Friday, May 30, 2014

Getting Rugged...I might die tomorrow.

Yep, you read it correctly. Tomorrow (Saturday, May 31st) I will be running in the Portland Rugged Maniac 5K run. 30 grueling obstacles await me and a couple look like they are designed by Torquemada's evil great-great-great-grandson.

I am still very early in my training for the Spartan Run, so this will be a good test of where I am in that regard. I am sure that there will be an abundance of pictures for you to chuckle at if you come back on Monday.

For now, I am thrilled to bang the promotional drum for friend and prolific reviewer, Shana Festa. She is feeling a tingle of a different sort as her debut novel releases under the Permuted Press banner. So pick up a copy and chill out this weekend while I am battling my way to the finish line.

Permuted Press Releases Debut Novel from Shana Festa


When no one or nowhere is safe, where do you go to escape the monsters?

In a few short days, 37 year old Emma Rossi’s hard work will finally pay off. She will don her cap and gown and graduate with a degree in nursing, but not before she loses her first patient and is confronted with a new reality. In Cape Coral, Florida, a storm approaches. The dead are coming back to life.

And they’re hungry.

Infection ravages the Eastern Seaboard with alarming speed while attempts to contain the spread of infection fail. Within days, a small pocket of panicked survivors are all that remain of civilization. Fighting to survive the zombie apocalypse alongside her husband Jake and their dog Daphne, Emma comes face-to-face with her worst nightmare.

Relying on snarky wit and sheer determination, she is forced to commit atrocious acts to protect her family and avoid joining the ranks of the undead.

TIME OF DEATH: INDUCTION is Festa’s first book in the Time of Death series. The second book in the series, TIME OF DEATH: ASYLUM is currently in the works.

222 Pages  |  Release: June 1, 2014
Trade Paperback ISBN: 9781618682727  |  eBook ISBN: 9781618682734
Price: $5.99 eBook, $16.95 Trade Paperback

Shana Festa grew up in Northborough, Massachusetts. She currently lives in Cape Coral, Florida with her husband and two dogs, Daphne & Casey.

Shana is a registered nurse with clinical experience in mental health, geriatrics, HIV and substance abuse. In addition to her clinical background, Shana possesses over 15 years of experience with project management and data analytics.

Under her alter ego, The Bookie Monster, Shana reviews horror and paranormal books, with an emphasis on (but not limited to) zombie fiction. With her background in Psych Nursing, Shay brings a unique perspective to the reading community.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What the hell happened to Billy!?

So, a few of you have sent me emails saying that they wanted just one more taste from the new DEAD which is due out this July. The most oft requested plea has to do with Billy. Apparently many of you do not trust my ability to keep a character alive. Or, better yet, feel I have a propensity for killing off the ones you come to know and love. I offer up to you one final taste from DEAD: Spring. July is not that far away. Enjoy.


New Friends, New Enemies

“This sucks,” I whispered.
Looking around the landing, zombies were pouring out from a pair of long, dark cooridors. The walking dead were packed in pretty tight and there was zero chance that I could make it through; plus, I had no idea where those corridors went…if they actually went anywhere.
Spinning around, I saw something that had me positive that child zombies were something to be worried about. The children had lagged to the rear of the swarm that was now making its way up the stairs towards me. Another cluster had moved to the doors that I had come through when I first entered this building.
I let the magazine drop to the ground with a clatter as I pulled out a fresh one and slammed it into place. If I was to die right here in this spot, I wanted a damned statue built of me standing atop a pile of zombies.
“Billy died, but he took a shitload with him,” people would say. Hell, maybe they would put that on the plaque at the base of my monument.
Taking the last two steps so that I was now standing flat, I took aim at head level and fired a few short bursts. Zombies were dropping, but that didn’t mean much when looking at the big picture. It really seemed that for every one that fell, two more emerged from those gaping black maws from Hell.
“Fuck you all!” I screamed, but nobody would have heard it over the sound of my M4. Another magazine dropped and I knew that I had two left after the one that I was swapping in. I had not even realized it, but I had taken at least a dozen steps away from the defunct escalators. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw the first of the ones from below come into view.
I fired another burst at the closest group and then made sure my pistol would come clean from the holster in a hurry. I wonder if I will feel anything? That morbid thought was shoved down, but the same voice was also now reminding me to make sure that I aim the weapon up instead of back. More than one attempted suicide had failed because the person simply shoved the barrel into the back of their mouth and fired. I wanted to be certain that I blew my brains out.
My M4 dry fired and I went to swap out magazines again. There were bodies littering the floor, but there was still way too many of them coming for me. A few were close enough that it was a race to reload in time. I kicked one back just as I brought the weapon up and fired a round into its head.
I was not going to get to that fifth mag. The walkers from below were now pouring out into the open balcony area and had effectively boxed me in between themselves and their brethren. Death was now just a moment or two away.
An explosion sounded and was amplified to painful, eardrum-splitting levels by the vast open space of the enormous entryway of this cursed building. Another followed almost immidiately, but since my ears were still ringing from the first blast, it did not seem quite as loud.
Thank God for zombies being stupid; or, at the very least, easily distracted. Most of them turned at the sudden and new sound. The ones closest to me had a mixture of reactions. Only one, a female that had been in the act of reaching for me when the explosion sounded, still kept its focus on me. I was able to shove her back and draw my KA-BAR as she regained her footing and took a deliberate step forward. Driving the blade into her forehead, I gave another shove and snapped my arm back so that she slid off the blade.
Seeing my chance, slim though it was, I made a dash for the far stairwell. I knew that it had been almost totally free of zombies. If I was going to make it back down to the lower level and out of this place, that was my best option. My brain tried to scream warnings about the odd child zombies and their peculiar behavior, but I was at a “one thing at a time” point in my plan. Shoving aside a few of the undead that had turned towards the new sound, I was just reaching a point where my ears were not ringing.
“Billy!” a female voice called. It sounded tinny and distant, but it was the sweetest sound I could imagine. It was Jessie, the lady that I had figured to be the leader of this expedition. She was the one who had been giving the orders; she was the one who had sent me and Frank here.
“Yo!” I hollered as I reached the escalator; thank goodness it was still clear.
Down below, the scene was a nightmare of body parts flung everywhere. Unfortunately, damage of that variety was not enough to end the zombies. I could see a lot of movement in that goulash of arms, legs, and torsos. I glanced to my left and saw over a hundred zombies packed in to that narrow escalator. It looked as if a bit of a log jam had occurred. That might have saved my life, because only a few had made it to the landing. I suppressed a shudder as I took the metal steps two and three at a time on the way down.
“You might have gotten us all killed!” Jessie scolded as I stepped over the upper half of a child zombie that tried in vain to reach for me as I passed.
“You see all of this?” I threw my arms wide to indicate the carnage. “I was in a fight for my life.”
“I made it very clear that there is a herd nearby and that firearms should only be used as the last resort.”
I felt my eyebrows arch as I glanced around at the carnage and then cast one quick look up to the landing above. The undead were crowding into the escalator that I had used for my escape and were already starting to get lodged in so tight that it was causing a backup.
“I don’t know where you get your definitions of ‘last resort’ from, but this was about as last as my resort gets.”
“They are coming through the fence!” a voice called from outside.
“One life that costs us everything—” Jessie looked at me like I was something she had just stepped in.
“Easy to say when it isn’t yours,” I snapped.
I was not going to stand here and listen to this crap. I stepped over another creeper and out onto the landing. What little that remained of Frank was not much more than a big red smear and a handful of zombie children that were now sporting a variety of head wounds.
I had to move away from the building to get a peek at the entry drive to this place. Sure enough, a pretty big group of zombies were headed our way. I looked to my right and saw a Dumpster sitting in the middle of a debris strewn section of parking lot.
Without a word, I jogged over to the big, metal garbage container. Both hatches were thrown open already which allowed me to look inside and ensure there were no nasty surprises. Looking around, I had my plan. This section of parking lot was slanted; not much, but enough for what I had in mind.
Treating the large green Dumpster like a tackling dummy, I put my shoulder into it and started to push. The wheels shrieked in protest and the lids began to clang. Basically, the noise was tremendous. I knew that I had plenty of space between me and the approaching herd, so I did not even bother to look back over my shoulder.
In a dozen or so steps, I had some momentum. Giving a shove for all that I was worth, I heaved the Dumpster forward. It rolled away and actually picked up a bit of speed as it reached the steepest section of the parking lot. The wheels had eased up on their squeals, but the metal lids were slamming into the side of the mostly empty, metal garbage bin.
I veered to the left and ducked behind some odd shaped brass and concrete thing that was supposed to be art of some kind. It just looked like a bunch of weird shapes in my opinion, but at least it was tall enough for me to duck behind and use as cover as I dashed for the narrow alley between two long buildings.
I picked up my tempo to a fast jog. Moving down this chute, I had the sudden fear that the group would take off back to La Grande without me. Not that I was afraid of making it on my own, I’d done it before. My concern was that they would run back and tell some crazy story about how I endangered the lives of everybody in this little expedition.
As I emerged, I could feel my heart thudding in my chest. Some of it may have had to do with pushing that big Dumpster and then my spint up a hundred yard long alley, but by the time I had reached the end, I was feeling what I imagined a panic attack to feel like.
Looking around, I was relieved to see the group formed up at a loading dock jutting from the side of one of the buildings. I did a quick head count and only came up with eleven; Jessie was now the only female in the group, so that meant that we’d lost the other two female members in addition to Frank.
“Neat trick with that Dumpster,” one of the guys said with a laugh that died on his lips as Jessie shot him a scowl that would peel paint.
“How are we going to transport all of the equipment?” one of the men from the science team asked. “There is more than I thought, and some of it is too heavy to lift, much less carry all the way back.”
I squinted my eyes in confusion. Hadn’t these people known what we were coming for? How was it possible that we had run this mission and not made any allowance for getting the stuff we came for back to La Grande?
“The group from the last run made large wagons,” Jessie said, but she was still glaring at me. “We will take turns being harnessed to them for the journey home. Each wagon has a harness setup that will allow four people to pull as a team.”
“So we are going to be freakin’ pack mules?” the same guy who had complemented my Dumpster distraction asked.
“We are going to do what it takes to get this stuff back home,” Jessie snapped. Standing, she gave us all a hard stare. “We have a lot of work to do, so I suggest that we get to it.”
“What about that herd?” another of the men asked, glancing back toward where the zombies had all trudged in pursuit of my noisemaker.
Jessie looked around at all of us and then her gaze settled on me once more. “Since Mister Haynes is so confident in his abilities out in the field, I will leave it to him to continue to ensure that the zombies are distracted. The rest of us will load out all we can and start back.” She looked around the group as if she expected rousing approval. When she was greeted by blank stares and a few open mouths, her gaze became even fiercer. “Is there a problem?”
“It’s just that…” the guy who had so far been the only one to really speak up started. He looked around to see if he had any support and decided to press on anyway when none looked to be forthcoming. “You are sending one guy out to try and distract a giant herd of those things. No backup or anything?”
“You’re right,” Jessie said with a shrug. “You can go with him.”
Like I didn’t see that coming, I thought

Monday, May 26, 2014

Get some REAL face time with an author.

I had to re-write the headline because it initially read "your favorite author". Now, for some of you, I may  very well fall into that category. Trust me when I say it is still very humbling to hear somebody say that, and I do not take it for granted. However, I wanted to make this a bit more general.

First, I want to say that I am not much of a Facebook person. I let Denise tell me when people pop in and then I read over her shoulder and respond accordingly. Honestly, if I spent all that time on sites like Facebook, I would never get the next book finished. I have seen and heard  of people losing hours before they knew what happened.

I am a "face-to-face" sort of guy. I like to hear voice inflection and read expressions so I have less chance of misinterpreting what somebody is saying. To that end, I am announcing my new contest. it runs from now until June 30th. It will have 6 winners, and to give it a test run, I am even announcing this "pre-contest" event. Are you curious?

Here it goes. Google-Plus has a "hangout" feature. It allows people to video conference. So, 6 lucky (or not depending on our viewpoint) individuals get to sit down with me for a half hour and have an open forum discussion about book 9 in the DEAD series, DEAD: Spring. Now, the event will take place on July 12th. The time will be determined by a consensus from the winners as to the best time for everybody so that nobody hopefully has to be up at 4 AM. Since I need to give this a test run, I am announcing this little early contest. Any who respond in the comments section between now and Wednesday, May 28, 2014 by midnight PST will be eligible for the drawing to participate in DEAD CHAT that will take place on June 21st. We will discuss all things DEAD related and I might be convinced to give a sneak peek reading from the new DEAD. You will be able to comment and criticize for a full half hour directly to my face...via video.

Interested? Comment below.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A geeky tease...enjoy!

So, July is closing fast and the 9th book of the DEAD series is not far away. Some of you may be wanting a little taste of what is to come. To that end, I invite you to peruse a nugget from DEAD: Spring's chapter 1.


Geek Pain and Nightmarish Discoveries

“They don’t look like Guardians,” a woman said as she stepped forward from the group that had Kevin and the others hemmed in with weapons pointed.
Kevin scanned the group and counted fifteen; each was carrying a rifle or pistol which was currently pointed in his general direction. As soon as he heard the word “Guardian”, he had a feeling that he knew what he was dealing with.
“You’re right,” Kevin spoke. He took a step forward, making sure to raise his hands just a bit higher as he did so in hopes that he would not simply be shot out of principle.
“But we did run into some of them as well as a few of their hostages.” Kevin watched faces for any signs that he was about to be shot. He would have no problem shutting his mouth if it came to it.
“Is that right?” a man sneered, stepping forward and raising his gun to his shoulder, the barrel aimed at Kevin’s head. “And where would those hostages be?”
“I believe the area was called Eggers Grove,” Aleah spoke up and stepped beside Kevin, taking his hand in hers. “But they were in no condition to travel. We were simply passing through and sort of got caught in the middle of whatever is going on here. We did invite them to join us, but they refused.”
As Aleah gave these people a rundown of what had happened, Kevin scanned the group. They all looked pretty healthy. He had to assume that they were members of that compound just to the west. Of the fifteen, six were females. One of them had a disfiguring scar on her face. Better yet, what remained of her face was mostly twisted tissue that looked puckered but obviously from a wound that had long since healed. She had an eye patch over her left eye and, judging by what he saw, there was not likely to be an eye remaining in that socket.
“Hey!” the woman who had spoken first said, snapping her fingers in Kevin’s direction. “Let’s see it.”
Kevin blinked and looked around. Everybody was staring at him…including the woman with the disfigured face that he had been eyeballing. If she was self-conscious about his obvious visual examination of her facial scarring, she gave no indication.
“Show them your arm,” Rose whispered with an elbow to his ribs.
Suddenly understanding the situation and reason for the request, Kevin displayed the recent wound from the bite he’d sustained just a couple of days ago. Their captors—Kevin could not think of a better word for them at the moment since they all had weapons drawn and pointed at him and the rest of what remained of his group—moved in and examined the bite.
“Yep…that’s legit,” the woman who Kevin now saw as the leader said out loud before taking a step back. “So at least two of you are immune…and the others?”
“Nobody really wants to test the waters,” Aleah said with a forced laugh.
“You mind if I ask you a question?” Kevin rolled his sleeve down and shrugged his coat back on.
“Sure,” the woman agreed with a nod.
“Can at least of few of your people lower their weapons?”
“Stand down,” the woman ordered. “Now, perhaps some introductions, my name is Latricia Jones…”
The woman went down the line and gave everybody else’s names. There were three Patricks and two Seans (one male, one female); beyond that, Kevin simply did not bother to commit any of the names to memory. If he had his way, this would not be a lengthy encounter. For one—
“Are we going to stand here and wait to see if that ocean of zombies finally notices us?” Rose blurted after Heather had shot Kevin a dirty look and introduced their group in a return of the extended courtesy.
For the first time since the two groups had met, Latricia’s people seemed to actually notice the seemingly endless stream of undead now pouring through the CTA lot. Another section of the train took that moment to topple and allow for a second tributary of zombies to pour in and add to the horde that was pushing everything forward in the lot, creating a tsunami of derelict vehicles and roadwork equipment.
“Jesus Chri—” one of the men started, but Latricia’s bark cut him off.
“Ramirez! What have I told you about taking the Lord’s name in vain?”
“Sorry, Lattie” The man gave a small bow of the head.
Great, Kevin thought, religious freaks. Anything else to make this just a bit worse?
“You say that there were Guardians up in the Eggers Grove neighborhood.”
“Yeah…they blew up a church for no reason and were really making a lot of racket,” Aleah said when, once again, it looked as if Kevin was going to remain silent.
“Oh…there was a reason,” Latricia muttered. “They were trying to draw me out…get a little payback.”
“By blowing up a church?” Rose asked. “That seems a bit much.”
“Long story,” Latricia waved a hand in dismissal.
“We should get back home,” one of the women suggested as she stared in a mix of horror and amazement at the sheer number of zombies now pouring through the CTA lot. “And if possible, we should probably recall the troops. I think this is a storm that we need to batten down for and just sit out until it is gone.”
“Crap!” Latricia spat. She turned to face Kevin and the others. “We don’t really have time to deal with you folks. You don’t seem like the enemy, so we are going to let you go. You are welcome to return with us, but if you do, there will be protocols and some time in isolation while we assess whether or not you are people that we want in our community.”
Nothing that the woman said held any appeal to Kevin. There was something about these folks that gave Kevin the heebie jeebies. They all had what he would classify as a fanatical look about them. In his mind, it was all about extremes: anything in moderation, be it alcohol, food, or even God, was okay. But anything in the extreme was a recipe for disaster.
“No thanks,” Kevin finally answered with a shake of the head. He thought that he saw a look of disappointment cross the faces of all three females; most noticeable was Rose. “But if any of the others want to stay…well, that is their choice.”
With no more ceremony than a curt nod, Kevin started walking. He did not even bother to look over his shoulder to see if the others would follow. It was Aleah who caught up to him first and grabbed him by the arm, spinning him around.
“Whatever this is…” she threw her hands up in his general direction, “…it has to stop. You have been acting strange for a while. Did I do something?”
By now, Heather and Rose had caught up. The overpass was empty as if Latricia and her people had never even been there. A distant low tone carried from the huge swarm of undead, but other than that, there was nothing. Not for the first time, but certainly it had been a while, Kevin marveled at the fact that they were in what had once been a thriving metropolis that was basically devoid of life. No cars, no planes, no people…just a slow reclamation by Mother Nature as multi-lane highways sprouted foot high weeds that were methodically pushing apart the rivers of asphalt that man had thought to be so permanent.
The world was dead.
“I am a carrier,” Kevin whispered. When nobody spoke, Kevin sighed. It was embarrassing, and deep down, he knew that he was being selfish.
“If everything that we have heard is true, then I could infect you,” he glanced up at Aleah, but quickly found that he could not maintain eye contact. “Perhaps something as simple as a kiss, but there is definitely no way that we could ever become intimate again.”
There was a long silence. Then, Aleah placed her hands on Kevin’s shoulders. When he continued to stare at the ground, she nudged his face up to hers and looked into his eyes with so much love that it made Kevin weak in the knees. Never in his life had anybody, much less a woman as beautiful as Aleah, looked at him in that way.
“For somebody so smart, you can be a real idiot,” she said with a slight hitch in her voice. “And as for the possibility of you infecting me, we can figure something out. There are ways.”
“Ever heard of condoms?” Rose muttered. Heather gave her a sharp elbow to the ribs.
“And now is as good of a time as any to make an announcement,” Aleah said, turning to include the others in the conversation. She pulled Kevin beside her and took his hand, squeezing it gently. “I’m pregnant.”
Those two words hung in the air long enough for Aleah to begin to think that perhaps she had made a mistake in sharing her announcement. Kevin’s hand jerked away sharply from her own and she was about to burst into tears until she realized why.
Kevin had fainted.

Monday, May 19, 2014

How to get zombies to wipe out your town!

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

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

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

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

DEAD: Snapshot...{your town here}

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

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

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

Friday, May 16, 2014

Music that stuck out from my collection.

Back in my younger days, I was known to blast the bands like Van Halen, Ozzy, and of course...KISS. Yet when you opened my 256 tape cassette suitcase (remember those?), there were all the usual suspect until you got to the letter "M". There they were, a swathe of tapes that almost poked you in the eye for having stuck out so sharply in contrast: The Manhattan Transfer. The song that many people "discovered" this amazing vocal jazz quartet was a remake of the classic hit, Boy From New York City.

I had (and still do) an amazing crush on Janis Siegel and Cheryl Bentyne. Both women had vocals that would peel your socks off in one instant, and then melt over you like butter in the next. Some might write them off as pop, but these four (who have been together for almost 40 years!) are so much more. When they perform live, it is an experience. They are so expressive and vibrant, and they make you feel like they came to see you versus the other way around.

Being on stage does not tone down their performance. There is no doubt that they love doing what they do, and they pull you in to the point where you forget that you are at a concert.

And then there is...

They also had one of my all time favorite ballads...

And if you thought that these guys could not ROCK?! Check out Janis in this number. Let me leave you with Ray's Rockhouse done two ways. Check out the actual video that they released, then see it done live. If you need a bunch of vocal processing, maybe you should not be singing. So all you Pop Tarts, let Janis give you a lesson in REAL singing.

But can she pull that amazing sound off during a live performance? Umm...YES! (Any questions as to why I had (have) a crush on Janet? I didn't think so.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

What I got out of the WHC. (Part 2)

To be honest, it was a huge disappointment. The few highlights included meeting a very talented artist, Carter M. Reid and his wife. Carter has a web comic (as well as a couple of MUST HAVE books) that you can find out about over on if you need a good chuckle. He also does zombie portraits while his wife makes some krazykool jewelry.

Carter M. Reid killed me!
While the convention "raged on" over in the DoubleTree, the dealer room was stuffed in a room across the driveway with no signage to even let people know it existed. Also, it was not open to the public, so basically it was everybody working in the dealer room wandering around and seeing what other people WERE NOT selling. Yes, a few people did actually find us. And I met some super people who were more than happy to chat and snag a few freebies. I even sold three or four books, but it came nowhere near covering the $200 price tag for the table I sat behind for four days. Admittedly, at first I just thought it was my table that was a bust, but kitty-corner to me sat Mark Tufo, John O'Brien and Shawn Chesser...a trio of Amazon Top 100 Horror Authors. They spent their time telling jokes to each other and stopping over at my table to ask if I wanted a coffee when they went out for one.

Jaime Johnesee and her husband stopped in!
I did get to meet a few people that I have only spoken to via messaging and email like Jaime Johnesee. For me, that was a real blast. I also met the sword swinging "Army of Darkness" zombie lady, Dana Fredsti. She even picked up a freebie copy of That Ghoul Ava: Her First Adventures and the sample excerpt from DEAD: The Ugly Beginning when she and Craig DilLouie stopped by and visited for a moment. As a HUGE Evil Dead fan, I was beyond thrilled and might have gone a little bit "fanboy" when she stopped in front of my table. DiLouie was beyond polite and made me like him even more just by how genuine and nice he came across.
Highlight reel moment! I got to meet Dana Fredsti!
I did manage to catch a few panels. Some were beyond pointless, but a few had great nuggets of knowledge (like the podcast panel with Derek M. Koch, host of the Monster Kid Radio podcast). Overall, it just felt like an HWA (Horror Writer's Association) ass-patting session. And if you were not in that inner circle, then you rated somewhere between the stuff scraped off a shoe and elevator flatulence. Yes, I could do an entire post about the treatment that I received (or did not receive) by that organization, but dead horses are best left to rot in the sun.

If I had it to do over, I would have scrapped the dealer table and hit a few more panels. I did miss a few that I really wanted to attend because I stayed posted up at my table in the hopes that somebody would come by. And I did have a few people come by that showed genuine interest. (Ava garnered some attention which was wonderful since she is the series that I want to push hard as DEAD gets closer to the end.)

Final thoughts...the convention as a whole was a bust. The few people that I did get to meet were mostly wonderful. I only got snubbed by one writer who I REALLY idolized. I met him after one of the few panels that I did manage to attend, and he assured me that he would stop by the Dealer's Room so I could get him to sign something and take a photo...but ended up being a no-show.

Monday, May 12, 2014

What I got out of the WHC. (Part 1)


Honestly...not much when it came to my expectations. I did see a few very good panels that taught me some stuff I plan to use coming soon (like my podcast!). However, my time in the dealer room was a waste. So, if I had to nail down what really "did it for me" at the WHC, it was meeting a few people I might never have gotten the chance to meet in person.

Too sexy for our hair.

I have always said that, besides being a writer of zombie fiction, I am first and foremost a fan. So, meeting Joe McKinney, Armand Rosamilia (see where I put your name, Armand?), Mark Tufo, John O' Brien, Shawn Chesser, Brian Keene, and a few others was really great.

Even more to my liking was being able to meet a friend from the UK who I have known for years, but never had the chance to sit down and talk to personally. Plus, I made a new friend along the way. Vix and Ivor Kirkpatrick came all the way from Basingstoke, England and I was able to hang out, take them to the Oregon Coast, and just get spend some time kicking it.

Denise and I took them to Tillamook to walk through the cheese factory, then a ride to Cannon Beach and a lunch at Mo's. After that, the ladies went shopping and Ivor and I went to a Portland Thunder Arena Football game.

So, while there were some "issues" at the WHC as far as being in the Dealer's Room (don't worry, I will address that later this week), the weekend was still a success. heers.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Women are set to RULE the horror realm. Right, Claire?

I brought you here today to share in something special. My friend, Claire Riley, is very excited to announce that the second book in her Odium series is now available. I loved the first one, and I am deep into the second. So, you can count on a review coming soon. I highly suggest that you grab your copy now and jump on this bandwagon. Don;t worry, there is still plenty of room.

Odium II (which you can buy for yourself if you click on that handy little link) continues Nina's story. Nina is that strong female protagonist that the genre has been craving...needing...hungering for. Claire C. Riley has a fantastic talent when it comes to drawing you into her world. She writes in such a way that all your senses get involved. I said it before, and it bares repeating, Claire has a knack for vivid description. 

What I really love (so far) is just how brutal this world is that Claire presents. She is raw and gritty and makes you feel. That is talent...and it should be celebrated. The women of horror don't need a month...with the talent that I have been exposed to these past few weeks, I say we just call 2014 "THE YEAR OF THE FEMALE HORROR AUTHOR".  So grab your copy of Odium II. If you have not read book one, then grab that first. Just click HERE.

So, what's the scoop on Odium II?

Let's see what the talented Eli Constant had to say about her sister-in-horror.

"Okay, I don’t want to give too much away here. What’s another point I want to make… Oh, yes.

Sometimes, when you read this type of book (this genre, etc.), you end up with a book that is either ‘too brutal’ or ‘too vague’. For example, pages and pages of gore with no levity OR, endless movement through scenes that lack descriptions that really bring a reader into the landscape of the book. Claire threads levity and heartfelt scenes throughout her book in the form of a young couple that is clinging to the world that they ‘remembered’ so they could mentally survive the apocalypse. It’s strange and causes me to quirk an eyebrow, but it’s also a perfect picture of how different people may cope with the ‘end’. On the subject of descriptions and details- Claire is aces at it. She brings every sense into the read- even evoking a sense of smell, of touch. After some zombie-killing scenes, I could actually taste the rotting, pungent flesh. Gross, but highly effective.

Now, again, I don’t want to give too much away here, but there is a huge reveal towards the end of the book, when Nina is faced with the madness of certain new characters. Just when you think Nina’s had it, a twist punches the reader square in the jaw. And… oh… that reveal. Trust me, your eyes will widen, your stomach will drop and all you’ll be able to think is ‘WTF?!’."

I think that should whet your appetite. Now for the blurb and a nifty little video promo...

Fortune favors…the DEAD!

Some secrets are too horrific to ever be forgiven, and some people should never be trusted. Tortured, starved, and on the run, Nina thinks she’s faced the worst that mankind has to offer, but she’s wrong. She may have survived this long, but she hasn’t come out of it unscathed,  and there’s worse to come.

Nina’s trusty Doc Martens are showing signs of the zombie apocalypse, and she isn’t faring much better. With her snarky attitude guaranteed to get her in trouble, Nina needs to forgive the past, to live once more in the present, and learn that sometimes she needs to place her trust in other people.

She can be stalked at any of the following.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The World Horror Convention is in town.

Yep, the WHC is in Portland, Oregon this year. So, I will be attending starting tomorrow and promise to give a very direct and unbiased review of the event. I am actually going in with very low expectations. I am not much for glad-handing and backslapping. Also, after finding no purpose for the Horror Writers' Association, I let my membership lapse. Honestly, any attempt I made to raise a hand for help OR just to be noticed went largely ignored by the HWA until annual dues were to be paid, then I was given plenty of attention. I was even excluded from an attempt by a local chapter to start meeting (which violates some bylaw, but that is all a gripe for another time, and for the most part, I have let it go).

What I am excited about when it comes to the WHC is my chance to meet some of my favorite authors. Tops on my list is Brian Keene; he was one of the first zombie authors that I read. He has to be given his share of credit for the zombie craze such as it is today. Sure, Kirkman is the Golden Boy, and Brooks had a pretty good book (although not a great film adaptation), but Keene really wrote something special in my opinion.

In addition, I will also get to meet some non-writer types that I have been friends with for quite some time. Actually, I am feeling the pressure on that one. They say never meet your heroes, and while I don't quite fall into that category, I am meeting perhaps one of my most devoted DEAD fans. I am even hosting her and her husband for a barbecue as well as taking her husband to a Portland Thunder Arena Football League game while Denise takes her on a shopping excursion. 

As I said, not a lot of expectations on the actual convention; I see it as a necessary evil for my chosen profession. However, there should be a few shining moments in the next few days. I will tell you all about it on Monday.

Come back Friday for a sneak peak at the new DEAD. DEAD: Spring comes out this July and I am deep into it at the moment. (Actually, the convention could not have come at a worse time. I am a VERY schedule oriented person, and after the move, I am JUST getting my schedule down and refined. Now, it all gets tossed for the next week so I can sit in a big room at a table where I do not expect much to happen.)

Monday, May 5, 2014

If you write it...will they care?

This week is going to be a real "hit and miss" week. Don't feel slighted if you don't hear from me, it is just that the WHC (World Horror Convention) starts this week and I have a truck load of things on my "to-do" list. Not the least is to get some serious writing in as the new DEAD release looms ever closer. However, besides that, I am training hard for my series of "X-treme" 5K runs. The first is at the end of THIS month! When did that happen? 

So today, I am sending a bit of a plea out there to those of you who have read (or listened) to any of my books. There can be no growth in a void, so if you have some critical review material simmering, now would be an excellent time to share it. 

In addition, while I will not name names, I will say that there is a small (and apparently angry) group of people led by another writer who have mounted a 1-star campaign on everything I do. Now, the first thing I want to say is that 1 star reviews are part of the business. You get them and move on. You DO NOT engage the people who leave them. However, I think we also know that there are some hateful and spiteful people out there who become angered when others reach points of success.

I do NOT want fluffy pieces of 5 star drivel. I actually seek honest reviews that point out the high and low points of my work. If you hated it, that is perfectly fine. So tell me why. Where did I miss the mark? Sure, I love hearing what you like, but I don't mind being told where I fall short. Reviews that are constructive in the criticism they level are an invaluable resource. As a writer, I will be the first to say that my stuff is not for everybody. And I know that you can't please all the people all the time. I will never try. However, YOUR reviews are what tell the "powers that be" over at Amazon that a book deserves to be promoted via the Amazon emails and "recommended titles" notices. Also, believe it or not, other people read those things and decide on whether or not to part with their hard earned money based on what they see/read.

Last, but not least. maybe you have said, "If I could just sit down with that writer for 5 minutes and tell him what I thought (good or bad)..." Well, I read every single review, so in a way, that is your golden opportunity. 

I hope you have a great week, and I look forward to seeing some of you at the WHC!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Who says that zombie stories suck?

I write zombie stories. WAIT! From some of you, I can already hear the collective groans. Zombies? Hasn’t that been done to death? (Pardon the pun.) Actually, I agree with you in a way. It seems you can’t drop in to a writer’s group without seeing a dozen zombie books being pedaled. So what could I possibly have to say that might interest you? Well, if you like a good bit of controversy, stick around, because I am going to tell you what is wrong with the zombie-writing masses, and why MY books stand out from them. Along the way, I will give you some others who have been getting it right, but I am really serious when I say I will step on some toes. Hopefully, when you finish reading this, you might give a zombie book a try. If it is mine, great, and if it is one of the few I mention, that is good too.

I’ve been in love with the zombie genre for decades. I saw the original Dawn of the Dead in the theater…and that was it for me. Ever since then, they have been my guilty pleasure. However, it wasn’t anything I ever set out to write. Actually, Dakota (by Todd Brown) is the first novel I wrote. The first whack I took at zombies came after reading Monster Island by DavidWellington. It was then that I was enrolled in a college Creative Writing class. I figured it would be fun, and so I penned my first piece as an assignment. The instructor pulled me up after the next class and raved. She told me it was obvious that I loved the subject and that I should write something longer.

I am one of those people who has to study things and do lots of research. So…I started reading all the zombie fiction I could. However, there wasn’t much. This was just before the indie/self-published highway exploded into the massive beast it is today. I found a few good titles: (The afore-mentioned) Monster Island, The Rising, Dying to Live, Day by Day Armageddon, and of course…World War Z. Unfortunately, I also found some really awful stuff out there. Names aren’t important, that isn’t what this is about. However, I will give you a few things to look for when shopping the market that are dead giveaways in just a bit.

When I set down to write my series, DEAD, I wanted to make it about the characters…NOT the zombies. Sure, there is death and destruction…all the stuff zombie fans like. However, I decided to go the way of one of my all-time favorite novels, The Stand, and bring in a large cast of characters. Then, using a format inspired loosely by George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, I rotated the chapters through various perspectives. I created heroes and villains of all shapes, sizes, ages, and sexes.

As the story unfolded, I refused to write an outline in order to prevent becoming linear. I soon found pages going by with little or no mention of the undead. Over time, I created people that fans of the series have built bonds with, learned to love, and in some cases…hate.

I didn’t reinvent the wheel...or the zombie. But having sold a few thousand copies, I feel I have created something that resonates with not only the zombie fans, but with those outside the genre as well. So what is the big secret? I read what is out there. After a while, a lot of it began to squish together in a mass of pulp not worthy of recycling. It was the same story over and over with cardboard cutouts of generic characters who I cared little or nothing for. It was violence and gore for violence and gore’s sake. I could predict who would live or die within a page or two. Most were simply regurgitating the Romero premise: band of “good” guys hole up and create bastion, gang of “bad” guys come and spoil it and (most) everybody dies in a big (anti) climactic battle in the end.

So here is my first tip: Read the negative reviews first. Do they all mention the same things?  Bad grammar, poor editing…etc? There is a disturbing trend in the indie scene of core groups basically spamming Amazon with Five-star reviews for each other. So look around and note the names writing the glowing reviews that completely contradict the one- and two-star reviews. This may seem odd, but even my own negative reviews are helpful if you are considering one of my titles. One person said I spent too much time on description, too many characters, too much detail…not enough gore. I am okay with that. That coincides with the positive ones that enjoyed my character-rich stories, my descriptive voice, and my detail. Not all negative reviews are BAD reviews.

That brings me to my second tip: If the writer receives a bad review and has to roam the social media for people to rub their bruised ego and talk about how “ignorant and hateful” the negative reviewer is…run! Negative reviews happen. They hurt me no less than any other writer, but I NEVER respond to a negative review with a defense, nor do I ask others to refute the bad review in order to make me feel better about myself as a writer.

I want to take few minutes to talk about what makes my stuff stand out from the rest. (Not just mine, but also books like The Walking Dead, Breathers, The Loving Dead, and The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten.) Characters. It is really that simple. While each of these tales features zombies, they are much more than simply “zombie” books. They are STORIES. There is a difference. I could do an entire column about the poor editing, bad formatting, and all the rest. However, a good story can still overcome that if it has characters you care about. The best example I have of that is Eden. Some reviews blasted the lack of editing (I have been told it has been redone, but can’t say for sure) but they missed the wonderful work the writer did creating characters that had depth.

When I write, I try to get into the mind of the character I am writing to the point where it has been known to affect my actual mood. I have music for specific moods that I play while writing certain things and could do a column on that too, but I don’t really think it would be all that exciting. Mostly because what works for me likely won’t work for others…some, but that would narrow the audience.

So here is my challenge to those of you who might’ve turned your nose up at my opening line…if you like a good story, it doesn’t matter if it is zombies or zeppelins; broaden your horizon. At least say you tried it and THEN hated it. Heck, email me and I will hook you up with Dead: The Ugly Beginning or Zomblog for free. I am banking on you becoming invested in the CHARACTERS that you will want to read the rest of the series. But if not…that is okay, too. However, I decided to