Friday, February 28, 2014

Kidney stones preempting most of my normal activity

Sitting down to write this small post is a feat in itself. I am currently being pummeled by kidney stones and can do very little at the moment. Today was supposed to be about the March book-of-the-month, but I hope you will forgive my absence today. I will return Monday (hopefully) and we can start talking all about the book Dead Trees by Eli Constant.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Crossing the line? Zombie fiction quandaries.

When I started writing my DEAD series, an idea came that I had to wrestle with for quite a while. In a world that would eventually become lawless and very brutal, where would I draw the line? As the Garrett McCormick character came to mind, I had to make a choice on how to handle him. I knew that he would probably become the most hated character in zombie fiction...but the subject matter was going to be tough.

What I decided to do was focus on the strength on the individual that would become his victim. I wanted to really make Kirsten a strong person internally. That was only part of it, though. The other thing was even more important: what degree of detail do I allow.

I decided to borrow from one of my idols in suspense...Alfred Hitchcock. He was a master at taking you to the edge and then letting your mind fill in the blanks. I am of the belief that the human imagination is an excellent tool that every writer should rely on even more than his or her own words. If you lead them to a dark room and walk away, the reader can make that room far more scary than any description I could put into words.

I make it a point to read ever review I receive. Good or bad, I always look to see what I can learn. After all, the readers are my employers when you get down to it. Now...will I compromise my writing for a person's opinion? Nope. But constructive critique is always useful in improvement. Every so often, I get reviews that hammer me for the brutality that I can easily say comes from the scenes with Garrett. The thing is, I DO NOT go into detail. Personally, I would be uncomfortable writing those scenes and they would just be awkward and creepy. So...I take it right to the edge and then leave the reader to their own devices. Interesting how I get a review every once in a while that blasts me for my "graphic rape scenes". Okay...where? Here is where I will quote on of the reviews, this one makes me point at the screen and say, "YES! Thank you!"

"David" writes: "...I have read a couple of reviews complain about brutality, etc. For those who may be leery of that aspect, I can assure you that it is not excessive or gratuitous, and certainly the sexual violence is not that different from A Song of Ice and Fire (which contains incest, slavery, rape, child rape (Daenerys), copulation with spirits, metaphysical intercourse, etc; and about few people bat an eye). That part of the story is a facet of human nature about which the author has written. A repugnant facet, to be sure, but it does reflect the reality of some people's behavior. Overall, the sexual tone of the book is pretty tame and positive toward women in general. Most of the sex is consensual and occurs between adults."

Alan says: "...Violence and sexual activity exists but are carried at soft beetroot and lime settings....graphic they ain't."

Now, I am a big opponent of writers going off on a tirade at negative reviews. Seriously, if you can't handle them, then don't write. It is part of the business. Suck it up buttercup. My only issue is when people make claims that just are not true. Hey, if you don't like the plethora of characters and varied story lines? That's cool. I can respect that. If you just flat out thought the story was lame...I'm okay with that too. You are absolutely allowed your view, and I do not begrudge you posting that 1-star actually adds credibility to all those glowing 5-stars in my opinion. (I actually have a small cadre of haters that go so far as to 1-star every title I have out as an audio book and give "not helpful" votes to any of the positive reviews. the time you get to book 4 or 5 in the series and rate it a 1 star...wouldn't you stop reading it by then?) But when you slam the story for elements that do not exists, I have a question for you...

What is lurking in your mind?

I have been attacked via email by people who say I am obviously f****d up in the head. I have haters that spew things on the social media about me based on things that they know little about and even make up parts to try and deride me both personally and professionally. The reality and the stories have some distance between them, but that is not what I will be getting into here. I know who I am, and I know that my only goal as a writer is to create a world that lives and breathes. I want it to be "real" and not a bunch of candy-coated drivel. Try to watch your news the next few imagine if all order, law and structure was removed and people could act in any manner without fear of punishment? Scary...isn't it!

If you are reading this, you probably have read my DEAD series. What do you think? Do I go too far? Did my idea of trying to make Kirsten into a mentally strong girl who would not be defeated by her tormentor miss the mark? Would the series have been better is that whole section of the Vignettes been left out?

Weigh in below with your comments. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

New month ahead means a new book-of-the-month

Today will be short but sweet. It's Monday, you probably want another cup of coffee...I get that. So let me send you on your way with a pretty simple goal. We all know that it is Women Horror Writer Recognition Month. (And if you didn't before, you do now.) Personally,I think that there are far more talented female horror writers than just one month can I got another for ya.

May I introduce to you the lovely and talented Eli Constant; author of Dead Trees. That will be my featured Indie book-of-the-month. Good news, if you are an Amazon Prime member, you can use your free borrowed book selection. It is just as good as a sale, and in some cases (depending on price and the KDP fund) the writer actually can make more. your part, grab a copy and let's read it for our March book. As always, I encourage you to leave a review when you finish. They make a difference.

Get your copy HERE!
So...what is Dead Trees about? Well, here is the blurb...

"A scientist mommy battling beasties better be handy with a scalpel. Elise Swanson is trying to give her daughters a decent childhood. This should be a simple task, but the invading undergrounders - subterranean humanoids that have existed since the dawn of mankind - make outdoor playtime a tad tricky. After fleeing Georgia and surviving six months of bumbling self-sufficiency, Elise and her daughters meet Jason. He's tough and nature-savvy. Pit stop fights with beasties define the survival-road that the four companions navigate. The bloody pavement finally ends in Washington State at a government safe zone where the trekkers hope to build a stationary life. Fleeing her home, Elise had two loved ones to shelter. That number has risen. When the not-so-safe zone is invaded by beasties, she will save her family... no matter the consequences."

Friday, February 21, 2014

Women Horror Writers Month!

You ain't got yours yet? Well go HERE and change that now!

Now that I have your attention...let's talk about Claire C. Riley's book, Odium. First things first, I don't do spoilers, so if you have not finished yet, or if you are just considering whether or not to take the need to be cautious. 

I believe that reviews should focus on a few key elements: story, characters, and editing. The Indie scene is a wasteland of poorly edited books that can absolutely frustrate a reader. Let's tackle that first...

Odium reads clean. Nothing is perfect. Trust me. I have read titles from the "Big Six" with a hiccup here and there. So, Odium gets an 'A' for being a clean read.

Next, and really the item that tips the scales: story. Odium will suck you into a very real world. Claire does an amazing job of creating very real people and making you love or hate them accordingly. I know it is early, but this book has set the bar high for my "favorite reads of 2014" list. 

Where Claire really shines is in her descriptive ability. She paints a world that you can see, hear, and smell. Her ability to describe is an example that teachers could use in a writing class. She does not go overboard, but finds the "sweet spot" of description. And trust me, it is just as easy to go overboard as it is to be to vague. Claire C. Riley is a name you need to add to your list. She may very well be the best writer you have never heard of...but need to.

I am sure that I could have been given a copy of this book as a reviewer, but I chose to buy it myself to support a fellow indie. It is worth ten times the price as this is a full-length book and not some hundred page, double-spaced pamphlet that far too many people are trying to pass off as novels these days.

Help me celebrate Women Horror Writers month by supporting Claire C. Riley. Grab a copy of will be glad that you did. And here is my offer to you...if you have not yet purchased a copy, and you do so now and post a review (with the "Verified Amazon Purchase" tag by the end of February (2014), all you have to do is shoot me an email at with a link to your review and I will give you a free copy of ANY audio book of mine that you want. DEAD, Zomblog, Ava...even my non-horror title, Dakota. 

So what are you waiting for? Check in Monday and get the heads-up on my Indie title of the Month for March. Here is a is ANOTHER female horror writer! Personally, I think every month should be about women in one way or another.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A love letter to people who took a chance.

Before I get to the mushy stuff, I just want to let everybody know that I will be posting my review and thoughts about Claire C. Riley's book, Odium on if you are reading along, I hope you will share your thoughts here as well as on the assorted review sites. Reviews DO matter to writers. A good review is a nice thing to see, and made more special when it comes from a stranger. We love that some of our friends pick up our stuff, but that is different. When a total stranger reads your stuff and says nice things...that is something hard to explain when it comes to how that feels. As for  a well constructed critical review...they have their place as well (notice how I did not say negative? If done right, a less than glowing review CAN be helpful).

Now, for the reason behind today. Many of you know that I dipped my toe into the audio book realm recently. ACX makes it very easy to do and I suggest it to all of my writing compadres. My early experiences were mixed, and in one case, an absolute disaster. However, that disaster actually led to something VERY special.

I started with my non-zombie offering, Dakota. It has some good stuff...but now that I have learned more and heard a wider variety of audio selections, there are some production issues that I should have been more aware of and vigilant in regards to before giving my "okay" on the final piece. It is still good...but it could have been better. Next, I tried one of my shorts, Exoterrestrials, and I wish this got more attention because I REALLY dig how the narrator brought this to life. Johnnie Hayes has a very "noir" sort of sound.

I ventured farther out and decided to put my Gruesomely Grimm Zombie Tales up for audition. +Darla Middlebrook nailed it! Imagine if your grandmother tucked you in at night with a zombie story? I still pull that book out and listen every once in a while just to smile and marvel at how much a voice talent matters.

Once I felt okay, I put Zomblog out there. This started good, but the production team imploded and that was AFTER they had committed to also do my DEAD series. Let me say that I really do like how the Zomblog books were brought to life. However, the collapse of that team is what led me to Andy McFerrin and the crew at Falcon Sound. More on that later...

Next up was That Ghoul Ava. I really struggled to find the perfect voice for her. When I found +Aurora de Blas, I was very happy. She was silky and sexy and did a great job, unfortunately for me, but good for her, Hollywood took her out of my price range.

That led me to +Pamela Lorence. I fell in love with her voice. She has a fun, perky, spunky quality that brought more fun out of Ava than I realized I had written. She took Ava and made her her own. I was glad that she did it her way and did not try to replicate Celia. Don't get me wrong, I loved Celia's performance, but I think Pamela has stamped Ava with HER voice. Change can always be dangerous and unfair to the person who picks up the gauntlet...but different is not bad. Think of Bewitched and the "Darrin swap". Or, more recently, the "Becky change" on Rosanne. If you just give it a minute, you will see the magic rekindle.

Now I can't imagine Ava any other way. Pamela is my Ava and I would be heartbroken to lose her. She gets better with each episode and this latest one is magic. She causes me to shake my head in disbelief when I listen. She makes me sound WAY better, and since it is bad form to post reviews for your own books, let me just say a little something here about her performance in That Ghoul Ava Kicks Some Faerie A**. From the opening title, she is in character. Seriously, I got a message from her in the early stages of production and she had a few ideas for the opening title...when I heard her idea, I had to call my wife and make her listen. She has Ava's attitude down perfect. You can hear the insecurity as well as the bluster of Ava Birch. Comedy relies heavily on timing...and Pamela has that down to a science. So, I just want to thank Pamela for what she does. I hope you will give her a listen...and if so, take the time to put a review up on Audible.

Along those same lines, I had to re-cast my last two books in the Zomblog: Snoe series. Enter Jodi Bricker of Falcon Sound Company. She did not even bat an eye at coming in after somebody else and making the last two books her own. And I could not be happier. She is the perfect example of how different something can be from the original, yet surpass the mark and make it even better. She has completed Zomblog: Snoe's War and is at work on Zomblog: Snoe's Journey to complete the series. I loved that the first thing she asked for after we made the deal was for a copy of all the previous books so that she could sink into the world surrounding Snoe and better understand her. That told me I had the right person, not just for her voice, but for her attention to the little details.

That leaves my DEAD series. I have made it clear from day one that this is the book series that I want to be known for. It is very special to me, and when I lost my initial narration team, I was very frustrated. I had to go back to the auditions. Fortunately, I had one that stood out when I'd first listened. That is what led me to +Andy McFerrin and Falcon Sound Company. Starting with DEAD: The Ugly Beginning, Andy has plunged in to bring the apocalypse to life. As this is being written, he is hard at work on book 4 of the series and hopes to be caught up on the back catalog around the time I release book 9 this summer.

The wonderful and horrible thing about performance is that you will never please everybody. However, I think that WAY more people will love what Andy has done than those who do not. He has given voice and life to over a hundred characters in my DEAD world. His characters range from a five-year-old Hispanic girl to the creepiest man to ever appear in a story (and if you shudder at the name Garrett McCormick, wait until you hear Andy breathe life into that monster!). Could he put more of a pause between the vignette scnes? Maybe...but do we really need the old "Turn the page when you hear the sound of Tinkerbell waving her magic wand" prompt from the old Disney read-along story albums? I guess I give people enough credit to follow the story and know that a scene change has happened.

So, how do I review the performance? Well, my best compliment is that I won't let anybody else touch the narration of the series. Andy is my guy. Period. I look forward to each edition being completed so I can listen to it and shake my head in disbelief. As a writer, it is hard to read my stuff, but I enjoy hearing it and actually thinking, "Wow! I wrote that? Pretty cool!" It is also interesting to hear how another person emphasizes certain things. It lets you hear if your story is clear. Andy has transformed my work into what I believe to be one of the best zombie series out there. Some might consider that bragging, but I don't really care. If I were not confident in my work, why bother doing it?

So, to my amazing and talented voice talents...I thank you all. You have given me a gift that I doubt you will ever know just how much I appreciate. You breathed life into my words.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Let's all talk about Claire.

Since my reading was falling off and I felt awful that, as a writer, I was not doing my part to support the Indie scene and be a READER, I asked a few of you to jump in with me and pick a book to read each month. We would come here and perhaps discuss/critique it a bit early on, and then, at the end of the month, we could share our thoughts as well as each write a review.

This month, I am reading Odium by Claire C. Riley. Ain't she just a cutie?!

Well...don't let that face fool you. Claire has horror chops. Since I am a big "anti-spoiler" sort of person, I thought I would open our discussion talking about Claire's descriptive style. If forced to use one word, I would describe her as "vivid". You are treated to all five sense being engaged with Claire. She picks you up off your couch or comfy chair and hurls you into her dead world. 

What stands out for me is that she did not have to throw a wall of zombies at you to put you in her created apocalypse. In fact, you don't even actually meet one until chapter three! Bravo!

So, fellow reader, time to share a few early impressions. Feel free to use the comment section below to get a running dialog going.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Where did your friends go?

I am taking a trip to the Oregon Coast this weekend, so I won't be around on Monday. Because of that, I figured I would share Monday's post today. Tomorrow I want to talk about Claire C. Riley's book. But first...

I am blessed in my life to have a few REAL and very good friends. My grandfather used to say that if you could count your real friends on one hand, you were doing okay. When asked what a real friends was, he said it was somebody that liked you when you were at your worst...somebody who would drop what they were doing if you needed help...and somebody who would tell you truthfully when you were being an ass.

Most of us know plenty of people who fall in to that last category. The thing is, social media has demeaned the word "friend" to the point of near irrelevance. However, many of us can hearken back to a simpler time when we used phones to call our friend just to say hello or see how they have been. For all the simplicity of the social media, too many of us have forgotten how great it used to feel to hear from or (heaven forbid) get a visit from a friend.

With as easy as it is to stay connected, many have become disconnected. We have forced ourselves to believe that trivial sentences and random pictures interspersed with the occasional meme counts as touching base with our friends.

Now don't get me wrong, I actually have a few real friends that I have never met face-to-face. People who have stepped up and offered support and friendship to me despite whether it may be "popular" or not. But that is a rarity.

The thing is, I had some amazing friendships when I was younger. I had a crew that shared some amazing laughs with and who knew me when I was just a confused teen with a rough household of abusive parents and a penchant for consuming alcohol in unhealthy quantities. Some I lost along the way when my life took a nosedive. One still breaks my heart to this day...he was like my brother, only closer. Some just sat back and waited to see how I would handle this newest obstacle. But the thing is, we aren't kids anymore with tons of leisure time. We reached that curse called "adulthood" with all the responsibilities it entails.

So what is my point? Simple. Friends are a priceless item in your life. Do you have one you always mean to get in touch with, but for some reason time keeps slipping away? Well, I lost my best friend in the world to cancer a few years ago...and I never got to say goodbye. Not a day passes where I don't think of him. (I even named a character in my books after him just so I could have him around.) But if only I would have made it a point to stop what I was doing for a minute and call just see what was going on in his life...

Or, maybe you had a friend that you have had a falling out with...and perhaps you can't even remember why anymore. Well, is all you shared worth swallowing a tiny lump of pride and being the person to reach out and say, "I sure have missed you." 

Just something to think about.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Let's read a book together...

Okay, since almost none of my "writer friends" actually chimed in (wave to the empty room Debra R. Johnson), it looks like I will be going it alone for the first part. To that end, I have selected the first title. In my quest to support my fellow Indies, I am selecting Odium by Claire C. Riley. That also falls in with this being "Women Horror Writers Month".

Get it HERE!
 So, how will this work? Simple. Grab the book and start reading. On Friday, pop in and look for my update. Also you can see on Goodreads the amount of progress I have made under my "Currently Reading" area on my home page.

I invite you to snag your own copy and get reading. We are behind this month, so beat feet!

Now, in other things...are any of you taking in any of the Winter Olympics? What are your thoughts on the games? you prefer the Summer Olympics to the Winter?

Short and sweet. Now pick up a book.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A challenge to all writers.

Okay, I am admitting it right here...I have been very busy the past few weeks. New books coming out, the Cancer anthology being put together...getting prepared for my Spartan Run. So my free time is at a premium. We all know how I spent last Sunday (as I continue to bask in the glow of the Seahawks' Super Bowl victory).

But I have to come clean and admit that my READING has taken a nose dive. Now here is the a writer, I depend on READERS. Yet, lately, I have not cracked a spine or turned on my Kindle (except to play a few rounds of Candy Crush here and there). Now, I can claim the defense that I am now very in to listening to audio books. But honestly, that is not the same at all.

So I am throwing down the gauntlet to some of my fellow authors who make the same excuse. How about we start a little Book of the Month club. We take one author and let him or her present the title of their choice and then we read it. Now, we need a moderator and a person to randomly draw the names, so how about one of my non-author friends? That would make it fair so it does not seem like I am playing favorites (me being chosen three months in a row would be a DEAD giveaway..see what I did there?)

So, if you are interested, just give a yelp in the comments section below. I think that, as writers, we need to stop making excuses NOT to do the very thing that we rely on for our livelihood. So...who is in?

Monday, February 3, 2014

BOOM!!!! Doubters got served up a big plate of crow...(or Seahawk)!

Food and cheering hangover in full effect today. Since the Nordstrom family brought the team to Seattle in 1976...I have been a devoted Seattle Seahawk fan.

With the Super Bowl over, I can spend the off season happy knowing that my team finally won the game that matters. I will be back Wednesday with stuff to say about something...but for now.

Congrats to my beloved Seattle Seahawks.