Friday, February 27, 2015

What makes a book REALLY good?

Believe it or not, that is an honest question. I am curious. I mean, I know what I like, but I am just one person. Much like food, music, politics, and religion, there are a number of different tastes and preferences out there in the wide world.

I have read a few books that feel like the author believes people have to use expletives as every other word in their dialog. Now, I'm no Puritan, but after a while, doesn't it get a little old? Sure, we are all grown-ups (technically, if not in our behavior), but don't you want something more than F-bombs every few words?

And what about stand alone novels versus a series. That is something I am really interested in as I set off on a stand-alone binge for the next few years as the proper part of the DEAD series wraps up.

I hear some folks say that they will read anything by an author once they like him or her. That is a VERY small number. If that were true, then some of my other books would release to much bigger numbers. (Yeah, I am talking about my That Ghoul Ava series.) It does about .5 percent of what my DEAD books do. That is DECIMAL FIVE if you missed the tiny dot or thought that you had a speck on the screen. And don't get me started on Dakota. If that book sells one or two a month, I am blown away.

So what do you look for? And does it have to be zombies or you pass it by? 

The next question is even more difficult. Where is the line crossed? I have already shared the fact that I have received hate mail and death threats due to a certain character in my DEAD series. Imagine if I had actually gone into any real detail?

For me, it has always been about feeling something. Good or bad, if you can give me true emotion, then you are hitting the jackpot. And I read a lot of stuff that is not zombie fiction. Right now, I am reading Kim Harrison's new book (actually, it is Kim Harrison as Dawn Cook--that is something else that I don't get, but maybe we can touch on that another day) and Janet Evanovich along with a pair of picture books, one about biking through China and the other about Paris. Are your tastes eclectic, or do you prefer to stick with one thing and ride it until you get burned out? And if so, how long does that usually take?

I know that I do go on binges of certain things, but I am finding that I like to spread out into other things and see what is out in the big, wide world. You never know what you might be missing.

Last little query. Do you push your friends to read what you read? Do you rant and rave about how great it is and then try to get them to come along for the ride? I ask this because that is exactly what I did the first time that I read The Stand. And my buddy and I spent the next three nights talking on walkie-talkies as we read late at night that summer before my freshman year. We always did a "What page are you on?" check in before we would get into a discussion about what was going on. That made it so much fun.

Oh well, back to work. Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I'm ba-aa-ack!

They say that whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Not true.

Oh yeah, she is doing EXACTLY what you think she is! And her "friend" is bailing.

Although, I bet that young lady puking in the garbage can on the concourse by the V Theater (where Denise and I saw Zombie Burlesque) wishes that were true. You see, in this day and age, nothing stays where it is probably supposed to stay.

Speaking of Zombie Burlesque...that is a great place to start. Wait, not true. I should start by saying that it is great to be back. As much fun as Denise and I had on the trip, being home feels wonderful. So much I could share, like the fact that I would never be able to wash the top of my head again if Denise had her way after Donny Osmond gave it a little rub after high-fiving Denise as he sang and walked down our aisle where we sat watching the Donny and Marie show.

Or I could talk about the great day we had out at the Hoover Dam with a wonderful person who so generously provided us with a room at the MGM Grand Signature Suites (on the 37th floor!). I could share about culinary delights and the man who inspired me to create an upcoming super-villain in my DEAD: Snapshot series. Just be ready to buy the tee shirt with "I sentence you to...THE DARKNESS!" when they become available.

The view from our balcony.
I could mention that the Vegas of today does not even remotely resemble the Vegas I knew in the early 90s. It is amazing in many ways. But can I ask a question? Who brings their KIDS to Vegas?! You can spruce it up and put a roller coaster on every corner, but that is just not a town that should be on the "Family Vay-cay" list. At best, they are in the way. At worst...well...they just don't fit. Also, the "Bad Customer Service" disease seems to have found its way in to a place where I remember as being one of the MOST customer oriented locales in the world. When did rudeness become okay for blackjack dealers? In the old days, one complaint from an unhappy patron might cost a person his or her job. Not anymore. 2 out of every 3 dealers I encountered were either rude, could not speak or understand clear English or BOTH!

I could share how I now have a guitar that was used in the show Raiding the Rock Vault and signed by the entire cast including many who have played with bands from the 80s! Or how my normally stage shy wife was part of the Anthony Cools hypnotist show. (I have the DVD of the performance to prove it!)

But, instead, I will simply say that I had the time of my life. I am glad to be home, and to my "anonymous" host...thank you to both you and your husband for being part of such a wonderful experience.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Stop being such a dick (revisited).

As I sit down to write this, I could go two ways. The first is to put somebody on blast. The problem with that is that, no matter how small, I am a public figure as a writer. Would coming out and ripping somebody a new one (I am talking using names and everything) be a turn off? And what about the backlash from the friends/fans/followers of the person I punched in the throat with my little blog? They would get all mad and stuff. Then a shot would be fired in return. I really don't have the energy for that.

The other way I could go is to say "HA! Gotcha!"

That might confuse you for a moment until I explain. Blog posts that I have put up with a headline that veers towards a negative slant are viewed in some cases five time the amount of normal posts. Oh yeah...I started paying attention last year. My post titles "A punch in the face...and a hug" received over three times the views as my "Warriors, Spartans, and Maniacs...oh my!" post. Now it could be that many people do not care about mud/obstacle course running, or the training involved...but that is simply one quick example. Across the board, my "controversial" (read critical) posts get blown up with views. When I say thank you or post a review, those posts reach triple digits in views, but my only posts in the four digit views are ones that can be perceived as negative or salacious.

So why is that?

Have we truly devolved to the point where negativity, name-calling, and meltdowns are more worthy of our attention? So, I have a challenge. Oh yeah...this is another chance to get ignored and hear nothing but crickets.

My challenge does not involve a bucket of ice water, and there is no monetary penalty for ignoring it, but here it is:

Either in the comments here or on the link you found this post, say something nice to somebody that you might not have spoken to for a while. Be sure to tag them. Or...just say something nice to a friend and let them know that you care or are thinking of them. You never know when fate will take them from you forever. If today was their last day...what would you want that person to know? Say it, tag them, and encourage them to spread some goodness this weekend.

Friday, February 20, 2015

I'm in Vegas, baby!

Seriously. As I have been saying, Denise and I are out of town, so today and Monday are going to be "reruns" such as it is. And since the new DEAD is right around the corner...why not revisit the new and upcoming Snapshot spin off.

Okay, this is not about people stealing other people's stuff. Instead, it is about the approach that I have decided to take as an independent author. Here is the reality, as a writer, I am employed by the thousands of people who buy my books (physical, e, or audio). (Did I just say thousands? Why yes...{pats self on back} my readership has actually risen to those lofty heights where my readers went from being counted in the tens, to the hundreds, and now...the THOUSANDS!!! Seriously hard not to say "suck it" to the haters, but I digress.)

As many of you now, the DEAD series is rolling into the final arc of the series. But this is merely "goodbye" and in no way should it be considered a farewell. I have already turned to you, my readers and asked for towns that you would like to see wiped out in my DEAD world. The first book, DEAD: Snapshot--Portland, Oregon is already in production. The second will be DEAD: Snapshot--Leeds, England, and it is on deck.

Additionally, I am working on Kevin's own series spinoff. Many who have already read book 10 will understand that there is A LOT to tell about what happened to him between books 9 and 10.

So, what does that have to do with today? Well, I have decided that my "That Ghoul Ava" fans deserve some special treatment. To that end, I have decided that my readers will be the ones to pick the "monsters" that Ava will face in her adventures. This one is submitted by Caroline Harmon. She submitted the "Lamia" to me. Now, normally, I post a sneak peek of the first few pages, but not this time. This time is special...


When the Children Cry

“Yeah?” I mean, seriously, what else was I gonna say?
“You don’t watch the news at all, do you?” Morgan said this with her normal lack of emotion, but the disdain was clear.
“Too depressing.” I gave a shrug.
Tell me if I am wrong here. Every time I turn on the local news, people are killing each other, abducting kids…or worse. And don’t even get me started on the politicians. I refuse to even turn the idiot box on during election stuff. Did you see the story about the little girl who wrote her local politicians—I think they were senators or something—and said that they made her sad with all the negative talk? Democrat or Republican or Independent…they all say what they need to to get you to like them, then nothing really changes no matter who you vote for.
All that said, I still vote. But it mostly because of ballot measures and stuff. And since I actually read my pamphlet, I don’t need a commercial to tell me what I think. Wow…how did I get here?
“Children are being killed.”
See? THAT is why I don’t watch the news. Who wants to sit down to dinner and hear that?
“When you say children…?”
“Seven so far.” Morgan actually had a tinge of emotion in her voice. “All no older than eleven. The youngest was three.”
“How do you know it is our fault?” I asked. “Last I checked, humans can be a pretty vile bunch.”
“Hey!” Lisa objected.
“Westley Allen Dodd…Albert Fish…Ian Brady and Myra Hindley…” I started to tick off on my fingers.
“Okay!” Lisa snapped.
“Can we get back to the subject at hand?” Morgan asked, breaking the locked glare between me and Lisa.
“Please.” I gave a rolling gesture with my hands.
“We know because we have an eyewitness.” Morgan did not say a word, but my front door opened.
“Aren’t you going to invite me in?” Belinda said with a lascivious wink.
“You have got to be kidding.”
Standing in my doorway was the blond-haired, blue-eyed vampire that became my first Supernatural nemesis. She was dressed like a hooker pretending to be a schoolgirl. Her hair was a pair of braids on each side with the part down the middle in a razor-straight line that only the OCD of a vampire would have the patience to achieve. Seriously, if you were to take a measurement, I am willing to bet that it runs exactly down the center of the top of her head.
My eyes only paused for the briefest of seconds on the adorable saddle shoes she was wearing. Instead of the standard black and white, they were an emerald green and ruby red to match her plaid skirt and cotton blouse.
“Well?” Belinda said with a hint of agitation. And if she did not think I noticed her eyes dart over to Lisa, she would be very mistaken.
A little while ago, Lisa was supposedly meeting “in secret” with Belinda. I still have no idea what that might be about, and since I am trying to mend the rift that developed between Lisa and I, it has not been something that I have brought up. When she is ready, she will talk to me about it.
“Fine.” I gave a wave with my hand.
“Belinda, please tell Ava what you saw,” Morgan said after what seemed like an eternity of very uncomfortable silence.
“I believe we had an agreement.”
Those words hung in the air with an almost physical presence. I thought I was the only one who gave Morgan a ration of grief. All the other Supernaturals that I had met up to this point had been very respectful and almost reverent when dealing with my regional Psychic (unless they were trying to kill her, but that was a rare occasion…so far).
“Now is not the time, Belinda,” Morgan said, her lips pressed so tight that they practically disappeared from her face.
“Now is precisely the time,” Belinda shot back. “You gave me your word.”
I was a little surprised. I tried to imagine a situation where Morgan would either offer up freely or be coerced into “giving her word” to do anything. She was boss, and in my world, that meant she told people what to do and that was all there was to it.
“Lisa,” Morgan said after what might have been just enough of a twitch around her eyes to count as a glare at Belinda, “Belinda requests for you to return to her residence to…work out the details of your agreement.”
The old Ava would have blown a gasket. However, I was not going to say a word.
Oh, who am I kidding!
“What the hell agreement are you talking about?” I exploded. It was actually a second or two before I realized that my fingers and toes had gone switch. Yeah…I was pissed.
“This is between the human and me.” Belinda gave a dismissive wave as she strutted past me and stopped in front of Lisa, her head tilting to one side like a puppy hearing a dog whistle.
I have no idea where it came from, but a growl escaped me that would have scared me if I had not been the one doing it. Faster than I think anybody gave me credit, I was between Belinda and Lisa, one switchfinger pressed into the soft spot under her chin.
“I don’t know if it would kill you, but I am certain that it would at least sting a bit if I push all the way up into whatever passes for a brain in your pretty blond head,” I snarled. Now, I know that word gets used a lot when people describe an angry person saying something, but I was seriously snarling.
“You think I’m pretty?” Belinda said with no more concern than if I might be simply offering her a cup of coffee.
“Children!” Morgan said with actual anger. This was out of character enough to make both Belinda and I turn to face her. “There is a monster in my district that is devouring children! Set your petty squabbles aside immediately and we can deal with all of this later.”
When she put it like that, I was actually a little bit embarrassed. She had a point. After all, she had led off with the whole thing about something killing children, and here I was getting into it with the fanged she-bitch. Although, to be fair, she started it. At least that is how I remember it.
“And I am not a bargaining chip!” Lisa snapped.
The nasty look she shot Belinda made me smile. Take that, Fang Face!
“I said enough!” Morgan turned to Lisa, however, she was back to her level, unemotional self. Apparently Lisa did not merit the wrath of Morgan.
“So what did you see?” I willed my switch digits to retract, but I still could not help but smile when I saw just the smallest drop of blood well under Belinda’s chin. To her credit, she did not even bother to wipe at it with her hand.
“I was up at Washington Park with my evening meal when I heard something from a nearby ravine. At first I ignored it, humans are always doing terrible things to each other, and I tend to make it none of my business. Only, despite what you might think, I will not ignore the cries of a child.”
Belinda paused and stared at me like she was daring me to say anything to the contrary. Actually, I was too surprised at the admission to speak. After I kept my mouth shut, she resumed her narration.
“I bespelled my meal and went to investigate. Sadly, I was too late. I arrived just as the two tiny feet were vanishing down the gullet of the bitch.”
If I did not know better, I would have thought that Belinda was actually just a bit upset. She sounded a little choked up and her voice had changed to that strangled rasp people get when they are talking and trying not to cry.
“I was not sure what I was seeing at first. Honestly…” she took another deep breath and I actually caught my hand halfway to her shoulder where I would have tried to offer a conciliatory pat or something equally out of character, “…I honestly did not realize what I was seeing until that upper torso turned to me and fixed me with her eyeless gaze. Then I knew.”
I heard Lisa gasp. I could see the grim expression that looked so out of place on Aoife’s face. Heck, even Morgan seemed to be a little bit upset. That meant that yours truly was once again the idiot who had no idea what in the blazes Belinda was talking about.
“She is what is known as a lamia,” Morgan said before I could ask my stupid question. “There are many myths about their origin, but the bottom line is this, they are the incarnation of evil. They are former women who were…indiscreet with married men who were fathers. According to the Grimoire, they made deals with a demon that would result in the man actually following through with what is usually the empty promise of leaving his spouse. They have their former upper body at its prime, but they are a serpent from the waist down.”
“Yes, and this one took off down a drainage pipe the moment that she realized she had been spotted.” Belinda actually shivered. “There was no way I was going to follow.”
This was a lot to digest. I was not sure where to start. The whole snake-lady thing, the fact that Belinda had said she arrived just as the feet were vanishing down this thing’s throat, or the fact that Belinda was too scared of it to pursue. We were not friends, but she did not strike me as a scaredy cat.
“Wait!” I said as my mind snatched at something else Belinda had shared. “You said something about eyeless?”
“A lamia is tormented by nightmares whether she is awake or asleep. Visions of the lives of the children that she destroyed and the children she would never be able to raise as her death in human form would come while in the act of labor in the birth of her first child,” Lisa blurted.
All eyes turned her way. She blushed at the attention, but after rolling her shoulders back, she seemed to rise up just a bit taller before she spoke again.
“The deal with the demon ensures that she will marry the man and that she will become a mother. What they do not know is that they will never live to see a single day of that child’s life. The nightmares and visions are said to drive them to the point where they gouge out their own eyes to try and avoid seeing the visions any longer. Unfortunately, that is when they discover that the visions will never subside as they play out in their minds. They eventually are driven to seek out and kidnap children, but they are so horrifying to look at that the children understandably scream and cry uncontrollably. They devour them, some say to keep their souls…much like a ghoul keeps other Supernaturals, in their mind.”
I looked around and saw the same open-mouthed stares that I know I had on my face. That was a feat considering the company. Oh, getting my jaw to drop is really no big thing, but when you have Morgan and Belinda both slack-jawed with wonder, that is saying something.
“And where did you get your hands on a copy Unnatural Grimoire?” Morgan eventually rediscovered her ability to talk. Personally, that was not the question I had; in fact, it wasn’t even in the top five.
“The only way Templars can effectively prepare for an enemy is to utilize every resource available.” Lisa said it with a lot of hesitation in her voice. I had a funny feeling that she was not supposed to share her source. Only, when you thought about it, it made perfect sense.
“We can discuss that issue at a later time.” Morgan was back to being as smooth as glass. “What else can you tell us?”
“Actually, there is not much more.” Lisa shot me a look, but I had no guess as to what it meant.
“Wait!” Now I was ready to wade back in to this little conversation. “You said that the lamia thing was just finishing with swallowing a child.” My attention was on Belinda now.
“Yes, the feet were just disappearing down her throat.”
“So she what…opens her mouth like a snake or something?”
“As far as I could tell.”
“And you are here sending me after this thing why exactly?” It was now time to poke Morgan for a few minutes.
“That is the role of a ghoul. You are, for lack of a better term, the hired muscle. Ghouls are responsible for eliminating rogues and anything that may bring harm to a region of the employing Psychic.”
I noticed her wording. She used the term “employing” because she had not claimed me specifically for her district. Of course, I was bothered at first, but I have learned why and am okay with it now.
“So you want me to…” I guess I still needed to hear Morgan say it in order to make it real.
“Hunt down and kill this creature.”
“No talking or maybe trying to capture her and maybe have Betty create a cell. Just—”
“There is no need. A lamia will not be reasoned with or convinced to do anything. They are mad with grief and anger.”
I guess that was it. Now for the ugly part of the business. Well, not actually ugly, but maybe uncomfortable would be a better term.
“And what does this job pay upon completion?” I had learned that it is best to get specific terms with Morgan. She is good at changing the game just when you think that you have crossed the finish line. “And by completion, I mean, when I kill this lamia, I bring you the head or whatever and you make the arrangements however you do them and this job is done.”
It might seem like I was being silly, but I’d been working with Morgan for a little while now and knew that she had a way of telling me that a job was still not finished when I would report in and tell her that it was.
“The head will suffice,” Morgan agreed with a slight nod. “And the pay will be a base of one million dollars, but that amount will be decreased by a hundred thousand with each subsequent child death that is reported and can be attributed to this lamia.”
That seemed kind of vague. I mean, how would she know if some child’s death could be pinned on this lamia. Obviously, that was written on my face.
“I am receiving…ripples would perhaps be the best way to describe it to you, each time a child dies. My only guess is that it is something emanating from the creature.”
Fair enough. Sure, some random tragedy could strike and she could deduct money, but that was definitely not Morgan’s style. I could at least trust her in this regard. She was always pretty generous with the payments. It was really always just a matter of her accepting my version of done.
With the details ironed out, I figured we were done. I stood for a moment waiting for Morgan and Belinda to leave. For several seconds, nobody moved.
“We can speak outside,” Lisa finally said, leading Belinda to the front door.
I wanted to protest, but I did not really have any grounds. Lisa could do as she pleased. Our issue had come down to my trusting her. Admittedly, that was difficult for me in any regard and with any individual before she became a Templar. Now that she was a member-in-training for the organization that had tried to eradicate all of ghoulkind that now apparently had a price on my head specifically, it was understandably strained.
Morgan stood motionless like a porcelain statue until the door shut, then fixed me with her gaze. “Lisa is obviously proceeding with her training.”
It wasn’t a question, but there was just the slightest lilt to her voice that might be her either asking me or showing some level of concern. Since I had no idea what she wanted, I stood quietly and waited for her to continue or simply leave in the blink of an eye like she so often did.
“And has Race been trying to put an end to this ridiculous bounty on your head?”
“As far as I know.” He was almost as bad as Morgan when it came to not telling me things. However, I was almost touched that Morgan said it was a ridiculous bounty.
“And we still have the Claude situation to deal with, but that all needs to be shelved. This takes priority,” Morgan said. When she took my hands in hers, I almost shed my skin. “I need you to make this happen quickly, Ava.”
Besides the fact that children were being killed, I’d heard enough to know that a lamia was nasty. Seriously, the whole having an affair with a married man was bad in and of itself. Breaking up a family was bad. But making a deal with a demon to ensure that the man actually left his family was abhorrent. And then to stack on having her own baby with the guy as part of the deal? Seriously, who does that?
Oh…wait. Lamia’s do it.
“I will handle it.” I wanted to have something snappy or witty to come back with, but I couldn’t think of anything.
I blinked. I swear that was all I did. And in that amount of time, Morgan was gone. I really wish that I knew how she did that.
If you ate her, I bet you would find out.
How long have you been out, Blodwen? I asked.
Long enough to hear that a lamia is loose. Nasty creatures those.
Then you also know I have been tasked to kill her.
I was growing to sort of like the old gwyll. Blodwen was settling in nicely as a permanent resident of my head. The fact that a ghoul absorbed the essence of certain Supernaturals and that their souls, or whatever you want to call them, took up residence in my head was something that I was starting to get accustomed to. Also, I was really getting the hang of being able to communicate with them without talking out loud…or looking like I was either constipated or trying to figure out a really hard calculus problem without a calculator.
The door opened and Lisa stepped back inside, patting her arms and I saw little flakes of white brush away. That could only mean—
“It’s snowing.” Lisa’s nose was a bright red and her cheeks were all rosy from the cold. Her smile was so warm that I did not think it was possible for a chill to reach her.
“Does it look like it is sticking?”
I felt just a little nibble of happiness fill in the cracks that had been etched on my soul these past weeks and months. I always loved snow. There was just something so peaceful and settling about it. Add in the beauty of a world blanketed in pure white, what was there not to like. Well, except for having to drive in it. The Portland-Metro area in Oregon is not really known for snow. Drivers all turned into absolute idiots whenever there was a drastic change in weather. There would be no way in hell I would take my precious Corvette out in this sort of thing.
“Yep. We should see a few inches by the look of things.”
Lisa walked past me and I could tell she had something on her mind. Still, she did not say a word as she went into the kitchen where Aoife had retreated and was currently making some sort of stew on the stove.
I debated for a few seconds and then finally followed her in. Screwing my mouth down so that, hopefully, I did not go too far, I slipped into a seat at the kitchen ‘s little breakfast nook and folded my hands in front of me.
“You ready to tell me what else you know about lamias?” I asked.
It was like I had flicked a switch. Aoife turned off the burner, removed her big pot and left the room. Lisa stood with her back to me, her face reflected perfectly in the window that looked out across a rolling hill of growing pine trees that would never see the inside of a house except maybe for firewood. I was not exactly sure what the faeries’ mindset was when it came to fires. And it wasn’t like I needed a fire to get warm, but they did look and smell nice.
“This thing has no known weakness. They die of grief.”
I heard what Lisa said, but I was not really registering it. There was something about her answer that gave me a chill. I was about to press the issue when she continued.
“The Templars have other resources besides the Grimoire. And one of the first things you learn is the weakness and how to kill whatever creature it is that you are looking up.”
It dropped like a lead balloon. She was telling me without actually telling me that the Templars knew how to kill practically everything they came up against. Considering the fact that ghouls were their number one target, that would lead me to believe—
“Ghouls, vampires,” Lisa turned to face me, “even psychics are listed. There is an appendix with a list of monsters that have no known weaknesses or sure methods of elimination. Lamias are on that list.”
I absolutely noticed the very slight pause before she said the word “elimination.” She was trying her best to be politically correct, or whatever this could be called. The problem with that was the fact that I do not follow those same conventions.
“So do you have all the ghoul killing methods committed to memory?” Stupid Ava! Why can’t I ever learn to keep my big mouth shut? To her credit, I barely noticed the flinch that passed over Lisa’s face.
“Can we worry about that later? Right now you need to know that you are going after something that nobody has been able to kill. We are talking about a creature that has records of existence going back centuries.” Lisa’s voice became strangled and I thought that she might break into tears. “And they are not a defenseless creature.”
“Obviously,” I snorted, trying to laugh off her serious tone and dire sounding warning, “they eat children. You really have to be something special to hurt or kill children.”
“They don’t seem to feel any forms of physical pain,” Lisa insisted, undeterred by my dismissive attitude. “There are reports of them being the second most resilient creature when it comes to damage.”
“Second to what?”
“See!” I pointed with one hand and touched a finger from the other to the tip of my nose. “That must mean that we are tougher.”
I will admit that my logic was faulty at best, but the last thing that I needed in my head when going into a fight was a big, Thanksgiving Day-sized scoop of doubt. I had plenty of that on my own without others feeding the monster.
“Just be careful.”
“Hey,” I tried to give a lopsided grin that would make Han Solo proud, “it’s me!”
Lisa left the kitchen. I could tell that she was unimpressed. And now that I was alone, I had to admit, she had done her job if her job had been to make me nervous. My mind drifted over to another track as well.
Morgan was never one who was not in the know. She seemed surprised by Lisa’s little dictionary recital on the lamia. Since I had no idea what the Grimoire said, I had to think that perhaps the Templars might have more of an inside track in the knowledge department on this particular beastie.
There was only one thing I could do. Pulling out my phone, I scrolled through my contacts. There it was: Race Mitchell.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Dis Amazon if you like...but you will lose.

Life is funny. Sometimes, you feel like you are on top of the world. You look around and wonder how things got to the point where everything just seems so damn perfect. You finally silenced that inner voice that screams, "It won't never catch THIS good of a break."

And then...that disaster that you KNEW was just around the corner comes at you like a wrecking ball and slams into your face. You lie there, staring up at a gray sky and think, "Why am I so surprised? I knew that this would happen." You start entertaining the idea of just giving up. Not in some horrible way that entails taking your own life or anything, just simply tossing in the towel and letting life "win." (Although, for some, thoughts of suicide are a sad reality and a demon that they wrestle with daily, but I am not qualified to speak much on that subject having no real grasp.)

Like anybody else, I have those moments. Yep, even a writer that is basically living a dream-come-true has days where I feel like I am wearing Milkbone Underwear in this dog-eat-dog world. (Thanks, Norm!) For me it comes from expectations placed on myself, and fostering my own expectations on others (rather unfairly, I admit).

Examples? These are sort of lame, but here is one. Not long ago, I gave away 25 copies of the new That Ghoul Ava audio book (around $350 worth of good audio luvin'). All I asked for in return were honest reviews. Good or bad. I am not one of those types who schleps for pats on the back or people to heap 5 star reviews on me. Do I like them? Umm...duh! Yes! But I also understand the business of entertainment enough to know that you can't please everybody. As of 11:37 AM on February 17, 2015, this is what you will find on if you seek out Next on a very special That Ghoul Ava: There are no listener reviews for this title yet. Be the first to review it. (Go ahead and click on it...see for your self.)

And I won't get started on the people who have made it their purpose in life to try and bring me down with them into their own pit of misery, or the so-called friends who always seem vanish when the wheels get bogged down in the mud as they bound over to those seemingly always greener pastures where the "cool" kids hang out. Yes, I do have feelings, and yes, they do get a bit bruised after a while just like any other living, breathing human being.

Recently, an author friend of mine fell victim to a troll. Somebody decided to go to that author's Amazon page and vote down all the positive reviews, vote up all the negative ones and then a slurry of undeserved and highly generic 1-star reviews written by a gaggle of brand new Amazon accounts with no other reviews credited hit that author's work as an extra slap in the face. People may or may not realize that certain promotional opportunities arise based on the average rating of a book. Now, I want to STRESS, this is NOT a plea for undeserved and fluffed up ratings. However, this author did NOT deserve that treatment. To that end, a request was made for that author's fans and followers to please return to Amazon and vote on reviews they found helpful (good or bad was actually stressed as this author does not believe in fluff either). Within twenty-four hours, not only were positive reviews voted upwards of 70+ times as being helpful, but over a hundred new reviews arose, many from fans who simply, up to that point did not realize that their voice mattered. I still have people who rush to my latest release (this is mostly an issue where they can rate it and don't even have to leave a review that might be traced back to them, along with a VERY generous return policy) to give it one star. You would think they might know by book 6 or 7 that they hate my stuff and would avoid it.

The rule around this house is that, if I make a book related post and see ten or twenty responses in any form, it is a good day. And I have read posts by those who now think that Amazon reviews don't matter. Well, sadly, they are wrong. Those reviews matter to Amazon. When you get them, they include your work in their advertising emails that say, "If you liked this, then you might enjoy..." The folks who say they DON'T matter are the people who aren't getting them. Yeah...sour grape types. And Amazon is not the only place to let your voice be heard. There is Goodreads (now owned by Amazon), (owned by Amazon)...wait...are you seeing the trend?

The reality is that, especially as an indie where we sell one book to every 1000 of Stephen King's; and the realistic norm is that we can only hope for 5% to leave a review. Indies rely on our readers much more than some big shot. That is why we cultivate relationships with you. That is why we see you as more than just readers. To many of us, you are our friends, even if we never meet face-to-face. I don't think I ever want to reach the point where I can't respond personally to my emails from people who have read my work and love it (or even hate it if they do so critically and not just out of spite).

This might seem like a bunch of crying. It might seem like I am rambling with no direction. And guess what? Sometimes, that is how my mind works. Writers, much like most entertainers, are usually very full of self-doubt and insecurity. My blog is sort of where I go to just empty my brain sometimes. You would be amazed if you read the many posts that I have written and deleted. Sort of like writing that angry letter, but not actually mailing it. It gets the poison out of your system and allows you to move on. Many of those call out people by name when they mount some sort of social media jihad or show an overwhelming willingness to take, and then suddenly vanish when reciprocation is requested. You don't want to read that, and besides, it most likely makes me look bad, or like a great big baby. Hell, this one might do that. But, hey...nobody is perfect.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Final touches and VAY-gassss!

email me at to get yours!

This week is a whirlwind. As many of you may know, Denise and I leave for Vegas this Friday for our 13th anniversary. We will be re-doing our vows at the KISS Wedding Chapel among other Vegas-y things. (Is that a word: Vegas-y?) A dear friend will be staying here at DEAD ROSE MANOR with the dogs, birds, and fish in our absence. If you email me at with your address, you might find your own signed copy of this unique "wedding" invitation in your mailbox. (Type "I WANNA ROCK AND ROLL WEDDING INVITE" in the subject line.)

So, what does any of that have to do with you? Well, as I said last week, I am giving away 5 audio book copies of my That Ghoul Ava series. Yep. You read that correctly. 5 complete 4 volume sets. Us or UK, all you need to do is comment on the thread (on my blog or on Facebook) and I will draw from those names on Thursday night, the night before we leave for Vegas.

In other news, the final touches on the rough draft of DEAD: Snapshot--Portland, Oregon should be completed this week. When I return from this fantastic weekend, I will be heavily involved in the editing phase of four books: This new DEAD: Snapshot title, the new That Ghoul Ava, one contracted title from a client, and UnCivil War. As soon as I am done with edits, I will have the last half or so of UnCivil War to finish writing (I am actually spot editing now to get reacquainted with the material), all of the 11th DEAD book to write, and serious time in the studio as I start my new gig as a voice talent.

Can it get much simpler than that on a Monday?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Aoleon The Martian Girl: Science Fiction Saga (Part 2)

The YA market is a genre that I would not begin to know how to address as a writer. Let me make that perfectly clear beforehand. For Brent LeVasseur, that seems to be absolutely no problem. His amazingly illustrated science fiction saga, Aoléon The Martian Girl: A Science Fiction and Fantasy Saga - Part 2: The Luminess of Mars is further proof.

Much like the first part of this delightful saga, Mr. LeVasseur's strength is in the fact that he does not "dumb down" the dialog. If he fosters that amazing degree of curiosity that is eventually beaten out of us as adults, then you will have children scouring resources for the likes of Ayn Rand and investigating the "five" states of matter. I'm not saying that they will better their understanding of science by reading this wonderful story, but they may become more curious.

Get your copy HERE!
Besides the "learning" aspect, this story has what it needs most: an entertaining story line that will captivate young readers with its easy-to-relate-to issues like friendship, pizza, and rivalry. Did I say pizza? Yeah, and ice cream as well, but have to read for yourself. There is enough tension strung throughout and, just as you long for another, the next amazing image will appear to pull you into the story even further.

With so much depth for a YA title, some might actually shy away. I suggest that you take the approach of this amazing author and allow the young reader to plunge into this amazing story and discover for themselves what might trigger their amazing minds.

I received this title in advance in exchange for an honest review and I look forward to seeing where the next adventure leads.

Book Details:

Book Title: Aoléon The Martian Girl: A Science Fiction and Fantasy Saga - Part 2: The Luminess of Mars, written and illustrated by Brent LeVasseur
Category:  Middle-Grade, 90 pages
Genre: Science-fiction and Fantasy
Publisher: Aoléon Press
Release date: 
February 23, 2015
Content Rating: G

Book Description:

Aoléon and Gilbert receive a special mission from PAX, a wanted criminal and leader of the Martian resistance movement to investigate the Luminon of Mars, who he suspects is planning an invasion of Earth to steal its milk cows. Gilbert has an encounter with the Luminess (the mate of the Luminon) and discovers something strange about her during a procession, and the duo are chased by the Royal Paladin Guard. 

At Aoléon’s home, Gilbert meets Aoléon’s family, her sister Una, mother Phobos and father Deimos as well as her overzealous pet Zoot. He is also introduced to Bizwat, a covert operator and Procyon Commando, who uses his Saturn Pizza delivery job as a cover. 

Gilbert then gets to visit the Martian Space Academy (Aoléon’s school) where he encounters Aoléon’s nemesis, Charm Lepton and her friend Quarkina, as well as receiving a history lesson on the Martian people by Plutarch Xenocrates. After class, Gilbert and Aoléon get to train in zero-G and Gilbert is treated to a Psi-ball match between Martian Space Academy and Martian Science Academy.

Meet the Author:

Mr. LeVasseur enjoys crafting good stories based on lovable characters designed to translate well to multiple media formats such as books, games, movies, and toys. He lives in New York when he is not commuting between Southern California and Olympus Mons, Mars. His hobbies include writing, 3D animation, musical composition, and intergalactic space travel. He also enjoys various sports such as skiing, running, and exospheric skydiving.

Connect with Brent:
   Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Aoléon: The Martian Girl 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Chasing one's tail...maybe dogs have something there.

My years in journalism are well behind me. I do still hold on to one of my instructor's biggest lessons. A headline will bring them in, and your writing has to keep them. That is why I sometimes "tabloid up" with my blog headlines. I think that is the deal today. I really did not know how to label this one.

For those of you waiting, DEAD: Snapshot--Portland, Oregon now has an OFFICIAL release date. April 3rd, 2015. Also...on the side of the bad news, DEAD 11 is delayed until May 4th. Sorry folks. This is what happens when you bite off more than you can chew. I am really trying to get everything done on time, but the new recording studio is proving to be "a bit tricksy" to quote Gollum. Toss in the wedding (vow renewal) in Vegas next weekend, my workout schedule as I close in on the new obstacle course racing season, and just life in general, and I am often left each evening feeling like I spent most of that day chasing my tail.

So, today, I have a very serious question for all my zombie fans. What is more important in a GOOD zombie novel? Characters with depth (regardless of whether you would like them or hate them as people if you ever met)? Or lots of action and people being ripped apart?

I ask this because I feel that I have found my voice in this genre (after only twenty or so books have been published...wowzers!?). I feel it is about the people and the "realness" of them. I want you to like some and HATE some. But, and I have said this before, but sometimes I hear Jeff Goldblum's Ian Malcolm character in my head saying, (use your best Goldblum voice impersonation here) "Ummm,, uh,, uh, you are going to have zombies in your zombie novel, right?"

I don't think there needs to be a person ripped apart on every age, but as I prepare to launch this spin off "Snapshot" series, I worry about the new reader that stumbles across my book for the first time. I won't lie when I say that I really believe that this series holds my future in its hands. This has the potential to launch a good forty or fifty novels. I have all these cool ideas including the small town that actually withstands the zombie menace, an entire book of "evil" (think nasty Garrett McCormick types) some who die horribly...but, some who get away with their evil schemes in a lawless world, and all sorts of things, including at least one novel told entirely from a zombie child's point of view, one from a prison, and one that is a tribute to our armed forces members.

So, what do you think? Can a zombie novel reach "greatness" without horrific violence in abundance? Or, do I need to bow to the masses and stay away from the faces of evil, tell only happy, rainbow and pony tales, and make sure that a zombie appears on practically every page?

Monday, February 9, 2015

Why would you want to see everything you love destroyed?

We are absolutely fascinated by the apocalypse. For whatever reason, death and destruction on a massive and global scale intrigues us. Admit it, when you drive around, you see things and think "This is a good place to set up a base camp if the zombie apocalypse comes." And now, YOU can actually see the ultimate ending play out in your own hometown. How? I'll tell you in a bit. Honestly.

When I started the DEAD series, I had no idea that things would go so well. Seriously. Granted, of course I was hoping for the books to sell, but when you are chasing your dream, how often do you really believe that you will catch it?

Fast-forward just a few years and I have over 20 titles available, three series (one in the final stages of wrapping up--DEAD--and another that is still trying to get its legs under it--That Ghoul Ava--) and a couple of stand alone titles. I am developing a graphic novel, finishing a project that I began in the early 90s, and now, I am about to launch a brand new series...sort of.

The DEAD: Snapshot--{Insert Town Here} is my soon-to-be-released series. Okay, it is only partially new. It is set in the same world that my DEAD series has created, and there may be "guest" appearances by characters from the series that you know and love (or hate). The big difference (and as a writer, this will be my challenge) is that these stories are all stand alone tales that will have a beginning and an end in ONE book. There will not be sequels to these tales that are set in a specific location.

The first (as you may have heard, is DEAD: Snapshot--Portland, Oregon. The next one will be Leeds, England. Since I first put out the word, I have had over two hundred responses as people send me a request to see their town's fate brought to life in my DEAD world. And the beauty is that this has no limits. So, if you would like to have your town (or maybe a town you REALLY hate!) wiped out in the zombie apocalypse, simply send me the name of this town via email to In the subject line, just enter. "I WANT TO SEE THE DEAD TAKE MY TOWN". If your town is chosen, you might even receive a signed copy of the book as well as discover your own fate as a namesake character makes his or her appearance.

It is the end of the world. Bring the zombie apocalypse home and make it personal.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Aoleon--The Martian Girl (Part One)

Get yours HERE!

The first thing I should say is that this is not a title that is normally on my reading list. However, when offered the title in exchange for an honest review, I figured it was a "nothing gained--nothing lost" situation. This book was a treat. Brent LeVasseur has something here that is VERY appealing.

What I do not do is give up spoilers. So my commentary is strictly related to the story and how I feel it will come across. This is a joy not only to read, but also to look at. In the age of PIXAR animation, these images will instantly become something that will captivate a young reader due to how much they look like something that would transfer to a movie so easily.

What makes this story really pop are the well couched pop culture references. Nothing is forced and there is a moral to the story in there, but nothing that is shoved at the reader. This is book one of a series and I honestly believe that if you have a young person that might be much of a reader, this is a great way to bring them in with something that is entertaining, funny, and astoundingly illustrated.

Book Description:

Crop circles magically appear in Farmer Johnson’s field. A mysterious light sweeps over the night sky and awakens Farmer Johnson and Gilbert, the boy next door. 

Curious, Gilbert ventures out to discover the source of the light and stumbles into a beautiful Martian girl sitting in a crop circle. Farmer Johnson also investigates the strange light, and thinking that Gilbert and Aoléon are vandals, he chases them. But they sprint to Aoléon’s saucer and escape only to be pursued by the U.S. Air Force. 

Gilbert has never been attacked by swarms of giant killer robots. Never met strange aliens from other worlds. Never skyboarded across a megalopolis hidden deep inside an extinct volcano. Never trekked across a vast Martian desert. And never been eaten alive by a gigantic slor (well, almost never, unless you count Billy the fat bully at school). 

And luckily, he has never ever confronted an evil ruler of Mars bent on conquering the Earth to steal its cows. 

Never...until now! 

This may be the adventure Gilbert always wished for. 

If only he can survive.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Is there anybody out there...?

Writers often live in a bit of a self-imposed chamber of isolation. The job of writing is solitary by nature and does not lend itself all that well to multiple inputs. Sure, there is the rare collaboration, but the act of writing is still individual, even if you are feeding off of the other person in a give and take situation.

We look forward to those early reviews in order to see if we hit the mark. Nope, this is not a call for reviews, so take your hand off the mouse. I am simply making a comment about how this is a solo endeavor. One of the biggest hurdles you have to overcome is the ability to live in that void. You have to be willing to create a piece of work that will be hated by some. You have to make choices that are often not poplar. Also, you need to be able to smile when somebody says, "You know what would be a REALLY cool idea...?" Remember, they are just trying to help.

When I work on a book, I never really know where it is going to end. Even better, when I think that I have it figured out, something will come along in the story and take me in an entirely different direction. I avoid using outlines like the plague because I think they can make a story linear. One of the strength--I believe--in my writing is that it has an organic feeling (in other words...feels "real").

All of this is a long way to go about saying that I will be putting together my pre-packaged blog posts for DEAD: Snapshot--Portland, Oregon in a few weeks. I am looking for people who would like to host me, or even send me their very own interview questions. Any takers? Anybody with friends of friends who have blogs and are looking to have a guest post or two? Well then, shoot me a line (or have that friend of a friend) at I am open to any form of media. Blogs, name it.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Shake down and $325 just sitting there.

So, still a bit raw over yesterday's ending to the big game. Probably need therapy until the middle of next season just to be able to think of Pete Carroll and not want to scream, cry, or commit murder. is returning to a sense of normality around here. In reality, it has been in a state of massive turmoil for the past two or so weeks (none of it having anything to do with the football season, but more on the real life personal side), but the worst is now past and all is well.

Now that things are settling down, I am able to really focus. Not only on my writing, but also on my studio production. Yes, I do have the last few chapters of DEAD: Snapshot--Portland, Oregon left to finish, but then I have UnCivil War to wrap, the new That Ghoul Ava on the Lam to edit, and the 11th book of the DEAD series to write. No time to rest, you are only as relevant as your latest release.

I have some cool announcements in the wing, like the upcoming launch of my OFFICIAL web page and {gasp} a newsletter you will be able to subscribe to, some groovy merchandise that will start becoming available, as well as tons of the free stuff to give away. That brings me to a quick note, I still have 25 audio book titles (valued at over $325) that are (as of 7AM PST this morning) unclaimed by their winners. That means it will probably be time to crawl back in there and see what I can re-gift. This is part of the less-than-glamorous aspect of my life. It is like throwing a party and not having anybody show up. Only, in this case, you give away hundreds of dollars worth of stuff (sometimes close to $1000 at a time) and people don't even want it for free. Ouch, man. Check here Friday to see what I will be pulling out to give away.

This year will be a big one for me. Branching out as a narrator, I will be opening myself up to an entirely new batch of criticism. Stay tuned right here for details on my first ever audio release. And then there is the huge promotion with the Portland Thunder. To say that I have stepped out on a ledge is giving way too much credit to that narrow sliver I am standing on. Wish me luck.