Book Reading at Flight Coffee

This past weekend, I had a great time sharing a few passages from Intraterrestrial with a fun crowd at Flight Coffee in Dover, a local third wave coffee shop which has become one of the top community hot spots on the NH seacoast.  It’s an awesome location, with equally awesome coffee—which, for a self-proclaimed “coffee vigilante” like myself, is a key factor in any great book reading.

Big thanks to everyone who came, and hope the rest of you had an equally cosmic Earth Day weekend!

Late Night at Leaven

I was invited to be one of the guests for Patrick Gale’s “Late Night at Leaven” live show last night, along with comedian Josh Day and Emmett Soldati, the owner of Teatotaller Tea House. It was a great time all around, with lots of laughs, and some excellent drinks courtesy of Leaven, a small gastropub in Somersworth.

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Nicholas Conley – author – Pale Highway

 

I enjoyed a dark coffee stout right from the tap, which was certainly a highlight, though perhaps the biggest highlight of my night was the unexpected moment where they played Pale Highway’s book trailer right before my interview, right on the big screen TV, and with an attentive crowd watching. Quite a thrill!

The show will at some point be online as a podcast, complete with word games, interviews, and more.

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Nicholas Conley – Author – Pale Highway

In other news: I’ll be on the radio again soon! This time, I’ll be interviewed for the program Don’t Dis’ My Ability, a disability-themed show that runs on Tuesday from 3:30-4:30PM Eastern Time. New Hampshire residents can tune into WSCA 106.1 FM, while others can check out the website and listen live when it airs.

But if you miss it, don’t fear! A complete video podcast of that program will also be posted online sometime afterward, and I’ll share the link when it is.

 

 

FAQ About My Next Book

Hello there, everyone!

So I’ve received a number of questions about about my next book, set to come out in 2015.  While I can’t say too much yet, I’ll take this opportunity to do a little FAQ and shed (some!) light on the proceedings.  Let’s begin:

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Okay, so what’s the title?

Top secret!  For now, let’s just call it Novel #2.

Is it a sequel to The Cage Legacy, or possibly connected in some way? 

No.  Novel #2 is completely separate from The Cage Legacy.  At the moment, it seems to me that The Cage Legacy is a complete story, and I don’t necessarily see any need for a sequel.  That’s not to say I’d definitely rule it out, as one should never say never, but at this moment I don’t plan on writing a second story in that world.

How similar is the tone/style/storyline?

Similar in some ways, wildly different in others.  The psychological focus is very much the same.

So can you say what this story is about?

Of course not, it’s too early for that!  But answers will be coming soon.

Okay.  But really, what’s it about?

Sneaky!

What genre?

Science fiction.

Is it YA?

Not this one, no.

Who is publishing it?

My publisher for this book is Red Adept Publishing, a press based out North Carolina.  Red Adept has made a name for itself in multiple genres, with such books as Braineater Jones by Stephen Kozeniewski and Artificial Absolutes by Mary Fan.  The novel Thought I Knew You, by Kate Moretti, was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller in 2012.  Needless to say, I’m both proud and humbled to be accepted into the RAP gang.

Anything else, sir?

That’s all for now!  More answers in the future, so stay tuned!

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KIN, by Kealan Patrick Burke: The Story After the Story

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With some degree of variation, almost every slasher movie ends with the same scene.  It’s a scene that we’re all too familiar with.  A climactic moment that has been permanently etched upon our collective subconscious.  It’s a a common trope, a sequence that has become so familiar that even those who’ve never watched a horror movie know this scene by heart:

Once the carnage is done and all of her friends have been killed, the lone survivor – always a girl, usually a virgin, usually covered in blood and either sobbing or desensitized – stumbles away from the defeated killers, and she finally escapes from the horrific place she’s been trapped in.

That’s how all slasher stories end. It’s how they always end.  The basic formula has varied little since Tobe Hooper’s classic ending to the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and one of the more recent movies in that franchise – the 2006 prequel, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning – pulled out a surprise ending by deliberately subverting the audience’s familiarity with this famous sequence.  Still, for the most part, slasher movies tend to follow a pretty steady formula.  Sure, sequels happen, but these sequels will usually repeat the same formula with little connection to the prior entry, and usually with a brand new cast of teenagers for the killer/s to slaughter.  Lather with blood, rinse, repeat.

There’s a lot to recommend about Kealan Patrick Burke’s excellent 2012 novel, Kin.  It’s terrifying, moving and uniquely put together, with masterfully-worded prose and a storyline that absorbs the reader’s full attention like a sponge.  But the immediate thing that sets Kin apart, from the very beginning of its opening paragraph, is its take on the famous bloody girl running away sequence.

Unlike most slasher films, which end on this sequence, Kin makes the intriguing choice of setting that sequence at the very beginning. 

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Burke’s novel opens up with Claire Lambert, the only survivor of her friends, who after being tortured by the Merrills – a psychopath family with cannibalistic tendencies, ala Texas Chainsaw‘s Sawyers – escapes from their clutches half-dead, naked and bloody. She stumbles into the road, where she is picked up by a boy and his father – a father all too aware of the potentially dangerous consequences of his actions, but unable not to help. Now, tensions are ramped up. The Merrills know they have to get out of town fast, but first they have to quickly kill anyone who could testify against them.

As all of this goes on, Kin also introduces two parallel storylines that eventually tie into the main narrative. In one, a waitress with a dark past is brought back to her old life by an unexpected visitor. At the same time, a soldier—fresh out of Iraq and plagued by PTSD—finds out this brother was one of the victims of the massacre that Claire escaped from, and he readies himself to engage in a vengeful war against the Merrill family.

Kealan Patrick Burke, author of Kin.

Kealan Patrick Burke, author of Kin.

Kin begins where other stories end—after the slaughter, after the war, after the pain has already been inflicted—and it tackles the questions that any such violent incident would undoubtedly raise.

Seriously, what happens after the girl gets away from the psychopaths? What happens to the homicidal, cannibalistic family that accidentally let her escape, now that she’s surely going to tell the cops? What happens to the girl, who would have to be pretty damn traumatized by this point? What happens to her family, who now has to take care of her? And what happens to the innocent people who picked her up and saved her? If the family wants to get rid of all the evidence, are the father and son also at risk?

By asking these questions and placing this post-slasher scenario inside what is essentially a Southern Gothic novel, Kin brings new depth to a tired genre. It shakes up the format, explores characters that could’ve been stereotypes, and brings a full scope of emotions to the proceedings; yes, this novel is scary and yes, it’s violent, but it’s also a novel that isn’t afraid to create characters that the reader deeply cares about. It’s a book that can both grab your heartstrings and then rip them out in the next moment.

At its core, Burke’s Kin is a novel about the pain, stress, anxiety and devastating grief that follows a traumatic event. It shows what happens after the scars are inflicted, and how the pain of trauma has a residual effect that trickles down through one’s life and impacts one’s loved ones. Every violent action has consequences, and Kin pulls back the curtain on the aftermath.

Top 10 Blog Posts

So, in celebration of this blog finally reaching 50 (50!) posts, I figure that now is a good opportunity to look back on the posts that have, over time, proved to be my favorites.  Since Writings, Readings and Coffee Addictions began, I’ve blogged about a pretty big variety of topics, so narrowing it down was difficult…but it’s always fun to look back and reminisce.

So, starting from #10 (and with pictures!) here are my top 10:

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10. MBTI Typology – a recent post, but a lot of fun.  What I really enjoyed about this post was less the post itself, and more so the comments, interactions and replies from you guys.  Learning about other people’s types generally makes for a good time.

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9. Why David Lynch’s “Dumbland” is Smarter than it Looks – David Lynch is one of the most interesting, bizarre filmmakers around, and so writing about his work is always a unique experience, to say the least.

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8. Transhumanism in Deathlok: The Demolisher – Since this review was posted, Deathlok has jumped into the spotlight, thanks to his role on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series.  Still, I think that Marvel’s original cyborg is one of the most underrated characters in comicdom, and the 2010 limited series, Deathlok: The Demolisher is one of the best takes on the character yet.

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7. The True “Hero” of Breaking Bad – When the Breaking Bad finale came out, it was pretty much the only thing anyone could talk about – and with good reason.  This was my take on the series’ climax.

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6. Page 133 – One of my first posts, and still one of my favorites.  A short look at the writing process, writer’s block and how to push through it.

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5. Spider-Man 2: Because We Found the Rubber Band – Though the upcoming Amazing Spider-Man 2 looks excellent, I don’t think there will ever be another Spidey film with the depth, quirkiness and heart of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, still one of the most unique comic book films ever made.    

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4. Chapter One, Page One – And here it is…my first post!  I remember struggling to figure out how to start, and once I was hit by the idea of just writing about the two voices debating back and forth in my head, well…all the pieces fell into place quickly afterward.

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3. Confronting the Self-Cannibalistic Creative Monster – As creative individuals, we all know this voice and have dealt with it in our own ways.  I just gave mine a name.

Art by Bernie Wrightson.

Art by Bernie Wrightson.

2. The Writer’s Role in Society – Easily one of the most popular posts I’ve ever written, this is an in-depth look at what motivates the writer to create, where the writer’s crazy, crazy passion comes from, what drives us and finally, what our role in the world really is.

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1. Why I wrote The Cage Legacy – Definitely the most personal post I’ve ever written on this blog, “Why I wrote The Cage Legacy” is the story of how The Cage Legacy was created, where the idea came from and the struggles I went through in its years of development.  Out of every blog post I’ve ever written, this one was by far the hardest to write – and also the most worth it.

And so, there we are – the top 10.  As usual, if you guys have any thoughts/opinions/replies/concerns about my mental well-being/et cetera, always feel free to comment!

Hey, what’ve I been up to?

So, other than currently levitating somewhere between Mars and Earth while my astral projection explores Pluto, where have I been?  What have I been up to?  Quite a bit, actually.  I’ve spent a lot of time down in the Earth’s core, recently; in addition, I recently was bitten by a radioactive spider, struck by gamma rays and spent a weekend at some weird place called Crystal Lake, where hockey masks are apparently not too popular.

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The writing life is always a busy one.  As a writer, so much of one’s life is spent engaged in the most introspective activity imaginable – sitting alone in a room, reconstructing one’s most private thoughts – and somehow, while all of one’s writing projects are going on, the writer must also find time to experience life to the fullest – because that’s where writing inspiration comes from, of course! – and so one must regularly go out into the world, have new experiences, meet people, understand the fabric of society, the backbone of society, the guts of society, and all that other good stuff.  In addition, the writer must also go out and promote their work, although doing so is a challenge, since it requires a skill in extroversion that might initially be foreign to the introverted writer.  After a few runs, though, you slowly get the hang of it.  It’s actually pretty fun, and interacting with your readers is really one of the more amazing  experiences a writer can have.

So now, my friends, let me give you guys the update of what exactly I’m working on.

Since The Cage Legacy was finished, I’ve been privately slaving away here at the keyboard, actively developing multiple new novels.  I’m crazily enthusiastic to share these stories with you guys – when the right time comes.  I’m the sort of person who gets my work done way ahead of schedule.  I like getting a lot of work completed and packaged before I fully reveal my hand…so when it comes to writing, one might say I’m a bit of a workaholic.  This work ethic can get exhausting at times, but I do absolutely love writing, so it’s a very satisfying form of exhaustion.  Much better than other forms of exhaustion, anyway.

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So, without spilling too much, these are currently the three main projects that I’m actively developing:

Novel #2: Working on getting this one published. It’s insanely tempting to tell you guys all about this one – it’s an extremely exciting project, for me – but I’ll hold back, for now.

Novel #3: I’m currently editing this one, right now.  I can’t wait to share this one, as well.  It’s a pretty offbeat story, for sure.

Novel #4: First draft complete!  Looking forward to editing this one, sometime soon.

Since The Cage Legacy was released, I’ve often been asked – whether by emails from my readers, real life acquaintances and/or online contacts –  what I’m working on now, or if I have any other books coming out.  Ideally, this blog will explain things in a way that both answers the question, and more importantly, simplifies my often confusing and complicated answers.  From this point forward, I’ll try to use the above three “working titles” whenever I refer to one of my upcoming novels-in-progress.

Cheers!

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Another year, another 600 or so cups of coffee…

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…and as 2014 spreads its wings, as the light blasts through the clouds (and a freezing, bone-chilling snow descends upon us here in New England), it’s time to get on with the year ahead.

There’s plenty to look forward to this year; I have several writing projects to keep me busy, and when I’m not busy writing I’m planning on doing some more traveling, reading, writing, movie-watching, socializing and coffee drinking.

Now, as far as this blog goes…

2013 was my first year here on WordPress – my first year meeting all of you guys on here, and my first time having a regular blog to give shape to, develop and nurture. 2014 will  be a year that allows me to deepen the connections I’ve made thus far, as well as continuing to write about the subjects that fascinate me – be they horror/sci-fi/comics genre-related, psychological, philosophical or whatever else might grab my attention.

In the meantime, it’s time to hop off of here and get back to my current writing projects…because I’ll warn you right now, there’s some big stuff coming up just over the horizon line!

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Citing Your Creative Sources

Every artist has their sources.

It’s a truth that too many creators deny too often.  Sure, we all acknowledge the debt that we owe to real life, the true events that have inspired our stories – but for whatever reason, one generally wants to believe that he or she experiences divine moments of inspiration, devoid of the influence of outside media.  Somehow, one prefers to reject the notion that any books, comics, movies, TV shows and books have in any way helped influence the creator’s baby.

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Like this baby, for example.

But once again, I repeat – every artist has his sources.

Yes, this point may seem obvious.  It’s easy to say that we find inspiration in other forms of media, without acknowledging our debt to those specific works.  But really, it’s important to do so.  By recognizing which artistic works we were inspired by, we can both pay tribute to those works – and we can also successfully differentiate ourselves from them.  After all, there might only be a handful of different stories in the world, but what’s really important is how you make that story your own.

In Stephen King’s fifth Dark Tower book, Wolves of the Calla, there’s a great scene toward the end where Eddie – a former heroin addict – and Jake – the Gunslinger’s adopted son –are discussing the startlingly familiar traits of of the “Wolves,” a pack of bloodthirsty robots that  have been terrorizing the Calla for years. See, the Wolves are eerily familiar, in a number of ways.  For one, they utilize miniscule, golden hand grenades—grenades that they call “sneeches.”  At close quarters, the Wolves attack with energy swords.  Perhaps most significant of all, though, is the Wolves’ appearance.  They have robotic, humanoid bodies, and the only garments they wear are green cloaks, hoods and togas.   As Eddie tells Jake, these wolves look almost identical to a certain classic Marvel Comics super villain – a Latverian dictator known by the name of Doctor Doom.

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Art by Adi Granov.

Now, these traits aren’t simply coincidences; they’re actually a part of the plot.  As the Dark Tower series tells a tale that reaches across thousands of alternate universes, having references to such sources as Doom, the light sabers from Star Wars and the sneetch from Harry Potter actually makes sense, in the context of the story.  What’s most inspiring here, though, is the fact that Stephen King goes so far as to call himself out on these obvious sources of inspiration.  Through the mouths of Eddie and Jake, King displays a brave willingness to openly cite his sources, and he even allows the readers to take part in the game.

I remember the first time I read the Dark Tower series, I found this passage enormously inspiring.  I realized that the idea of a writer denying one’s sources of inspiration – the reality of what happens when a writer pretends that he or she isn’t influenced by the media he/she enjoys consuming – is a fabrication that people will always see right through.

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Art by Jae Lee.

Let’s face it.  Let’s face the truth.  Every artist is inspired by something.  Every artist has his/her favorite works of art; the creator doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and to pretend otherwise is to present a falsehood.

And see, this is what’s important, contradictory to what we might generally believe – originality isn’t found by having an “original idea,” originality is something that comes from the unique execution of an idea.  Believe in your concept—believe that, by telling it through your own voice instead of someone else’s, you can make it original—and then you’ll have something special.

-Nicholas Conley

Post-AnthoCon

…and another amazing AnthoCon draws to a close.

A big cheers goes out to everyone who made it out to Portsmouth this weekend, and I hope everyone there had as excellent a time as I did. As usual, it was great to see a lot of familiar faces – including publisher extraordinaire Eric Beebe, and such genre presences as G. Elmer Munson (Stripped), Scott Goudsward (Trailer Trash), Andrew Wolter (Nightfall), David Price (Dead in the USA),  Marianne Halbert, Stacey and Jason Harris (the owners of Books and Boos) and of course, the Four Horsemen themselves…not to mention, plenty of new faces as well, including authors Brian Dobbins (Jasmine’s Tale), Marshall Stein (Rage Begets Murder), and Rob Watts (Huldufolk), all of whom are terrific people who I hope to see again someday in the near future.  There are so many names I’m forgetting to mention – you see so many great people at an event like this!

But anyway, in closing: AnthoCon is an absolutely remarkable convention, and I’m sure it’ll get better and better with every year.  Here’s to the next gathering, guys!

-Nicholas Conley