Saturday, March 30, 2013

If I wrote Armand Rosamilia's eulogy

No...Armand did not die. He is alive and well. But, I have heard it asked, if somebody wrote your eulogy, and you were able to read it, would you be happy with what it said? It is rumored that when Alfred Nobel read an erroneous obituary that, among other things, condemned him for the invention of dynamite, he devoted his life to peace because he was ashamed of his legacy. So, what would people say about you?

I am here today to talk about Armand Rosamilia. Many people debate whether you can build a friendship with somebody that you have never met in person. I happen to have a number of very dear friends who fall in to that category. Armand is chief among them, and after April 29, 2013, he means more to me than I will ever be able to verbalize.

Many of you know that I just reunited with my daughter Ronni this past December. This story can not be told without mentioning her. While the details are personal, and hers to share with who she will, I can say this much. She was in a bad relationship involving abuse. A tear-filled call from her on Wednesday came where she needed to escape her situation. The problem was that she was in Florida and I am in Oregon. Any move on my part to go to Florida would end with me being locked up (for several reasons, none of which would be helpful to my daughter). Because she was being monitored, we only had a specific time she could call me. That meant I had to have everything in place in 24 hours so that when she called next, I could tell her what she needed to do, and then wait.

Long story short, a one-way flight was booked (we can talk about airline prices at another date), and the only person that we knew was asked to pick up my daughter and deliver her to the airport. It was a snatch and grab where she would walk out the door at a specific time with what she could carry and leave her old life behind while her abuser was away. The person who would pick up the most precious person in my life? Armand Rosamilia.

At a moment's notice, he set aside his life and made a two hour trip to pick up the daughter of a friend who he never met in person. He took her to breakfast and then to the airport where he stayed with her until she walked through security. Then he drove home and checked in throughout the day on her progress. You see, not only did he drop everything to help, but then followed up on her progress until she arrived safe in my arms last night.

What can you say about my friend Armand? Yes, I tease and call him gruff., but anybody who knows him knows that Armand is one of the nicest, most spectacular human beings in the world. Lay aside all the quips and jokes about his fascination with the female tookus, Armand is kind and has the heart of a saint. I am proud and honored to be considered his friend. In a time where so many people seem to be locked in to themselves at the expense of others, Armand shows that there is still hope for us.

For some acts, there are no words of thanks that suffice. What Armand did is one such act. The only people who would be surprised are the people who don't know him. However, it needs to be said...again and again.

Thank you, Armand Rosamilia. Thank you, my friend.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Family issues mean you get to see repeats.

I have some stuff going on in real life that necessitate putting other things on the back burner. Today was supposed to be about all the neat prizes I am giving away in April to supporters of my NaNoWriMo fund raiser, however, I have some very real and personal issues to attend and don't have the time. (I barely have enough to slap this intro down.) So here is a post many of you may have missed. Hopefully I will be back on Monday with your regularly scheduled program.

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 (The Ugly Beginning, Revelations, Fortunes &Failures, and the recently released Winter), 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 tell you the next time when Dead: The Ugly Beginning or Zomblog will be 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

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Why Indie is better than mainstream

Mark Tufo, Armand Rosamilia, John O' Brien, Michael McFarland, and I could go on. Don't believe me? Chantal Boudreau, Suzi M., Lisa Olsen, Julianne Snow. See...? All of these writers are doing there own thing. Each of them is vastly different and amazingly talented. Not one of them is flying under the label of a "major" publisher. They are part of the thriving (despite what some might have you believe) Indie scene.

I am not going to dissect each one, but I do suggest that you hurry over to Amazon (or your book outlet of choice) and look them up if they are not currently occupying some of the space on your bookshelf or in the bits of your favorite e-reader.

What I want to talk about here is why you will find better entertainment (and significantly better value for your hard earned money) by reading books by the likes of these people and their brothers and sisters in literature. Sure, you might find a typo or two...but I got news for you, I find them in books by the "Big 6" as well, so put that argument to rest.

The Industry Machina is full of formulas on what "sells" and what "readers like". And THAT is why, when you read mainstream, you can predict the know whodunnit...who will live, who will die. The lines between good and bad are clear to the point where you don't need to think. Just be drawn in and led blissfully to the mental slaughter.

So what is my point? I will use one individual as my example. Ladies and gentlemen...Mark Tufo is a sick and twisted genius. (That label is courtesy of a 19-year old Coulrophobic...go ahead and look it up if need be.) His soon-to-be-released novel, Timothy 2 is some of the most twisted stuff I have read in a long time. There is not one single "feel good" moment in that book. And THAT is precisely why it works. He takes the reader on a dark ride and never even tries to take his foot off your throat.

A mainstream publisher would shy away from a lot of the stuff in that book. They would bring in an "editor" to surgically alter what I think will be my "Book of the Year" choice when I jump on the "Year in review" bandwagon in December and blog my Top 10 list like everybody else. And it is only March...and the book hasn't even been released yet!

Indie writers can take stories farther, get their stories out from places in their soul, and reach out and touch the reader. And they can do it with one hundred percent of their creative talent being put to use. I'm not saying there are not talented writers in the mainstream...that would be a ridiculous statement. But what I am saying is that there are some people out there putting out better for a third of the cost. And when you send them en email saying how much you enjoyed their work..THEY respond.not some aid or intern.

Go Indie.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Walking Dead--315

This is the beauty of these stories...when somebody with no redeeming qualities finds some measure of redemption. If you didn't choke up just a bit in the end when Daryl has to end Merle, you are made of sterner stuff than I.

Of course, the crux of this episode is "What are you willing to do to stay alive?" Rick is initially on board with handing over Michonne. When you have that opportunity to save those you love by giving up somebody that you have no real attachment, can you do it? Especially when there are no guarantees. I have overheard people taking philosophy courses have discussions like "You are at the switch with an oncoming train. You can let it take out your (insert relative) standing alone, or a group of 5 strangers." This is just a variation on that theme. Of course, as viewers, we have the advantage of knowing that The Governor does not intend to honor the deal. Still, this is one of those moments that will define you from that moment forward.

So, now I have to pose something to the ladies...

The proposal. was not much as far as proposals go. But here is the question. Is that where you want your ring to come from? Glenn definitely did NOT go to Jerrod's. Personally, I think it would have been more poignant to give her the watch. I open the floor to you all...but I just really need to know what the ladies think on this one.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Leaving KDP? Oh...and a chance to make a difference.

Bacon Maple Bar from VooDoo Doughnut used solely to lure you here.

While I am not abandoning the KDP program, the time has come to make a few changes. Many articles have been written about the dearth of freebies out there. I DO NOT have a problem with using the KDP program as a tool to market my stuff. I have always felt that was the purpose of the program. I think some authors felt that it was going to translate into big number sales. I saw it as a commercial. And if you lured in some readers who actually read your book, AND THEN they liked it well enough, they would check out your other stuff.

So, if I am weaning myself from the KDP teat (nice visual, eh?), then what could I possibly do instead. The answer? 99 cent sales. Sites like eReader News Today and Pixels of Ink have had to adjust with Amazon's rules regarding portals for freebies. To make that change, they are featuring "bargain eBooks" in greater numbers and freebies in lesser. If somebody is willing to pay something...even 99 cents, then it is less likely that the book will remain unread. And if you have a good product, it will foster that reader's interest and encourage them to read MORE of your work.

Now, a few titles will remain in the program, but it just makes more sense to use the 99 cent tool. I believe that 100 downloads at the bargain price is going to net more readers than giving away 5,000 for free.

To that end, I have a couple of titles that are on the cusp of qualifying for the ENT bargain program. The requisites (besides the 99 cent price point) are a minimum of ten reviews with an average of no less than 4 stars. Eye Witness Zombie needs one review. SO, if you read it and liked it but have never gotten around to that pesky would be GREATLY appreciated. And then there is the Special Edition, Dead: Steve's Story which is the compilation of the 18 chapters of Steve's story from the first three DEAD books (The Ugly Beginning, Revelations, and Fortunes & Failures) which needs two reviews.

To be clear, I do NOT canvass for positive reviews. People are more than welcome to post whatever they like. But for this instance, I am actually appealing to those of you who LIKED the work but have not gotten around to a review yet.

More doughnuts! Keep reading!!!
So, on to my next subject. Some of you may know that MDP produces one anthology a year where 100% of the generated proceeds go to charity. My editing is free, the cover art, all costs involved with production. That includes the authors. The stories that are submitted are done with the author receiving no compensation (not even a physical contributor's copy, although an ecopy is made available). We do not ask for exclusivity, in other words, the author can do whatever they like with their story...we do ask that they give us at least a mention if it goes to pub someplace else, but even that is nothing more than a request.

This upcoming New Year's Day, we would like to be able to offer "Scaring up a cure for CANCER" with every penny generated in profit being donated in a quarterly check to the V Foundation which works tirelessly to find a cure for a disease that affects so many.

Okay...but this one is going to be different. So I am canvassing for interest from some of my writer friends. This will be an "invitation only" anthology. The story must be horror, but the writer can choose what SORT...and cancer needs to be involved in some way. So, I am throwing a few writers out onto Front is the start of my wish list (in NO particular order):
  1. Mark Tufo
  2. John O'Brien
  3. Armand Rosamilia
  4. Catie Rhodes
  5. Greg Carrico
  6. Suzi M.
  7. Stephanie Meyers
  8. Chantal Boudreau
  9. Michael McFarland
  10. D.A. Chaney
  11. Steen Langstrop
  12. Heath Stallcup
  13. Dana Fredsti
  14. T. Fox Dunham
Now, those listed are free to shoot me an email with a polite (or not) statement declining, OR...feel free to post in the comments saying "HELL YEAH" (or an equivalent) if you are in.

Next week I will share some exciting news about an interview request that I just received. So stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A ghoul by any other name...

For those of you familiar with the zombie side of my world, I would like to introduce you to somebody new. Now a few of you have been introduced either by the Kindle edition or the audio book available on to the lovely, if not just a bit snarky, Ava Birch. That Ghoul Ava began as a pet project that I wrote as a thank you to one of my early supporters who jumped on the Zomblog bandwagon early.

I had so much fun with the short, that I really began to think there was a full-length story lurking. Well, it turns out there are several. I am proud to announce the launch of That Ghoul Ava--The Series. It will begin with That Ghoul Ava & The Queen of the Zombies. If you are around Friday, I will have release date info, as well as a contest where you can be "gifted" the audible version of the story that started it all. For now, how about a taste...(comments encouraged)


Same Ol’ Situation

“Do you have to play this crap so loud?” Lisa said with that petulance that only teen girls can truly master. It’s so sad. When we get older it just comes off as whiny or bitchy.
I pretended not to hear her. Not one thing that she could say or do was going to ruin my mood tonight. I was behind the wheel of my very first brand new car. No little tushies had planted themselves in this seat but mine. I had been assured that I was the very first person to test drive this little baby: A candy-apple red 2013 Corvette.
Now I’m not one of those girls who knows a lot about cars, so most of what the very cute salesman said just didn’t stick. I think he even had a fancy name for the color red that my car was painted. Don’t care.
I flew down the on-ramp that deposited me onto I-5 and went through the gears like I imagine those racecar drivers did when they zoomed around in circles. By the time I actually hit the freeway, I was on the high side of ninety miles per hour.
“Got your seatbelt on?” I asked. I wasn’t planning on getting into a wreck…but who did? Safety first!
“Try to remember that only one of us is guaranteed not to die if you wreck this thing,” Lisa yelled over the strains of the luscious Brett Michaels who was currently begging me to talk dirty to him. Trust me when I tell you, that would be the least of his worries.
She was referring to the fact that I am a ghoul. Now let me assure you, being a ghoul is absolutely nothing like being a zombie. As if. Zombies are nasty creatures that eat the living. I only eat the dead. See? Big difference.
Lisa Jenkins was a teenage runaway. However, I doubted that her parents would come looking for her any time soon. In the six months that she had lived with me, I learned enough to know that it was unlikely that they were even aware that she had left home. Her father was long gone, and her single mother was busy sleeping with every bus boy, waiter, and bartender at this dirty little all-night place in Southeast Portland.
I’d popped in once and the woman was letting some slob put his hands up her skirt every time she came to the table. When she brought the actual meal to the table and cleared away the five empty beer bottles to make room, I almost lost my proverbial lunch. It was fried chicken, and I know for a fact that he didn’t wash his hands before picking up that drumstick. And considering where that hand had just been…
But back to my dear friend and boon companion. (I don’t actually know what a ‘boon companion’ is, but I heard that term used on some show on the local Public Broadcasting channel where everybody spoke with English accents. It sounded smart, so I claimed it.) I met Lisa one night shortly after my transformation. She had been in a seedy hotel after just giving birth. Her “boyfriend”—a pervy forty-something that actually convinced her to dump the child in the garbage right after giving birth—made the mistake of answering the door when I knocked. Long story short, baby was rescued and eventually given a home, perv was killed and then eaten, and Lisa became my roommate.
It was around the time that I met Lisa when I was introduced to a whole part of society that most folks don’t realize exists under their noses. Call it supernatural or whatever you like, but things like ghouls, and ghosts, and vampires—like that snarky little bitch Belinda Yates—exist.
Some have gone on to sustain themselves through books like the one you are reading right now. You see, the best way to hide is in plain sight. You’d be surprised if I told you which of the other books in your collection are real; or at least based on real events in the lives of some of my fellow monsters. Yeah, most of them don’t like the “M” word, but I like to consider myself a bit more progressive.
I actually decided to join the ranks of the writer-types after my first little “adventure” where I was hired to deal with a rogue vampire that had designs on the aforementioned Belinda. Well…not really Belinda, more specifically, her Kiss. (A “Kiss” for the uninitiated is what vampires call their little groups or clubs…whatever.) I didn’t actually have to write, but Lisa thought it would be fun. She worries about the finances like nobody I have ever met and keeps telling me that the payday I got for taking care of Belinda’s “little problem” won’t last forever.
After I saw this car, I finally agreed that we needed an additional source of income. The only problem now was waiting for the next “job” from Morgan. For those of you who didn’t catch my first little attempt at telling a story, Morgan is the psychic for my region. Unlike the ones on television that lie about being able to tell your future, Morgan is for real. Apparently true psychics are able to detect any supernaturals in their district. I don’t know all of the details—mostly because she tells me very little—but I guess they act as some sort of mediator and boss for their given district.
The day I became a ghoul, I received a visit from Morgan. She kind of told me the rules. Mostly she went on about all the stuff I couldn’t do. Of course, it was good old Ava’s door that they knocked on when that vampire came in and started mucking things up.
By the time Billy Idol had told me all about what a great day it would be for a White Wedding, and the Go-Gos encouraged me to take a Vacation, we were home. And here was the reason we needed Morgan to show up with another job…or people needed to start buying these books. Home was no longer the dirty little apartment that I’d rented while I was a busty waitress with raven-black hair. Now we lived in a sweet little two-story looking down on Lake Oswego. (I never knew there was actually a lake here! Just thought it was a cute name for a town.)
It has four bedrooms! Now I wasn’t ever going to hear the pitter-patter of ghoulish feet, but maybe Lisa might give it a go when she is actually old enough and meets a nice guy. I have a feeling that I will be living vicariously through her.
And there you have it—my word for the day: vicariously. Take that Morgan. She always talks to me like I am the idiot child. Well now that I have hired a ghost writer—literally, I seriously have this ghost that comes in and helps, she possesses Lisa when it is time to sit down and put the story together—I get to hear all sorts of big words.
Chantal, my ghostly pal, likes to chat sometimes during the day. She sometimes slips in to Lisa while she is dozing and will chat with me about stuff. At first it was weird having these conversations that Lisa has no memory of, and I have to get it straight who I am talking to or what I have said to Chantal-Lisa and what I have said to Lisa-Lisa.
Hmm, that reminds me. I fiddle with my iPod docking station and thumb to a song. One of my favorite features of this home was the sound system. You can have music—or whatever you are watching on television—piped throughout the whole place. Head-to-Toe by Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam starts, and I head for the basement door.
“Back in a few minutes,” I call over my shoulder. I catch Lisa’s face in the reflection of the kitchen window. Her nose wrinkles. If I wasn’t so secure in our friendship, my feelings might be hurt. Hey…a girl’s gotta eat.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Walking Dead-314

Andrea had her "ah-ha" moment. After everything that she has seen, heard, and even witnessed, this is a little too little too late. What we saw here is a great example of the way people will become so dependent and desperate for leadership that they will allow those in charge to get away with things they would never accept from "the common" people. It is also interesting to see the way people will believe what the "powers that be tell them" if it paints their cause as just and right while clearly depicting the "others" as bad.

The Governor has finally exposed his full basket of crazy. The torture room is only part of the picture. What the hell is up with the whistling? This guy could have his own spin off series...oh, wait...

There is a new development with Tyrese and his people that I found to be very entertaining. And it paints Tyrese with some real human flaws. He actually hurls a pretty nasty low blow at one of his fellow travelers that stings. This is probably important to remember that particular moment when he eventually joins with Rick (which has to happen) so that when he starts to cause trouble, people do not think he is "just now acting up". Tyrese is gonna be a truck load. And the million dollar he holding a grudge against Rick now, or is he waiting for his moment to ambush the governor?

Only two episodes left...

Friday, March 15, 2013

Indie editors can change the landscape.

Every so often, an article gets posted about editing. Now, I don't want to get in to how many poorly edited, typo-ridden books are being pumped out with the self-pub revolution in full swing. We already know about them and can choose to steer clear. Chances are, if you read "Book A" by author Blibbidy Blob and it reads like a poorly written grade school exposition, you will not pick up "The Chilling Sequel...Book B" by the same author. That is a dead horse we can beat at a later date. What I want to offer is what I believe the responsibilities of the Indie editor are in this changing landscape. 

So often I hear from one author or another who is scooped up by a big publisher. The work that got them picked up must then undergo reconstructive surgery. I am all about cleaning up a product to make it better. However, I do think that larger houses will seek a certain degree of -- for lack of a better term -- homogenization.

I believe that the goal of an indie editor differs highly in that regard. I work for a few rather prolific authors. I have over 70 titles to my editing credit. And guess what? That makes me an expert on absolutely nothing. Still, I have generated an opinion. (Big surprise?) The people I work for are just as talented (more so in some cases) as anybody that you will read from one of the "Big Six". They have crafted some amazing stories. I will name drop here and offer up a teaser. Mark Tufo has a new book coming out soon. It is Timothy 2, the sequel to (gasp!) Timothy.

It is horrifying. It is shocking. It is (probably to some) offensive. And above is brilliant. What it is not is "commercial" or, to make it perhaps more clear, politically correct. Big shock! But folks, Mark writes HORROR! And let me tell you, he hits this one out of the park. As his editor, my job is this:
  1. Check the spelling.
  2. Clean up the punctuation.
  3. Fix repetition (i.e. use of the same word 5 times in one paragraph) if needed.
  4. Try to ensure continuity. (Characters can sometimes change names in mid-scene.)
Beyond that, if I see something really off, I let Mark know. Maybe I make a suggestion. However, this is HIS book. My job is to make sure he does not leave the room with toilet paper on his shoe...unless he wants it there.

Indie editors have a tougher job in some respects than their "professional" counterparts. They are more like the groundskeeper at a stadium. Nobody notices them unless the field is a mess. They are not architects...

So, if you are hunting for an editor, perhaps you should open a dialog with your prospect. Let them know what YOU want. How honest do you want them to be with you? If you have a scene that sticks out, (weakens the story in the OPINION of your editor) should they tell you? Offer suggestions? 

We are entering a new era. Change is hard. But I believe the strength of the Indie writer is in his or her ability to tell the story THEIR way.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Island by Michael Stark

The  Island Part 1 (Fallen Earth #1)The Island Part 1 by Michael Stark
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Island by Michael Stark has the distinction of being able to lure the reader in with the first part being free. Stark has truly reaped the benefits from the "old way" that Amazon operated. He got his first part out and listed as free. That keeps a steady stream of people downloading it. Of those, if 10% actually read it (let's face it, a lot of people download plenty of freebies and then never read them, then the ones who enjoy it will move on and purchase future installments. I mention this only because Stark has managed to write an introductory piece that should lure in many more readers.

The story swirls around William Hill and begins just as a strange sickness is sweeping through the global population. He uses this first piece to lay the groundwork not only to his characters, but also the world they live in. This is a compelling read and the characters all make you want to know just a little more about them (especially D. and you you will know what I am talking about).

Overall, this is a clean read. A few editing gaffs, but none that are distracting and glaring. The story is smooth and believable. Grab this for free and you will be back for the additional installments.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What the hell do I know?

Last Friday, I talked about how much more traffic my blog gets when the posts are slanted towards negativity or confrontation. Then, I took my wife to a dinner at a fine restaurant that looks down on the Willamette River and across to the West Hills. Of course that post had plenty of traffic...but then again, it did sort of fall in to the whole "confrontational" category...

So my question are the ones who come back here. What do you want to see?
Beautiful women like Celia? (the amazing narrator for my That Ghoul Ava audio book)

Tales of my dining exploits? Yeah...that "bag" is 100% chocolate...and it was even more delicious than it looks.

Pictures of cute puppies?

 Happy axolotls?

Everyday life stuff like hanging out with friends and watching football?

Personal stuff that lets you peek behind the curtain of my real life?

Like I said, you are the ones who come here and spend the time. My job is to entertain (inform?) you. So...this thing has a comment section. You tell me...what brings you back? I have a few blogs that I visit. Some regularly, others depending on the subject. For instance, I never miss a Catie Rhodes "Playlist" blog. Those are some of my favorites. I USED to look forward to 30 minute reader from Greg Carrico. Granted, it first caught my eye because he was reading Dead: The Ugly Beginning, but he also had some other titles. The premise is clever and kept me entertained. (I miss that post, Greg.) I check out Armand Rosamilia pretty regularly because he has some great stuff and I really enjoy his take. But most others, I just sorta come and go whenever. do I make this a "must see" site for you? Here is your chance to be heard. not miss Friday. I will be giving a sneak peak at something from Midnight Movie Creature Feature 2, as well as listing a bunch of upcoming promotional giveaway stuff!

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Walking Dead--313

This episode had the feelings of the precursor to war. One scene in particular struck me as something out of the Civil War. After a good degree of testosterone was being displayed, a few walkers finally show up outside while Rick and The Governor are meeting inside. Daryl and Martinez get into an "anything you can do I can do better" moment with Martinez twirling his bat like one of The Baseball Furies from The Warriors. (Of course, anybody familiar knows what Ajax said...and then After dispatching the episodes obligatory walkers...the two share a moment very reminiscent of Civil War Generals who fought alongside one another one day, and prepared to face off on the battlefield the next.

Meanwhile, Andrea continues to be stuck on stupid. Merle is..well...Merle. The rest of the cast are basically stuck in Limbo as their respective heads of state sit at a table in an abandoned building on a conveniently well lit platform. It is all about the building of tension in this episode and the one beauty was that you did not have to wait for the meeting. It happens at the start, however, the one thing that most of us watching are probably wondering is "Why not just shoot the bastard when you have the chance, and be done with it?"

The answer is simple. What would we watch next week?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Do we really need to act this way?

I know this one guy...he...

No, you don't want to hear about that, but let me tell you what I think about all these so-called trolls and people who get off by hiding behind anonymity and making rude comments on social media...

Maybe not, but I know something that you will really get a kick out of hearing. People thrive on negativity. From rubber-necking car crashes to watching celebrity meltdowns, our culture has become obsessed with all things bad. Social media has only made it worse. People hide behind their computer screens and spew stuff that they would never have the stones to say if the person in question were within "punch in the nose" distance. Blogs that spew hate and negativity get traffic in droves, but if you are saying something positive...people might wander by if you are lucky.

I tested that theory here over the past few months when I began to notice the trend...and if I was stepping out with something edgy, I saw almost double the number of visits versus when I shared positive experiences. So what happened? I really do think that the social media has made us more UNsocial. We have become trash-talking gossip mongers. How is that considered "social"?

So here is the challenge. For the next 72 hours...all the way through the weekend...make no disparaging comments, and instead, share a positive experience with your friends. Stay away from gossip. Use the old rule "If you can't say something nice...then don't say anything at all." Can it really be that difficult? 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Countdown to NaNoWriMo begins

Another Camp NaNoWriMO begins this April. Yes, I already have my project on the board. It will be the next Zomblog book titled, Zomblog: Snoe's Journey. Of course, as any of you who have been following me for any length of time will know, I have been a regular participant in this fine program. However, what many may not realize is that the Office of Letters and Light is like the overall parent of this event. It is much more than simply having a bunch of people try to hammer out 50,000 words in a month and call it a novel. This organization has some  deep involvement in the youth literacy movement.

To that end, once again, I will likely have a fundraising event coming from this blog to try and help support an organization that means a lot to anybody who takes writing seriously. After all, they are trying to keep kids interested in reading. The person that could be helped by this program may become YOUR next fan...or even might become theirs.

Stay tuned as I roll out the prize wagon. Some of last year's prizes included being made into a character in the DEAD series as well as copies of some fine titles under the MDP banner. Also, I still have that NEO Word Processor that remained unclaimed. That will be offered once again. And who knows what else? Perhaps even a local prize...a round of golf with yours truly.

The possibilities are endless.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Walking Dead-312

This is an emotional episode. It shows a very harsh reality to the zombie apocalypse. There is already a glimpse at various versions of madness. We have see Rick's trip to "Crazy Town" and the megalomania that has consumed The Governor (and Andrea for that matter, but we can discuss that later).

I imagine that a lot of people wondered what could possibly make Rick and Co. just drive on and leave Backpack Guy in the dust...TWICE. For one, do they know anything about this guy? He could have been a lunatic...and then there is the matter that Rick had his son in the car with him. To put it simple..."Strangers = Bad."

Once they Rick's old home...there is a reunion of sorts with Morgan (the man who saved Rick in season one). Sadly, Morgan has tripped offline after first witnessing the death and then undeath of his wife. And then his son (who is about Karl's age). I believe this scene will be the catalyst for Rick to snap out of his problem and return to the role as a leader. The opportunity to look "crazy" in the eye might have been the wake up call that Rick needed.

Other moments of note: we get to see more depth to Michonne (ugliest papier-mache cat ever) and more of the maturation of Karl. The episode ends with a "call back" to the opening scene. It is no real surprise that Backpack Guy ended up dead. No sense leaving a perfectly good backpack full of supplies to rot beside the road, right?

Friday, March 1, 2013

A giant reset button...

One of the problems I had in my life many years ago was the fact that I was the type of person who always worked an extra shift if it was offered, and I could isolate myself for days from people around me. (I have three divorces and a lot of busted relationships to show for it.) One of the things that I learned when I lost everything, was that I really had wasted huge chunks of my life doing nothing but serving my own interests. In addition, I had big empty spaces where wonderful memories should have existed.

This past weekend, I went to my new favorite place in the world: The Oregon Coast.

More specifically, I went to Cannon Beach and stayed at the Tolovana Inn. The room was beautiful and Denise and I enjoyed a spectacular 11th Anniversary. As an added bonus, we brought our Border Collie, Aoife. She might have loved it even more than we did. She chased her ball down the beach so many times that eventually, she actually stopped coming back with the ball and simply chased it, caught it, and then promptly laid down in the sand until we came to fetch her.

For those of you not familiar with the Oregon Coast, it is probably one of the most beautiful places in the world. Cannon Beach is famous for Haystack Rock as well as being one of the most dog-friendly places you can ever go. One restaurant has a great little porch where you can sit and enjoy a great meal, and they even come out with a water bowl for your dog. The little pet supply store there has known Aoife since she was a puppy and always greet her with a few treats and a ton of praise and scratches behind the ears. She has never worn a collar that did not come from that shop.

And then there is Mo's. Great clam chowder, oyster shooters and a spectacular view. Toss in the fact that it was less than a hundred steps from the door to our room and you can guess where two out of every three meals was eaten.

I share all of this as a reminder that you only get to ride this roller coaster one time. I know that we all want to be "the best" in our field. I know that we want to succeed. However, if we are all work and no play, then what is the point? The world will not forget you if you take a weekend off. And the people that you love and thank in your dedications and introductions...the husbands, wives, and offspring? They will make you feel more appreciated and loved than even your most ardent fan.

Now, for a note. If you have not yet read Zomblog, it is a paltry 99 cents for the next week. Or...if you have a friend who you have been trying to convert to you world of zombie love...send them over. The worst case scenario, they are out (almost) a buck. (And amazing production company is in the process of bringing it to life as an audio book...stay tuned for details.)