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Monday, September 5, 2016

GUEST BLOG: The Genre Mixtape by Robert Brockway (Blog Tour for The Empty Ones)




Visit Robert Brockway's Website Here
Read Robert Brockway's Guest Blog Post from 7/28/15 Here

Robert Brockway made a splash in the horror world with the release of his novel, The Unnoticeables. Now he is back again with another book in The Vicious Circuit series, The Empty Ones.

About The Empty Ones: 

Following on the heels of Robert Brockway's comedic horror novel The Unnoticeables, The Empty Ones reveals the next chapter in the lives of a few misfits attempting to fight back against the mysterious Unnoticeables.  

The Empty Ones follows Carey and Randall to London where they go to rescue Gus and fight more of these mysterious angel-like creatures, and stumble on a powerful and unexpected ally. Meanwhile, Kaitlyn, who was very nearly beat when last we saw her, continues her fight into the desert of Mexico and the Southwest US, seeking the mysterious gear cult. Once there, she discovers what the gear cult is really up to: trying to 'pin' the angels to Earth, focus their attention here, and get as much of humanity as possible "solved"--which, in their minds, is akin to being saved--and in the process discovers something incredible about herself.

With a snarled lip, The Empty Ones incorporates everything that made The Unnoticeables incredible, but like any good punk band, when you don't think they can get any louder, they somehow turn it up a notch. It's terrifying and hilarious, visceral and insane, chaotic and beautiful.

To celebrate the release of The Empty Ones, published August 30, 2016 by Tor, Robert Brockway has stopped by to offer his unique insight into the horror/writing world. Come see what he has to say and celebrate the release of this new novel!

A huge thank you goes out to Robert Brockway for stopping by Fantasy Book Critic and for Tor for arranging the guest tour stop and giveaway.

Enter to win a copy of The Empty Ones here

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The Genre Mixtape by Robert Brockway 



I can’t describe my favorite books.

At least, not succinctly. At least, not succinctly and in a way that does not make them sound like the paranoid gibberish of an escaped mental patient. This is a problem, because I’m an author. Not only am I expected to read other’s books and write quick, hard-hitting, enticing little blurbs for the ones I like – I also have to describe my own books in relatable and punchy ways. Here’s the leanest, meanest little elevator pitch I was able to develop for my previous book, The Unnoticeables.

“It’s sort of a horror, sci-fi, metaphysical, punk rock urban fantasy. It takes place in 1977 New York City, in the punk scene, but also in modern day Hollywood, and the timelines don’t meet, exactly, but they mirror, merge and explain each other as things develop. Oh, and there are angels, but they’re not really angels, they just sorta look like them – shining balls of light – and what they do is, they solve the codes that make up human beings. And there’s acid monsters and faceless kids and immortal psychopaths but those are like, byproducts of the angel’s process, and this all makes more sense if you give me about 300-odd pages, I promise.”

Paranoid. Gibberish.

As an elevator pitch, you may have spotted the problem: The person I’m pitching to got off around the third sentence, and called the authorities when I started chasing them down the hall, yelling the rest at them.

So I tried to learn the buzz-words:

What is your book?

It’s a horror novel.

But it’s not exclusively horror. There are just key elements pulled from horror. Plus, you’re not supposed to label books as ‘horror,’ because apparently horror doesn’t sell. I have been assured of that by writers, editors, publishers, PR folks and booksellers alike.

So it’s an urban fantasy novel.

I mean, there are no mages in trench coats casting spells via text message, but there are fantasy elements to the book and it does takes place in urban environments. Yet again it’s not exclusively urban fantasy – just those key elements – and you’re not supposed to label books as ‘urban fantasy,’ because apparently urban fantasy doesn’t sell. I have been assured of that by writers, editors, publishers, PR folks and booksellers alike.

Okay, then I guess it’s science fiction.

Certainly not hard science fiction. At no point do the punk rockers commandeer a spaceship and blast off into the cosmos to teach aliens about The Ramones. Although that sounds amazing, I didn’t write that book (yet). I’ve just pulled some key elements from science fiction and -- sing along if you know the words -- you’re not supposed to label books as ‘science fiction,’ because apparently science fiction doesn’t sell.

Apparently nothing sells?

Here’s another problem: The Unnoticeables was just the first book in a trilogy called The Vicious Circuit. Now I’m promoting the second book, The Empty Ones, which was just released. So now my task is to explain the middle of a series to people who may not have read the first book, which, remember, I couldn’t explain either.

And yet it’s not (only) that I’m bad at my job: I’ve met a lot of new authors with this problem. They just can’t find that killer elevator pitch, and I’ve only slowly started to realize why: Many of us are no long writing books that fit within conventional plot lines, much less a single, sellable genre (which don’t exist).

Don’t get me wrong: I know a few folks are still writing straight-forward, single-genre books that follow the Hero’s Journey -- and some of those books are still amazing -- but for the rest of us, the old space just doesn’t feel like ours anymore. Our literary influences dominated those spaces, created those plotlines, and defined those genres. If we follow in their footsteps, we can’t help but walk in their shadows.

An example: I absolutely adored Stranger Things, but it’s a hard show to elevator pitch. It’s early Stephen King, but also early Spielberg, but also sorta Lovecraftian, but also dimension hopping sci-fi, but also…

You’re still ‘but also’-ing when the head of NBC hits the emergency stop button and escapes through the access hatch. That’s probably why it was rejected 15 times before landing on Netflix: The people in charge just couldn’t see what the creators were going for. At least, not going by the few words they were given to sell their vision.

That’s because that show was a remix: It grabbed elements from a litany of fantastic (but fairly simple and straightforward) genre classics, then weaved them together to make something strange and new.

This is a song from a band called Girl Talk. The band is actually just one guy, and he plays no instruments. All he does is take short snippets, hooks, and samples from thousands of different songs, then knit them all together into a new, cohesive whole. The term ‘mash-up’ doesn’t work, because he’s not ‘mashing’ anything – the finesse and expertise it takes to make something like that work is astounding. And whether your like the end-result or not, you have to admit that it does work.

Now, listen to that song, and imagine you’re standing in an elevator with a record executive, trying to sell it. You’ve got thirty seconds. His first questions: What’s the song about, and what genre?

You’ve only just gotten to the really cool part of the mixing process, and he’s already texting the receptionist to tell her she’s fired for letting this maniac slip through security.

ROBERT BROCKWAY is the author of The Unnoticeables and The Empty Ones (books 1 and 2 of the Vicious Circuit) and is a Senior Editor and columnist for Cracked.com. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife Meagan and their two dogs, Detectives Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh. He has been known, on occasion, to have a beard. Visit him online at robertbrockway.net.


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