Writer of Horror Fiction

Random Thoughts

Check out these cool Library of the Living Dead Calendars!

Hey all!  I had to post about the cool calendars that are being sold over at Cafe Press that were put together by some pretty killer artists for The Library of the Living Dead.  There are two different calendars and each contains zombified pictures of various authors whose work appears in either Library anthologies or novels.  Yours truly is in one of the two calendars and I do have to say that both really kick some major butt!

Give them both a looksee if you get the chance, at this link: http://www.cafepress.com/DrPus?CMP=CJ-CLICK-10461796&tid=skim673X607971&sid=skim673X607971&cjpid=3641109&PID=7532081&utm_medium=affiliate&utm_campaign=none&utm_source=cj

And then pick up one or both for yourself and get a few for the zombie lover you know and want to pleasantly surprise for Christmas!

NOTLP from Horror Hound-my interview!

Hey folks-check out my interview out from Night of the Living Podcast from Horror Hound.  You should check them out for a lot more-they do a great horror podcast and can be found on Itunes for free downloads.  Their website is http://www.notlp.com and you can go to the episode guide from there.  It is the most recent episode in their episode guide, and is entitled: HHWCincy10.  The Library of the Living Dead has an interview as well, and their interview starts around the seven minute mark.  Mine starts at 15:40 mark.  Check both of them out and do yourself a favor and listen to the whole podcast!  These guys are great and do a terrific job.  In fact, you should do like I did, and subscribe so you can stay up to date with what they are doing.

HorrorHound Cincinnati 2010 Wrap Up

I spent this last weekend with several good friends over at HorrorHound, promoting my book: Comes The Dark and the soon to be released sequel, Into The Dark.  It was fun mingling with a wide cross-section of horror fans, chat about my books, and have the chance to spend time with Ben Rogers, author of Faith And The Undead, Beth LaFond, Publicist for The Library of the Living Dead, Rich Dalzatto, who runs Horror Realm up in Pittsburgh, and Dr. Pus, aka Mike West, who owns The Library of the Living Dead.  I helped my fellow table dwellers sell some of their books and they did the same for me, and we had a good chance to hang out together not only at the show, but at Coco Key’s water park on Saturday night, which is attached to the hotel where the convention took place.  I was able to bring my wife and kids along to that event and we had a blast.

I also had the privilege of being interviewed for two podcasts while at the show-stay tuned for links as they are passed long to me.  It is always fun to promote my stories and the folks at Night of the Living Podcast and The Creepture Feature Horror Show were great to talk with.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures at the show, but suffice it to say, the crowds were great and things were hopping.  I sold a pretty good amount of my books and even met some folks who had already purchased it and had some great conversations with them.   Here a few pictures I took when my wife and kids showed up on Saturday.

From left to right: Rich Dalzatto, Dr. Pus, my son Zack, me, my daughter Ali, and Ben Rogers…and Zeb, the zombie that lives in the shed out behind Ben’s house

Me and the kids at my table

Dr. Pus, Zack, me, Ali, and Ben

Book Signing this Saturday

Ben Rogers and I will be taking part in the Books of the Dead Signings at That Book Place in Madison, Indiana.  It is located at 337 Clifty Drive and will run from 12-3.  There will also be an opportunity for customers to dress up as zombies for this event, so it should be a real blast!  I will be signing copies of my book, Comes The Dark, and Ben will be signing his book, Faith and The Undead.

You can check out That Book Place on the web, and become their fan on Facebook, at http://www.thatbookplace.com/.  They did an interview with me back in July, which is posted on their website, and they do a lot of other great interviews and reviews of books.  Please help support independent book stores like this one, because they bring you a lot of great books and authors that bigger chains seem to pass over.


Commercial for Library of the Living Dead!

Check out the commercial for Library of the Living Dead Press that was shot at Horror Realm last month.  A lot of folks were involved with this and I had the privilege of being one of the zombies in the commercial.  It was a blast!  I’m the guy with the bloody face, by the way.  Wait…everyone had a bloody face, heh.  I’m the guy with the red shirt, if that helps.  Well, it doesn’t matter if you can’t find me in the crowd, because we’re zombies-we’re sorta supposed to be hard to tell apart.

Enjoy watching the video.  I know I enjoyed being a part of the making of it.



Helping out a friend

Not to long ago, fellow writer Jamie Eyberg passed away with his wife in a tragic accident near their family home in Iowa.  Jamie and Ann left behind two young children.  Jamie had been a staple over at The Library of the Living Dead Press message boards, and I had the privilege of appearing with him in The Zombist, an anthology of old west zombie tales.  His works have appeared in several other anthologies from the Library and elsewhere.  It is always heartbreaking when someone’s life gets cut short, but it is a small comfort when we can do something to remember that person, and help those around them who have suffered the greatest by their loss.

Kody Boye, another one of the members of the Library forums, has put together a list of auctions over on ebay whose proceeds will go to benefit the Eyberg children.  One of the auction bundles  has my book, Comes The Dark, in it.  There are several auctions, so I would encourage everyone out there to consider bidding on one of them.  You will get some terrific reading material with any of them you choose, and the proceeds will go to a tremendous cause.

Hit the link here:   http://shop.ebay.com/kboye/m.html?_nkw&_armrs=1&_from&_ipg=25

Please consider bidding.  Thanks!

My interview on Blog Talk Radio

My interview with Sonar 4 tonight, for those who didn’t get the chance to check it out live.

Lori Titus and Tonia Brown did a great job and it was a lot of fun talking about Comes The Dark, some of my short stories, and the absolutely horrendous book I wrote back in high school that remains locked away forever.

Check it out!


Looking back at Horror Realm 2010

This past weekend, I got to go to my very first horror convention, Horror Realm, which is held in Pittsburgh.  This is a zombie-centric horror conference and gave me and the rest of the authors from The Library of the Living Dead and Permuted Press the chance to meet with horror fans of all stripes, discuss zombies, and have a blast.

Things got going on Thursday night, when those of us who had the chance to come in a bit early were able to head to Rich Dalzotto’s house and mix and mingle with one another.  Rich is one of the folks who runs Horror Realm.  The party gave me the opportunity to meet and interact with quite a few of the folks I haven’t met face to face before but have corresponded with and spoke to on Skype.  Too many to mention here, and I fear that if I start naming names, I will end up skipping someone.  So suffice it to say, the party was a lot of fun and a great experience.

Putting up my books and being at the actual show was quite an experience.  I have gone to conferences for work before, but never something like this.  There were a ton of vendors and quite a few horror celebrities, with reunions for Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead happening at the convention.  Even with these celebrities walking around, I gained the most enjoyment in having the chance to get to know a lot of other authors over the three days of the show.  Doc, my publisher, was terrific, and so was Jacob Kier, who is the publisher over at Permuted Press.  They both took great care of everyone and despite the fact that sales weren’t huge, the show was a rousing success.

One of the highlights for me was getting made up as a zombie to film a commercial for The Library of the Living Dead.  All us zombies got to tear into Doc, though it wasn’t blood and guts that came out, but something else entirely.  I won’t ruin the surprise, but lets just say we all had a blast filming the commercial.

I wanted post a few pictures I took at Horror Realm here as well, just to provide a flavor of the event and the people I had the pleasure of meeting up with.  I am already anxious to go to next year’s event, because if it is half as much fun as this Horror Realm was, it will be well worth the trip!

Comes The Dark on Kindle, a few additional stories, and collaborations, oh my!

A lot of things have been happening lately in my writing and personal life, and it feels like I am finally able to take a breather for a moment before I dive back into the chaos.  Most of what has been going on has been good, though there have been a few trials as well.  I am going to just talk about the good things here, and try to keep it brief.

First off, the Kindle version of Comes The Dark has been ‘fixed’.  By this, I mean that a few formatting errors that occurred in the transfer to the kindle have been rectified and the new and improved version looks terrific.  For anyone who bought the original version, they can re-upload it and will get the new, clean version.  I was told by the folks over at Kindle that anyone who has any problems with that process can reach out to them by via the contact button at www.amazon.com/kindlesupport.  Hopefully, that won’t be necessary and it will just be a click of a button on your Kindle.  Of course, that also means for anyone who hasn’t bought it already,  the Kindle version of my book is back up and running.  At $2.99, its a terrific price, so check it out!

Second, I wanted to announce that I will be posting a few stories here under the category “Dark Stories” that I had originally written with the intention of including in Comes The Dark or in one of its sequels.  There were several reasons why that did not happen, including space limitations.  As I have mentioned in more than one interview, I originally wrote about a half a million words for what would become this trilogy.  The final word count of the trilogy is around 170,000, give or take a couple thousand.  That doesn’t mean the 330,000 words that were sliced in the editing process was pure gold…or even tin for that matter, but some of it was decent back story on characters, including flashbacks as well as parallel stories happening at the same time as events in the novels.  With a little more editing, I am hoping to present a few choice bits here on my blog that will give readers of my trilogy a bit extra about characters like Megan, George, and others that are introduced in the sequels to Comes The Dark.  I hope to post the first story within the next week or so.  After that, there won’t be a set schedule, but I will try to post some more after Horror Realm, which is two weeks from now.

Third, I have been working on Chapter 12 in the Collaboration of the Dead novel that nineteen writers agreed to take part in several months back.  Each writer gets to write two chapters, one in the first half of the book, and one in the second half.  Since 11 chapters have already been written, my responsibility leans more toward character development rather than introducing new characters-at least that is how I see things.  I realize that others have been adding new characters all along and will probably continue to do so, but I am focused on stirring the pot with what is already there.  All I can say about this process is that it is tougher than I had expected.  I was nervous about it from the get go, given that so many other talented writers would be counting on me to avoid screwing things up at the very least and maybe even doing something a bit better than that.  Now that I am actually writing this, I find that I am putting more pressure on myself than I would have for something I was doing for myself.  With that said, it is still a blast, and a learning experience to boot.  Here’s hoping that I don’t get stoned when I submit my chapter, or worse yet, asked not to write the second chapter I’m supposed to write down the line!

A Plug for Horror Realm

I will be attending the Horror Realm Convention in a couple of weeks.  Horror Realm is one of the premier convention for horror fans, and in particular zombie fans, and is held every year in Pittsburgh, PA, the birthplace of the modern zombie, when George A. Romero filmed Night of the Living Dead there over forty years ago.  I haven’t had the opportunity to attend this event in the past, but I am very excited to not only having the chance to be going as a visitor, but also as a member of the Library of the Living Dead’s group of authors who will have tables at the convention.  I will be selling and signing my book, Comes The Dark, and sharing space with a large group of other fantastic authors.  In addition, I will have the opportunity to read from my novel on Sunday afternoon in one of the Author Panels and will be sharing the stage with Jake Bible, Robert Cordray, and Steve North.  It will be a blast hanging out with these great group of writers.  I just hope I have the opportunity to check out some of the other panels that are running all weekend long, which include both film and book panels, but I will promoting my book as much as I can, so I may be glued to my table most of the time.  Not that I’m complaining-I can hardly wait to have the chance to meet and greet other horror fans like myself and talk up my book.

The Convention runs from September 17th-19th at the Crowne Plaza, Pittsburgh South.  Check out the website: http://www.horrorrealmcon.com/ for all the information you’ll need to get tickets, find out who is going to be in attendance, and the schedule of events.  That weekend will be jammed packed with a huge array of events that every horror fan will love.   I am really looking forward to the costume party on Saturday night.  Given that I will be getting all gussied up for a video spot being done a couple of hours before that for the Library of the Living Dead, I will fit in perfectly!

So if you live in the region and have the opportunity, head on over to Horror Realm the weekend of September 17th-19th and check it out.  And if you can’t make it, check back here after that weekend to see what pictures I post and the stories I will have to tell about having the chance to meet all these fantastic people involved in writing horror novels and staring in horror films.  I’m just hoping I don’t act like a total goofball when I get the chance to meet these people…but there is little doubt that I will.

As time goes on….

I haven’t really posted something that was just my thoughts on writing since this whole process of the book actually being publish began a few weeks ago.  At this stage in the game, it seems to be all about promoting my work more than anything else, so I really haven’t talked about what is going on with my writing efforts nowadays (except for short stories that are being released now, or very soon).  So I thought I would take a few moments and actually contemplate where things are at the present moment.

I have given some thought to posting some of the extra “stuff” that I wrote for the three novels that start with Comes The Dark here on my blog.  Stuff that helped me develop the story and give it some background-stories about the characters that didn’t make the final cut.  Since there was so much of that, it might make sense to provide a few blog entries on the story of George and Jason, or Megan, as well as some of the other things that took place ‘behind the scenes’ as it were.  In time, when the book has been out there for a while, I may start doing that, although not on any specific schedule.  I will have to see what comes of things.  What really makes me think that it may be worthwhile to do this is the fact that one of these ‘stories’ has been accepted as a stand alone short story for an anthology called Eye Witness Zombie, being published by May December Publishers, and are  tales of the zombocalypse told from a first person perspective.  I had to do some modifications to make it first person, but after that was done, the story worked well as a stand alone.  It has ties with the second novel in my trilogy, which will be released early next year, but not enough that it actually reveals any (or much) of the plot of my novel.   I remembered originally writing this story in one fevered pitch-I pumped out about 16,000 words in one night, most of which was unintelligible garbage at the time.  It was a total tangent-loosely related to the novel, but off on its own, with a character who appears nowhere else as the central focus.  He had a very vague connection to two characters in the books though and that led me to write it that night.  The unintelligible garbage got reworked and inserted into the novel, then I realized it was a massive amount of words that took the reader on a journey that was off the primary path of the story, even if i felt it was a good story to tell.  So finding it a home after I cut it from the final novel made me extremely happy.  I really believe it is a story worth telling.  Now if only the other ones I have in mind are as well.  They will be more closely related to the novels with main characters at the heart of them, so it will be much more difficult to promote them as stand alone short stories, but giving them a home here on the blog may be the idea place for them.

In other news, as I have been doing since I started this blog, I have been writing a lot of short stories.  I am probably not the most prolific writer, but I do try to hit as many submission calls that my publisher has, as well as some others out there from other houses that look interesting.  I wish I had specific release dates on some of the ones that have been accepted, but whether they are coming out this year or next, I am pretty excited about  all of them (as most writers would be about their babies).   I am currently trying my hand at a bit of erotic horror, which is much like bizarro for me in that I have never written anything in this particular genre before, and doubt it will ever become my forte.  Then again, my bizarro story made the cut in an anthology, so if my erotica tale does as well, who knows?  I don’t know much, but what I have learned so far is not to pigeon hole myself as a writer.  I am keeping all doors open, especially as I help my son write his YA zombie/vampire/werewolf story.  The boy has no boundaries when it comes to ideas, so it is always a trip to hear him talk about it.

As I continue promoting my novel and work on getting the second one ready to go for my publisher (the first round of edits are already complete and I have turned in my revisions, so that process is going great), I also need to start working on my next book, which I have been saying to myself as well as anyone else who will listen, that I have already started on it.  Given that it is outlined and I like the outline a great deal, the time is probably ripe for me to start pounding it out on the keyboard.  Outlines for me are guides that can be adjusted and modified as needed for as many sudden changes that need to take place in a book or story.  Many writers I know find outlines to be restricting and binding to the point that they hate them.  I guess I am not that type of writer, because while I love to have as many sudden inspirations that change everything as much as the next person, I need a skeleton, even a weirdly shaped one, to start pinning stuff to, which is why I outline so much.  So I build a blue print, which for others may be the equivalent of actually starting to write the story, since my outlines often take on a rather deep complexity, with minute details in them that sort of defies the idea of it being only an ‘outline’.  But since I don’t consider it writing until I start putting it into the actual MS word document, the term outline will have to due for whatever it is I have already done for novel number 4.

I guess that is enough rambling for now.  Tomorrow is another day for me to keep attacking this new erotic story and to beat myself up a bit more about the next novel, and to think about all the formatting stuff I need to do for the second novel…and some of the other submission calls and what their due dates are, because I don’t want to miss them.

The ongoing saga of becoming a published author…

Yep, it continues to be an interesting journey for me.  Currently, I am dealing with plenty in my life and the writing aspect is only one sub-section of that, but even with all the administration that goes into getting a book ready and prepared for the publisher, it is a fun experience.

I haven’t written for a few days due to other distractions, but I want to focus on it full steam over the next couple of weeks.  I am starting to feel the compelling need to begin writing my next novel, since I have been so short story happy that the idea and outline has been sitting there, collecting dust for a long time.  It is going to start beating on my brain pretty soon, demanding that I start paying it attention.  That is the thing about writing.  It’s all in there, in the brain, hanging out in various locked rooms, banging on the doors trying to get out.  Sooner or later, the wood starts to splinter and you either let it out or it overwhelms you, keeping you from doing anything else until you appease it and pay it some much needed attention.

In other news, I finally got my Amazon author page going.  Here is the link, but do NOT prepare to be dazzled…at least not if you are reading this around June 1st, 2010…when all of one anthology is listed.  http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003O5GJBC.  Still, it is a beginning.  I still have not taken the plunge and gotten a Facebook fan page going just yet.  I will definitely do so in the near future…before the book comes out.

I reached out to an artist today to see if he would be willing to work on the cover of my novel.  Since nothing is official yet, I will remain quiet about who this artist is but he sounds interested, which is exciting.  He is an excellent artist and will do the cover great justice if he takes this project on.

I am currently waiting for the edits to approve for Comes The Dark, which will allow me to start getting blurbs going with several other authors and a reviewer who publishes their reviews on the net.  Now the blurbs are assuming that they like the book (fingers crossed) and as such will give it a nice comment.  I have done what needs to be done as far as other things that will appear in the book: introduction, biography, dedication, etc.  But until the edits are done, things are pretty much in stasis.

But as time rolls on, I get the privilege of seeing more of my short stories come out…promoting them, making sure they are listed on my Amazon Authors Page, and trying to convince anyone and everyone to check them out.  I am also waiting to hear back on several submissions outstanding…and I need to start writing again.

The real trick is to keep writing, despite how many distractions there are.  I could focus on all the mechanics of the book and just keep the writing to a minimum and feel like I am accomplishing something, but that really doesn’t cut it.  The first rule for me seems to be: write as much as you can, read as much as you can.  The rest tends to follow that.

This stuff is hard

As the world rolls on and I try to “become” an author through all the other processes involved with the translation of writing a book to having a book actually published, I have realized that this stuff is hard.

This belief stems from the fact that I have spent all day today trying to create an introduction to my novel, Comes the Dark because my publisher, the esteemed Dr. Pus, asked me to start putting together all the little things that surround the novel.  I have had the back cover written for a long time, which has undergone a few changes but has remained close to what I originally created back in 2008, which I foolishly believed I had finished the book…the first time.  But its the other little things that I am now focused on: my biography (not just for the back of the book, but to post on Amazon with the book), the introduction, the dedication, an extended description (once again for Amazon)…and various and other sundry things.

You see, a book is not just about getting it accepted by a publisher, getting it sent to an editor to do that voodoo they do so well, having an artist create a cover, and then slapping it all together.  Nooooo, it is far more complicated than that!  I am sure if you are in the biz, you already knew this and are having a nice little giggle under your breath at this point.  But for those out there like me, who are novices, you have to understand what all goes into this, even when you are dealing with a lean and mean publishing house like Library of the Living Dead.

I never gave much thought to the inside of a book.  Now I am not speaking about the actual story itself (duh) but the outline of the book.  The table of contents, the font used, the way it sits on a page…but there is someone handling that little tidbit, and as I have discovered, that person has to deal with all of your mistakes, just as the editor and publisher do.  How you format the manuscript makes a difference as to how they have to deal with the layout of the document.

A manuscript is expected to be in a certain format, whether you are writing a short story or a novel.  The biggies, as I have seen them, are 12 point courier, double spaced, with an indent at the beginning of each paragraph.  But watch out!  Different publishers want different things.  Some want headers, others do not.  The gentleman who does outlining for Doc at the Library does not want the indents set automatically, but manually.  Italics that you use in a story may or may not be acceptable in an manuscript.  Some publishers want you to underline everything that is to be italicized, while others want the story to appear as you want it to be when it comes out as a novel.

In addition to the stuff I have listed above, I have the duty of seeking out blurbs for my book.  What are blurbs you ask.  Blurbs are the comments made by other authors that you want to appear on the cover and inside of your book.  So how do you get these?  Not by being bashful, of course.  You submit a request to the authors (hopefully, you already know them) and provide them with an edited version of your book if they are willing to take a swipe at blurbing your work.  Of course, you have to cross your fingers that they like what you have written and will get you something back before all the formatting and book design occurs.

Yep, this stuff is hard.  It’s fun, so don’t get me wrong, but writing a novel is just the beginning of this process.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention all the promotion and “pimping” I need to do as well…things like getting a Facebook fan site going, an author page on Amazon (both still in the works), promoting the book on this blog and promoting it via other blogs, as well as doing interviews, attending events like Horror Realm, and other stuff that will come about as I continue to move forward.
More on that later.  Right now, I need to keep rocking and rolling with all of this, while I try to find more time to write and read other folks stuff as well, which is something I love doing.  It keeps you busy, that’s for sure!

My first interview!!!

Tim Long, Horror and Fantasy Writer Extraordinaire, was kind enough to include me in a interview he did with several different up and coming writers who are getting published in various Library of the Living Dead Press works.

It was a blast to do.  There is plenty of other good stuff in his podcast for the horror fan, so check it out!


Update on my writing journey for April, 2010

Well, its been a while since I posted something.  I’m not really sure I am feeling guilty about that, because I have been spending a great deal of my free time writing, which is really the point of all this, so at least I feel productive.  I think this blog is an extension of that desire to write, but is also a way to help promote both what I have written as well as some other people out there whose books I’ve read and really enjoyed.  So I need to do a better job of keeping up with things, but for now, I will report when there is something to report on.

But hey, I just ordered some book through the Amazon Vine’s program that is supposed to tell me five steps to becoming a better blogger.  So watch out world!  Patrick D’Orazio’s blog is going to knock yer socks off…once I get the chance to read that book.  I think.

The challenge, at this time, is that nothing I’ve written is out there yet for you to pick up and buy.  I have five short stories that have been accepted for different anthologies thus far, along with my trilogy of novels.  I have several other stories out there going through the submission process and I will hopefully hear back on them over the next few months, but as I wait, I will continue to write.  You just wait, in a few months, I will have plenty to talk about that is actually out on the market…and hopefully a lot more to come.  Then again, I think this is a good and humbling experience.  I am getting rejections along with acceptances, which makes me want to work harder at being a better writer.  Every day, that is my goal.

I think I have made up my mind that writing my next novel is a process that will begin after the editing of my current novel begins, which is actually ongoing, but I am hoping for the first book of my trilogy to be completely edited before I begin to focus on writing the first draft of an entirely new story.    I know this is a random thought, but I swear there is a method to my madness.  Or at least I think there is.  The madness does sometimes get in the way, but honestly, that is the fun part.

Up until that time, I have plenty to keep me busy with the various short story anthologies asking for submissions that are out there.  I actually submitted something for the first non-Library of the Living Dead/Library of Horror/Library of Science Fiction and Fantasy anthology last night, so I am spreading my wings a bit.  My next effort, the one I am working on right now, is a time traveling anthology for Permuted Press.   Two non-Library submissions in a row is great.  But two non-Library acceptances would be far better.

The majority of the stories I have written and submitted so far have had zombies in them.  Some more traditional stories than others (when you start talking zombies and politics, zombies and cowboys, and zombies being used as a April Fools’ joke, you are not sticking to the beaten path, that is for sure).  In the mix of what I’ve written have been a story about phobias, one about terrorism and spies, and one that is science fiction comedy.  Some of the anthologies I am targeting past my current efforts involve horror comedy, super heros, and serial killers, thought not all at the same time.  Although, that might be interesting.  But no zombies in my short term future (just sent a zombie story off, so I got my fix).   Beyond that, I am going to start searching beyond the anthology sources I am familiar withrequesting short stories and find some other ideas that may challenge me into writing beyond my comfort zone.  I know of two anthos involving Steam Punk and Bizarro respectively, but I am not sure I am ready to dip my toes into either of those pools quite yet.  I think I need to read more of those genres before I presume I can write in them.

I did do my first interview over Skype recently, which will hopefully be appearing on Tim Long’s blog (a great horror/comedy/bizarro/fantasy writer) very soon.  It was a round table interview with some of the newer writers in the Library of Living Dead stable.  It was a lot of fun and really gave me a chance to interact with some other folks who are just as excited about the writing process and the concept of seeing our words in print as I am.  I probably blabbed way too much during the hour plus interview, but it was pretty loose and I was glad I wasn’t on my own.  My first solo interview is definitely going to be a trippy experience.

Once a couple of my stories are actually in print, I will probably be able to start promoting myself more effectively.  Getting a fan page on Facebook sounds like an plan (although it sounds weird…asking someone to be my fan, or more specifically, a fan of my books, just feels a bit surreal).  Having an author’s page on Amazon would also be a step in the right direction to getting myself out there.

So there it is.  I am at the starting gate, and have been preparing for my journey of pimping my wares, but have only just begun.  Wish me luck.  I might have spent most of my career in sales, and everyone in sales will tell you that selling yourself is the key to being successful, but it is still a bit strange to me that I actually will be selling myself during this process.

Crazy stuff.  But a lot of fun as well.

Coming up with Story Ideas

One of the biggest challenges that wears me down as I have gotten more serious about writing is coming up with new, fresh ideas for stories on a continuous basis.  Some will say that stories that have creatures like zombies in them, which have been used in a wide array of stories over the years, is probably not going to get you an award for creativity.  It’s certainly true that I have read my fair share of rip-off zombie tales that follow the patented process made famous by Romero and others, with a group of people hiding out in a enclosed area desperately trying to figure out how they will survive because the undead are bashing at the doors, or gates, or whatever, and things are getting tense inside, and perhaps there are some other living humans outside that are also causing trouble, etc.  But I have also read quite a few zombie stories that bring new ideas to the table by making the zombies intelligent, fast, demonic, alien, etc.  I have also read the same type of stuff in other genres countless times with the rehash factor playing a major role.  Heck, I have read an author who has regurgitated the same idea they had years before and just put some new decorative touches on it before selling it again.

What I have gathered from all of this is that even if you use a tried and true set of story guidelines and keep going back to the same well, it doesn’t mean you are creating something dull, drab, and uninspired.  Similarly, if you throw some real curve balls with your ideas to make your story stand out as unique and different, you may still have the same stale and flabby plot if that is all you are relying on to make your tale something someone will want to read.

In other words, the setting is only one piece of the puzzle.  I have read in excess of 300 different zombie books over the past few years, mixed in with a wide assortment of stories from other genres.  And no, I am not just some incredibly obsessed fan boy who cannot stop pouring over the minutia of survival that apocalyptic and zombie stories usually give you.  Sure, I’ve given my fair share of thought to what it would take to survive if things go terribly wrong in the world.  I’ve written my posts on various message boards talking about that topic and others, both with the very serious folks out there that thing the world is going to end tomorrow and those who just love to kick around ideas and have some fun with it.  BUT, and this is the big BUT, that does not mean I like reading the same old story with just minor changes just because they have zombies in them.  Because what I really enjoy in good zombie story is a writer who can come up with new characters, new challenges, and essentially someone who will paint a fresh coat of paint over a basic story that has been around since Romero created Night of the Living Dead.  In other words, if you are stuck in a farmhouse with a bunch of other people, I am not going to groan this setting has already been used, but I expect some new perspective , new and compelling characters, and something that will perhaps shed NEW light on the human condition.  This is not to say that catapulting these characters into a new fresh environment with an entirely new breed of the undead might not be a bad idea, but what it boils down to for me, at least with what I would define as a ‘good zombie story’ is that you’ve made a serious effort at presenting the reader with characters that are multi-dimensional, intriguing, human, and perhaps allow us to love or hate them based on who they are and what they are willing to do.  No, scratch that.  That doesn’t just make for a good zombie story, it makes for a good story in general.

I use the zombie genre as an example because it is one that I have been immersed in for some time as I have written my book and the short stories that have followed up with more recently.  My novel, in some ways, has a very traditional setting for a tale of the apocalypse.  The undead nemesis is, for the most part, is very traditional.  But I didn’t focus all my energy on the undead.  Most of my effort went to developing characters that felt real and natural, doing what they can under terrible circumstances.  Whether or not I succeeded in creating a compelling story with them is something each reader will have to decide for themselves, but finding a publisher willing to put out my book and having others who have read it indicating that it is a compelling has definitely given me the confidence to know that I can perhaps write something enjoyable and entertaining.  But the first person I had to please was myself.  Just like every other author I have know, I am by far my harshest critic.  So with my novel, I didn’t slam my head against the desk desperately trying to write a story that didn’t have elements no one else has ever used before.  Instead, I devoted myself to making my characters people that would keep someone glued to the page to see what happens next to them.  Hopefully I pulled that off.

Short stories are something I am spending time with right now.  The ideas for these are ones you can put together and develop without mapping out massive story arcs, which is a nice change of pace for me from writing the novel, although I will be getting back to writing my book within the next month or two.  Writing short stories, after diving so deep into one story with a very specific characters, is a refreshing twist for me.  It allows me to work with character that aren’t perhaps as complex, at least on the written page, but still definitely have intriguing stories to tell.

I do struggle more with coming up with creative stuff for short stories than I did with my book.  I think of these smaller stories  like guerrilla warfare.  You sneak in, do the job, and get out before anyone realizes what you’ve done.  Writing a novel is like going to war.  You are the general and you are looking at thousands of different troop movements and trying to figure out what the enemy will do before they do it so you can adjust your techniques to outwit them.  It is waged over months and years and generally speaking can be quite costly for all involved.   A war takes lots of planning before you ever attack, and there are lots and lots of battles, and the map you are working with changes daily, because things change as you move forward-you discover you don’t like the direction a particular plot point is taking, some wonderful idea has filtered through that will require you to revamp over 100 pages of your tale, etc.  The whole objective of guerrilla warfare is to get in and get out before the enemy can point its artillery at you and smash you flat.  So it requires you to be light on your feet and come up with a story idea that can be effectively relayed in just a few thousand words, rather than 80,000.

I am not sure how good I am at writing short stories just yet.  I have four accepted currently, and three more I have to wait until the editor gets past their designated deadline to even look at, but none of that means that I know for sure that I have what it takes to come up with something new and different every few days or weeks, which is what writing short stories is all about.  Because you see, unlike with a novel, I think there is more onus on the short story writer to have something unique and different each time they set pen to paper.   In 5,000 words or so, you need to set the stage, build the drama, let the story unfold, and bring it to a conclusion.   Trust me, that is not such an easy task.

So far, I have been able to come up with something different with the short  stories I have written.  There are a few others I haven’t tried to get published because they really haven’t fit in the anthologies I have been working with, but if an idea strikes, the first thing I do is write it down and then stow it away.  If it really is something I am obsessed with and have fully shaped inside my brain, I will start writing it right away.  But usually the ideas I have are half formed and need time to gestate.

An example would be a story idea I came up with about a sixteen year old girl who has been bouncing around the foster care system her entire life.  She is a chronic troublemaker and no one can handle her for long.  Along come a very stern, very religious couple, who agree to take her and intend on scaring her straight.  The main character takes that as a challenge and tries to torment these people, but they are un-tormentable, or so it seems.  They lock her in her bedroom at night and she hears them down in the basement, praying.  She wants to mess with them and wants to also find out more about their very secretive beliefs, so she breaks out of her room one night and suddenly, she discovers… Well, that was as far as I got.  The idea was fairly basic, and would need a lot of molding and shaping, with some major embellishments.  But what did I do with this idea?  I later found a anthology that was looking for stories on phobias.   These would be horror stories about the innocuous fears we have.  So I started morphing my idea and wrote a story where there is a little girl who has a phobia of God and religion and she gets taken in by a very religious but very kind couple.  I submitted the story and am waiting until the deadline passes in another month or so to see if its been accepted.

Sometimes you just never know where a story will lead you.

Other story ideas pop into my head fully formed.  Writing the outline is simple and easy to do.  A story I hope to start writing today is one like that.  Another anthology is looking for stories of doom.  In other words, major catastrophic events that wipe out whole civilizations.  That was their only guidelines, but the idea that popped into my head was fully conceived and very specific.  I wrote the full outline for it in around ten minutes and thus far, I love the idea as it is.  That’s not to say it won’t change as I start writing, but for now, its a go and I just have to make sure I stick to the story guidelines about length and content before I turn it in.

I know of plenty of authors who out there who are superbly more talented than me who can see some submission guidelines for a short story or even a novella and their brain immediately starts creating something that works perfectly for what the editor is looking for.  I envy those folks, but that is not me.  I have to be hit by inspiration or I just don’t have the enthusiasm to carry a story through.  The eureka moment is a big deal to me, and while sometimes it comes when I concentrate, most of the time it comes when I am not even thinking about writing, stories, or anything creative.  Its not always a lightning bolt and thunder clap, sometimes its just a light drizzle that slowly saturates me and allows me to slowly poke and prod the idea until it fully develops into something tangible and hopefully, publishable.

I am afraid that one day, I will be sitting down, having  just finished a story, and my brain will go blank, with nothing left inside as far as creativity is concerned.  So far, it hasn’t happened, but the fact remains that I can’t always come up with something new that fits with something someone actually wants.  An example is a new anthology looking for submissions that are supposed to be humorous science fiction tales.  I would love to be a part of that and create something that is a riot, but unfortunately I haven’t come up with a single good idea as of yet.  The good news is there is no deadline for this story just yet, so I have time, but I am still wracking my brain trying to come up with something for it.  In the meantime, I have other ideas that just pop in my head that will make interesting stories, but none that are remotely close to something sci-fi-ish and humorous.  But such is life.

I wish I had written this topic with some sort of advice in mind for someone reading this, but I really don’t have anything for you.  Sorry if that seems selfish, but the muse visits different people in different ways.   It seems that everyone has a different way of coming up with story ideas.  Different inspirations, different personalities, different ways of thinking.  I guess the best thing is to keep an open mind and listen to the world around you.  Because you never know when or where inspiration will hit.

My experiences with the writing, editing, and publishing process.

Its almost surreal, this experience I have been going through lately.  Well, when I say lately, I mean over the past three and a half years.  July 2006-That is when I got “serious” about this writing stuff.  I, like many people I know, had always sworn they would become a writer some day.  We all have ideas, we all have plans to sit down and write chapter after chapter and create the great American novel.  Or at least, the novel that someone might want to read, even if it is just our wives or husbands and maybe the rest of our family members.  But honestly, how many of us end up doing that?

I have a friend who encouraged me every step of the way.  He was impressed when I told him that I had written a hundred pages, he was impressed when I finished my first draft.  He had started his own book, and trashed the efforts, countless times.  He could never get past chapter one.

Well, for me, the journey was about kicking myself in the ass and not playing around any more.  The disconnect was never after I had sat down and started writing, it had been moving from the idea stage to reality.  Once I actually started writing, I never looked back…

Now, please understand, I think it is fair to say that everyone writes differently.  You can’t say that there is a step by step process that everyone should take to become a successful writer.  Certainly, I can’t recommend On Writing by Stephen King enough.  That guy is a machine, and he is a regimented, highly organized writer who keeps to a schedule and perhaps even follows all the rules he has in place for how things are supposed to go.  Me?  I doubt I will ever be like that.

Some folks I know sit down with an idea and just start writing.  It flows from that point and grows from there.  They have a general idea in their head where they want to end up but don’t limit themselves by organizing their thoughts too much beforehand.  Me?  I over think EVERYTHING during the writing process.  Let me put it this way: I started writing my novel back in July of 2006 and I believe my first draft was not completed until January of 2008, a year and a half later.  Now let me say this: that was not me simply writing and writing.  That process involved outlining, revamping outlines, trashing big chunks of what I had originally written, and laboring over individual sentences at 3 a.m. as I tried to make it sound right.  By the time my first draft was completed, it was well over 360k words.

Let me repeat that for those of you in the cheap seats: 360k words.  Stephen King’s The Stand was originally released with 150,000 words cut from the manuscript.  It was still well over 800 pages (honestly, I can’t remember how many pages there were) but my book was about the size of the originally released version of the stand.  Now even with my meandering mind could I ever hope to top Mr. King, whose unabridged version sits at approximately 520k words.

So, move forward from my triumphant evening sitting at the keyboard, when I typed out that last sentence and officially announced to friends and family that I had finished my book.  It felt like a relief, like I could scratch off something on the bucket list, etc.  I was 39 years old at the time and I had written my first novel before hitting that big middle aged landmark.  I was over the moon.

Then I started to realize that even with all the editing I had done, all the effort to put together something presentable, that my story was monstrous.  I approached a publisher.  Someone I had been having a dialogue with previously, because I had been reviewing books they had come out with and they had been so kind as to send me review copies of other books to also review on Amazon.  The publisher was more than willing to look at my book, but…and this was a big BUT, could I turn it into a trilogy?  The reason for this was because at 360K words, it was far, far, far too large to ever be considered for publication with them.  He liked a maximum of 120K words per book, and that was even pushing it.

Sooooo, that leads us to the second part of this process-my efforts to turn my book into a trilogy.  Thankfully, that was not as hard to do as I had originally though, because as I started looking, I saw three natural splits in the novel-cliffhanger endings that set up the following segment of my tale nicely.  So that was done, along with some more compulsive editing.

Alas, this is where I began to actually learn a few more things about writing that became invaluable to me.  The first came a month after I submitted my manuscript to this particular publisher and the gentleman came back and said that he could not publish my book.  He was kind enough to provide me with feedback and the key thing I took away from that was this: I was doing a hell of a lot of telling and not nearly enough showing.  In other words, I was dumping a lot of information on people and not allowing them to discover the story for themselves.

I thanked that publisher and admitted to myself that he was absolutely correct in his assessment.  I also realized that my book was massively over bloated and I needed to mercilessly start to slice and dice it down to what it should have been in the first place.

So my editing journey continued.  The publisher had actually suggested I leave this story on the shelf and work on other stuff for a time and after getting published with other novels or short stories, then return to my story later.  I had given that some thought but in the end, I couldn’t help but return to the story that had been in my dreams and nightmares now for two and half years at that point.  It was the beginning of 2009 by then, and my novel had just gotten rejected by a publisher and as a side note, my job had just been eliminated.

So, I was unemployed and focused on finding a new job.  I did leave my book on the shelf…for about a month or two.  Then I went at it with red penned zeal.  I should probably say at this point that other people were reading what I had written.  They had been doing so for quite some time.  I definitely took a lot from their thoughts.  Mind you, I didn’t change everything based on their suggestions, but having those other folks to bounce things off of was invaluable.

I was bound and determined to get my book published.  Let me put that a different way.  I did not want to self-publish.  Period.  A writer by the name of Rhiannon Frater has written a trilogy of zombie apocalyptic fiction entitled As The World Dies.  She went the self-publishing route.  Her success is well known in the world of zombie fiction.  I can’t say that I know Rhiannon personally, but I do know her through the wonderful world of the internet-Facebook and message boards, etc.  Her success has been definitely the exception to the rule.  Rhiannon has a business savvy and loads of smarts that allowed her to self-publish and create something that was terrific and create something that people have bought.  Word of mouth has been a big part of that.  That is my plug for her work: go buy her trilogy.  Its fantastic.

But Rhiannon’s success is the exception.  There are good self-published novels, sometimes by jaded authors who got sick of trying to go the normal route to publishing.  They write terrific stories that will really blow you away.  But in addition to those novels, you are going to get a LOT more novels that probably were taken out of the oven way too early.  That is my polite way of saying that a professional editor would have gone a long way for those folks who so desperately wanted to get published and were willing to do whatever it took to achieve that dream as fast as possible. On top of that, you have to consider how much marketing responsibility you have taken on by becoming your own business entity.  Rhiannon was able to do it, but I daresay she is a unique person.  Did I write a book so I could become famous and read by thousands or millions?  No, but if I am going to get published, I would like to have a company standing behind me with not only an editor, but the ability to effectively market what I have written.  They can promote my book in the back of other books they produce, they can take me to trade shows, put excerpts from my book on pod casts, etc.  Being in a stable with other authors is also invaluable.  I have interacted with a much larger group of people because of my relationship with the Library of the Living Dead.  Not only is Dr. Pus, the benevolent publisher, someone who I have gained valuable insights from, but I have also had the privilege of bouncing ideas off of published authors like Tim Long and Steve North.  That guys like that (amongst many other terrific writers) are asking for my opinion on what they are currently writing is mind blowing.

Whew!  That was quite a tangent, wasn’t it?  So anyway, back to my saga.  I pulled down my manuscript and started slicing it and editing it about another million times.  The end result?  About 162K words.  At the same time, I introduced myself to the Library of the Living Dead and Dr. Pus, who was so kind as to create a section of his message boards where I could post chapters of my book for others to read and critique.  What a difference that made!  It introduced me to a lot of people.  Folks like those I have mentioned above, including Rhiannon Frater, who has not only been self published but also published at the Library as well.  Tons of other writers of both novels and short stories, as well as fans of the genre, were there, supporting me every step of the way.

So after I felt pretty strong about my novel, I submitted it to the Library.  But again, at 162K words, it was a bit large, but still could be turned into a trilogy that would make sense and worked quite well.  So I spoke to Doc about that and less than a couple of weeks ago, he agreed to publish it as a trilogy.

Once again, I was over the moon and thrilled.  But the journey, in many ways, has just begun.  Doc is assigning me an editor, who I will become very familiar with over the next few months (and beyond), I am sure.  We have chatted about artwork for the cover of the first book, the description on the back, and any sort of promoting that I can do, including creating a website (thus this blog, which is the tip of the iceberg for me).  I will be at Horror Realm in Pittsburgh in September, which will be occurring shortly after my book is released in September.

I will likely be talking in detail about my experiences with the publishing process in later blog installments.  Its been an interesting ride so far.