Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Witch is Back by H.P. Mallory

The Witch Is Back (Jolie Wilkins #4)The Witch Is Back by H.P. Mallory
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found the first book in this series while browsing the Kindle free downloads. One of my guilty pleasures has been the offerings by Laurell K. Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, Mary Janice Davidson, and Kim Harrison. If my guy friends ever found out...they would ban me from all my fantasy football leagues and revoke my "guy" card. Still I liked what I saw in book one and quickly decided that I might actually have found somebody I liked enough to fill my void between Kim Harrison (my favorite of the bunch) releases.

I found that H.P. Mallory offered up a nice bunch of characters. What I liked most about the Jolie Wilkins character was that she wasn't some raving beauty or a Supernatural groupie hoping from bed to bed. This latest offering, "The Witch is Back" offers up a "wrinkle in time" approach. I enjoyed it, but I felt that perhaps the "vulnerability" and self-doubt issues were overplayed at times. Now I admit that I am a guy and may be missing some of the elements, but Jolie got a touch needy and annoying at times in this offering in ways I thought were over-exaggerations of her character as I have come to know her.

Also, if there are plans to tell elements of the story from another angle...I think I would like to get to know Christa a little better. Overall, this is a mostly satisfying entry and offers up a nice, albeit short, read for a relaxing summer day.

L.Leander, Author...and INZARED, Queen of the Elephant Riders

 Today I am pleased to offer up a fun little interview with Ms. L. Leander...singer/songwriter, and author. I hope you will take a few minutes here with your morning cup of coffee. Tomorrow I will kick off the August edition of Camp NaNoWriMo. Also...I have some of the most horrifying photos ever shared on a blog...you won't want to miss it. And now, let me introduce you to the talented and charming Ms. Leander.

What has led you to writing?

I’ve been writing since I was a child.  I loved making up stories and reading them aloud. I began as a songwriter in my mid-teens and wrote a lot of poetry as well.  It’s only been in the last few years that I branched out and began writing a novel.

What inspired you to undertake the journey of writing?

My parents both loved to write, although they never pursued it.  I had a teacher who encouraged me to put my thoughts on paper and the librarian in our small town supplied me with mature reading material that exercised my mind.  Being around other writers is also inspiring.

What is the difference between being an author and a writer?

I think a lot of people are effective writers and probably even have the flair for authoring.  However, in my mind an author is one who acts upon his or her writing skills and grooms their work to be read and enjoyed by others.

Poor editing seems to be a big issue in the Indie scene. What is your take on the subject?

I believe editing is as important to a book as the writing.  No one wants to read a poorly edited or formatted book.  While we all realize that slip-ups can occur, even with editing, an author should take every precaution to make sure their novel is as professional as it can be before they publish.  One of my pet peeves is a misspelled word.  The public expects more of an author and Indie Authors have to be even more careful, I think.

The writing community can be its own worst enemy at times. What are some of the issues you see cropping up in the Indie world? Solutions?

I have had nothing but encouragement and help from the Indie world and groups I belong to.  However, I do see a trend in backbiting and I dislike it very much.  Opinions should be taken off line, not exposed to everyone.  Backlash, anger over reviews and remarks and sniping should never be public, in my estimation.  We are professionals and should act like it.

The social media is…

Necessary and frustrating.  While I understand the need to use the tools available to us today, interacting in this way strips an author of valuable writing time.  However, it gives the public a chance to interact with authors and get to know them better.  A catch-22 if there ever was one! 

Share some information about your work with us:

Perhaps my favorite part of the writing process is research.  I spend a lot of time researching facts and I love learning new things.  Although I have always been fascinated with the circus I realized there was much I didn’t know.  And, I was totally clueless about Gypsies and their way of life and the care and feeding of elephants.  Lucky for me, there are people who know all those things and were willing to share their knowledge.  I have learned a lot writing INZARED, Queen of the Elephant Riders, and I’m sure I’ll gain a lot more information as I continue to write the series.

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

Is it hard to write a book?  Of course it’s hard.  Authors work long hours to get their thoughts on paper while trying to lead normal lives at the same time.  Many a night I have gone to bed well after my husband has retired for the night, only to wake up at 5:00 am and begin all over again.  But, it’s extremely rewarding.  Why else would we bother?

How will you deal with negative reviews?

As a songwriter I have had my share of negative reviews.  I hope I have developed a thick enough skin to not let them bother me too much.  While I believe an author should take every review into consideration to help make his or her writing better, the trick is not to personalize it.  Move on.

How much reading do you get in, and can a writer excel at his or her craft if they do not read?

I have always been a voracious reader and writing hasn’t changed that—in fact it has enhanced it.  I read between 1-7 books a week depending on my writing schedule.  I don’t believe any author can be successful without reading. How else will you know what is current?  What readers want?  How to identify poor content or editing?  Plus, it’s a welcome relief from writing to lose yourself in someone else’s work!

Define “Indie Writer” and defend or attack their position in the book market.

An Indie Writer is one who chooses to travel the non-traditional path of publishing his or her works.  This author retains all rights and is willing to do the work necessary to advertise, print, and publish.  The Internet has spawned this type of author and has given writers a chance to circumvent the “old school” thought of publishing.  It allows authors to get their books out to more people in a shorter period of time, rather than wait for agents and publishers to accept and promote their novel.  The invention of e-readers has necessitated this type of author, I think, as the new generation of readers has demanded more books, free books, and faster service than has been previously available.  That having been said, most authors still “dream” of a traditional writing contract and seeing their book in print.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am currently editing the second book in the series INZARED, Queen of the Elephant Riders.  It is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2012.  I am also authoring a series of self-help books that I plan to have published in early 2013.  When time allows I am writing new songs for my upcoming music CD, also being released in 2013.

What is one thing about you that would surprise the readers who do not know you personally?

Inside this mild mannered, middle-aged woman lies the heart of a true daredevil!  I love roller coasters, dune buggies, riding motorcycles, horses—I’ll try anything once!

Is there a genre that you don’t currently write that you would secretly love to dip your toes into?

I would probably have to say Fantasy.  I have read the Harry Potter books over and over and as a child loved to read Hans Christian Anderson.  Who knows?  Maybe some day I’ll try writing that type of story!

Is there anyone you’d like to give a mention?

Can I say this here?  Thank you God, for planting me where I could bloom the most.  And thank you Ralph, my wonderful husband, for the long hours you put in helping me with household chores and keeping me sane on this “insane” publishing journey!

What is in your “to be read” pile right now?

I am currently reviewing other Indie Authors.  On my Kindle right now I’m reading
Leaving Lukens by Laura S. Wharton, Mohawk Moon (Mohawk Series) by N. Kuhn, and Transformative Travel by Kate Benzin.  They are all different genres and I enjoy that.  I snuck in a book on photography I picked up at the local library last week (a guilty pleasure) and I am revisiting some favorites by Jennifer Weiner and Stephanie Plum.   


Video Trailer:  http://youtu.be/lQHtsFQGAP0
Website:  www.lleander.com
L.Leander Blog: http://lleander11.wordpress.com/

Monday, July 30, 2012

Who the heck has time to read these things?

I am going to make an admission. I only read a few blogs, and I only read them sometimes. The only sure-fire guarantee that I will read an entire blog post is if it is about me or a person I consider a friend.  I WANT to read more, but a lot of times, I just get busy and don't get around to it. The problem is...I write a blog and WANT everybody to read it. That makes me a pretty big hypocrite. SO where am I missing the big picture? What am I doing wrong?

So I started trying to be more loyal to some of the blogs I follow. My idea of loyal included trying to visit more often and to make at least one comment per week. Seriously, if the blog does not raise at least one thought that incites me to comment, then why am I reading it? But is that the right attitude? Do other bloggers care if anybody comments...or is it just me?

I can admit here to you that I have a certain degree of insecurity. Couple that with the general quirkiness and peculiarity of being one of those "artsy" types. And not even the classy "artsy" type. I write horror...more specifically, I write zombie fiction. Sort of the redneck cousin to the "artsy" type. The gauge of my success as a writer is easy to follow (in my opinion). I simply check my sales numbers(more on that in a second). I read reviews(more on that too). And now, I have a blog that I can check each day for number of visits and comments.

Checking my numbers has become my newest addiction. For me, the true test is not book one, it is the subsequent sequels that allow me to feel joy. Of course, every day, I have to fight off that inner monologue... remember the end of Carrie? "They're all gonna laugh at you!" Well just substitute "Nobody is gonna buy your books anymore!" Be sure to use the same creepy voice, though. I hear that every day. As for reviews, they seem to come in bunches. I can go days without a single review on ANY of my titles...then I get four or five in one day. Those who follow or know me, you know how I feel about people who complain about negative reviews. I take those as part of the job and I search them for anything valid that I can use to make myself better as a writer. That is what makes writing reviews such a tricky prospect for me. I WILL NOT fluff up a writer with a bogus review. And even in the best stories, I try to leave a critique because I believe that none of us are perfect and I believe in offering constructive criticism. The tricky part is when it is somebody I know or like. How do you tell a friend that their work is less-than-stellar? I only know one way.

So that brings me back to this blog. You are the ones who read it. So...more interviews? More book reviews? Less on both? Ranting and raving like a nut? Or simply sharing insights to the not-nearly-as-exciting-as-people-think life of a writer?

A few thoughts in closing...today's Olympic challenge will be difficult, but those who can get to a swimming pool, go out to where you can not touch and tread water for ten minutes...the catch? Have somebody grab you, dunk you, and elbow you in the ribs every few seconds. This challenge brought to you by the amazing athletes who participate in water polo. Also, I am days away from starting my Camp NaNoWriMo--August Edition. The 5th book in the DEAD series is in my sights. That means lots of guest posts...I will try and get in a few words here and there...but my focus will be on my writing. I will be posting some raw samples here, so stay tuned. Also...knee be damned, I am returning to my workout schedule. P90X updates will be posted...if you can't find anything else to comment about...feel free to mock my inability to do pull-ups.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Kat Yares-Writer, Filmmaker, and Photographer

Looking at your Amazon author page…there are some intriguing credentials. Can you share some of your screenplay credits with us?

My screenplay writing credits are only for the short movies produced by the production company, Dirt Road Productions,LLC, owned by myself and my husband Kevin.  I have worked as a script consultant and script supervisor on several films produced by other Indie filmmakers around the state of Arkansas.

I have written four feature length scripts that someday I hope to either sell or produce.

What about your Indie filmmaking?

So far, we’ve produced two short movies with one more scheduled for the fall of this year.  All are adapted from short stories I’ve written over the years.  The two shorts, The Fan and The Truth of Becoming, are submitted to numerous film festivals and we are hoping for a positive reaction.

Eventually we will combine the shorts on DVD and release them for public consumption under the Tales of High Gap label.  High Gap is the fictional world that many of my stories are set.

My first attempt at creating a short movie was a contest I participated in called The Human Emotion Challenge.  The goal was to create a two minute short video using no dialogue, one actor and a single location to convey a very real emotional punch.  This was shown along with several others two years ago at a regional film festival.  An early cut can be seen here:  http://vimeo.com/15514112

How do the creative processes differ there from your other writing?

While both screenplays and movies are a form of storytelling, it takes much more effort to get the story across in a movie.  When writing a short story, novella or novel, the author is in complete control of their words and the emotional impact they want to deliver.  In a movie, there is more collaboration – not only do you have to have everything set up correctly, you also have to rely on your actors to convey the emotions you want delivered to your audience.  This can often be very difficult, requiring take after take to get it right.

The writing community can be its own worst enemy at times. What are some of the issues you see cropping up in the Indie world? Solutions?

The largest issue I see is that so very many think that if they string a few pages of sentences together that they are an author.  They may be a writer, but until you’ve had your work vetted by other professionals, you are not an author.  Then, these same writers will whine and moan when they do not become ‘overnight’ successes and begin attacking what few readers they have – either because they don’t leave reviews or because they leave a low review.  Readers are not the author’s critique group – problems in the story, i.e., formatting, grammar, plot points, should have been worked out before the writer hits ‘publish.’

Solutions?  I don’t really see any.  As long as ‘anyone’ can publish his or her golden words, this problem will remain.

The social media is…

 Social media is a soul-sucking, time wasting modern devil.  Yet it is necessary if you are an Indie anything.  Although I have accounts with all the major players (Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest), I mostly use Facebook.  More people and a larger reach, or at least that’s the story I’ve managed to convince myself.    I’ve tried to keep it simple by using my real name, rather than a pen, in case someone inclined to find me, can do so easily.

Share some information about your work with us:

Most of my stories are set in the aforementioned fictional world of High Gap, Arkansas – so you have a lot of rednecks and hillbillies, but also those who have come to the area to escape the city.  My novella, Vengeance Is Mine, set the tone for the horrors that seem to permeate the region.  Some is supernatural, some psychological and others are plain dark comedy.

The two novels I am working on now Beneath the Tor and The XIII would probably be classed as thrillers.  There’s nothing really horrific about them except that the subject matter will possibly horrify some people.

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

Not really a question, more the assumption that since I have a few books out I must be rich.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  I suppose if there is a question, it would be ‘how do you do it?’  To which, I always answer ‘one word after another’. 

How do you deal with negative reviews?

I read them, see if there is anything valid in them and then dismiss them from my mind.  What I write is not going to appeal to everyone and everyone is entitled to their opinion and their right to post that opinion.  It is something every author has to learn to accept, without comment.

You recently re-joined the HWA (Horror Writers Association). I had to let my own membership lapse due to financial issues, but I never really felt connected to the group. How do you maximize the benefits of membership?

To be honest, one of the main reasons I re-joined the HWA was to increase my credibility as a writer.  Although I’m only an affiliate member, it does mean that I had to meet certain criteria as a published writer to be accepted.  However, that being said, it is nice to belong to a group of writers who don’t think I’m warped and twisted.  Instead, because it is a small organization, most there will attempt to help each other out by sharing markets and advise.

Sticking with that topic, there are some who (unfairly in my opinion) deride the HWA as being a bit of a “Good Old Boys (and Girls) organization. Is this more a case of sour grapes, or does it have merit?

I don’t know if I would call it sour grapes exactly, but more of what seems to me a sense of entitlement.  To join the HWA as an affiliate or active member, you have to be published by someone other than yourself.  Many new Indie writers don’t understand that and take issue with the policy.  They believe that because they write horror, the HWA  should welcome them with open arms.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen, not in the HWA or any other professional writer organizations that I know of. 

How much reading do you get in, and can a writer excel at his or her craft if they do not read?

I try to read at least an hour or so every day. I don’t always stay within my genre.  I have eclectic reading tastes, covering not only horror, but also historical fantasy, thrillers, mysteries and non-fiction.  I think it is essential for a writer to read.  I have to question those writers who say they don’t read.  I mean really, if you don’t read, how do you know how to tell a story?

Define “Indie Writer” and defend or attack their position in the book market.

Like the rise of the Indie moviemaker, I see the Indie writer in much the same way.  There is going to be dreck, but there are also going to be gems.  The Indie commits themselves to doing most or all of the work themselves or finding people who will help them out with details, such as covers, line editing, proofing, etc.  These things do not have to cost three arms and five legs as some companies (and individuals) are attempting to charge.  Bottom line is Indie Writer’s should learn to do the basics themselves, learn how to promote themselves without appearing spammy, and write the best stories they possibly can.

What new projects are you currently working on?

Several short stories, plus major rewrites of my two novels Beneath the Tor (think Mists of Avalon meets the Da Vinci Code) and The XIII (think Da Vinci Code meets The Illumanati).  Hopefully, I’ll have both of these released in time for the Christmas book buying season.

What is one thing about you that would surprise the readers who do not know you personally?

That I love photography also.  I rarely post the pictures I take online, so no-one has really seen them.  I figure I’m just learning how to do this, so no point in sharing pictures that aren’t the best they can be.

If you could team up with any Indie author, (no fair if I let you choose from one of the big names), who would you choose, and what would be the subject matter of the book?

I don’t think I can give you an answer to this as it’s tough enough to collaborate with my husband, whom I love on projects.  When I write, I’m a bit of a control freak so I really cannot imagine that I would work well with someone else.

Is there anyone you’d like to give a mention?

First and foremost would be my better half, Kevin, for 15 years of support and relentless belief in me.  Although I’ve made money writing for others in the past, if it were not for him, I would have never had the belief in myself to submit my fiction to others or to begin on this self-publishing journey I am not pursuing.

I suppose I should also thank my kids – they were the inspiration of many of my stories.

What defines success as a writer in your eyes?

Success to me isn’t fame or money.  It is when that one reader reaches out through email, letter or even a Facebook post and tells me that my words have touched them.  It only takes one and I’ve had quite a few, so in my eyes, I am successful.

What is in your “to be read” pile right now?

Currently Oceans of Red by Willow Cross, Monkey Love by John Paul Allen, It’s Not My Mountain Anymore by Barbara Woodall and Widowby Billie Sue Mosiman.  That’s just a start as I have almost a thousand books on my Kindle to be read at some point.

My thanks to Kat for stopping in. Check out her Amazon author page for a look at her available work. Pick out one or two and get some quality reading material.

Today's Olympic challenge is a nod to last night's thrilling and exceptional performance by the men's gymnastic team. The challenge is simple...do a handstand. Not just a headstand, but get yourself off the ground to the point where JUST your hands are on the floor.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Radio days, the Olympic Games and That Ghoul Ava

Several years ago, I was a sports talk radio host. This was way back when station owners were people...not corporate conglomerates. The problem faced back then was what to do with the AM station. A few came up with the idea of talking about sports. I was fortunate to get an opportunity in a major market (Portland, Oregon) and enjoyed my short stint in radio. However, it was a small assignment where I hit my stride...I was able to write for a few morning show comedy bits. What does that have to do with anything? Very little, except for the announcement that I am pleased to welcome an old friend as a guest on my blog. On a walk with my dog, a voice from my past called me out and asked me why I wasn't sharing my love of sports with folks. "All you talk about is zombies. People are gonna think you're a freak." Starting Wednesday, Vinnie DeSporto will add his two cents worth right here. 

I have scanned my calendar and looked at what I have coming up in the next few months. Of all the projects, I think I am the most excited about my first full length run of a That Ghoul Ava adventure tentatively titled That Ghoul Ava Kicks Some Faerie Ass. For those of you not familiar with Ava, she is--no surprise-- a ghoul. Ava eats the already dead (because eating a live person would be gross). Ava lives in Portland, Oregon and has discovered a thriving supernatural community that lives under the radar of the human conscious. She is snarky, rebellious, and struggling to accept her new reality(think a female Bruce Campbell). The Ava stories are light-hearted and funny (I hope). I hope you will learn to love her as much as I do.

No rants today. In the spirit of the Olympic Games, I want to wish EVERY athlete the best. I heard a comedian do a bit on the games. He talks about how everybody knows who the winners are, but there is always that one person who comes in last and from the comfort of our couch, recliner, or bar stool, we say things like "That person shoulda trained harder." It would be great if they would pluck a spectator out of the crowd before each event to represent the rest of humanity. That would allow us to truly appreciate just how amazing these freaks of nature really are. So, today's note--the cyclists will be biking a distance of 250km (that's 155.343 miles to us Americans) for almost six hours through the beautiful English countryside at a pace of 25 miles per hour--so, one mile in about 2.4 minutes or 144 seconds. Grab your bike, mark off a short 2 miles and then pedal for all you are worth. Now realize that the cyclists will keep that pace for SIX hours.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Before the Dawn: Rise of the Walking Dead by Joseph Heaphy

Before the Dawn: Rise of the walking deadBefore the Dawn: Rise of the walking dead by Joseph Heaphy
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I like to take a chance and see if a new name can grab me and give me a reason to expand from my norm. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, you have to kiss a few frogs first.

This short story is a model of what people are railing about and using as an example of all that is wrong with the Indie scene. Poor editing, one-dimensional characters who you care nothing for at any time in the story...I hate to say it, but this is just a bad book. Sadly, I can't even find one point to make in support of this beyond the fact that it was a freebie.

Occupation by Jeff Dawson

OccupationOccupation by Jeff Dawson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Full disclosure, I received a copy of this book from the author for purposes of review. The matching tee shirt was (is) fantastic. However, the understanding was that I would write an unbiased and honest review. I will get to the really good stuff first. Finally, a vampire story that isn't chock full of "pretty boys" and "beautiful people" all fawning over each other. THIS was a good old "Vampires are evil" story. Toss in Nazis and you don't know which villain to hate more. (I chose Nazis because they were real and very evil.) There is a fantastic dynamic between the "clans" as well as factions within the clans. These were power hungry, heartless monsters. Thank you Mr. Dawson for giving me classic evil.

There is some nice smattering of history in the story and it is woven nicely, although at times it gets a bit "textbook" and can slow the pace of an otherwise entertaining story. There are moments when Mr. Dawson seems to stop telling the story to clarify points that the engaged reader will either know, assume, or (in matters of history) look into on their own if interested.

Now, I have to bring up the editing. It is pretty good. The glaring weakness came in the dialogue. There are some problems. As this is one of my pet peeves, I can not over look it and it is a fairly consistent set of the same errors made throughout.

Based on the story, I would give Occupation 4 stars, the editing gets about a 3.

Wake of the Riddler by Janet Morris

Wake the RiddlerWake of the Riddler by Janet Morris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have been a fan of Janet Morris and her literary creation known as Tempus Thales longer than I can recall or she would like me to say. The re-workings being done in the realm of Sanctuary and The Sacred Band are nothing short of brilliant. This is a taste to whet your appetite and will have you scooping up The Fish the Fighters and the Song-Girl: Sacred Band of Stepsons: Sacred Band Tales 2 (Volume 2) before the screen fades on your Kindle.

What I enjoy most about these stories are the amazing depth. It is like Dr. Who in that somebody you meet in passing may just show up later to be of great importance and it will take you a few head scratches as you try to remember where this character seems familiar. The cast here is vast and requires the reader to do something that many have forgotten how: LET GO. This story (as with all the others in this glorious mythology) demands that you pay all your attention. The beauty is, you WANT to because it is so vivid and detailed. These are not simply characters, but PEOPLE. You come to know them and this is a tribute to the masterful writing of Ms. Morris because she will be given no leeway if she were to write anything that was against the nature of these people you come to know as a reader.

Dana Fredsti: Swordfighter, Actress, Author.

I mentioned the other day how I sometimes get a story for an upcoming anthology and feel fortunate. Having Dana Fredsti pay a visit to this blog falls in with that sort of OMG feeling. The coolest people are the ones who do amazing things and see it as no big deal. That would sum up the vibe I got from Dana when she so kindly agreed to be interviewed. So, let me get the hell out of the way and introduce you to, as they say in jazz circles, "One groovy chick."

What led you to writing? And do you plan to return to the screen anytime soon?

I’ve been interested in writing since I was old enough to string words together. English was always my favourite class in school and I loved creative writing assignments.  I dabbled in writing off and on throughout high school and into my twenties and thirties, but was distracted by other things, like “I wanna be in a rock band!” and “I wanna be an actress!” and “Swordfighting is fun; I think I’ll get into fighting and stunts!” and “Oooh!  Squirrel!”  I didn’t really focus on it until mid/late thirties when I decided I liked working in my pajamas better than just about anything else.  And no real plans to return to the screen at this time, although I AM working on a project (currently classified) with Ken Foree.  I may or may not log some screen time, but my main focus is development/co-producer.

What is the difference between being an author and a writer?

Er… a writer writes and an author pontificates? J   I have never before pondered the difference or, indeed, really thought there was one.  But if pressed for an answer, I’d say an author has completed books/novels/stories/essays and has gotten them out into print or eBooklandia, be it via traditional publishing or going the self-published route.  There. Do I get a cookie? 

I would be remiss if I didn’t ask about your “B-Actress” movie career. Share some of the highlights (and an Army of Darkness snippet would also be great).

Well, “C” is a better grading for the movies I did, other than Army of Darkness.  Highlights would be being the only movie villainess in cinema history to use a white hot spoon as her torture implement of choice; working with Ken Foree, Brinke Stevens and Joe Pilato on a pilot for a horror/sci-fi movie that I co-wrote with Brian Thomas (derby aficionados in Los Angeles and Flint, Michigan know him as “Hell Ocho”, btw); and yes, being a part of Army of Darkness.  I was a sword-fighting captain/fighting Deadite and the on-set armourer’s assistant on the film, and also was a lighting stand-in for Sheila (Embeth Davidtz) when they were setting up for the infamous barn kiss.  Being a Deadite was a lot of fun, especially doing my own sword choreography, but I’m telling ya that when you have a short break and REALLY have to pee, getting out of that latex outfit (courtesy of KNB/Greg Nicotero) was a bitch.  Plus I have flashbacks whenever I hear the line “This is my BOOM stick!”  I can’t tell you how many takes they did of that particular scene, but I was on set and had to hear Every. Single. One. 

What got you into sword fighting?

Three and Four Musketeers directed by Richard Lester, fight choreography by William Hobbs. Those two movies started my fascination with swordplay.  Then, when I was eighteen, I was working at a Renaissance Faire in San Diego and overheard a man talking about how his fight partner dropped out so he couldn’t do his sword fight performance. Without thinking about it, I said, “I’ll do it!” So the man (who turned out to be Christopher Villa, who has been a fight choreographer most of his life) gave me a quick basic lesson and taught me my first fight. Unlike surfing, which I love but is still very difficult for me, swordplay and theatrical combat are skills that I took to really quickly. I love to fight…  

The writing community can be its own worst enemy at times. What are some of the issues you see cropping up in the Indie world? Solutions?

I’m not exactly an Indie writer, per se, since I’m currently working with Titan Books, but I’ve looked into putting some of my own stuff out there and think it’s a really viable choice now … if writers are willing to put time, effort and editing into their work before throwing it out onto Kindle and Smashwords.  The lack of quality control by authors themselves is what I see as the biggest issue in the Indie world.  It doesn’t just hurt the authors who put stuff out before it’s ready and lose a potential readership by alienating them with lousy grammar, typos and basically amateurish work, but it also hurts other Indie authors who get tarred with the same “amateur” stigma. 

The other issue that’s my other huge personal turnoff are the promotion whores.  We’re talking authors who use social media exclusively tell people how many reviews they’ve gotten for their latest book and every single post is another promotional blurb.   Do I post links to my good reviews?  Of course I do!  But every day, all day without making any effort to get to know my FB and Twitter pals and readers?  Heck, no.  As an avid reader, I’m a lot more likely to invest money and time in a book or story by someone I’ve gotten to know on a semi-personal level rather than someone who keeps telling me why I should buy their stuff.  And I have noticed crossover between the two issues I’ve mentioned; some of the worst self-promoters evidently don’t bother with editors. It drives me mad.  MAD, I say! 

The social media is…

…a bitch/whore/goddess of a demanding mistress who can give such pleasure and yet suck all of your time away…  

Share some information about your work with us:

My writing tends to be infused with humor, no matter the genre.  I can’t seem to help it. Some people may not find my writing funny or may think it’s inappropriate in, say, a book about a zombocalypse, but oh well.  And I tend to somehow manage to bring in at least a few detailed mentions of food and drink, also no matter the genre.  It’s a sickness.

Explain your love of cats to a dog lover.

I love both cats and dogs so I guess I’ll explain it to myself. “Dana, see, just ‘cause you love the guileless nature of your puppy and the way she is so excited to see you whenever you get home does not mean you can’t also appreciated the guileless love of your cats, who are so excited to see you when you get home.  The puppy jumps up on your legs and licks your face.  The cats stand on their hind legs and try to rub noses with you.  They both give you unqualified love, have unique personalities, and require much clean-up duty to maintain a home you can invite friends into.  The puppy is goofy more often than not, but so are some of the cats.  Others are mysterious and sometimes aloof, but will then stare at you with this glowing look of adoration and start purring when you talk to them. They are beautiful, graceful, silly, and hours of entertainment.  And at least a few of them appreciate your puppy.  What’s not to like?” 

And by thunder, I now understand my own love of cats! J

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

“How’s the writing going?” 

How will you deal with negative reviews?

Well, after the weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth portion of the evening, I’ll shrug and remind myself that you can’t please everyone. It’s impossible to not take it personally on some level because, after all, this is your baby they’re eviscerating, but … that being said, it’s really not personal.  I’ve had a couple of bad reviews and have actually had civil and productive conversations with the reviewers. I don’t recommend this as a general rule, but I have found that if you can leave defensiveness and ego at the door, it’s possible to learn from negative reviews, even if you don’t agree with them. And I always thank people for giving my books a chance, even if it didn’t work for them, whether they’re a reviewer who received an ARC or someone who paid money for it.  Either way they took the time to read it.

How much reading do you get in, and can a writer excel at his or her craft if they do not read?

I love to read.  It’s as much a part of my life as breathing and I read in every spare crack of time I can find. I firmly believe that writers who do not read are short-changing—and fooling—themselves if they think they can excel at their craft without reading other writers’ works.  You learn what sort of narrative “voice” you like as both a reader and a writer, and it helps new writers develop their own style over time.  And you also see what sucks and try to avoid it!

What is the greatest lesson you have learned in your career that you wish you could go back in time and tell a younger you?

Don’t query a publisher unless you have a finished product that’s worth sending out. Because you never know when your query will get a positive response and if your book isn’t ready to go … you are so screwed.  My ex-writing partner and I sent a query to St. Martin’s Press years ago, before the cozy mystery market was glutted, and we hadn’t finished the book yet.  We got a phone call three days later asking to see the finished product.  Three days/nights of no sleep, lots of sugar and typing as fast as possible, we turned in what was definitely NOT a finished product and lost out on a very good opportunity.  Our own damn fault too. 

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on Plague Nation, the second in my AshleyParker series for Titan Books.  Zombies by way of Buffy meets the Walking Dead.

What is one thing about you that would surprise the readers who do not know you personally?

It would depend on whether or not they follow me on FB, I guess.  If you’re my FB friend, I’m pretty much out there as far as personality traits and quirks, likes and dislikes. And my author bio talks about some of the more exotic things I’ve done with my life.  I guess the one thing would be my ability to read while walking. I carry books with me everywhere and have perfected the fine art of walking and reading, so I get in exercise and reading at the same time. It’s all about peripheral vision, btw, as far as not colliding with fellow pedestrians, random poles, and cars. 

Give us your most bizarre “postman” story.

Oh jeez, the most bizarre postman story I can think of is watching Kevin Costner in the titular role in that awful movie…   I can’t think of any personally weird experiences with a postman.  Hmm… er… well, the postman for our neighbourhood is the inspiration for Mack the Mailman in Plague Town!  Does that count as weird? 

Is there anyone you’d like to give a mention?

Lots of people, but for now I’d like to give a shout to everyone at Titan Books.  They are amazing.  From my editor (Dark Editorial Overlord) Steve Saffel to the publicity teams in New York and the U.K. (Tom, Hannah, Sophie, Katharine, and their fearless leader Tim), to the owners Nick and Vivian…  Love love love them.  And my ever-support boyfriend (and fellow author) David Fitzgerald/Kilt Kilpatrick. Love love love him too. 

What is in your “to be read” pile right now?

My TBR pile is huge. I have a stack of books I brought home from World Horror Con that I haven’t even started on yet, and a bunch of books stashed on my Kindle.  I would wager I have at least thirty books, if not more, in my TBR pile.  Currently open on my Kindle is The Cold Beneath by Tonia Brown (AWEsome zombie steampunk novel) and my current paperback is Heat Stroke by Rachel Caine. I have Academ’s Fury by Jim Butcher in my desk drawer at work, and I’m re-reading the Harry Potter series for a few minutes before falling asleep at night. I’ve got a Jonathan Maberry book waiting for me, a story by Ray Garton, anthologies, and just SO much more! I’ve bought books for my Kindle that I haven’t loaded onto the damn thing yet.  Do I feel that this is out of control? Heck, no!  A huge TBR pile is like having a huge stockpile of toilet paper and wine.  Life is good!   

For more links to Dana:


Dana Fredsti
PLAGUE TOWN: An Ashley Parker Novel (Titan Books, release date April 3, 2012)
MURDER FOR HIRE: The Peruvian Pigeon (James A. Rock Inc, Yellowback Mysteries Imprint)
(Ravenous Romance, as Inara LaVey)
WHAT WOMEN REALLY WANT IN BED (Quiver Press, with Cynthia Gentry)
Member, Sisters in Crime (National & NorCal Chapters)
President- 2010/2011, SinC NorCal

Thanks so much to Dana for sharing some time with us and much success in Plague Town

This weekend will be featuring some more of my ramblings where I discuss "That Ghoul Ava" and an interview with Kat Yares. Also, today is the day I chose to make a purchase of a book by Mark Tufo: Zombie Fallout. Share who you decided to support today by making a comment. Tell us what book and why.