Living in St. Jude, a 110-year-old dying city on the edge of the Mississippi, is tough. But when a letter informs fourteen-year-old Cinque Williams of the passing of the father he never met, he is faced with an incomplete past and an uncertain future. A curse meant for his father condemns Cinque to a slow death even as it opens his eyes to the strange otherworld around him. With help from the ghost Willy T, an enigmatic White Woman named Iku, an African Loa, and a devious shape-shifter, Cinque gathers the tools to confront the ghost of his dead father. But he will learn that sometimes too much knowledge can be dangerous—and the people he trusts most are those poised to betray him.
First four chapters are free, depending on how good you are at solving puzzles.
Reviews – What’s Being Said About Tone Milazzo & Picking Up the Ghost
African magic and folklore color this unusual coming-of-age story . . . . [T]his debut entertains with an original approach and mix of breezy humor and dark fantasy.
If Salvador Dali were an author, his work might resemble Tone Milazzo’s Picking Up the Ghost. Okay, maybe Milazzo’s book has a little more structure than Dali’s melting pocket watches. But there is no doubt that Milazzo can paint a world with words, and the surreal setting he created for this coming-of-age adventure is both dazzling and terrifying. . . . [E]ven if you’re not an urban fantasy fan, I definitely recommend this book. Milazzo has unique style that is downright weird, but has a literary quality to it. I think we can expect more great stories from him.
Pirates of the Caribbean
Me: Quick question; are we subject to maritime law while in this ride?
Cast Member: …sure.
The Haunted Mansion
Cast Member: There’s no smoking in this ride, sir.
Me: Oh it’s okay. This isn’t tobacco. It’s sage!
Cast Member: Please step out of the line, sir.
Star Tours–The Adventures Continue
Me: The initial conceit of this ride is that C3-PO isn’t a qualified pilot. But at ten times an hour and a duration of 4 minutes, and thirty seconds (subtracting the 30 seconds spent in the hanger), running ten times every operational hour since the ride opened on June 3, 2013, C3-PO has the equivalent of 3592 hours of flight time. That’s three and a half times what NASA requires of it’s astronauts. If this ride is going to stay in continuity the narrative will need updating.
Cast Member: …sure.
The Taxi (not a ride, just the taxi)
Me: Hey! You’re our cabdriver from last night. Guess It’s a Small World after all, huh?
Cabdriver: …is okay.
Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Forbidden Eye
Me (turning around from the driver’s seat): I’m going to need everyone to cough up $5 for gas money.
Other passengers: …no.
Cast Member: Please get out the car, sir.
was a lot of fun, and I don’t think I’ll visit Disneyland under any other day. By accident, it was also Bats Day
and honestly, I think the two should continue to coordinate and blow people’s minds.
At this month’s Writers’ Coffeehouse, Jonathan Maberry advised me that The Faith Machine is a thriller because:
- The protagonists are spies
- It hits on the Stargate Project in its backstory.
- The fate of the world is at stake
- At 98,000 it has the right word count
- Thrillers typically command larger advances
I called it science fiction, because I figured that readers of science fiction reader would be more forgiving of the spy stuff, than the thriller reader would be of E.S.P. But Maberry’s own Joe Ledger novels fly in the face of that assumption. They’re science fiction, sometimes they’re even fantasy, but they’re marketed as thrillers, and that’s working out pretty well for Jonathan.
These labels, man, I don’t dig them. I understand that marketing needs them to communicate to the audience, but if a book is shoved in the wrong genre that’s sales death. Part of me blames Picking Up the Ghost’s poor sales on its miscategorization (long story). Many writers get pigeon holed by their genre, or they used to. Those walls are breaking down, and cross-genre is increasingly acceptable. But they’ll still slap one of the accepted one or two word labels on the spine.
It’s easy enough to search/replace “science fiction” with “thriller” in my query letter. It’s difficult to stop thinking about the ten agent queries I sent out last week.
Either WonderCon’s gotten a lot bigger, or the last one I attended was a shrimp. Anyone who has trouble getting into Comic Con should consider WonderCon as an alternative. The dealer’s room was sizable and the cosplay scene substantial. The one area I felt was lacking was the panels. Most of their programming smacked of veiled advertisements, skippable.
And skip I did, because I was busy at artist alley, scoping out artist for Dead Women I found one who’s a perfect fit. Now I gotta finish the script.
Here’s my schedule. As usual, mostly writer stuff. Hopefully, I’ll find the right artist for Dead Women in Artist Alley.
#PitMad is tomorrow’s event to connect writers with agents on Twitter. The writers tweet pitches. If an agent likes what they see they like the tweet as a request for a submission, a whole lot faster than the usual 40+ day wait. I don’t know if Brenda Drake started it, but she sure seems to be running it. Makes you wonder if agents are all so overwhelmed with queries because they spend all their time on Twitter.
I have ten traditional queries for The Faith Machine floating out there. But I figure, “What the heck?” The more you swing the more often you hit. The hashtags mean: #A for Adult, #SF for Science Fiction, and #T stands for Thriller. I’m luck to have such short hashtags to work with. Here are the three tweet pitches I’ll make tomorrow:
Superspy & his team of psychic agents chase a Soviet psychic weapon, from Africa, across America, & into North Korea. #pitmad #A #SF #T
A Korean-American James Bond leads the X-Men through a season of the X-Files, from Africa across the US to North Korea #pitmad #A #SF #T
Psychic agents with mental disorders. Soviets weaponized religion. Heroes chased across America. Showdown in North Korea. #pitmad #A #SF #T
Then it comes to a cast, I like to start with The Five Man Band: The Leader, the Lancer, the Smart Guy, the Big Guy, and the Chick. Put in Star Wars terms, that’s Luck, Han, R2-D2, Chewbacca, and Leia. Despite the wordage these tropes are gender-less, handy for me and my all-woman cast.
The Leader vs Lancer is the core dynamic. The Leader leads and the Lancer challenges that leadership, Superman and Batman or Cyclops and Wolverine. They typically share the spotlight, which becomes a cake and eat it too situation for the author. Not everyone likes the squeaky clean hero. In fact, most people seem to like the bad boy. With this trope, we get both right out there in front.
The remaining three slots are about ability and only imply personality. They represent the three human elements of mind, body, and soul.
After some thought I came up with:
Vampire – The Leader. Vampires are the most charismatic of the undead.
Skeleton – The Lancer. Who better to contrast the bloodsucker than a woman without veins.
Ghost – The Smart Guy. Ghosts of folklore have access to forgotten knowledge.
Poltergeist – The Big Guy. A given, Poltergeists don’t do much more than throw things around.
Necromancer – The Chick. Since the Necromancer is both the person looking for help and a member of the team, her agenda is the one that brings and keeps the team together.
But this is an homage to the Seven Samurai. What about the haunted axe and the zombie? That’s where Cast Calculus comes in. When expanding on the Five Man Band there’s a number of tropes that can take that sixth and seventh slots, like Team Dad or The Mentor. For this cast, I’m going with:
Zombie – The Tagalog Kid
Haunted Axe – The Sixth Ranger
Like all outlines, none of this is set in stone and I already see the Chick being the real Leader. But putting characters in this framework has already started to flesh out their personalities in my head. Even the skeleton.
Next post: Cat saving.
As the release date of Picking Up the Ghost drifts further into the past, I’m feeling like cold product. A product that wasn’t very warm to begin with. Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work reminded me that I’ve failed to produce and failed to put myself out there.
So here’s the idea: While The Faith Machine is busy finding a home, I’ll be working on shorter pieces; seven short stories featuring the agents from The Faith Machine and a few of comic books pitches. I’ll blog the process. To teach what I know, and learn quite a bit from you while I’m at it.
This week; the elevator pitch for Dead Women. That’s a sales pitch for the story that’s short enough to tell in an elevator ride.
“The Seven Samurai, but the heroes are undead women; a vampire, a ghost, a skeleton, a zombie, a poltergeist, a haunted axe, and a necromancer.”
Unpacking: “Seven Samurai.” These two words tell the plot, the mercenary nature of the cast, and the bandit vs. villager conflict.
Two more words provide the hook, what’s unique about this story. “Undead women.” Why undead women? Is there a reason they’re women? Undead heroes? It’s an invitation to ask me more about the pitch and the angle that makes this story mine.
A pitch in two parts. Establish the ground rules, and hit them with the hook. What do you think?
Next week: Seven women in the Five Man Band.
How We Write – Sunday, Feb 14, 2016 11:00AM (Le Chanticleer – 9th Floor)
Ever wonder how a story gets made? They don’t fall out of the sky. Our panel of professional writers will share how they put pencil to paper and build worlds from the sweat of their brows. (Anina Bennett, James Hudnall, David Lemmo, Jonathan Maberry, Tone Milazzo, Phil Roberts)
Mental Disorders in Fiction – Sunday, Feb 14, 2016 1:00PM (Le Chanticleer – 9th Floor)
An estimated one in four adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year, and popular culture is starting to consider these disorders beyond the typical approach of, “The Villain is Crazy.” What are the challenges of writing protagonists with mental disorders? Who has done it well? And what are some common mistakes? (Andrea Letamendi, Tone Milazzo, Janina Scarlet)
Why Every Character Needs Kryptonite – Monday, Feb 15, 2016 11:00AM (Le Chanticleer – 9th Floor)
We’ll discuss the Achilles heel in fiction and why it’s important. We’ll share some weaknesses of our favorite paranormal creatures, superheroes, and villains, and talk about why the vulnerability leads to strength of character. Eben Brooks, Lisa Kessler, David Lemmo, Tone Milazzo
There’s still time to get your passes for Comic Fest