Tag Archives: Satire

Tales From an Untethered Mind

An Interview with Giovanni Valentino

Ok, Kiddies, another interesting interview for you – This time with Giovanni Valentino, the publisher of Strange Musings Press, and the editor of the series of  five anthologies entitled Alternate Hilarities. His newest one, ONE STAR REVIEW OF THE AFTERLIFE has some very funny, strange, and quirky insights into what a handful writers think may happen to us when we “pass over.” God help us all if any of these stories actually pan out! Trigger Alert: If you are serious about the afterlife, this book is not for you!

Author/Editor/Publisher

author/editor/publlisher

Bio         

Giovanni Francesco Valentino has struggled with the art of writing for four decades, against the demons of self doubt, chronic depression OCD, and severe dyslexia. He has written a few memoir pieces about these struggles, as well as a dozen humors, speculative short stories. His long term goal is to be a science fiction and fantasy author that will inspire other people to write fan fiction in worlds.      http://giovannivalentino.blogspot.com/

  Interview

JWM: You have a very prolific background as both short story writer and an editor of five successful anthologies. Which one of these is your favorite role – and why?

GV: I’m more proud of my success as a writer because I grew up with a severe learning disability. If you could find any teacher of mine from school, all the way up to high school, and told them I’m a published author, they’d laugh at you. It’s not really their fault. I was in school during the seventies and eighties. Learning disabilities weren’t even a thing back then. I didn’t even hear the work dyslexia until college. Teachers just presumed because I sounded intelligent but did poorly in school that I was just lazy.

Before computers, 1000 monkeys with 1000 typewriters had a better chance of producing readable text than I did. Now with modern technology like spell checking (which google is better at than word), text to speak and online grammar checkers, my creative spirit is finally free to express the mad capped ideas in my head for others to comprehend.

I do like my role as editor because I enjoy working with and helping other authors. At least two or three stories per edition have gone through a revise and resubmit process. I do this when I get a story that’s really close to acceptance but it’s missing something fixable.

I’ll send the story back with some notes on what I think didn’t work and even suggest a joke or two. If the author wants, they can make these changes and give it another try.

Not everyone is on board. I’ve had a few people thank me for my time but pass. They usually say they liked the suggestions but they just don’t see it fitting the story they were trying to tell and that’s the author’s right.

I’m sadder to admit that I’ve had a few come back without enough improvement or in one case, return in worse shape than without the changes and I had to reject it.

Still, it has worked more than a few times and has resulted in some very good stories in each anthology.

JWM: Your five anthologies are all branded as ALTERNATE HILARITIES – 1) ALTERNATE HILARITIES, 2) AH VAMPIRES SUCK, 3) AH HYSTERICAL REALMS, 4) AH WEIRDER SCIENCE, and now 5) AH ONE STAR REVIEWS OF THE AFTERLIFE. Alternate Hilarities is obviously a take off on the overworked term of Alternate Realities. Does this mean that you (and your stable of writers) find the alternate universe a lot funnier and more ironic than this one?

GV: That was the general idea. The first edition was just named after the original fan zine to express that very concept. I started using the subtitles after that because I felt the lack of theme made the first edition a little too disjointed by covering fantasy, science fiction and horror all at once.

Still, Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton are running for President in this universe. I can’t imagine things could get any more strange or ironic here in the real world.

JWM: Your own stories obviously reflect this view point, Your website categorizes your writing as humors science fiction, humorous fantasy, and humorous horror – with a only a short nod to memoir. But yet some of your short stories reflect a deep dive into serious issues – such as your story KIDS DON’T GET CHOICES ( Eleven-year-old Eliza finds out a surprising secret about her past… and her future) – Do these serious stories come from your struggles with OCD, dyslexia, and chronic depression, as stated in your biography?

GV: Often these short stories are bits and pieces of character histories created for larger works that never got off the ground. I wrote KIDS DON’T GET CHOICES as a background history for a novel featuring the Uncle Gavin character. I never got further than that.

Although, TAMING YOUR INNER CHILD is definitely about people struggling with mental illness. I’ve never had it as bad as Mickey does in this story but it was an attempt on my part to bring people into my world. I actually wrote that for a writing prompt about my greatest fear.

My one and only memoir piece, Sometimes it’s OK TO BE NICE to people, was more about forgiving myself for not appreciating my grandmother’s complete and totally unconditional love for me while she was alive. I still choke up when I read it.

JWM: When (and how) did you get the inspiration to start STRANGE MUSINGS PRESS?

GV: Strange Musings Press came into being as a dream reinvigorated. I published Alternate Hilarities as a fan zine in the 90s, more about that later, but stopped because the cost of publishing back in the day was too high and the quality you would get was too low. And you couldn’t get small print runs either. I would have to order at least 1000 copies of any one issue to get time on the schedule with the printers and I didn’t need anywhere near that many.

Fast forward to 2012 and an author friend of mine had just gotten back the rights to two of her novels because her small press publisher had gone under. She asked me to look into the cost and efforts of getting those books back into print via self-publishing and I was surprise to see how easy it was now a days to get your own work to market if you just had some computer savvy. Having mad skills in Microsoft office, I could do a lot of the work myself and I had a few good contacts that could help me with the rest.

My friend got her books back into print with a different small press but I’d been bitten by the publishing bug again. So I started Strange Musings Press and for much less money and at a higher level of quality, I brought Alternate Hilarities back from the dead.

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JWM:  It’s easy to get the impression that you are a one-man-band at STRANGE MUSINGS PRESS and in putting together the AH anthologies. Is this true? If so, how do you find the time to put all of this together, plus the financing, marketing, etc.?

GV: I am not ashamed to admit that I am a one man band for the most part. I outsource the jobs that I can’t do like cover art and the final proofreading but the rest of it is all in my wheel house of skills.

I read all the submissions. I typeset the print and ebook editions. I run the blog tours, the social media and Kickstarters.

As for the time, I’m already doing all these things for other people as a freelancer. I just added Strange Musings Press to the calendar like it was any other client. I have the experience to budget my time because I’ve done it all before. Although, I do enjoy complaining about what a jerk the client is when working on Alternate Hilarities.

JWM: Do you have a consistent stable of writers that you work with for your anthologies or does it vary widely, depending on the theme (i.e., the folks writing vampires may not be into weird science or the after life)?

GV: The anthologies are open to anyone. I post notices of the reading periods on the Grinder, Duotrope, and a number of Facebook groups to get the word out.

Still, I’ve developed a few authors that I like for their style or just being easy to work with. I always give those people special invites to the anthology. I’ve even gone so far as to prompt them to submit a few weeks before the deadline rolls around if I haven’t heard from them. Case in point, I will be inviting you back for sure.

JWM:  What is the favorite story that you ever wrote (and why)?

GV: My favorite story so far is in One Star Reviews of the Afterlife called THE ACCIDENTAL  RAPTURE. I got to work out my frustrations from my long career in I.T. with that one. I hope I was fair by mocking the end users and the IT people evenly. My biggest struggle with the story was keeping the tech references in check. I wanted them to be difficult to follow for a laymen but not impossible.

image001 ONE STAR REVIEW OF THE AFTERLIFE – an Anthology

As you shuffle off this mortal coil, many things will go through you mind. Will you be remembered well? Did you leave the iron on? Did you delete your browser history, lately?  But the big question – is there something after this? If so, will it suck? This is a collection of humors tales of the afterlife that cover the I.T. woes of heaven, the dangers of out-of-state occult tools. the perils of not saving appropriately for the hereafter, the shock of finding out not every good deal will get you through the pearly gates, and maybe, just maybe, paradise isn’t for everyone!

 

JWM: How busy are you with your Editorial Services? Do you enjoy this as much as you obviously do writing and putting the anthologies together?

GV: The Editorial Service is a pleasure and a burden. I do enjoy working with good authors helping them get their manuscripts ready for submission. It brings me great joy to see a good manuscript grow into a great one with my insight and guidance. I’ve been told I have a very strong sense for plotting and character development.

I like making the money the work brings but it does take time from my writing which I do enjoy more by far.

I have had a few instances where I just couldn’t help the author that has contracted me. Either their work was nowhere near publication ready or they just didn’t want to listen to anything I’ve told them. In each of the cases, I’ve just canceled the contract rather than steal the author’s money. My help doesn’t promise a publishing contract but I feel bad working on something I don’t think will have a chance even with my help.

JWM: Now that you have the ONE STAR REVIEWS OF THE AFTERLIFE launched, are you already planning your next anthology? Any hints about the theme?

GV: I am planning Alternate Hilarities 6. It probably will not happen this year but I definitely want to put one out in 2017. I’m still mulling over the theme but I’m leaning heavily towards Apocalypse/Dystopia. I have the sub-title “Not your Mama’s Apocalypse!” stuck in my head but there’s still time for that to change.

JWM: Your bio says your long term goal is to become a famous science fiction and fantasy author, which usually means moving into novel writing – Do you have a few such novels hidden in drawers ready to come out? Or are you working on these in your “spare” time? Anything you want to share on this?

Writing is my main focus at the moment since fate has given me a little unscheduled time to work with. I have two novels on tap right now. One that I am shopping around as we speak. I’m hesitant to go into too much detail about it because I might be using a pen name for that. The story is a nice clean young adult Fantasy and I’m not sure if my humorous speculative fiction background is going to help or hurt in getting that published. I’ve been told by a few industry friends to consider using a new pen name to make a clean break between the styles. The book would be the launching point of a huge fantasy world that I’ve been working on in my head for over thirty years.

The second one is a humorous science fiction novel called Happy Birthday to the Galaxy. It’s about a high level government Bureaucrat that gets thrown to the wolves during a global coup. He’s forced to live by his wits and the apps on his smart phone to avoid taking the fall for the gross corruption in his government. I’ve finished the first draft of that and I’ll be working on the second next month. I hope to be sending that out by July. That one will clearly work with the Giovanni Valentino name on it.

For more stops on Giovanni’s blog book tour for the One Star Review of the Afterlife, go to:  http://www.strange musings press.com/2016/03/one-star-reveiw-of-afterlife-blog-tour.html                      

 

Tales From an Untethered Mind

This was one of the first short stories that I had “published” – meaning that it was accepted and read aloud on stage by the Liar’s League in London, England, in April, 2010. So I thought I had a hot one that would get quick acceptance in an e-zine or magazine. In fact it took two more years before it was accepted by the BWG Writers Roundtable in March 2012. So goes the life of a fiction writer.

Note: This story handles some delicate issues in an indelicate manner – with bad words, too boot – You’ve been warned!

 

                   Hanging With the Neighbors

He was standing on a short stepladder, facing me. The expression on his face said Piss off, this is none of your business. One end of the rope was secured to the overhead garage beam. The other end formed an expert hangman’s noose around his neck.

He kicked away the stepladder just as I stepped through the door.

I surged forward and managed to wrap both arms around his legs to lift up as he hit the end of the rope. There was a sharp jerk and a heavy grunt but I pushed upward with all my strength.

“You OK?” I asked.

I could tell he was alive. We had a delicate balance, me carrying the brunt of his weight, his neck straining hard against the taught rope. I couldn’t raise my head high enough to see his face. In fact, I was talking into his crotch. There was a long moment of silence , then, “What… the fuck… do you… think you’re doing?”

“What the fuck do you think I’m doing?”

“Meddling.”

“Don’t bother to say thanks.”

“I hope…you’re… not …a pervert.”

“I feel you getting a hard on, I’ll drop you. That a deal?”

“This is a mistake.”

“Hanging yourself, or my stopping you from hanging yourself?”

“Hanging myself.”

“Just had a change of mind ?”

“How you gonna get me down?”

I hadn’t given that any thought up to this moment. I was too busy trying to just hold him up. I glanced around the garage. The stepladder out of reach and there was nothing within six feet of us.

“You got a knife on you?” His voice was a hoarse whisper.

“I have a Swiss Army knife, but it’s at home.”

“My hero.”

“What if I lift you up? You put your feet on my shoulders, then you can reach the beam to untie the rope.”

“I got a rope cinched tight around my neck and you want me to balance on your shoulders to reach the beam?”

“OK. I’ll lift a little to put some slack in the rope, then you use your thumbs to loosen the knot. Maybe you can pull the noose up and off?”

“OK.”

I pushed up as I high as I could and he inserted his thumbs inside the noose, but the shift in weight made me lose balance and lurch backwards. He gagged with a loud squawk, his eyes popping out like huge marbles as the noose cinched even tighter.

“Sorry.”

“My… fucking… thumbs… are caught… under the noose!”

“I guess that eliminates trying to reach the beam?”

“This… really… hurts.”

“You were going to hang yourself and you didn’t think it would hurt?”

“I thought… it was… going …to be… a little quicker… than this.”

“Why not sleeping pills? Or gas yourself in your car?”

“I’m… flat broke. Didn’t… want… to waste… a hundred bucks… on fancy sleeping pills… just to kill… myself. And… my car…repo’d… last week.”

I shifted my arms, trying to avoid a cramp.

“Be… careful…will ya?”

“I guess you’re not Catholic?”

“…the fuck… has that… got to do… with anything?”

“Catholics think you go to hell when you commit suicide.”

“I’m about… to die here… and you’re… worrying… about me… going to hell?”

“Sorry I mentioned it.”

“You… Catholic?”

“No.”

“Then…why the hell… bring it up?”

“Just making conversation while we figure out what to do. Why you doing it in Chuck’s garage, anyway?”

“Chuck…away… for the weekend…Had no where else…to go. Why…you here?”

“Chuck said I could use his hedge trimmer. Just get it out of the garage while he’s away.”

“You…friend of… Chuck’s…too? Surprised… we haven’t… met.”

“Just lucky up to now, I guess.”

“What the… hell… does that… mean?”

“Your friend’s away and you hang yourself in his garage? He comes home and finds you hanging. He’s in shock but has to get you down, call the police, explain who you are, then clean up the mess. Who the hell would want to be your friend?”

“Schmuck… deserves this. Got me …into this.”

A ring tone went off over my head. “You gotta cell phone?”

“Shirt… pocket.”

“Who’s ever calling can help us out for chrissakes!”

“You… gonna reach…it? My thumbs…trapped upside… my neck!”
Pure sarcasm. He knew damn well that I couldn’t reach it. The ringing stopped.

“ Probably… the bitch…anyway.”

“That what this is all about?”

“I am… flat as… broke. Lost my job…Bitch says… we ain’t… got a… future …together. No place… to go… except…end of this rope.”

“She sounds a bit shallow.:

“You…a marriage… counselor?”

“If you were in love, you could work it out.”

“Thank you… Dr. Phil…She doesn’t… work…Just a housewife…Her old man …barely… has a pot… to piss in…Wouldn’t get… a dime… if she divorced him.”

“She’s married?”

“Neighbor…. Chuck… introduced us…Thought we… would be… a real match. …So he deserves to… find me here…stretched out… in his garage… Ruin his day.”

“Does she know you’re this depressed?”

“Saundra… only worries… about herself.”

“Saundra?”

“yeah…Saundra…Only worries about… herself….No money…no honey…And I ain’t got… no money.”

I shrugged my shoulders, lifting his legs a few more inches, “I don’t think we’re going to make it.”

“What?,,, We’re… not going… to make it? What…does…that mean?”

“I can’t see any way out of this and I am getting tired of holding you up.”

“You…going… to drop me… just like that?”

“Yeah.”

I dropped him. He bounced and gurgled and danced in the air and turned blue and purple, his eyes bugging out again, then fell silent.

I spent a few minutes looking for Chuck’s hedge trimmer before leaving the garage. I giggled on the way out about Chuck finding his buddy hanging in the garage. How he was going to explain about the thumbs caught up under the noose?

But I was anxious to get home. I couldn’t wait to tell my wife, Saundra, about finding her boyfriend hanging in Chuck’s garage.

End