cleaning agent.

MYTH: Gnomes can’t read.

TRUTH: Gnomes can read, though only after slaying and eating a fresh bookworm.

MYTHS: Gnome hats are silly.

TRUTH: That’s a matter of opinion, buster!

MYTH: Gnomes will murder you if you shave off their beards.

TRUTH: Actually, that one is true.


Clearly, Jeremy’s brain is a land of oddities and mundanities mixed in all sorts of delightfully clever ways. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, his website … and most importantly, you can find his latest collection, Monstrosities, available at Amazon for the Kindle.