Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Too Many Words

Another author posted a link to a blog post about writing on her Facebook page.  The author of the blog post provided a list of items that make a for a good story that is marketable.  One of them really struck me. Here's the quote:
Wordiness or overwriting — the book is not excessively wordy, particularly, no rambling descriptions, dumps of information, unnecessary repetition or irrelevant scenes.

As I kid, when I envisioned a writer, I saw someone who was very learned and they used long and complicated words.  They might even smoke a pipe and wear jackets with patches on their sleeves.  (Ahh, the mystery of childhood misconceptions.)

Some of my first writing was a game to show how smart I was with my vocabulary.  I'd work every long word I could into my stories.  

Well, I got my own education on that approach when I released a mystery novel I was working on to a group of beta-readers.  One of the common threads of the critiques was that the book was "too wordy" and it "seemed over-written."  Other friends said I used too many long words, too.  

That stung. I worked really hard at being smart with my book and it back-fired. (It didn't help that the front end of the book was ponderously slow.)  

I've learned since then that I don't have to write 'dumb' or talk down to my readers, but I don't have to try to impress them with my vocabulary.  Writing clearly and succinctly seems to better connect with my readers. Since I write in genre fiction, this even more important.

Now, this doesn't mean that your book has to be dumb.  Not at all.  Readers love smart books, but over-smart writing doesn't always win them over.

So, the next time you decide to try an impress your readers with how smart you are, think again.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Upsides and Downsides of Free

Thought I would share some Observations/Upsides/Downsides of giving books away.

Last week, I had a launch event on Facebook for my new book.  As a part of the way I enticed potential readers to the event (and get more Likes on my FB page), I gave away a lot of my short stories and flash crime collection.  In total, I gave away 227 ebooks.

Upsides:  More exposure and something to entice readers with.  Chance for more reviews -- the good kind

Downsides:  No income generated.  Chance for more reviews -- the negative kind

One person downloaded all four of my free ebooks and reviewed them all.  The reader gave me 2 - 5-Star ratings and 2 - 3-Star ratings.

Obviously, I love the 5-Star Ratings.  The 3-Star ratings, not so much.  But them's the breaks or so they say.

So, you now see the dangers of free.  But free is a necessary evil, I fear, at least for indie writers.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Author Interview with Dan Williams

Dan Williams is the author of the Mace of the Apocalypse series, featuring bounty hunter Mace and his trusty partner, Jade as they face against the undead.  The first book, Mace of the Apocalypse is followed by The Value of Jade and Children of the Apocalypse.  The final book in the series was just release and is titled, Legend of Mace.
You can learn more about Dan William’s writing life at:

Why do you write?

Writing for me is more than just a hobby. From a young age it became an outlet to release pent-up frustration or creativity. Once a story takes root, it becomes ingrained in my subconscious and becomes something I can't help but think about and expand upon.

Tell me about your Mace of the Apocalypse series - who is Mace and what is he up against?
The Mace of the Apocalypse series starts off at the beginning stages of a zombie apocalypse. It focuses on a group of survivors who believe they have the antidote to the infection. It is a story about survival, adversity, and relationships in an atmosphere of complete horror.

The main character in the story, Mace, is a man who struggles with a dark past. He strives to find meaning and redemption in the present. The more I developed him the more I fell in love with his character. His past haunts him; he identifies with it and feels somewhat damaged. He is certainly not without his flaws. He sees his new role as a protector and risks everything for those he loves or feels responsible for.  

Why was your path to the zombie apocalypse and what influenced you to write about the undead?
In my opinion, there is nothing more terrifying than the thought of being pursued by a horde of undead corpses ravenous for human flesh. I have always been attracted to epic stories, and a zombie apocalypse is about as epic as I could imagine. People's reactions to that type of horror completely drew me in, and I wanted to explore that from a human perspective.

What’s it like writing a series -- do you like spending so much time with these characters?
I am so glad I decided to take this journey. The greatest aspect of writing a series is being able to delve further into my character's personalities. 
They are a part of me.  It is one of the most rewarding challenges I have ever undertaken. 

Was there a particular book or author that inspired you as a writer?
I would have to say The Stand by Stephen King. That was storytelling at its masterful best. It was such an epic tale, with rich characters, great pacing and originality: One of my favorites of all time.

What keeps you writing?
Writing is now a way of life. There is a freedom that comes when you completely let go of reality and immerse yourself in a world of your own creation. At this point, I can't imagine not writing. I recently signed with J Ellington Ashton press, and the knowledge I've gained is priceless. Learning to become a better writer is such a wonderful challenge.

What advice do you have for other writers?
The best advice I can give would be to just keep writing, take classes or workshops when you can, and learn from your mistakes. Don't take bad feedback personally. Everyone gets bad reviews. If you see a pattern emerging, look at it objectively and learn from it. Leave your ego at the door.

What’s up next for Dan Williams?
"Now it's time to promote this series and see what happens. It's been a ball."

Dan Williams Bibliography:
Mace of the Apocalypse

Value of Jade

Children of the Apocalypse

Legend of Mace

Author Interview with Scotty Schrier

Scotty Schrier is the author of “Jode Unforgiven,” a tale of an ageless cowboy demon hunter who has to save the world against an ancient evil.  This book was just released from J. Ellington Ashton Press.  He has also written several short stories and has a collection of stories entitled “Mental Menagerie: A Collection of genre-bending short fiction.” He lives in Florida and writes whenever he can get enough coffee.

You can learn more about Scotty’s Writing Life at:

What brought you to writing?
I'm not photogenic enough for movies? I've always been a storyteller. I tried my hand at cartooning, and found that what I wrote was so much stronger than what I drew...okay, I sucked at drawing. So, I focused on words. And one thing led to another until I was posting short stories online and getting pretty good responses. Then one year I gave NaNoWriMo a shot, and hammered out my first novel in 30 days. The feeling I had when I typed 'The End' was electric and addicting. That's when I knew I was destined to write.

Tell me about your novel, Jode Unforgiven -- who is Jode and what is he up against?
Jode is a man who's family was killed by a demon. In the process of trying to save his family he was infected with demon blood and became half-demon himself. This book starts with Jode tracking down a gang of demons who had been terrorizing the countryside. Once he interrogates them, he stumbles across a plot to bring about the End Times early. He has to gather together a small band of misfits from a local ranching town and try to save the world from utter destruction.

What was the inspiration for Jode Unforgiven?
I was mowing my lawn one day and I had the image of a snake slithering through the grass towards my son. I thought the best way to take care of that would be to hit the snake with my lawnmower. Then this whole scene played out in my head. This guy hits the snake with the lawnmower and sparks began shooting from under the mower deck as the blade scraped against impossibly hard scales. 
Then, the next week when I was mowing the lawn, when I was in the same spot, the scene grew. Each time I mowed for a couple of months, the same scene played out, and each time I was given a little more and a little more. Until the snake (who by that time I knew was a demon) had a conversation with the man. And I knew I had to write it down.
The odd part, was when I started writing was set in the Old West. So, I ran with it!

What books or authors have most influenced you?
On Writing by Stephen King is the book that lit the fire and finally made me decide to do this. Don McQuinn, my mentor, has published a ton of books, and knows more industry experts on a first name basis, than you can imagine...and he was my writing coach for the better part of three years. Even now, when I'm writing, I can hear his voice in my head. Urging me on, and asking me questions about 'why' a character is doing something, or 'what' does a character feel after something happens. I can hear him asking me, "Do you think this is a genuine reaction?" and my perennial favorite: "Write the damn book."

What is your greatest challenge as a writer?
Selling books. It's insanely hard to get noticed. And it doesn't help when so many of us are selling books wrong. I see so many authors who tweet a hundred times a day 'Buy my book.' 'It's great!' 'You'll love it.' often I feel like that guy by the roadside with a sing yelling for people to repent. So, yeah, finding a sales tactic that works, and doesn't spam people or turn them away before ever reading your words. That's my greatest challenge.

What advice would you have for other writers?
Study the craft. Learn how to write well. Then learn as much as you can about the industry. Also, read some marketing books too. You're going to need them. 
But my biggest advice would be this: "What differentiates an author from a hobbyist is a hobbyist FINDS time to write; an author MAKES time to write." If this is your thing, get serious about it.

What’s your next project?
I've got about four different ones on various burners right now. I'm struggling to get them all down on the page. But the main one I'm working on right now is the sequel to Jode Unforgiven called Jode Unchained. It takes place 70 years later and Jode is trying to get his life back together after the epic ending of the first book.

Author Interview with Belinda Frisch

Belinda Frisch is a writer of dark tales in the horror, mystery, and thriller genres.  Her fiction has appeared in Shroud Magazine, Dabblestone Horror, and Tales of the Zombie War.  She is the author of the Strandville series including CURE and AFTERBIRTH.  Her other books are DEAD SPELL and PAYBACK.  She resides in upstate New York with her husband, son and a small menagerie of beloved animals.

My Note:  I’ve read CURE and it is a great thrill ride.  Zombies and a medical thriller, you can’t you go wrong.

What was your path to the writing life?

I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing stories, and submitted to magazines since my teens. I fared well in some of the Writer’s Digest contests, and landed a short story sale with Shroud Magazine, but my first big writing break came in 2004 when I got a contract to write a text book Correct Coding for Medicare, Compliance, and Reimbursement. At the time, I worked as a medical coding expert for a local hospital, and it was a big deal for my career. I married in 2005 and kept writing fiction. Between then and now, I decided that I was most suited, at the time, for indie world. I had a lot going on, personally, which didn’t lend to meeting deadlines that weren’t self-imposed, and my writing was pretty experimental. I self-published Dead Spell, Crisis Hospital, Cure, and Afterbirth between 2011-2013 and Cure was optioned for film.

How did you choose to write about scary subjects?

I don’t know that horror was a choice, as much as it chose me. I write stories that I’d like to read, and horror comes naturally. I love horror movies and, up until recently, the stories that came to me were all very dark. My earliest writing influences were horror writers and I’m sure that had something to do with it. I read tons of Anne Rice, some Koontz, and some King as a kid.

What was your inspiration for your books in the Strandville series, Cure and Afterbirth?

My inspiration for the Strandville series was a combination of an early fascination with The Walking Dead TV show and years of working in a hospital. Most of my stories are medicine-influenced and the z-virus lends itself perfectly to a medical thriller theme. I couldn’t help thinking, “What if there was a cure?” The rest of the twisted tale developed and the Strandville survivors materialized.

Which authors and books do you most admire?

Hands down, the author I admire most is Dennis Lehane. I finished reading Moonlight Mile, the follow-up to Gone Baby Gone, and I was so in awe of his prose that I couldn’t read another book right away. Book hangover, right? That’s what it’s called?

Other favorites: Anne Rice (circa 1990’s), Joe Schreiber (Eat the Dark), Greg Hurwitz (The Crime Writer), Martha O’Connor (The Bitch Posse), and pretty much all of Charlie Huston’s backlist.

What is it like for you working outside the major publishing houses as an indie?

It’s busy. Traditional authors write and edit. Indie authors do all that, plus have to deal with their own marketing and branding (though I understand there’s some of this in traditional world, it’s not like what indies deal with). There’s e-formatting, cover design, and print-on-demand formatting. I have to file my own copyrights, and had to deal with an intellectual property attorney on the film option. I also co-wrote the script which may or may not ever come to fruition. The producer worked hard at getting studio backing, but some things are harder sells than others. It was an honor to have gotten that far.

What makes a good book in your opinion?

A good book, to me, has an innovative plot, three dimensional characters, and it invests the reader, emotionally, in a fictional world. I love the feeling of being so drawn into a book that I have to keep going back to see what comes next.

What advice do you have for other writers?

Don’t quit your day job. I used to hate to hear that advice, but if you rely on your income to survive, wait until you’re a big success before taking the leap. The hardest part about being a writer is striking the balance between time spent honing the craft and living life. I used to begrudge the time the day job took away from my writing. I then resented the writing taking time away from my family. It seemed there weren’t enough hours in the day, and there wasn’t. I had to write, many days, when I was too mentally exhausted to be at my best. That led to nightmarish editing. Fortunately, there has been enough of a change in our circumstances that I no longer work outside of the home, but it’s stressful if you depend on writing income because it fluctuates, is unpredictable, and is almost entirely out of your control.

What’s next for you -- another Strandville book or something new?

Some readers are asking for another Strandville novel, but the story stopped talking to me with the ending of Afterbirth. Yes, eventually, I think there might be more to that world, but I’m taking a break from horror and have ventured into the medical thriller genre. The new book, Lethal Donation, is expected to be out in October 2013. The title is a working one, and may change, but the first draft is almost finished. Here’s the blurb:

A cutting-edge procedure meant to create lives, destroys them in this romantic medical thriller with a forensic twist.

Paramedic Anneliese Ashmore's routine shift takes a startling turn when she answers the call she was never meant to hear—a call to a crime scene where her sister, Sydney, is the victim of an overdose suicide.

The evidence says otherwise.

In the midst of a heated divorce, motive implicates Sydney’s husband and mistress, but while the police focus on the single lead, Ana investigates others.
A mysterious business card and a chain of e-mails between Sydney and her surgeon's office set Ana on a search for answers about her sister's recent diagnosis and the life-altering treatment that saved her. The body count rises as Ana closes in on the truth, and on the man of her dreams.

With the help of Dr. Jared Monroe, an unhappily married physician with a bit of a crush, and Dr. Marco Prusak, the biggest detractor of County Memorial Hospital's new organ transplant program, Ana uncovers a ring of greed and corruption, and exposes the fact that Sydney’s medical treatment may have been the catalyst for her murder. Unfortunately for Ana, she may be next.

For more information, visit my blog:

It's Launch Day for Sanctuary from the Dead

I'm excited beyond words.  My first novel, Sanctuary from the Dead, launches today.

Being a writer has a been a dream of mine since I was a kid.  Sadly, it was a dream that I took a long time to fulfill.  Still, it's very gratifying.

Since I really dedicated myself to the writing life, I've had a lot of help along the way.  My wife, Kim, has been supportive throughout this crazy adventure.  My brother had read and critiqued my stories over the past two years, too.  Barb Kerr graciously provided editing and moral support with this book that was invaluable.  I'd also like to thank my parents (who are no longer with us) who went along with all my creative endeavors as a kid.

If you're interested in a rip roaring tale of zombies and adventure, please consider buying a copy:

(And if you do read it, please, please, please leave a review.  Reviews are the lifeblood for indie writers.)

Friday, July 19, 2013

Sanctuary from the Dead - Teaser Trailer

Sanctuary from the Dead will be released Friday, July 26.  In anticipation and to build excitement for the book, my brother (who is a video producer) created a video teaser trailer for the book.

Here it is - Get Excited!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My Path (Back) to Horror

Just how did I end up writing horror?

It was a circuitous path, let me tell you.  As a kid, I read a lot of different genres.  I wasn't really picky. Sports bios, scary stories, youth literature, and some science fiction.  And I read a lot of comic books. The Marvel-verse -- X-Men, Daredevil, the Avengers.

The first book that really grabbed and took hold of me was Stephen King's "Carrie."  I read it in two-days and was unable to put it down.  Now, my literary criticism skills weren't too honed, but there was something so obvious to me that told me that this guy knew how to write.  I couldn't wait for 'Salem's Lot.  And I couldn't wait to discover more horror novels.  I read some great stuff and some awful stuff.

I then diverted off into Science Fiction in a big way.  Frank Herbert's Dune series captivated my imagination. I read all the masters after that.  Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury.   Phillip K. Dick blew my mind.  Harlan Ellison showed what you could do with the short story.  I spent a lot of time with Sci-Fi.

In my late twenties, I wanted to make a short private detective film, but I knew little or nothing about the genre.  So, I went on jury for a week and had a lot of time on my hand.  So, I read a slew of PI novels that week.  John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee.  Ross McDonald's Lew Archer.  Sue Grafton's Kinsey Milhone.  And my personal favorite, Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder.  In fact, I read almost exclusively PI (and first person mystery) novels for the next 15 years.

When you read a genre as much as I did and have an inkling that you'd like to be a writer, well then, you'll have to try your hand at it.  I wrote (with my brother) an unpublishable PI novel.  But I didn't let that stop me.  I wrote some short stories.  One even took 2nd place in a short mystery competition.  Then I went on to start another PI novel which took me over 10 years to write.

Late in 2011, I started working on short mystery and crime fiction to hone my craft.  I tried to get some stories published, but I didn't get any picked up.  So, I pulled out a crime short story I had written in 1997 called Home Schooling.  It was a story that I knew was marketable, and I submitted it to A Twist of Noir. Lo and behold, they accepted it and the editor, Christopher Grant, gave me some great encouragement.

I went on a good run with crime short fiction, getting stories on Shotgun Honey and some other sites.  It was invigorating and encouraging.  I was starting yo understand my market.  I knew what they wanted.

But then I felt this urge to return to my roots.  There was a story inside me and I had to let it get out.  The story was The Dark Child and I submitted it to The Horror Zine.  The experience was so rewarding and the collaboration with the editor, Jeanie Rector, was such a great learning opportunity.  And my career writing horror got started.  It was good to be back.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Zombiepalooza Radio Appearance

Speaking of radio (see last post), I appeared on Zombiepalooza Radio last week.  It was my first media interview for my upcoming book, Sanctuary from the Dead.

Zombiepalooza Radio is an web-based radio program hosted by the spectacular Jackie Chin.  It airs on Friday nights.

My experience was both exhilarating and nerve wracking.  I've been interviewed before and have performed hundreds of interviews in my "real" job, but it was the first time I've been interviewed as an author.

As it turned out, I had nothing to be worried about.  Jackie made me at ease from the start as we talked about my book, my previously released novella, Forget the Alamo, and, of course zombies.

If you like zombies, this is a great place to hang out.

Here's a link to both their Facebook page and their program archive page:
> the archive of my interview is titled:Zombiepalooza ICONS Stream 2013-07-05

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Zombies on the Radio

Zombies on the Radio (sort of)

I’m old enough to have lived through the very last tail end of radio drama.  No, I didn’t live in the time of Fibber McGee and Molly or The Shadow, but as a kid I remember being spellbound by CBS Radio Mystery Theater.   E.G. Marshall was the host and the show always opened with the sounds of a creaking door.  Scary stuff.  

There’s something about the radio drama that is so fulfilling because it forces the listener to use their imagination to do the heavy lifting.  

Anyway, podcasting has allowed new paths to be plowed in the area of audio dramas.  There’s one program in particular that I’d like to point out and that is We’re Alive (the Zombiepodcast).  It’s a full cast audio drama that has been in production for the past three years.  And the cast isn’t small.  There are literally two dozen characters adding depth to the show.

The show is primarily set in Los Angeles and follows a small group of soldiers and civilians as they try to survive an outbreak of zombies.  Each episode is broken up into 3 chapters (most of the time) and each of these chapters is around 20 minutes so you have have an hours worth of drama.  Every episode is like a movie for the ears with soundtrack like music and sound effects.

Since hearing the first episodes I’ve been addicted.  The producers and writers have done an excellent job of hooking listeners.  You have characters to root for and mysteries to solve.  I can say that it has made many of our long car drives quite enjoyable.  

The show finished its 3rd season a couple months ago and the final season is launching this August.  I can’t endorse this show enough.  It’s fantastic.  If you’re not listening to it, you’re missing a real treat.

You can find We're Alive on iTunes (for FREE) and at: