Wednesday, June 30, 2010

All Things Considered, It Was a Good Week

I say that with some trepidation and not wanting to jinx myself.  Today I had to take Cocoa, my senior guy (he's eight) and the inspiration for the character Van Helsing in The Vampire Hunters, to the vet (Dr. Crum at  SEAVS) because he was not eating last night.  Turns out a growth under his skin near the jawline was pressing against his jaw joint.  The vet put him under, cut open his cheek, and drained out pus from the growth.  He found a chunk of dried, hardened ear wax about the size of a pea that was causing all the trouble.  Given Cocoa's age and the nature of the operation, things could easily have had a very unhappy ending.  Cocoa is in guarded condition right now -- he has a big hole in his right cheek that needs to be watched so that it heals properly, and is heavily medicated.  His girlfriend Ruby is with him in an adjoining cage (the vet won't let them stay together because she was trying to eat the stitches off his face).  The vet kept him overnight and his overall prognosis looks good.  So as long as everything turns out well, then I'll be happy.  But until I have him home and he's begging for treats, I'm a nervous wreck.

On a much happier note, Shadowfire Press sent me the proofs yesterday for the second book in the trilogy -- The Vampire Hunters: Vampyrnomicon.  I'll start reviewing them this weekend. 

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday Bunnies

When life gets you down, just kick up your heels and be happy. 


Jonathon Mayberry's Big, Scary Blog is running a series of posts in which he is publishing answers from the zombie-related community to questions pertaining to the living dead.  He has graciously included my answer to the question "Why zombies?"  Please check it out here.

Also, I'll be attending the Famous Monsters of Filmland Convention in Indianapolis next month (this time as a fan, but hopefully soon as an official guest).  The big draw for me is the reunion of the original cast of George Romero's Night of the Living Dead.  It also marks the re-introduction of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine with issue #251, which for a monster kid like me is a huge deal. 

I have finished my short story "Dead Water" and will be submitting it this week.  I'll provide more details as they develop. 

And finally, I'm finishing up the preliminary research for my next novel, and hope to begin that within the next month.

Friday, June 25, 2010

More Mental Musings From a Monster Kid

Last week I read the latest news on the reimaging of Fright Night. For those unfamiliar with the original 1985 classic, a vampire (Chris Sarandon) moves in next door to teenager Charlie Brewster (William Ragsdale). Not wanting to face the undead alone, Charlie goes to his local television station to seek assistance from Fright Night horror movie host Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowell), who he mistakenly believes is a real vampire killer. As implausible as the plot sounds, Fright Night worked and was one of the better vampire films from the 1980s.

So imagine my chagrin when I discovered that the reimaging of Fright Night was foregoing Vincent’s role as a horror movie host for that of a Las Vegas magician because, in the screen writer’s (sadly correct) opinion, today’s audiences would not be familiar with horror movie hosts. Two thoughts immediately crossed my mind. First, am I that old? (To be fair, I say that every time I hear the music I listened to in high school being played on the Golden Oldies station.) And more importantly, where did those icons of my youth go to?

As a monster kid as far back as I can remember, I was addicted to my weekend monster movie highs. The only thing that made the school week tolerable was the knowledge that on Saturday afternoon I could watch Godzilla or some other giant monster lay waste to yet another city on WLVI Channel 56’s Creature Double Feature. Then, thanks to the miracle of cable, I could get an extra fix on Saturday night thanks to Chiller from Secaucus, New Jersey. For us monster kids, when that badly-animated six-fingered hand emerged out of a pool of blood and laid out the show’s logo accompanied by that eerie techno-pop horror climax music, it was like seeing your junkie on the street corner.

However, the best part of the weekend’s monster movie marathon was The Ghoul, the only one we could get in Boston (again, thanks to the miracle of cable). Let’s be honest – the movies sucked. They were the worst of the worst. The scripts were so badly written they seemed to prove the old statistician’s adage that if you put a million monkeys in a room and gave each of them a typewriter, eventually one of them would draft something readable. The acting was so amateurish it made porn stars look like Academy Award performances. And the monsters were so cheesy as to be laughable (I guess seeing a zipper run down the back of the monster’s costume took away its awe). Each week’s selection was pure unadulterated schlock. Today you can buy them for less than ten dollars on DVD compilation packs of fifty movies. But I didn’t care. I rarely watched them, which is sad when a monster movie can’t hold the interest of a ten-year-old boy. They were mostly background noise while I read through the latest edition of Famous Monsters of Filmland or built one of my Aurora glow-in-the-dark monster models.

Yet when The Ghoul came on, my attention was riveted to the TV screen. He always made a grand entrance, either being pushed across stage in a shopping cart, or using a fire extinguisher and roller skaters to rocket on to the set, or using some other imaginative mode of transportation. His antics and jokes were juvenile, which was exactly what appealed to a ten-year-old boy. Who cared how bad the movie was as long as I could watch a model car be blown apart by firecrackers or could get a sadistic chuckle as Froggy, the show’s plastic mascot, was subjected to some form of unique humiliation each week (from being shoved into a dish of ice cream and covered with hot fudge to having tea bags stapled to his head and dunked into boiling water). While the movie plots were abysmal, they could not compare to what came out of The Ghoul’s Vault of Golden Garbage – The Little Rasghouls, Ghoulumbo, and Night Ghoulery.

Like so many monster kids of my generation, I tuned in for the horror movie host, and back then there were plenty of them to satiate our need. Zacherley, "Chilly Billy" Cardilo, Ghoulardi, Elvira, and dozens of others.  Each of them had one thing in common – they made monster movies fun. That’s what it was all about for us. Fun.

And now I’m told by Hollywood that no one knows what a horror movie host is. Sigh.

I’m now a forty-something monster kid, and so many monster icons of my childhood that hooked me onto the genre have vanished. The horror movie host has been supplanted by the cable premium channels, which now show the same contemporary slash fest movie ad nauseum until even I get bored of the movie. The local movie theater that once showed the Saturday double feature matinee (Destroy All Monsters and Which Way to the Front? – what a combo) has been replaced by the sterile multi-screen theater complex with its single movie and grossly-overpriced concession stand. And drive-in theaters have become as rare in America as an honest politician.

Horror movie hosts may be on the verge of extinction, but they are not forgotten. At least by this monster kid.

As The Ghoul would say, "Stay sick."

[This post originally appeared on Dawn's Reading Nook on 19 June 2010.]

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

Hope you all have a happy Father's Day.  Enjoy the day with your kids, even the ones with fur.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Why Would Anyone in Their Right Mind Want To Write for a Living?

“Why would anyone in their right mind want to write for a living?”

Nobody wants to write for a living. We do it because we have to. Once we’ve put pen to paper that first time, we’re addicted. The only fix for that addiction is to type out a few pages of a short story or novel.

Those of you who have a passion for writing know exactly what I’m talking about. You carry a pocket-size notebook everywhere you go to write down your thoughts. You carefully observe people for unique mannerisms that then make their way into your characters. You listen in on conversations not because you’re nosy, but because you study how people talk so your dialogue sounds realistic. You can’t watch the news or read a newspaper without getting an idea for a short story or novel. To you, a personal crisis is when you find out that the really awesome scene you thought of last week was already used in another book or movie. To you, writing is not so much a profession as it is a calling.

The reward is not the paycheck. Most writers will be damn lucky if they make enough from writing to pay the bills. No. the reward is seeing your name on the book cover. It’s the thrill of having people read the story you have to tell. It’s hearing from your fans how much they enjoyed reading your story or novel. It’s going to conventions and book signings. It’s watching that one story or novel slowly become a long bibliography.

If you’re nodding your head while reading this, then you’re one of the lucky ones.

“Lucky ones?”

Yes. You’re lucky because you’ve answered the call. Like any calling, the road ahead will not always be easy. You’ll have frustrations. You’ll have doubts. And you might even abandon writing for awhile, only to go back to it soon. Writing is that addictive. But the rewards are worth it.

So if you answered the calling, I wish you the best in your endeavor. You’re going to need it.

If just one of you finds enough inspiration in these blogs to write a novel or short story, or picks up some advice that helps you get published, then my efforts were not wasted.

Just remember me when writing the acknowledgment page of your book.

[This blog originally appeared on Dawn's Reading Nook (here) on 5 June 2010.]

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Check Out the Zombie Panel Discussion

Jonathon Mayberry has started a zombie panel discussion on his Big, Scary Blog.  The first discussion has several zombie authors answering the question: Why zombies?  Check it out.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday Bunnies

There's nothing better to do on a hot, humid Sunday than to lay around and do nothing.

Friday, June 11, 2010

AMC Posts Photo of Its "The Walking Dead" Zombie

AMC released the first production still from The Walking Dead series.  If this is the quality of the production, this series is going to rock. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

This Is a Great Music Video for Aspiring Authors

I stumbled across a great music video titled Signing in the Waldenbooks by mystery author Parnell Hall.  It's an awesome spoof about the down side of being an author.  Take a minute to check it out here.  And thanks to Mr. Hall for a good laugh. 

Sunday, June 6, 2010

It Promises To Be a Busy Summer

It's been a busy couple of weeks for me, which promises to extend into a busy summer. 

The Vampire Hunters: Vampyrnomicon, the sequel to The Vampire Hunters, is scheduled for publication on 20 August 2010.  This book introduces Chiang Shih, the Master vampire, and her consigliores comprised of the most evil vampires the world has witnessed. Chiang Shih comes to Washington in search for The Vampyrnomicron, a long-lost tome written by one of the first vampires that details the history of vampirism, including how the undead can establish dominion over all of mankind or, if in the hands of humans, can be destroyed once and for all. Drake Matthews and Alison Monroe, aided by a growing circle of hunters, race against time to find The Vampyrnomicron before the vampires.

And I began drafting a short story this week for a writing contest I was asked to enter.  It's a sequel to "Cruise of the Living Dead" that takes place aboard an oil rig off the East Coast of the United States.  I'll keep you posted on its status. 
Last week I met with Gary Hevel, the Public Information Officer for the Smithsonian's National Museum of natural History, who graciously gave me an hour of his time to answer some reserach question I had with regards to my next novel.  I hope to start that book by August. 
That's it for now, but keep checking back.  It promises to be a hectic summer.

Sunday Bunnies

Okay, so this is not one my rabbits.  But I love this poster, so it made the cut for the Sunday Bunnies.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Marketing Your Book and Yourself, Part II

“So that’s it? I set up a blog and a webpage and I’m done marketing my book?”

Hell, no.

In addition to a web and blog page, you will also need to establish an author’s account on some of the various social networking sites (SNS) available on the Internet. Facebook, My Space, and Twitter are the most common ones, although there are dozens of SNSs available. Set up profiles on as many of these networking sites as you want or on the ones where you feel you can have a greater presence. A great website for the serial social networker is, which allows you to post to numerous networking sites simultaneously. Just bear in mind that Ping should not be used as an excuse to establish a presence on every SNS available, because the more time you spend maintaining these sites and networking means the less time you spend writing.

You will also want to join a few forums and chat groups to make your name known throughout the community. I suggest a mix between those directed primarily to writers and those frequented by fans of your genre. A good place to begin is Goodreads. This site is dedicated to writers and readers and maintains numerous chat groups that span all genres. Beyond that, do your research and check out various forums/chat groups until you find a few where you feel comfortable and enjoy the discussions. As with the social networking sites, moderation is the key.

“Cool. I love Facebook. I have a couple of dozen zombie pets that I’m taking care of.”

You’re missing the point. Your goal is to market your book, not to steal your friend’s zombie rabbits or create photo albums of your last trip to Europe. Always remember that you need to market yourself as much as your book. The best way you can accomplish that is to establish a reputation as a reliable expert in your genre. Although it’s important, don’t use these sites just to talk about yourself and update people on your latest writing project. Discuss the latest books and movies in your genre, provide links to other sites that are of interest to you and may be of interest to your readers, offer the latest news in your genre or the publishing industry, or maybe write a series of blogs on how to get published. And don’t get discouraged if you don’t have a thousand followers at the end of the first week. This is a slow process, so be patient. If you market yourself correctly and give it time, slowly but surely you’ll build up a following of fans who will want to read your book, who will tell their friends to read it, and who will eagerly await your next novel. (NOTE: Gary Vaynerchuk's Crush It!, available from Amazon, provides an excellent step-by-step approach on how to achieve this.)

There are two important things to keep in mind when blogging and networking. First, always use your writing name when posting. While it might be fun to call yourself zombiebunnies on Facebook, it makes it almost impossible for your fans to find and follow you. Second, avoid controversial subjects and flame wars with fans and colleagues. This is one of those instances when bad publicity is worse than no publicity. If you take sides on political issues, militantly support certain causes, or publicly and consistently lambast a colleague as a hack who can’t write for merde, you run the risk of losing major portions of your fan base.

Finally, there are other things you should do to market yourself and your book:

Book signings. These are your most important venue for building your fan base. And don’t limit yourself just to book stores. General book and genre conventions are also a big draw for fans. Of all the horror conventions I’ve attended, authors are among the most popular celebrity guests. John Lamb, author of the Teddy Bear Mystery series, once told me that he sells almost as many books at teddy bear conventions as he does at book signings.

Guest blogging: These are vital for new authors to get their names out in the public domain. There are many established blogs that allow aspiring or first-time authors to guest blog on their sites. I am indebted to Dawn's Reading Nook for allowing me the opportunity to talk about my writing and the industry on this site. Patricia's Vampire Notes once posted an interview with me, and Raven Kelly - Vampiress has posted my author’s bio as well as a link to my book. I’ve made several new friends and fans thanks to their generosity.

Look for every opportunity you can find to get your name out there. See if you can convince your local radio and television stations or newspapers to interview you as a hometown celebrity. Try and arrange virtual book tours (which is especially important if you’re an e-book author) where you have chat room discussions on various forums. Spend the time and effort to create a video trailer for your book that you can post to YouTube. Donate autographed copies of your book to charity events, or do book signings at such events with all the proceeds going to that charity. These are just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. There are dozens of things you can do to publicize your book, all of which inevitably increase sales.

Well, that wraps up my blog series on how to get published. Any questions?

“Yeah. You just described a hell of a lot of work to go through to be a mid-list author. Why would anyone in their right mind want to write for a living?”

Good question. Let me answer that… next week.

FINAL BLOG: Why Would Anyone in Their Right Mind Want To Write for a Living?

[This blog was originally posted on Dawn's Reading Nook (here) on 29 May 2010.]