Wednesday, October 30, 2013

At long last...the ZOMBLOG series comes to an end.

It was 5 years ago today that the book that is hugely responsible for my life as a writer was released.

A lot has happened since then. I have met some amazing people and been blessed by absolutely wonderful readers. Sure, there have been some slumps along the way, but that is real life. 

Zomblog was never supposed to happen. I wrote it as a warm up exercise to get ready for my DEAD series. The second book was, in all reality, the rest of book one. I wrote it when I decided that the story deserved to be finished. Only, my OCD would not let it be. "There are no two book series!" the voice in my head would chant until I relented. So Zomblog: The Final Entry was written. Only, by then, the series had a few fans and one in particular who insisted that there was more. So, for my friend, Vix Kirkpatrick, and all the others who wanted more, I gave you a three book story arc set almost 20 years later.

It was some tough writing, but at long last, here is the 6th and final book in the Zomblog universe:
Get it HERE.

Zomblog: Snoe's Journey is available. I hope you like it.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Help...I need some creative advice!

Yep. This is one of those times that I need you to hit the comment button. I have been searching for a new cover artist, and I think I have him! So...but I always like to get outside opinions...

So would you pick cover one?

Or cover two?

Use the comments section here on the blog and you will be entered to win the audio version of "That Ghoul Ava: Her First Adventures" and "That Ghoul Ava and The Queen of the Zombies".

And to be clear, I am talking about swapping the old for the new. This would be the NEW cover for book one and the rest would be done by this artist.

Also...still waiting for emails from my Zomblog winners so that I can send you your free codes redeemable at for your audio books!

Monday, October 28, 2013

A night running from zombies and how everybody wins!

Okay, Friday night, I ran in the Dawn of the Dead Dash. It is a run like no other. The start takes place near a local adult beverage serving locale (no participants under 18 for this event and under 21 types have to get checked in this is one for the older folks). There is no set course and it happens after dark through the streets of an urban neighborhood. You are given checkpoints and those will only be manned for a limited time. Once you arrive, you are given a code that you must enter into your cell phone. You will then be given the location of the next checkpoint. Oh...and along the way, zombies hide and lurk...waiting to ambush the unwary. If your glowing necklace is removed, you become one of the infected and can join in the ambushing.

It makes for an interesting run. I was within about twenty feet of the third and final checkpoint when I was turned. That was after I had been cut off from my approach on two other attempts and had completely circled around. Darn thing jumped up out from between two cars and had me before I knew what happened.

Now, on to my contest...the response was good and even better, the contestants who voted agreed that it would be great to have one Grand Prize winner and allow everybody else to win books one and two of the Zomblog series. That means that all 10 eligible entrants are winners! So, all the names were written down and thrown into a hat. The Grand Prize winner is (drum roll, please):

Heather Chase!!!

So, the next step is to email with "I won, now give me free zombie stuff!" in your subject line at and I will send you your codes good for redemption at And I do how that a few of you will leave reviews on Audible. I would love to hear what you thought, not only of the story, but also of the narration.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Winners of the have a choice to make.

Okay, so I promised a copy of the series to 5 fans of the ZOMBLOG series that would give you the first 4 books in the series. However, there were 10 eligible commentors, so I will let the group of you decide this by a vote. I can give the 5 sets to four of you...OR...


I can choose a single grand prize winner and let EVERYBODY have ZOMBLOG and ZOMBLOG II.

You can email me your vote in secret so there is no pressure. So send your answer to and I will post the official list tonight and make the arrangements for the codes to be sent.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Being sick sucks, don't trust flavored NyQuil, and a man named Gordon

Some of you might know that I have been a bit under the weather. I don't get sick often, and usually can ignore it when any sort of illness creeps into my system, but not this time. It is entrenched in my lungs, making them feel like they are pumped full of three-day-old oatmeal. The lovely wife picked up some NyQuil on her way home and was on the phone while in the store. 

"Regular or Cherry Vanilla Swirl?" she asked.

"Hmm...let's try the cherry stuff," I said with little hope that it would make a difference. 
I was right. Nasty is as nasty does. But it does induce the same sort of coma, so "Yay!"

Since I can't really focus, now is a good time to step aside for a guest. Another Booked alum takes center stage. But before I do, just a reminder that Wednesday's post for the free audio books from my Zomblog series is still waiting for your response (if you have not already!). So...with no further delay, Gordon Highland.

What are some of the best and worst things about being an author?

Occasionally a complete stranger will drop me a note about something of mine they enjoyed, and that means the world to me. If someone's work moved you, reach out, give 'em a little ego-stroke. Most of us aren't making enough coin off our literary endeavors to come anywhere near justifying the effort, so, other than the satisfaction of creation, such interactions are all we really get out of the deal. It's also a legit defense for all the depravities in my browser cache: "research." My other favorite aspect of authordom is being invited to participate in things like live reading events, anthologies, etc. Each gives me an opportunity to broaden my reach to other authors' audiences, while exposing me to new voices as well.

What are some of the lessons you have learned as a writer that caught you off guard?
I was prepared for the disinterest of the general public, but not for that of my friends. After publishing my first novel, it baffled me why so many of them couldn't be bothered to spend a couple of measly evenings reading it, knowing I'd invested four years of my life and so many social sacrifices. Maybe they resented what it represented. But the lesson was that most people simply don't read, never got past its association with homework, and you'd have better luck selling them on the pleasures of a colonoscopy. You can't take it personally, nor should you cocoon yourself in your artistic pursuits, especially if you're still young and somewhat-layable.  

What can you share about your writing process with new or up and coming writers?
It's important to feel a sense of accomplishment on a daily basis, I think, in order to maintain your excitement about the project, which is why I edit as I go. I know that when I lie down each night, I've done the best work I possibly could, and am not delaying that gratification for some editorial date a year or two down the road. While that means I only average about a page per day, it also means I wouldn't be ashamed of sharing it without disclaimers at any given moment in a critique group or whatever. Obviously, that makes me a plotter, not a pantser. I wouldn't recommend such a method for those who get their momentum from spitting out a draft as fast as possible. Nor can I read such a document without going into immediate critic mode.  

If you were to change genres, what would be your next choice?
I've always wanted to try my hand at horror, reach into my bag of tricks and see if I can make some skin crawl. It just seems like everything's already been done in the genre, conceptually, which, admittedly, I've read very little of in recent years. I liked Joe Hill's collection, though.

What could traditional publishing learn from the Indies? And how about the other way around?
Aside from legitimacy and validation, authors want to be traditionally published mainly for the promotional/marketing muscle they offer. When you ask the author to shoulder too much of this burden themselves, they'll wonder why they didn't just put out the book themselves and retain a much higher royalty. Same goes for writers who bring with them a large existing platform, which publishers crave. What are you really offering them? Also, no author ever wants to hear "I love this, but don't know how to sell it." That's your fucking job, so figure it out! What indies could learn from them is their emphasis on professional editorial: not just acquiring the property and maybe copyediting it, but actual story guidance and general shepherding.   

The writing community can be its own worst enemy at times. What are some of the issues you see cropping up? Solutions?
Selfishness, and not reading enough of their peers' work. Young writers are so eager to publish (as was/am I), especially given how readily-available the tools are these days. And sometimes their support is nominal/hollow, in that someone might Like or retweet a link share or whatever, but getting them to actually engage with it can be frustrating. I love things like offering guest blog posts and book-club discussions. Also, there are too many upstart lit zines, with a degree of inherent community-based nepotism. I enjoy them, but simply can't keep up the way I'd like. So whenever I see a young writer launch their own zine, I'm always tempted to suggest they instead join an existing editorial staff, who could use the help to stay afloat and avoid burnout. Either way, there's nothing quite like reading the submissions slush to help a writer realize the importance of a good hook and get a barometer on how their own writing compares with the competition.   

The social media is…
making the world smaller and faster, for better and worse. Overstimulating and undercooked. A click-bait popularity contest. Democratizing but polarized. People are living less in the moment, more concerned with documenting it than experiencing it, like compulsive TV-remote flippers always wondering what else is on. But it's wonderful for bringing people together by interest rather than just geography.

Share some information about your work with us: 
My writing leans dark, though only some of it's noir. It tends to be character-focused: populated by musicians and filmmakers and actors, because those are the worlds I know and can render their surroundings in more interesting and authoritative detail. The language is lyrical, and plots usually slow to develop. You'll laugh lots—sometimes questioning whether you should be—and will ultimately have your heart broken or lifted. 

What is one question you are sick of being asked—not in interviews, but by individuals who know you write?
Whether I've read (watercooler book-du-jour that's their only literary point of reference).

How do you deal with negative reviews?
I'm just happy whenever someone reads it, makes an attempt to immerse themselves, and shares their opinions rather than just a rehashed synopsis. I've yet to see anything mean-spirited, only stuff like it wasn't for them, or certain aspects they didn't like. Sometimes they're valid criticisms, and I do file them away in my subconscious.  

How much reading do you get in, and can a writer excel at his or her craft if they do not read?
Around 30 books per year. Usually I'm reading a novel and a collection/anthology simultaneously for a diversion depending on mood and available time. Writers must read, and widely (the latter is something I need to improve, myself). I believe we have a finite amount of creative capital which must be replenished on the reg. Give and take.

When does self-promotion cross the line and become a nuisance?
Online, it's the persistent repetition that annoys me. The same audience receiving the same ads over and over across multiple channels. That, and pre-publication hype. When you've got something new and tangible, that's cool to share: cover artwork, blurbs, contests. Otherwise just let me know once its available, something actionable on my part. I think it's more interesting, if you want to keep the title on people's minds, to share tangential things like articles on similar subject matter, topics you researched, etc. Engage me, don't just talk at me.   

What projects are you currently working on?
I just finished compiling my collection, Submission Windows, out in November. Twenty-six short stories and a few dozen poems. I'm as proud of it as either of my novels. Feels more personal. After that, I'm planning to take a writing hiatus. Though in the process of being a promotional nuisance, some words are bound to come.

What is one thing about you that would surprise the readers who do not know you personally?
I don't drink coffee, and can't write when drunk.

Is there anyone you’d like to give a mention?
Michael Paul Gonzalez, a fellow Booked. Anthology contributor. Read his novel Angel Falls, which is a hilarious epic fantasy romp through the underworld with a cast of mythological archetypes. He's also published a few anthologies through his ThunderDome Press, and knows where to find the best pancakes in L.A.  

What is in your “to be read” pile right now?
The next three on tap are Joe Clifford's Junkie Love, then May We Shed These Human Bodies by Amber Sparks, and Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? by Andrez Bergen.

Gordon Highland is the author of the novels Flashover and Major Inversions. He's published short stories in Word Riot, Noir at the Bar 2, Warmed and Bound, Black Heart Magazine, and many others, to be collected in the forthcoming Submission Windows. Gordon lives in the Kansas City area, where he makes videos by day and music by night

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dungeons & Dragons...geek nostalgia...and White Plume Mountain

In the late 70s and early 80s, some friends and I discovered a way to live the adventures we had read about in Tolkien and a few lesser known writers of the fantasy genre. We stumbled upon the game Dungeons & Dragons at a shop called Tammy's Hobbies. 

It was absolute magic. And yes, I know it went on to define a generation of geeks, and mostly it was just the guys, but on occasion, we had our girlfriends join in. A couple even liked it. But in the early days, nobody even knew what you were talking had not hit mainstream yet.

When the first set of pre-made adventures (or modules) hit the shelf...we saw just how much broader the horizons could be if we put our minds to it. White Plume Mountain was one of the first ever released, and the first that I ever owned. For me, it has some pretty entertaining memories.

Of course I think the grandest of them all were the Giant and Descent series (G & D 1-3 for those in the know). But still, WPM has a special place. When I discovered that there is a book series that delves in to some of those same adventures, I scoured Amazon, but they were mostly out of print..but then I discovered them on! 

It was with just a shade of apprehension that I downloaded the White Plume Mountain story with my monthly credit. While certainly not one of the great stories of the genre, it was still fun. What follows is my review, but before I go, I invite you to share a memory...geeky or otherwise that maybe you haven't thought of in a long while. I bet it makes you smile...and what more could you ask for on a Wednesday?

This was the first module that I ever bought, and I did so right when it came out. TSR was just starting to put them out there and I still remember reading through this dungeon and thinking, "We are doing it all wrong. This is AMAZING!"

When I saw a book based on that adventure, I was almost scared to give it a go. I quit playing years ago and one of my fond memories from childhood were the campaigns using SI & S2 (but not in that order since S1 was for VERY high level parties), as well as the G and D series (How long did we wait for "Queen of the Demonweb Pits"?)

This story was fantastic. I was a little bummed at some of the stuff that did not get mentioned. Chasing a demon through the dungeon sort of ruined a few of the encounters. But I still felt like I was witnessing the game being played. It brought back my own recollections, and there were even a few moments where I slapped my forehead and thought, "Why didn't we think of that?"

As for the two main characters, they gave me enough to care about, but the "hirelings" seemed like cardboard cut outs of stereotypical bad guys (yeah...even a Paladin is a "bad" guy here) and I found that to be just a little lame. I get that the desire was for the Ranger and the Faerie to dominate the scene, but to make everybody else an antagonist got tiring. I will venture forth at least one more time. I am somewhat perplexed by the order of the books in this series as well as disappointed that the D Series mods get the treatment but the G series (my personal favorite) seems to have been left out.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Free Audio Books? Ummm...yep.

Get it HERE!

So, I was sitting here at my desk after a pretty lousy couple of days. (Yeah, Thursday rocked, but this weekend was a non-stop kick in the crotch. Stupid personal stuff that you would not be interested me.)
Get if HERE!

But that got me to thinking...I know, it doesn't happen often, but when it does, it is usually good. I have really been digging the audio books lately. When I am working, taking the dogs for a walk, or driving through the desert wastelands of Eastern Oregon, they are a good way to pass the time.

Get it HERE!

So, who wants one of FIVE free sets of the original ZOMBLOG series?

Get it HERE!

In fact, to sweeten the about I throw in Zomblog: Snoe as well. I can't think of a better way to get you ready for the 6th and final book in the series. Yep, October 30th, Zomblog: Snoe's Journey will hit the world. 

And you might notice that I gave you a link to check it out on just in case you can't wait and want to buy it right now!

So, how do you win one of these FIVE sets of 4 audiobooks? Simple...just leave a comment telling me why you should win. You have until midnight Friday to enter, and when I wake up on Saturday, I will pick the winners and list them by name on a special edition of my blog that will be posted sometime Saturday morning/afternoon.

It doesn't get much easier than that.

Sadly, the silly people at have not figured out a way to make this work outside of the United States. But have patience my overseas friends...I will find a way!

Back from an amazing day in prison.

As many of you know, I returned to EOCI (Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution) on Thursday. It went extremely well and afterwards, the Assistant Superintendent and I even talked about a return visit (maybe even annually) as well as the possibility of a book signing where my books will be made available for pre-order, sent in, (inspected for possible contraband) and then given to the inmates who attend to have their copies signed.

I am a firm believer that people inside can change. I also believe that they have to work for it. My main message was that they are going to have to earn back the trust of society; that, no matter what, some people will never accept them and that they would simply have to come to terms with that, also that hard work can pay off, but nobody will do it for them.

The reverse of the view I had for over 11 years.
There was some real anxiety for me at first. It actually started when I crested the hill and the facility came in to view. I honestly had to pull over and just take a minute. Seeing it from this vantage was new. (Seriously, the day I got out, I could not put it in my rear view mirror fast enough as Denise drove us home.)

When I arrived, I was greeted by several of the staff who had known me. There were a lot of handshakes and congrats on sticking with my program. Many of them had watched me sit in the day room and write every single day. And I am sure that more than a few did not believe that I would do or amount to anything. 

One of the messages that I received a lot of positive feedback on was about giving people a chance. Institutions are very clique-ish (think high school to the millionth power). I asked the guys if they wanted to be judged outside by the same metric that they judge inside. I told them how society as a whole will see them, and that if they want to overcome that prejudice, they will have to work harder and do things better than everybody else. No excuses. I told them to be ready for rejection...even from those they love. Basically, I went in to wipe away the illusions and myths that I know exist inside. I held up a big mirror and told them that they needed to look into it every single day...starting now. They can't wait until they hit the gate to make positive change, otherwise, they will get left behind or beaten down by a society that wants them to fail so it can point and say, "See! Told ya!"

The reality for me has been that I knew the deck was stacked against me. I knew that I would not be able to count on anybody to lend a hand. For the most part, that has been correct. A few have reached out, but they are the minority. What the public refuses to realize is that these men and women WILL be back on the street in over 92% of all cases. Just like anything else, people can choose to be the problem, or the solution.

Here is what my talking points looked like (on a piece of paper that I kept handy while speaking).

The following is an outline for the presentation: Make your time work for you.
1)      Introduction
a.       Welcome
b.      My name, time spent at EOCI (5/99-6/11)
2)      How I spent my time
a)      Programs
b)      Keeping the circle small
c)       Find the guys who are doing it right and learn
d)      Decide what you REALLY want to do once you get out
(i)     Start of list of activities you want to try
(ii)   Pick some things you always wanted to do, but never found time
e)      List your goals and don’t leave out your dreams
(i)     I needed to change me first
(ii)   Writing was my dream, why not get started
1.       The day my first book arrived at EOCI
2.       Be a beacon, not a spotlight
(iii) Make your goals part of your daily routine
f)       Don’t wait until you leave
i)        Time is your ally here
ii)      If not now…when?
iii)    Some of the most common excuses
3)      Program, program, program
a)      Believe it or not, they do work  if YOU want it
b)      Take the time to come to grips with what was not working BEFORE prison
c)       Besides the cognitive, find activities that are pro-social
4)      Those first hours after release
a)      Find someplace quiet and just catch your breath.
b)      Resist the urge to contact “all the old friends”…this is YOUR time.
c)       Report in.
5)      The first year out is crucial
a)      Get over the prison mentality
b)      Don’t try to jam it all in at once
c)       Be patient
6)      Open Q & A

And then I was done. It went better than I could have hoped. And even more gratifying was when one of the staff who was present pulled me aside and said that my words about taking the chance to follow your dream really resonated with him was just a bonus. The drive home was done with a smile on my face. It helped that I got to listen to the Seattle Seahawks demolish the Arizona Cardinals.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Preparation for my return to prison leaves little time for other things.

As many of you know, I am heading back in to prison on Thursday...the great thing is that I will be leaving on the same day! I am going in to speak to some of the inmates about making preparations for transition BEFORE they exit. Hopefully I will be able to instill a bit of hope for a few. Because of that engagement, I have been very busy preparing. That means Short Attention Span Theater will be back next week. I have two new titles already picked, so if you want to jump in, they are Odium by Claire Riley and one other that I am still deciding on. So, let me leave you in the capable hands of fellow Booked Anthology author, Amanda Hugandkiss...I mean...Amanda Gowin.

But First...something freaking hilarious...

"What are some of the best and worst things about being an author?"

Writing stories is phenomenal, just you know, taking your brain to all of these strange and wonderful places then describing it and the people that live there, putting it on paper. That's magical and good. 

At some point you hit a weird spot though, where people in your Real Life sort of know,and you have at least become comfortable with saying 'writing' out loud in the list of things you like to do. And then temper your expectations as to the level of interest by other people. In your head, it's on par with building universes and controlling worlds that exist within realms that only you can access, and having said it out loud or uncomfortably 'confessed', you can't want to just punch every one in the face for classifying it as the same importance as interest in, say, air hockey. Unless you're making a million dollars, writing stories doesn't sound all that interesting in conversation (to other people who do not write stories). Probably the level of interest you'd have if someone told you they were very interested in air hockey, but hadn't made a million dollars playing air hockey.

So - best thing: writing. Worst thing: vulnerability after admitting you write.

"What can you share about your writing process with new or up and coming writers?"

If you're new to showing people your work, find a good workshop for a year or two, to learn to take criticism and become aware of your obvious flaws and repetitions and weak spots, and to learn the art of revision, then GET OUT. Leave before too many of the lessons and rules start to stomp out your voice and make you doubt yourself. Always keep a few people close (writers AND readers), a network of peers if you can, whose opinions you trust and you know won't lie to you, but in the end do exactly what you want anyway. 

I don't really have a process. Make time, and don't feel guilty about taking time away to write, that's the hardest part of the process. We all struggle with that, off and on, I think. But your characters are people, too, and they deserve attention just like everyone else in your life! So, you know, fight the clock-guilt. Keep fighting it. 

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

I don't have a genre. I think all genres are fantastic, if they do indeed exist. Not positive they do....

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

Well, it's like making films, yes? Indies take the risks and Traditional takes the safe bets, sequels, and remakes. Risks are always worth taking. But Indies have to step carefully when pigeonholing quality, just the same, or run the risk of sounding like everyone in the 90s that used the word "corporate." Prejudice about quality runs both ways, sadly. The Beatles were PHENOMENALLY popular and commercially viable, it doesn't mean they sucked. But it also doesn't mean their popularity made them automatically better than The Kinks. Wait, didn't I start with a film metaphor? I got a bit lost.

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

There are a lot more people calling themselves writers and talking about writing and ideas and theories and other writers and schools of thought and schedules and methods and on and on than there are actual words of fiction being written. But it solves itself, doesn't it? People have to eventually show their wares or disappear quietly, don't they? 

"The social media is…"

Like photoshop for life. Say, everything everyone knows about you is just what random people happened to have caught on disposables cameras, and they pass these pictures around (gossip, conversations, etc.). But social media is the chance to go in and repair and upgrade those photos, to essentially say 'No, that was from a bad angle, I look fat and kind of sweaty and like I'm saying something mean. But as you can see from THIS angle, I'm actually quite thin, and smiling. You know what, though, let me just trim my tummy a BIT more, widen my smile - erase that zit, crop out the pile of laundry in the background, clean the food off my kid's face...' And on and on. It's the illusion of image control, that's why people are so obsessed.

"Share some information about your work with us:"

Pretty much everything I've written can be matched with a specific song. Either as part of the nexus of the idea, or the shaping of the thing as I wrote it.

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

Hahaha! This doesn't happen in real life, does it??

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

Always too much or not enough. Three or four books at a stretch being totally consumed and not writing at all, or writing and not reading anything. I can sort of hit a balance sometimes, if I read short stories I can still write. You have to read, though, don't you? It helps stoke the fire, whether with awe, jealousy or pure appreciation.

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

Self-promotion is a horribly loathsome thing, but I don't know where the line is. I share links. It feels a lot like elementary school, selling cookies or candy or magazine subscriptions for fundraisers and prizes - no one really wanted to do it, and no one really wanted to help you do it, but there wasn't a lot of getting around it. 

"What projects are you currently working on?" 

I'm trying to write this novel, FINISH this novel - and you know, not hate it when I finish, like I do with everything else longer than five or six pages that I've written. It's called 'Boxing Day.' It's sort of about characters that are painfully aware of the stereotypes they've somehow played into in the course of their lives, and the effort to break free and move forward - it may also be about a stripper who falls in love with a priest and her best friend (a pool hustler) simultaneously, and there might be a couple of's about all those things at the same time. Also, of course, it ends the day after Christmas. It's set right here in Appalachia, but I took a few liberties with the area - mainly re-opening The American Restaurant in Portsmouth, OH so my characters could hang out in it. 

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

I think most of the things I've published are sort of moody, dark, maybe even a touch melancholic and quiet - so maybe it would be surprising that I'm compelled, maybe to an unhealthy level, to put people at ease and make them laugh and feel comfortable in social situations. I will say or do almost anything to break the ice and diffuse tension, take the shoulders down and smooth out eyebrows, you know? It's physically painful for me when people are ill at ease. Also, I rarely say anything of any significance out loud.

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

This is a trick, isn't it? There's no way to NOT leave people out. In the past year, Craig Wallwork, Richard Thomas and Mike Gonzalez are the people I've been most directly involved with as far as projects recently, and I love them dearly. But of course there's that whole 'network' I mentioned earlier, and all the love - I'm going to take the safe route and say 'You know who you are' because in this case I actually think they do...I don't think I have to point out Robb, Liv and Pela directly, as they're obviously the reason I'm doing an interview.

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

Dr. Sleep, Junkie Love, Red Holler: Contemporary Appalachian Fiction (to name a few!)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Meet Mark AND Tracy Tufo...

About a year ago, the word leaked out that Mark Tufo was looking for an editor. I threw my hat in the ring just on the off chance. Eventually, he sent me a sample to use as an audition edit. (Writers, take want to see if an editor that you are considering has the chops, send a sample. Put in a few nasty tricks and then compare the two. Think of it as the job interview.) I got the job and now have the pleasure of reading everything before it hits the public. It has led to some other jobs along the way because of Mark's referral (John O' Brien being one if I can just keep name dropping).

Some of you may not know this, but Zombie Fallout 7 is available RIGHT NOW!
Get it HERE!
Mark has put his faith and confidence in my ability. I try to reward that faith by continuing to improve in my editing skills. Seriously, there are so many rules...and it is an organic and continuous learning process. And as soon as I think I understand a rule, I find something new.

Anyways, this is not about me, this is a chance to spend some time with your favorite zombie author. (Yeah, of course I want it to be me, but let's face it, Mark has legions of fans...I am nothing if not a realist.) But, as a bonus, the rarely heard from (and I am sure the more important cog in the mechanism if you ask Mark) Tracy Tufo joins in as well. (I asked for a picture of BOTH, but she is going with the hidden identity thing like my favorite band, KISS.)

Mark Tufo...and his other love.

I am going to make the leap that most people who read this know who you are, Mark, so that is why the first question is for Tracy. Anybody who pursues the writing path as a career is a bit “touched” and can be a real challenge to accommodate (just ask my wife) so share some of Mark’s idiosyncrasies and how you deal with him?

You mean like him jumping out of bed at 3:00am looking for a pen and paper in the dark because he just had an idea?  Or the post-partum blues when he sends his latest book to you for editing?  Or when we are having a conversation and all the sudden with no warning the subject changes and you realize you are in the middle of a fiction book?  Yeay, I go to Tracyville.  Nice place, beaches,  coffee and no crazy allowed.

Okay, Mark, this is your chance to mount any sort of pitiful and meaningless defence. However, what I would also like to know is, do you do anything special when you finish a book it is finally released?

I really have no defense, I’ve found that I live constantly with one foot in my ‘other’ worlds, how in the hell she deals with it is an utter mystery to me. And you ask if I do anything special when I complete a book? Well I have a major dose of anxiety immediately flowing into angst and then round it out with some blues. Then I drink.

For the both of you…describe a “typical” day in the Tufo home.

Loud. Three kids along with their boy/girl friends. Two dogs a cat and numerous family members within a few mile radius.Typical Italian family everyone talking over each other.One of the boys chasing the dogs around getting them riled up, the cat meowing because she is not getting the attention. Yeah, Loud.

Me turning up my music louder and louder so I can write during the maelstrom.

Mark, you have that “everybody’s favorite crazy uncle” look, so what led you to write horror?

I’ve been drawn to horror for a long time. I’ve always loved to read and I think my brother was back at my folks house and he was reading a SK book and he let me borrow it, must have been about 10 and I’ll tell you I was hooked. The feelings that man could evoke were just mind-boggling to me.

So, it is time to take a peek behind the curtain if you will indulge me. Let’s start with the Mark Tufo…err…I mean the Michael Talbot character. How much of you is in Talbot?

I started off as the template for Mike just in the basics. I’d really like to think I’d do some of the stuff he does and not just hide behind my couch if the shit ever hit the fan. That’s the beauty of fiction though, I can get Mike into all sorts of trouble while I eat a frozen pizza for lunch!

You have let this one character span several different alternate realities and now we are treated to Michael a century or so later. What was the real impetus to bring Lycan Fallout? Was it part of the plan all along, or did the “Tal-bots (my new term for Michael Talbot fans…feel free to make it into your next shirt) demand it and so you returned with this just being the best and easiest way to resume his story?

Lycan Fallout came about completely unintentionally. Tracy and I were going to get coffee and she asked if I ever thought about writing a story with werewolves. I had the whole story mapped out in the 15 minutes it took to get the brew. I figured I could create a whole new world and the idea intrigued the hell out of me. 

So, since we are digging a bit, what is Durgan’s story? He is too prevalent not to have been inspired by somebody real.

I’ve never ‘known’ Durgan. I’ve known an amalgamation of Durgan. He’s kind of every asshole I’ve ever met all wrapped up into one big package.

The car crash scene has made more appearances than anything in the Talbot mythology. Is there something deeper to that story that you can and will share?

The car crash is real, it was not nearly as horrific as I’ve written it to be. But it was the first time as a teen I thought that I might not be as invincible as I once thought. So in a sense it was a death of a kind.

Talbot is all about his wife and family in the Fallout books, but he is kind of a man-whore in the others—The Spirit Clearing and Indian Hill—if there is (as I suspect) a lot of Tufo-Talbot connections, does Tracy ever slap you on the back of the head when she reads some of his female foibles?

At first I really had to convince Tracy that I was writing fiction, these were not true events. She gets it now, the only time she’s really questioned our marriage was after reading the Tim series.

Some of your critics have tossed around words like misogynistic, and I think one review said something like “racist” which I did not see at all in these books. Does that sort of thing ever bother you?

I’m not sure what the hell they’re talking about, I give EVERYONE shit. Male, female, white, black whatever, I don’t discriminate. Folks are going to see what they want to see I can’t stop them from that. I love women, I love people of all colors. I don’t see the person for the skin only what lies within. There are assholes of every race and creed, shit Durgan is white and I can’t think of a bigger jerk. I’ve learned in the anonymous world of the web folks will say just about anything, if I let it bother me then I’m in the wrong profession. Still though, some people need to get a life.

Since we have touched on it, do you think that society as a whole has actually become too over-sensitive? I am not saying that the old Bugs Bunny cartoons did not do a bit of stereotyping that might be inappropriate today, but does it seem like we have reached a point where there is too much finger pointing? Or do writers (and comedians and reality show contestants) just need to change for a kinder and gentler world?

I think people really are overly-sensitive. Now I’m not saying go out there and bash everyone, but come on, a joke is a joke there’s no reason to get everyone’s panties all in a bunch.

Tracy, can you share some of your secrets to promotion for all of the spouses that are there working to push their writer husband or wife to the forefront?

My background is in Real Estate.  I use a lot of the same ways I use to sell houses to get his books out there.  I also follow a couple of blogs and get news letters from KDP, Kobo and Nook.  If something strikes me as being worth a try, I try it.

Can Tracy write stories…and will there ever be (like with Stephen and Tabitha King) a book by Tracy Tufo?

I have a hard time writing the grocery list.

Tracy, what is the hardest part about being married to a writer?

Hard?!Nothing hard about it.  (he paid me to say that)  I actually find it entertaining.  I never know what world I’m going to end up in or where the day will begin.  Definitely not boring. 

Any parting words of advice?

If you plan on writing hire an editor! In fact look up the guys that’s hosting this interview he’s awesome! (He didn’t even pay me for that plug.) Thank you Todd for allowing me some time to play in your sandbox.


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