Stay Crazy by Erica Satifka (Interview)

Today my guest is Erica Satifka, whose debut novel, Stay Crazy comes out in one week!(The publisher is having a preorder price break for it right now, so if you’re interested, the link is below.)

SCfrontcover150_largeBlurb: After a breakdown in college landed Emmeline Kalberg in a mental hospital, she’s struggling to get her life on track. She’s back in her hometown and everyone knows she’s crazy, but the twelve pills she takes every day keep her anxiety and paranoia in check. So when a voice that calls itself Escodex begins talking to Em from a box of frozen chicken nuggets, she’s sure that it’s real and not another hallucination. Well… pretty sure.

An evil entity is taking over the employees of Savertown USA, sucking out their energy so it can break into Escodex’s dimension. When her coworkers start dying, Em realizes that she may be the only one who can stop things from getting worse. Now she must convince her therapist she’s not having a relapse and keep her boss from firing her. All while getting her coworker Roger to help enact the plans Escodex conveys to her through the RFID chips in the Savertown USA products. It’s enough to make anyone Stay Crazy.

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So now we get to talk with Erica about the book!

What is your new book about?
Stay Crazy is about an alien invasion at a big-box store in Western Pennsylvania. The only witness (well, at first) to the coming cataclysm is Emmeline Kalberg, a 19-year-old woman recently diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia who goes to work at the store after taking a medical leave from college. When she hears a voice called Escodex through the RFID chips in frozen food containers, she has to figure out whether it’s real or a hallucination. As the book takes place in contemporary times, there’s also a lot of mundane-world stuff about coping with stigma and having a dysfunctional family.

As you can likely tell from the description, this isn’t an easy book to slot into genre categories. It’s not scientific enough to be science fiction, it’s a few shades too light for horror, but “weird fiction” seems to describe it the least well of all. My spouse says it’s urban fantasy, but if it’s that, it’s a really strange example.

How well do you relate to you main character in this book, Em?
In most ways, really well. We’re both working class, from Western Pennsylvania, and had the same job in a big-box store. We also both like riding our bikes and complaining about people. I also gave her my taste in music. But unlike Em, I don’t have schizophrenia, and that’s where the mountains of research came in. I’d like to think we’d be friends, at least in small-town PA, where the weird kids have to stick together.

Although I don’t have schizophrenia, I do have attention deficit disorder. And even though these two things are totally different, I feel like it gives me some perspective on what it’s like to be in a slightly different headspace from most people.

The title of the book is “Stay Crazy”….how did that title come about?
I literally changed the name of the book moments before submitting it! The novel was originally called Entity after the evil alien force in the book, but that was a really boring placeholder title that I always knew I’d replace. I wanted the title to have something to do with mental illness, but also not be a very serious or “heavy”-sounding title, because Em is no mere emo chick. I was waffling on the title, hand hovering over the keyboard when Stay Crazy popped into my head and I asked my spouse about it and they gave me the thumbs-up. It’s definitely not meant to be derogatory toward people with mental illness, but is instead used as a form of reappropriation.

What is one thing you would want to tell the readers of this novel before they start? (Or after they finish?)
I think readers need to set aside any pre-conceived notions or prejudices they have about people with schizophrenia: that they’re violent, that they’re hopeless, that they should be locked away. Em has a lot of problems, but not all of them are caused by her schizophrenia, and the disorder itself isn’t anything like it is in books or movies. (For one thing, it has absolutely nothing to do with multiple personalities.)

I’ll be honest: when I first started writing Stay Crazy (and by “writing” I mean “thinking about” since my stories always have a really long incubation time) I didn’t know the first thing about schizophrenia, only that it caused the lines between reality and fantasy to blur and would thus make an excellent plot device for this novel. But as I read through memoirs and blog posts by people with it, I began to realize just how damaging and untrue the stereotypes are. I felt I owed it to those people to make Em’s portrayal as accurate as it could be. I spent so much time researching the schizophrenia aspect of the book that I didn’t even bother to make the rest of it scientifically accurate! But that’s no great loss.

What advice would you give to other writers who are coming up on their first book debut?
Accept that you might not be writing anything new for a while. I haven’t written anything new in months, and a huge part of it is that I’m so keyed up for this release. How can I even think about the next book when I can worry about this one instead? I’ve never had problems working on multiple writing projects at a time, but for whatever reason, the process of publishing this book stopped me dead. I’m looking forward to getting back to… well, the next book, plus short stories again. I haven’t written a single short story this year!

But yeah, you only get one debut novel, so if you gotta be sidetracked for a few months over it then let yourself be sidetracked.

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Erica L. Satifka is a writer and/or friendly artificial construct, forged in a heady mix of iced coffee and sarcasm. She enjoys rainy days, questioning reality, ignoring her to-do list, and adding to her collection of tattoos. Her short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld , Shimmer, Lightspeed , and  Intergalactic Medicine Show , and her debut novel  Stay Crazy  will be released in August 2016 by Apex Publications. Originally from Pittsburgh, she now lives in Portland, Oregon with her spouse Rob and an indeterminate number of cats.

Follow Erica at: Website / Twitter / Facebook 

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Writers and their Beasts: Tina Gower/Alice Faris

My guest today writes under more than one name, which can cause confusion, but I know her as Tina, so that’s what I’ll use. And she’s kindly here today to tell us about her Beast.

1) Let’s start with the obvious: Tell us about your pets.

I have an 8 month old Chocolate Labrador puppy [Napa, pictured below]. She’s sweet, but also has a goofy streak (Typical Lab!).

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We got her over the summer and my intention was to train her as a therapy dog. I’d love to do volunteer work visiting rehabilitation facilities or a children’s reading with dogs program. It all depends on how her training goes for the next few years and if she can manage to calm a bit as she matures. Napa will be my first therapy dog, but not the first working dog I’ve trained. I also have trained Guide Dogs for the Blind.

2) How do they help/hinder your writing?

At first, it seemed like any writing would be impossible, but we crate trained and that helped a lot in those first few weeks. I also go used to sprinting for word counts when she’d fall asleep. It became a game on how many more words I could get before she’d wake up. And because the weather was beautiful over the fall I would take outside in our fenced yard and let her roam while I sat in the shade with my laptop. I got creative, so I wouldn’t fall behind.

3) Do they appear in any of your works?

She doesn’t appear in my work, but some of her personality aspects maybe do at times. I’ve had dogs in my stories, but they don’t resemble her or any other pet I’ve had at all. I tend to be the same with my characters. I don’t use any people I know in real life to model a character after and I guess it’s the same with my pets.

4) How does being a pet owner affect your writing?

In my opinion, animals teach us a lot about empathy. They show love in a different, maybe sometimes purer way. Also how they read our body language. Watching animals helps me understand those more emotional parts of life and ultimately fuels those scenes that need the extra emotional boost.

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Upcoming from Tina Gower!

Romancing the Null (coming soon in February 2016)—The Outlier Prophecies Book One:

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There are three kinds of lies.

Lies the fates spin as half truths.

Lies of destined love.

And statistics.

As a fateless, Kate Hale is immune to the first two, but the third kind of lie is her profession. After spending years as an actuary for the Traffic Department, Kate is promoted to Accidental Death Predictions. It’s all she’s worked toward, and her career is finally on track. But when an oracle delivers an impossible death prediction and insists on her help to solve the case, she might lose any chance of impressing the brass.

Her only hope comes in the form of the police liaison assigned to her department, latent werewolf Ian Becker. Becker can grant her the clearance to find answers, but he’s a wild card with a shady past who doesn’t play well with others.

Every prediction has a loophole, but if Kate can’t solve the case before the crime is fated to occur she won’t just lose her job–she’ll have the blood of an oracle on her hands.

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CnpvipvrTina Gower grew up in a small community in Northern California that proudly boasts of having more cows than people. She raised guide dogs for the blind, is dyslexic, and can shoot a gun or bow and miraculously never hit the target (which at some point becomes a statistical improbability). Tina also won the Writers of the Future, the Daphne du Maurier Award for Mystery and Suspense (paranormal category), and was nominated for the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart (writing as Alice Faris). She has professionally published several short stories in a variety of magazines. Tina is represented by Rebecca Strauss at DeFiore and Company.

You can find Tina at:

www.smashedpicketfences.com (blog) and www.tinagower.com (author website)

 

Twitter(Tina Gower) / Twitter (Alice Faris) / Facebook:

 

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(I will be suspending this feature until Mid February, since I have a book coming out next week and will probably be horribly self-centered for a while! I will be resuming with Lawrence M. Schoen on the 9th and Pat Esden onf the 16th.)

 

The Grand Patreon Experiment

Patreon.jpgIn the arena of things I’m trying to do to get my readership/constituency up and to put out more stories/ebooks, I’ve established a Patreon.

Now, if you don’t know what a Patreon is, imagine your favorite writer as Public Radio. Instead of trying to get $300,000, they’re trying to reach $300. A little different, but in the same vein. We ask for money from contributor to help defray our costs. Patreon’s a little like Public Radio’s ‘sustaining membership’, except that you can start at $1 or less per month.

Why would I consider this? Because I’m in the middle of trying to revamp my current ebooks and put out a handful more.

It costs money. While I could spend a couple of months and learn to format ebooks myself, I won’t get any writing done. I could shell out for a copy of Photoshop and take a couple of classes on design, or I could hire someone to make covers for me (which are surprisingly full of requirements and rules and stuff on how to get everything to fit on the bookseller and that.)  I don’t think I actually have any design skills, so classes would only take me so far.

And therefore, I’m hiring people to do it. And that costs a lot of money. I’m still firmly in the red on The Seer’s Choice, even though it’s been out there for almost 4 months now.

So I’ve decided to try using Patreon to help defray those costs.

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To figure out the best way to pitch this, I turned to the Public Radio playbook. (There are a few online, btw.)

Here’s my favorite: (shortened a bit because of TL:DR issues)

BREAK #6: The Meaning of “Member Supported” Radio Patron Supported Writing

The theme for our spring membership drive is , “PSW, your renewable resource.”

Like all renewable resources, PSW is there for you every day, 365 days out of year, powering you through your day with great music, local and international news  writing. But like all renewable resources, it takes wise use and careful stewardship of that resource to keep it flowing.

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Okay, I honestly shortened that a lot. But you’ve heard the pitches, and there’s nothing particularly new I can say.  I’m not great at sales. I couldn’t sell you a used car if I tried.

But I can write fiction. I won’t send you a coffee cup or a sweatshirt of a copy of Downton Abbey Season 28 (subtitled: Everyone Gets Old), but I can provide content that will go to the Patreon supporters first.

So if you’re interested in supporting writers (I’m -not- the only one with a Patreon these days!), then go over to their site and look around.

Here’s my link, J. Kathleen Cheney is creating Fiction. (It’s also at the top of the sidebar.)

Thanks!

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Writers and their Beasts: Kat Otis

Today my guest is Kat Otis, short fiction author, fellow Codexian, and cat owner:

1) Let’s start with the obvious: Tell us about your pets.

I have two cats.  Aurora is the calico (well, technically a “tortoiseshell-over-white”) and her favorite activities include climbing trees, climbing on her human, climbing on furniture, and chasing acorns.rao_26640A (2)

(This gets my vote, by the way, for Most Photogenic Pet Photo)

Macavity is the black cat and his favorite activities include eating, napping, destroying cardboard boxes, and escaping to run amok through the neighbors’ yards.  They both feature in my standard author bio as they are amazingly tolerant of my peripatetic lifestyle, which means they generally spend at least 10 hours a month in the car.IMG_1178 (2)

 

2) How do they help/hinder your writing?

Aurora is an accomplished author in her own right!  She often steals my computer to edit my prose, visit chatrooms, Tweet, and write long, impassioned emails to her grandparents complaining that I don’t let her outside enough.  She even ghost-wrote a few words for a friend’s story – for which she was of course paid professional rates of 6 cat treats per word.  She’s also quite skilled in opening iTunes when I need inspiration and shutting down my laptop when it’s obviously time to take a break and pet her.

Macavity is less literarily-inclined but he has been known to prop up books for me when I’m researching.  He would prefer to prop up something lighter – like an iPad – but unfortunately only his grandmother regularly reads e-books.

3) Do they appear in any of your works?

Neither of them appear in my works explicitly, but their personalities have snuck into a human character or two and the experiences they’ve put me through definitely inform some of the experiences my characters have. If you ever see a POV character panicking about another POV character being lost, injured, or dying, I’m probably drawing on my experience as a cat-mommy!

4) How does being a pet owner affect your writing (philosophically?)

One of the hardest part of being a pet owner is knowing that you’re investing all your time, energy, and love in someone who is going to pre-decease you.  Unless you have a pet tortoise, your pet is going to have a significantly lower life expectancy than humans.  My fiction often grapples with questions of mortality and immortality – or at least extremely long lifespans – and how that shapes the relationships between my characters.

How does your immortal cope with the fact that most of the people around them are going to die and their relationships can’t be anything but fleeting?  Do they withdraw from mortal society?  Do they set themselves up as gods and see mortals as inferior?  Do they bash themselves against the cliffs of loss until they’ve broken themselves entirely?  And on the flip side, relationships between immortals must have thousands of years of history behind them.  How do those relationships morph and change over the centuries?  How much strife can they endure before they are irreparably broken?  And is there such a thing as “never” when you’re going to live “forever”?

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Kat Otis lives a peripatetic life with a pair of cats who enjoy riding in the car as long as there’s no country music involved.  Her fiction has appeared in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, Daily Science Fiction, and Flash Fiction Online.  She can be found online at katotis.com or on Twitter as @kat_otis.

And about some of her recent work:

One of my favorite new stories, first published in 2015, is “Whistles and Trills”.  In a fantastical version of World War II with giants, sea serpents, and intelligent birds, a plane goes down in a blizzard over the Alps.  How will the passengers survive?  Pick up World Weaver Press’s Corvidae anthology to find out!

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The Non-Exclusivity of Ideas…

I’ve posted about this before. Ideas come to multiple people, often in fairly close configuration. This week, I got my most recent demonstration of that.

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Yes, I’ve been watching Dark Matter. Yes, it’s a series chock-full of tropes. I’m still enjoying it….but it was episode four that really got my attention!

In episode four, we’re introduced to a concept in passing (via a video commercial in the clinic) that shows a futuristic alternative to travel: faxing yourself somewhere else, and then uploading the memories acquired by that copy before that short-term body expires.

Uh…that’s pretty much the back drop for my 2008 story Taking a Mile. (Click over to the FREE FICTION header on the navigation bar, and you’ll find it there.)

That story appeared in an well-known anthology, so it did get around Hollywood, I suspect. Is it possible that someone read my story and incorporated the idea into the TV series? Sure, it’s possible.

But it’s not too likely that if it happened, I could ever prove it.

I am, however, very curious to find out whether the double who’s appeared in the TV series turns out to be, like my story’s heroine, a copy who refuses to die as scheduled. It will be interesting to watch the remainder of season one and find out.

However, this is part of creative life. People have similar ideas. I actually mentioned in the anthology’s intro for that story that a lot of my ideas for it were formed by reading the works of Ansen Dibell, who wrote a series of novels where multiple copies of the same person were made (although not at the same time). Her series shaped a lot of my personal perceptions of consciousness, and therefore, she might have looked at my work and wondered if I’d copied her…

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(I would love to know how many other people have found their ideas reflected in someone else’s work…)

 

 

The Social Stigma of Writing Romance Literature

I’ve followed the blog Teach Me Tonight for years now, ever since I accidentally found out they’d cited one of my stories on an academic blog. (Still surprised at that.) It’s a blog primarily dedicated to academic studies of Romance fiction, although there have been some spirited discussions there in the past.

Earlier this week, a summation was published of a study done about the social stigma of writing Romance literature.  This kind of study has been done about Romance Readers before, but this concerns the writer, and that inevitable moment of “Oh, you write…Ro-mance….”

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Source: Getty Images

I have been dinged on the romantic elements in my work.  I’m up front about them. Most, although not all, of my published fiction involves a romance of some sort. I like that stuff, and I refuse to cut it out just because some people look down on it.

It’s what I love to write.

But it was interesting to me to see how universal the tendency to either leer or sneer at Romance Writers is.

It’s not going to change any time soon.

E-readers have really freed up the reader from being seen with the lurid covers that people have wanted to hide in the past, but for the writers, it’s still there. When I tells someone I write ‘Romantic Fantasy’, I often follow that up with an explanation that it’s not X.  Or Y.  Because, you know, X and Y are….oh, I guess I do it too.

I’ll have to work on that…

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How (Not) to Talk to a Writer # 13 (Memory)

I haven’t done one of these in a while, but for the last few days, I’ve been reading some of my older work.  (I uploaded the old word files to my kindle.)

There are scenes in there I don’t remember.  121228_PANDEMIC_ScaredReader.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-large

I found myself going….oh, yeah…I think I remember what the plot does now….

Therefore:

When you approach your favorite writer, if you ask them, “Hey, in that book you wrote twelve years ago, on page 37, why did ____________________?”

They may not have an answer for you. They’re not being coy. They’re not being evasive. They may not remember.

If you look at the publication date of their book and then shift back a couple of years, that’s probably when they wrote it. Maybe even before that.

Since that time, they’ve written a million other words, some good, some bad. Some are more beloved that others. Some get edited once, and thus have appeared fewer times before the writer’s eyes.

It was interesting to me to go back and visit the world of The King’s Daughter and The White Queen (the two oldnovels I was reading through.) I have written other things in this ‘world’ since then, an entire novel set 50 years later, and I’ve outlined several others.  This ‘world’ is my writing passion.  I love these people with a white hot fire.

Going back, it was interesting to consider what I would actually change to make these two novels fit better with what I’m currently looking at.  I was surprised how little would change.  No, I wouldn’t be willing to publish these two as is.  TWQ is actually a first draft, the ending left off. (I’m -sure- I wrote it, but it didn’t make it into this file. I just have to find it.)

But it’s reassuring that my writing wasn’t too bad a decade ago.

And it’s amazing to me how much I’ve forgotten….

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