Thursday, August 30, 2012

A look into the darkness of Siege & Survival

In a couple of days, I intend to resume my little rant. Judging by the response from many of you (via email and your wonderful comments) I have touched on something and believe that there are seeds of Revolution waiting to be planted. Like I said to the well-spoken Bryan Hall after reading his amazing blog post the other day (click on his name and read for yourself), It may be time for Revolution, not the crazy kind, but one with a purpose. Not all revolutions are good (that whole 'Master Race' thing in Germany during the late '30s and early '40s strikes me as a BAD kind), but there is a solid core of individuals in the Indie scene who share similar ideas of what it will take to clean up our neighborhood. But I am getting ahead of myself...check with me on Saturday for my continuation of my previous rant. Today I want to share some raw material from the next DEAD book. (Dead: Siege & Survival--December 15, 2012) and remind you that I am fast approaching my 100th blog post (this is number 96 if you are counting) and will be giving away a bunch of free stuff (mostly related to my books...big surprise,,,right?). So, without further excerpt from Dead: Siege & Survival.

Jon said nothing, but he opened his door and climbed out while simultaneously allowing a painfully cold wave of air to fill the cab and ensure that neither the doctor nor I would simply sit in its relative warmth while he tromped around in the ice-crusted snow. I did a quick self-inspection of my gear. I didn’t know what I was feeling exactly, but it wasn’t anything good.
“Hello inside!” Jon called. Not exactly subtle, but I was nitpicking. Considering the fact that we’d driven here in the Snowcat and probably activated or re-directed every stationary zombie for miles, his little yell was probably not making things worse.
I hopped from the cab. That was my first mistake. I guess I really haven’t been out much. That is my best excuse when it comes to what is a complete ignoring of common sense. I promptly sank up to my thighs in the snow. Looking around, I realized that the Snowcat had plowed its way to where we were currently parked. I also noticed that we had driven in the tracks made the last time Jon had come this way. At the nose of the cat was a mound of snow that rose about three or four feet above my head.
“Took us three days to make it this far last time,” Jon said with a smirk as I looked around for anything that could extricate me from my current situation. “Then we had to shovel out way to their wall. They’d made a path, but it was mostly filled in when we arrived. Wasn’t sure if we were gonna find anybody alive.”
“So what led you here?” Dr. Zahn asked. “This is obviously off the beaten path.”
“Jesus saw a flare. The only problem we had with that was that once we got here, nobody admitted to firing one. We talked to everybody that was able to speak…but nobody owned up to it.”
“And that doesn’t seem a little weird to you?” I asked as I flopped down on my belly and tried to wiggle my way across the snow.
“Of course it does.” Jon reached the edge of the unpacked snow and offered his hand to help pull me across. “But I stopped trying to figure out everything that seems weird to me a few months ago.”
“Boy howdy,” Dr. Zahn chimed in.
Boy howdy? What the hell was that about?
“And did they completely ignore your attempts to make contact with them when you arrived that first time?” I tumbled off the snow bank and came to a less than graceful and somewhat painful stop against the rear treads of the Snowcat.
“Actually…no.” I could hear the concern in Jon’s voice, but there was something else that I couldn’t quite identify.
“Maybe they’re all dead,” Dr. Zahn offered.
She wasn’t being callous. Actually, the best way I could put it was that she was finally being ‘Dr. Zahn’ again instead of the strange person who had been walking around in a funky haze since Teresa's and Jamie’s death.
“So we are going to have to climb over,” Jon said with a sigh. “The best place is just around the corner. See that tree?” He pointed.
“I don’t think I’ve climbed a tree since before you were born,” Dr. Zahn grumped.
For some reason, that tickled my funny bone. It was something that I suddenly realized had been completely absent from my life these past several months—those spontaneous moments when you find something to be the most hilarious thing in the world. It is made worse by those around you who do not get in the slightest what you find so damned funny. Then, the harder you try to stifle the laugh, the worse it gets. Pretty soon your eyes are tearing up and you are laughing like a lunatic with no idea if you will ever be able to stop.
“Are you quite finished?” Dr. Zahn said as I wiped away the last of the tears in my eyes with my sleeves.
“I think so,” I managed. I was so out of breath that I really have no idea if she understood the words as much as just picked up on the sentiment.
We made our way to the corner…and that was where we encountered our first ‘surprise.’
“Holy Jesus,” Dr. Zahn gasped.
I felt my stomach shift just a bit and my knees give way until I somehow ended up on my butt in the snow beside the almost still defined trail. It took my brain a few moments to truly untangle the image and let me know what it was that I was looking at.
My best guess is that she could not have been any older than Thalia—five or six years old. She was leaning against the fence. More accurately, she was frozen to the fence. Somebody had taken the time place her exactly as we found her.
From just below her neck, there was nothing. Not a speck of flesh could be found on her frame—and that is all that was left…her frame. They had left the head untouched. So that one cold, dead eye still stared out at the world. She wasn’t alone. Beside her were seven others, all of varying ages. Each one had been stripped of every speck from the neck down, but for some reason, they’d left the heads.
Dr. Zahn pushed past me and knelt beside the first figure. She pulled something from her pocket and began to poke and inspect in a way that was far too clinical for me. I wanted to scream.
“They were boiled,” Dr. Zahn said, not looking away as she continued to inspect the collection.
That was the name my mind could handle referring to this group of individuals. They would now be etched forever more as ‘The Collection.’
“How do you know?” Glad to see Jon was still capable of forming words. I was just staring like an idiot.
“The bones are cracked and brittle.” Dr. Zahn duckwalked to the next one. “And if you look close enough, you can still see filaments of tissue. But for the most part, these people have been stripped clean of all the juicy bits.”
Now I wanted to be sick.
“So why not the heads?”
“Who knows,” Dr. Zahn said with an absentmindedness that let me know she was now fully engrossed in her inspection or autopsy, or whatever the hell you would call it.
“I never even stopped to ask,” Jon whispered.
“Ask?” I tore my vision away from the doctor and tried to focus on Jon.
“There were these big metal garbage cans—”
A flood of inmages filled my mind so quickly that I couldn’t shuffle them off to a nice dark place where they would only be able to torment me in my sleep. I fell on my side and threw up.
When I was finished, I looked up to see the doctor had moved down the line. Jon was at her heels and they were talking in low tones. I was too shook up to care. And now I understood the haunted look in Jesus’ face. Now I realized why he did not want to ever see this place again.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Indie publishing and used cars...

I'm not going to dress this up with a bunch of pretty pictures. This is just me with an opinion. I will try not to rant like a raving lunatic, but there are some trends out there that need to be examined. I want to say now that when I say "Indie", I am meaning everybody who goes self-pub and even the multitude of small presses out there.

If you are here, you either know me, have a fetish for obscure blogs, or somebody told you to check out the crazy guy rambling on about stuff he may or may not be qualified to ramble about. So I guess that raises the first question. What defines an expert? In the Indie writing scene, can there be one? Do we look at sales numbers, freebie giveaways....what? As far as I am concerned, there is no such thing. There may be varying degrees of success, but that's it. And what works for one person may not work for another. Each of us are out there in the minefield hoping to hell we make it to the other side intact. Along the way, we bumble, stumble and basically hope that we will find that magic formula that vaults us to the Promised Land.

Many of us rely on friends--personal or social media types(and  yes, you can make REAL friends in the social media, but that is a topic for another day)--and some of the small but helpful groups out there that share ideas with one another. Like it or not, we are the kids in the back of the bus. But for many of us, that is nothing new. If we are going to flourish and not be a passing fad like the Betamax and the 8-track...we need to get our act together. We also need to start shedding the light on some of the dregs of humanity that see hopes and dreams as something to cash in on.

Many of us are familiar with a certain publisher who took terrible advantage of his writers. For some reason, folks continued to just turn away and pretend it wasn't happening. Nobody wanted to get into a conflict with this unstable, abusive and sickeningly unprofessional individual. Then a cry went up and people banded together to finally put this person in his place. He is now a pariah and a cautionary tale. Sure, he may resurface like one of the countless incarnations of Jason from Friday the 13th, but we aren't afraid of his bullying tactics any longer. The lights were brought up to reveal him as a sad pathetic little man.

But that is just ONE. Lately, there is a rumble building over a cover artist. Is it okay for several books to have basically the same image with just a tweak to the color scheme of the picture? Uh...let me answer that. NO. I won't put names out on front street until I have more facts, but I am putting a bug in your ear now. If you look around, you will probably find a thread dealing with this problem. Don't wait for me to have all the leg work done. Look for yourself. Hell...if you find something, email me with details, because I am ready to sound a call-to-arms. And a word of so-called "Book Packagers" who charge hundreds of dollars to "format and prepare" a book for release (via Createspace or Lightning Source.or whatever)...YOU are next in my sights. Am I saying that if a person is not tech savvy enough to get their books up on their own, should they be able to enlist somebody who can? No. But when you put a bunch of fancy words together and make it seem like a 40 hour job to put one book together (not edit...just format for putlets like Kindle and Smashwords) and charge folks $150-200 for are a snake oil salesman. I will also direct you to a few folks who do that very thing for $20-$40. 

Indies, it is time that we clean up our neighborhood. Start calling people on their BS, and holding up a big spotlight on scammers and charlatans. Over the next few weeks as I have time between tasks, I will return with more on this stuff. Until then...go buy a book or dole out the couple of bucks for a book by an Indie. Support local talent. Finding a local indie author is probably easier than you might think.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Moon Shadow by Reggie Ridgeway

Moon ShadowMoon Shadow by Reggie Ridgeway
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mainstreaming horror can be tricky. It can be so watered down that it fails to deliver any jumps or jolts. Moon Shadow by Reggie Ridgeway is what I would consider "mainstream" horror. I was fortunate to receive an advance copy, however, if you check my review history, I don't let that cloud my opinion.

I will say that there were moments when Mr. Ridgeway gave medical terms that required me to go to Google. I would suggest simplifying, but that is my greatest critique/complaint. The story delivers a nice pace and has enough subtle twists that keep you engaged. The central protagonists--Trevor and Jodie-- are likable and have a very "normal person" quality about them that makes them people the reader can relate to easily enough. There is a sleazy corporate suit and a deranged Special Forces member to act as the minor and major foil to our potential hero and heroine. There is even enough of an opening at the end to offer up more adventures by some of the characters.

Overall this is a good story that delivers enough action while introducing a bit of bio-horror to keep things moving and interesting. Kudos to Little Acorns Publishing and Mr. Ridgeway.

See you in the morning!

They by Vincent Hobbes

TheyThey by Vincent Hobbes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

THEY is a good story. That is the first thing I will say, so don't get hung up on stars here. It was fast and is a great way to spend a lunch break. There is a very pervasive feeling of doom almost from the onset and Vincent Hobbes does a splendid job of creating mood.

This is one of those stories that leaves everything to the imagination of the reader. You are forced to take a black and white image and fill in all the colors here and that is wonderful. You can get as deep into this tale as you like and scare yourself silly, or you can just read it as an outline and pass the time with it.

My complaints are that the story could use some polish and detailing to smooth out a few errors. Also, the minimalist approach is done well, but this seemed at times like an outline for something more in depth. There are times when Mr. Hobbes gives the reader some detail and that works, but it plays against the author in the sense that it is done in uneven doses. There is particular attention payed to one very gruesome and intense scene, but then the rest of the story makes that scene a touch awkward.

This is my first selection from Vincent Hobbes, and now I will seek out something full-length to see if his fine talent gives the payoff that I anticipate from having read this sample.

So, today was simply a review. I must admit that I am swamped right now and will probably be very sporadic the next several days. I have a few articles that I want to write and share, plus I have some more guests coming up...just bare with me for a few as I try and get myself squared away. Maybe a few of you can make some helpful suggestions in the comments or via email about some topics that interest you. I will say that I have one article in particular that I am researching about the shady side of the Indie business...but I MUST check my facts before I fire off the cannons and call for a rally of the troops.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Take a trip with Alex Laybourne

As I continue to press on with the 5th book in the DEAD series, I want to introduce you to  a new face that hopes to make a big mark...I am thrilled to turn things over to Alex Laybourne. Also...I am just over a handful of posts away from the magic number 100...any suggestions for how I should celebrate? Any topics you would like to hear. Also...I have a few prizes to give away in commemoration and that includes a download of yours truly on guitar and vocals in a studio recording of "Stranger Things Have Happened" and some lucky person will win the GRAND all I need to do is figure out what that might be. Anyways...let me get out of the way and make room for Alex.

What led you to writing?
For as long as I can remember, I have told stories. I would write them long hand from the moment I knew but a few words. I still remember one story I wrote (I must have been about six or seven) it was 5 pages long and was about a man who survived crashing his fighter jet.

How does the European market differ from the American market as far as reader expectation?
The main problem with the European Market is not so much the reader expectations but the language problems. Trying to market an English Language book while living in Non-English speaking country takes a lot of work. Especially for self-published writers (as I was until recently). With the evolution of e-books, reader expectations and habits no longer has to conform to a specific geographical location. That in its own right is a positive thing for all writers.

What is the difference between a good story and a great story?
In terms of the same story, a solid editing process certainly plays a part. Without that, a book can never reach its full potential and therefore, never become great. Looking at the question from a genre specific angle, a great story is something that does something new. Something that makes it stand out above the other books it is competing against. It can be something small, but if you can come up with some truly original aspect, and work it into a well edited book, then you have something great. Personally, I don’t believe that reviews make a book great because you can’t even please everybody.

What is the difference between being an author and a writer?
Everybody can be a writer, but being an author takes grunt work. It means making sacrifices, and at some point in proceedings pissing someone off because you chose writing over them. It is about the first thought in your mind when you wake up, and the last one before you go to sleep being about the craft.

Lately there has been a debate about submitting to anthologies that only offer contributor’s copies. What is your view on the subject?
I don’t write for money, but because I have a story to tell. If I can earn a living from doing so along the way, then all the better, but I will never base my submissions on financial returns.

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 think that in some cases, the indie ‘rebellion’ has led to an overinflated sense of self importance in some writers. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big supporter and believer in the ‘movement’ and those people I reference in the statement above as the same people that I will refer to in my second issue. The people who do not believe in putting in the work, those that believe success will be instant and that they do not need to follow the traditional steps to writing. Those who believe that pressing the upload button and stringing 100,000 words together makes them a successful writer by default.

To tie in with the above, the ease with which one can now publish their work is a double edged sword and as you say, is its own worst enemy. Anybody can now publish themselves. It used to just be hard to get accepted and published. Not it is hard to get noticed. In itself, that may be the worse of the two options. Not getting published / accepted tells you what you need to know. That you need to continue striving to improve, to stand out, while not getting noticed does not necessarily have to be a reflection on your, on your writing or on your approach to publishing.  Not being able to see the wood through the trees can make it very hard for people who do not immerse themselves in the indie scene – by that I mean predominantly writers – you will not know who is who .

It is tougher than ever being a writer today because it is easier than ever to become one, but, at the end of the day, we have our ears to the ground, and know what to look for, who is hot and who is just muddying the waters. Imagine how hard it has become for a reader, those looking in from the outside.

The social media is…(your chance to expound in as abstract a manner as you wish.)
Pandora’s box. I am an active user on social media sites, but will never truly understand it. Not because it is complicated, but rather, because it is so easy. There are no ways to define social media effectively because you can use it for everything. From Facebook and Twitter to Pinterest and You Tube, you can use them to run a business, to communicate with relatives in far off lands, or to post picture of animals doing funny things. 

Social media has changed the way we are, not just on a virtual level but in real life. Physical relationships are changing because of it, and for that reason along, social media is the best and the worst thing that could have ever happened… I love it.

 Share some information about your work with us:
I am currently writing a novel that is more Psychological Thriller than out and out Horror. It is a look at human relationships and how one single action can set us on a path of self-destruction. I am also editing two short story collections (The Musings of a Hideous Mind: Volume(s) I and II).

 What is one question you are sick of being asked—not in interviews, but by individuals who know you write?
It depends on the individual asking the question. There are certain types , and after a while you can spot them, and when they ask me this, I just roar on the inside.

“What do you write about?” When you ask an Author a question like this, you need to understand that you are opening up a Pandora ’s Box. The answer will not be some quick one sentence answer. If you aren’t willing to actually stand there and listen, don’t ask. I get that a lot from people in my office.

A more general one is about how many books I sell. People outside of the ‘business’ seem to think that unless you are in the NY Times top ten, then your book is a flop, and against that mentality, you can never win.

How do you deal with negative reviews?
With Rage… ok not really. I will be honest with you. I have not yet received a negative review for my novel. One man gave it 2 stars, but left no comment. I looked at his review history and he only read travel books before then, so I kind of let it slide. Often, when I receive criticism, I get very angry… with myself. I rage at myself on the inside for a while, but I always thank the person offering the advice, and later, I consider what they have said, and use it to improve.

How much reading do you get in, and can a writer excel at his or her craft if they do not read?
I do not read as much as I would like to, but do so as much as I can. With 3 (soon to be 4) kids running around, the eldest being 5, free time is often a luxury I do not have. I read every day, that much I can say, but page numbers etc. I cannot gauge. All I know is that even if I sat in a room alone all day, I would want to have read more by the time the day was over.

To answer your second question, no, I don’t think a writer can excel if they don’t read. You must read if you want to write. I also believe that the wider range of genres and authors you read, the better you will develop.

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?
Take the time to get it right the first time around. When I first joined (for lack of a better word) the indie movement I finished my short story collection, checked it basically and published it. I withdrew it from sale soon thereafter, as it was not ready. Not in any way, shape or form. I would strap my younger-self to a chair and force this lesson on him… what if I did that already, but was too aggressive with myself and have now repressed that memory… sorry, I digress.

What projects are you currently working on?
Too many things I think. I am writing a new novel, a separate one from the Highway Trilogy, I am editing two complete short story collections (70k and 60k respectively) and  am planning out the third instalment of Highway to Hell which at this point in time promises to be something quite epic in terms of scale.

What is one thing about you that would surprise the readers who do not know you personally?
I guess it would just be who I am, compared to what my stories are like. Highway to Hell (and my short stories) are somewhat harsh in their subject, but I am a normal guy. I have a boring day job, I play around with my kids, and don’t care where it is. I have played hide and seek in the supermarket and gotten stuck inside kids playgrounds before. I listen to country music and enjoy being out in the fresh air as much as I can.

How important is the relationship between author and editor?
I think it is one of the more important relationships in the industry. There needs to be a level of trust and friendship developed. To be able to speak frankly with one another, knowing that what is said is not said to hurt, to offend or to demoralize, but rather to encourage, to help improve the finish product.

Is there anyone you’d like to give a mention?
Firstly I would like to (once again) thank you and Denise for accepting Highway to Hell. It was the best day of my (writing) life, and I will be forever grateful to you both.

Obviously, aside from my wife and 3 (soon to be 4) children, there are a few members of the Indie Writing without whose help and guidance I would never have gotten to where I am.
Lisa Stull,
Al Boudreau,
Carrie Green,
I’d better stop now, there are more, but to keep going will mean I forget someone and would not want to cause offence.

What is in your “to be read” pile right now?
Too much that can be summarized. I have some classics and indie books, a whole pile of traditionally published ‘big name authors’ – Stephen King, Clive Barker, Kathy Reichs to name a few.I guess I have about 100 or so books in the pile, at the moment.

Thanks to Alex and watch for his releases to be announced here among other places.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hell on Wheels: The Incredible Story of Rookie Roller Derby Queen Cindy McCoyHell on Wheels: The Incredible Story of Rookie Roller Derby Queen Cindy McCoy by Karen Mueller Bryson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hell on Wheels is subtitled "The Incredible Story of "Rookie Roller Derby Queen' Cindy McCoy", but it is really a story about a young lady's life and the events that shaped her. Ms. McCoy's story is full of entertaining anecdotes, some funny, some cute, some sad. There is enough to give you a peek at what shaped the person, but I would have enjoyed hearing more about the Roller Derby itself. I would have enjoyed hearing about what she thought of the T-Birds in the '80s when it was almost like pro-wrestling on skates with the over-the-top personalities. It's not that the stories about Cindy McCoy's life were not interesting, I just believe it would have added to the story.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Laurie Boris takes a dare...

What has led you to writing?

Utter frustration. Since my early teens, I’ve turned to my journal to vent and fume and imagine and take literary revenge on the evils of the world. It’s led to a life-long habit. Taking to novels started on a dare from my husband. He said, “You can’t write a novel.” Ha. Guess I showed him.

Has your experience thus far been all you expected?

Yes and no. I began writing novels at the tail end of the era in which young talent was nurtured, publishers sent authors on book tours, and novels had dust jackets. I’d fantasized about the day I’d hold my first printed book in my hands. And when I finally did, it was a paperback. Since my background is in marketing and advertising, my next thought was to spin it into something good: it would be cheaper and more people will buy it! The experience of interacting with readers has been better than I expected. Social media has made it so easy. I love when a message from a reader pops up and we have a little exchange. Sometimes it completely breaks my heart.  

Poor editing seems to be a big issue in the Indie scene. As an editor, what is your take on the subject?

How much time do you have, Todd? Seriously, I want all of us to put our best work out there. I hate when I see forum threads about “crappy indie editing.” I hate when I download a book and it’s peppered with typos and cringe-worthy word choices. Yes. The majority of writers are professionals who care deeply about the impression they make. In no way am I saying we don’t, or that we’re lazy. But I think some of us rush. I feel that pull at times. Your friend releases a new book. Everyone’s excited and the review bling piles up; you want yours out NOW. Why jeopardize your credibility by rushing, by not giving your manuscript to a few beta readers, by not getting a good edit or proofread? It doesn’t necessarily have to cost a fortune. You get what you pay for, but many editors are willing to negotiate, especially with indie writers. As one myself, I feel your pain.

 The writing community can be its own worst enemy at times. What are some of the problems (if any) that you see today?

Impatience to release books, as I mentioned before. And it makes me squirmy when writers take their personal battles with other writers or reviewers public. Sure, we toss a little snark and vent privately with our friends and support groups, but I don’t think it does our cause any good to turn on each other. Healthy debates are fine. Calling each other out, not to answer a baseless charge but to get more attention for you and your work? Eh. Maybe because I don’t like confrontation (unless it’s in my novels.) And grandstanding just seems…desperate to me.

 The social media is…

Fun, influential, and effective, if used creatively and with common sense. Damaging, time-sucking, and dispiriting if not. I love that it’s put me in touch with so many great people in all areas of my life. I love that it’s transformed how we get our books into the world. But if I stay on too long, that’s time I’m not writing, reading, getting my clients’ project done, or tending to all the other things I do each day. So I have to be careful.

Share some information about your work with us:

Each project feels like I’m learning to write a novel all over again. A character or situation falls into my head and I have to get to know these people and their conflicts. Fortunately, I like puzzles. Unfortunately, I have this habit of writing a first draft, putting it away to “compost,” and getting involved with another project. Maybe that’s self-preservation, so I’ll always have something to pull out of the closet. With editing work, each new manuscript I’m entrusted with is also a puzzle. I’d never mess with a writer’s voice; I’m just trying to help them make it clearer.

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

“But why don’t you want to go to a BIG publisher and make tons of money?” Sigh.

How will you deal with negative reviews?

I’ve already dealt with some. Sure, they were tough at first. I vented in private, but I won’t respond in public. An opinion is an opinion. I opened myself up for this when I published. If it’s about the work, fine. Maybe I can glean some useful information that will help me next time. If it’s about the reader, chalk it up to personal preference. Whatever. 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 try to read at least a half-hour a day, and more if my eyeballs can stand it. I can only speak for my own experience, but reading has been one of my greatest writing teachers. I can’t imagine not reading.

Share some editing wisdom with the writing community.

I think we make ourselves crazy with writing “rules.” Sure, certain grammatical constructs are there for a reason. Proper punctuation makes your sentences easier to understand. Consistency in tense and voice makes for a smoother reading experience. Varying sentence structure and length doesn’t make it so smooth the reader is lulled off to sleep. My usual answer when writers ask if they can do x, y, or z in their books is, “It depends.” If it works, and you limit the use of the unorthodox stuff for places in your story where it will give maximum impact, you can get away with pretty much anything. Learning how to make those choices that are best for the story is part of your growth as a writer. A good editor can teach you that, too.

What other projects are you currently working on?

I’m revising the next novel, a “tragicomical” story of a family in crisis.

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

Even though sometimes I write about serious topics, I’m a total goofball.

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?

Oh, that’s not fair, either, Todd! There are so many wonderful indie authors and I don’t want to leave anyone out. Although there is one idea I’d love to try: gathering together a band of women “of a certain age” who write comedy. In Western culture (mainly), older women are grossly underestimated and fairly invisible. Or we’re stereotyped as menopausal “cougars.” I’d love to be part of an anthology of real women who make people spit tea across their keyboards. (Editor's note: Go to the links at the bottom and contact Laurie if you fit the bill.)

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

I’ve gotten such wonderful support from my family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. My fellow contributing authors at Indies Unlimited have inspired me to be a better writer and given me great marketing and promotion tips. My writing friends - you know who you are - have helped me keep my morale up and poured me lots of virtual coffee and wine when the going gets tough. And major props to my husband, Paul, for not running away screaming years ago.

What is the most misunderstood thing about being an editor versus being a writer?

That being an editor means I’m immune from errors in my own work. Most writers reach a saturation point in the revision process. Our brains fill in the missing words and skip over the typos because we’re too familiar with the story and our sentences. I won’t hit “publish” unless I’ve had fresh eyes on my manuscript.

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

M. Edward McNally’s “Norothian Cycle” books. I just finished the first in the epic fantasy series (The Sable City) and I’m excited about the continuing adventure. He’s terrific. Also pulsating on the Kindle are JD Mader’s short story collection and books by JL Murray, Nancy Lee Parrish, Yvonne Hertzberger, Susan Wells Bennett, and Janus Gangi. Just to name a few.

Links to Laurie:


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dead Nations' Army by Alan Dale

Dead Nations' Army Book One: Code FleshDead Nations' Army Book One: Code Flesh by Alan Dale
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It would be unfair not to mention that this author and I do not have a positive relationship. That is why I waited a considerable length of time before buying (at least I get points for that), reading, and reviewing this book, Dead Nations' Army Book One. Oddly enough, I have heard accusations that I reviewed this book under an alias. Good or bad, I ALWAYS review under my name. A review is simply one individual's opinion. So, with that disclosure done, on to the book.

I have the most recent edition with the re-edits, but it is still lacking to the point of distraction. The biggest flaws are in the dialogue and there are simply too many to ignore. Mr. Dale is a journalist, and perhaps the story would have had a better flow if he stuck to story narration. The rules of punctuation differ for dialogue versus simple paragraphs. The repetitive nature throughout was also a bit over done for me. However, it is his style choice and if it works for his audience, then he should not change it simply because others don't enjoy it. He would do well to study Cormac McCarthy, it might give him some ideas that will smooth out his delivery if this minimalist approach is to be his continued choice.

There is a story in there despite the distractions and Dale is unapologetic in his beliefs which are woven throughout. They scream from the pages, and that is perhaps the strongest aspect of this book. It is a societal metaphor, and whether you agree or disagree with his politics, he does present them in a no-holds-barred manner. Again, he has a background in journalism and perhaps would be serving himself and his readers better by ditching the zombie scene and penning actual treatises on political ideology.

While not for me, I believe there is an audience that will appreciate this book. However, Dale would do well to obtain editing assistance.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A temporary absence...

Greetings to one and all... Hard to believe that the year is almost two-thirds over. I have been busier than at any time in my life. (That includes my time in a US Navy Soviet Acoustical Analysis course with the second highest fail rate next to their nuclear power program.) The upcoming year will signal some wonderful changes...including the planned reunion with my daughter, Ronni. But I must keep my focus on the here and now, because things have really taken some amazing turns for the better.

I am taking a break from Dead: Siege & Survival to write this post, but for those interested, I am over 45,000 words in and it is providing me no end of enjoyment as it really shifts to full-on survival mode where the zombies have really become the least of people's problems.

I am happy to say that, for those of you who did not notice, we reached the goal I set for the NaNoWriMo fund raiser. You are all wonderful people. To all who contributed, your e-copy of the DEAD special edition will be sent this week.

On Wednesday, Laurie Boris will be my guest, and on Friday, it will be Alex Laybourne. Pay them a visit and see what they have to say. That brings me to the following announcement. Due to a VERY busy next couple of months, posts will probably only be three times a week. I honestly don't have enough to say to merit posting daily, and I want the guest interviews to have time to be seen by all.

In one final note, I have my first ever book signing on the horizon. Special thanks to Laurie's Paperback Exchange at the top of the hill in Oregon City. It will be noon to 4PM on Saturday, October 27th, and it will be highlighting the release of Zomblog: Snoe BEFORE it is available anywhere else (official release date October 31st). How exciting is that? There will be free stuff and a chance to just say "hi" if you are so inclined. So, until later...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The gruff (but still cuddly) Armand Rosamilia

I "met" Armand Rosamilia a while ago. He was kind enough to include a then relative stranger on his Summer of Zombie Blog Tour. A Jersey boy living in the retirement Mecca that is Florida, he spins a wicked zombie yarn and only looks scary. I give you Armand seriously, he's yours...take him....

Your Summer of Zombie Blog Tour seemed to be a real success. Any plans on doing that sort of thing again…or did it just eat too much of your time? Lessons learned?

It definitely ate away my time, but I chalk that up to time spent promoting. Instead of wasting time flailing away in random directions promoting my own work, I got to get focused and help all six of us. I'm hoping to do another one in the near future, maybe a Winter of Zombie for three weeks, and definitely another Summer of Zombie blog tour next year. Ideally, keep about three of us in it and add three new zombie authors to keep it fresh. Something like that.

What are some of the lessons you have learned as a writer that caught you off guard?

That my discipline needs constant work. On paper, 2,000 words a day is no big deal, especially when the ideas are flowing. Yet, I will struggle to meet that goal and sometimes have to force myself to stay in the chair and not watch a movie or go swimming or take a nap. Then, I get days where I get up, and don't get distracted until 5,000 words is done in a couple of hours.

The “contributor’s copy” anthology has been taking a beating in some of the social media circles lately. Where do you stand on the subject?

I don't think every publisher can offer pro rates, but they should offer something, even if it is a token payment. Heck, I only offer $3.00 plus royalty share for Rymfire Books anthologies. I know it is nothing, and I know some people won't work with me because of it. I'm fine with that because everyone has their own career path to follow. But there comes a point when you have to figure out if this is a hobby or a career, and you can't build a career with free.

You have A LOT of followers on Twitter and Facebook…explain. You aren’t a warm and fuzzy kind of guy. So what is the secret?

Some might call me gruff… like you, Todd. I have an obsessive personality, so when I put my mind to something I run it to the max. As an example, as a kid I loved collecting Boston Red Sox baseball cards. I'm a huge fan. A normal kid would try to get one of each card from each year. Not me. I amassed over 1 million Red Sox cards by my mid-twenties and was featured in a hobby magazine about it. Obsession. I'm currently over 14,000 Twitter followers, and I got them one at a time. No gimmicks, no paying for them. I've devised my own formula for getting followers into horror, zombies, heavy metal, steampunk and me.

What could traditional publishing learn from the Indies? And how about the other way around?

Traditional publishing needs to learn to adapt quicker and bend their own rules. Most traditional publishers are still putting out the same formulaic book, one we've been reading forever. That being said, the indies need to stop dumping a ton of books into the system before their time. Quantity over quality is not a long-term way to grow. People always bitch about indie books being unedited and badly formatted. While I hate blanket statements, we still need to do our part to make sure our books aren't that way and stop giving people something to complain about.

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 told this to another writer on the phone last night (Vincent Hobbes, a great author): It's like the comic book boom of the eighties. Everyone jumped on the bandwagon, buying hundreds of copies of limited edition covers and special issues, thinking they'd get rich quickly. It never happened. I see this mentality in writing: everyone trying to put out their book and expecting the money to flow in. When it doesn't they attack reviewers, Amazon, other writers, and blog crazy things, thinking if they shout loud enough people will read their book. It always backfires. And we all know someone like that, which is sad.

The social media is…

Orange. How's that for abstract? Overwhelming at times. It is a time crusher, an ego booster, and we no longer write alone in the corner of the living room with no interaction. When I started seriously writing in the 1990s, you wrote and then crossed your fingers you could find a market for the story. Now, with the internet, you have a dozen choices to write to. If your story doesn't sell, you publish it yourself. There's no risk of wasting your time, because there is this huge audience waiting to read you. You hope.

Share some information about your work with us:

I guess my 'bigger' books are the Dying Days series of zombie novellas. I didn't start out to be a zombie guy, but I seem to get the most response from my character-driven zombie stories. The next book, Still Dying: Select Scenes From Dying Days, will be out in the next few weeks, and then I have three more books planned.

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

I've gotten several people who, when I say I'm a writer, will tell me they'll be going to WalMart in a few hours and will look for my book. When I tell them I'm not in WalMart they ask a hundred questions, but it's really one question: why the hell aren't you in WalMart? I never knew for some people that meant you'd made it.

How do you deal with negative reviews?

I find out where they live, their children go to school, and map the routes to all their relative's houses… heck, what can you do? You suck it up. If a review is critical I want to know why. I'll take a one star review as long as you tell me what you hated about it. To me, any review helps. You might only like fast zombies and hate my slow, shambling ones and say it in the review. The next person might read that and think it would be a perfect fit. I never respond to them. Everyone has their own opinion and even 'classic' books have tons of bad reviews.

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

Didn't Stephen King say over and over you have to read in order to be a good writer? I agree. I spend at least an hour every night before I fall asleep reading something on my Kindle. Anything. I might read a thriller today and a biography tomorrow, followed by a horror short and then a how-to book on pinterest.

When does self-promotion cross the line and become a nuisance?

When that's all you do. How many commercials do you really watch? After awhile you automatically tune them out. Same with constant barrages of promotion. I find that if I post constant links to my work I sell a book a day. If I re-tweet great author's tweets and blog posts I want to be associated with, I sell ten a day. If I am just myself, interact with followers and people and be myself (even though some say I'm gruff) I sell fifty books a day.

What projects are you currently working on?

I'm always working on three projects at a time. I can't help it. Right now I'm writing the first draft to my Death Metal sequel, Death Cult: Death Metal 2. I'm also working on Dying Days: Origins, a prequel tale for one of the DyingDays characters. And a zombie novella that doesn't fit into the DyingDays world that I plan to shop to a certain publisher I really admire and want to work with.

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

I'm not that gruff. So stop saying it. Now. I am actually quite humorous and have a sarcastic, dry humor. I am definitely a Jersey boy and it shows. But one thing that might surprise you is that I might look like a biker, a pro wrestler or Kerry King from Slayer, but I am actually a quiet teddy bear in person.

Tell us a secret.

I cry watching chick flicks. Even sappy moments gets me teary-eyed. I watched Contagion last week and cried at the end, with the U2 song playing. I cried watching the Billy Joel/Shea Stadium documentary. I cried watching ET as a kid in the theatre when he died.

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

There are a few writers out there that I love reading. I have no stake in their sales, no pat on the back for being my buddy, they just rock as horror authors. Mark Tufo is a zombie genius with a rabid fan base, Bryan Hall is an up and coming horror author and his Southern Hauntings series is going to be huge, Tim Baker writes incredible thriller books set in the town I'm living in and we're working on a book together, and Billie Sue Mosiman is a prolific author who's been in the game a long time and offers help and advice, besides great stories. I'd also mention Todd Brown (editor's note...the five bucks is in the mail) as a favorite zombie author as well.

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

Let me grab my Kindle… the order I will be reading the next few eBooks: Mark Edward Hall Library Vol. 1, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates anthology, Epitaphs: The Journal of the NEHW anthology, 450 Things You Didn't Know About the Boston Celtics, and Skin Trade by Tonia Brown. And the other 457 books in there. 

Thanks to Armand for not only taking a time out to share some time, but also for being an increasingly good sport as he gets flooded with stuffed grouchy teddy bears once his fans get a hold of this interview.