Okay, for starters, what's the birdseye lowdown on Gary Val Tenuta? Where do you hail from? Where are you now? Where'd you go in between?
I hail from Seattle. Or maybe I rain from Seattle. We do that a lot here. My webbed feet prove it. I’m still in Seattle. Sort of. I’ve migrated to a location a few miles north. When I’m not here I’m most likely working security for a renegade group of alien-human hybrids at a top secret underground base near Dulce, New Mexico.
How do you get around?
Just fine, thank you. Oh! You mean, as in mode of transportation? That would be a rowboat. It rains a lot here.
What's the best car you've ever owned?
The car I have now, actually. A beautiful 1993 Oldsmobile Elite that I found on craigslist. (The rowboat is my other car) The guy who was selling the Olds didn’t own it and he spoke with a Russian accent. He gave me some story about how it belonged to his neighbor who was confined to a wheelchair. He did have the title, though.
Interestingly, there was a Russian gang buying and selling stolen cars in this area at the time. Just sayin’.
But the car was immaculate, loaded with all the goodies, metallic maroon body with maroon interior, remarkably low miles, a price that was suspiciously low and it had a U.S. Air Force security sticker in the front window. I’m not kidding. All of this made me a little nervous but the thing was so friggin’ gorgeous I bought it anyway. So far, no Men In Black have come looking for me so I guess I’m good. For now.
And the strangest thing you've ever eaten?
I could say something but I won’t go there.
I recently learned through your facebook page that you have another amazing talent. I'm talking about your country music. Care to tell us a little about that? How long have you been at it? What all do you play? And do you still record or perform?
I grew up on rock-n-roll, Elvis, Jerry Lee, you know. Then got into folk music with Dylan, Baez, and a host of others that most people probably never heard of in the 60s. Some of that got played on radio but the really good stuff never did.
One day, someone told me some of it was finding air play on some country music stations. I had never really paid much attention to country music but decided to tune in and see what was happening. They did play a few of the more obscure folk artists like Doc Watson and some bluegrass bands occasionally but mostly, of course, they just played whatever country music was popular at the time. I got to where I was really digging it because of the story aspect to a lot of the songs.
Marty Robbins’ gun-fighter ballads were great and Johnny Cash knocked me out with stuff like Folsom Prison Blues and Ring Of Fire. Then I found out Cash and Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis all started out together at Sun Records. I thought that was pretty cool and I began to notice how country and rock-n-roll were really quite intertwined. In the 70s a lot of the bands, like the Byrds and even the Stones (Honky Tonk Woman), were mixing country with rock and I loved what they were doing. Anyway, I just eventually fell in love with country.
In the 80s I met James Michael Thomas, a guitar player who played in both country and rock bands and even played in Ray Charles’ road band for a while. He found out I was starting to write country songs and he was impressed with my stuff. He introduced me to the country band he was with at the time and they added one of my songs to their play list. That was pretty exciting for me to hear one of my songs blasting from the bandstand with all the people dancing to it.
Then I joined the N.W. Songwriter’s Association and ended up performing a lot of my songs at a weekly Singer/Songwriter Showcase in Seattle and a studio demo of my 1950s-Elvis-styled Christmas songs made it onto the regular rotation at one of the bigger local country music radio stations. I thought maybe songwriting would turn out to be my bread and butter but the further I got into it, the more I found out what an almost impossible business it is to get into. The doors are made of 6-foot thick solid steel, bolted shut like a bank vault. You can get your foot in that door if you know somebody but it can shut on your foot really fast, too.
The closest I ever got to any sort of success was a demo of one of my songs somehow made it all the way to a desk drawer in Waylon Jennings’ home office. LOL
Care to list one or three of your favorite musicians or songs?
Oh man. That’s a tough one. Some of my favorite songs and musicians are ones most people probably never heard of. Let’s see… Seeds and Stems Again Blues (Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen), Hoochie Coochie Man (Hoyt Axton’s version), Polk Salad Annie (Tony Joe White), Bobbie McGee (Janis Joplin version), In The Summertime (Mungo Jerry)… I could go on and on. Better go on to the next question.
I also understand that you once had a "close encounter". Would you like to tell us about that?
Now THAT was cool! In Seattle, 1993, I saw what has become known as a “Black Triangle UFO”. It was cruising very slowly and very low and completely silent. Passed directly over me. I estimated it was about 300 feet to a side, about the length of a football field. An illustration of it and all the details of the sighting (including some interesting related information about how my affidavit ended up in a legal suit against the U.S. Dept. of Defense) are in an article on The Examiner at http://www.examiner.com/article/close-encounter-with-black-triangle-ufo.
Can you explain the "holographic universe theory" to us laypersons? And how might it apply to such phenomena as close encounters or, perhaps, even paranormal experiences?
Oh, man, Jeff. Your readers may be sorry you asked. I’m not sure I can do an adequate job of it without turning this interview into a small tome. But I’ll give it a go.
The gist of it (at least to my limited understanding) is that it has to do with the idea of the interconnectedness of everything from the dust particle on your shirt sleeve to the stars that fill the Universe and everything in between and beyond, visible and invisible to the human eye. That idea is very old. Ancient, actually. What’s new about it is a theory to explain it in scientific terms.
To make a really complex story really short, the holographic universe theory actually started back in the 1940s when two of the worlds leading physicists (unbeknownst to each other and working in different fields of inquiry) had come to the conclusion that the current theoretical models in each of their own disciplines were inadequate to explain the anomalies in each of their respective fields. One man was a quantum physicist and friend of Einstein. His name was David Bohm.
Bohm’s work focused on things like the structure and functioning of the Universe. The other man was a neurophysiologist by the name of Karl Pribram. Pribram’s focus was on the structure and functioning of the human brain. Now pay attention. There’ll be a test following this lecture.
Longer story even shorter: Working independently of each other, unaware of each other’s work, they both arrived at the same conclusion. The conclusion was that the one thing that could explain the heretofore unexplained anomalies in each of their respective fields of research was the idea of a hologram.
Bohm was somewhat familiar with the aspects of a hologram that make a hologram work the way it does. He then recognized similar aspects in the way the Universe seemed to function. Karl Pribram had almost simultaneously recognized the same sort of aspects in the way the human brain seemed to function. Pribram and Bohm didn’t come together to compare notes until about 20 years later.
By this time, Bohm was reaching the conclusion that his holographic idea was taking him into areas he knew little about. He asked around to see if anyone knew of any quantum physicists who might be able to help him out. His own son suggested Karl Pribram. When the two men finally met, it was the proverbial match made in Heaven.
Together they realized this idea was so far reaching in its implications that there seemed to be no scientific or philosophic anomaly that could not be explained by this Holographic Universe Theory. Even such things as precognition, telepathy, synchronicity and a variety of other so-called psychic phenomena could be explained by this theory. A holographic image is structured in such a way that any little piece of it, no matter how small, contains all the information necessary to reconstruct the entire image.
Therefore, if our Universe and everything in it is one gigantic hologram, then everything is everywhere at once. It’s this all-inclusive interconnectedness that allows the theory to provide an explanation for just about any (or, indeed, all) phenomena that exists in our reality.
Can I stop now? My brain hurts.
Can you give us a quick rundown on the concept of "gematria"?
A quick rundown? Next you’re going to ask me to write a detailed synopsis of War And Peace on the head of a pin. But, okay. I’ll see what I can do.
I’m guessing you asked because it comes up in my novel, Ash: Return Of The Beast. Although not nearly as extensively as in my first novel, The Ezekiel Code which, I believe, is the only novel ever written in which the storyline is actually driven by gematria. Gematria is an alphanumeric system of divination (for lack of a better term) that dates back to the ancient Greek and Hebrew civilizations.
Basically, gematria is a system in which each letter of the alphabet is assigned a number. The Greeks had their numbering system and the Hebrews had a slightly different numbering system. The basic idea is to calculate the numerical value of a word or phrase by applying the given numbers that are assigned to the letters of the alphabet. The presumption is that words and/or phrases that have the same numerical value are somehow related. If the relationship seems incomprehensible, then it’s thought that enough deep contemplation on the matter will eventually lead one to understand just what the relationship is.
If you think back to my explanation of the interconnectedness aspect of the Holographic Universe Theory, you might see how this fits into that concept. And that combination brings us to the phenomenon of synchronicity. But that’s another interview. LOL
Interestingly, most people are not aware that an aspect of gematria was used in the Bible. It was a way of encoding information into certain passages that only the initiates of certain mystical Orders would recognize. One example would be the number 666 in Revelation. Another would be the number 153 in the New Testament story of Jesus showing his disciples which side of the boat to cast the net.
Now, this number 153 is not derived from a gematria value of any particular word (although I've discovered some interesting gematria associated with it). It’s really related to what is known as sacred geometry. But gematria and sacred geometry are intimately related (Isn’t everything?).
In this example, the number 153 relates to a geometric form called the Vesica Piscis which is the “fish” shape that is formed when two circles of the same diameter are brought together so that the circumference of one circle passes through the center of the other circle.
That fish shape in the middle (think of it as the shape of a football) appears in many iconic depictions of Christ. Several Old World sculptures and paintings show Jesus inside this fish-shaped (or football shaped) enclosure. In those cases, that enclosure is called a Mandorla.
This 153 geometry is much more complex than I’ve described in this example but it’ll have to do for now.
What I, and a few others have done, is to break with the tradition of using only the Greek or Hebrew alphabets and numbering systems for gematria. We use the English alphabet (derived from the Latin/Roman alphabet). Personally, I just stumbled onto this idea independently about 25 years ago. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as gematria. I won’t bother to explain how I happened to stumble into this stuff. It would take too long and it’s a little weird. As if what I’m talking about here isn’t weird enough.
Anyway, I use the simple serial code of A=1 through Z=26. Now here’s one of the best examples of the kind of thing I’ve discovered:
JESUS = 74
LUCIFER = 74
Interesting that the names of the two iconic figures representing polar opposites of the spiritual realm would have the same gematria value. Now, let’s see what happens when we put them together:
74 + 74 = 148 = MORNING STAR
Why is this significant? Because in the Bible, Jesus and Lucifer are both associated with the “Morning Star” either directly or indirectly (Isaiah 14:12, Rev. 22:16). Is this simply a meaningless “coincidence”, the result of random chance? And then there is this:
In some Luciferic rituals it is common to turn the cross upside down or "reverse" the cross.
So let's take the 74, reverse it to 47 and combine them:
74 + 47 = 121 = ANTICHRIST
That’s just a tiny example, one of many more intriguing and often surprising things that have turned up in this work. One of the most remarkable, I think, occurred when I decided to calculate the gematria values of the words ONE through NINE. (http://www.secretofnine.com/gematria-1.html)
Some interesting patterns arose from that and, most remarkable (and completely unexpected) of all, was that one of the patterns corresponded with an aspect of what is called Vortex Mathematics developed by an alternative researcher by the name of Marko Rodin. There is no conventional explanation for why this particular relationship should exist. My guess is that it might have something to do with that ol’ Holographic Universe Theory. But hey, what do I know? I flunked first year algebra.
Do you believe there might be elaborate conspiracies in place designed to keep us ignorant masses safe from knowing too much? Are American Idol and the X-Box just carefully designed ploys to keep people complacent?
Ah! Conspiracy theory! Love conspiracy theories. However, I’m not sure I buy into that one. Not saying it’s not possible. I’m just not convinced that TV and video games are part of an organized conspiracy to keep us dumbed down. I think we tend to do that pretty well on our own without the need for it to be implemented by the mysterious Illuminati.
Having said that, however, there are some very odd things that go on that do seem a bit weird. Bohemian Grove comes to mind. But I’ll let people look that one up on their own. Some of the circumstances surrounding the official explanations for the 9/11 Twin Towers incident are also questionable, in my opinion.
One of my all time favorite conspiracy theories is the one about the alleged underground base at Dulce, New Mexico that’s run by a group of Reptilian aliens in cahoots with a secret faction of the U.S. Military. I don’t buy a word of it but I have to say there are elements of it that seem to have some basis in reality and that intrigues me –– specifically, the alleged involvement of an actual person by the name of Philip Schneider whose death under unusual circumstances only adds to the mystery.
Oh, and the MJ-12 conspiracy theory is freakin’ great. If it’s a hoax it’s perhaps the biggest, most complex hoax ever perpetrated. For anyone interested, I’ve written what you might call an MJ-12 primer. It’s called The Mystery of the Majestic-12 Documents. It lays out the entire story. You can find it here: http://www.authorsden.com/categories/article_top.asp?catid=17&id=43071
What I’ve learned over the years about UFO-related conspiracy theories, in particular, is that they often involve real people and real events and we know the government has been interested in the UFO phenomenon at least since the Roswell incident back in 1947. There was Project Blue Book and Project Grudge, and the Condon Committee and the Brookings Report and I’m sure I’m forgetting some. My friend, Peter Gersten (a.k.a. the UFO Lawyer) was a key player in getting the CIA, the FBI and the NSA to release hundreds of UFO related documents that those agencies claimed they didn’t have.
The actual government involvement in the ongoing UFO phenomenon is what makes the UFO-related conspiracy theories so compelling. There always seems to be some nuggets of truth mixed into them. Just enough, sometimes, to make you go, “Hmm…”.
What are your views on reincarnation and/or transmigration? Is it possible certain souls keep coming back until they get the job right? Could a soul choose to return?
Honestly? I have no idea.
Well, now that that's out of the way, let's talk about your writing. How long have you been at that? Was there something or someone that inspired you to pick up the pen and have at it?
I think the first story I ever wrote was when I was about 12 years old. It was a sci-fi story called The Beam From Saucer-X. It was really good, too. I know that because my mom told me so.
But it wasn’t until I was about 15 or 16 that I started to really become interested in creative writing. There were two authors that pretty much kick-started that interest. First was Edgar Allan Poe and then H. P. Lovecraft. I think the first Poe story I read was The Telltale Heart. I was immediately hooked. I read everything by Poe that I could get my hands on.
I also must admit there was another writer whose work influenced me. That was, surprisingly enough, John Lennon. He wrote a couple of small books, John Lennon In His Own Write and A Spaniard In The Works. They were both filled with bizarre little humorous “nonsense stories”, some not more than half a page long. But, like you did in your novel, Space Orville, he made up a lot of words. His word play was often so hysterically funny that I sometimes laughed until the tears flowed. Then again, maybe I just have a weird sense of humor. Anyway, his writing inspired me to write several short pieces of similar nonsense. Those little gems inevitably got passed around study hall and usually ended in me getting into trouble. But hey, what is high school for if it’s not to have fun and get in trouble?
How long have you been published? Do you have any early writings we may have never heard of? When did you enter the wonderful world of the independent author?
My first paid writing gig was in the mid-1990s writing feature articles for the venerable old Fate Magazine. But my first novel (The Ezekiel Code) was self-published through Outskirts Press in 2007.
You've got a couple of truly remarkable books out there now: THE EZEKIEL CODE and ASH: RETURN OF THE BEAST (which I loved and reviewed here). Can you tell us a bit about them?
Okay. Well, let’s start with my latest novel, Ash: Return Of The Beast.
I was browsing through a second-hand bookstore one day and came across a biography of the notorious British occultist, Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), the man the British press once labeled as “The Wickedest Man In The World”.
Having had a long time interest in all facets of the supernatural, paranormal, and generally anything that resonated with those topics, I was familiar with who Crowley was. I knew he identified with the number 666 and often referred to himself as “The Beast”. But I’d never read a full biography about him.
I paged through the book and, toward the end, my speed-reading eyes almost passed over a remarkable little factoid that I’d never heard about before. I did a double-take to see if it said what I thought it said. It did.
According to the biography (and I’ve since found the same information elsewhere), Crowley’s body was cremated upon his death. Curiously, however, the urn containing his ashes mysteriously disappeared. Its disappearance has remained a mystery to this day.
When I read that I thought, wow, if that isn’t a great set-up for a supernatural tale, I don’t know what is.
This idea wouldn’t leave me alone. I mulled it over in my head for days, maybe weeks, trying to come up with a good story based around this intriguing little bit of Crowley trivia. Eventually, it came to me and I couldn’t wait to get started.
Three years in the works, it finally emerged as Ash: Return Of The Beast, a supernatural serial killer chiller steeped in the occult and drenched in esoteric lore. I knew I had something here, something even better than I imagined it would be.
So, is it a horror story? Well, yes, but not in the gory slasher manner that we’ve seen so much of over the past couple decades. It's more the quiet, subtle sort of horror that creeps up on you, gaining momentum, pushing you further and further into the darkness until you have nowhere to run. As one reviewer put it:
“I was reminded of Dennis Lehane. Very different from other horror fiction stories... even gave the whole Necronomicon tale a new spin." - Cyma R. Kahn, goodreads.com reviewer
As many novelists will tell you, sometimes the author thinks he knows how the story will end. But, as the characters begin to take on a life of their own, the story can evolve in directions the author never anticipated and the ending can turn out to be something quite different from what was originally planned. Such was the case with Ash. Another reviewer said:
"An ending you will never see coming. Highly recommended." - Lila L. Pinord
Believe me, as the author, no one was more surprised by the ending than I was.
The story begins with the death of Crowley in 1947 and provides a surprising answer to the disappearance of the urn. Then the timeline shifts to the 1990s and the emergence of a death-metal musician, with the unlikely name of Rodney Duckworth, whose path to fame and fortune is curiously linked to the mystery of the missing urn.
Finally the story shifts to the present day where Brian Kane, a gruff and gritty street-worn Seattle Police Detective, reluctantly teams up with the mysterious Rowena Ravenwood, an attractive and rather unconventional female FBI agent assigned to a most unusual investigative unit. Their task is to figure out why good, healthy, God-fearing preachers in their fair city are suddenly dropping dead... one at a time... nine days apart.
As the intense and baffling investigation continues, Ravenwood cannot help but suspect Detective Kane is holding something back from her. What is the disturbing secret that he’s holding so close to his chest?
The investigation catapults Kane and Ravenwood headlong into life-threatening situations as they feel their way through the strange, dark labyrinth of the world of the occult and find themselves battling for their lives against the powerful forces of ritual magick.
A bloody carnage of an unimaginable horror is about to be unleashed upon the world as the offspring of the fabled “Old Ones” are awakened from their ancient slumber.
The survival of the entire human race hangs in the balance and the clues to help solve the case are in desperately short supply. Worse yet, so is the amount of time left to stop the mysterious killer's reign of terror before all Hell breaks loose.
And – according to Special Agent Ravenwood – that’s not just a figure of speech.
Now, about The Ezekiel Code. I’d have to say the seed that eventually grew to become The Ezekiel Code was actually planted many years prior to having any notion of writing a novel. Back in the late 60s I had decided to read the Bible from cover to cover. I can't say I read every word but I did at least read "through" it from beginning to end.
Now, having had an interest in the UFO phenomenon since the age of about 12, some of the passages in the Bible struck me as being somewhat similar to reports I'd read about UFO sightings. I first noticed it in the story of the Israelite's long journey through the desert. They followed a "pillar of cloud by day" and a "pillar of fire by night". That struck me as a rather curious phenomenon.
Added to that was the Ark of the Covenant which functioned to somehow to serve as a communication device between "God" and Moses, the leader of this band of wandering Jews. I wondered, could the Ark be some sort of a wireless communication technology so "God" (or whatever it was) could talk to Moses from his "ship", the pillar of cloud by day, lit up at night?
Then, in the book of Numbers, this cloud that carried "God" actually landed on the ground. And, further on, there was Elijah who was "taken up" in a "whirlwind". It was becoming, as Alice would say, curiouser and curiouser.
Then came the hammer that hit me on the head. It was the book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel’s descriptions of the object that came down from the sky, and with which he interacted, seemed much too mechanical to be anything of an ethereal nature. His incredibly detailed descriptions seemed to me like the way someone of his time in history, with a priestly background and absolutely no knowledge of advanced technology (beyond a cart pulled by a donkey), would describe a technological craft.
Some years later I discovered a non-fiction book called The Spaceships of Ezekiel written by a former NASA contract engineer by the name of Joseph Blumrich. His son had noticed the same things about Ezekiel's descriptions that I had noticed and, knowing the nature of his father's work with NASA, he told his father about it. Blumrich didn't believe it at first but the more he studied it the more he began to have second thoughts. The book is his professional analysis of what it was that Ezekiel may actually have encountered. After reading that book I was left with not a shred of doubt that Ezekiel had experienced what we now call a Close Encounter of the Third Kind. Fast forward to sometime in the mid-90s:
My lady/lover/friend, Julie, and I were sitting in an all-night diner at about 2 o'clock in the morning. I think maybe we had been to see a sci-fi movie earlier in the evening which is probably what sparked a conversation about UFOs.
Once again, this idea about Ezekiel came to the forefront of my mind and I told Julie about it. I mentioned that the idea would make a great theme for someone like Spielberg or Lucas to build a movie around. The more I thought about it the more I liked the idea but I knew I had no way of getting the idea to either of those guys. This left me quite disappointed. I'd probably never get to see this idea on the big screen. Then it hit me. I can't make a movie but I can write. Why don't I write a novel based on this idea?
I was already half way through the writing of another sci-fi novel at the time but this idea struck me as so extraordinary that I immediately shelved the other novel and began sketching out ideas for this new book which, at the time, had a working title of Ezekiel's Wheels. So how and why did it change from Ezekiel's Wheels to The Ezekiel Code? That was a two-part process of an organic nature.
Part-1 of the process:
At about the same time I started working on the book I was also well into the beginning stages of another little exploration that eventually began to take over my life. It was that gematria concept that I mentioned earlier. I had, quite by accident, stumbled onto the idea that the English alphabet might be naturally or artificially "encoded" in some manner so as to correspond with our base-10 numbering system and that, somehow, the number 9 and the phenomenon of "synchronicity" were key to the whole thing. That, in itself, is a long story and the work is detailed at www.secretofnine.com.
The bottom line is that this work was so ingrained into my consciousness that it almost naturally began to flow into my ideas about the plot of my book. It provided a perfect plot device to propel the story. Not only did I recognize how well it would work, I also knew it was so original that it would be unique among anything else that was out there.
Part-2 of the process:
I was not at all happy with the working title, Ezekiel's Wheels. It wasn't dramatic enough. It wasn't very catchy. Sort of... blah.
Then one day, maybe around 2003/2004, I heard about a book by one of my favorite "alternative" researchers, Gregg Braden. His book was called The God Code. That reminded me of the title of Drosnin's best selling book, The Bible Code. And Julie had recently purchased a book called Healing Codes of the Biological Apocalypse (a book, by the way, in which the co-author had made the same discoveries about the English alphabet that I had made a few years earlier!). At the same time came Dan Brown’s phenomenal best-selling novel, The DaVinci Code. Well, I'm not blind. I started to recognize a pattern. All of these books were best sellers in their respective categories. Clearly the public had a thirst for anything with the word "code" in the title.
How fortuitous for me! My book definitely had the code element going for it so I latched onto the idea and changed the title to The Ezekiel Code. As soon as I made that change, all the little things that kept blocking my progress regarding the direction of the plot just fell away and the story began to write itself, sometimes so fast I could hardly keep up with it even though it did take me nearly 9 years to complete the darn thing! So that, in a nut shell, is the story behind The Ezekiel Code.
The book did really well. In fact, it was an amazon.com bestseller in three categories for over 57 weeks. The reviews were mixed. About half the reviews were 4 and 5 stars and the other half were 1 and 2 stars. Some people loved it and some people, well, let’s just say they disliked it a lot. What was going on there?
Well, listen up all you readers who are thinking about writing your first novel and delving into the world of indie publishing. There’s a lesson here. The success of a book isn’t always about how well it’s written. Sometimes it’s about the subject matter. The Ezekiel Code didn’t become a bestseller because the writing was so incredibly good. LOL
Being a newbie at this novel writing stuff, I really thought the writing was great. So, why all the bad reviews? It was only months later, after licking my wounds inflicted by the slings and arrows of those negative reviews that I realized many of those reviewers were right. The writing, while certainly not awful, wasn’t really up to par with novels written by more seasoned authors. Two main criticisms came up:
(1) Too often I led the reader by inserting hints of what was coming instead of letting the reader have the fun of making the discovery for himself. At the end of one chapter, for example, the lead character, Zeke Banyon, was in his office, anxious to get home to his lover, Angela. Everything seemed to be going along really well for them. Nothing dramatic was expected. In the next chapter, however, Zeke arrives at his home and finds the house in a state of disarray, blood on the back door which had been broken into, and Angela was nowhere to be found. Quite a shocking and unexpected surprise, right? Well, sort of but not entirely, at least not for the reader. Why not entirely? Because of the last sentence of the previous chapter:
Back in his office, Banyon poured his last cup of coffee for the day and settled down to finish some paperwork. All the while, he kept thinking about Angela. He couldn’t wait to get home. I have a feeling this is going to be an extraordinary evening!
He had no idea how extraordinary it would turn out to be. Just not in the way he imagined.
Two things happened here:
(A) Not only did that last sentence give away the idea that something bad was about to happen, thus depriving the reader of the chance to experience the shocking turn of events for himself, but (B) that last sentence also unnecessarily interjected the voice of the author into the scene. When the author’s voice in interjected into the narrative it’s like watching a movie, you’re really into the scene, and suddenly you hear the voice of the director coming from somewhere off camera, shouting: “Okay, now something bad’s going to happen!”
(2) The other big criticism was the “info dumps”.
An info dump is when the author dumps a large amount of information into the scene, thus interrupting the flow of the narrative. There is quite a bit of that in this book and it bugged some readers to no end. My only excuse for having done that is that the book could almost be classified as “experimental” in terms of style and construction. As I mentioned before, no other novel (that I’m aware of) has used gematria as a primary vehicle to drive the story.
That presented me with the problem of having to impart a lot of information that I knew would be strange and unfamiliar to most readers. So not only are there sections where the “information dump” slows down the pace of the story, I also repeated some of it here and there throughout the story. I did that because there were so many unusual terms and concepts introduced to the reader and I thought repeating some of them occasionally (although mixed well into the character’s conversations) would help the reader recall what some of those things meant. Apparently I was wrong. Well, not entirely wrong. There were actually some people who appreciated it because it kept them from having to search back through several chapters to find the information if, indeed, they did want to refresh their memory of some details.
If I could do it all over again, I think I’d probably figure out a way to trim those “dumps” down to a minimum and include an addendum at the back of the book with expanded details for readers who might want to delve deeper into the information.
Now, getting back to what I said about subject matter being a selling point. Remember The DaVinci Code? What was the big motivating factor underlying the phenomenal sales of that book? Was it the great writing? No. In fact, many readers thought the writing was just mediocre at best. I thought it was pretty good, myself. But I digress...
The big reason behind the book’s success was its controversial subject matter. Jesus survived the crucifixion, married Mary Magdalene, sailed to France and had kids? What? Well, that’s sort of what motivated so many sales of The Ezekiel Code. It was both the controversial subject and the timing.
Ever heard about the end of the Mayan calendar? That was my book’s big controversial selling point. Even though I started writing the book back around 1997, I already knew about the coming end of the Mayan calendar on December 21, 2012.
I was pretty sure that was going to become a global cultural phenomenon so I made that the primary basis for the story. Eventually, dozens of non-fiction books about 2012 were coming out and filling the bookshelves. But for about the first two years after The Ezekiel Code was released, it was just about the only work of fiction, based on the 2012 phenomenon, that had appeared anywhere. With a few targeted (and creatively worded) promo ads on a couple of popular 2012-related websites, and a lot of enticing Tweets on Twitter, it didn’t take long for the book to start selling like crazy.
So, there you go. I could say more about what the Ezekiel Code experience taught me about writing a novel but we should probably get on to something else. I’ve probably already bored more than a few readers to tears. I’ll just say the experience was worth it. After The Ezekiel Code, I spent a lot of time honing my craft and learning the writing ropes. I think it shows in my latest novel, Ash: Return Of The Beast. Certainly the rave reviews, so far, are confirmation of my growth as a novelist.
Are you gainfully employed outside of being an author?
Well, I am a freelance book cover designer, but I guess that’s not exactly what you could call gainfully employed. Any authors who are looking for a cover designer are certainly encouraged to check out all the examples of my work and give me a shout. http://bookcoversandvideos.webs.com
Tell us about your writing process. Are you a day writer or a night owl? An outliner and planner, or do you just write from the hip and sort it out later?
Definitely a night owl. Part vampire, you know. My process? I get an idea, sketch out a very loose outline, so loose it can barely qualify as an outline, and just start writing. I also tend to edit as I go along. I’ll write a paragraph. Read it. Revise it. Read it again. Revise again if necessary. It’s not unusual for me to spend anywhere from 4 to 6 hours just to write a 4-page chapter.
Are you working on anything right now?
I just finished Atonement, (99¢ Kindle http://www.garyvaltenuta.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html) the second short story (or novelette, is probably more accurate) in my series of Twisted Tales From The Files Of The Second Chance Limousine Service. It’s a series of tales with a Twilight Zone vibe to them. The first in the series was a Books-in-Sync award-winning vampire tale called A Bite Out Of Time (99¢ Kindle http://www.garyvaltenuta.blogspot.com/p/a-bite-out-of-time.html).
Both are available at amazon.com. Now I’m getting ready to write the next one. I also have a cross-genre New-Age/Sci-fi/Mystery novel in the works along with a YA fantasy novel.
What was the last book you read? And are you reading anything now?
The last book I read was Destiny Of The Sands, the sequel to Secret Of The Sands by indie authors Rai Aren and Tavius E. I thoroughly enjoyed both books very much. I’d recommend them to anyone who likes an Indiana Jones type of tale, archaeological mysteries and alternative history. Now I’m reading a hair-raising and seriously disturbing detective thriller called The Face Of Death by Cody McFadyen.
Okay, this is the part where I ask you to pass along any pearls of wisdom about writing, publishing, etc. for the benefit of those new to the gig to just wanting to know how someone else works it. Whaddya got?
If you can’t afford to hire an editor (and that seems to be the case for most of us) then by all means invest $9.22 in a book called Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King. There’s a reason it currently has 172 5-star reviews on amazon. Read it. Read it again. And then keep it by your side as a valuable reference tool while you’re working on your manuscript. I wish I’d had it when I wrote my first novel. Nothing else I could say here would likely be as valuable as the tips, tricks and more that the authors have put into that book. Another good investment, in my opinion, is a subscription to Writer’s Digest. Every issue contains helpful writing tips from some of the most experienced authors in the country.
Finally, where can we find Gary Val Tenuta in cyberspace? Throw some links at us here.
Readers can find more information about Ash: Return Of The Beast, including an awesome creepy book trailer, at http://www.garyvaltenuta.blogspot.com/p/sit-back-grab-some-popcorn-and-enjoy.html
My Twitter handle is @EzekielCode
My book cover design service: http://BookCoversAndVideos.webs.com
Now... are we done yet? I’m exhausted. But it was fun!