So Long 2015!


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Happy 2016!

So what exactly was 2015 good for? Well, let’s just say some years are better than others…but it wasn’t a total wash. I did manage to finish Celery Hand Duran, and I absolutely love the way it turned out. It’s still looking for a home, but I think when it sees the light of day you’re going to love it. Well, some of you will. Some of you might be horribly offended. Maybe not, we’ll see. It’s absolutely ridiculous, but in a good way.

I also managed to work on about a million other things without finishing a damn one of them. At least I have a lot of material in the works, yeah? Hooray for 2015! Onward to 2016!

So far we’re off to a good start. Coming up VERY soon (preorder is up at Amazon): the flash fiction collection 44 Lies by 22 Liars will be released by the good folks at Post Mortem Press (for those of you new to flash fiction: it’s generally considered any story 1,000 words or less).

44 lies

Edited by the very awesome Eric Beebe, this collection includes a whole bunch of authors who have been part of the PMP family: J. David Anderson, Paul Anderson, David Bernard, Max Booth III, C. Bryan Brown, Kenneth W. Cain, Brad Carter, Kyle Dickerson, Emma Ennis, Robert Essig, Teel James Glenn, Scott Goudsward, KT Jayne, Tally Johnson, MF Korn, Christian A. Larsen, Michael Matula, Josef Matulich, Jessica McHugh, P. Andrew Miller, Georgina Morales, Billie Sue Mosiman, g. Elmer Munson, Andrew Nienaber, Cynthina Pelayo, Nelson W. Pyles, Patrick Scalisi, Rob Smales, and Tim Waggoner. That many authors throwing rapid-fire stories at you is something you just can’t pass up. No really, go preorder it. I’ll wait…

Also coming soon is something you may have heard me mention a time or two:

 “A gory, fun-filled creature feature romp. There’s nothing pretentious about this one—just enjoy the splattery ride!” -- Jeff Strand, author of DWELLER

“A gory, fun-filled creature feature romp. There’s nothing pretentious about this one—just enjoy the splattery ride!” — Jeff Strand, author of DWELLER

Yes, Camp Hollybrook is finally on its way from the Damnation Books imprint of Caliburn Press. Wait…imprint, you say? Well, it’s a long story that’s a bit more dramatic than I care to share. The only important thing is this: Damnation has been sold to Caliburn and they’re working hard behind the scenes to make something great. I’ve been nothing short of thrilled with the editing and cover design, and I can’t wait for the final book to be released. More to come as we approach release date!

So what else does 2016 have in store? Hell, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll finally wrap that submarine novel that I “finished” like a year ago. Maybe Celery Hand Duran will find a home. Maybe my new WIP will come out as awesome as it feels like (yes, I’m writing something new). For now, let’s just take this year one day at a time and see how things roll. If that sounds good to you, then I’ll see you again soon!


Summer’s Over!!!


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Summer’s totally over, and I couldn’t be happier. I know autumn just started a few days ago, but when I walk into my local packie and see cases of Oktoberfest waiting for me to pull out my debit card, it’s just a matter of time until the leaves drop and I have to spend weeks mulching and bagging. That also means christmas decorations are in the stores and everything is pumpkin flavored, but I’m okay with that…because I hate summer. Did I say hate? Let’s try loathe. That’s better.

So what have I been doing during this horrible season? Aside from suffering, not much, but I did manage to get the final draft done on Celery Hand Duran. It’s easily the weirdest thing I’ve ever written, and I’m not 100% sure anyone in their right mind is going to want to publish it. I guess it’s time to find out, yeah?

Speaking of publishing, I’ve just started working with the editor on Camp Hollybrook, so I’m excited to see the final. Oddly enough, Camp Hollybrook is set in the much-hated (loathed) season we’ve just survived: summer. I know, I know, I almost never write stories set in summer. Well, it’s set in a summer camp, so I kind of had to keep it in the season. Winter camp might not be quite the same. More to follow as CH gets closer to release.

I also managed to attend one event, the Wadsworth Open Air Market & Festival in Middletown, CT. I try to make this event every year, because even though in some circles it’s not “cool” to do craft fair-type events I always have a great time and sell a decent number of books. This year was no exception, with my selling copies of Gothic Blue Book 4 (which contains my story “Family Business”) and Tales From The Underground as well as selling all but 1 copy of Stripped. That’s a good day in my book.

Other accomplishments should include completion of the synopsis for Under a Sea Of Red Foam, but as I was writing it I realized there was an inconsistency that I couldn’t ignore (and why on earth would I???). It wasn’t central to the plot, but it was something referenced often enough to cause a slight rewrite. I printed it out and am giving it another redline. Good news is it’s going very smooth. Bad news is it’s taking a while, it being a full length novel and all that. That and I’ve been working on the edits for Camp Hollybrook.

Why is it that books always argue over which one gets my attention? Let’s not even mention Death +5. Wait, I just mentioned it…but I’m not ready for that one yet. What’s it about? Too early. But I discussed it earlier in the year, so you might remember…

It's all about the dice...

It’s all about the dice…

Happy Autumn!


So this is what I’m going to do now…

Last week(ish) I posted a poll to see what you all wanted me to work on next. It was close, but the results came in and I’ve started writing. Haunted House book, you’ll get your day soon enough. But first….

The candles are lit, thought they are barely enough to illuminate the cramped space. There are five of them, all curled up on the floor surrounding a mighty screen covered in endless script and images of beasts that will haunt their nightmares. Only one man speaks, a wicked grin spreading across his face as he says the word that will change everything.


Coming soon…which for me is a damn long time, but still.

Seriously, thanks for voting!

So What The #%*! Do I Do Now?



Want to help me decide what book I write next? Read on!

So I’ve been keeping busy. For those keeping track, I had wanted to have Celery Hand Duran done by the end of February. I didn’t make it, but I don’t care because writing goals are like throwing darts…as long as I’m somewhere in there, I’m happy. Since I finished CHD this past Saturday, I am happy. Of course, now I’m faced with another dilemma: what the hell do I work on next?

I’ve let short stories kind of take a back seat these past couple months for two reasons: first, they don’t sell well. That doesn’t mean I’m money-hungry, as most folks aren’t going to pay the mortgage with short stories alone, it just means that they’re not selling well in the grand scheme of things. A number of publishers are minimizing their number of short story anthologies/singles or cutting them out altogether. Why? Because I’ve heard from more than a few publisher-types that they’re just not selling well. If they’re not selling well, that probably means folks just aren’t super interested in reading them right now. There’s that “grand scheme of things” I was talking about.

The second reason is: I’ve wanted to focus on longer works that have been waiting patiently in the wings. Two that have been pending for too long are now done: the final draft of the horror novel Under A Sea Of Red Foam was finished in January (currently still working on the synopsis/query headache) and as I mentioned the bizarro novella Celery Hand Duran was finished this past weekend (now marinating in prep for edits).

I have dozens of short stories lying around, but I’ve been pretty much ignoring them. I have quite a few longer works in various stages of development, and since I’m kind of on a roll I want to keep that going. But what to work on first? I want to do them all, but that’s clearly not realistic. That’s where you come in….

Below are the books that are most vividly bouncing around in my giant cobwebbed head. Which would you be most interested in reading?  If you’ve read any of my work, you know I lean towards violence, profanity, and often a bit of humor. If you’ve never read my work, I promise I don’t hate you! I’d still love your opinion. I’m not posting details, because they are subject to change (as they always do). I almost never have titles until I’m done (except for Return To Camp Hollybrook, because it’s clearly the sequel to the upcoming Camp Hollybrook.). Since my working titles are generally “The One About The…” (except for Samuel & Connie, the working title for a zombie/apoc continuation story of two characters from Tales), you should get an idea of what the books will be about.

With that, here are the options (with planned length if already plotted/known, which is of course subject to change):

Those are the ones that are solid in my head right now. Yes, I have more than 10 books floating around in my head. Why do you think I can’t concentrate on one thing for too long? Wait, is that something shiny???

Anyway, I’m sure if I sat down and thought about it I could list some other ideas I’ve been wanting to write (I’ve got scraps of paper all over with little nuggets of ideas), but I don’t want to fill my brain with even more stuff until I work out some of the ones already in there. As it is, It’s like a jungle gym in there, you dig?

I’m going to take the next couple weeks to polish the Red Foam query/synopsis (GRR!), and if I have a little time I might send out a short story or two (I do still like short stories!). By April, I will be working on whatever book comes next. I don’t know what exactly that will be, but with your help it just might be the one you suggest.

Thanks in advance!

This is Exactly Why We Need “Women In Horror Month,” You Jerk.

Reblogged from Mercedes Yardley, because she made the point better than I ever could.

A Broken Laptop

Well. I’m mad.

I’m not trying to be inciting or hysterical. But I am angry.

A “fellow” horror writer lambasted a dear friend and amazing woman for doing book signings while in costume and…I’m not quite sure what else. Being a woman? He said women were especially bad at trying to grab attention (“claiming” we’re horror writers when we aren’t) and most of us are hags anyway.

That’s right. Most of us are hags.


I’m sorry, but how did appearance even manage to worm its way into this conversation? This author has one book out and a second releasing soon. Yet he has the authority to decide who is really a horror writer and who isn’t? And bringing physical appearance into it is exceptionally personal. He doesn’t like the way most of us look? Next time I’ll be careful to wear a helmet while signing so I don’t offend readers…

View original post 527 more words

Houston, We’ve Got Zombies!


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Last week(ish), I was honored to host the very cool Thom Erb and his new novel Heaven, Hell, or Houston. When I finished the book (which I loved), I posted a short review on Amazon and Goodreads. It was my intention to write a more detailed review here, but as I started writing I realized I had just as much to say about my views on zombie fiction as I do about HHH.

Disclaimer: Although I’ve written a few short zombie stories, I’ve never been a huge z-fan. I do appreciate the sub-genre, but I don’t have a great deal of experience beyond a few books and the classic zombie movies. With that in mind, please read on:

HHH Cover

Heaven, Hell, or Houston is a book about a Texas Ranger, the Mexican crime boss that he locked up, and a growing horde of walking dead. While reading the book, I was amazed that it wasn’t until somewhere around halfway through the book that the dead actually came to life. The story just grabbed me and pulled me in, which is exactly what you hope a book does. The odd part for me was the realization that I should have come to a long time ago: it’s not really about the zombies.

Sure, there’s something about the zombies that people dig. I don’t believe there’s a real fear to it, but it could be that zombies somehow represent all that is bad in people while being separated from humanity (you know, because they’re dead). That makes it ok to kill the bad guy, right? Kill without guilt? Maybe it’s the bourbon making that up, but the point is this: zombie/apocalyptic fiction is super popular for a reason, and it’s not just because there’s a bunch of zombies walking around.

Now, that’s not to say the addition of zombies to a normal story just makes it a normal story with zombies. Did that even make sense? What I’m trying to say is: sometimes the setting is just as important to the story as the characters themselves. For example, when I think back on Heaven, Hell, or Houston, the scene that sticks out for me is when a character dies and feels himself becoming one of the undead. He knows it’s happening, but there’s nothing he can do to stop it. It’s a damn fine little bit of storytelling that lingers long after the final page.

Here’s a comparison for you: science fiction. Aside from spaceships and laser beams and aliens, what’s the difference? Nothing. What about fantasy? Aside from elves and orcs and dragons, what’s the difference? Nothing. More to the point, aside from zombies and survival and the end of the world, what’s the difference? Nothing. It’s just another way to tell a story, hopefully a good one, about people getting into adventures that you want to read.

So that brings me back to the original intention: Heaven, Hell, or Houston. It’s a pretty damn awesome story about people. People who have issues. Real issues. It’s about violence and bloodshed, and it’s about people risking their own skin to save each other. It’s about family, friendship, and love. It’s also got zombies. That takes a damn fine story and makes it a little bit different. That’s why I couldn’t wait to get to the end, and that’s why I’ll be keeping my eyes open for a sequel.

psst! Hey Thom…no kidding, you should totally write a sequel!

Please Welcome: The Erb!


Today it’s my pleasure to welcome Thom Erb to my little corner of the internet. Thom is the author of Heaven, Hell, or Houston, a new novel about a Texas Ranger, a Mexican crime lord, and a whole swarm of zombies. To celebrate, he was kind enough to talk with us a little about his book, his writing, and his inspirations:

One Texas Ranger…One Cadillac filled with blood-thirsty gang-bangers…A long Texas road. The same night terrorists release a deadly virus that causes the dead to rise.

Just one more thing for Ranger Jay McCutcheon to deal with on his way back to Houston.

HHH Cover

For those who have yet to read Heaven, Hell, or Houston, would you give us your elevator pitch?

Justified meets Pulp Fiction, meets Night of the Living Dead.   I think that’ll do it.

Let’s talk about the setting. The book includes a Texas Ranger, a Mexican mafia boss, and the seemingly endless desert highways of Texas. How on earth did a guy from New York manage to do that so well?

That’s a great question and one Joe McKinney asked me when I told him about the story synopsis. I guess I’ve always had an affinity to all things Texas and the old west. Every boy grew up playing “cowboys” and “indians” (not sure how that would go over in today’s politically correct world. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.) But I loved the iconic stature of the sheriff of a small town fighting off cattle rustlers or bank robbers. I spent hours watching all the old John Wayne and John Ford cowboy classic films and there was something that pulled me to the dusty, dangerous prairie. Maybe in a past life I was a Texas Ranger keeping the Lone Star safe from dastardly villains and cutthroats.

Heck, I’m even a life-long Dallas Cowboys fan. Go figure.

You’ve listed books by Joe R. Lansdale, Jonathan Maberry, Joe McKinney, and Elmore Leonard as the four pillars of Heaven, Hell, or Houston. How did these books influence you and help shape the course of your new novel?

Wow, yeah those guys are completely inspirational and huge influences on me. I hope that shows in the pages of HHH. Lansdale IS Texas, so is Joe. Both have a very distinct voice that rolls off the page as die-hard Texans. By reading both of their works, I feel like I subconsciously took a “How to be a Texan” course. Their writing is real. No bones about it. No bullshit and no pulling any punches.

Jonathan Maberry was my sensei, in a purely literary way. He taught me how to pace a thriller. How to construct flawed characters that can kick your ass. His fight scenes flow so seamlessly, and engaging. I’ve always felt like I was watching a movie. And that’s something that I strive for in my work.

And Elmore Leonard was the master of real dialogue. The kind of street talk you expect to overhear at your local watering hole or diner. The man was a genius.

What other influences have made a significant impact on your work?

This answer could easily be a novella in and of itself. I’m just going to make a list.

Books: Tolkien, RA Salvatore, Brian Keene, Richard Matheson, Rick Hautala, F.Paul Wilson, Jack Ketchum, David Morrell, Poe, the list goes on.

Comics: Stan Lee/Kirby, Christ Claremont, Frank Miller, Jim Starlin…etc.

Films/TV: Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Aaron Sorkin, Joss Whedon, Oliver Stone, the list also goes on and on.

I also want to add the music plays an intergal role in my writing. From just setting the mood to completely influencing the soundtrack of the story I’m telling. Music is my muse. Well, at least one of them.

You’ve also written the book Tones of Home and gobs of short stories. How was completing novel-length work different from shorter work? What’s your preference, are you more of a short story, novella, or novel type of guy?

It’s a completely different animal. I love writing short stories, but the truth is, I tend to write very long. So the long form is much better for my Irish-heritage storytelling tendencies. Both forms have their merits and pitfalls.

While I will write a short story for the right anthology, I am focusing my time and efforts on novella and novel-length works from here on out. It’s as much a creative preference as it is a career move. I am a novelist and so I need to concentrate on that format. Although, writing short  fiction teaches you the value of getting the most out of less words. An invaluable tool for a writer of any level.

So keep your eyes open for novellas and novels coming from me in the future.

Some folks know you’re also a musician, and you mention that it has an impact on your writing. Do you listen to music while writing, and if so does the artist influence the feel of the story?

Yes. I’ve been playing drums since I was sixteen. I’ve been in many bands and music plays a huge part of my life. I listen to music when I write and in fact, I tend to create a playlist or soundtrack to each story that keeps the mojo working while I create.  Music without a doubt influences the stories. Tones of Home is all about the Beatles, while Heaven, Hell, or Houston has ZZ Top written all over it.  If you read even just a bit of my work, you’ll be able to feel my love for music in my words. A life without music is a pretty sad one, let me tell you.

For my next WIP, King Diamond and Alice Cooper are the two main artists on my playlist, so my musical range is quite expansive.

What else does 2015 have in store for you?

Ah, yes. While 2014 wasn’t too shabby, 2015 (and beyond) is looking pretty groovy.

It started with the release of my debut novel, Heaven, Hell, or Houston and my first short story of the year was just released in Anthology: Year Three by Four Horsemen Press/Anthocon, called “Fund-Raiser”. A dark and quirky tale about some bumbling wannabe-wise guy’s brilliant plan to make a big career move that goes so incredibly wrong.

Then, either very late this year, or early in 2016, my short story, “Doors” will appear in Jonathan Maberry’s fifth installment of the V-Wars anthology. I’m very excited to be a part of such a rich and prominent series.

As for my works in progress, I am currently working on my first YA novel, called The Night Eaters. It’s about a group of small town teens solving the mystery of disappearing pets, livestock and other school students. Together they form the After School Monster Hunter club and hope to get to the bottom of the dark and evil activity.

My first short story anthology, DARK GARDENS, will be published through Great Old Ones Publishing in or around June and will have every short story I’ve ever written in it. Plus a couple of bonus pieces to entice the reader.

I’ll also be looking to explore the world of hybrid publishing and will be writing a noir-ish/thriller and publishing it under my press, Drunken Skald Press. It’s a new age for authors and we need to explore as many options that are out there for us.

The Erb

There you have it, straight from The Erb himself. Heaven, Hell, or Houston is an incredibly fun book, and if you haven’t read it yet, do yourself a favor and check it out. You’ll find the synopsis and links below, and next week I’ll post my review of the book as well. Until then, stay scared and keep reading!

HEAVEN, HELL, or HOUSTON- An Eternal Flame Tale

It’s early summer 1985, and after a less than successful “easy” stint as the Governor’s security detail, the volatile, alcoholic Texas Ranger Jay McCutcheon wants nothing more than to get home to his wife and baby and save his marriage. He thinks the only thing standing between him and his family is five hundred rain-soaked miles of dark pavement. But he’s dead wrong.

Isandro Dianira has just broken out of prison. He’s been possessed by an evil voice that has spoken to him since childhood. With his gang-banger thugs, he leaves a bloody trail on his way to Mexico. But before leaving the country, he needs to kill McCutcheon, the pig that put him in the pen. 

As the two men unknowingly race toward each other, a powerful rainstorm is heading westward, and along with it, a zombie virus that’s causing the dead to rise.

Stacy-Jo, a street-tough teenage girl from New York is about to get in some serious trouble, when she meets McCutcheon, who winds up saving her hide from a nasty situation. 

Together, they hit the road and wind up at a roadside diner, where brutal violence will unfold and the undead will feed.

Order today and share the zombie love!!!!

Available on Kindle and in Print.

Thom Erb is a writer/editor, exploring all shades of darkness and light. He crafts tales that blur the lines of horror, noir, dark fantasy, thriller, weird western, noir and science fiction. Thom’s works span the gap from middle-grades, Young Adult to Adult readers and taps into the theme of the reluctant hero in its many forms.

Thom has written several stories in short and long form and is now focused on novella/novel-length work.

Thom also holds a Master’s degree in art education and is an artist/illustrator of murals and comic book/graphic novels. When not writing, Thom enjoys reading, quality films, television shows, role-playing games, playing drums, comic books and rooting for the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees. He lives in upstate New York with his wife Michelle.

Proud member of the Horror Writer’s Association.

Official Website and Blog:

Find him on his Amazon Author Page, Facebook herehere, Twitter, and Goodreads.

2015…Where’s my hoverboard?


Hello friends, and welcome to my annual self-serving dose of authorly goals! This year I have some big ideas (nothing new there) but want to stay at least moderately realistic (boo, hiss). Since I don’t have a hoverboard yet, I might as well list my goals for 2015:

Take all the shorts that are currently collecting virtual dust and send them on their way.

I have a dozen or so short stories that have been done for a while, but I’ve been so focused on the submarine novel that my short work has been in a kind of limbo. I need to fix that. I already started by polishing and sending off a couple stories, and last night I finished one that has been waiting for its final edit since July (Google is nice enough to tell me exactly the last date I touched my stories…it’s both super helpful and painfully annoying). I have two more that are waiting for final edits, and the rest I just need to give a once-over before setting them loose. This I will do in January.

Along with that, write more shorts.

I have quite a few short ideas jotted down, so why the hell not just write them? Oh yeah, that time thing that keeps messing with me. Well, they don’t take as long as novels, so I should get hot.

Finish BOTH of the novellas that are half done.

I have two that are at about the midway point, one a bizarro story and one the sequel to Camp Hollybrook. They’re each looking like they’ll end up around 25k words, so there’s absolutely no reason they shouldn’t’ both be done this year.

Finish the haunted house novel.

This one has been waiting patiently in the wings, but I’ve been thinking a lot about it recently. I have pages and pages of notes and I think once I start on this it’ll just fly from my fingers. After all, who doesn’t love a haunted house story…

Do more events.

I love events, and this year I’ll have Camp Hollybrook to promote as well as Stripped and Tales From The Underground. I’m definitely going to Anthocon again, and if you’re in the northeast (or even if you’re not) it’s a great conference to attend. This will be my third year, and I keep going back because it’s just as awesome as the folks who attend. I’m also planning on CT Horrorfest again, as last year was an absolute blast. I’ll be eyeballing a few others as the year goes by.

Do more cool stuff here.

I’d like to make more use of my little chunk of the internet, and since my most popular posts last year were guest posts and blog tour hosting, I think doing more of that is a great idea. It’s a lot of fun and opens both the guest and the host (me) to new readers. That right there is one of those win-win things folks are always talking about.

Record some of the songs I‘ve been fiddling with.

Yes, this is not “writing” writing, but writing music is something I’ve been doing since high school. Now that I have a complete home studio, I really have no excuse not to make it useful. Plus it’s damn fun.

That about does it, yeah? Well, except for the no-brainer goal of getting some of the things I’m talking about actually published. I plan to copyedit Under a Sea of Red Foam (aka “the submarine novel”) this month and I’m already working on the synopsis. It’d be great to find it a home this year. I’m obviously hoping to find homes for at least a few of the short stories I’m sending out, and if one of the novellas wraps quickly I might be in a position to send that out as well. Who know, 2015 might be a good year for me. For now, it’s back to digging through these short stories. I’ve got a particularly gruesome one waiting for me just a tab over from here. I should pay attention to it now…it’s got claws.

Aaaaaaand…It’s Over! (aka My Year-End Wrap)


So 2014 has been an interesting year. Now that it’s over, I can laugh about it, right? Lots of changes in my personal life meant lots of delays in my authorly life, but with regards to my annual goals list I still had some big successes. Let’s take a look, shall we?

About this time, I generally go through my goals list item by item and detail how far I’ve gotten. Of course, I didn’t get nearly as much done as I’d hoped (nothing new there), and since I’m far too lazy to go back a year and look at the actual list, I’m just going to point out a few successes. I’ll start with one very cool item I may have already mentioned.

Camp Hollybrook has found a home with the good folks at Damnation Books. Camp Hollybrook is my mildly humorous and very bloody Bigfoot novella that I loosely set in the Jersey Pine Barrens. I’m excited for this release, because I think the book is a lot of fun. Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it, let’s hear from someone who’s a bit of an expert on things humorous AND bloody:

“A gory, fun-filled creature feature romp. There’s nothing pretentious about this one—just enjoy the splattery ride!” — Jeff Strand, author of DWELLER

Another goal was to join the Horror Writer’s Association and earn enough from book sales to pay for my annual membership. That one gets a yes and yes. I know some folks take issue with the HWA, but I’m the type of person to ignore the occasional drama and focus on the good things. The HWA is the professional association for dark fiction writers, and that’s what I write. I do plan to renew my membership for 2015. So there, I said it.

Yet another goal of mine was to write a new short story a month for the entire year. Although this one’s a no, I did manage to write a handful of really damn cool shorts that I’m very proud of. In my opinion, this year I wrote some of the best short work I’ve ever done. Of course, I haven’t spent a lot of time shopping them around (or doing anything else for that matter) because of the next goal.

FINISH THE DAMN SUBMARINE NOVEL. As of today, that one is a yes screamed from the highest mountain I could find…which is just the foot-tall hill in my back yard, but it’s the thought that counts, right? After years of work on this damn thing, I was tired of talking about edits and revisions and changes and blah blah blah. I sat down, ignored everything else except work and family, and finished the final edit. In the past 2 months, I haven’t written or shopped any other work. I haven’t written any new music. I haven’t played any video games (no, really…I haven’t!). I haven’t even spent much time on the internet. All I’ve done is work on this book, and now it’s not only done, but it even has a title.

its done

Funny thing about this is, the final version came in right around 64,000 words. I didn’t plan that at all, I just write until it’s done and then edit the crap out of it. Know what else came in right around 64,000 words? Stripped. True story. Weird, right?

Anyway, next step is to stick a hot poker in my eye. That would be less painful than drafting the synopsis and query letters, but it’s a necessary evil if I ever want this book to set sail.

You see what I did there? Set sail? Because it’s a Navy book? Get it?

Ahem…anyway, there’s a question that I know I’m going to get eventually, so I’ll just ask myself first.

Question: Do sailors really say fuck that much?

Answer: Yes, yes they do.

So there’s another book done, now to figure out what’s next (there are three on deck, with a few more waiting in the wings…it could go either way, but I’m thinking I’ll wrap Celery Hand Duran before digging into the haunted house book…but don’t quote me).

However…before working on any of that, I might just get drunk tonight and kill a few hundred zombies with my old pal Isaac Washington. I hope you’ll all join me.

Happy New Year!

Winter of Zombie 2014 – A Little Career Advice from Joe McKinney



Welcome back friends, I’ve got quite a treat for you. It’s always an honor for me to host during the Summer of Zombie/Winter of Zombie events, and this winter is no exception. Today it’s my pleasure to bring you A Little Career Advice from Bram Stoker Award-winning author Joe McKinney. Dive on in, you won’t be disappointed!

A Little Career Advice

 By Joe McKinney

Joe McKinney Author's Photo copy

I’ll let you in on a little secret.  When I got started, I had no idea I was a writer.  None.  I wrote a novel called Dead City about a young patrolman trying to get home to his family on the first night of the zombie apocalypse because, at the time I was a young patrolman dealing with the stress and anxiety that comes with being a new parent.  I kept wondering to myself why anybody in his or her right mind would trust me with a kid.  I mean, me.  I’ve got issues out the wazoo.  In what kind of universe am I qualified to raise a child?  Every time my wife and I went to the doctor’s office for a checkup, all I could think of was that famous opening quatrain from Philip Larkin:

They fuck you up, your mum and dad,
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

That was totally me.  I was so scared of being a dad.  I was so totally convinced that I was going to screw it all up.  That poor child in there, mewling in the nursery, she was going to have the world’s most conflicted, most frightened, most “God help me I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing” parent this side of wherever.

I was struggling.

But I’m a fixer.  I’m that guy who has to do something about his problems rather than just accept them.

So, what I did to cope with that confusion and stress and total, mind-crimping fear, was write a novel about a young cop fighting zombies.

It seemed simple enough, and really, the book wasn’t written with any sort of market in mind.  I knew nothing of publishing, in fact.  I had only vague notions, and those were of the distorted kind I’d picked up from authors who like to write about authors, like Stephen King.

I honestly thought it worked like this:  You write a book.  It becomes a bestseller.  You quit your day job.  You wait around for adventure to come to you.

Really.  No joke.  That was what I thought the writing life was like.

But, back to the novel.

I wrote it, and a publisher bought it.  The book came out in mass-market paperback—with a horrible cover I might add.  But, despite all the marks against it, it did quite well.  I wrote a zombie novel when there were very few other zombie novels out there.  And I was in bookstores before bookstores became dinosaurs.  What that meant was that I got read by readers hungry for what I had written.

I sold a bunch of copies.  Not a million, but a good amount.

And here’s the kicker, I kept selling.  My editor at Kensington admitted to me once that he expected my book to die on the vine within three months, and I was right there with him.  I wasn’t a writer, after all.  I was just some guy who used zombies as a metaphor for the fears of becoming a dad.

But let’s turn back the clock a bit.

I started as a short story writer.  The whole reason I wrote at all was to talk about individual moments that mattered to me.

And that meant short stories, mostly.

I’d write them, staple the pages together, and leave the manuscript at the corner of my desk until the next idea came along.  Nearly all those stories eventually got tossed in the trash because I didn’t think of myself as a writer.  Writing stories was just something I did because my mind was restless and needed an outlet.  And I hate Sudoku.

Yet I found myself with kind of a hit on my hands.  With Dead City continuing to sell, I suddenly found it easy to do something with those short stories I’d been trashing.  I could actually type them up, polish them, and ship them out to magazines and anthologies.  For a year after the publication of Dead City, I went on a story-writing binge, sometimes turning out as many as three in a single week.

I sent them out to every market I could find, rarely researching the recipient beforehand… because everybody in this writing business of ours is respectable and has honorable intentions, right?

To be brief, I learned two lessons from this.

First, research your publisher before you agree to do anything with them.  There are good people out there… and then there are the creeps, and the dead beats, and the assholes, and the completely fucking clueless… and thanks to the Internet, every single one of them can put together an anthology or a magazine or a website or whatever.  You are the company you keep, my mom once told me, and after a year of recklessly publishing, I found myself in the company of some dubious bedfellows.

Research, people.  Know whose mule you’re hitching your wagon to.  When everything is said and done, a good name (you can put the word “brand” in here, if you want) is worth its weight in gold.  You have to be your own best advocate in this world, and that means learning the skills needed to understand the business side of writing and to navigate its (sometimes) rocky shores.

There are sirens out there that will guide you to your doom, so beware.

My second lesson is this:  The novel is king.

As I mentioned above, Dead City did better than my publisher expected.  It wasn’t the walkaway success The Walking Dead was, but I was suddenly money in the pocket, and publishers like that kind of thing.  After a year of sprinting through short stories, I got an email from my editor at Kensington.  He wanted to know about a sequel.

I read the email and said, “What sequel?”  I’m not a writer.  I had the one story.  That was it.

Until I thought of the short stories I’d been cranking out.  Only then did I step back and say, “Gosh, maybe I am a writer.”

Yes, short stories are fun—but unless you’re Ray Bradbury, they don’t pay the bills.  I can’t stress this enough, and I really wish there had been somebody there to tell me, “Hey, don’t wait.  Writing is fun, and it can be a business, too, if you work at it, and that means keeping the novels coming.”  Had I heard that, I would have been able to approach this writing gig with a little more direction and purpose.

I seem to have done okay, but really, it’s been a race to catch up on the time I lost that first year of my career as a professional writer.  So, my advice for managing your writing career consists of two things. First, know the business.  Learn it.  Take the time to discover the ins and outs of your trade.  And second, write books.  Always be looking toward that next novel, and make sure it’s better than anything you’ve ever written up to that point!

Plague of the Undead

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The stench of frozen rotted meat is in the air! Welcome to the Winter of Zombie Blog Tour 2014, with 10 of the best zombie authors spreading the disease in the month of November.

Stop by the event page on Facebook so you don’t miss an interview, guest post or teaser… and pick up some great swag as well! Giveaways galore from most of the authors as well as interaction with them! #WinterZombie2014

AND so you don’t miss any of the posts in November, here’s the complete list, updated daily: