Friday, July 25, 2014

The loss of a child...

Yesterday was one of those days that you can never prepare for as a parent or a spouse. I was well into my morning routine...I am all about routines and never function well when they are untracked. I had completed my first rounds of editing and writing and had just gone upstairs to start on the kitchen and to give the hardwood floor a good cleaning when my phone rang. I knew by the ringtone that it was my wife and had that initial thought of "How does she know the perfect time to call?" After all, I had just finished writing, so if she wanted to chat for a moment, this was the perfect time...

"Johnny is dead."

It was just that fast. They are words that make no sense at first. But her tears make it clear very quickly as to what she is saying. Her son, John Douglas Skagen, had the age of 18.

There are not words that you can say in those moments. "It will be okay." won't, and to say so would be the biggest lie of your life. What can you (I) say at that moment? Nothing. Seriously, because from that moment on, it has nothing to do with you (me). It has everything to do with my wife, a mother who lost her son far too soon. I have no idea what to at a total loss on how to deal with something like this. 

As she drove home from work, I called family friends (as much for me as for her because I knew that I was way out of my element. This was nothing that I could fix or make better, and I could not do this alone. I had the responsibility to call Jenifer, Johnny's 20-year-old sister, as well as people from the church who I knew were better qualified to handle this than I.

When she got home, I was waiting on the porch. And then others began to arrive. From there, it was a blur. I know that somebody made a post on Denise's Facebook page that we would not be available for a bit and the reason why. I know there have been well-wishes, thoughts, and prayers. They are appreciated. But today, my wife woke up and her son is not there. He will never text, or call, or be a pain in the butt. He will not tease his sister, post a silly picture on Facebook, or help in the yard.

When he was at his best, Johnny was caring, loving, and full of energy. But, like anybody, he had his worst moments as well. Today, if you asked my wife, she would just as happily take those. 

Johnny loved computers and was almost like Rainman in his ability to get them to do things...good and bad. He was diabetic. He was bi-polar. He loved to talk and talk and talk and talk. He both over-exaggerated and under-exaggerated his abilities. He was an 18-year-old-boy. He was shy. He was a showoff. He loved his mom. He loved his sister. They made him more angry than anybody in the world. They made him happier than anybody in the world. He was an 18-year-old boy. He loved his girlfriend of eight months, Sina. He battled with depression. Sometimes he won. Sometimes he lost. He was an 18-year-old boy. He saw his mom's new house and told her she lived in a mansion. He told her that he could not wait to come back over and help her in the yard again. He wanted to start training to run in mud runs. He was an 18-year-old boy.

If he would have been in the house yesterday, I think he would have honestly been surprised at the outpouring of love, grief, and tears that his passing brought. He would be amazed to know that his grandmother immediately began arranging for a flight from Panama to get to Portland and be at her daughter's side. He would be amazed to know that family members who have not spoken for months are talking. He would probably laugh if he knew that his passing had opened healing doors that were considered sealed forever. Johhny was as humble as he was boisterous, and he would probably be embarrassed by all the fuss.

Today, my wife woke up with a hole in her heart that I will never be able to fill. Today she woke up without her son. She will cry. And for the rest of her life...she will cry at odd random times because her son Johnny is gone. I had no idea what to do...still don't. But Ronni, my 19-year-old daughter, gave me some great advice yesterday when she called after I texted her (we can discuss that and the chewing out she gave me later...I told you I did not know what to do). "Dad, Denise is gonna need a lot of hugs."

I can do that.

As you can imagine, things are a bit sideways at the moment. I will be away for a spell. I have a family to hold on to and be there for in a situation that I will not be able to fully understand. If you do not hear from me for a little while, just be patient. Perhaps now would be a good time to hug your child...whether they are fifteen or fifty. Maybe call that person you have not talked to for a while because somebody got mad...but the details have become fuzzy. I am learning as I go these next few days. The one thing I have down after the first 24 hours is that this is a finite time that we have. Do not waste your energy on anger or overblown hate. And do not think that, just because somebody is here today, that they will be here tomorrow, so whatever you have in your heart can wait. 

It can't.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Do I Have Any Zombies Left?

When I sat down to write my zombie novel Diaries of the Damned, it was fresh off the bat from completing my second horror novel Highway to Hell Part Two: Trials and Tribulations. With that series I found myself standing on the edge of so many potential directions to take the story, each one equally epic in scope that I wanted to write something simple. Maybe simple is the wrong word, for zombies are far from that. I guess I wanted to write something fun, something entertaining.
I had never given much thought to writing zombie fiction, but it seemed to fit all of my requirements, and the story formed in my mind almost instantly. It helped I had two long work meetings on back to back days, where I could sit in the back and make some good notes about my story.

I found that writing Diaries of the Damned came really easy to me. It was actually the easiest novel to write. I was penning about 10,000 words a week and self-editing them too. The best part was that writing it was great fun too.
I have been very fortunate that the book was well received. It has since been re-launched as a self-published title and so I must build it up from scratch once more. I am not afraid however. The easy road was never one I wanted to travel anyway.

For a while I found myself asking, could I write another zombie novel? I think that there could be a second Diaries novel in me, and sure enough there are plenty of zombie ideas bouncing around inside my creative noggin, but I decided to move away, to keep on trucking through the genre, just because I could. Not to mention the fact that I owe a certain Mr. Brown a third instalment of Highway to Hell, but shhhh, let’s just keep that between us.
I had put all thoughts of zombie writing to one side until an interesting opportunity came my way. A collective zombie project. I got my brain in gear and started plotting and jotting a few things, and suddenly my mind is rife with zombie storylines and interesting direction to take a plot line.
The can be no doubt about it, I certain feel relaxed when penning zombie fiction, and the whole creative process is very enjoyable. Hell, even the edits were good fun to go through. My initial trepidation was because I like to keep my writing varied, more for me than anything. But who can argue with the muse when she strikes.
Of course, I have plenty of other books to write, including aforementioned Highway to Hell III, but at least you can grab one or two of my other novels between now and then.

Who is Alex Laybourne?
Born and raised in the coastal English town Lowestoft, it should come as no surprise (to those that have the misfortune of knowing this place) that I became a horror writer.
From an early age I was sent to schools which were at least 30 minutes' drive away and so spent most of my free time alone, as the friends I did have lived too far away for me to be able to hang out with them in the weekends or holidays.
I have been a writer as long as I can remember and have always had a vivid imagination. To this very day I find it all too easy to just drift away into my own mind and explore the world I create; where the conditions always seem to be just perfect for the cultivation of ideas, plots, scenes, characters and lines of dialogue
I am married and have four wonderful children; James, Logan, Ashleigh and Damon. My biggest dream for them is that they grow up, and spend their lives doing what makes them happy, whatever that is.
For people who buy my work, I hope that they enjoy what they read and that I can create something that takes them away from reality for a short time. For me, the greatest compliment I can receive is not based on rankings but by knowing that people enjoy what I produce, that they buy my work with pleasure and never once feel as though their money would have been better spent elsewhere.

Where can you find me?
I am active an many different social media platforms, including:

If you fancy grabbing some of my work, you can find my entire portfolio here:
If horror is your thing, then maybe travel the Highway to Hell, alone or with a group, your chance of survival is slim.

If zombies are more to your liking, my crop of British undead in my novel Diaries of the Damned will surely satisfy you craving for terror. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ava speaks!

I just had my hair done...then I saw how much it cost.
Yes, well...not sure how many people actually read these things. I know I wouldn' matter how big of a "fan" I might be. Seriously...isn't this just some 40-something guy rambling on about whatever sparks his fancy?

Anyways...he told me that I needed to make an appearance. So here I am. Ta-da. If it helps any, ladies, my hair is a mess, I have not shaved my legs in three days (I was so disappointed when that little aspect of my human side resurfaced) and since no guy is in my life at the moment and I have no plans of entertaining company...I might not shave them for three more. guys just keep believing the fantasy that we primp and look "date ready" 24/7.

So...first question...

Do some humans taste better than others?

Easy answer...yes. But it is like ice cream...we all have(had in my case) our favorites. Am I right? One person might be a Chunky Monkey fan, the next loves salted caramel. My preference is for men with just a small start on the garage that overhangs the classic car if you know what I mean. Much like good beef, just the right amount of marbling (umm...that would be FAT) really adds to the flavor. Also, if he was a scotch adds a nice woody/smokey taste.

Guess who is on my dream menu?
Would flip flops be a better option than your training shoes ( sneakers) and if u used nail varnish on your toes does it get ruined every time?

I would not ever wear flip-flops. I always hated that piece of plastic or rubber between my big and second toe. Also...just as a side note...feet are gross. I don't like looking at other people's and I don't like them looking at mine. As for nail polish...I only put it on when Lisa and I are going to have a film fest (which always starts with "The Notebook" so we can cry ourselves out early) or if I am going on a date. Again...I hate feet and can barely handle touching my own.

Have you always spaced out like that, or is it something new?

Have you always asked stupid questions? No...seriously, the answer to that is that it has always been a problem for me. I am worse than your boyfriend/husband while watching a sporting event. The big difference is that my distraction comes form my own mind, not watching a bunch of guys (who can't hear you when you yell at them through your television, by the way) play a game that you were probably only mediocre at in high school.

Did somebody really send you a "word-of-the-day calendar? And weren't you insulted?

Yes, they did. And I was not at all insulted. I loved it and was sad when December 31st came and I did not have it on my desk anymore. I get all kinds of weird things in the mail, and I even have a shelf for some of my favorites. (I just got the cutest "Despicable Me" minion!)

So, thanks to the few of you who popped in to ask a question. One last note for Cayreen... Yes, Ava will probably have her on Facebook page eventually. Chantal, my ghost writer, she promises that she will put one together as soon as I start selling more than 20 books a month.

Friday, July 18, 2014

A chance to interview Ava!

It is not often that you get to talk to a dead chick...

Okay, I won't lie. Normally these things go horribly wrong and make me slink into a corner to lick my wounds. I will make a confession to you all... Sometimes, I look over Denise's shoulder when she is on Wastebook and will see a post by my friend, Mark Tufo. He will do something simple like ask people to guess the first word of his new book. 853 responses flood the thread!

I can do the same thing, and I would be lucky if one person comments and five people take the time to "like" the post. Don't get me wrong, this is not a pity party. My books sell fine. Yes, they can always be better, but I sure have no place to complain. It just seems that my readers are a lot like me...sort of keep to themselves. Case in point...his most recent release, Dystance: Winter's Rising...came out June 12th. Not even the zombie material that he rocks so well...this is his foray into something new...30 reviews. My latest DEAD offering? July 1st. 13 reviews.

Still, here I go, putting myself out here again...throwing a party and hoping that people show up.

To celebrate the upcoming Ava, I am going to let YOU ask her the questions. I will gather them, and one way or another, Ava will be posting a guest appearance on Monday. So, leave your questions in the comments section and over the weekend, Ava will answer them and add them to her post for Monday.

Also, I am looking for a few (5-10) souls who want to undertake the "Ava Audio Experience". You have to be willing to listen to AND review each audio title. I would start you with book one and then, once your review is up on (good OR bad...I want an honest take), I give you the next until you have gone through all three. Hopefully, by the time that you are done, book 4 should be close to ready and you would get first crack at another free dose of Ava Love.

So...who wants to play?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

White Walker brings a chill to the summer

When she was ten she made a promise to that which inhabits the winter storm. Now she’s twenty-six and pregnant, and the White Walker has returned to collect his due.

For Teddy his first day as shift supervisor could not have come at a worst time. A severe blizzard has shut down the region as old man winter refuses to relinquish his grip. Only ten percent of his team has shown up for work, and he learns upon arriving that one of his first duties that day will be to fire his girlfriend.

He believes it can’t get any worse than it already is. That is until one of his people dies at the hands of a legendary creature that inhabits the blizzard. A prehistoric deity once worshiped by ancient man on the vast Siberian plains. Brought to these shores by Russian immigrants seeking a better life in the deep coalmines that once dotted the hills around the Appalachian Mountain town of Frostburg.

Cut off from the outside world, stalked by a creature from the past, the survivors are forced to abandon the safety of a building that has been stressed to the breaking point.

But how does one escape a winter storm?

Barnes & Noble:

Want to try before you buy? Check out the first ten chapters for free at

Monday, July 14, 2014

Can you beat the Reaper...or at least outrun it?

This Saturday, I will be taking on my longest obstacle course run to date (but not the longest on my schedule) as I assault the 6+ mile Reaper. I have been running the hills and trails around Estacada, as well as hitting the Spartan WOD in preparation, but you can't really prepare for what these runs demand of you.  In fact, I have one of these runs every weekend for the next few weeks. The biggest and scariest is on August 30th...a 13+ mile 20+ obstacle race called The Inferno.

The people who post videos for these are usually in awesome shape. Let's just say that I am in A shape. But those of you who follow, know that I ran the Rugged Maniac last is a nice montage that shows all of the obstacles sort of spliced together to give an idea of what I conquered (or at least finished) on THAT run.

I will say that I have dropped 15 pounds (down to 250 for those keeping score) and plan on amping things up as I get under 220. So, for those who have some time on your hands, here is a GoPro vid of last year's run by some guy who killed the course.

And for those who want a shorter version (oddly lacking any sound)...

Wish me luck.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The women are KILLING men in this genre. Be AFRAID!

I am running this little gen again because my friend, Claire Riley, has ODIUM II (Just click on that title and it will take you there!) on sale today. For less than a buck, you can find out why women are starting to DOMINATE in what has been a genre dominated by men for a long time...and I say it is ABOUT TIME, LADIES!!!

 I highly suggest that you grab your copy now and jump on this bandwagon. Don;t worry, there is still plenty of room.

Odium II (which you can buy for yourself if you click on that handy little link) continues Nina's story. Nina is that strong female protagonist that the genre has been craving...needing...hungering for. Claire C. Riley has a fantastic talent when it comes to drawing you into her world. She writes in such a way that all your senses get involved. I said it before, and it bares repeating, Claire has a knack for vivid description. 

What I really love (so far) is just how brutal this world is that Claire presents. She is raw and gritty and makes you feel. That is talent...and it should be celebrated. The women of horror don't need a month...with the talent that I have been exposed to these past few weeks, I say we just call 2014 "THE YEAR OF THE FEMALE HORROR AUTHOR".  So grab your copy of Odium II. If you have not read book one, then grab that first. Just click HERE.

So, what's the scoop on Odium II?

Let's see what the talented Eli Constant had to say about her sister-in-horror.

"Okay, I don’t want to give too much away here. What’s another point I want to make… Oh, yes.

Sometimes, when you read this type of book (this genre, etc.), you end up with a book that is either ‘too brutal’ or ‘too vague’. For example, pages and pages of gore with no levity OR, endless movement through scenes that lack descriptions that really bring a reader into the landscape of the book. Claire threads levity and heartfelt scenes throughout her book in the form of a young couple that is clinging to the world that they ‘remembered’ so they could mentally survive the apocalypse. It’s strange and causes me to quirk an eyebrow, but it’s also a perfect picture of how different people may cope with the ‘end’. On the subject of descriptions and details- Claire is aces at it. She brings every sense into the read- even evoking a sense of smell, of touch. After some zombie-killing scenes, I could actually taste the rotting, pungent flesh. Gross, but highly effective.

Now, again, I don’t want to give too much away here, but there is a huge reveal towards the end of the book, when Nina is faced with the madness of certain new characters. Just when you think Nina’s had it, a twist punches the reader square in the jaw. And… oh… that reveal. Trust me, your eyes will widen, your stomach will drop and all you’ll be able to think is ‘WTF?!’."

I think that should whet your appetite. Now for the blurb and a nifty little video promo...

Fortune favors…the DEAD!

Some secrets are too horrific to ever be forgiven, and some people should never be trusted. Tortured, starved, and on the run, Nina thinks she’s faced the worst that mankind has to offer, but she’s wrong. She may have survived this long, but she hasn’t come out of it unscathed,  and there’s worse to come.

Nina’s trusty Doc Martens are showing signs of the zombie apocalypse, and she isn’t faring much better. With her snarky attitude guaranteed to get her in trouble, Nina needs to forgive the past, to live once more in the present, and learn that sometimes she needs to place her trust in other people.

She can be stalked at any of the following.