This Book is Good and This Book is Also Bad: a #review of Autumn Christian’s CROOKED GOD MACHINE

41rQ16mZceLA quick programming note: my wife is in Boston all week for a work thing; I drove her to the train station at midnight last night, so while I am technically on vacation for a week  once my shift ends at 6 tonight, I’m also on solo daddy duty all next week and I have a couple of full-day training things for my new job, plus at least one other life-related excursion for each day next week.  So I’m gonna be kind of busy!  I’ll be using my spare time to work on Book Stuff but it’s gonna be an interesting week and there may not be a ton of time for bloggery.

Which means a 2000-word post every day, obviously.

Anyway.  I’m on Warren Ellis’ newsletter, and he pointed out this little indie-published (!!!) novel called Crooked God Machine, and I’m tempted to just quote his entire brief review because he’s Warren Ellis and he’s better at this than me but instead I’ll just link to it.  At any rate, the review doesn’t need to be complicated: in some ways this book is one of the most fucked-up things I’ve ever read in a deliciously good way; it’s about a world that is ending but is not in any hurry to do so, and what growing up in a world like that is like, and God yelling from you inside of a television, and people deliberately turning themselves into brain-spider zombies so that they don’t have to deal with their own existence any longer– the sales pitch for the brain-spiders is literally you don’t have to experience the next ten years.  The writing is uniformly gorgeous throughout– Autumn Christian wrote this between the ages of 19 and 21, which is unbelievable– this is A Confederacy of Dunces-level Evil Young Genius writing going on here.  If you are a fan of dark and really creepy horror I recommend it unreservedly.  If you aren’t, be aware that the subject matter is deeply fucked up throughout– a dead infant gets fed to a monster in a swamp at one point, and the monster torments the main character for the rest of the book, and that’s just that one thing, so maybe assume a trigger warning?  Ellis calls it “young, raw work” in his review and he’s absolutely right– there is a certain immaturity here, and it’s very clearly the product of a preternaturally talented young person who is very, very angry with the world she has been handed, and that’s something you probably need to be aware of about it, but it’s definitely worth reading and is gonna stick with me for a while.

That said.  I bought this book in print because I try to buy everything in print, and also honestly the cover is compelling as hell and I wanted it on my shelf.  Notice how the title on the cover omits the definite article?  The name of the book is The Crooked God Machine, according to everything on Amazon and everything inside the book.  It is perhaps a sign of how carefully the print manuscript is edited that the book gets the title wrong on the cover.  You will look at this and know immediately that it is an indy title, unfortunately– everything from the print size to the font choices to little things like chapters starting on the left-hand page once in a while screams that this was put together by someone who 1) had no experience in book design and 2) did not take the time to carefully look through the books in their possession and pay careful attention.  It is also, unfortunately, riddled with the types of errors you get when you are depending on spellcheck as your primary source of editing– in other words, there are next to no misspelled words, but there are lots of errors– nearly every chapter– of omitted words, autocorrecty sorts of errors where the word used is a real word so spellcheck won’t catch it but it is nonetheless completely the wrong word, and sentences where some editing took place but the editing itself introduced a second error that didn’t get caught.

I have seen from reviews that the ebook is not prone to this, but the print version will drive you crazy if you are the type to notice this.  It’s still absolutely worth reading but it cost the book a star in my Goodreads review because indie authors have to be better than this.  Then again, Warren fucking Ellis reviewed her book positively so maybe what the hell do I know.  Warren Ellis sure as hell isn’t reading The Benevolence Archives, right?



A reasonably serious question

Where are y’all at on audiobooks?  Do you listen to them frequently?  More or less than regular books?  If any of my work existed as an audiobook, would that make you more likely to purchase it?

Indie authors, do any of you have audio versions of your books?  How did you create them?  Was it worth it?

I am not an audiobook person.  But I also like new markets.  Trying to figure out how many of y’all are into these things.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: James Wylder, Poet/Playwright/Raconteur

DSCF1669I met James Wylder at InConJunction, and spent three days sitting next to him and selling each other’s books.  He’s cool.  You should check his stuff out.  

Tell us about yourself.

I’m the author of “An Eloquence of Time and Space” the Unofficial Doctor Who Poetry Book“, the plays Cryptos and God Save the Pres.! as well as my first book of poetry, Cascade. I graduated from Hanover College in Southern Indiana, and currently live in Elkhart, Indiana. I’m also the co-owner of Shotgun Angel Games LLC, and I won second place in a costume contest as Seneca Crane from the Hunger Games once.

What about your work?  What projects do you have going right now, and what older work are you proudest of?

Right now I’m serializing a story on my website called 10,000 Dawns, with a new chapter being released every Thursday. I’m also editing several of my books for an upcoming release. 10,000 Dawns is the really exciting one for me, as every chapter has its own piece of artwork drawn to accompany it by Annie Zhu, and each chapter is also being released in an audio format by the Southgate Media Group as a free download. People are really enjoying it so far, so I can’t wait to bring out the rest of the story!

On the game development end of my work, I’m working on a Tabletop Roleplaying Game called Greys by Gaslight that features investigators in Victorian London fighting alien invaders. Essentially it’s “The X-Files: 1888.”

Cover2Can you tell us more about 10,000 Dawns?  (Later Luther edit: I phrased this question in kind of a dumb way.  Of fuckin’ course he can.  I would have been really entertained had James just answered “No.  I cannot tell you more about my story.”)

It’s a science fiction story about a teenage girl named Graelyn who takes a research internship in an underwater city, only to find out the secluded city is being used to attempt to create a portal into a parallel universe. The experiment works, and Graelyn is thrown into a reality where she finds out she grows up to be a person she finds abhorrent. How she reacts to this, and how she changes as a character are the big questions of the story. Using science fiction to peel back the layer’s of a person’s character and self-image has been fascinating, and a lot of fun as well.  The mix of drama and fun is what’s drawn readers to the story so far. There is real character drama, and exploration of the future and alternate universes, but also things like the dance sequence in chapter two that people adored. I’m very proud of it .

When did you realize that writing was something you really wanted to do?

I’ve wanted to write ever since my Dad was reading Michael Stackpole and Timothy Zahn novels at my bedside! Or maybe even before that. I used to make my sisters and mom write down the stories for books I would then (badly) illustrate. Its been in my bones as long as I can remember.

I know you just came off a fairly extensive con tour.  Do you have any suggestions or advice for authors about getting people at conventions or book signings interested in their work?

Have a hook. That is by far the most important thing I could advise. There are tons of people at booths all over the convention all: why should people stop at yours? What makes yours special? You might be afraid a hook will push people away because it will alienate people who aren’t interested in what you’re drawing them in with: and you’d be right.
But you will lose far more sales from people who aren’t interested in your work because nothing could draw them in at all than you will from the few who go “Well that doesn’t sound like something I’d like.” You’d never have gotten their sales anyways.

For me, my hook was Doctor Who. I dressed as the Doctor nearly every day at the conventions I was at (with a few exceptions due to heat in the facilities making wearing a full suit for eight hours a health hazard) as well as bringing a banner that said exactly what I was selling- Doctor Who poetry!

1062516_587283344625317_854549267_nWhat’s your social media presence like?  Outside of conventions, what are you doing to promote yourself and your work?

I have my website,, where I am currently serializing my story 10,000 Dawns, as well as a Facebook page for myself and several of my most important works. I also am on Twitter as @arcbeatle, and you can find me on tumblr at

Outside of conventions I do interviews like this one, and try to break through the clutter on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. I find it much easier to get fans interested in my work in person. I also do stops at regular old bookstores and cafes, and between those and conventions that’s where most of my publicity comes from.

I’ve been struggling to make my online presence really notable, and its an egg I’m just not adept at cracking compared to my skill at in person interactions. Hopefully as I keep learning I’ll be able to promote myself better in both forums!

What’s the best response to someone who tells you “I don’t read poetry” or “I don’t read plays”?

For some people, its as simple as what they said: they know they don’t like poetry or theatre, and there is little I can do to change that. However, the best response I can give is to hand them one of my books and let them read it. There’s so often a look of joy and surprise as they find poetry and theatre that they find they can relate to and touches them or makes them laugh.

I feel like a lot of people have the impression that poetry and theatre are elitist mediums that have to be elusive from their every day lives, and they certainly can be. Whenever I see someone teaching children Shakespeare’s plays or sonnets and bulldozing over the witty humor in it because they see the text as ‘sacred’, I cringe. A lot of people have kept that mentality that poetry and theatre isn’t something they can let loose inside– when that’s exactly what it should be there for!

So just saying to give it a chance is the best I can do. It so often works wonders.

An_Eloquence_of_Time_and_Space5 (1)What’s your favorite poem from An Eloquence of Space and Time, and why is it your favorite?

My favorite poem from the book is one of the shortest, and also the most complete. As a poety being able to create a short poem that truly captures and expresses the truth of something big is a much larger accomplishment than making a very long poem that does that.

3.3 Gridlock
trapped on a turntable
round and round we go
with Sally Calypso

Is there a poem that has been your readers’ favorite?

The poem that has always gotten the best reactions from readers has been the one for the episode “Smith and Jones”.

3.1 Smith and Jones
A Judoon Platoon on the Moon?
why did you assume that would be a boon
only a loon would attune to the goon
that harpooned Doctor Eun and its
not even noon in June to Harpoon
with Judoon on the moon! So soon!
Don’t listen to a tune on your Zune,
I know I make you swoon across this lunar dune
you’re a Doctor? I am too! Fate like runes!
bandits together like raccoons
leading to our Judoom

Smith and Jones to the rescue then
to assume the doom Judoon will zoom
into the room and entomb us like a womb
with a boom on the moon

we’ll weave this all up like a loom, this doom
and then no more Judoon
will harpoon in platoons on the moon
I assume?

Speaking of Eloquence, I see that that book’s production was actually successfully funded through Kickstarter.  Can you tell us more about that?  Did it work out as well as you hoped?  Have you thought about using it again since then?

When the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who started to creep onto the horizon, I really wanted to do something special for the fans of the show. After all, it had been my favorite show since I was a little kid. I’d already done a Kickstarter to fund my first book of poetry, Cascade, so I thought this would be a great way to go about bringing this book into the world as well. As it turned out, it far exceeded my wildest expectations! The book met every single stretch goal I put in front of it,to the point that I ended up having the money to write a poem about every episode of Doctor Who from the whole first fifty years of the show– plus all the episodes of the spin offs! It was a daunting task, but I think it turned out spectacularly.

Not only have I thought about it, but I’ve used it twice since then. I have five more books funded by two different Kickstarters coming out in the next few months, which should be exciting!

Kickstarter is a wonderful tool for creators to get the funds they need to make what they want to. I should warn would be Kickstarters that its not just free money. To actually get funded takes a lot of work, and your backers will expect you to fulfill your promises. Plan your project hard, and don’t take it lightly!

There’s a new season of Dr. Who coming.  Any thoughts to updating the book?

I’ll definitely be doing a “Volume 2” at some point– but I’m probably going to wait till Peter Capaldi finishes his whole run as the Doctor. After all, I blew through 50 years of TV for the first book, I’ll need a nice meaty amount of Doctor Who to chew on for more poems!

I can’t wait to watch Series 9 of Doctor Who– Peter Capaldi is so good in the lead role, and I know he’s going to do spectacular things with it.

God_Save_the_Pres.!_Cover_for_KindleLet’s talk about fandom for a moment.  You’re obviously a big Dr. Who fan.  What else are you into?  Any hobbies/life passions outside fandom and wordsmithery?

Oh plenty. I’m a gigantic fan of Decipher’s WARS Universe, for which I run the only fansite: I also love Star Trek, Star Wars, the Middle Earth Universe, the World of Darkness…. Oh goodness I could go on forever. I’m a giant nerd.

I’m fairly new to comics, but I’ve loved Ant-Man since I was a little kid (unusual, I know) so the recent movie was a big treat for me. I’m also big on Captain America, Black Widow, the X-Men and Batman (thanks to Bruce Tim’s excellent animated series). Since the Marvel Cinematic Universe started I’ve never missed a film or a TV show. They’ve got me hook line and sinker at this point… Though I’m still waiting for a Black Widow movie (C’mon Marvel, make it happen!)

I also love running, though sadly with all my writing and touring I’m out of shape. Exploring nature is a big hobby of mine. Oh, and roleplaying games. I’ve been playing those excessively since I was a tot as well!

Anything else we should definitely know about?  

Right now I’m a part of Southgate Media Group’s Charity Drive to help raise money for a child fighting cancer named Ben. If you want to help donate to his recovery, use the link here.

Just in case you missed all the links, here’s where to find James out there on the interwubz:


5902269I took my Kindle with me on the trip, and actually got some reading done from my backlog.  Considering how much of my writing income is made up from ebooks, I really ought to find a way to integrate this thing into my regular reading life, but at least I leave town every now and again.

Katherine Lampe’s Dragons of the Mind: Seven Fairy Tales is interesting.  It’s a side project from her Caitlin Ross urban fantasy series– a series I haven’t read yet but the first book is on my Kindle waiting for me.  The first story in Dragons is a modern retelling of Puss in Boots, and is the closest to the urban fantasy genre the rest of her books fit into.  The remainder are more traditional fairy tales, and unless my Grimm calibrator is off the rest of the stories aren’t necessarily retellings of older tales.  Interestingly, Cat, Sack, Boots was my least favorite of the stories in the book; I found Lampe’s writing to be much stronger in the quasi-formal, repetitive tone of the more traditional stories that followed, and the second story, entitled The Harper on the Hill, was strong enough that I read it twice through before moving on to the third.  Another strong effort was the sixth story, Whiskers and Fur, which is about cats.  Lots of cats.  It has a fascinating hallucinatory quality to it that I liked a lot and was one of the highlights of the collection.

Dragons of the Mind can be had at the scant price of $2.99 from the Amazon, and is also available in print.  You can also follow Katherine on Twitter if you like; she is reliably interesting and entertaining, so you should.

71Wjru0HgAL._SL1500_I four-starred both of these books on Goodreads, but you should understand that the first is a full four-star and the second is more three and a half.  I had downloaded Critical Failures long enough ago that I had honestly forgotten about it, and opened it on the flight from Atlanta to Raleigh just to see what it was.  I ended up finishing it before I landed, and that isn’t a terribly long flight.  (Note that this is a compliment.) You’ll get a good idea of what the book is about from the (rather striking, if I’m being honest) cover; it involves some D&D players (yeah, he calls it “Caverns and Creatures,” but it’s D&D, and nothing else is altered but the name of the game) being forcibly transported into the game and having to live their lives as their characters–which works out well for them when their characters are atheistic clerics and less so when their characters are half-orc barbarians with Charisma scores of 4.

It’s entertaining, but calling it “juvenile” doesn’t quite do it justice.  See how he uses the word “shit” right there on the cover?  I have a rule about profanity in my books: I use it, but on my second pass through the manuscript I try to eliminate half of it.

Robert Bevan does not have that rule.

There are so, so many swear words in this book.  So many “your mom” jokes, although some of them are genuinely hilarious.  And dear lord you could put together any five or six other books from my shelves and not have half the number of instances of vomiting and pants-befouling as happen in this book.  But the story itself is fun, and the ending clever enough that it pulled the book up to three and a half stars from the somewhat less than that it was before, and got me to order the second book.

You can order Critical Failures from Amazon for $4.99.

Regarding shutting up, again

Delilah Dawson has posted a follow-up to the post that got me all het up the other day, and it is completely and 100% correct.  So go read it, and then we can all lie together in a happiness pile.

Also, Chuck Wendig’s post on the same topic is full of yes.zqiiizvq6rtlw6f1s2no