I love private eyes. Always have. Part detective, part crime stopper, part secret agent. And lots of mystery.
And yet Angela Hardwicke, my hard-boiled PI who has now appeared in eight of my books through Crazy 8 Press, seemingly came out of nowhere.
Then again, doesn’t that sound like a private eye?
An amalgam of Doctor Who, Blade Runner, and Philip Marlowe, Angela Hardwicke first appeared in Genius de Milo, the second in my Finders Keepers sci-fi comedy backpacking trilogy, which might seem an odd place for a private eye to show up in the first place.
Loosely based on a series of backpacking trips I took through Europe and New Zealand with a buddy of mine, Finders Keepers is a Bill and Ted-style romp about two loveable knuckleheads running around the globe having zany adventures, while simultaneously mixed up in a quest for a jar containing the Universe’s DNA.
Finders Keepers was supposed to be one and done, but I left it open-ended, and ultimately followed up with the sequels Genius de Milo and Astropalooza, with the scope of the three-book narrative far exceeding my expectations.Continue reading
That’s what Sawney Hatton, Patrick Thomas, and yours truly discussed as we thought about ways to do dastardly things to our protagonists — teenagers all — who, as far as we knew, never did anything to us. But hey, that’s just how we roll.
For a bit of history, Sawney and I (Sawney is a pen name) went to high school together, and shared a love of movies, dark tales, and other mischievous musings, including a student film Sawney wrote and directed and I starred in (no, seriously), which, if you want a very good laugh, is available somewhere on YouTube under the title “Light Chasm.”
Meanwhile, Pat has been a pal for at least a decade out on book tour, he and I known to each other as PT! and RC! We’ve collaborated before, and decided it was time to do it again.
Which brings us to MURDER IN MONTAGUE FALLS. Our new project, published through Crazy 8 Press, is a collection of three noir-inspired novellas (no sci-fi or fantasy here, all straight crime fiction) set in the fictional American suburb of Montague Falls, wherein our teen protagonists went to the same high school — Martin Van Buren High, to be precise — albeit during different decades.Continue reading
The Master trains a handful of students at a time while also performing work on commission for wealthy nobles in this typical fantasy realm. He operates out of The Crimson Keep, a place renowned for its thousand rooms and hundred staircases. It is reputed to never stop growing or shifting as the result of an old spell gone slightly awry. The wizard’s castle was where apprentices could get lost in forever, and where it was rumored that servants could reappear after months gone to explain that they’d only been heading down to the cellar for another cask of salt.
The kitchen was at the castle’s center, one of the sections that got daily use and thus rarely shifted, and they had all long since learned the quickest route there, so they were able to navigate the corridors, stairs, and courtyards with ease—at least, until they passed through the small secondary rear courtyard and reached the kitchen itself.
It was also the world created during a massive round-robin writing session as the Crazy 8 Press writers introduced themselves to an unsuspecting world. Coming in August is Tales of the Crimson Keep – Newly Renovated Edition. To learn more, we spoke with co-founder and project editor Robert Greenberger.
C8P: What exactly is the Crimson Keep? And what goes on there?
Bob: This place is a mystical Tesseract where time folds on itself in strange ways.
C8P: How did this anthology originally come together?
Bob: We wanted to call attention our new collective so we arranged to introduce ourselves at Shore Leave in 2011. The deal was fans could write a proposed opening line and make a $1 contribution to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. At our introductory panel, we’d sift through the opening lines, let the fans in attendance vote on the winner, and immediately after the panel, we would sit in public and begin writing a story.
Over the course of the next two days, we sat in a very cramped space, writing for upwards of an hour before handing the manuscript off to the next sucker. We had a yellow legal pad with notes so we knew names and other details while scrolling through what the preceding writers had done.
After the con, Mike Friedman gave it a final polish and we launched it as “Demon Circle”, an eBook. Later, we expanded on the world with new stories and released the anthology.
C8P: What makes this new version the Renovated Edition?
Well, we added Mary Fan to the roster in 2017 and wanted to showcase her brilliance. However, we agreed that a second round-robin was in order. After all, Russ Colchamiro hadn’t been part of the madness when we launched so this was a chance to have a story reflecting the current roster. It also meant Mary could write her own contribution. Our annual anthologies make for good samplers for our writing.
And we got a new cover from the wonderful Ty Templeton so that’s not so bad, either.
C8P: There are two round robin stories. What’s the challenge in writing in this format?
Bob: The challenge here is that you’ve got people who write with different tonal voices so we had to blend those. Aaron Rosenberg, Peter David and Russ Colchamiro are very good at the humorous stuff, me less so, I had to learn to loosen up and keep up. In addition, as we hand things off from writer to writer, we have to be careful that we honor what came before and remain consistent. The first go-round was fun because we were making it up as we went along while the second one was a different challenge as writers cherry-picked bits and pieces from the existing stories. And of course, there’s always the issue of timing because everyone is busy. We set a goal that each writer, upon receiving the story, had 48 hours to contribute his or her section and pass it on otherwise there would be merciless mocking and no one wants that.
C8P: Where can readers get their copies?
Bob: The book will launch in August as an eBook and trade paperback. All they have to do is check for announcements here and on our Facebook page.
Crazy 8 Press has always been about bringing to you guys—the fans, the lovers of books—original stories that we, the authors, feel passionate about, and are dedicated to ensuring the finished tales remain true to our visions.
One year ago we invited YA and SF/F author Mary Fan to join our band of crazies, and now she’s here with her very first full-length novel under the Crazy 8 banner.
Entitled Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil, Mary’s new book is a YA Dark Fantasy with monsters, magic, and secrets that can remain buried no longer. Sound awesome? To us, too. Here’s what Mary had to say:
Crazy 8 Press: This is your first full-length book with Crazy 8 Press. Why this one?
Mary: First of all, it still feels like I got invited to the cool kids’ table when Y’all let me join Crazy 8 Press last year :-). I originally wrote Edge of Evil way back in 2012, and it got picked up by a small press that same year. However, after five years of production delays and a few forays into self-publishing through other projects, I was ready to take the book indie. Still, there’s a big difference between being independent and being alone. Being independent is liberating. Being alone is scary. So I was thrilled at the chance to put Edge of Evil out with Crazy 8 because it meant I could still have the creative freedom of self-publishing while also being a part of a group.
C8P: We’re thrilled you picked Crazy 8 Press for its debut. The tagline is: Break the enchantments. Find the truth. Ignite the revolution. We’re intrigued. But what’s your book really about?
Mary: @RealisticYAplot actually tweeted a satirical but pretty accurate description of the worldbuilding: Wizards defeat the Dark Lord and use their power to oppress Muggles :-P. Edge of Evil takes place about a century after the Final Battle between the Enchanters – a small minority of humans with magic – and the Lord of the Underworld, who escaped his dark dimension and unleashed monsters upon the world. Theoretically, it ended in victory – the Lord was defeated. Problem was: the monsters were still around, and the Enchanters didn’t want to give up their power. So, using the excuse that they’re the only ones who can protect people from monsters, they set up a totalitarian regime with a rigid caste system that keeps those without magic in the lower classes.
One member of this oppressed majority is a 16-year-old schoolboy named Flynn Nightsider, who’s had it with the Enchanters’ crap. He tries to fight back in his own way – and gets himself in a heap of trouble. But in a twist of fate, a group of underground rebels, which includes a teen monster slayer named Aurelia “the Firedragon” Sun, hears of his plight and mounts a rescue. Flynn joins Aurelia in the fight for freedom, but he soon learns that not all is as it seems…
As the tagline implies, Flynn and Aurelia wind up facing supernatural dangers to uncover the regime’s darkest secrets and fight for freedom.
C8P: Wow. You must have some vivid dreams! What was your inspiration for Edge of Evil?
Mary: It started with the world and was inspired by a few things. One was that I wanted to combine two of my favorite genres: fantasy and dystopia. What would a dystopia look like in a fantasy setting? It also always bothered me that in many more contemporary fantasies, those with magic are the ones with power, and yet are the ones in hiding (Harry Potter, Charmed, Mortal Instruments, etc.). If you could wave a stick and turn people you don’t like into ferrets, wouldn’t you seize control? And lastly, it fascinated/horrified me how so many contemporary dictators got to their positions of power using the rhetoric of freedom and security.
So I set up a dystopian fantasy world where those with magic used their power to take control and used the rhetoric of freedom from fear and security from monsters to keep it. And then came my main character, Flynn, who’s a combination of fantasy and dystopian protagonists. On the fantasy side, I sent him on a Hero’s Journey-type arc (but threw a major wrench into it – no spoilers though!). On the dystopian side, I had him start out as a powerless cog in the system who’s itching to get out.
Once I had my character and my world, the plot kind of started unraveling on its own… Oh, and then there’s Aurelia. With her, I just wanted to write a kickass heroine (who has her own story arc and doesn’t just exist to support the male hero). With all these monsters and all these magic-wielding folks saying they’re the only ones who can fight them, I loved the idea of a teen girl who could take down the beasts with zero magic, which would be a seeming disadvantage in this world.
C8P: Your books tend to focus on characters who initially start out believing they’re without hope, or, at the very least, feel oppressed in a dystopian society, with no clear-cut path forward. But then they learn that there’s a fire in their belly — and sometimes power — they hadn’t known was even there. Is this wish fulfillment, is there a larger theme you’re after, or do you just like to see evil get kicked in the head?
Hah! Well, I do love seeing evil get kicked in the head :-P. I always loved stories about the ordinary becoming extraordinary, the unlikely heroes who are forced by circumstances to rise up and who heed the call. It’s classic storytelling (again with the Hero’s Journey), and I think it’s a fairly universally appealing theme. With most of my stories, I start with the world-building, and then look at this world and throw a spotlight on a seemingly random ordinary person who just happens to be there when things go wrong. It’s fun getting to develop them as characters and have them face their fears despite their apparent disadvantages. In the case of Flynn, I thought about who the lowest person in this world’s hierarchy would be—an orphan kid with zero family, zero money, zero magic, zero combat skills, and zero rights—and shoved him into the spotlight. Poor guy.
C8P: Without giving anything away, will we be seeing more of Flynn Nightsider?
Mary: Absolutely! Edge of Evil is the first in a planned trilogy. If all goes according to plan, Book 2 should come out late 2019 or early 2020.
C8P: Any chance you’ll be making appearances where lucky readers can get their copies signed?
As part of our annual tradition, our Crazy 8 Press team of Aaron Rosenberg, Russ Colchamiro, Glenn Hauman, Peter, David, Robert Greenberger, and Michael Jan Friedman will descend on the Hunt Valley Inn for Shore Leave 39 from July 7-9, where we’ll be in full force (sans Paul Kupperberg, who is hiding out in the wilds of Connecticut concocting his next act of authorly mayhem).
Speaking of mayhem …
There wouldn’t be a Shore Leave without a Crazy 8 Press anthology, and we hope this year takes the cake! Debuting at the convention is this year’s anthology, Love, Murder & Mayhem, a collection of superhero, super villain, private eye, time travel travel, AI, dream surrogate, monster mash and DuckBob murder mysteries, with stories from not only the seven Crazy 8 Press members, but many of our friends, too, including attendees Hildy SIlverman, Kelly Meding, and Mary Fan,
The party starts with Meet the Pros at 10 p.m. on Friday with all the authors on hand to sign and sell books, shake hands, take selfies, and make madness. Hey. It’s what we do best.
On Saturday and Sunday, our six attending members (and possibly a surprise or two!) can be found on numerous panels scattered across the schedule, and we’ll be on hand to together Saturday at 3 p.m. in the Derby Room for annual Crazy 8 Press panel. Six years ago at Shore Leave, a group of writers decided to write what they wanted and publish it themselves. What have they learned since? What’s coming next? And why must Glenn Hauman die?
Immediately following at 4 p.m. is the first of two Crazy 8 Press Teen Workshops. Designed for younger writers, we take you through the process, with Aaron, Bob, and Mike discussing what goes into a good plot.
On Sunday at Noon, also in the Derby Room, Peter, Russ, and Glenn will talk about characterization.
And if that’s not enough Crazy 8 Press for you, we’ll be hanging out at the bar after the sessions close, instigating our next round of mayhem.
Our new Crazy 8 Press anthology — Love, Murder & Mayhem — came about for purely selfish reasons. And her name is Angela Hardwicke, but I’ll come back to that.
It was my turn among us Crazy 8 Press authors to run the new anthology. My theme was that each story (there are 15 total) had to include at least one act of love or romance, at least one murder, and mayhem welcome … with every story set within a science fiction setting.
I also opened up the doors (as we have been doing) to outside author friends of ours, and I insisted that the lineup include about an equal mix of male and female writers.
The stories are all one-shots … so there are no interlocking characters or inter-connected narratives. Each author delivered his or her own story, in their own distinct Universes.
But why this theme?
For the uninitiated … among works of fiction, I am the author of the three-book scifi backpacking comedy series that includes FINDERS KEEPERS, GENIUS DE MILO, and ASTROPALOOZA (the final book in the series, which launched earlier this year).
In the second book, GENIUS DE MILO, I introduced a new character, although just as a cameo. Her name? You guessed it. Angela Hardwicke.
She’s a private eye, envisioned in that classic Sam Spade style — trench coat, fedora, and all, the kind of character I’ve always wanted to write.
I upgraded Hardwicke in the series finale, ASTROPALOOZA, where she plays a fairly prominent role. But I knew early on that I eventually wanted to give her a stand-alone series, where she becomes the central figure. The star.
Going forward my plan is to give her at least three books of her own, which will include her origin story, at least one key nemesis, and a long and tortured journey which helps drive her underlying motivations.
But before I dive into an entire series, I wanted to do a test case with Hardwicke. So I figured, what better way than through a short story, with her in the lead, as a way for me to get a better sense of who she is, how she operates, and what the future holds for her.
Thus, my tale in this anthology is entitled: The Hardwicke Files: The Case of My Old New Life and the One I Never Knew. The narrative has Hardwicke investigating a mysterious fire at a music club in E-Town (the realm where the Universe is created), where a body turns up dead, and with a tangential connection to Hardwicke herself.
Another confession — when I set this anthology in motion, in my mind’s eye I thought I’d get nothing but detective stories. And I did get a few others. But I also got stories with superheroes and supervillains. Stories set off-world and in space cruisers. Plus artificial intelligence, a monster mash and (for good measure) … one DuckBob!
Did I have my own motivations to set this anthology in motion? You bet.
But like any great mystery, this collection of love, murder, and mayhem stories had me starting off in one place, taking me across the Universe and back, and ending up in a way—and in places—I never saw coming.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Love, Murder & Mayhem from Crazy 8 Press will be on sale both in print and digital formats in July. Stay tuned for updates!
Russ Colchamiro is the author of the rollicking space adventure, Crossline, the hilarious sci-fi backpacking comedy series, Finders Keepers, Genius de Milo, and Astropalooza, and is editor of the new anthology, Love, Murder & Mayhem. He is a member of Crazy 8 Press.
Russ lives in New Jersey with his wife, two children, and crazy dog, Simon, who may in fact be an alien himself. Russ has also contributed to several other anthologies, including Tales of the Crimson Keep, Pangaea, Altered States of the Union, and TV Gods 2. He is now at work on a top-secret project, and a Finders Keepers spin-off.