Friday, December 19, 2014

Summertime Blues revisited.

Yep, this is a little film I cobbled together using some of the pics taken at the various OCRs that I participated in this summer.

As for the "soundtrack"? That is a live recording of my old band covering "Tomorrow" by Silver Chair. I was sick as a dog and having to keep taking in fluids during the hour long set, but the show must go on.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

How to get zombies to wipe out your town.

With the holiday season, I will be a busy little elf. So, I will be running some of my past posts for the rest of the year. Some that were heavily viewed, others, not so much. But I want to wish you and all your loved ones well this holiday season whatever you may celebrate.

Now, Bring on 2015!

Peek-a-boo...zombie girl sees you!
With a month and a half before the latest installment of the DEAD series hits the world, I am slammed with deadlines and the usual stuff as I prepare to release the largest book in my young career as an author. At around 180,000 words, (as opposed to the 100-106,000 normally found in a DEAD novel), this book should bring some serious satisfaction to the people who have gone this far on the ride.

Of course, there will be three more books in the series to bring it all to a FINAL conclusion (there will not be a book 13 in the series...this is not a Who Farewell Tour with three or ten additional entries. Book 12 is already titled. DEAD: End.) So what does a person do when they rely on book sales as their source in income? Hopefully write a new book that gets as much or more attention than the last successful one he or she wrote. 

Some of you are starting to warm to my That Ghoul Ava series. I am very excited as the sales numbers begin to VERY SLOWLY rise. However, I am the first to admit that I love zombies and want to see them continue to be well represented. That is why I have begun development on my new ZOMBIE book! This is where YOU come in.

If you have ever "fantasized" (I use that term in the best way possible, certainly not implying that you are wishing for the utter destruction of humanity) about the zombie apocalypse, now is your chance to see YOUR town die to the undead horde. By leaving your town, village, hamlet, or whatever, in the comments section below, you will be putting your town square in the sights of the zombie apocalypse. It is with great pride that I announce officially the name of my new series. Drum Roll Please...

DEAD: Snapshot...{your town here}

The new series will take place in the DEAD universe. The mythology created in the DEAD series will be intact.There might even be "guest" appearances by familiar characters from the DEAD series if they happened to pass though in their journeys. However, each entry into the DEAD: Snapshot series will be a stand alone tale with a beginning and an end as we follow a specific person or group of people. The entire story will take place in the specified location. Some will end happy...others...not so much.

I will use Google Earth to get a look at the area and try to include landmarks that anybody passing through will recognize. I will use resources like census information and even the city's PR web page to give as much authentic flavor as possible.

Stop reading about faraway places. Bring the Zombie Apocalypse to YOUR town with the DEAD: Snapshot series. Book one is due around January of 2016. The location is up to you. And who might find yourself in the heart of the action with a character who bears a striking resemblance to you.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Biggest career announcement since I quit my "day" job!

I am one of those people who does not see the need to pound the gavel anytime I get somebody sniffing around for screen rights and all that stuff. For one, I have plenty of friends who have made that announcement, yet there is nothing happening years later. Sort of "Boy who cried wolf" in my opinion. If it goes into production, then tell the world. That is just how I see it. Yeah, I have actually had sniffs, but nothing that went through, so why volunteer to put egg on my face?

However...I have been sitting on this for a while because I did not want to say anything until it went through ALL THE WAY!

Yep, that is a contract signing!
On Thursday, I signed a three year promotional deal with Portland's Arena Football team, the Portland Thunder. My books will be featured at home games and a number of zombie themed promotions will be scheduled. One of my favorites is the "zombie row package" that is already selling! This all began when Denise was working in the office of the owner and handed one of my books to a fellow employee. And now...I will be seeing my books promoted at a large venue through the course of the season at EVERY home game.

"This row of twelve (12) seats will be marketed and sold as a group package

that incorporates a game ticket, an advance copy of the Dead: Snapshot - Portland, Oregon 

book and a stylized, co-branded Zombie row t-shirt"

I did not want to jinx things and say anything until it was inked. You never know what might happen until the deal is actually signed and the tickets sell. I will be a featured sponsor at every home game! Video and PA announcements during the game. "How would you survive a zombie apocalypse" video messages made by the players, all kinds of things. Who knows, maybe even Portland's Thunder Dancers in zombie makeup dancing to Thriller.

I want to thank Erin West for hammering out this deal and showing so much excitement in getting this rolling. We had a long meeting over coffee a few weeks ago where the proposal was made. I laid all my cards on the table (including some personal stuff that I felt relevant) and she never batted an eye as she put the offer in front of me.

I still can't believe this is happening. It is an open door that I am stepping through with hopes that this will take my stuff to a new level.

My little girl as I will always see her.
In more personal news, my daughter turns 20 today. I am so proud of her. I never dreamed that our relationship would grow as strong as it is. I love her more than I will ever be able to say and cherish ever minute we have together.

My little girl now.
Happy birthday, Ronni. I love you with all my heart.

Friday, December 12, 2014

What lurks in the mind of an artist? Wanna see?

My new favorite cover
Andy Thomas Butnariu does my covers. It was not that I did not like the covers I had by the previous artist. It was just that when I saw this guy's stuff, I had to have him doing m,y covers. He has never disappointed me. Even better, when we have had to make adjustments (fans of my That Ghoul Ava series felt the covers originally looked to YA), he didn't bat an eye. I got him to sit still long enough to answer a few questions. (As a treat, I interspersed this interview with a few of his favorite pieces as well as a few of my own.)

First things first…when did you discover your talent as an artist?

-Well, when I was about 6 years old I remember looking through a dinosaur book I just received as a present, and the drawings there really impressed me. After may days looking through it, I thought to myself  “Well I could try to do that ...”. From that point I just picked up a huge top of printing paper and a pencils and drew and drew until I eventually used all the paper I had. As time went along I started drawing cartoon characters and comic book characters and later on things I seen in video games.

-I recall that  I always showed my drawings to my parents and they would always grade my drawings with A++++ and they always encouraged me to try even harder. I have to admit without those A’s I wouldn’t have had the courage to continue drawing.

-You never realize how much those tiny little gestures end up affecting your whole life.

The social media is…

-Is a good way to get exposure as an artist and connect to a lot of famous artists with which I would not have a chance to meet in real life any time soon. On the other hand, it’s a huge time waster 75% of the time. I try to stay away from it as much as I can, except for all the art related stuff.

Share some information about your individual work on projects besides the ones you are doing for me:

-Well, I’ve recently started to make a series of paintings exploring the guilty pleasures of life. It’s by no means a condescending view on these topics; It’s more a perspective from the inside the mind of someone who actually experiences them.

I haven’t really attempted to do something so long-term regarding my drawing, but seeing how these two have had a lot attention on various sites (with a lot of help from a very good friend) it really motivated me to push on and actually do something more. I’ve always been happy with the little 1 piece projects or fan-art for various shows/games because I’ve never considered myself  a  proper artist and I don’t think  I ever will, it’s more the thing that I draw things that I like.

Aside from this I’ve done a series of small freelance projects, but so far nothing really impressive to mention. 

What is one question you are sick of being asked—not in interviews, but by individuals who know you are an artist?

“Oh so you do like portraits ? Can you make me one ?”
“Would you mind painting my living room ? Can’t pay you, but you can keep the paint you use.”
And my favorite “ Why don’t you paint nicer things, like flowers ?

So, let’s talk a little about the DEAD series. Have you read it? Or just the bits I send you for cover ideas? What are your thoughts on the project, and do you have an interest in the zombie genre apart from this work, or is it simply part of the job? What (if anything) do you think sets it apart from other stories in the genre

With great shame, I have to say that the only things I’ve read so far are the first chapters of the first book and the small fragments that were part of the brief. I actually plan to order most of the audiobooks this winter, and listen to them while painting.

But from the small pieces I’ve read so far, I enjoy the fact that every time I open up an email with the next description of the cover, it always tops off the last one and it amazes me every single time. The scenes are always gory and shocking and it’s just the thing I like about everything related to zombies.

 I have seen some of your work that was almost better than a photo (the Emi portrait that I had to look away from since she is almost like one of daughters being one example). What projects do you work on that you enjoy the most?

Ha, thank you very much, but I’m still far away from that kind of praise. The projects I enjoy the most are the ones like the book covers actually. I really enjoy having a theme for my drawings given by someone, but to also have the freedom to interpret the brief as I see fit. It’s a very win / win / win situation for me haha. When I do personal work I usually get lost very easly in the stuff I want to create and I’m never usually pleased with what I come up with, so 90% of my drawings are scrapped or lost in a folder somewhere, to be forgotten.

When I send you a scene for a cover, how do you go about creating the image from a bunch of words on paper?

I read the brief  and usually  and start making about 6-8 thumbnail sketches to get a feel of how the overall composition will look; from those I pick 2 that I like the most. At this  point I usually get some reference material for the drawing depending on the description. For example the last one I did was based in Egypt, so I started looking for various pictures of ancient Egyptian carvings, statues, various locations in Cairo, some grave sites, the clothes people wear in that area and so on.  From that point I choose one of the sketches and slowly polish it until it’s done.

We are about to embark on a graphic novel project, what is that process like for you?

Very very scary, mostly because graphic novels/ comic books are a very different game from what I usually do. When doing illustrations you spend about 10% trying to figure out the composition and then the last 90% of it is just rendering the drawing. Graphic novels tend to be the complete opposite of that; it’s very focused on story, action and composition of the whole thing rather than just one finely polished scene. But I’m actually quite excited to try something new, it’s always about stepping out of your comfort zone.

How do you see humanity dealing with a scenario such as the zombie apocalypse? And how well would you fare in such an event? Are you a good guy or a villain?(Removing the idea of how unlikely it is, of course.)

-I could literally talk hours and hours about this over a few pints at a pub (english words, eh ? haha).
I don’t think humankind is prepared for a full on zombie apocalypse, most of Europe and Asia would be overrun in a matter of days, but some isolated places might still be spared from it. I’m quite confident most of you guys in the US would survive it. And I truly think the worst thing during a zombie apocalypse wouldn’t be the zombies, it would be the people that survive it, because let’s face it, you can’t be a truly nice person and survive such horrors.

As for me, I think I’d be alright for the most part. I just recently picked up archery and woodworking as a hobbies and that might help me haha, and my main plan would be to retreat to the wild, somewhere in the mountains and just build something there for myself and any people that would be willing to come, but i’d much rather trust a pack of highly trained dogs over fellow survivors.

As for the good guy vs evil, I think I’d truly be somewhere in the gray. We all know good deeds never go unpunished, and true evil doesn’t really make you a lot of friends, so somewhere in between would be my best bet. I guess you become a good guy or a bad guy depending on the circumstances you’re in.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

UnCivil War--The novel I began in 1993

I have resumed work on a novel that I began in 1993. It is a dark and bleak story with racial undertones. It is about our nation being ripped apart by a civil war based on racial differences. I shelved it a long time ago and have brought it out on occasion. Now seems like the time to dive back in and finish this. 

I offer to you an unedited (I have not looked at this file for a few years) peek at the introduction and set up for the story.



“We the jury find the defendant, Samuel James Anderson, not guilty of Manslaughter in the first degree,” the young foreman read from the index card in his slightly trembling left hand.
A moment of silence hung in the courtroom; then, like an avalanche on a snowy mountainside, the sound built to a tremendous roar. On one side, officers of the Seattle Police Department cheered and slapped each other on the backs. There were smiles all around. On the other, members of the African-American community glared, scowled, and cried out loud at the injustice. Another one of their own had been shot and killed by a police officer…who got away scot-free.
“Murderer!” an elderly woman screamed as she fell into the aisle on her knees. “You killed my baby boy!”
Jerry Burns scanned the crowd, his eyes taking in as much detail as possible. As he exited the courtroom and headed down the mostly empty hall of the courthouse’s second floor, a buzz was already building in the hundreds who had not been able to get a seat inside for the announcement of the verdict. He could actually feel the anger building around him. This was not going to be a pretty scene.
Seven months earlier, Officer Samuel James Anderson—Sammy to his friends—and his partner Adam Redding responded to a bank robbery in progress at the King Street branch of Pacific Savings and Loan. When they arrived the suspect could be seen through the large front window brandishing a shotgun. Officer Anderson ignored protocol when the suspect seized a visibly pregnant woman and used her as a human shield when he moved to the door.
“You mother fuckers come closer and I spray this bitch’s head all over the sidewalk,” the young man yelled.
“Let’s talk this over!” is what the court transcripts claim Officer Anderson responded. In truth, nothing was actually said by either officer. They shared a glance and Officer Redding got to his feet with his hands in the air. As soon as the suspect’s attention turned, Officer Anderson rose and fired. His bullet struck the suspect just above the right temple.
The preliminary investigation was already finished and hadn’t even garnered a mention in the Seattle Times. It wasn’t until an anonymous witness told a reporter that she had video from her cell phone that clearly showed no attempt was made to negotiate with the bank robbery suspect. Within two days, every local news station in Seattle was playing and replaying that footage.
During the trial, the defense attorney for Officer Anderson made a big deal about the poor audio quality and instead had the jury focus on the dollar figure paid to the shooter of that video by the media. The PR firm hired to represent the Seattle Police made it a point to trot out every non-white member of the force to “prove” that racism was not a problem on the force. Officer Anderson was regularly seen on the news returning from calls where he rescued kittens from trees and helped blue-haired elderly ladies carry their groceries to their homes (that he just happened to be cruising past when the need arose).
Meanwhile, the criminal record of Lionel Wells was traced all the way back to his childhood where he entered the system at age nine after being caught shoplifting a pack of bubble gum from a Kwik Mart. The “habitual criminal behavior” of the late Lionel Wells included three traffic tickets and a fourth degree Domestic Violence arrest.
Jerry ducked into the men’s room and whipped out his phone. He’d purposely sat beside the door to the courtroom so he could slip out as soon as the verdict was read. He was going to get the story out first this time. After being scooped by Action News Radio during the mayoral race when the incumbent was caught leaving a gay bar arm in arm with a garishly dressed transgender male who looked nothing at all like his wife, Jerry was going to beat everybody to the punch—including Action News Radio.
“This is Shelly,” an agitated-sounding voice answered on the second ring.
“Not guilty,” Jerry said. There was a moment of silence where he was almost unsure whether anybody was still on the other end of the line.
Not guilty on the Anderson story,” Shelly yelled without bothering to cover the mouthpiece.
“There’s more,” Jerry added after shaking his head to clear the ringing.
“There always is with you, isn’t there.”
“This has nothing to do with us,” Jerry felt a headache that only Shelly could give him begin to throb in his temples. “The folks in the courtroom are really agitated.”
“Did you think otherwise? After all, the police aren’t usually high on the African-American community’s list of favorite people.”
“No,” Jerry insisted, “this is something bigger.”
“So get the story,” Shelly was obviously done with this conversation. “That is what we pay you for.”
Just as he thumbed his screen to end the call, a loud crash sounded from outside. He quickly went to video mode on his phone in case there was something good that he could sell to one of the local networks, and opened the door. Almost as if on cue, body slid past on the polished granite floor; not just any body, this was a uniformed police officer!
The next thing that hit was the wall of sound. The yelling, screaming, crying, and cursing were tremendous. Moving out of the doorway for a better look, he saw what could only be described as a free-for-all melee. He brought up his phone and started capturing video; this was going to rake in a fortune. The judge had demanded that all news teams keep their camera crews out in front of the courthouse building.
As his hand held the phone up to video the fight, his eyes scanned for anybody else who might be doing the same thing. He felt a surge of actual giddiness when he couldn’t find a single soul “rolling tape” on this scene. However, his reporter’s eyes were beginning to register something else: except for a few uniformed officers of varying shades of mocha wading in to help their comrades, this fight was clearly divided on a racial line.
Jerry’s eyes caught a drastic flurry of movement just to his right and he turned just as three young—mid-teens at the most—gangbanger types wrestled an officer to the ground. One of them had pulled the police-issue handgun free from its holster. Jerry instantly brought his phone around just in time to catch the youth firing three shots into the chest of the downed policeman.
There was a split-second where the melee froze; it was like a Hollywood special effect. That was the moment it could have stopped. That was the moment Jerry would always think of when he wondered if things could have gone differently. What happened next was a furious escalation of the fighting. Gangs of African-American men and boys mobbed the heavily outnumbered Seattle Police Department. It didn’t help that most of those in attendance were in civilian clothes or dress uniforms without even a set of handcuffs.
Jerry ducked back into the bathroom after he’d gotten what he deemed a sufficient amount of footage. Besides, after the shooting of the downed policeman, the rest of the footage was filler and fodder. He segmented the video with expert ease and sent the files to his personal email. None of this would matter if his phone was destroyed and the footage lost.
As he leaned against the door and took a moment to catch his breath, he began to notice an angry buzzing sound. With more caution than he was usually known for, Jerry took slow steps to the barred window. It only opened about three inches. Probably to keep some of the folks who come out on the losing end in the courtrooms from taking that last leap, Jerry surmised. Outside was chaos. It seemed that the fighting inside was simply the warm up. Pockets of angry African-Americans—men, women, and even children—had been swept up in the fury he’d witnessed in that hallway.
“This is why I left L.A.,” Jerry grumbled as he tapped the screen on his phone to call the station.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

My top reads of 2014.

Okay, I did not bother to check release dates. So, if these titles are a couple of years old, hey...I didn't pick them up until THIS year. Therefore, they are MY top reads of the year. Sorry I am late, but Monday was a busy day.

I have to say that I do not read nearly enough. However, I still make time because I believe in my heart that you have to be an avid reader to be a good writer. As for worries that perhaps my mind will absorb some idea or another and forge it in to something of my own...I got news for ya, there is nothing original left under the sun. Most of us in the zombie genre HAVE to give props to Romero. He is the guy who got this snowball rolling downhill. I have enough faith in my own ability to create something that is unique and mine. So, that is enough of that. Let's talk about books.

Odium by Claire Riley.

"Where Claire really shines is in her descriptive ability. She paints a world that you can see, hear, and smell. Her ability to describe is an example that teachers could use in a writing class. She does not go overboard, but finds the "sweet spot" of description. And trust me, it is just as easy to go overboard as it is to be to vague. Claire C. Riley is a name you need to add to your list. She may very well be the best writer you have never heard of...but need to." (From my review of this title.)

If you have not jumped on this bandwagon yet, it is not too late.

"This is hilarious. The writer did an exceptional job of spoofing the Indie Zombie book scene. If you have read OR WRITTEN a zombie story, you must read this. It has some vulgar language, but it all fits perfectly. Everything from crappy editing to weak character development is made fum of in this neat package."

If you write in the zombie genre and have a sense of humor, you will totally dig this. If you READ zombie fiction, then you will get EVERY SINGLE JOKE, and probably laugh a lot harder than some of the authors in the genre who might feel this hits too close to home.

Dead Trees by Eli Constant

"One thing that makes this book stand out is a strong female protagonist. SO often this genre is dominated by uber-military MacGyver types that have all the answers and can get out of every scrape. Elise is a mother simply trying her best to keep her daughter's alive, and while she does "hook up" with Jason, you get the impression that she can do with or without him just fine."

This was a great year for female horror authors. My reading selection did not intentionally skew towards female authors, it just sort of ended up that way. There is something visceral in female horror authors when it comes to description. They give you details that assault all of the senses and pull you deep into a story in a special way.

You Have to Fucking Eat by Adam Mansbach

"Overall, this is a fun little story that will probably cause a few people to get bent out of shape, but who cares! Sometimes you just need a good laugh. This fits the bill. Stop being so PC and serious."

Short and funny, and the audio version is narrated by Bryan Cranston (Walter White to Breaking Bad fans!)

"A wonderful story that also shows how far we have come and have yet to come when race is considered in the shaping of this nation."

Way outside of my normal reading list. This was a gripping story.

Survival by Rhonda Hopkins

"I was fortunate to be able to read this tale prior to release. The bottom line is that this is hands down my favorite read so far in 2014. Short story or not, this tale will stick with you. This story opens with a punch in the throat and has you gasping until the last words on the page fade as you turn off your Kindle.

It can be a challenge to really offer up characters with depth that you care about in a short story, yet Rhonda Hopkins does just that. And you will experience a roller coaster of emotions throughout. It matters very little if you are a fan of the zombie genre, this is a story that will pull you in and refuse to let go.

So do yourself a this gem and then tell a friend."

This was my favorite read of the year. I felt fortunate to be one of the early readers This is a real treat, and if you have not grabbed your copy yet, you are missing out on something VERY special.

Friday, December 5, 2014

My daughter.

On December 15, 1994, my daughter Ronni was born. There is an epic story from then to now, but it is probably not that interesting to anybody except the two of us. The bottom line is that we only started getting to know each other a year ago. And it started with a lot of caution and hesitation. Neither of us really knew the other, so we had to take things slow.

She has grown into a beautiful young woman that I am proud of every single day. Seriously, I look at her and see proof that I can do at least one thing right. And living apart like we do (she is in Illinois currently) and with things as they were, we have never shared an actual Christmas morning. We have shared two of her birthdays (the 2nd and the 18th). We have never sat down to a Thanksgiving dinner. I have never been with her for my birthday. Father's Day.

Not one Halloween. (This year she was some sort of Nerdy Lumberjack.)

This year, I got to cross Thanksgiving off the list. I picked her and her boyfriend James up at the airport. 

I knew it would be a more comfortable meeting than the one two years ago, but I could have never dreamed that it would be so amazing. When I saw her and we made eye contact, I saw her smile, and then she started walking faster until she was running. I caught my daughter and shared perhaps the greatest hug of my life.

See? She can fly!

And then gently touch down.

Really big smiles. Emphasis on REAL.

Yep. A good day.

And it led to a wonderful week where I got to spend some time with my little girl and just enjoy her being there. The nerves and tentativeness of our first visit seems a million years ago. And I don't know if the smile will ever fade from the corners of my mouth.

Even Denise was happy to see her, and let her know in her own special way. So I got to see both my girls enjoy being together. They even had a day of "girly stuff" where Denise, Ronni, and Jenifer got their hair, makeup, and nails done while James and I shot a round of golf and just got to get acquainted.

And then there was Thanksgiving dinner. Oh yeah. I was in the kitchen until 3 AM and then back up at 6 to have dinner on the table by 2. After which, we slipped into a pleasant food coma. I still have some stuff on my list, but I truly had something that I was beyond thankful for this year.

We even got to decorate a tree together this year. We did so back when she was two, but I was the only one who remembered the event. However, Ronni did remember my re-telling of that special memory and she, Denise, and Jenifer worked together so that Ronni could re-create a special memory. Let's just say that it involves me getting a lot of tinsel on my head and leave it at that.

All in all, this will be something that holds a spot in my heart for all time. I am truly the luckiest man in the world.