Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mark Tufo shows off...his talent.

Callis RoseCallis Rose by Mark Tufo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mark Tufo is well know for his best selling Zombie Fallout series. I was fortunate enough to read Callis Rose before release. I have to say that there is a roller coaster of emotions that flow through these pages. If you are expecting the tongue-in-cheek humor of Talbot or the engrossingly cute Riley, you need to set that aside and allow Mark to show you yet another aspect of his talent.

There are some elements here that will be reminiscent of Stephen King's "Carrie" but it goes beyond that. One of the real beauties of this story is that, by the end, you really do not know who to "cheer" for. I avoid spoilers in my reviews because I believe that the reader should have the pleasure of that discovery. What I will say is that Tufo manages to make you feel sympathy for the "villains" and almost root against the main protagonist. That is a credit to his talent and the reason he sits where he does in the Top Horror writers on Amazon.

There were some moments where I wanted to think that he dropped the ball, but every twist and turn proves to have a reason. Set aside all that you thought you knew about Mark Tufo and read this book.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Every once in a while, I get tagged for those 7/77 things, I always intend to get to them, but by the time I whittle down my daily list, it gets pushed back and I forget.. The Liebster Award (of which I know nothing) was something that my friend Chantal Boudreau tagged me in. I couldn't resist.. Read on to find out what it’s all about.

The rules:
1. Thank the person who nominated you. Thanks, Chantal
2. Post eleven random facts about yourself.
3. You answer the eleven questions asked by the person who nominated you.
4. You think of a new set of eleven questions and nominate eleven others to answer them.
To start…eleven random facts about myself:
1. I played and sang in a band called "The KaQlin' Zombies".
2. A car accident at age 17 while riding with my friend Mike in his 280Z erased a part of my memory from my senior year in high school.
3. I have played football at the actual geographic North Pole.
4. If I were a woman, my "type" would be Dave Navarro and Keifer Southerland.
5. I held a 3.96 in college while obtaining my Associates, my only "B" was in calculus (I missed an "A" by 1.04%).
6. I have a son (Cody) and daughter (Ronni--my oldest) born 5 months and 2 weeks apart.
7. My favorite band of all time is KISS.
8. I keep my head shaved as a choice, I can actually grow a very full head of hair.
9. Redheads make me weak in the knees and I believe that the most "homely" of redheads is still a beauty compared to anything else (and yes...Denise knows!).
10. I played "SNoopy" in the musical "The World According to Snoopy"..
11. I have seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show over 500 times..

And now Chantal's questions for me.
1. What was your favourite childhood show? The Bugs Bunny Roadrunner Show.
2. If you could be a bird, what bird would you be and why? An owl. They can turn their heads around backwards.
3. What is the best dessert you’ve ever eaten? Carrot Cake at Claim Jumper.
4. If you could pick band line-up for your ultimate concert, who would you have open, follow and headline?
Open-The Clash; Follow-Cheap Trick; Headline--The ORIGINAL KISS lineup
5. What would you say is your favourite book outside of your preferred genres? Nathaniel Philbrick's "The Last Stand; the Story of Custer and Sitting Bull"
6. If you had to sit through the goriest of horror movies or the sappiest of chick-flicks, which would you pick? Horror.
7. Kirk or Picard? Kirk...there is no other.
8. What is your favourite board game? Risk
9. If you had your choice, quiet night at home or rowdy night out? quiet night at home.
10. What are the top three colours in your wardrobe? Black, Red, and Dark Green
11. Have you ever read anything you were expecting to dislike but to your surprise you loved it?
Yes, "Zombie Wilson Diaries" by Timothy Long
Here are my questions:
  1. Favorite sporting event to play?
  2. Your least flattering feature?
  3. Blondes, Brunettes, or redheads (or shaved heads if I tagged a female)?
  4. If you could relive one year (nothing changes, you just get to relive it) which would it be?
  5. What hobby would you like to pursue but just have never "gotten around" to it?
  6. Strangest dish you've ever eaten?
  7. Your personal comfort food?
  8. If you could choose an eye color from ALL colors, what would it be?
  9. Favorite Doctor from Dr. Who?
  10. Fast zombies or slow?
  11. Book you wished that you wrote?

My nominees: (I realize that writers are a busy bunch, and I am just as guilty as the next guy when it comes to "getting around to it" when it comes to things like this. I do hope that a few of you will pick up the gauntlet and add to this new-age version of a chain letter.)
Look forward to all your answers!

Monday, January 28, 2013

A chance to see if you "get" it.

I have decided to give readers of this blog a look at something "in progress". So, be aware that this is the raw, unedited version of this story. In Dead: Confrontation, I am introducing a "new" character in the Vignettes section. 

I am curious what sort of impact this story will have. You see,  I have an idea in mind going in to this. I am hoping that the readers will pick up on it. So any observations that you may come up with as you read this are welcome in the comments section below. (And yes, I still have editing to do, so if words are wonky or repetitious, that will be fixed during edits.) I just want to see if my mission is accomplished in this section.

Without further delay...this is the second vignette in this story line.

Emily-zombie stepped outside. The others were on the move as the newest sound rumbled through their deadened senses. None of them knew why, she no more or less than the others. Yet, sound sent a signal that drew her like a moth to the flame.
However, before she had taken the third step, she had forgotten why. Her drive now came from no greater stimulus than she was already in motion along with those around her. If that split second could be broken down, it would be that sound indicated something possessing the craved heat was close.
As Emily-zombie trudged along with the others, a tingle bloomed in that tiniest part of her mind that made her different from the others. That sound might mean something besides heat. It might mean…
The idea of death meant nothing. The emotion known as fear had no place in her to gain purchase because it could not be sustained. Yet, enough of that kernel of fear sent a signal to Emily-zombie.
Once again, the word had no meaning, but Emily slowed down and let many of the others get past her. Something brushed her foot. It gave off no warmth. Looking down, it was the other…the one that made Emily’s steps bolder just because of its presence.
Meaningless. Yet Emily-zombie slowed even more to match the pace of this one that pulled itself along on the ground. When one of the group stepped on her, Emily-zombie hissed and moved over it to shield it. Those around took no notice, but they went around the pair.
It was not long before another image bloomed. Moving was easier if the others cleared the way. The cold meant nothing. But walking through…snow!...was easier if a path existed for them to follow.
All of these images and words held their meaning for about as long as the flame created by a wandering magician that opens his wallet and ignites the flashpowder creating a momentary fireball that is gone in the span of a single heartbeat. Yet they were enough to alter Emily’s reactions. Those moments gave her the appearance of thought. Like the magician’s flaming wallet, it was no more than an illusion. Still, that was enough to make her different.
The pitiful creature at her feet that pulled itself along felt no gratitude. And if Emily were to wander off, neither would remember their time together as they travelled with this mob any more than Emily-zombie remembered that it was her banging on a car that had brought this particular herd together.
Emily-zombie walked. Never all the way in the rear of the group, never in front. There was something that kept her as close to the center as she able to be. And when a new sound came, the entire group oriented on it and moved. They became slower as those in front had to push against the wall of white.
At one point, the mob increased its speed as they poured out into an area where the snow had been trampled down. And now there was a steady source of sound leading them on. Every once in a while, Emily was able to see a flash of warmth up ahead.
Now that the actual warmth was spotted, she began to move through any crease or opening in the mob to get just a bit closer. That warmth overwhelmed many of her other signals. She had to have it. It was hers.
Now there were sounds coming from many directions. At some point that one source of warmth vanished. Emily-zombie slipped back into simply trying to follow the sounds. She had no ability to determine that she actually doubled back on her path a half dozen times. She simply followed sound.
Twice her group passed a figure on the ground. It was not one of them, but it did not possess any heat, and therefore, it went ignored.
Her mob had broken into several smaller groups as some turned away, drawn by sounds from a different direction. There were passages through the whiteness that allowed them to move easier…with more freedom.
Turning a corner in pursuit of the most recent noise, her group discovered three sources of warmth clustered together. Emily-zombie stopped, allowing the others to close in. The screams meant nothing. One of the sources separated from the others and came at Emily-zombie.
She stepped behind one of her own as a loud noise reverberated off the walls of the snow passage. She craved that warmth, but a signal had built and actually lingered.
Her group fell on those three sources of warmth. Still Emily-zombie waited. Something made her hesitate. As the others tore open those sources, spilling more warmth out onto the…snow!...she moved in and joined.
One source seemed to stand out from the others. It almost seemed to try and offer itself to Emily-zombie. She knelt and plunged her hands inside, pulling as much of that warmth to her mouth as she could.
At no point did the sounds spewing from this source hold any meaning. She continued to feed despite the pleas.
“Emily…no…please, God…no…”

Friday, January 25, 2013

Aoife the Border Collie

That's Aoife (pronounced EYE-fa) my Border Collie. She was a gift for me when I came home in 2011. When we first met, I was a stranger...she knew Denise, but not me since Denise had picked her out. However, those first months, we had a lot of time alone together to get acquainted. There is no doubt as to whose dog she is these days. At night, she finds the spot right behind my knees and curls in as tight and close as she can. In the morning, when she decides that it is time for me to get up, she does this thing that I cal the "baby seal slither" as she wriggles her way up and onto my chest. 

Yes, she loves Denise. She loves Jenifer. And during Ronni's visit, she absolutely adored my daughter. She is very special to me. When I work during the day, she will come up and let me know that I have been at my desk too long. She will bring a toy and drop it at my feet. Sometimes, she will go under my desk and actually put her paws in my lap and push me away until I get up and give her the attention that she demands.
Other times she will just jump up into my lap and rest her head on my shoulder. One of the things that made me choose a Border Collie was that I have a tendency to lock myself into my work and shut out the world. That single-mindedness can make those around me feel like I don't care if they are around or not. Aoife is my reminder that there is a whole great big world AWAY from work.

Studies have shown that people who have close ties with their pets actually live longer...same as the whole thing about laughing, relationships (positive ones anyways...we have all had the BAD ones that stole some of our souls...but let's focus on the good), and that sort of thing can actually lead to longer life. If that is the case, Aoife has tacked on some serious time.
One of the simple joys in my life is coming home from anywhere. I text Denise as I pull in and she opens the door to let Aoife out onto the porch. When I start up the stairs, I am greeted by fierce tail-wagging and a full blown body wiggle. There is no way to receive a greeting like that and not smile. It makes me feel good all the way through...

But there is more to it than that. She does things out of the blue all the time to express her love. To me, that is an indication that I give her the love and attention that has created that special bond we have. I have had many dogs over the years, and they are all different. This one is special. I've never had a dog that was so expressive in her love for me. Perhaps that is another indication that I have changed...I like to think so.
If you have any knowledge on Border Collies, you know that they are listed as one of, if not THE, smartest breeds. Aoife lives up to that standard. She learns things fast, and some of her tricks include "High Five"...catching things in the air that are thrown...but it is her newest trick that I enjoy most. She jumps into my lap, and when I say, "Give me a hug!" she tucks her head under my chin.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

When reality exceeds hopes and expectations...

Recently, I made the move to put a few of my titles out there for auditions to be produced into audio books. I have heard a mix from my fellow authors when it came to experiences with the audio book experiment. Some return with tales of terror about their work being butchered, and others say that it pushed their sales to a whole new level. I decided the time was right to see for myself.

Just like our experiment with the KDP program, it was decided to test the waters slowly. To that end, we put three of my titles out there: Dakota (the first novel I ever wrote), Zomblog (the same title that we used when we decided to try out KDP), and That Ghoul Ava (a short horror comedy that I am developing into a series). The funny thing is that you don't realize how your book "sounds" in your head until you hear somebody else read it. I received some early auditions for Zomblog and immediately thought "That is not the voice that should be telling that story!"

However, that is not what I am going to talk about today...

I was listening to countless demos, trying to find the voice for Ava. When I found one in particular, I thought she might really be a good fit. I sent a note to this person and waited. She came back expressing that she was interested and would check it out. A few days later, I received an audition. The moment I heard it I was convinced that this was the right person. Still, I had Denise listen just to get her reaction. She was of the same opinion as me.

Fast forward a few weeks and I am notified that the production is complete. Now, I enjoyed the audition, but this was the moment of truth. This would be how people came to identify Ava, this would be the introduction of That Ghoul Ava to the world.

I know that I have made it known that, like many of my fellow authors, I would love to see something of mine turned to film. However, I have never been more thrilled as I was to hear That Ghoul Ava as narrated by Celia Aurora de Blas. To say that she nailed it would be a huge understatement. Stay tuned for announcements on the release date...and (imagine the voice of that guy who does the movie trailers) "If you only buy ONE audio book this year...make it That Ghoul Ava, written by TW Brown, and starring the super-sultry and talented voice of Celia Aurora de Blas."

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Miami Spy Games: Russian Zombie Gun

Miami Spy Games: Russian Zombie GunMiami Spy Games: Russian Zombie Gun by Armand Rosamilia
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have read a few of Armand Rosamilia's titles. Hands down, Miami Spy Games:Russian Zombie Gun is my favorite. If you were not following the episodes of this as they came out, then now is your chance to get the whole package at once and skip the terminally long waits (at least it seemed so) between the serial episode issues.

This rips a story from the news (remember the "zombie face eater in Miami of 2012?) and turns it into a Return of the Cold War thriller that would make Tom Clancy envious. The story actually manages to push the envelope and seem "real" through out. If the James Bond franchise ever wants to dip its toes in the zombie craze, this is the work they would want to use as the template.

One of this stories greatest strengths is the dialog. I am not familiar with Mr. Waters, but I have read Rosamilia's work and he does an exceptional job of making the dialog seem conversational. It also acts as an excellent tool to propel the story and suck the reader in deeper to this world where the zombies have a plausible explanation for their existence.

You don't have to be a zombie fan to get a kick out of this outstanding cross-genre tale. This is, simply put, a well told action adventure.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Meet the new guy!

So, a few months ago, thanks to a recommendation from Amazon Horror Best-Selling Author Mark Tufo, I received an email from a man named Heath. He had a book written and was told that he should invest in editing before releasing it for public consumption. After some back and forth, we made the arrangements. However, Heath eventually met my wife Denise and decided that he would like to be published under the May December Publications label. I lost an editing client, but gained a friend and a talented author who will be part of the MDP label hopefully for years to come.

His new release is Return of the Phoenix (A Monster Squad Novel). I fully expect it to be a hit. So, it is my pleasure to step aside and introduce you to a great guy. Jump on the bandwagon now...

You are about to release your first book…describe the feelings you are experiencing?

Oh, wow.  Man, that is tough because there are so many and they truly run the gambit of emotions.  I’m in shock a lot of the time.  I have a lot of fear that anything I put out there won’t be well received or that people will tear it to shreds.  There’s a lot of anxiety from all of the little things that need to be done just to get it ‘out there’.  Joy that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I know that there’s still a lot left to be done so there’s no time to coast.  It’s just a busy time and what with the holidays here, it makes it doubly exciting.

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

That the writing is the EASY part!  Seriously, I always thought that the hardest part was developing your characters, researching your topics or backgrounds or history  The hardest part is what happens AFTER you’ve written the story.  I wasn’t really prepared for that, but I was lucky enough to stumble upon some really great people who helped guide me along the way, made some really great suggestions to help me not make the same mistakes that they made and really the whole process for me has been a lot smoother than it should have been.

What can you share about your writing process?

My writing process is different than what I was taught that ‘good writing’ is supposed to be.  I was always taught that you should create an outline that roughly touches on the beginning, the middle and the end, hits the highlights, key points and then STICK TO IT, regardless.  Umm, I don’t write that way.  I get an idea in my head and it stews for a while.  It sort of marinates and rolls around for a while before I ever put fingers to keyboard.  Specific scenes may even manifest and if they look good to me I’ll make note of them so I don’t forget them, but for the most part, I have a scrap piece of paper sitting next to me that I keep specific information written on and then quite literally, the story writes itself.  I just type it out.

I’ve discussed this with a friend of mine.  My ‘mentor’ if you will.  I thought I was crazy for doing things this way, but alas, if I’m crazy, then he is too, because he’s the same way.  Or, at least he claims he is and I trust him.  I’ve had the story unfold a certain way that I didn’t like and try to force it back in another direction only to have the story take it back the way it was in the first place.  So I’ve learned to allow the story to tell itself.

If you were to up and change genres, what would be your next choice?

As funny as it might sound, I would probably switch to historical romance.  My wife used to read those books and she would go through STACKS of them.  I’ve probably started and never finished over 50 projects, and the first ‘book’ that I wrote was a modern romance.  I wrote it more for her than anything else.  I printed it out and took it to her hoping that she’d love it.  She promised that she would read it when she had time and it eventually was lost, never to be read.  I eventually found it years later on a floppy disk...remember those great big soft sided monstrosities?  Yeah,...I threw it out.  She never did read it.
Hmm.  Maybe that’s a sign that I should rethink that genre change?

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

Okay, honestly, I’m probably the last person you should be asking that question.  I didn’t even bother to try going the traditional route.  From everything that I have read, why should you? (Keep in mind, I’m talking about the larger traditional publishers here.) The larger publishing houses don’t want to even consider new books unless they are from an established author, and although they do a lot of the work that comes after the story is written, the creator of the work gets a MUCH smaller percentage of sales.  And it seems that there is always a caveat.

Indies may have to do all the grunt work (or hire it done) to get their work to market, but once it is there, they receive a much higher percentage of the sales.  So to me it was a no-brainer and honestly...I didn’t think I could deal with the stacks of rejection letters.

But, traditional publishing houses could learn a lot from the Indies.  They could learn that there is a LOT of very creative minds out there and that e-publishing is huge.  Just because you haven’t heard of an author doesn’t mean that their work isn’t good.  Just as you often do when you are considering a work, you’ll strip an author’s name from the work so as not to pre-judge it as you read it, I think the larger publishing houses should do the same.  Judge the material based on content and not the name that created it.

Indies, on the other hand, they could learn a lot from traditional publishing.  I’ve read a lot of e-books that are out there that made me wonder if their word processor even had spell-check, much less if they bothered with an editor.  The best piece of advice I was given was to have my work professionally edited.  Your work is a direct reflection on you.  It should be the best that you can do.  Spend the extra time to at least proofread your material before you publish.

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

Wow, this is almost a loaded question, but really, I think this needs to be discussed.  When surfing the internet, I ended up on a ‘writers website’ and read some of the back-stabbing, hateful, demeaning, trite, petty,..ugh, the people on that website were just SO...UN-helpful.  It was almost as if they felt that if anybody started to get ahead at all, they had to tear them back down.  Nothing was ever good.  Nothing was ever correct.  There was no ‘right way’ to do anything.  They bashed anything that wasn’t the traditional, go through an agent, blah, blah, blah.  They spent more time laughing and shredding was horrible.  And all these people wanted was a little help.

Solutions?  As hard as it may sound, the real solution would be for people to put aside the fact that ‘we may end up as competitors’ and actually guide each other.  There is a lot of misinformation out there and it was only through the grace of God that I got lucky and found someone who took me under their wing.  I wrote to an author that I really admired, Mark Tufo.  He took the time to write back and a sort of friendship developed.  He took the time to teach me what worked for him and tell me what didn’t.  He showed me what software to use, which people to talk to.  He helped me find an editor (you), and honestly, if it weren’t for you two specifically, this project would probably have stayed on my computer and even my wife wouldn’t have read it.

When I think back to where I was when I wrote Mark and where I am now?  If he hadn’t guided me, pointed me in the right direction?  If he had left me to my own devices, I would have quit a long time ago, given up out of frustration from all of the misinformation out there.

The social media is…

Had you asked this prior to my releasing ‘Return of the Phoenix’, I would have said that social media is a waste of time.  I had a Facebook account for a while and just got tired of it.  People would post some of the silliest things as if it were front page news.  To them, it probably was like front page news.  But to me, I had more important things to do than read that ‘Bobby went to McDonalds’.  But I watched as my kids couldn’t get enough.  It was almost an addiction to them.

Now?  Social media is definitely a way to spread the word about anything!  Good, bad or indifferent, Facebook, Twitter, whatever social media that happens to be your favurite, it is one of the fastest ways to spread the word about anything.  Having a party?  Tweet it!  Somebody got married?  Put it on your FB status!  Just released your first novel?  Put it on all of them!!

Share some information about your work with us: (feel free to be as in depth as you like)

This release, ‘Return of the Phoenix’ is the first of the Monster Squad series.  As it stands now, there will only be four books in this series, but if it is well received, who knows?  There may be a revival of the series at some point down the road.

In this first book, we are introduced to the Monster Squad themselves, specially augmented military operators whose sole purpose is to protect the civilian population from anything supernatural. 

The team doesn’t just have to deal with the creatures that go bump in the night, but certain politicians who would prefer that they not be operating on U.S. soil.  The operators are dealt a crushing blow early on and in their efforts to rebuild, information comes to light that they’ve been used as pawns by the monsters themselves in an undeclared vampire civil war.

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

Yeah, I’m quite familiar with that question. 
“Is it any good?”

Uhh...No?  What do you think??  Of course it’s good!  I wrote it!  With these two arthritic ridden hands! 

I tease, but you have to realize that most of the people who actually ask me this are people who don’t read books.  If it isn’t on television, they aren’t interested. I think that’s why the question bothers me when they ask it.

How will you deal with negative reviews?

Honestly?  I’ll probably cry.  But I’ll do that in private.  In public, I’ll act as though it doesn’t bother me, square my shoulders and simply nod.  Say something grown-up and mature like, “Well, I gave it my best shot,” or “You never know unless you try.”  But, the truth is, I didn’t really write this to get rich and famous.  I wrote this series because it was a story that I needed to share.  It’s for entertainment.  If people don’t like it, well yeah, I’ll be disappointed.

Will it stop me from writing more?  Probably not at this point.  I’ve come this far and there are a lot more stories rolling around in my head that are screaming to get out.

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

I read as often as I can.  And that isn’t as often as I’d like. 

But I don’t think any writer could excel in their craft without being an avid reader.  I don’t see how.  Reading is what feeds the mind and without feeding the mind, it can’t grow.  I just don’t see how one could expect to excel in any creative craft without feeding your creativity.  The best way to do that is to read, read often, and read different authors so that you can be exposed to different styles.

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

When people get tired of hearing about it?  I don’t know yet.  This is my first release so I hope I don’t reach that point.  I want to get the word out, but I don’t want to reach the point where people try to run the other direction when they see me coming either!

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently trying to wrap up the Monster Squad series with the fourth instalment.  Best guesstimate puts me at about the halfway point.  I’m also working on a draft version of a story for one of my daughters.  When she first found out that ‘daddy wrote a book’ she wanted me to write one about her being a werewolf.  We had teased her for years that she was the seventh child of a seventh child so she would be a natural born werewolf.  For years she was convinced that she was going to change when she hit puberty.  Well, now that she is 12 (and going on 20...) she wants me to write a story about her being a werewolf.  It started out as a joke, and I was just making up stuff as I went along, but my wife loved it and thought it would make a great YA novel, so...

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

Seven kids.

Yeah, you read that right.  For those who don’t know me personally, I am the barely sane father of seven children.  The older five are all boys (with one set of twins) and the youngest two are twin girls.  We are also the proud grandparents of four.  Three boys and a girl, the youngest two are twins as well (a boy and a girl).  Lots of twins on both sides of our family.

We also have three dogs, a menagerie of snakes, tarantulas, scorpions, bearded dragons, ferrets...and one fat gray cat that thinks he’s a female.  We don’t care if he’s gay.  He’s still our Mittens.

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

There are a lot of people I’d like to give a mention to.  They’re the same people I gave a mention to on my Acknowledgement Page.  First would be my wife Jessie.  She encouraged me to actually see this project through.  She was supposed to proofread for me but that fell through.  Instead, she just read the stories then stood there and demanded that I ‘get off your fat a__ and finish the next one!’
Next would be Mark Tufo.  He is a prince among men.  If it hadn’t been for him, taking the time to guide me through the rights and wrongs and pointed in the right direction...well, this project would most likely have been abandoned.  And, he introduced me to:


When Mark said that you were easy to work with, that is just skimming the surface.  I’ll admit I felt a certain kinship in that we were both submariners, but you always knew the right thing to say.  When I stumbled on that writer’s website and let them get into my head, you talked me off the ledge with one email.  You’ve been a joy to work with and someone that I feel I can call a friend.  I feel blessed that Mark introduced me to you.

And lastly, but certainly not least, my graphic artist, Ronak Kothari of  He’s the guy that came up with all four of the covers for the novels that really give them that professional look.  He did the other three early so that as they are being prepared for release, we could use the cover art as a promotional tool.  He’s got a knack for taking my weak descriptions and coming back with some of the most awe inspiring (in my honest opinion) works of art that I could have asked for.

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

Oh, heavens.  I have a whole library of ‘to be reads’...and I have my lovely wife to thank for that.  She goes through books like most people go through Kleenex!  Our Kindle library is stuffed FULL.  I’ll admit that she and I don’t always have the same taste...
I am about to finish “Living With the Dead: Year One” by Josh Guess and the next one I want to sink my teeth into is “Timothy” by Mark Tufo.  I’ve been saving that one for the Christmas break when I thought I might have a little more time.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Get real...the ZA AIN'T gonna be pretty.

I will preface this by saying that, no, this is not directed at people who review my work. I fully expect to have my share of people who do not like my work. that is part of the business. If you start engaging in a war of words with every person who does not think gold drips from your fingers and every word is to be will NEVER get any writing done. Nope, this has to do with complaints I read, not just in my reviews, but the reviews of some of the writers I enjoy.

First off, I don't believe that I am alone here in thinking some rather undesirable types will come out of such an event and take advantage of the lawless chaos. I remember the first time I saw such a portrayal. It was the 70s disaster classic Earthquake. (Remember "Sensaround"?) That frizzy haired National Guardsman? The "reality" of an apocalypse scenario is that a lot of our first responders will be lost.

If you have watched or read anything in the zombie genre, chances are that you have come across a scene or two that made you uncomfortable. Terrible acts of violence. The funny thing is, people who read this can handle a person being ripped apart and eaten alive...but when it comes to the "person-to-person" attacks...some sort of line is drawn.

My DEAD series has a character named Garrett McCormick. When I set out to write the series, I wanted to create a villain that did not exist in a gray area. He needed to be evil. Plain and simple. Garrett fit that bill. The interesting thing is that, at no time, do I go into detail once he encounters Kirsten. Yet, some reviews blast the graphic nature of that part of my books. I actually take that sort of criticism as a compliment. That means that I painted a vivid enough picture that the reader's mind filled in the blanks.

The funny thing about that Garrett/Kirsten sequence is that what I really wanted to emphasize was the strength of Kirsten. Despite the horror, she remains strong-willed. Too often, I believe that female characters are shoved into a "damsel-in-distress" image that portrays women as weak. No, I am not here to debate gender issues...but I have encountered some women who have overcome great adversity and defied what "professionals" have deemed the outcome should be.

I believe that the "Steves" and "Kevins" of the apocalypse will be few and far between. That has brought a lot of criticism. Many say that I have a bleak view of humanity. No, I just have the "benefit" of being exposed to a part of society that many have not. And what's funny is that, even the mainstream entertainment business treads in that water. The show Revolution has its share of seedy types. The difference is that people who watch it do not tend to fill in the blanks as much as somebody reading. A reader is far more invested in a story than a watcher. They paint the picture in their minds and are not constrained by what they see.

The Zomblog series gets its share of fire from people who are bothered by the degree of violence, in particular, the experiences endured by Meredith before she meets up with Sam's group. Once again, my objective with her was to portray a woman who did not need to be saved. Not only that, but there is also the implication that she might be overcompensating from her experiences with denial and acting in such a way to prove to herself that she was not beaten by her captors. But that may be digging too deep. The reality is that I just wanted a female that was stronger than her environment.

Is it brutal? Sure, but so is the zombie apocalypse. In the absence of order, chaos is king. Don't believe me? Watch Schindler's List. History is very full of instances of man's ability to commit atrocities against man. Just watch the nightly news. Look what we do to each other when order is in place and law exists! Remove consequence and see what happens. Crusades...Inquisitions...Genocide.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Paranormal Rom/com by Rose Pressey is "okay".

Me and My Ghoulfriends (Larue Donavan, #1)Me and My Ghoulfriends by Rose Pressey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One of my guilty pleasures are the books of Kim Harrison, Charlaine Harris, H.P. Mallory, and a few others. As a guy, I realize that I am not exactly the target demographic for these authors, but we all have our weaknesses. Me and My Ghoulfriends by Rose Pressey caught my eye and I decided to give it a whirl.

The story is fun, engaging, and reads clean (bravo to the editor!). Those are all positives. This obviously serves as the intor to the series so it is important to lay out some character trait material in the first book. I get that. I did feel it was a bit labored at times and seemed to drag the pace down. Also, I kept waiting for Larue to show me something. The villain was telegraphed from the moment that you met her and I was a bit baffled that somebody who deals with the supernatural had such a hard time connecting the dots to come up with "witch".

The ghost of Abe Lincoln was a nice touch. Overall the book was okay enough that I will probably try the second to see where she goes from here now that introductions have been made and the characters do not need their every reaction explained.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The lovely and talented Suzi M.

Today, I am excited (some may say TOO excited) to have one of the cool kids come by for a few words. Suzi M. is a Trifecta of looks, brains, and writing talent all wrapped up in one. It is my honor to call her one of my friends. So, enough of me...(Seriously, do you even know I'm here with THOSE eyes looking at you?)

What is your favorite part about being a writer?
Being a tourist in the worlds I’ve created. Living, laughing, loving and occasionally killing the characters created in those worlds.

What are some of the lessons you have learned as a writer that caught you off guard?
Never fall in love with a character. They will haunt you forever and hijack a story.

What can you share about your writing process?
I can’t say that I have a ‘process’ per se. It’s more a ritual, possibly? There is a lot of energy gathering and conjuring involved. The only thing I can liken the entire experience to is a full-blown séance of 1920’s proportions complete with automatic writing.

If you were to up and change genres, what would be your next choice?
Comedy. Laughing is a fear reaction brought on by a ‘good scare’, after all. Or maybe erotica, because that’s a bit like horror and comedy’s hot cousin.

What could traditional publishing learn from the Indies? And how about the other way around?
For big publishers, I think they can learn that the public is ready for something more than just varying shades of vanilla they’ve been soft-serving for a while now. The caveat to that is that there ARE some fantastic writers that managed to sneak through the big publisher machine and get their books out there, but the majority of what’s been released seems like a lot of the same themes over and over.

For indie folks, humility. We DO need an editor, and sometimes we DO need to be pulled back from the Too Far Café where we have giddily stolen all of the café’s dinner mints at the register, ordered five coffees with too much sugar and a cheesecake, then proceeded to hammer out a manuscript on the already dented diner booth. Not that I’ve ever done any of that, be it in imaginary example or in a dive diner in North Bergen, NJ. I swear.

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

I think there’s a two-part problem going on:

1) It seems you almost have to act crazy to get any attention. This makes it harder for the mad geniuses to shine in the shadow of Springer drama erupting all over social media sites. Poor netiquette would also be another issue. Whether on purpose or by accident, folks are posting their stuff everywhere, and it’s information overload. Worse still when they start posting on fellow writers’ walls without ever saying so much as ‘Hello.’
What I thought would be a common sense solution apparently isn’t so common, and it’s not working very well. I went on the idea that folks would be polite and considerate of others in the etherverse. Sadly, doing this seems to only ensure obscurity, so I have no real solution.

2) Reviews. I know, I know… groan. It seems there are folks out there who just hound people for good reviews on Amazon, and they get them. Some folks have their friends just post nice reviews for them. Personally, I’ve never been one to force anyone to review my work, it feels dirty to me and isn’t the honest opinion I’m looking for. If a friend does happen to review my work, be it a positive or a negative review, I thank them and offer a free copy of another one of my stories as a thank you for taking the time to post a review. It makes me sad that these days I see a book with 100 5-star reviews and I’m sceptical as hell about it, but if the description sounds interesting and it’s along the lines of what I might like, I will still download a sample just to see if I might like it before I download the entire thing.
Solution…. Again, this is one of those things for which I’m not sure there IS a perfect solution.  Amazon has made the issue a bit worse by making it harder for writers to post reviews of fellow writers’ works in the name of ‘competition’ or some such nonsense, but who better to review a work than another writer? For those of us in the field, it’s all about professionalism, and I think Amazon needs to give writers the benefit of the doubt instead of assuming we’re all a bunch of negative review-writing heathens bent on the destruction of capitalism. There are ways to write a constructive and negative review without being catty about it. A professional will understand that the only one hurt in a good ole fashioned bridge burning is the person standing on the bridge who set the fire.

The social media is…
…. In my ceiling, watching me type? J

Share some information about your work with us: (feel free to be as in depth as you like)
While I write horror 99.999999% of the time, it’s not always straight gloom and doom. I like to add facets to horror elements that haven’t quite been done before or subtly poke fun at elements that have been done to death (or in the case of my Immortal War series, undeath). I think I might be the first person to give a nod to Girl Scout Cookies in a vampire novel (because I was once a Girl Scout, believe it or not, and I am still a recovering cookie addict).

I also like to hide inside jokes in my stories, as well as acknowledgements to those who inspired me. A friend of mine made a comment that there weren’t enough Goths in my novels, so I wrote a club scene as a poke at him. Anyone who used to enjoy the club scene in New York City circa 1990’s will recognize the Limelight as both the club that Nemesis and Lamia end up going to at one point, and as Lamia’s ‘cathedral’ home.

Anyone who has read the works of Xircon or James Glass will also recognize that odd couple from both my old website, my old Live Journal, and the international euphictional anthology Cover Stories wherein they got to be characters in a couple of stories. The truly observant may even recognize the writing style in the writings of those two gents just a little bit.

What is one question you are sick of being asked—not in interviews, but by individuals who know you write?
Insanely tired of being asked if my vampire novels are like Twilight. I even made a t-shirt for the occasion.

How will you deal with negative reviews?
I laugh and print out the reviews to correct their grammar and spelling with a red pen --- I kid. J
I’ve gotten one really bad review and it irked me, not because the reviewer hadn’t read the story or not understood the story, but because they DID understand the story. Part of me wanted to respond to the review – not in a bad way, I actually wanted to interact with the person and get their perspective – but I didn’t for fear of appearing even more socially awkward than I already am.

How much reading do you get in, and can a writer excel at his or her craft if they do not read?
Not enough reading!! I have a TBR a mile long, and it’s been difficult to not have time to read. Reading for me is as essential as breathing, and I adore books. There’s no way a person can call themselves a writer if they don’t read or don’t like to read, and I mean an actual book, not headlines or the sports pages. A real, honest-to-goodness BOOK that can be found someplace other than the bathroom.

When does self-promotion cross the line and become a nuisance?
When there’s no other interaction from the writer other than ‘Have you read my book today?’ or every sentence is something about their book worked in somehow where it doesn’t belong, or their book links are plastered all over the place with no intro or reason for being there.

What projects are you currently working on?
Currently editing a novel I wrote during NaNoWriMo, compiling posts from my Secondhand Sarah blog, and making a script for a graphic novel version of The Lazarus Stone (Conspiracy Edit).

What is one thing about you that would surprise the readers who do not know you personally?
I have a sense of humour and I like to splash in puddles after it rains. I refuse to kill anything, be it insect or animal. I spin yarn, knit, crochet, and weave. I also make soaps, perfumes, and candles; paint, and enjoy photography and making films. I know it’s more than just one thing, but it all kind of glops up together and gets stuck in the creative drain more often than not. I also collect antique books and Daguerreotypes.

Is there anyone you’d like to give a mention?
There are a few folks I’d like to give a nod to, but I suspect they already know who they are. J

What is in your “to be read” pile right now?
Liber Null and Psychonaut, Liber Kaos, and The Apophenion (again), The Source Field Investigations, The Dresden Files: Cold Days, Beneath the Tor,  etc. etc. etc.


Suzi M Amazon Author Page:

James Glass Amazon Author Page: