"A Candle Loses Nothing By Lighting Another Candle" - Father James Keller

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Claw Marks Week on ABA: Across the Beer Bar with Derek Austin Johnson AKA Marcos London - Plus Giveaway

Liz: Welcome to my Tap Room Marcos!
Have a seat…
What can I pour for you?

Derek: What I want is a “Heart of Fire.” Here’s how you make it:  pour vodka in a shot glass, then add just under half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper.  It’s a drink of my stepson’s invention, and he thought of it shortly after seeing the season finale of A Game of Thrones.

Liz: You are a Sci Fi writer/reviewer correct?  How did you get started doing that?

Derek: The first part of the question is easy:  I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, and because I’d read the stuff in industrial quantities during my formative years, it only seemed natural that I'd write science fiction, fantasy, and horror. I've written other things, but that's where my imagination lives and plays. It helps that I'm a member of the Turkey City Writer's Workshop, one of the longest-running science fiction and fantasy workshops in the state, and has allowed me to receive story advice from one of my writing mentors.

How I got into criticism takes a little more explaining…
I’ve always read and enjoyed criticism.  Yes, I’m a glutton for punishment that way, but it appeals to my academic nature.  And while I wrote science fiction, I also thought a lot about it—its history, its formation, its place in popular culture, and what it actually means.  So writing criticism also seemed natural.  Furthermore, in science fiction, most of its best writers turn out to talk a lot about the state of the genre and the health of publishing.  Fascinating things, these, and also topics on which I had quite a few opinions, so of course I gravitated toward it.

But I wasn’t writing.  
From about 1994 to roughly 2008 I found it difficult, if not impossible, to put down any words, either on paper on in my word processor.  A lot of factors surrounded it, but its chief centerpiece was crippling depression.  I was writing a story every few years, if that, and even wrote some book reviews for Nova Express, but I couldn’t find a way out of the funk.  

Then, shortly after I married Gretchen, I did some work with an intuitive healer, who spent an hour working on some knots in my back.  When she was done she told me to keep an eye out for anything that “might change”—a pretty broad, almost meaningless statement, but I said I would.  Within a week, a friend told me that a great way to get free books was to write book reviews…and since I spent a small fortune on books each month, this seemed ideal.  So I made some contacts and started writing book reviews for Revolution SF (I even got to interview novelist Peter Straub for them), which led to writing movie reviews for SF Signal, which led to my column for SF Site.  I haven’t stopped since.

Liz: Tell me about your story in the Claw Marks Anthology.
Derek: “Fresh Meat” is pretty straightforward:  a recently divorced woman moves to a small Texas town and becomes infatuated with a young man who delivers organic groceries.  Believe it or not, there is an organic grocer who delivers grass-fed beef and organic eggs and vegetables to our home every two weeks, though the characters and situations are fictitious, so far as I know.  I pretty much had the idea in place by the time I finished reading Cassandre Dayne’s invitation to write for it, though I had to work on not turning it into the clichéd pizza-boy delivery routine that seems to be the butt of every porn joke.

Liz: Do you write in huge chunks or a little at a time?

Derek: Yes.

Actually, it depends on the project.  I do try to write a little every day, though I’m not always consistent.  When I’m working on something, it can help to write a little here and a little there, but often I have to play with a story in my head for a bit before I can write it.  And for a major project, I have to write not only a little every day but also in huge chunks.  I’m writing about 3,000 words on a daily basis for Murder, Most Likely, my erotic thriller collaboration with SammyJo Hunt, and I know it’s chewing both of our asses up…not a bad thing in my case, because it keeps me on a pretty rigid schedule, but kind of bad for her because I know she has a lot on her plate…and frankly, her ass is better than mine.

Liz: Oh look your glass is empty..what’s next for you?
Derek: I’d say another Heart of Fire, but I’d like to keep what’s left of my stomach lining.  Instead, let’s do a shot of Herraduras Gold with a Shiner Bock chaser.  Normally, my wife and I do the shots with a Michelob Ultra chaser because it only has two-and-a-half grams of carbs, but I’m drinking with a woman who knows her beer.
Liz: Is it hard to fit writing into your daily schedule?
Derek: The only thing that keeps me from writing is myself.  There’s a scene on the television show Friends where Courtney Cox asks Matthew Perry to be her workout partner, and he responds, “I would, but that would get in the way of my lying-around time.”  And sadly, I know exactly what he means.  I’m easily distracted and lazy; I can find all kinds of excuses not to write, most of them involving clearing out our DVR’s cache or whittling down my to-read pile or having sex or going out with friends or having sex or…fill in the blank.  And because I’m a movie and book critic, I often find that I have to tend to an ARC that arrived in my mailbox or go to a press screening.  I can fit writing in pretty easily—there are big gaping holes in my day most days—but actually taking the time to do it can be a different matter.
Now, I used to think that I was alone in this, but it turns out that a number of professional writers whom I respect and admire also wait until their deadlines before they start tapping their keyboards.
Liz: Can I share a secret with you?
Derek: Is this about the handcuffs, the bathtub full of Vick’s Vap-O-Rub, and the bill from hotel management for hazmat services?  It’s okay, I saw the YouTube clip already.
Liz: Many days I wonder about the value of all the promoting we do on our blogs and on all the approximately 97 bazillion book review sites/blogs/combo blogs/blog hops/blog tours there are to read every single day.  To me, it’s getting a little meta…but I’m a cynic that way.  I’m a marketing pro so I get that it has to be done, I just sorta wonder if we aren’t stepping all over each other in the process. What hard lessons have you learned about promotions (be honest)?
Derek: The biggest lesson I’ve learned? That for all of the blood and tears writing a story can be, it’s actually the easy part.  I sort of knew that this would be the case—when I sold “Academia Heat,” my best friend, a writer and editor, nodded and said, “Good; now comes the hard work”—but I don’t think I was prepared for how much work went into marketing.  I was completely unprepared to set up a website and blog for Marcos London; I’d been on Twitter for a couple of years, and had to set up another account; writing essays for other blogs; interviews; revising my bylines to include mention of Murder, Most Likely…it all had to be done, and it all starts taking a toll on how much writing you get to do.  Harlan Ellison sneers at writers who say, “I hate writing, but I enjoy having written.”  I get that.  For all of the hard work, it’s the process that I enjoy.  
And the thing is, you’d think that, for me, it would be the opposite, especially when you consider my bout with writer’s block.  I appear very gregarious, and will talk your ears off about what I’m doing and what I’ve done and what’s upcoming—I’m my favorite subject, so how can I not?—but in truth I’m a pretty shy person, and doing all of the promotion is a far greater drain on my energies than writing every day.  
Liz: Finally, what’s coming up on your writing/release horizon?  You have a novel out as well, Academia Heat, tell us about that and your writing plans down the road.
Derek: “Academia Heat” was just published, and involves a chance encounter between a college professor and a young man she meets in a restaurant.  It was a challenge to write only insofar as it was my first attempt at an erotic romance, and my first attempt at writing from a woman’s viewpoint.  It’s also my first actual fiction sale.  SammyJo Hunt and I are working like mad to meet the deadline for Murder, Most Likely, an erotic thriller that’s based on a crime story I wrote almost a decade ago, and which SammyJo read and told me was actually the end of a novel. The release date for it is December 3, and will be coming out from Rebel Ink Press.  I’m also writing a spy series in collaboration with a friend of mine, under the working title America Caesar.  Additionally, I was at a science fiction convention over the summer and accepted a challengeJoe Lansdale offered to a group of panelists discussing apes in fiction: write a story around the Zepplin Stories cover for Gil Brewer’s “Gorilla of the Gasbags.”  The story is lost to memory, so none of us know what it was actually about, allowing our imaginations free reign.  Mine involves elements of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan stories, Rider Haggard’s She, Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, H.G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau, and Clark Ashton Smith’s The City of the Singing Flame.  
Liz: And for a nightcap? What’s your poison?
Derek: Um…a cab, probably.  After the Heart of Fire, the tequila shot and beer chaser, I likely just need a cab…
Liz: Cheers!

Author Bio - Derek Austin Johnson AKA Marcos London:
MarcosLondon was born in Massachusetts but has lived most of his life in the Lone Star State.  A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor's degree in English, he has worked as a projectionist, a bookseller, a technical writer, a substitute teacher, an internal auditor, a trainer, and an editor.  His reviews and criticism under the name Derek Austin Johnson have appeared in such diverse publications as Nova Express, Moving Pictures, and Revolution SF, and his film column "Watching the Future" appears each month on SF Site.  
A creative dabbler who has been telling stories since he learned to clutch a crayon, he has been a member of the Turkey City Writer's Workshop, the longest-running science fiction and fantasy workshop in Texas, since early 1995.  It was not until 2011 that he began selling fiction. He lives with his wife Genevre Pierceau in Central Texas.
A few links.  

Claw Marks Anthology Coming Oct 3rd from Rebel Ink:
Have you ever considered engaging in an exciting relationship with a stunning hunk of a man who’s much younger? Does your heart beat rapidly as you savor his carved body from across the crowded room? Every cougar can tell you the answer. Entering into new relationships isn’t easy and for some, sharing joy means letting go of a difficult past. Join a talented group of writers from Rebel Ink Press who bring you stories of love and passion transcending age and sometimes tragedy.
Checkmate by SammyJo Hunt – For anchor Clint Watson, keeping a low profile about his sexuality is a must but on one beautiful afternoon over a game of chess, he finds pleasure in the arms of a younger man. Player Conference by Liz Crowe – Jess can’t get past the loss of her husband until her daughter’s soccer coach gives her every reason to try again. The Diver’s Club by Genevre Pierceau – Jilted by her cheating boyfriend, Jill finds solace over drinks with her girlfriends who convince her to turn the tables and engage in a moment of passion with a sexy contractor. Spicy White Chocolate by Cassandre Dayne – During a regular meeting of an erotic book club, the girls enter into a wicked pact to seduce a younger man and the first to do so wins a hefty prize, only Shawna Dupres didn’t count on falling in love. Insatiable Kate by Dawne Prochilo – Kate Winston was angry at being thwarted by the man of her dreams and she was ready to give him a piece of her mind. What she didn’t know was Rome made a promise years before and yet one he was ready to break for the possibility of romance.

Believe by K.T. Bishop – Gabi continues to suffer from the loss of her husband until she finds passion in the arms of a young athlete bent on making a better life for himself. But can his dream succeed against his family’s wishes? Tempting Research by Sam Crescent – For Melissa Crane, research for her erotic books is everything. Stumped by a scene and facing a tough deadline, she enlists the help of one very sexy masseuse. Carnal Awakenings by Sara York – Anna is not only concerned about her aging looks but her children’s thoughts about her considering another relationship until a secluded vacation and a hot younger man and his male lover convince her an alternate lifestyle might work. Unwrap Me by Cassandre Dayne – Cristal refuses to get over the acts of her cheating ex husband until her best friend provides a special treat under the mistletoe. Fresh Meat by Marcos London – Robin Dahl moved to a small town in Texas to get away from her manipulating ex and pushes all thoughts of romance aside until a sexy deliveryman changes her mind.
Comment on any post this week, Monday Sept 26th through Sat Oct. 1st, to be entered to win an ebook copy of Claw Marks. Please leave your email in the comment so we can contact you if you win!


  1. Excellent interview. The more I read of this book the more I want it

  2. Great interview Derek and Liz! I found myself laughing out loud reading it!

    And what the hell...my ass is better than yours??? *grins & winks!* As long as you think so... *chuckles* ;)

    Thanks for the mention of me and our book MML. Crunch time, indeed!

    Best wishes & good luck with all you do!


  3. Nice interview, feeling a little tipsy just hearing your drink orders. Can't wait for the release! Congrats

  4. um, Derek...ixnay on the icks-vay...


In accordance with the new FTC Guidelines for blogging and endorsements, Kiki Howell of An Author's Musings, would like to advise that in addition to purchasing my own books to review, I also receive books, and/or promotional materials, free of charge in return for an honest review, as do any guest reviewers.