An Ode to Book Bloggers

NOTE TO READER: This article first appeared on courtesy of Kat and Cara on August 23, 2012

So, here’s how it went down.

My brother, Greg, and I were at my place having a writing session, working on the screenplay adaptation of Inside the Outside. I was on my desktop, while he worked on his laptop. We were taking a short break, each of us wasting a bit of time on the Internet, when he turned his laptop towards me.

“Have you seen them before?”


I was looking at Kat and Cara, The BiblioBabes.

“You should send them your book.”

My initial instinct was not to bother. They were cool and smart and sexy—and, well, I was just an indie author. And, having recently published my debut novel, I was hanging onto the bottom rung of a very tall and slippery ladder.

While I expected not to hear back at all, I went ahead and contacted the BiblioBabes. And, a few days later, I was pleasantly surprised to hear back from them when they kindly asked me to send my novel their way.

And that was the beginning.

The BiblioBabes have since, in the world of book bloggers, become my biggest supporters. And I’m not so sure they completely realize how important they are to me. In fact, book bloggers everywhere play a supremely important role in the rapidly evolving world of independent publishing.

In the world of traditional publishing most authors have agents and publicists to go along with the support of their publisher. Very often, this is enough to get them exposure in newspapers and magazines—and, for the very fortunate, interviews on television and radio.

But, for indie authors, we have access to virtually none of the aforementioned outlets. So, we rely primarily on the Internet, where we can use social networks and blogs and personal websites to bring attention to our books. But, even then, we can only do so much for ourselves. At some point, we need other outlets to not only spread the word, but to help validate our existence in the eyes of potential readers.

And this is why book bloggers are so important to indie authors. Book bloggers are not associated with publishers or corporate media outlets; generally speaking, they’re just regular folks who love to read books and write about them. It all seems so very simple, but what they do for indie authors is absolutely invaluable.

When I initially published Inside the Outside, my experience with book bloggers was sort of hit and miss; I had no track record, no other published works of note, so I could hardly blame them for not wanting to take a chance on me. Generally, when I contacted book bloggers, I was often met with no response at all or, sometimes, I’d get a polite “thanks, but no thanks.”

A very small handful of book bloggers did, however, agree to read my book. Amongst them were the BiblioBabes.

A few weeks after I sent them my novel, I received emails from Kat and Cara, telling me how much they were enjoying it. And, a few weeks after that, they each wrote glowing reviews (HERE and HERE) about it for their website.

Around that same time, most of the other book bloggers who’d read my book also wrote  wonderful reviews. And it seemed that the more positive attention my book got, the more other book bloggers became willing to read and review it. Pretty soon it all seemed to take on a life of its own. And now, a year later, I have what feels like a burgeoning career as a writer and independent publisher—and, for that, I will always be grateful to the BiblioBabes.

So, to all the book bloggers out there, please don’t ever forget how important you are to all of us indie authors. You are not only our readers, but our advocates. And we thank you for it.

Beneath the Skin: Fiction, Cannibals, and Vegetarianism (GUEST POST)

Beneath the Skin: Fiction, Cannibals, and Vegetarianism

By Andy Elliott

I have a secret: Inside the Outside literally changed my life.

For some years, I had harboured the suspicion that eating animals was morally suspect and a practice I should curb, but, goddamn it, those critters were just too delicious and the prospect of vegetarianism too inconvenient to compel me to action. Upon finishing Inside the Outside, a remarkable tale of a young woman raised within a cannibalistic cult, I instantly stopped eating meat and fish.

That was 7 months ago.

In that time countless friends, relatives, and colleagues have asked me:


"Why vegetarianism?"

"Why now?"

To all of these questions and to all of these people, without exception, I have lied, cobbling together some vague response about having suddenly and inexplicably reached that decision when all along the truth is...

Martin Lastrapes made me do it!

Why the secrecy? I'm embarrassed. In the end it wasn't the PETA campaigns, the health or environmental arguments that ultimately occasioned this decision. I was simply moved to it by a work of fiction.

The detached, unquestioning way in which the book's main characters equate people with meat, coupled with the isolation of the setting and the quality of Lastrapes' prose is tantamount to indoctrination. When I learned, through the book's protagonist, Timber Marlow, that people on the outside survive by eating animals, it was as though I was hearing this information for the first time.

By that point meat was meat; it was all or nothing, cannibalism or vegetarianism. For the time being at least, I have plumped for the latter. While this is far from the first time I've been moved by great literature, it is certainly the most impact a book has ever had on my diet and probably on the way I choose to live my life.

Inside the Outside is often categorised as horror. This is the expectation I had of it and yet what actually unfolded on the page was not genre fiction at all, but an accomplished work approaching literary fiction—albeit one that has moments of high terror, gruesome dismemberment, and cannibalism. For people who find it hard to reconcile those two positions, I have two words: American Psycho.

If you want a grisly page-turner, Inside the Outside will more than deliver. Get beneath the skin and subcutaneous fat though and, as with the human body, what you'll find with Inside the Outside is a complex and impressive structure, not of veins and capillaries but themes, ideas, and commentary.

Lastrapes deals with them deftly, almost playfully, often allowing only a short glimpse for the idea to form before moving the narrative on, then returning to it pages or sometimes chapters later. Some of the gruesome set-pieces excepted, it is a very accessible read, particularly so when you consider that it touches some big ideas like belief, power, corruption, objectification, and consumerism, as well as offering considered insights into intimacy, sexuality, and the loss of innocence.

Or it could just be a clever ruse to make you give up eating meat.

Andy Elliott is a writer living and working in Wales. A graduate of Trinity College, Carmarthen's MA Creative Writing course, he has contributed to the New Welsh Review and published his first short novel, Composition, in May 2011.

Write What You Know: The Importance of Research in Storytelling

I was recently watching Breaking Bad, which, aside from being one of my very favorite TV shows, is a premium example of masterful storytelling. If you're not familiar, Breaking Bad is about a high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with cancer; already in dire financial straits, he turns to the drug trade and begins manufacturing and selling crystal meth. In the particular episode I was watching, there's a scene where a man is sitting in front of a hospital in a wheelchair waiting for his ride home. While he waits, an ambulance pulls up, sirens blaring, racing to the entrance of the emergency room. When the EMTs exit, the wheelchair man gets a look at the man on a stretcher, injured by gunshot wounds. He gets up from the wheelchair and follows the EMTs as they roll the stretcher through the sliding doors of the ER and down a hallway, before entering another set of doors.  The man stops at the second set of doors, smiling, because he recognizes the gunshot victim—and, more importantly, because he's pleased to see that the man has been shot.

It's a very engaging scene, but, as I watched it, I found myself thinking:

"He's allowed to follow the EMTs that far into the hospital? Nobody needs to stop him?"

It's a mundane detail and one most audience members wouldn't worry too much about, but, as a storyteller, I think about these things all the time. In Breaking Bad, the scene I described is important. The one character needs to see the other character; he needs to know he's been injured, as it gives the audience a satisfying payoff.

For me, since I know very little about hospitals, I notice the little details and, with a show as well-crafted as Breaking Bad, I trust they get most of them right. I assume that someone on the writing staff might have some intimate knowledge with hospital protocol, particularly where it concerns EMTs and the ER (perhaps they were simply big fans of the show ER).

But, as a TV show, I also figure they have a wide range of resources. I can imagine the writers developing that scene and somebody asking some version of the question I asked:

"How far can he go without somebody stopping him?"

From there, I figure there's a production assistant who can make a phone call to a hospital on behalf of the writing staff and get as many answers as they need, delivering them back to the writers who will use the information to craft their scene.

When I write stories, I worry (perhaps to an obscene amount) about getting the details wrong, especially when I'm writing about a particular topic that I don't know very well. That very idea, in fact, is at the root of that ol' storytelling adage: Write what you know.

Which is to say, write about things you're familiar with, because, by doing so, your details will be authentic.

So, what do you do when you don't know about a topic that you want to write about? The answer is simple.


Research is so important to good storytelling, because one false detail can be enough to derail a story for your reader. As the author, getting the details wrong injures your credibility, causing the reader to come out of that hypnotic trance you'd worked so hard to put them in.

Whether it be in a movie or a TV show or a book, as audience members, we've all had the experience of coming out of that trance and saying (out loud or otherwise):

"That doesn't make any sense!" or "It wouldn't happen that way!"

As a storyteller, that's the fear that drives my research. In my novel, Inside the Outside, several of my most important details concern the fictional cult, which exists in a hidden commune in the San Bernardino Mountains. It was very important to the story that this commune exist off the grid, so I had to figure out a plausible way for its people to exist in a reasonably modern fashion without anybody of consequence knowing where they were. After doing some research, I learned about sustainable communities; this seemed to be the answer, so I bought a handful of books (I prefer owning my research material whenever possible) and learned as much as I could about sustainable communities.  As I did my research, I slowly but surely figured out how my fictional community would function off the grid.

While books are great and the Internet, when properly utilized, is an invaluable source of research, I prefer communicating with a person whenever possible. I like to have a dialogue, so I can ask questions as they arise.

Social networking is a great way to contact folks from the comfort of your computer. Twitter, in my experience, is ideal for connecting with new people. Roam around a bit, find somebody who knows about whatever it is you need to learn (i.e. a cop, a lawyer, a fireman, a chemist, etc.) and send them a quick tweet. Let them know you're an author doing some research and, more times than not, they'll be happy to help you out. One of the most common traits amongst people is we love talking about topics which we're experts in. You can, if they're open to it, communicate via email or phone. And, of course, if they're particularly helpful, you can thank them in the "Acknowledgments" page of your book.

As I work on my forthcoming novel, The Vampire, the Hunter, and the Girl, I've found that one of the most enjoyable aspects of writing about vampires is very few of the major plot points are based in reality, so I'm free to make stuff up without a care to accuracy or authenticity—but that doesn't mean the whole book is free of researched information. For example, one of my main characters, Jesus the Mexican Vampire Hunter, both uses and sells anabolic steroids.

I, on the other hand, have never used nor sold steroids—so, as you might imagine, I had some learning to do. Apart from becoming familiar with the general science regarding steroids, I also wanted to learn how they are taken (i.e. shots? pills?) and how an average user assimilates them into their fitness routine (i.e. once day? once a month? once a year?).

To get all of this information, I used a combination of books, as well as the Internet; I found several bodybuilding forums where, among other things, guys (forgive me, ladies, for assuming they were all men) were having informative discussions about steroids in very informal, easy-to-understand terms. The fact that I was able to read about steroids in the words (and, essentially, the "voices") of the men who used them proved invaluable in the writing of my new novel and, just as importantly, the developing of my character, Jesus.

At the end of the day, my fear is always that my details will ring false. I never want a reader to fall out of that magical trance that happens with a well-told story, because—as an enthusiastic  audience member myself—I know how disappointing and frustrating that can be.

Despite my fears and my ardent wish to avoid the worst-case-scenario, there's not much I can do beyond internalizing the information I research and trusting my storytelling instincts. While I try always to get every single detail exactly right, I know that, despite my best efforts, I'm bound to strike out a few times. So, when it does inevitably happen, I can only hope that the reader will be too engrossed in my story to notice... or too polite to care.

A Vampire Diptych (GUEST POST)

by Mauro Corso

Mauro Corso is a journalist, writer, and actor who lives between Rome and Berlin. As a special contributor to, Corso has written a series of Guest Posts about vampires in popular culture. This is PART 1 of 4…

Mauro Corso

As an avid fan of Inside the Outside, I was thrilled to learn that Martin Lastrapes’ next novel was going to be about vampires.

It seemed to me like a logical evolution, as vampirism is the supernatural equivalent of cannibalism; and, of course, there would seem to be some common ground between blood-sucking vampires and flesh-eating cannibals—at the very least, in the powerful drive to hunt.

Of course, Timber Marlow (the protagonist cannibal of Inside the Outside) didn’t have an eternity to live, as is the case with vampires, which is an important difference. While, at the end of the day, there are more differences than similarities between vampires and cannibals, the “man as prey” concept is both a powerful and central theme for both.

In the last few years vampires have been all the rage and, while I was excited to find out Lastrapes would be trying his hand at the vampire genre, I couldn't help but think, "Aren’t there already too many fanged demons already?!” Lastrapes displayed masterful craftsmanship in Inside the Outside, so my concerns weren't about his writing or storytelling ability.

The Painter's Last Stroke by Nico Whittaker

I just worried that it might be difficult—if not impossible—for him to write a story capable of distinguishing itself amongst the over-saturated world of vampire literature.

These were the thoughts that went through my mind as I prepared to read Lastrapes' two Vampire Shorts, “Adam & Olivia” and “Jesus the Mexican Vampire Hunter,” which, respectively, will be the first two chapters of his forthcoming novel: The Vampire, the Hunter, and the Girl. I am very happy to report that, upon reading the Vampire Shorts, all of my doubts and fears faded away.

In “Adam & Olivia” and “Jesus the Mexican Vampire Hunter,” I found the same compelling writing I was so enthusiastic about in Inside the Outside; that intensive style that brings the reader into what's going on in a highly sensorial level. I also found and enjoyed Lastrapes' distinct ability for building and developing characters, which was a strong trait of Inside the Outside.

Between the two shorts, we meet the three main characters: Adam, Olivia, and Jesus. In "Adam & Olivia," we meet a vampire on the prowl and the girl who has no idea she is being hunted; in "Jesus the Mexican Vampire Hunter," we meet a young man named Jesus, who is one of the few people that not only knows vampires exist, but has dedicated his life to hunting and killing them.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of Lastrapes' Vampire Shorts is they can be regarded as a diptych. Traditionally, a diptych is two different paintings tied to one another to tell a complete story. In this way, I think “Adam & Olivia” and “Jesus the Mexican Vampire Hunter” are a very interesting experiment in and of themselves.

Their very nature demands a multi-faceted approach from readers. Individually, both stories effectively stand alone, each with an engaging narrative and strong character development. Together, however, these Vampire Shorts conspire to tell an even richer story, which leaves me all the more excited for the publication of the completed novel.

Check out all of Mauro Corso's articles in this series: 


Inside the Outside is One Year Old!

Has it really been a whole year?

My goodness, how time flies. I could swear it was just yesterday I was sitting in my parent's kitchen, talking with my mom, scared to the brink of vomiting at the thought of publishing my debut novel, Inside the Outside. Sitting across the table from her in the middle of the night, I asked, "What if nobody cares?"

When I was writing the book, riding the wave of confidence that comes when there are no expectations, no outside pressure, nobody looking over your shoulder, my only concern was making the book as good as I could make it. In my mind there was no doubt that, as long as I gave it my best effort, readers would find it and enjoy it; and, really, that's all I wanted was for readers to like it. As any author can tell you, a novel is like your child. It comes from you, out of you, and, for years at a time, you nurture it, watching it grow and develop.  You become proud when it takes on a life of its own, taking its first steps, becoming independent.

And then, one night, while your sitting in the kitchen with your mother, you realize it's time to let it go. It's time to send it out into the world, where you won't be there to protect it if it get's bullied by reviewers or teased by bloggers. You want to be there, standing by its side, fighting its battles, only you realize you can't. All you can do is make sure you've written the best book you know how and then you wait and watch and hope for the best.

So, it's funny how before that night in the kitchen, I'd never considered the question: "What if nobody cares?"

All along I assumed people would care, one way or another. I figured readers would love my book or hate it or have ambiguous feelings that they couldn't quite articulate—but I'd never factored in the possibility of people not caring. Worse yet, what if nobody noticed? What if I published my book and nobody bought it? What if it simply got lost in the vast library of books already out in the world competing for the attention of readers?

"Well, you know we'll buy it," my mom said. "That's at least two."

It was sweet and it made me smile, but I still couldn't get past that one looming question. However much it weighed on my mind and however many times I considered turning back from that cliff, I realized I would never get over the regret of not publishing Inside the Outside.

So, on July 9, 2011, that's exactly what I did. That was one year ago today and, boy oh boy, what a year it's been.

Within a few weeks of publication, Inside the Outside broke into Amazon's Top 100 Bestsellers in Horror, peaking at #58. And during that same span of time, it also raced up Amazon's Top 100 Hot New Seller's in Horror, reaching #3.

And then the reviews started coming in...

Will Entrekin, author and Creative Director of Exciting Press, wrote:

"It’s not just the best indie novel I read in 2011; it’s the finest novel I read overall, and that distinction might carry back a couple of years besides."

Cara, one half of the BiblioBabes, wrote:

"It was torturous trying to read faster, to turn the page quicker..."

Kat, the other half of the BiblioBabes, wrote:

"I picked this story up, and I literally could not put it down.  I was reading it at work.  I was reading it at a party last night.  I fell asleep in bed with it in my hands at 2AM two nights in a row.  I was totally hooked, and reading at every possible second."

Book Den wrote:

"I classify Inside the Outside with books such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Patrick Süskind's Perfume: The Story of a Murderer—books that may have violent content or a disturbing premise but appeal to a much wider audience."

Before I knew it, Inside the Outside was a critically acclaimed bestseller. It had (and continues to have) an enthusiastic and growing base of loyal and vocal fans. I got invited to make personal appearances at libraries and prisons and high schools and universities where I read from my novel, talked about writing, signed books, and posed for pictures. It was all just so much and I really couldn't have hoped or asked for anything more.

And then Inside the Outside started winning awards...

One year in and the experience of publishing Inside the Outside has already exceeded all of my expectations. Of course, it hasn't yet exceeded my wildest dreams. My dreams for this book are pretty big and this first year has only served to increase my expectations for what it can still accomplish. But if it were all over today, right now—poof!—no more, well, I'd have nothing to complain about. This past year has been such an exhilarating ride and, from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank everybody who's helped make this dream of mine come true.

Microcosm and Macrocosm: A Closer Look at Inside the Outside (GUEST POST)

Max Zaoui, a 35-year-old Frenchman living in the East of France, recently read my debut novel, Inside the Outside, and contacted me through Facebook to tell me how much he enjoyed it. It's the sort of message authors love, just an out-of-the-blue compliment from a complete stranger. Max is an English teacher by trade and a husband and father at home, so he doesn't have a whole lot of free time; the fact that he spent a portion of his leisure time reading my book, only to then take more time out to write me a kind message was flattering enough. But Max then told me he loved Inside the Outside so much that he could write a whole essay about it—and then he did.  Every author should be so lucky. So, without further ado, I present to you...

Microcosm and Macrocosm: A Closer Look at Inside the Outside 

by Max Zaoui

While reading Inside the Outside, I felt a kinship between this story and what Chuck Palahniuk can write: brilliant storytelling hiding universal truths under a shocking, violent and original surface layer. I did not understand how this novel could be deemed a horror story, as I've read here and there. To me, it's a literary achievement that doesn't need a label.

Martin Lastrapes' novel is a brilliant allegory, a book-long metaphor of the world we live in. It may not look like it at first sight, as we follow some kind of man-eating tribe living in a secluded place somewhere in the USA. Their customs may seem backward, arbitrary and cruel: everyone is trapped in the "compound," as their master/guru Daddy Marlow forbids going into the "Outside," which is considered evil; you can be sacrificed and eaten for even asking. Daddy Marlow can do everything he wants, while the rest of the tribe has to follow orders and shut up. He can impregnate every woman, while others can't have a normal relationship. You can't let your hair grow, because it's evil.

The Divinity of Feminine Reproach, which is the name of Daddy Marlow's compound, looks like a sect—a cult. Yet, when you think about it, his society shares common points with ours, or with any other in history: they have a strong and charismatic leader in Daddy Marlow (POLITICAL OR RELIGIOUS LEADER), a definite living space with frontiers (TERRITORY), a set of rules everyone must follow (LAW) or they can be severely punished (JUSTICE), a people split between those who're happy that way and those who dream of leaving (REVOLT). The Divinity is a microcosm (the "Inside"), which parallels the functioning of the world at large, the macrocosm (the "Outside").

In Jonathan Swift's classic novel, Gulliver's Travels, probably the most representative book using the microcosm/macrocosm pattern, the main character, Lemuel Gulliver, travelled the world and encountered foreign populations living along (for him) strange conceptions. This 18th century novel was a fierce attack on politics and religion, since every place he went was corrupted in its own way. Inside the Outside, with a title already hinting at the idea of micro and macrocosm, is both completely different and similar to Swift's work. Different in that the main character, a cannibal/murderer/lesbian named Timber Marlow, is the kind of "savage" Gulliver would have met along his trips in that she's not discovering the world, but rather she's trapped, like the others, in this jail-like compound. However, it's similar in the parallel anyone can draw between this world and ours, this microcosm and the world at large: it's a place where corruption touches and transforms everyone, where false beliefs and violent customs justify terrible decisions, where the power of a few is based on the ignorance and weakness of all the others, where lies and deceit are constant.

The story is presented as such by an omniscient narrator (I can't spoil it too much here, but let's just say this narrator is both "inside" and "outside") who sometimes addresses their reader, thus allowing for a metafictional aspect: from the beginning the reader knows he is reading a "story," something he may be allowed to doubt or question, even more so when sometimes the narrator admits that some parts are constructions.

Consider this excerpt from "Chapter Eight": "But the reality is, for all the many stories she can vouch for regarding the Divinity, what follows is a narrative completely of her imagination. As best as she can make sense of it, the story of Sissy Marlow probably proceeded as follows." There are even, as this excerpt shows, stories within the story (especially in "Part Two: The Outside"), another metafictional aspect.

The whole narrative appears then as a legend passed from one generation to the next, some kind of symbolical/mystical/philosophical myth that should not be taken literally. This is linked to the previous idea: many, if not all, conflicts in the history of mankind were linked with a literal reading of scriptures, a blind faith in words, whether they were spoken by a religious/political leader or written in a holy book.

The second part of the novel adds more flesh to the main character and to the others surrounding her. A clever mix of flashbacks and present, quite close to what Quentin Tarantino can do in his movies, allows for a better understanding of each one's evolution (or metamorphosis, a word used when a reference is made to Franz Kafka's novel, The Metamorphosis, at the beginning of "Part Three: The Fifth Year," in a very metafictional passage), of how they came to be what they are. The story becomes a kind of picaresque novel, a bildungsroman like Voltaire's Candide, only with multiple heads. It seems every character in Inside the Outside possesses a form of naïveté at first, but all are confronted with the world's corruption. They all have to adapt in one way or another (survival of the fittest), but no one is left unscathed, as if it was impossible to remain "outside" the "outside." Especially since every situation called for some form of transgression, be it cannibalism, sexuality (whether hetero or homo), murder, escape—all things meant to leave one form of evil, only to throw them back into another.

While Timber seems to represent humanity, a glimmer of hope and free will, she is nonetheless capable of murder, as Lastrapes alludes to when describing "the dark seed with charcoal branches around her heart." Leaving Daddy Marlow and the Inside will only send her to repeat the same things with another leader in the Outside: Joseph Goldstein—sort of putting the Inside inside the Outside. There's an unescapable fate at work here, a condemnation to repeat the same things over and over, as in Nietzsche's concept of the eternal return. Even Disneyland, often mentioned in "Part Three," looks like a reversed mirror, yet another microcosm (or a macrocosm in itself filled with microcosms) where make-believe reigns.

For so many of the characters in Inside the Outside, freedom looks out-of-reach, though it may just be a self-imposed limitation; an idea alluded to by Ginger Falls, one of the primary characters in the novel, when, during a conversation with Billy D. Luscious she tells him the story of how Houdini was once willingly trapped in a jail cell by a police officer who dared him to escape. When Houdini finally gave up, the police officer told him the cell was never locked.  All he had to do was walk out and he’d be free.

The Evolution of "Footsteps"

In April of 2012, I signed a deal with Exciting Press to publish six short stories.

And on June 18, 2012, "Footsteps," the first of those stories was published. The story follows Rusty Hankover, a young man who hates his abusive father and loves rich women's feet in equal measures. When Rusty's dad comes up missing, his tabloid-loving mom is convinced he's become the latest victim of the Back Alley Cannibal. A chance encounter with a woman and her daughter will ultimately reveal the dark, grisly truth.

Many of my readers will recognize the theme of cannibalism in "Footsteps," as it plays a central role in my debut novel Inside the Outside. I first became fascinated with writing cannibal literature in 2001, while I was studying English at California State University, San Bernardino. I was taking a humanities course called Interoperation and Values, which, among other things, illuminated the world of corporate farming. I was struck by the abuse animals are made to endure in such farms and, having discovered this emotional chord, decided I wanted to articulate it in a story. I quickly realized, however, that (unless your George Orwell) writing about farm animals wasn’t a particularly dynamic idea.

During that same quarter CSUSB, I was also taking a creative writing class. The professor assigned us a sci-fi story to read about about aliens enslaving humans; upon reading it, she explained that the story was an allegory. This was the first time I could remember being introduced to the idea of an allegory, which Wikipedia defines as a literary device that "communicates its message by means of symbolic figures, actions or symbolic representation." I loved this and decided I could use it to articulate the emotional chord I'd felt about farm animals by writing an allegorical story about people eating people.

I began brainstorming a short story idea about a cannibal farm. The more I developed it the bigger it got until, eventually, it became too big for my still-developing skill set. Before I gave up on the short story, I'd come up with a homeless mother and daughter, both of whom were cannibals. The mother killed people in order to feed herself and her daughter; the daughter didn't know there was anything strange about eating people, because it's all she knew. They weren't the main characters in my cannibal farm story, but they were the ones who stuck with me the longest. I didn't know what to do with them, but I knew that, eventually, I'd revisit that mother and daughter again.

A few years later, during a trip to Las Vegas, I was sitting in the dressing room of Rampage, while my girlfriend tried on clothes. As I sat there, it occurred to me that nobody knew who I was there with; for all they knew, I was just sitting in there by myself staring at feet beneath the dressing room doors.

Amused by this idea, I decided to write a short story about a guy who hangs out in women's dressing rooms under the pretense that he's waiting for his wife or girlfriend, but really he's just being a voyeur. I found that while I liked the premise, there wasn't enough there to turn it into a compelling story. So, like a mad scientist, I decided to combine the idea of the voyeuristic foot fetishist with the idea about the cannibal mother and daughter to see what that story would look like.

And that's how "Footsteps" was born.

Not long after I wrote it in 2005, "Footsteps" was published in The Pacific Review. It was the last short story I wrote, before concentrating my efforts on becoming a novelist. To my mind, it's always been the stepping stone that led to Inside the Outside, so I'm thrilled that fans of my novel can now see where my fascination with cannibal literature began.

Inside the Outside: Paris Book Festival Grand Prize Winner!

I'm in a state of shock. Numb is probably more accurate.

No, no... overwhelmed is more apt.

Inside the Outside, my debut novel, won the Grand Prize in the 2012 Paris Book Festival. I found out a couple of hours ago and, quite frankly, I'm still trying to wrap my head around this tremendous honor.  It's nearly two o'clock in the morning as I type this and there's no telling if I'll ever get to sleep again. Between you and me, I don't want to go to sleep, just in case this is all a dream.

This is the first major award for Inside the Outside and, even if it turns out to be the last, I'll still be satisfied. Along with the honor itself, the award comes with a cash prize and a flight to Paris. I've never been anywhere near Europe, let alone Paris.  And to think that my first trip there will be to accept my first major literary honor...

I just can't find the words.

I hope folks like Will Entrekin, Kat and Cara (The BiblioBabes), Joanna Penn, and everybody else who loved this book when it seemed like nobody else would pay attention to it will enjoy this honor with me. I hope writers all over the world who are struggling to make a mark and feel like their break may never come will find some glimmer of inspiration in the knowledge that, not too long ago, I'd nearly lost all hope of ever having a writing career.

As is the case with many writers, I sought to get published through the traditional route of acquiring a literary agent who would get me a book deal. After sending out dozens of query letters and receiving dozens of rejections, I found myself at a crossroads. I believed strongly in my book and I knew there was an audience for it, so I had to decide if I wanted to keep trekking down the traditional route or if I wanted to take the risk of publishing my book independently.

It was a terrifying decision, but, after much consideration, I decided to gamble on independent publishing. Part of my concern was the general stigma that is still attached to indie publishing. I worried that my novel, right or wrong, would be adversely affected by this stigma.

Even when I made my decision and began taking steps to move forward, I still questioned whether or not I was doing the right thing. And even after I published Inside the Outside, I still had occasional doubts. So, as much as anything else, this award offers me tremendous validation, not only of my novel, but of my decision to publish it on my own.

Of course, a trip to Paris won't be so bad, either.

Inside the Outside: Globetrotter

Back in the summer of 2011, when I was a few deep breaths and a mouse click away from publishing my debut novel, Inside the Outside, I found myself consumed with insecurity.

What if nobody cared about my book?

I worried that I was setting my novel off into a big, loud, busy world, where it would get lost amongst all the hustle and bustle of life and cars and jobs and sports and movies and Facebook and Justin Bieber.

When, during it's first week of publication, Inside the Outside made it into's Bestseller List, I felt like I was in the middle of a dream. When it started collecting overwhelmingly positive reviews from readers and reviewers alike, I felt like I needed to pinch myself.  And when Exciting Writing named it the best indie book of 2011, I felt like things couldn't get much better.

So when, just a few days ago, Mauro Corso, an Italian journalist, writer and actor, gave Inside the Outside it's first foreign language review on his website Attore e Scrittore, I felt, perhaps, the most gratifying sense of accomplishment since it's initial publication.

And it's not so much what Corso said about my book (though he was very complimentary of it), but what his review represented. Where once I feared that nobody would care about or even notice my book, it is now traveling to parts of the world where I've never been myself, being discovered and enjoyed by readers who speak languages I might never understand.

Corso, in addition to writing a review of Inside the Outside, asked if I would do an interview, which I was only too happy to do. Below you will find the links to both the review and the interview (in English and in Italian).

REVIEW: Scrivere di Canibalismo

INTERVIEW [ITALIAN]: Intervista a Martin Lastrapes, Autore di Inside the Outside

INTERVIEW [ENGLISH]: Interview with Martin Lastrapes, Author of Inside the Outside

My KDP Free Experience | PART 2

(Read "My KDP Free Experience | PART 1" HERE)

So, it's been a little more than a week since my KDP free promotion for Inside the Outside ended and I figured it was about time I shared the aftermath. Here are my notes regarding the fifth and final day of the promotion:

DAY 5 | February 24

  • 1:00am – 2000 downloads (#18 in Horror)
  • 8:00am – 2046 downloads (#12 in Horror)
  • 6:00pm – 2225 downloads (#20 in Horror)
  • 11:00pm – 2275 downloads (#23 in Horror)

And that's where I left off. After a long and busy week promoting Inside the Outside, I was exhausted and couldn't stay awake until midnight to see what the final tally of free downloads was.

This is an important detail to have missed out on, because one of the stats I wanted to keep track of was how many books I sold (if any) after the promotion was over.  Since KDP (as of this writing) doesn't differentiate between books downloaded for free and books paid for, I don't know the precise cutoff. But, what I do know is that there were more downloads after I fell asleep at 11:00pm.

February 25 | Post Promo Day 1

  • 9:00am – 2083 downloads (#65,229 in Kindle Store)

Since I have no real way of knowing, I'll assume (for the sake of this post) that 2083 was the final tally of free kindle copies of Inside the Outside downloaded during the promotion; assuming this is true, there were 8 free downloads in the final hour.

One of my hopes with doing this promotion was that it would lead to book sales in the aftermath and, I'm happy to report, it did. Unfortunately, there weren't an avalanche of book sales. I kept notes for just a few days, as needed, and here is the final note I made through February:

February 29 | Post Promo Day 4

  • 11:00pm – 2099 downloads (#23,067 in Kindle Store)

So, subtracting the presumed number of free downloads (2083), that means I sold 16 books at the end of the promotion through the end of February. I have mixed feelings about those 16 books sold.

On the one hand, I'm almost embarrassed to admit some disappointment; I'd hoped that maybe the momentum of the promotion would lead to book sales in the 100s.  But, on the other hand, I'm quite grateful, because February had been a particularly slow month for Inside the Outside and, before the promotion, I'd sold only 3 copies in the Kindle Store. If my math is correct (and I'm sure it's not) that means I increased my book sales from the beginning of the month by 500%.

One promising thing about those book sales is, not long before I started the free promotion, I raised the price of Inside the Outside in the Kindle Store from $0.99 to $4.99. Along with the obvious advantage of earning more money per book, the price change also increases my royalties from 35% to 70%. This means that those folks who bought the book after the promotion ended weren't deterred by the $4.99 price tag, which, admittedly, I felt was something of a gamble (but that's a topic I'll save for another post).

But, more than the dollars and cents, I'm thrilled to know that there are now more than 3,000 copies of Inside the Outside living in Kindles throughout the U.S. and the U.K. (during the free promotion, Inside the Outside reached #38 in Amazon U.K.'s Top 100 free horror books).

How many of those folks will actually read Inside the Outside? I have no idea. I'm certain that a fair number of those readers, like so many of us, simply enjoy collecting free stuff, and likely will never read one page of my novel. But even if a quarter of those people who downloaded the book decide to read it, then that's roughly 750 new readers.

And that's a number that would make my KDP free experience an unqualified success.

My KDP Free Experience | PART 1

On Monday, February 20, 2012, I began a 5 day campaign of offering my novel, Inside the Outside, for free in Amazon's Kindle Store. When authors sign up for the KDP Select program on Amazon, they get a few perks and benefits, one of them being the opportunity to have a free book promotion.

In exchange, the author must make their book(s) exclusive to the Kindle Store. I didn't come to my decision easily, but, after thinking it through and weighing all the pros and cons, I decided to give it a go.

A big part of what sold me on it was the idea that Amazon would give me 5 days of free promotion every 90 days. Of course, up until a few days ago, I completely misunderstood what that meant. I thought it meant Amazon would promote my book for free for 5 days, which sounded like an invaluable offer.

But, as I eventually figured out, it really means they'll set your book up to be downloaded for free. I wasn't exactly sure how rewarding that would be, but after doing some research and reading about the KDP experiences of other authors, such as Will Entrekin and John L. Betcher, I decided to give it a go.

While authors in the KDP Select program can use their 5 days at their discretion (one day here, say, or two days there), I decided to use all 5 of my days in a row. As I write this, Day 4 has ended and Day 5 is under way.

I've spent much of my week promoting Inside the Outside's free listing on Twitter, Facebook, and GoodReads. I also incorporated the invaluable help of the World Literary Cafe, while also asking for help from folks who have previously shown support for my novel, such as The BiblioBabes and Monkeycstars. And, through no connections or efforts of my own, I found that a few websites that promote Kindle books featured my free promotion, such as Free eBooks Daily.

During these last 4 days I have monitored the progress of my free promotion very closely, taking handwritten notes that, to the casual observer, may resemble that of a crazy person. While I wouldn't dream of inundating you with the full results of my copious notes, I will offer a condensed version.

In order that you may fully appreciate my data, I don't mind telling you that I sold only 3 Kindle books in the month of February, before beginning my free promotion.

DAY 1 | February 20

  • 8:00am - 141 downloads (unranked)
  • 12:00pm - 424 downloads (#37 in Horror)
  • 8:00pm - 824 downloads (#9 in Horror)

DAY 2 | February 21

  • 8:00am - 1033 downloads (#5 in Horror)
  • 12:00pm - 1121 downloads (#5 in Horror)
  • 11:00pm - 1288 downloads (#13 in Horror)

DAY 3 | February 22

  • 7:00am - 1324 downloads (#12 in Horror)
  • 2:00pm - 1404 downloads (#19 in Horror)
  • 10:00pm - 1528 downloads (#23 in Horror)

DAY 4 | February 23

  • 8:00am - 1643 downloads (#18 in Horror)
  • 12:00pm - 1732 downloads (#15 in Horror)
  • 11:00pm - 1997 downloads (#14 in Horror)

Which brings us to today, Day 5. I'll be taking notes throughout the day, but I think the first 4 days alone offer a pretty good indication of my experience. The first 1 1/2 days of the promotion are where my downloads peaked. But even as the rate of downloads waned, Inside the Outside never dropped out of Amazon's top 25 free horror books.  And, more importantly than that, my book was continuously downloaded throughout the first 4 days - and I suspect that Day 5 will produce comparable results.

So, was KDP Select free promotion a success for me? Well, I had three primary goals:

  1. Expose Inside the Outside to a significant number of potential new readers.
  2. Get Inside the Outside ranked in Amazon's Top 10 Free Horror books.
  3. Generate sales of Inside the Outside following the end of the free promotion.

The first two goals on my list were successfully (thankfully!) achieved. As for the third goal, well, I'll let you know in a few days.

(Read “My KDP Free Experience | PART 2″ HERE)

Author Meet & Greet at Sun City Library

I was invited to attend Sun City Library's 1st Annual Authors Meet & Greet, which took place on January 21, 2012.  It was a great afternoon in which I had the opportunity to meet readers and authors, sign copies of Inside the Outside, and take photos with fans.

Amongst the highlights of the afternoon was being able to hang out with my friend and fellow author, S. Kay Murphy, author of Tainted Legacy: The Story of Alleged Serial Killer Bertha Gifford

I had the great pleasure of meeting the lovely Tina Walker, author of a book of poetry called Finding Christ Inside, as well as Travis Kleist, author of the thriller The Unveiling.

The Sun City Library Meet & Greet was a great way to kick off 2012. I had a terrific time and I look forward to participating in future events with the Sun City Library for years to come.

If you'd like to see more photos from the Meet & Greet, you can view them at my Facebook page.

Feature This! (GUEST POST)

A few months ago, I was approached by Jose Oliver De Castro, a college student and contributor to his school's newspaper and magazine. He wanted to interview me for a feature article in the newspaper and I, obviously, was more than happy to comply. Along the way, Jose's editor decided to make the interview part of the magazine. Jose was excited, but he had his reservations. He worried that the story would get dropped, since not everything makes the final cut. I told him that if it did get dropped, I'd publish it myself on Inside Martin. Well, the fact that we've gotten this far should tell you how the story ends. So, for your reading pleasure, I present to you...

FEATURE THIS!: An Interview with Novelist Martin Lastrapes

By Jose Oliver De Castro

“I’m a vegetarian and, as a vegetarian, I was fascinated with the idea of cannibalism.”

This was just one of the ideas that Martin Lastrapes, 34, had in mind when writing his debut novel, Inside the Outsidewhich tells the story of a young girl named Timber Marlow who grows up as a cannibal in a cult in the San Bernardino Mountains. When she is about 14 or 15 years old, she manages to escape the cult into the mainstream society, where she tries to assimilate.  For Lastrapes, Inside the Outside is his dark and twisted version of the coming of age story.

“I always thought of it as a metaphor for growing up. When you grow up you live in a relatively small place. You start off with your house, eventually your house turns into your block and your neighborhood,” Lastrapes said. “At some point you have to leave that small isolated corner of the world that was your own and discover the world is bigger than you realized and there are different people that you have to encounter.”

While writing Inside the Outside, Lastrapes used the metaphor with Timber Marlow in mind.

“I took it to the extreme in a relatively dark book,” Lastrapes said, “where instead of growing up in a neighborhood, she grew up in a cult of cannibals.”

Upon its release, the book reached #3 on Amazon’s Top 100 Hot New Releases in Horror.

“There was actually a certain point where I was even ahead of Stephen King, which was very exciting,” Lastrapes said. “It’s been an exciting time and I’m sort of blown away by both the initial success of the book and also the reception of the book.”

Lastrapes was born on December 9, 1977, in the city of Orange and was raised in Rancho Cucamonga, California.  After graduating from Alta Loma High School in 1996, he attended Chaffey College, Cal State Fullerton, and Cal State San Bernardino. While at Cal State San Bernardino, Lastrapes met James Brown, a creative writing professor and acclaimed author of The Los Angeles Dairies and This River.

“The time when I met James Brown is really when I got serious and focused about my career as a writer,” Lastrapes said.

Brown described Lastrapes as a serious, determined student when they first crossed paths in the classroom years ago. As Brown’s student, Lastrapes made it easy for him as a professor.

“I’d like to flatter myself that I helped improve his already strong writing,” Brown said, “but all I can really take credit for is encouraging an already talented writer.”

In 1996, during his first year in college, Lastrapes took his first English course with S. Kay Murphy, author of Tainted Legacy: The Story of Alleged Serial Killer Bertha Gifford. It was Murphy who Lastrapes credits with being the first teacher to take notice of his writing and encourage him to pursue it.

“Martin’s essays were far and above the writing level of the rest of the class,” Murphy said. “I enjoyed his casual yet fluid writing style, and often wrote notes in the margins of his papers about his writing ability.”

Growing up, Lastrapes' first significant creative influence was his older brother, Greg, a filmmaker and musician.  As a kid, Lastrapes watched his brother perform on stage at the Roxy Theater in Hollywood, while also making many television appearances as an actor and singer. Greg made it a point to tap into his brother’s creativity early on.

“Since the day that Martin could read, we have been collaborating,” Greg said. “I always work him into whatever project I've got cooking, and that has included writing projects.”

While Lastrapes had many creative interests growing up, from comic books to movies, it was his discovery of creative writing that lit a fire inside of him.

“Writing became the ideal medium to sort of exercise my creativity,” Lastrapes said. “I fell in love with it when I was 18 and we have had a passionate love affair for the last 15 years.”

For the next 15 years, Lastrapes is looking ahead as he evolves and develops as a writer.

“I’m definitely not done growing and I plan on getting better,” Lastrapes said, “otherwise it would just be boring if this were the end of the road.”

Happy Martin Day (A Birthday Retrospective)!

Every year on December 9, since it's inception in 1977, people all over my inner circle have been celebrating Martin Day.  This year will be the 34th celebration of Martin Day and it occurs to me a birthday retrospective is in order. So, for your benefit, I've put together a timeline of milestones in my life that, in one way or another, led me to my life as a novelist. So, without further ado, I present to you the First Annual Martin Day Birthday Retrospective.

Age: 1 Second (1977)

After nine months in my mother's womb, considering the world and my place in it, I decided that a comfortable sac of amniotic fluid simply wasn't enough without cable television.

Age: 5 Years (1982)

While attending preschool, I find there is a bitchin' CHiPs tricycle in the playground. But, apparently, I was in the group of children that was, believe it or not, too old to ride. I was too young to appreciate at the time the delicious nectar of disappointment that all artists learn to love.

Age: 8 Years (1985)

On a random Saturday afternoon, as I flipped through the channels, I discovered professional wrestling. It was love at first sight.

Age: 12 Years (1989)

After one whole long year of agonizing anticipation, Batman, the 1989 film starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson, finally came out. As a loyal fan, I bought, with my very own $5 dollars (which I received once a week as an allowance), the novelization of the film.

Age: 14 Years (1991)

For Easter, my parents bought me tickets to watch WrestleMania VII at The Los Angeles Sports Arena. With the Gulf War serving as a backdrop, Hulk Hogan defeated Sgt. Slaughter (who lent his loyalties to Saddam Hussein) for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship.

Age: 17 Years (1995)

While working as an ice cream scooper at Thrifty's, I was interrogated for four hours by a couple of loss prevention agents. During the interrogation, I admitted to stealing a number of things, including money and ice cream. Turns out they were trying to pin a stolen pager on me, which, ironically enough, I did not steal.

Age: 18 Years (1996)

During my first year at Chaffey College, I took English 1A with S. Kay Murphy. For my first assignment, I wrote an essay about stealing money and ice cream from Thrifty's. Based on that essay, Murphy encouraged me to be a writer. Elated by her encouragement, I decided to give it a go.

Age: 19 Years and 2 Days (1997)

As a birthday gift, my parents took me to the Great Western Forum for my first Lakers game. The Lakers were hosting Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers. Kobe Bryant was a rookie and Shaquille O'Neal was in his  first year with the team.  We got to the arena a few hours early and watched the players warm up. I watched rookie Derek Fisher practice free throws; for about ten minutes he never missed one.

Age: 21 and 1/2 Years (1999)

Having gotten a part-time job working at the Virgin Megastore, I met Chanel, who was not only my co-worker, but, it turned out, was also the coolest gal on the planet.

Age: 23 and 1/2 Years (2002)

While studying English at California State University, San Bernardino, I took the first of many creative writing classes taught by James Brown (author of The Los Angeles Diaries and This River). In so doing, Brown unwittingly became my personal Yoda.

Age: 26 Years and 3 Months (2004)

While a participant at the Cal Poly Creative Writing Conference, I won the award for First Place in Short Fiction for my story "The Night Owl." Later that same year, I won First Place in the Inland Empire CWC Writing Contest for my short story "The Plan." Finally, in that same year, I got my first story published courtesy of The Pacific Review; it was a short memoir called "The Black Curtain."

Age: 27 Years and 7 Months (2005)

I was invited to attend The Squaw Valley Community of Writers, a week-long conference that brings aspiring writers together with seasoned professionals. I met many great writers, including Anne Lamott, Amy Tan, Dorothy Allison, and Mark Childress. I also met a literary agent who asked to read the novel I was working on called The Wishing Game.

Age: 28 Years (2005)

On the 28th celebration of Martin Day, I received a rejection letter from the literary agent I met I Squaw Valley. My devastation was tempered when, later that night, my brother, Greg, took me to a screening of Match Point, which was followed by a Q & A session with the writer/director, Woody Allen, and the cast.

Age: 28 and 1/2 Years (2006) - Part 1

Once again, I graduated from California State University, San Bernardino, this time earning my Master's Degree in Composition.

Age: 28 and 1/2 Years (2006) - Part 2

I got my first grown-up job as an English Professor at Chaffey College. I had no idea what I was doing, but chose to keep this information to myself.

Age: 31 Years (2008)

I was waist-deep in the writing of my novel, The Sacrifice of Timber Marlow. Upon later revisions, I would change it's title to The Sustenance of the Flesh.

Age: 33 Years (2010)

Having completed my novel, The Sustenance of the Flesh, I decided I wasn't happy with the title. So, with the help of my brother, Greg, I came up with the title Inside the Outside.

Age: 33 and 1/2 Years

I published Inside the Outside. Along with being well-received by readers and reviewers alike, Inside the Outside found itself at #3 in's Top 100 Hot New Releases for Horror.

Age: 33 Years, 364 Days and 18 Hours (2011)

The Lakers agreed to trade Lamar Odom and Paul Gasol to the New Orleans Hornets for Chris Paul. By all accounts, I regard this as an early birthday present.

Age: 33 Years, 364 Days and 20 Hours (2011)

The NBA, which owned the New Orleans Hornets, blocked the trade of Odom and Gasol for Paul. By all accounts, I regard this as the worst early birthday present ever.

Age: 34 Years (2011)

For my 34th birthday, I posted a silly, yet poignant, article called "Happy Martin Day (A Birthday Retrospective)!" for the benefit of my amusement.

The Circle of (a Writer’s) Life: PART 2

When my friend and former writing professor, James Brown, invited me to speak to the students of his Advanced Creative Writing class, I was both excited and honored. In July of 2011 I officially became an indie author with the publication of my novel, Inside the Outside. Brown's students, being in the MFA program, will all presumably look to have their own work published one day and so he thought it'd be good for them to hear about my experience as an independent publisher. He'd set up Tuesday, November 15, 2011, as my day to speak. I spent quite a lot of time thinking about the presentation I wanted to give and the things I wanted to tell the students.

I wanted to tell them that I remember what it's like to sit where they're sitting, to work so hard on your craft without any real promise that you'll see your work in print. I wanted to tell them that I can relate to the anxiety and desperation that comes when you start sending your work out to agents and publishers, only to be met with rejection time and time again. I wanted to tell them about how I spent two years working on my "first" novel, only to have it rejected by every agent I sent it to, before spending another five years working on the novel that would become Inside the Outside, which, despite much interest from agents, was also soundly rejected. I wanted to tell them that when the time came for them to publish their own work that they had other options, that they weren't beholden to the system of traditional publishing, that there was more than one way to share their work with the world.

And while, when the time came, I spent over an hour speaking to Brown's students (who, incidentally, were both gracious and welcoming) about the pragmatics of independent publishing, what I really wanted to convey was hope. Because, the unfortunate truth about being a writer, or an artist of any discipline, is that, when you choose to pursue a career in your craft, you will be met by a seemingly endless line of people who want to tell you no, to turn around, to knock on someone else's door, or, perhaps, to stop trying altogether. Most of those people will never understand what it means to invest the whole of your heart into an artistic endeavor, to invest your love and imagination into something that, were it not for you, would not exist at all. And most of those people, the ones who say no, will never truly understand the crushing disappointment that exists on the other side of their rejection.

Because I know only too well that this is the world that many of Brown's students will one day enter, I wanted, more than anything, to provide them with the knowledge that there is another way. It's a road that strays from the traditional path, a road lined with the footsteps of rebels and mavericks. A road lit by the rays of hope, leading to a place where writers are free to take control of their own destiny.


For Greg's side of this story story, check out the sister post on his blog.

Greg and I have been meeting for our regularly scheduled writing sessions for nearly two months now as we work on the screenplay adaptation of Inside the Outside.

The first three or four weeks were spent outlining the screenplay, which was both fun and tedious, often at the same time. One of the challenges I’m finding myself confronted with is overcoming the occasional bout of boredom that comes with retelling a story that I spent five years writing in the first place.

The process of writing a novel involves long, isolated hours of intense focus and concentration. It’s not just a matter of putting words on the page (though, to be clear, that’s a terribly important part of the process), but it’s also about working out the kinks of the narrative and the characters, thinking about the various subplots and how they interplay, as well as how every choice made will effect the larger story being told. While it’s a process that I love dearly, I’m only human. I can’t tell you how satisfying it was (and still is) to have completed my novel and see it in print.

So, now that I’m collaborating with Greg on the adaptation, there are lots of times where he and I are locked into sessions of intense focus and concentration, working out the kinks of the narrative and the characters, thinking about the various subplots and how every choice made will effect the larger story. And, occasionally, I find it challenging to garner up the proper level of focus or concentration, because it feels as though I'm putting myself through the same difficult process all over again, in order to tell a story that I've already told. But, without fail, I am able to shake off those temporary funks, because, among other things, it’s just too exciting to think about the potential of this movie.

When there is a scene in the novel that plays out perfectly for the screenplay, the writing is a simple matter of translating from one format (novel) to the other (screenplay), nearly verbatim. So, when Greg and I are lost in our collective concentration, what we are often working on is how to re-imagine a scene to make it work on film—or, in some cases, we must invent new scenes that don't exist in the novel at all. These are the times where our writing is slowed to a grinding halt.

Part of the challenge of inventing a new scene is every choice we make—every action and every line of dialogue—must jibe with what we already know is going to happen later. See, if we were creating a brand new story from scratch, we could afford to play a little more jazz with the screenplay. But, because we are working within a well-defined structure, every choice must be exhaustively scrutinized.

For example, in the novel there is a key storyline involving Pepsi Marlow and Idea Marlow. When writing the novel, I didn’t have to devote many scenes to their story, as I had the luxury of developing and communicating it through the narrative. If you read the book, you’ll find that there’s really only one scene between Pepsi and Idea, despite the fact that I created a substantive back story for their relationship.

In the screenplay, however, we don’t have this same luxury. We’ve had to write scenes for Pepsi and Idea that will develop and establish who they are and, more importantly, what they mean to Timber. Scenes that, in the novel, were more or less implied. This also led us to one of our first major departures from the novel.

In the novel, Daddy Marlow uses his power and influence as Divinity leader to force a relationship with Pepsi in order to spite Idea. While I never actually show you their interactions, it is unmistakably implied. In the screenplay, however, Greg and I decided it is necessary to show how (and why) Daddy Marlow decided to target Pepsi. This led to us writing a scene between Daddy Marlow and Pepsi that doesn’t exist at all in the book. The result is a scene that is equal parts powerful and disturbing. And, while it doesn’t exist in the book, it very much represents the spirit of the book.

NEXT TIME: Exactly who does the writing when Greg and I are in one of our writing sessions? And which one of us writes faster? The answer may surprise you. Or maybe it won’t. Or maybe you’ll find your reaction falls somewhere in the middle. Also, I'll discuss Christine Vachon's book, Shooting to Kill, and what influence it has had on the adaptation process. Stay tuned!

Megamind vs. Inside the Outside

According to, customers who bought Inside the Outside also bought Megamind.  While I'm delighted to be in the same company as a film that earned $321,885,765 worldwide, I can't help but wonder what the actual connection is.

Megamind, if you're not familiar, is an animated feature starring the voices of Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt, and Tina Fey.  And, according to Amazon, it is about a super villain named Megamind who dreams have come true when he conquers Metro Man, thereby gaining control of Metro City. But when a new villain is created and chaos runs rampant, the world's biggest Megamind might actually save the day.  I've never seen it, but it sounds sweet.

Inside the Outside, on the other hand, is a horror novel written by yours truly. And, unlike the family friendly Megamind, my story is about a young girl who grows up in a cult tucked away in the San Bernardino Mountains and is raised as a cannibal. There's lots of horror and bloodshed, people get killed and others get eaten. There is, however, a fair amount of bowling in the book, which, I think we all can agree, is a family friendly activity, but, other than that, I'm at a loss for the connection.

So, just for fun, I decided to see what customers had to say about both Megamind and Inside the Outside. In doing so, I think I might've unraveled the mystery. What I've done is paired snippets of reviews together, and your job is to see if you can guess which review is for Megamind and which is for Inside the Outside. It's an awful lot of fun and I think I can promise you it's not going to be as easy as you think.


"I...enjoy[ed] the message that seems to be tailored to both kids and adults[,] that persistence can pay off even after multiple setbacks. There are plenty of scenes to make a person laugh."


"This book had me on the verge of tears, laughter, and terror, sometimes at the same time."

It's tough, right?


Wonderfully funny twist on the old hero versus villain theme. The ending is somewhat predictable, but everything else is hysterically new.


"One of the best books I've read all year. Creepy, original, with a tight story and enviable prose."

I told you it wasn't going to be easy!


"I purchased this for my grandchildren to watch when at my house. They are absolutely in love with it and I must admit I haven't gotten tired of it yet. You can't go wrong with this movie."


"Martin Lastrapes' debut novel is classified as horror (and indeed seems to be rising quickly up the charts), but really it achieves something even more powerful; I'd call it literary terror."

I know, I know... it sounds like I'm making these up, but I swear they're actual reviews from actual customers on

After reading through all the reviews, I actually felt silly for not having seen the connection between Megamind and Inside the Outside before. I think the lesson here is don't underestimate good taste.

Now, if I can only figure out how to further tap into the Megamind market, I might be able to finally live out my dream of being a wealthy recluse.

GoodReads is the Place to Be!

Since publishing Inside the Outside in July 2011, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time on GoodReads. If you’re not aware of it (and why wouldn’t you be?!) it's a social network for book lovers. I was a member of GoodReads before I published my novel, so being an official author on the site is super cool. One of the great things about GoodReads is it hosts book giveaways, such as the giveaway for Inside the Outside, which ended on September 2, 2011.

Speaking of which, congratulations to the winners—Amanda (Visalia, CA), Stacy (Inverness, FL), and Amy (Greene, NY)—each of whom received a signed copy of Inside the Outside.

One of the other great things about GoodReads is it’s a place for readers to leave reviews about the books they’ve read.

I’m not sure if other authors (Stephen King, for instance, or Chuck Palahniuk) read their reviews on GoodReads, but I do.

And, so far, Inside the Outside has faired extremely well with readers. In no particular order, I wanted to share the kind words readers on GoodReads have been saying about my debut novel.

(Side Note: I truncated some of the longer reviews. You can read them in their entirety by following the links below).

Emma wrote:

One of the best books I've read all year. Creepy, original, with a tight story and enviable prose. I plan to read it again, which in today's media clutter, is the biggest compliment I can bestow upon it. It's just that good.

Jennifer wrote:

Fantastic book. I was completely captivated; I'm still thinking about it days later.

Chanel wrote:

This book had me on the verge of tears, laughter, and terror, sometimes at the same time. Martin Lastrapes writes with such vivid imagery, that there were times where I had to put the book down to avoid being overly spooked. I found myself caring for each character and caring what happened to them.

Natasha wrote:

I totally loved this book. It was hard to read at times imaging what was laid out about cannibalism. Made me cry and laugh. I want more, more of the same twisted story but also more of Martin Lastrapes amazing imagination and his talented writing. The way he can lay a story out I am in awe of.

Cassandra wrote:

5 STARS AMAZING! I absolutely LOVE Inside the Outside by Martin Lastrapes. I strongly recommend everybody read this book. After reading the first few pages, I already knew I'd be HOOKED. YOU MUST READ THIS! Happy, Sad, Intense, Creepy...YES, YES, YES!

To those readers who read the book, enjoyed it, and thought enough of it to take a little time out of their day to write a kind review, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. For those readers who read and enjoyed the book, but didn’t leave a review on GoodReads, I appreciate you too. And for anybody who hated the book, but chose not to review it, I appreciate you the most!

A Little Gaga Spillover

Contrary to what Google might have you think, I am not Lady Gaga.  So, if you’re a little monster who turned up on this website hoping to get your fill of Gaga, then you made a wrong turn. Just to be clear, my name is Martin Lastrapes and I am the author of Inside the Outside, the novel about the cannibal girl named Timber Marlow.

So, imagine my chagrin, when, just a few minutes ago, I, having decided to cater to my ego, did a Google search of “Inside the Outside” only to find the results page dominated by Lady Gaga. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, just a month and a half before I would publish my debut novel, Inside the Outside, MTV aired a documentary called Lady Gaga: Inside the Outside.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, I feel it’s worth mentioning that I have no beef with Lady Gaga.  In fact, I heard an interview with her on the Howard Stern Show, in which she comes off as not only genuinely talented, but bright and articulate. Having said that, I’ve never gone out of my way to listen to or avoid a Lady Gaga record.  From what I can gather, she has a certain showmanship that I can appreciate, even if I don’t always understand what she’s doing—say, for instance, when she dressed up as an egg at the 2011 Grammy Awards.

Anyway, I don’t want to get too far away from my point, which is: I’m not Lady Gaga.

I’m not saying it would be such a bad thing if I were.  She’s certainly enjoying the sort of creative and financial success that I would love to experience. But, suffice it to say, despite our non-related projects of the same name, I am not she. So, if you are one of Lady Gaga’s little monsters and you did, perhaps, in a drunken flurry of Gaga fever, buy my novel, Inside the Outside, under the pretense that it had any relation to the documentary, Lady Gaga: Inside the Outside, let me say thank you. I appreciate your support.

And really, when you think of it, Lady Gaga would probably enjoy my novel anyway.  Just the cover alone, I imagine, would pique her interest: a bald girl with a cleaver in one hand and a flower in the other, wearing only a tank top and nothing else.  For all you know, I could have just described Lady Gaga’s outfit for the 2012 Grammy Awards.  Hell, didn’t Lady Gaga dress up in a meat outfit at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards?  The more I think about it, Google might be on to something.

Now, let me wrap this up by coming clean.  The sole purpose of this blog post (and, let’s face it, I’m sure at least a few of you have figured it out by now) is to try and weasel my way into the top of any Google search of “Inside the Outside.”  If Lady Gaga is already there and I have now mentioned Lady Gaga sixteen times, in conjunction with mentioning Inside the Outside eight times, then maybe—just maybe—I can enjoy a little Gaga (seventeen!) spillover.

In closing, let me say this: Lady Gaga Inside the Outside Martin Lastrapes Lady Gaga Inside the Outside Martin Lastrapes Lady Gaga Inside the Outside Martin Lastrapes Lady Gaga Inside the Outside Martin Lastrapes Lady Gaga Inside the Outside Martin Lastrapes Lady Gaga Inside the Outside Martin Lastrapes Lady Gaga Inside the Outside Martin Lastrapes Lady Gaga Inside the Outside Martin Lastrapes Lady Gaga Inside the Outside Martin Lastrapes…