Saturday, November 23, 2013

Guest Blog with Stephen Kozeniewski Author of Braineater Jones

So, I met a hero of mine recently.  Common wisdom says not to meet your heroes, but common wisdom also used to say that the king’s stutter would only improve if he smoked more, so I generally try to give common wisdom a wide berth.  In this case my policy proved correct.
Here’s how it happened: I was sitting in a Thai bistro one Friday evening opposite my wife. Instead of doing anything germane like having a discussion we were both naturally on our phones playing with the internet.  Nestled amongst the popcorn philosophy and Buzzfeed links of Twitter I had received a tweet from Kimberly Garnick Giarratano, an author friend of mine.
KGG had tweeted me something along the lines of, “You’re a fan of Brian Keene, aren’t you?  Check this out.” 
The “this” in question was a tweet from Keene stating that he was going to be at a book signing in my area on Sunday along with J.F. Gonzalez, another big-time, heavyweight horror writer.
As it happens, yes, I am a big Keene fan.  In fact, THE RISING is what inspired me to start writing zombie fiction.  So, as an easter egg, I had the title character of my debut novel BRAINEATER JONES live on Keene Avenue.  I had never really considered advising the real-life Keene of my silly little tribute, but as soon as my friend tweeted me I knew what I had to respond.
So I said, “Of COURSE I’m a fan.  In fact, I named the street in BRAINEATER JONES after him.”
Lo and behold, Keene responded to the tweet, so I promised to come see him on Sunday and to bring him a copy of my book.  I signed it as soon as I got home from the restaurant because I knew that if he made me sign it in front of him I would shake so hard that it would look like my kitten had signed the book.
Sunday came and I drove to the book signing.  After I parked my nerves were, naturally, shouting at me with Neanderthal-like aplomb to run away. 
“Run off into the woods over there, Steve.  Don’t worry.  We’ll wait.”
Stupid nerves.  To steel myself, I quickly inhaled a…what the heck was it that day?  A Marlboro #27 I think.  And as I did so I watched folks walking in and out of the store.  The good news was there wasn’t a line crowded around the block, like I had been afraid of.  The bad news was that that I would actually have to engage other human beings in conversation, and, as I have already established, as an internet-addled child of the ‘90s I am completely incapable of normal human interaction.
I took a deep breath, adjusted my junk, and walked into the store.  And, no, there was no line in which to get lost and carefully blueprint my off-the-cuff banter.  Keene and Gonzalez were sitting at a table kitty-cornered to the entrance.  But of course they were!  They were the big draw that day.  THEY WERE THE REASON WHY ANYONE WAS COMING IN THAT DAY.
Keene’s hand shot out in my direction.
“Hey, how you doing, buddy?”
Actually, I have no idea what he said, but it was probably that, and probably all cool like a cucumber, too. 
“Hello!” I shrieked in my best falsetto, feeling my voice cracking as though I were contending with Puberty II: The Wrath of Hormones, “My name is Steve!  You must be Brian Keene and that must make you J.F. Gonzalez!”
You probably think I’m making liberal, excessive use of exclamation marks here, but, no, I’m pretty sure that’s what I sounded like.  And then, of course, as if to emphasize what cool cats they were, and how meeting me was in no way a profound, life-altering experience, they just talked like normal human beings back to me.
“Well, that’s cool, man.  Do you want me to sign those books for you?”
I had forgotten, of course, that I was clutching my entire Keene collection to my chest.  So I put down my old, battered copies of THE RISING, CITY OF THE DEAD, and DEAD SEA on the table, along with the much fancier, newer copies of the same.
“I’m an author, too!” I squeaked, “I named a book after you in my street!  I mean, I named a street after you in my book!”
And here I held up the copy of BRAINEATER JONES that I had secreted away with my Keene books. 
Keene actually took it…took it in his hands…and said, “Oh, yeah, you were on Twitter, weren’t you?  Hey, check this out, J.F., kid named a street after me in his book.  You remember how in THE RISING I named all the guys Romero and stuff?  And now the next generation is doing it.  That’s why I really like to hand the torch off to guys like you.  I’m sick of zombies, but you guys still find new ways to make them interesting.”
Hand the…I nearly swooned.  Had Brian Keene really just told me he was “handing the torch” off to me?  Well, to guys like me, anyway?  Wait a minute!  I’m a guy like me!  And here I had halfway convinced myself that he was going to tell me not to quit my day job.
“Let me just give you one piece of advice that I wish somebody had given me, though: don’t quit your day job.”
“Yeah, man, I quit my day job so now I don’t have health insurance.  It’s a mess.  And everybody always says, you know what they say?  ‘You’re an author.  You must be swimming in money!’”
All three of us laughed.  Just that week I had told my co-workers that my book had finally come out.  One of them had said to me, “If you had a book published, what are you still doing here?”  I related that story to the two horror icons and they laughed.
“Yeah, nobody understand that we’re not all making Stephen King money here,” Keene said.
“Or even Brian Keene money,” I said.
He rolled his eyes.
“Yeah, Brian Keene money, yeah right.  But, yeah, don’t quit your day job, at least until you have the backlist.  Fifteen books, something like that.” 
“Oh, yeah,” Gonzalez agreed, nodding, “You want to have at least fifteen books under your belt.  Well, maybe eight if you’re really successful.”
“This is really cool, man, though, thanks,” Keene said, turning my book back and forth in his hands, “Would you sign it?”
Ha ha!  I had outsmarted my own nerves this time.
“Oh, I already signed it for you.”
He opened and checked the frontispiece where I had written something, I forget what, but it was probably at least as slobberingly fanboyish as the rest of this article has been.
“That’s cool, man, I’m definitely going to read this.  Can you give me your contact info?”
A sudden jolt of cold lightning electrified my spine.  I had not anticipated that, though I had brought a Sharpie.  I began to slowly, tremblingly write out all eleven letters of my ridiculously long name, plus my first initial, which made up my email address.  About halfway through I looked up at Keene pitiably.
“I’m shaking here,” I said.
That’s when he clapped me on the back.
“Nah, man.  Nah.”
So, I bought one of Gonzalez’s books and got that signed, too, then I got pictures with the both of them with me (giving devil horns, naturally) and even a picture of them with Keene holding up BRAINEATER JONES.  To coin a term, it was the squee-est moment of my life.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention, they both really seemed to enjoy that I dedicated the book to Neil Diamond.  Big, big Neil Diamond fans, those guys.  They even said I should send him a copy.  Maybe I will.  And if I do, I hope Roxanne will have me back for the story of how I met Neil Diamond…
Book Description:

Braineater Jones wakes up face down in a swimming pool with no memory of his former life, how he died, or why he’s now a zombie. With a smart-aleck severed head as a partner, Jones descends into the undead ghetto to solve his own murder.

But Jones’s investigation is complicated by his crippling addiction to human flesh. Like all walking corpses, he discovers that only a stiff drink can soothe his cravings. Unfortunately, finding liquor during Prohibition is costly and dangerous. From his Mason jar, the cantankerous Old Man rules the only speakeasy in the city that caters to the postmortem crowd.

As the booze, blood, and clues coagulate, Jones gets closer to discovering the identity of his killer and the secrets behind the city’s stranglehold on liquid spirits. Death couldn’t stop him, but if the liquor dries up, the entire city will be plunged into an orgy of cannibalism.

Cracking this case is a tall order. Braineater Jones won’t get out alive, but if he plays his cards right, he might manage to salvage the last scraps of his humanity.

About the Author:  

Stephen Kozeniewski lives with his wife of 9 years and two cats in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. He was born to the soothing strains of “Boogie With Stu” even though The Who are far superior to Zep, for reasons that he doesn’t even really want to get into right now. During his time as a Field Artillery officer, he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. The depiction of addiction in his fiction is strongly informed by the three years he spent working at a substance abuse clinic, an experience which also ensures that he employs strict moderation when enjoying the occasional highball of Old Crow. He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor’s degree is in German.


1 comment:

Stephen Kozeniewski said...

Thanks for having me, Roxanne!