Yesterday’s live interview with Film Sensei Jay Haynes went great! The show was supposed to only go thirty minutes, but we kept receiving such great questions from the chatroom that we talked for over an hour.
We mainly discussed the writing arts and martial arts, with occasional name-drops of Keith Minnion, Richard Chizmar, and John Johnson, with deep dishing about Star Wars, Star Trek, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The “Live With Sensei” audience was also treated to Jay wristlocking me live on camera! You don’t want to miss that, so watch the whole gory show below. I’m going to ensure I’m subscribed to his channel, because next week the subject will be a show-and-tell of “failed experiments.”
A couple of events to tell you about!
January 25 @ 3PM
Live with Sensei: Watch on YouTube
• Host Jay Haynes and I will kibitz about story craft.
Westin Waterfront Boston Hotel
• Deena Warner and I will be guests concerning online marketing for publishing industry in the “Great Website Designs & Boskone Reveal” panel. I’ll also be giving a reading from Empire of the Goddess and participating in other panel discussions on self promotion and the business of writing.
February 19 @ 8AM
Rotary Club meeting
Cold Harbor Restaurant
• The Rotary Club of Mechanicsville will host me as a guest speaker during their breakfast meeting.
The owner, a California transplant, told us he’s good buddies with James Franco, so I’m hopeful the actor will show up. Yep, I’m sure he’ll get right on that.
I’ll have copies of Empire of the Goddess on hand, and Dave said something about wearing a Speedo. What could go wrong?
Come meet Elizabeth Massie, David Simms, Keith Minnion, and I at the Book Dragon Shop (Staunton, VA) this Saturday, Aug. 10, from 1-3pm.
I’ll have copies of Empire of the Goddess and many of my other books for sale cheap, and so will they. Elizabeth Massie will bring copies of her Ameri-Scares novels, recently acquired by Margo Robbie’s LuckyChap & Assemble Media for development into a TV show.
Each book purchase entitles you to a raffle ticket for drawing for grab bag of our rare stuff.
Holy cow! This book reviewer posted a YouTube book review of Empire of the Goddess that goes on for thirty-seven-and-a-half minutes. That’s a first for me, and it’s very flattering that he thought so highly of it (5 stars). The non-spoiler section of his review at the beginning is about six minutes, so if you haven’t read Empire of the Goddess yet, then that’s the part to listen to for now.
“Warner’s lean, muscular writing propels this novel, and the pacing is relentless, yet allows for strong world building. Recommended reading.”
Almost two weeks post-launch of Empire of the Goddess, and some great reviews have already come in, including this one from Publishers Weekly:
“Warner’s tale of a dystopian parallel Earth run by religious fanatics is quick-paced and intriguing … enough to keep fans of dystopian stories hooked.” (Read the whole review.)
The Audible link to the audiobook finally went up, plus a number of other vendors linked from the book page. They all supply short audio previews that don’t necessarily match what I sent them to use as the preview, so if you hunt around, you may find something you haven’t heard before. For instance, I was surprised to discover that Audiobooks Now has an incredibly long excerpt of Cursed by Christ available for free at this link. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear the deficiencies of my microphone rig at that time compared to what I used for Empire of the Goddess.
Speaking of audio engineering, I hope you caught that Audiobook Production Tips tutorial. There’s a lot I still need to learn, but if you’re an independent publisher looking to add an audio line, this may help you get started. Also check out the other Empire-related articles on story inspiration (this one and this one) and cover art.
All this week, I’m highlighting interesting things about Empire of the Goddess. Check out the new editions.
Here are some images that inspired me while writing the novel. Enjoy!
From the book’s opening scene:
The day he disappeared, my four-year-old son, Walter, asked to mow the yard with scissors.
“Sure. Just stay clear of the lawn mower when I come around, okay?” As I spoke, I finished a pass across the back yard of our Virginia home. I turned my push mower around for the next one. …
Squealing, Walter unlocked the gate on his way to the front yard.
This is simply an image of the back gate at my house here in Staunton. It’s taken from where I imagine Thomas Dylan stood during that scene, his hand on the lawnmower, as Walter opened the gate on his way to the front. I’ve always found this sight to be somehow sad and final without knowing why. Thomas knows why.
“Have you seen my son? Little boy with blond hair?” I held a hand level with my stomach to show how tall he was.
Here’s a picture of my son Owen at age four, so precious it makes my heart break just to look at him.
I looked in that direction and saw the distortion of a heat mirage. The same as before. It moved down the street like a giant ocean wave.
Except it couldn’t be a heat mirage. It was only seventy-five degrees outside. I lived on Star Trek episodes once upon a time, and this bulge in the air reminded me of the passage of a cloaked spaceship.
Maybe it was a cloaked van—the one responsible for snatching my little boy.
This video by Jay Haynes dramatizes what this scene might look like. The heat distortion moves down Ritchie Road toward the woods that are the Border Between Worlds.
I crossed the vacant lot’s weeds and piles of gravel and entered the woods. … The brush gave way to a wide trail that ran up and over a rise. I didn’t remember the trail, but that didn’t matter now. … Clover covered the ground. I didn’t normally pay attention to such things, but its thickness seemed strange. When I stooped to look, I figured out why.
At the end of Ritchie Road sits the vacant lot that sparked my attention on that long-ago day of woolgathering. The kids like to visit it during family walks, calling it “the jungle.” Through that trail entrance pictured here, you access a trail beneath old phone lines that go up and over that hill, seemingly to another world. In Thomas Dylan’s Staunton, it really does lead to another world.
Having grown up in the D.C. suburbs, I recognized the Washington Monument immediately. The monolith of white stone, built in the 19th Century, stood over five hundred fifty feet tall.
This one was at least twice that height.
Lit by red flood lights, it rose like a magnificent, bloody finger into the night. Unlike the Monument I remembered, this one stood upon a square building of white stone and Corinthian columns. It was the lower half of the Masonic Temple from nearby Alexandria, Virginia—except larger.
This is a cleaned-up version of the Photoshop sketch I created for my own reference while writing this passage. It’s simply an image of the Washington Monument planted upon the Masonic Temple in Alexandria. In the novel, this is the Washington Temple in Washington, DC, residence of the emperor and high priest to the Goddess of Evolution and where abducted people are taken for sacrifice.
Flagpoles circled the Monument, just as I remembered, except the flags were also different. Each had a large, white hangman’s noose in the blue field instead of fifty stars.
Here’s a scan of a painting Deena made in the course of creating the hardback’s cover art. Given the current state of America, I don’t find this flag to be so far-fetched.
The Memorial’s stone pillars, each about twenty feet tall, partially surrounded a pond with two spraying fountains. That part looked normal. But those weren’t wreaths hanging from the pillars like I remembered. Hangman’s nooses—with actual corpses—dangled from the sides instead. … I wondered if that meant they were slowly strangled instead of suffering the quick, clean neck breaks nooses were designed for. … A couple of the victims hung by their ankles instead of their necks. That was worse. Death would take longer.
The WW2 Memorial is in a perfect location and with a perfect design for the public gallows of my story. As you know, in ancient Rome, state criminals were also executed in a slow-acting, exhibitory manner.
I drove four hours south to Linville, North Carolina—a beautiful, mountainous resort area I remembered from family trips growing up. On a sunny spring day, I hiked up to the Flat Rock Overlook, at an elevation of nearly four thousand feet. And it was here, so high above the world that the rolling hills of forest were like green hair follicles growing to the sky, that I hit my low point.
Here’s Owen again, a bit older than the previous picture, during a visit to Flat Rock. As described later in the book, the Lutheran ministers from Camp Linn Haven like to take Family Week attendees there for evening devotions. There are plenty of rocks to sit on, but the sun always finds the perfect angle to dagger into your eyes. Flat Rock was a suitable location for some of the novel’s major scenes, one of which is depicted on the new cover.
That’s all I have for now. Do you have any photos or artwork you would like to contribute? (I hear Pinterest is good for that, but I’m surprisingly out of touch for someone who daylights as a website designer.)
Do you own a professional sound isolation booth? You do? What time can I come over?
That’s what I’ll be asking everyone the next time I narrate my own audiobook. It would go far more quickly and involve far less swearing at my pets. Of course, you wouldn’t then have nearly as much fun learning about the hell I went through with Cursed by Christ and Empire of the Goddess, now would you?
All this week, I’m highlighting interesting things about Empire of the Goddess. Check out the new editions.
Aha, I can’t fool you! You found me out. Your astute eye has detected an abnormality. In the back of your mind, Sesame Street is singing, “One of these things is not like the others.”
Let’s see: horror, horror, and what the hell is that. *
Two covers for the same novel? Just who am I trying to fool? Well, no one, actually. Empire of the Goddess is what you call a “cross-genre” novel. It has elements of both the horror and fantasy genres, and so I admit, in my Machiavellian calculations, that in my requests to the cover artist, I tried to appeal to both readerships. All I can say in my defense, Your Honor, is that both covers are truthful, and in fact they depict different scenes from the same story. They are not misleading.
That’s the what. Now let’s talk about the why.
I first sold Empire to a bona fide publisher who was not myself: my old friends at Thunderstorm Books. It’s always been important to me to acquire that external validation of quality from a gatekeeper, if possible. Thunderstorm, as usual, put out a great product: 52 hardcover copies, autographed by me and the artist they hired, Deena Warner, printed on the kind of paper that will probably outlive me.
Thunderstorm caters to horror collectors, and I knew they would like the novel, what with its elements such as human sacrifice and that really awful thing that happens to Thomas in chapter 3. So its cover, depicting the World War II memorial in Washington being used as a gallows, is something that appeals to them. (Thanks to Norman Prentiss for the cover art idea.)
But, like with Cursed by Christ, I wanted to perform the story, and Thunderstorm doesn’t sell audio. Hence the new self-published editions this summer. The fantasy-esque cover, depicting a pivotal scene at the Flat Rock Overlook in North Carolina, is only an effort to broaden the audience. I also edited the cover copy to better match it. I wish there was a more sinister motivation I could now confess to you for the change, but unfortunately, I only play at being sinister. I’m really just a geeky, middle-aged white dude.
However, you will be interested to learn that this time, instead of just an audio edition (yes, 10 hours of me blathering at you) and necessary eBook, I went whole hog by adding a paperback. The paperback presented a new challenge that went beyond ensuring each new chapter begins on a right-hand page: I needed a publisher’s logo for the bottom of the spine.
Of course, the publisher this time is me, so I’m trading as MW Publications. (Get it? The M is for Matthew, and the . . . yeah.) Deena and I discussed various logo ideas, and I liked those that entwined the letters M and W in interesting ways. I suggested putting the M over the W like mirrored mountain ranges, as a tribute to the Blue Ridge Mountains near our home. Deena came up with something better.
It’s still an M and W, but they’re entwined — as if they’re grappling. As if they’re Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners like our hero Thomas Dylan.
So if you see that logo up in your browser’s tab as you read this blog post, that’s why. Maybe one day, I’ll have it engraved on my tombstone and throw a Pharaoh party like my friend Keith Minnion.
Currently, MW Publications only carries my own titles, Empire of the Goddess, Cursed by Christ, and the new eBook editions of Dominoes in Time and Blood Born, but that may change down the road. Who knows? Only the Goddess Darwin.
* Yes, there are three covers here, and the title says “Two.” Verily, I am fucking with you.
Also see: Inspiration for Empire of the Goddess