Apocalypse Weird Author Eric Tozzi, Phoenix Lights
The Aliens Have Come to End the World…
On March 13, 1997, the incident now known as the Phoenix Lights left thousands of witnesses at a loss to explain the sudden appearance of the massive V-shaped craft that hovered in the skies above Phoenix that day.
Now, eighteen years later, the Vs have returned. Bargains will be made with an intelligence beyond our grasp deep within a super-secret government blacksite. Can a crew of TV UFO Busters find out the truth about the visitors or are they going to get far more than they ever bargained for? Whereas once they were blind, now they will see.
Welcome to the invasion.
Welcome to the Apocalypse Weird
Today I welcome Author, Film Director, Documentary Producer and Editor Eric Tozzi to my site to tell us about his participation in, a one of kind project, a first in Indie Publishing put together by a group of Independent Author who have banded together to create their own brand world, Apocalypse Weird. He is here to tell us about his upcoming book, Phoenix Lights, in the series Apocalypse Weird. The official launch of AW took place February 23, 2015.
Eric is a video/film producer and director by trade. He has just recently started creating book trailers. He is the creator and producer of the first Apocalypse Weird trailer below, which by the way is AWESOME!
JK: How did you get involved with the Apocalypse Weird project? Tell us a bit about the project.
ET: Hi, Juneta, and thanks for having me! First of all, I just wanted to tell you that the official launch of the Apocalypse Weird series has successfully happened, and already the books are doing really, really well! In fact, we got a huge mention about the series from author Anne Rice who was kind enough to mention it on her Facebook page. Thank you, Anne!
Now for me, the opportunity to join the Apocalypse Weird project began last spring when I was invited by Michael Bunker to contribute a short story to a time travel anthology he was putting together: Synchronic: 13 Tales of Time Travel. I was a last minute add, and had two weeks to write something and get it to editor David Gatewood. My story “Reentry Window,” became a part of that work, and it afforded me a chance to get to know a whole new group of amazing authors. The anthology did extremely well and hit the #16 spot overall in the Kindle store at one point. Michael Bunker and Nick Cole must have liked my writing because this last fall they asked me to join Apocalypse Weird and help launch the world.
JK: What is the premise of your AW book?
ET: I’m a big fan of Science Fiction, especially alien invasion stories. I used it as the backdrop for my debut novel, The Scout. As soon as I read the outline for the entire Apocalypse Weird universe, my mind landed in alien country. I already had momentum on that field and wanted to keep it in motion.
Each AW story takes place in a particular region with some sort of apocalyptic event happening there. I currently live in Phoenix, Arizona, so I’m tackling the central Arizona region. Keeping in mind I would be using aliens as my apocalyptic device, I didn’t have to look far to connect my story with some incredible UFO events that have been reported in the Grand Canyon State.
I decided to use a well-known UFO sighting that occurred in March of 1997. It was a high profile event that was subsequently referred to as the “The Phoenix Lights Incident.” Anyone who Googles “Phoenix Lights” will immediately find a massive volume of links with pictures and articles. No matter what you believe about it—whether it was military aircraft or something else—it cannot be denied that the event left many thousands of people awestruck and to this day wondering what exactly happened.
The basic premise of my AW book centers on what happens 18 years after the Phoenix Lights incident. The V shaped ships have returned and it’s an all out attack on the valley. Additionally, I’ve incorporated the idea of a secret, underground facility—an Area 51 mirror site—buried in the desert near the Superstition Mountains. And in the book I imply that this site has something to do with the Vs showing back up.
In a world of reality TV shows that cover the unexplained and paranormal, I’ve built my lead characters around a documentary/reality TV crew who call themselves the UFO Busters. And needless to say, they’re going to get way more than they bargained for when the ships start falling from the sky over Phoenix! It’s a whole lot of fun writing in this world, and cannot wait to see how big this project actually becomes!
JK: Do you use your skills in video and film, directing and producing to help you write, or visualize your stories?
ET: Most definitely! I find myself working on “scenes” and “cuts” while I write, picturing angles and edits as I go through the story. Especially for pacing when there may be some kind of action sequence, or tension, or some kind of heavy, emotional beat. I definitely see the characters, hear their voices, and as the writer, “direct” the reader through that scene or chapter. The words are my camera lens by which the audience gets to view this story, at least that’s how I function.
JK: How long have you been in the business of video and films?
ET: It all started when I was a kid, growing up in Malibu, California. It was 1977, the year Star Wars and Close Encounters came out. By the end of that year I was hooked and wanted to make films. Ever see the JJ Abrams movie, Super 8? That was me. I was that kid with the super 8 camera and the film cartridges, running around my neighborhood with monster masks and Air Blaster guns doubling for laser rifles. I’d come up with stories and then spend weekends filming with my friend and neighbors. One fifty-foot cartridge of film at a time. That’s what started the whole thing.
It was just a few years after high school that I actually worked full time as an editor in post production and I’ve been doing it ever since. If anyone’s curious about some of my work, I have IMDb credits.
JK: When did you decide you wanted to be an author too?
ET: I’d actually toyed with the idea of writing novels way, way back in high school. I’d gotten into reading Stephen King back then. A year after graduating I dove in and wrote some short stories. And funny thing I recently found those in a folder. They were all typed–as in typewriter. Yep, I used one of those! Screenwriting got the best of me because of my film background, so I basically gave up on writing a book and wrote screenplays. I landed a literary agent and began shopping scripts. I was optioned. I wrote script after script. After years of shopping but not securing the elusive studio deal, my writing pace slowed and eventually stalled.
It wasn’t until I took a producing job for NASA/JPL that I had an idea for an alien invasion thriller that would draw on the things I was learning about planetary exploration. I wrote another script for the movie, but was completely unsatisfied with it. So in 2011 a lightbulb went on. It just clicked one day and I thought, why not write a book instead? Because I realized that with a book there’s a chance that people will actually read it and enjoy it. I’m wasn’t bound any longer to tell people about my “latest screenplay” that’s being read by a few select people in ‘the biz.’ I could tell people, hey, I’ve written a novel and you can get a copy and read it.
Honestly, I think it was one of the smartest things I’ve ever done, and one of the most creatively satisfying. And I asked myself, why I hadn’t done it sooner.
JK: How is writing books different for you?
ET: It’s very liberating writing a book as opposed to writing a script because I’m writing on a much larger canvas and I’m not worried about how much the “movie” is going to cost. I’m not thinking about which studio might be interested in it, about the number of visual effects shots, locations, etc. It frees me up to focus solely on telling a good story. Honestly, selling a screenplay today to a major studio or production company is nearly impossible unless you’ve got a few sales under your belt, you’ve got an agent that’s well connected and knows how to package a film, or you’re just incredibly lucky.
Frankly I got tired of the lottery mentality when it came to trying to sell a film. I was losing the joy of writing, and diving into novels really set me free from that. In fact I’ve been encouraging some of my screenwriter friends who have scripts gathering dust to consider adapting them to novels and publishing them.
Now, here’s the irony of it all. Since I wrote and published my debut novel, The Scout, I now have some interest from producers in LA on the property. I won’t say any more about it, but I think it would be hysterical if I landed a picture deal for the book and it became a movie or TV series. I think I’d have a really big laugh if after all this time toiling over writing and trying to sell screenplays, I got a deal based on a novel instead. We shall see what happens!
JK: Do you have plans for any other projects in the future?
ET: I’m working on several things right now. I’ve got a new short story I’m contributing to an upcoming anthology which is being put together by editor David Gatewood (Synchronic: 13 Tales of Time Travel). That will be released in May. I’ve got another science fiction book I’ve started, titled The Zoo. It’s a big book, large concept that takes place on another planet. But I don’t think I’ll have that one ready until 2016. I’m also mulling and starting to outline a sequel to The Scout.
Besides working on Apocalypse Weird, I’m writing a superheroine piece that’s a mashup conceptually of the movie Galaxy Quest and Supergirl. It’s a fun story about an out-of-work actress who played a superhero, Mighty Woman, on a short lived TV show, who must become the real thing in order to stop an evil force from basically wiping out the city. It’s mostly about her raging insecurities about her career as an actress, turning 30, and her mercurial love life.
This project has a long history. I shot a concept trailer for it, and within a short amount of time it was optioned for TV, based solely on the trailer.
Now, as is the case when a TV studio options your material, as a newcomer, you have no control over how things happen. And unfortunately, Mighty Woman never got produced as a show. It hovered in development purgatory for a year and then the rights came back to me. I was majorly disappointed.
Not long after that I decided to write Mighty Woman as a series of novellas, with the first being titled THE GREATEST ADVENTURES OF MIGHTY WOMAN: RESURRECTION. Fitting title I think. I hope to have this first piece out sometime in May or June and re-energize the character and the story. And I’d really like to see this get a comic book or graphic novel treatment at some point.
JK: Okay I read two things on the Chimeras blog that I would like to ask you about for my readers. Tell us about the rocket scientists and Ray Bradbury. I would love to hear it again, so I know the readers would enjoy it too. What happened and how cool was that?
ET: Of course. Well, first of all, regarding Ray Bradbury. I was given a gift (I see it as nothing less than that): the opportunity to direct a short film based on the iconic author’s short story, “Kaleidoscope,” from his book The Illustrated Man. The film itself took over a year to produce and involved a lot of visual effects that were painstakingly realized by some very talented artists. We had an amazing cast and crew. I know every director says that, but I swear we couldn’t have gotten it done without them. All of our visual effects were produced at the photo-real level. Stunning.
“Kaleidoscope” played at roughly two-dozen festivals and we won nine prizes including a Grand Prize at the New Media Film Festival in LA. We were nominated for a Golden Blaster award at the Octocon in Dublin, Ireland, and we played at the SciFi London festival. For a complete festival list and prizes:
The producer/star, Brett Stimely, and I were afforded the chance to screen the final film for Ray at his home just a few short months before he passed away. Getting a chance to meet Ray in person, especially having him love so deeply our adaptation of his work, was a life changing moment. I have to thank my friend and mentor, Marc Zicree, for setting that up for us. Ray talked about writing, and the last thing he told us before we left was to “go forth and produce more” (of his work.) I hope that someday I’ll be given the privilege of doing just that!
And regarding the rocket scientists… I worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a documentary film producer for the Mars Rover Missions. Extraordinary is the only possible description. It was a chance to get an in-depth behind-the-scenes look at space and planetary exploration. And it afforded me time to meet some of the most brilliant, friendly, and humble folks I’ve ever met. The engineers who’ve built such spacecraft as Cassini, Voyager, Mars Curiosity Rover, Mars Spirit and Opportunity, etc. are in my book, rock stars! I mean it—they deserve so much more appreciation and attention than most celebrities get in a given hour. Let’s see… Kanye West or Adam Steltzner? Hmm, tough one, but in my book, guys like Adam are the real celebrities. I often wish the rest of the world would see that.
I produced and edited a documentary series for them titled “The Challenges of Getting To Mars,” covering various aspects of the Phoenix Polar Lander Mission, The MER Twin Rovers and the Curiosity Mars Rover. If you go to YouTube and type: JPL, Challenges of Getting To Mars, you’ll find a whole bunch of pieces I produced during my tenure there. Some of my most thrilling experiences were at launches and landings, most notably the Phoenix Polar Lander and the Curiosity Mars Rover.
I have a real fondness for JPL, and I paid tribute to them in The Scout, and Re-entry Window.
JK: What is “a day” in your life like? How do you juggle it all?
ET: That is a really good question, and when someone actually figures it out, I’d love to know how. I’m kidding. And in a way, I’m not. Sometimes life becomes a fast moving vehicle and it feels like everything is just flying by. As a writer and someone that still needs to work full time hours, it can be tricky. I guess a big part of it is scheduling your time–literally making a schedule and sticking to it. I find that I can write in the early morning, so when I’m working full time I get up, make some coffee, play with the cat for a few minutes and then write until I have to go to work. I’m married, so I’m mindful of that fact that it’s vital to have quality time with family.
JK: Is there anything you would like to add for our readers?
ET: I’d like to encourage fellow writers to keep writing, keep reading, keep learning. And I’d like to thank you, Juneta, for having me on your blog! It’s been a pleasure!
Primarily I write science fiction. This genre is especially close to my heart. For over five years I worked for NASA at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a documentary film producer and editor, covering Mars Exploration (It’s funny how many times I’ve been asked if I am a rocket scientist). Getting an up close, behind-the-scenes look at planetary exploration gave me great inspiration for my debut novel, The Scout.
The iconic science-fiction writer, Ray Bradbury, was a personal source of encouragement to me. Having directed an award-winning short film based on the story, “Kaleidoscope,” from his book, The Illustrated Man, I had the opportunity to spend time with Ray before he passed away. His passion for writing and space exploration fueled me to the finish line on my debut novel, The Scout.
I’ve completed a new book, PHOENIX LIGHTS, which is set in the Apocalypse Weird universe. Additionally I’ve got a superhero novella that will take flight sometime in 2015, “The Greatest Adventures of Mighty Woman Book 1: Resurrection.“ In its simplest pitch form, it’s a mashup of Galaxy Quest and Supergirl. Lots of action! Lots of fun!
Check out the rest of the series and authors, 7 books strong!
Apocalypse Weird Teaser
The first trailer for AW created by Eric Tozzi
Apocalypse Weird Launch Trailer. The second trailer, also done by Eric!