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.


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.



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 


New Words from the Golden City

cover splashTGC

I’m close to setting up a pre-order page for After the War, the final (chronologically) novella in the Golden City series.  I’m still waiting on the cover, but as soon as that’s finalized, I’ll work on turning that live. (The cover artist–Rachel A, Marks–is also a writer, and she’s in the midst of edits for her next book.)

My planned date for After the War to go on sale is August 1, although that might change if there are complications.

In addition, my patrons have received the first chapter in a new work that tells of the meetings of Miguel Gaspar, Gabriel Anjos, Nadezhda Vladimirova, and the Lady.  I’ve jokingly called them my Torchwood in the past because they seem to work behind the scenes, focusing on the creepy and weird stuff. (if you don’t understand the reference, that’s OK.)

The work is very tentatively titled The Undiscovered Truth, although that may change.  (The first chapter is available here on my website, but it’s password protected so that only my patrons see it.)



Cover Progress

I’m working with artists on covers for upcoming ebooks, and have a couple almost ready:


Whatever Else is a short story, unrelated to my other works. I hope to put this out later this fall. (This is pretty much a final cover.)

And here’s the preliminary for After the War:

AfterTheWar_JKCheney[sample1] (2)

The artist for this still needs to work out a few things about the cover, but I like the first version of it!

And I hope to have a final to show people soon!




Gearing Up…

Well, I’m gearing up to try to get more ebooks out by the end of the summer.  I am currently working on getting The Seer’s Choice up in paperback, and I plan to put it up on venues other than Amazon as soon as the KDP rights expire (at the end of March.) It may take a few days to promulgate to other formats, like Nook, but I’ll try to keep people apprised when it does.

I’m also in the process of repackaging the Iron Shoes novellas. The artist is finalizing the cover this week, and I’ll be withdrawing the old ebook files and putting out the new one–that includes all three novellas in one book–as soon as I have the chance.

And I’m working today toward getting the Alejandro novella (After the War) completed. An artist (the same one who did The Seer’s Choice, Rachel A. Marks) is working on that cover for me. When I get it, I’ll post it to my Patreon patrons first, and then share it with everyone else later.

For inspiration, I’ve been listening to this video:


LIfe has gotten more hectic, with a hailstorm this week necessitating a new roof. That will be taking up a heinous amount of time and will raise my frustration levels accordingly. (I had the roof replaced in the old house in 2012, and it was an ordeal. I truly didn’t want to be going through this again so soon, and not in a house that we’ve only owned for a few months.)

And unfortunately, although the insurance will likely pay most of it, I’ll be out of pocket for some…which kills the plans to get new windows.

Nature is ever fickle.







Things an Author Doesn’t Actually Control

It’s interesting (and sometimes infuriating) to see some of the things that fans blame on authors. Authors who are traditionally published often have little control over their published properties. That’s simply part of the way that the business runs.

But authors still take heat for some of these things. Recently an author had a book released, and for some reason, Amazon didn’t release the ebook on time.

And fans sent hate mail to the author.

Can you really call those fans?

So I’m going to put down here a list of Things that Traditionally Published Authors Generally Don’t Control.*


The Release Date

Yes, we don’t have much say over when our next book is coming out. Our publisher sets up a scheduled date and everyone races toward getting things done on time, but if we miss a crucial part in the publication process (say, for example, edits just take too darn long or surgery kept the author from getting a manuscript turned in on time) then the book might get bumped. Not to the next month, but to the next open slot in the publisher’s schedule….which might be 18 months away.

(That’s a simplification, but essentially, moving the publication date is difficult.)

((An author’s writing speed is another factor, although that’s not usually controlled by the publisher. Some authors can put out 4 books per year. Others put out one book every 7 years. It’s art, people, and not all artists move at the same pace. Be patient, please.))


Releasing ON the Release Date

This happens all the time. Books don’t get put out on their release date. Snags happen in Amazon’s or B&Ns ebook delivery, and the ebook doesn’t appear in the device on time.

This is INCREDIBLY frustrating to authors, too.

An author I know had a book come out in early February, and the nearby B&N still doesn’t have it on the shelf. They have 6 on order. I’ve asked. Those six are supposedly sitting in the warehouse, but for some reason, they’re simply not being shipped to the physical store. The customer service people don’t know why. I’ve been in to ask about it twice, and they’re supposed to call me when it comes in, but not having the books there two months later doesn’t help an author with first week/month sales.

Sadly, there’s little the author can do about it. We can email Amazon. We can contact our agent or our editor, who can contact someone else, but sometimes things just don’t get done.

Please don’t be angry at the author. I guarantee they want that book on the shelf, in the mail, or on your device.


The Price

If we’re talking about a traditionally published book, then no, the author has almost no say over the price. Currently, my older trade paperbacks are hovering near $15. I would LOVE to see them at $9.99. But it’s not going to happen.

I would love to have my ebooks go on sale. It’s not going to happen. I can ask, my agent can ask, but we don’t make that decision. Amazon points out on its page that these are the publisher’s prices, publishers have negotiated with Amazon, and the rest of us are stuck with the results.

So why not just give everything away for free?

Seriously? This is our job, and we should be paid for our work. Yes, we’ll post an occasional free thing. Yes, we like making things available to new readers. But we need to earn money, too. We have to pay our rent, and for genre fiction, at least, the best way to do that is via a traditional publisher right now.



This is related to all of the above. See where I  talked about the book that’s still not on shelves after almost 2 months? It happens a lot when a book comes out.

It also happens when a book is older. We cannot force Amazon to carry a book in stock. We can’t force B&N to carry all the books in our series. And we certainly don’t control used book sales.

(Martha Wells once told me an angry fan suggested that she was making The Element of Fire hard to find  so that she could drive up the price of the used books.  This is a ridiculous claim, first because an author doesn’t control the number of used books floating around and secondly because the author doesn’t get a penny from the sale of a used book. Ugh!–This was years ago, of course, before ebooks made out of print books easier to find.)

But there’s also a problem with that book that’s out of print. Being out of print doesn’t mean that the author can just put a copy up in their website. Since we’re talking about traditional publishing here, the author has a contract with the publisher for each book, and that contract determines who has the right to put the book out (in any form). Because publishers invested money in those books, they like to hold on to the right to reprint a book for….well, a long time. It varies.

But it often takes the author years to get the right to publish their book back. Sometimes it never happens (if it’s a particularly draconian contract–this is why we need agents).

And once the author gets those rights back, it may not be worth their while financially (or in stress) to try to self-publish a novel. Life may interfere and make a book unavailable.


Continuing/Finishing a Series

Yeah….this is problematic. If a publisher bails on a series, the author’s caught in a conundrum. We have limited options at that point.

A) We can convince another publisher to purchase the remaining parts of the series. This is MUCH harder than it sounds, because any publisher will know that they can’t control the books that are already published by another publisher.  (It would stink if they published books 4-7, but no one could get their hands on books 1-3 because the original publisher decided to let them go out of print.)

B) We can self-publish the remaining books. The downside here is that we’re never guaranteed that we’ll make a profit on this. The novella I published back in October is still not quite in the black. After a couple of tries at that, selfpublishing becomes a daunting prospect fraught with snowballing expenses and vast amounts of time sucked in. Not everyone wants to chase that rabbit.

Authors are in a Catch 22 situation here: people get upset if they never publish the next book, and yet the author may never see a payoff equal to the amount of money and time they put into it. (Essentially the publisher decided that readers weren’t willing to pay enough to read the author’s word to make it worth their while to publish more…and sometimes that’s proven out by the lack of response to a self-published book.)


What Can an Author Do?

These are just some of the situations where an author has limited control, but basically, all an author can do is ask people to buy their books.  Even if those books arrive a day late. Or are hard to find. Or are slow coming out.

We can ask people to buy, to review, to recommend.


What Can a Reader Do?

A reader can play the other end of the line. Buy the book, leave a review, recommend it to a friend. You can ask your bookstore to carry a book. You can suggest it to the library where you borrow books. You can suggest it for your reading group.

But please don’t write an angry email/blog post/review because of a factor that the author can’t control. Don’t write and tells us we suck because your kindle book cost more than $7.99.

That’s the sort of thing that makes writers want to quit publishing.

Publishing is hard. Be nice to your authors.



*Here are some other, excellent posts on the same subject:

Cherie Priest

Nicole Peeler (especially in regards to piracy)

Elizabeth Eulberg

Jeff Cohen


Cover Reveal: Dreaming Death (Feb 2016)

As I’ve been given permission by my editor, I can now show you -all- of my pretty cover, not just a snippet like I did a couple of weeks ago.

So without further ado:



In the Novels of the Golden City, J. Kathleen Cheney created a “mesmerizing” (Publishers Weekly) realm where magic, history, and intrigue combine. Now, she presents a new world ruled by psychic talents and fatal magic…

Shironne Anjir’s status as a sensitive is both a gift and a curse. Her augmented senses allow her to discover and feel things others can’t, but her talents come with a price: a constant assault of emotions and sensations has left her blind. Determined to use her abilities as best she can, Shironne works tirelessly as an investigator for the Larossan army.

A member of the royal family’s guard, Mikael Lee also possesses an overwhelming power—he dreams of the deaths of others, sometimes in vivid, shocking detail, and sometimes in cryptic fragments and half-remembered images.

But then a killer brings a reign of terror to the city, snuffing out his victims with an arcane and deadly blood magic. Only Shironne can sense and interpret Mikael’s dim, dark dreams of the murders. And what they find together will lead them into a nightmare…



Once again, I have to say that the art department at Ace/Roc does an amazing job! Thanks, guys!!!!

Also, my editor, Jessica Wade, worked hard to get the cover to capture the feel of the story. She asked for pictures and ran ideas past me, which was really amazing. I would -never- have thought to do this kind of cover, which is why I rely so heavily on them for this. It turned out beautiful, and I LOVE it.  Thank you so much, Jessica, for getting it right!


And the book is available for preorder on Amazon, although not the other retailers so far.  It will be coming out in February, and everyone will need a book to cuddle up with then…so it won’t hurt you to preorder now.  (And I’d really like that, as well.)

Also, it’s blue!




ETA: If you’d like to read an earlier story about Shironne, hop over to my Free Fiction page and find “Touching the Dead”.


Dreaming Death Release Date: February 2016

I now have a release date for my fourth book, Dreaming Death.  It is currently scheduled to hit bookshelves (physical and virtual) on February 2, 2016.

Release dates are somewhat fluid, so this might change, but I do hope we’re on schedule for that release.  I can’t show you the cover yet, either, but I’ll tell you that it’s quite different from the Golden City novels, as Dreaming Death is the first book in a new series.

(Psst…I’ll show you a tiny tiny bit….I don’t think that will be too premature…It’s BLUE!)


Here’s my description from Amazon:

In the Novels of the Golden City, J. Kathleen Cheney created a “mesmerizing” (Publishers Weekly) realm where magic, history, and intrigue combine. Now, she presents a new world ruled by psychic talents and fatal magic…
Shironne Anjir’s status as a sensitive is both a gift and a curse. Her augmented senses allow her to discover and feel things others can’t, but her talents come with a price: a constant assault of emotions and sensations has left her blind. Determined to use her abilities as best she can, Shironne works tirelessly as an investigator for the Larossan army.
A member of the royal family’s guard, Mikael Lee also possesses an overwhelming power—he dreams of the deaths of others, sometimes in vivid, shocking detail, and sometimes in cryptic fragments and half-remembered images.
But then a killer brings a reign of terror to the city, snuffing out his victims with an arcane and deadly blood magic. Only Shironne can sense and interpret Mikael’s dim, dark dreams of the murders. And what they find together will lead them into a nightmare…

The book will be coming out in Trade Paperback and Ebook versions at the same time, with a mass market to follow later (I assume.)


Also, I have to say here that this is my mom’s favorite of my novels.  So that means it’s good. ;o)

There’s a pre-order link on the upper right sidebar, so if you’d like to help out and keep a writer in paper, you can order the book now!  Thanks a million if you do!


Publication Process: Page Proofs

I just finished going through the page proofs for The Shores of Spain.

Page proofs are the last chance you have to correct something before it hits the bookshelves*. By this time, most of the edits should be done, so there shouldn’t be any large changes at this stage.  Some writers do more, some less. All I can tell you is how many I’m turning in.

Interestingly, they take different forms.

1) Change incurred when copy-editor changed something:  3

Joaquim sat back in his ivory-brocaded chair.

I really don’t think that ivory-brocaded should be hyphenated. The chair is not brocaded with ivory, but rather it is both ivory and brocaded.  I didn’t notice these hyphenations in the last pass, but I caught them now.


2) Change incurred when I changed something: 2

She’d only learned later that the Christianity practiced on the islands was different than** that of Portugal’s, shifted to better suit the culture of the sereia…       OK, I did that one. It should read ...than that of Portugal… but I changed it when the copy editor was correct.  Ugh!


3) Change that you have no idea where the mistake came from: 1

I don’t know in which version the missing ‘had’ disappeared.  I could research it, but I’m not going to bother.


4) Simple mistakes (like missing words, wrong word, missing s on a plural, capitalization): 6

“Is there where he died?”  Did I really write that?  Ack!  Most of these are like that. I wonder how I didn’t notice them before…


5) Repeated word: 12

What was left was a blistered, seeping mess, blood seeping from the torn spot.   NOTICE THAT THIS IS THE HIGHEST NUMBER, and these are all on me.  See that sentence above?  These are all that kind of mistake, with a word repeated close together.  Bad writing 😦


6) Unclear or unattractive sentence: 5

Dr. Serpa and Father Salazar, a healer, the duo who’d killed the prince of Northern Portugal, had also come from that prison.   UGH.  That sentence doesn’t work. Just….doesn’t….work….


7) Continuity error due to some earlier edit: 3

These will happen in any process.  For example, I cut a scene where Marina lost her shoes, but later mentioned that she’d had to borrow some from Aga.  Well, since the first thing was cut, the second needed to be as well….


Overall, I ended up with 31 changes in a 418 page document.  I’m not going to complain about that.  Most are just the removal of one word or the movement of one word, so I’m hoping my patient editor will be OK with that.
And from here, the next thing coming will be ARCs….someday soon.  (The version I’m reading, with its 31 mistakes, will be what is in the ARC. Sorry folks.)






*If you’re going to have a second printing, as in my case a Trade Paperback followed by a Mass Market Paperback, you might have a chance to make additional corrections between versions. The last time I did that, I had 4 changes to the entire book.  I figure that’s enough.  (One was actually a typo that a friend had caught.)

**I’ll try to remember to talk about that ‘differnet than’ tomorrow…





Publication Process: What’s a Proposal?

Currently I’m working on something called a proposal. Actually, two of them–one is for the sequel to Dreaming Death, and the other for an unrelated novel, which is currently called The Devil in the Details (a terrible title.)

So what that all about?

A proposal is a package that an agent will use to sell a novel (or group of novels) to an editor. Although the specifics will vary, the proposal is, in this case, a short synopsis (the difficult part) of the proposed novel and a sample of the beginning of the novel (I’m going with about 50 pages–the easy part.)

The first time my agent asked me for a proposal, I had to ask her what a proposal was. I had no clue.  But she patiently explained, and I got to work.

I dread writing synopses with a creeping sickness in my gut that tells me I’m leaving out all the good stuff and putting in all the boring. That’s not the way it’s supposed to work.  But because I’m constantly second-guessing every sentence of the synopsis, it takes me far too long to write one. I tweak and tweak and want to cry. It takes me -days- to come up with 3 pages I find acceptable.

My agent looks them over and makes some suggestions, and I tweak them again.

The basic idea here is to convince my editor that I do have a good plan for a book, because a proposal is often for a book that’s not yet written.  (In housebuilding terms, this is showing potential homeowners a blueprint.  In clothing terms, it’s like looking at a jacket in a catalog.)  But by the time we get to doing proposals, the publisher knows I -can- write a book. That’s not in question. They just want an idea what it will look like….so I show them what I have, and they make a decision based on that and my previous work.

So this part of the process is a little bit different than it is for first-time writers being pitched to an editor.

First-time writers (in genre) have to have a completed book, and editors generally consider that. They don’t have a track record, so that’s why they want the finished product. They need to know that the writer can actually produce the book they claim they can…

(Now, admittedly, there are exceptions. This isn’t the -only- way this happens. But it’s how the process is working for me and my publisher.)



Do you have any questions about how this end of the process works? I’d be happy to answer, inasmuch as I can.

Do your proposals go differently? 













My agent has been looking them over and making some suggestions to tweak them, and when the editor’s ready, my agent will start pitching them to her.






Publication Process: Copyedits

Copyedits are an interesting stage of the editing process.  The editor this time is looking at your grammar.  And it can be painful.  SO painful.

Basically, they’re paid to nitpick. They’re paid to do the thing your English teacher in HS did…tell you everywhere you go wrong.

Now I have to admit, I have some serious grammar deficiencies.

1) I can’t figure out capitalization rules.  I’m terrible with this*, and have a tendency to just accept everything the copy editor says because…..I honestly don’t know what’s correct.  The harder I think about it, the more confused I get.

2) Weird verb pairs.   Awoke/woke….ensure/assure….might/may.  I consistently get some verb choices wrong.  I do, however, have a pretty good grasp on lie/lay!

3) For some reason that I cannot explain, I often use British spellings.  Although I usually catch it, a single grey got past my internal monitor this time.  I also got dinged on ax/axe.  ::sighs::  (Also see capitalization above, which I originally spelled as capitalisation.)

4) I -almost- have whom down (thanks to HS German class), but occasionally get one wrong. And in general I struggle with the accusative case.

5) Then there are the commas. My husband jokingly calls me the comma splice queen. I love my commas, I admit.

6) The subjunctive eats my shorts.  SO BAD.  (In college French I was taught this as the Jolie Petite Subjuntif….I honestly don’t recall ever being taught the subjunctive in English.)

So my copyeditor always has their work cut out for them!  And as much as the process drives me batty, I do really appreciate their work ;o)

(FYI, they also take out the use of ‘their’  and ‘one’ as non-specific singular pronouns. This CE substituted ‘he’ for all of those, but I did change some to ‘she’, given the constraints of a female-dominated society.)


*I actually meant to include an apology to my editor for that in the book that I just turned in, where I haven’t even figured out my OWN capitalization rules…much less those of the real world.