Monthly Archives: September 2012

And Now the Winner

This is going to be a quick post, because I’m neck deep in edits for Born of Hatred. So, I just came in to thank everyone who took part in the competition to win a signed copy of Crimes Against Magic.

The last time I did this, I got my daughter to pick the winner. Well, she wasn’t in the room at the time, so my wife did it.

This is something else stunning in place of my wife. If I posted a picture of her on my blog she would kill me. And no one would ever find my body.

And the winner is:

Kelly Lawrence

Congrats to you, Kelly. You now have 1 week to let me know your address, so I can send it to you.

And to those of you who didn’t win, I’m sorry. But maybe next time.

And that’s almost it for this week. I just have time to say that the superb writer, Paul Tobin, has given me an excellent interview on his blog.  Go here to read it in all its fantastic glory.

Have a good weekend all.

Advertisements

I’m Back. And a Chance to Win.

It’s been a long time since I last wrote my own blog posts. So, it’s been a little difficult to figure out what I’m actually going to talk about. Instead of imparting whatever pearls of wisdom I happen to think of, I thought I’d just talk about what I’ve done in those last 5 weeks.

First of all, thanks to every single person who gave their time to be interviewed or write blog posts for me. I have a few more coming up in the next few week, and if anyone wants to take part in an interview or guest blog post on my blog then you’re more than welcome to contact me. And bribes work great. Just saying.

So, what have I been doing for the last 5 weeks? Mostly I’ve been taking care of my new baby daughter, Harley. She was born on 16th Aug and the time since has flown by. Her two older sisters, Keira and Faith, have both been very good with her, although that interest vanishes the second she needs a nappy change.

My beautiful daughter. She has quite the set of lungs on her.

So, my family has taken up the majority of my time. My 7th wedding anniversary was a few days ago, for which my lovely wife got me The Avengers on Blu-Ray and an impressive canvass with some old comic book art on it. She came to terms with being married to a geek a long time ago. Although I think my comic book collection is starting to take up a little more space than she’s always happy with.

My eldest daughter, Keira also started Junior School (I don’t know what the equivalent is elsewhere), which depresses me greatly as the past years appear to have flown by. It’s her birthday tomorrow, so she’ll be 8 going on 16 (at least in terms of attitude).

I saw Dredd the other day and it’s excellent. They’ve captured the character very well, along with the brutal world he lives in. It’s a very violent film and certainly doesn’t shy away from some very graphic scenes. It’s definitely not one you want your kids to watch. Unless you like the idea of screwing them up for a few weeks.

The film also has a great poster. Which is somewhat of a lost art these days.

The one thing I will say a night feed allows me to do is catch up on my TV watching. I finished the first series of Newsroom, which is excellent and caught up with the latest seasons of Castle  (about bloody time with that ending) and Leverage. I also finally got round to making my way through Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and Soul Eater. I’d seen about half of them, but am now near the end for both shows and they’re equally good to watch, although Soul Eater is more than a little weird and offbeat in places.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is probably one of the best Anime TV shows ever made.

See the girl with the Witch outfit on? She’s actually a cat and likes to walk around naked. And that’s not the oddest thing that happens in the show.

And on to the writing side of things. Crimes Against Magic is currently doing quite well, although sales have dropped from July. I’ll do a full post about the sales side of things in a few weeks. Hopefully someone out there might find it interesting. Amazon.com has 36 reviews, 33 of which are 4 or 5 stars. Amazon.co.uk has 17 reviews, 16 of which are 4 or 5 stars. It’s an incredible reception and I’m glad so many people have enjoyed the book.

Speaking of books, Born of Hatred is back from my wonderful crit partners, Michelle Muto and D.B. Reynolds and they both liked it. In fact they both said it’s much better than Crimes Against Magic, with better writing and a tighter story. Which is just about the best news I could have received.

I’m currently making lots of edits and then it’ll go to some other wonderful people to have a read. I’m aiming for a Halloween launch, but best laid plans and all that. Which means that if I can’t manage Halloween, it’ll be launched sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving (not that we celebrate it over here), but at least that gives you an idea of the timeframe.

My talented friend, Eamon, is currently getting the cover to Born of Hatred ready, which I’ll show as soon as he’s done.

I have tried to get some writing done on book 3, With Silent Screams, but have managed about 5k. Which isn’t great, but I’m hoping that I’ll get more done once my edits to Born of Hatred are finished.

 

Lastly, it’s competition time. 

If you’d like to win a signed copy of Crimes Against Magic, then read on:

There are four things you can do to get an entry:

1. Like my Facebook Author page https://www.facebook.com/Hiddenrealmspublishing

2. Follow my blog (click on the ‘follow’ button on the top right of this page).

3. Tweet about this competition or RT my tweets (if you tweet, you’re going to have to include me so I can keep track – there’s a widget at the bottom of this page with a link to my Twitter account).

4. Share my posts on Facebook (Look for contest posts on my Facebook page).

Every time you do one of the above, your name goes into a hat. Each additional action, means an extra entry. So in theory, if you do all the above and then share and re-tweet every day, you’ll get loads of entries.

In one week’s time, on the 27th September, my daughter will draw one name out of the hat, and I’ll announce the winner on my blog. They then have one week to contact me with their address.

If you already follow me or like my author page and don’t want to take part (maybe you don’t like free stuff) then let me know and I’ll make sure to remove your name from the hat.

So, until next week. Good luck and have a good weekend.

Distractions…

And we reach the end of the excellent guest blog posts and interviews for the time being, and we end with a bang. The superb Keri Lake, author of the excellent Halos Book 1: Somnium.

The floor is all yours Keri.

 

 

Distractions…

…those annoying little forces that always seem to pop up when we’re smack in the middle of something important.  If they’re welcomed, we call them ‘a shift in focus’.

I’m plagued by distractions.

As a flash fiction addict, it’s inevitable that my brain will wander off from time to time into the middle of a totally unrelated scene.  Dialogue.  A kiss.  A fight.  All completely random and usually out of place in what I’m writing at that moment.  And since I never know when they’re going to hit, I can’t say they’re welcomed.  Often times, I do my best to ignore them.  I’m more of a novelist, preferring the long haul over the instant gratification of something short and sweet.

Completing a novel though, comes with its challenges and takes a lot of perseverance.

It’s not easy, sitting down to the same thing day in and day out, agonizing over every word (every 100K words, that is).  If it’s a tough scene, it can be like sitting down to the same dinner every night for a week.  Ugh.  Do you even taste the individual flavors after a few days?

This is where the danger for distraction is at an all-time high.

When the ideas just aren’t flowing easily, you could become resentful toward your muse, bored with the writing and angry at the stubborn characters who refuse to cooperate.

Oooh look!  A shiny!

And just like that, you’re swept away by something totally different…

But is there ever a time when these interruptions are a much-needed change in focus?

Back in December, I published Somnium (Halos, #1).  This is book 1 of a trilogy, and unlike some writers, I didn’t have books 2 and 3 polished and ready to go.  I’m still writing, tweaking, editing.  I took an easy pace, since Somnium was riddled with a number of mysteries.  I wanted to be meticulous about plotting and addressing the answers.

So there I was in January, not even a full month from the publication date of Somnium, toiling away on Requiem, when all of a sudden it struck me.  Hard.

What was it?

Well, I’ll tell you what it wasn’t:  it wasn’t just a simple flash story like most of my usual distractions.  It wasn’t a short story, maybe forcing me to explore the characters a bit more.  It wasn’t even a novella – just something to satisfy this ridiculous craving I suddenly had for distraction.  No, no.

Call it nervous energy or a need to sate my inner badass, I sat down and drafted 100K-word book in about 6 weeks.

I hated myself for it.  It felt as if I’d abandoned my beloved characters for some rockstar life.  How irresponsible!  The ideas poured out of me like I’d swallowed the evil pill and was having an exorcist moment.  I cursed myself for being so easily tempted by my muse.

At the same time, I couldn’t stop.  I’d become some kind of writing junkie, flying high on a winning streak.

Worse?

I involuntarily plotted out additional books – eight of them! – making up an entire series of this foreign invader that’d taken over my brain.   No!!!

A mutiny I tell you!

Ah, but alas, something else happened…

Something odd.  Something wonderful.  Something I hadn’t anticipated when I offered up my guilt-laden mind for this new project.

Feeding this distraction somehow bred new ideas for Requiem.  Hot damn!  That vigor trickled into the slow and easy pace I’d adopted for my second book of the Halos trilogy.  And now the words are flowing like a fountain of…uh, words.

I dare not call the lull I experienced after publishing Somnium a ‘block’ because the story was there, waiting to be written (seriously you should see my writing wall – it looks like a murder investigation is going on with all the character profiles).  For some reason though, I’d been working against myself, allowing it to stay locked inside a small cramped cage in the deep recesses of my brain, screaming as I held the key in my pocket the whole time.

Now that I’ve proven to myself that I can, in fact, write a decent story in a month’s time, my mind has grown hungry for this feeling of accomplishment.

Does this mean I intend to write a book every couple of months?

No, no.  I’d be writing crap.

What it means to me is that there are going to be times when writing comes easy and times when no matter how hard I tug and tease, it’s not coming out.  This experience has taught me to ride the high when it happens and not feel guilty if it takes me in new directions.  When things slow down and it feels like I have no story left in me, to give myself the permission to surrender to these distractions, shift focus, and come back to the old and familiar when it feels right again.

What do you do when distraction hits?

 

Thanks Keri for taking over my blog and discussing something so central to so many of us writers. If you want to learn more about keri and her work:

Blog

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

 

Interview with Sean Patrick Traver

Welcome back to what what is almost the end of the legion of excellent guests who have taken part on interviews or blog posts on my blog. Today I’m pleased to welcome author, Sean Patrick Traver in his first ever interview. Sean is the author of Grave’s End.

Here’s the blurb:

Los Angeles PI Dexter Graves was pretty sure his life ended back in 1950, after femme fatale Ingrid Redstone shot him through the head. When Graves involuntarily rises from his grave sixty years later, he finds himself drawn to freelance sorceress Lia Flores, who introduces him to an underworld he never could’ve imagined—a place where magic and crime intersect. Suburban shamans, rogue necromancers, criminal cabals and computer-savvy mages all co-exist (often uneasily) within the secret cityscape Lia has learned to call her home. She and her spirit familiar Black Tom set out to discover the meaning behind Graves’ unheralded intrusion into her enchanted life, but neither the witchgirl nor the skeletal detective has any idea they’re being set up by an old-school player on the LA scene: mobster/monster Mickey Hardface, also known as Mictlantecuhtli, the ambitious king of the Aztec realm of the dead.

Funny and fast-paced, this genre-bending love letter to the City of Angels blends surreal magical fantasy with the narrative drive of a taut crime story. Epic in scope and rooted in California history, GRAVES’ END adds a new chapter to the mythology of the post-Halloween holiday known as el Dia de los Muertos—the Day of the Dead.

 

And after showing you the excellent cover, here’s a small excerpt:

GRAVES’ END

Chapter Four

The Bindercotts’ aged Latina housekeeper was vacuuming, alone, mid-morning, in bitchy Bethany Bindercott’s outgrown frillygirl bedroom. She bumped the noisy vacuum against the leg of Bethie’s canary-yellow dresser, dislodging a baggie of mota that had until now been taped up underneath it.

Pilar, the housekeeper, shut off her roaring machine and picked up the baggie, considering it in the bright, suddenly silent bedroom.

***

Ten minutes later Pilar was parked out on the Bindercotts’ back deck, toking up in the clear autumn sunshine.

The hills just outside the irrigated housing development in Santa Clarita that her employers called home looked dusty brown and about as dry as kindling. As little as ten years ago, she remembered, this whole area had been a waterless wasteland, fit for little more than the surreptitious disposal of inconvenient corpses.

On the big green lawn in front of Pilar—right out in the center of Big Bill Bindercott’s personal practice putting green, in fact—something broke through the sod.

A gopher, maybe?  If so, it was a damn big one. Whatever the thing was, it seemed to be forcing its way up from underneath the lush, professionally-tended lawn. Pilar squinted to see better, shading her eyes against the sun’s glare.

Out on the putting green, skeletal hands and arms emerged from what looked increasingly like a small sinkhole, clawing and scrabbling at the grass around it. A grimy skull popped up, one with a distinctive exit wound above the right eye socket.

Pilar’s own eyes widened.  She looked down at the ineptly-rolled joint in her hand.

***

Dexter Graves (or what little remained of him after sixty years in the earth) hauled himself out of his grave and came staggering across the broad back lawn he found himself on, holding his cracked braincase like a drunk wallowing in the throes of crapulence. Up the steps and onto a redwood deck he went, where he stopped, looking down at an older woman in a light-blue uniform with bulky white sneakers on her feet who was parked in an Adirondack chair. A maid, Graves surmised, judging by her attire. The housekeeper was frozen, looking back up at him with a forgotten smoke dangling from her fingertips.

Must’ve scared the living shit out of her, Graves thought, wandering in from the backyard like this. Hell, he could’ve been anybody! A certain comfort level in the face of wild absurdity had often helped him keep hold of his wits, both during the war and several times thereafter in his current line as a PI, but he knew not everybody could roll with the punches in a similar fashion. He was still a little confused himself after waking up underground, not quite sure of where he was or exactly how he’d gotten here.

“Estoy muerta?” the maid whispered, looking up at the dirt-encrusted skeleton who wasn’t yet up to speed regarding his own situation. “Usted es la Santa Muerte? Esta esto la Apocalipsis?”

“Sorry, sister,” Graves’ reanimated bones replied, in a predictably gravelly voice. “Never did learn to habla the old es-pan-yol. Wouldn’t mind a puff on that smokestick, though. I have never had a hangover like this before.”

Graves plucked the hand-rolled cigarette in question from the lady’s fingers and put it between his teeth. He expanded his ribs as if to inhale, but with no lungs to pull air, nothing happened. Graves examined the joint critically while patting around the region where his pockets should’ve been. “Guess it went out,” he said absently. “Don’t know where my lighter got to, either.  Hell, I’d hate to lose that thing now…”

Graves offered the joint back to its original roller. She stared at his skeletal hand. “De nada,” she managed to croak.

Graves thought she looked sort of shellshocked, for some reason. She had that sort of half-comprehending stare. He shrugged and went to stick the reefer behind an ear that’d turned to dust years ago. It bounced off his collarbone and tumbled to the deck.

“What the…?” he muttered, turning to look at his reflection in the house’s glass back door. His appearance came as a bit of a shock, to say the least.

Holy hell, wouldja look at that?” he shouted, reeling back in bewilderment. He was nothing but a string of bones, literal bones, and the smooth, soil-blackened plate of his forehead was marred by what looked suspiciously like an exit crater. “Geez, no wonder my head feels like it’s got a goddamn hole in it. Now how in the—?”

He remembered.

“Oh, yeah. Ingrid.”

 

If that doesn’t whet your appetite for more, here’s an interview with the man himself, Sean Patrick Traver:

1. So, why don’t you tell us all a bit about yourself?

Let’s see…  I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California—an experience that left me with the ability to sleep through moderately severe earthquakes. Today I live in a fortress made of piled-up books with my wife Tam and our cat Tyler, where we watch movies and TV and sometimes try to wedge in little things like human relationships or going to the store, as time allows.

2. Can you tell us a bit more about your book? Where did the idea come from? How long did it take to write?

Graves’ End is the title of my book, and I’ve been describing it as ‘a magical thriller.’ It tells the story of a modern-day witch who helps an undead detective solve the mystery of his own resurrection. It’s got action, humor, horror, and even a romantic moment or two. The inspiration for it came together at the crossroads of several things that I obsessively love, including the lore surrounding the practice of witchcraft and the hidden history of Los Angeles. The images of lively, celebrating skeletons associated with the Mexican holiday called el Dia de los Muertos have always fired my imagination, and they became my jumping-off point. The Day of the Dead is still observed here in the City of Angels—California was a part of Mexico not so very long ago, and the heritage remains. Later on LA evolved into the classic setting of the noir genre—the native habitat of hardboiled private eyes and sexy femmes fatale. I wanted to write a story about reanimated skeletons and homegrown witches. Something with a weird sense of humor and a unique take on magic.  Something set in my own neighbourhood and in my own era that would dig down through the sedimentary layers of local history to stir up old ghosts, and Graves’ End is the tale that grew out of that mix. There were about three years between typing out the words ‘Chapter One’ and holding a printed book in my hand.

3. Do you have a favourite book or author? What are they?

I have many favourite books and authors, including Neil Gaiman, Tom Robbins, and Elmore Leonard, but I’ve been reading Stephen King the longest, since I was about eight years old, and I still plunk down my money for his new books as soon as they come out. There have been highs and lows over the years, but I still respond to his sly humor; the valor his characters tend to display in the face of horrors both supernatural and man-made; and his powers of description, which for me can be so evocative that they sometimes border on hallucinatory. Deep immersion in other worlds is one of the best tricks a writer can offer, I think.

4. What do you do for fun when you’re not writing?

Sleep? I like to sleep. I find it relaxing.

5. Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?

I do, I have two new novels that I’m working on now, both set in the same enchanted Los Angeles as Graves’ End and starring some of the same characters. Brujachica: The Education of a Witch delves into the relationship between Black Tom Delgado and his student Lia, while Red Witch: The Tales of Ingrid Redstone chronicles Ingrid’s adventures in the land of the dead and across LA’s timeline, too. I hope to release one or both of them in the next year.

6. What’s your favourite genre to read?

Novels by practicing magicians are a fun sub-genre. Two of my favourite graphic novel authors, Alan Moore and Grant Morrison, have each written extensively about their personal experiments with occultism. Gerald Gardner, one of the founders of modern Wicca, wrote a book called High Magic’s Aid back in 1954, and I thought it was a surprisingly fun read. The infamous Aleister Crowley wrote a novel called Moonchild in 1917. More recently, Lon Milo DuQuette (a contemporary explicator of mystery traditions and mystical philosophies) has brought the whole thing full circle by making Crowley a character in a novel of his own, titled Aleister Crowley – Revolt of the Magicians. I find that fiction written by real-world advocates of magic is filled with insights I can apply to my own witchy characters.

7. What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine?

To me writing a novel is like nurturing a recurring daydream. I’ll play music that reminds me of my characters in order to get inside their heads. I also have a habit of collecting objects that my characters own within the story. While writing Graves’ End I gathered up an antique cigarette lighter that matches the one owned by Dexter Graves in the story, as well as Black Tom’s walking stick and a large garnet that Ingrid wears on a necklace. They’re like totems that keep a part of my mind anchored in the fictional world. Accumulating Star Wars toys did something similar when I was a kid. I do most of the typing involved in my writing mid-morning, but then I’ll also randomly tweak and screw around with what I’ve written throughout the rest of the day, as the mood strikes me. I don’t aim for a set number of words or pages per sitting—I just try to advance the plot enough that I know where it’s going next, so I can jump back in the next time I plop down at the keyboard. Holding on to the mood and keeping up momentum are all-important, once I get a story rolling. I also like to give my most recent pages one last glance before going to bed, so they’re on my mind as I fall asleep. I’ll often wake up with new ideas or narrative knots untied that way, as though my subconscious has worked them out for me in the night.

8. Who inspired you to write your book?

I’m going to say Russell T Davies, the showrunner and head writer on Doctor Who during the Christopher Eccleston/David Tennant years. I’ve never met Mr. Davies (and I know I’m crediting one person with something that many helped create), but it was his particular take on the character that first drew me in. The wit, the logical complexity, and the emotional power that he brought to the show all inspired me. In fact, I doubt I ever would have found my way through my novel if the Ninth Doctor hadn’t shouted “Everybody lives!” at the end of ‘The Doctor Dances’ and reminded me, right when I needed it, of what matters most to me in fiction.

9. You can be any comic book superhero – Who would you be?

I wouldn’t mind being as rich as Bruce Wayne, but I’m neither homicidal nor civic-minded enough to be a conscientious Batman. Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen has practically godlike powers, so that might be as close to wishing for unlimited wishes as I can get.

10. What skills do you possess that would help you survive a zombie apocalypse?

Absolutely none. I’m toast. Unless those superpowers kick in…

11. What TV shows do you enjoy?

There’s some amazing stuff on TV at the moment. Game of Thrones has been just awesome—Tyrion Lannister has my vote, if democracy ever comes to Westeros. True Blood is funny and creepy and clever, and of course I’m looking forward to the next series of Doctor Who. Breaking Bad is probably my favorite of the moment, though. It has a real narrative elegance to it, as well as fascinatingly complicated and ever-evolving characters, not to mention a sense of humor drier than the gorgeous New Mexico desert it’s filmed in.

12. You can pick one series to return to the TV. Firefly or Angel?

Firefly! Without hesitation. I think I’d give up the rest of television in its entirety to have Firefly back. I’m holding on to a last flickering hope that Joss Whedon might have a chance to revive it again, now that The Avengers has gone and made all the money.

13. What’s your favourite Monty Python film/sketch?

Eric Idle’s Galaxy Song. “So remember, when you’re feeling very small and insecure / how amazingly unlikely is your birth / and pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space / ’cause there’s bugger all down here on earth!” Ha! If those aren’t words to live by, then I don’t believe I know any.

 

Thanks very much to Sean for taking part in the interview, I hope everyone enjoyed it. If you want to learn more about Sean and his work:

 

Links:

Website: www.SeanPatrickTraver.com

Graves’ End on Amazon: www.amazon.com/dp/B007RKKVCS

Like the Graves’ End Facebook page

Follow me on Twitter: @SPTraver

Interview with Mark Underwood

Welcome back to another blog entry. Today, I’d like to introduce Mark Underwood, author of the excellent ‘The Lives of Nobody Important’.

Here’s the blurb: 

I can’t die, at least, not in the traditional sense. Every time I’m killed, I wake up with a new body, in the same place. Over and over and over again. How did I discover this? I was forced to kill myself by the evil bastard who I used to call my boss. He knew the struggles I was facing, and he exploited them. But he didn’t know I would be coming back. This is my story. This is my revenge. This will not end well.

I’m sure you’ll agree the book sounds superb. And to whet your appetites even more, here’s a small excerpt:

  

00:PROLOGUE

I fucked up. It was a stupid plan, stealing those drugs. Like it would make a goddamn difference anyway, they were too big, too powerful. Who was I? Just one man, one man against a Company that could crush me in a heartbeat.

So here I found myself, pacing down a narrow, cobbled street. Every groove and mislaid cobble reaching through my trainers and caressing the soles of my feet. French Lane, hidden behind Saint Helier’s central market, a shadow lifeline for the beating heart of commercial materialism.

By day, it’s a bustling cut-through leading to a treasure-trove of shops, restaurants and bars. Not tonight though.

By night, it becomes dark, quiet and foreboding. Barring the occasional kid making his way to McDonalds, there wouldn’t be much foot traffic. Maybe a couple pissheads, getting in their last supper, with me, their own personal Jesus.

I could feel the cobbles underneath my feet, every step an uneasy stumble towards the safety of my home. But home was so very far away, and I was sure that somebody was following me. Ever since the first time, I had developed a kind of ‘sixth sense’ about this sort of thing.

The streetlights flickered, a warning of the demons that were approaching. A snap, crackle, pop. Glass exploded and pieces fell to the floor, their impacts a symphony of despair. They must have caught up with me.

A gloved hand clutched a butcher’s knife, cold, hard steel.  Must have been nine inches from base to tip.

Rust and dried blood. Signs of previous malice. A dark presence, stalking down the alley, remaining unseen. Waiting for the right moment, the perfect time to strike, to take my life.

That time was now. It’s a strange feeling, a cold, sleek sensation, almost distracting from the pain, shooting from my waist straight up my spine. A taste of dirty steel, an unwanted flavour in my throat making me wretch and gag a little, and then the warm, thick blood started flowing and the cold was gone.

How many victims had fallen at this blade? He had been sent for me, that much was clear. He must have been a professional. Nobody should have been able to get the drop on me that easily. Then again, I had been getting a bit sloppy recently. I’d been watched, ever since this whole sordid affair started. Surely it was just the black ones following me, it couldn’t be the Company as well, could it? Do professionals re-use their tools?

The blade twists, jerks, thrusts deeper, cuts through sinew, muscle, and blood vessels. My back exploded in agony, as the blade severed the nerves. The blade continued, scraping back and forth against my spine, its motion carving a notch that would be with me forever. One more triumph.

The metallic taste intensifies, creeping up my throat. Some more gagging, some more wretching, but I have to keep breathing. Just get a look at his face. Just one look.

Why is he taking so long? Is he enjoying this?

As soon as the thought enters my head, he pulls the knife from my back. It rips out a chunk of flesh, a gaping hole left behind in it’s place. An emergency exit: the escape route for my life. My blood flows out of the wound, a torrent of crimson, my own personal red-carpet.

My life appears to be slipping away. My consciousness evaporates and for one, slim second, my cold, lifeless corpse is lying on the ground in front of me. Finally, I’m free.

It’ll have to wait until morning before someone stumbles past on their way to work and discovers my body. Hoped it would be some evil bastard who’d been treating his wife badly, maybe a child abuser. A dead body would sort ‘em right out.

Chances are though, it would just be some fresh-faced kid, out to earn a living, out to change the world. Not much to be done about that really. I should probably feel sorry for the poor bugger, it’s not right for good people to find a murder victim first thing in the morning. Or any time of day, for that matter.

Their boss, assuming he isn’t a complete bastard, will probably give ‘em the day off, maybe some counselling. The police will be interested, what time they found the body, why didn’t they call straight away. Probably take ‘em into custody for a while, for questioning. Find a murder victim, you’re the first suspect. “Whoever smelled it dealt it.”

This whole street would be shut down, taped off, a crime scene. The shops, pubs, bars, they’d all make a loss today, a lack of customers will do that to you. And people will think twice before using shortcuts at night. Collective fear.

Like one murder will make it more likely that you’ll get murdered. Your time is your time. Stop fucking worrying about it.

Forensics will be swarming before the sun has fully risen, trying to glean some kind of clue as to what happened to me, another John Doe. It’s all just pissing in the wind – they have no idea whats going on and I don’t half doubt they ever will.

They don’t know the half of it: I’m no John Doe and this isn’t the first time I’ve died.

That’s a hell of an end to the Prologue. And now, on with the interview:

1. So, why don’t you tell us all a bit about yourself?

I’m a 27 year old, born and raised in the lovely island of Jersey. I’ve spent my whole life here, except for the three years I was studying at Nottingham University. Apart from writing, I also care for my disabled father which is more than a full-time job – I’m on call 24/7!

 2. Can you tell us a bit more about your book? Where did the idea come from? How long did it take to write?

The book’s genesis is a bit of a strange one really. My father was at the time in a very bad state and I had just been assigned a new boss at my job, a boss that I really didn’t get on with. Soon enough the chance to move on and start caring for my father came to me so I leapt at the opportunity. This gave me the free time to start writing the book and vent at some of the treatment I received at my previous job (which legally I can’t go into I’m afraid). Peppered throughout the story are real life situations, which I hope help to ground the pretty outlandish storyline. The Lives of Nobody Important took around 6 months to write, with another 6 months of re-writing, polishing and fixing things. I then sat on it for a while before looking at it and giving it one final pass.

3. Who’s your favourite character in the book?

The protagonist. I’m not sure that it’s possible to have any other favourite. With his many references to pop culture and his penchant for ultra-violence I think he’s the character that most people will enjoy. It helps that the whole story is told through his perspective!

4. Do you have a favourite book or author? What are they?

Chuck Palahniuk is my favourite author, he’s most well known as the writer of Fight Club but I have to say I’ve enjoyed all his work so far!

For my favourite book, I’d have to say ‘Kill Your Friends’ by David Niven. I think it must be the only book to make me laugh out loud. It’s absolutely hilarious.

5. What do you do for fun when you’re not writing?

I have two main loves outside of writing – videogames (on any system!) and indie music. I run an indie music channel on IRC and also a facebook group for new music finds. On the gaming front, I’m currently playing through Castlevania – Lords of Shadow again (I never completed it first time round) and can’t wait for Darksiders 2 to arrive at the end of August.

 6. Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?

I’m working on another novel which is tentatively called ‘The Chaos Room’. It’s pretty different to ‘Lives’, as it is pretty grounded in reality with some sci-fi/conspiracy stuff thrown in. Project MK-Ultra fits into the storyline to give just a hint. Unfortunately work on this one is going a lot slower than ‘Lives’, and will probably take up to the end of the year to complete the first draft. It’s also a lot less violent and bloody than Lives was, so hopefully will have greater appeal to those who are squeamish.

7. What has been your favourite part of this writing/publishing experience? The scariest?

My favourite part has to be finishing the novel! The sense of satisfaction from seeing something to completion. The scariest part is setting it loose on friends and family to gather their feedback, as up until that point I had to wonder, ‘am I just absolutely mad?’ Fortunately the feedback was (mostly) positive – as are the reviews coming in so far.

8. Which character from your book would you most like to meet?

I wouldn’t like to meet any of them, they are all horrible, horrible people and I’m glad that they are limited to a work of fiction.

9. Do you have a favourite scene from the book?

My favourite scene has to be the ultimate climax, in the chapter called ‘Inferno’. To say anymore would be a complete spoiler but it takes a completely different style to the rest of the book and I think that makes it stand out, and all the more special as a thrilling conclusion.

10. Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don’t be scared, just jump in and follow your gut!

11. What is the last book you read?

Damned, by Chuck Palahniuk. It’s about a girl who has been sent to hell.

12. What skills do you possess that would help you survive a zombie apocalypse?

I’ve watched enough zombie movies that I’d have the knowledge to help anyone out, if not the practical skills. I feel like I would make a good leader in a zombie apocalypse.

13. What TV shows do you enjoy?

Wow, I watch almost anything, as long as it entertains me. This can go from TV-fluff such as the new Hawaii Five-0 to more serious stuff such as The Wire. Game of Thrones is a current favourite, but my favourite TV show so far is probably 24.

14. Someone wrongs you. Do you get revenge or allow Karma to do it for you?

Karma will get them one day. I’m not one for direct intervention, despite revenge being the central theme of my novel.

15. If you could choose any one book to be made into a movie, what would it be?

MINE!

16. What is your favourite band?

The Maccabees. I think they just get better and better with every album and their live sets can’t be matched in my opinion.

17. What’s your favourite drink?

I can’t live without Coca-Cola. I know it rots your teeth and it’s terribly unhealthy but so far my teeth are all fine and well, it’s my coffee equivalent. That said, I’m definitely trying to cut down!

18. You can pick one series to return to the TV. Firefly or Angel?

Firefly, and I will shoot anyone who chooses Angel. Wait, no. Karma will shoot anyone who chooses Angel.

 

Thanks very much to Mark for taking part. If you want to learn more about Mark an his work you can go to the below links:

Kindle page: UK  America

Lulu Page: paperback

Blog

An Interview with Jamie Friesen

This monday I’m pleased to introduce, Jamie Friesen.

Jamie Friesen was born in Lahr, West Germany while his father was serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force. He attended the University of Alberta where he obtained a Bachelor of Arts in History, and followed it later with a Masters of Arts in Communications & Technology. After obtaining his Bachelor’s degree, Jamie went abroad and taught English in Japan and Taiwan.

He now lives in Edmonton, Canada with his wife and daughter, working in the Public Relations field and writes in his spare time, which usually translates to early mornings and lunch time. Zombie Night in Canada: First Period is his first novel.

And it’s that first novel that he’s here to talk about. Here’s the blurb to, Zombie Night in Canada: First Period:

Tokyo. Sydney. Beijing. Cairo. Paris. Rome. New York. Los Angeles. One by one, the world’s great cities fell to the zombie plague. What chance does a small, non-descript city in Canada like Edmonton have?

The world as we know it is finished. Civilization has collapsed and humanity is on the brink of extinction. Billions of people are dead, victims of a horrific plague.

Bi-weekly paychecks, Tim Horton’s double doubles, men’s league hockey and cheap winter vacations to Cancun. That was the life Xander Barnes had known for years until a pandemic swept the globe. Efforts to slow its spread or develop quarantine zones, in many cases were too little, too late.

Nowadays, life consisted of avoiding the plague victims, ghouls who had an insatiable appetite for human flesh and finding enough food to survive day to day. How long can one ordinary man survive in a world gone mad?

And now for a short excerpt:

Fire lashed out from the base into the horde of approaching infected. Mortar bombs exploded over the infected heads, sending dozens of sharp razor-like fragments down into the skulls of the infected. In some cases, it killed them, in others, it was nothing more than a mosquito bite. The handful of heavy machineguns opened fire, spraying hundreds of rounds of lead into the group, each round tearing off a limb of an infected person in the front, then continuing on into the infected behind it and tearing off one of their limbs too. The heavy machineguns were so powerful that the rounds likely went through a half dozen or more infected before finally stopping. Stone thought back to his heavy weapons course eons ago and what his instructor had told him about the heavy machinegun the Canadian Forces used.

He winced as he watched them fire, mowing down rows of infected. They fell below the massed fire like wheat before a scythe. Thank god he had never been on the receiving end of one of those monsters, he thought to himself. The only problem with the weapon was that they would go through their ammo in a minute or two, and then would need several minutes to refill their ammo hoppers. Sure enough, well before the horde was gone, the machineguns stopped firing. Their crews scrambled to reload as fast as possible.

Once the mortars and heavy weapons opened up, many soldiers began firing far more rapidly and unfortunately, far more inaccurately. While the heavy weapons were unlikely to kill many infected outright, it tore them apart and knocked them down, or otherwise disabled them so that snipers could finish them off later.

Meanwhile, Master Corporal Stone and the other marksmen continued their steady, methodical slaughter of the infected. Below him, troops at the fence had shoved their barrels through the chain links and were firing indiscriminately into the horde. The horde was huge and their bodies lay in heaps everywhere, but they kept coming like some elemental force such as the tide.

Stone had engaged the first infected at more than five hundred metres. Now, ten minutes later, the horde was about three hundred metres away and still closing. Stone kept firing, reloading and firing until his shoulder was sore. He hadn’t fired this much in a long time. A thundering roar came from behind him and Stone glanced backwards.

If that hasn’t whet your appetite for more, then I’m sure the interview will do the trick. Speaking of which, it’s on with the interview:

1. So, why don’t you tell us all a bit about yourself?

I was born in West Germany because my father was a member of the RCAF. Shortly afterwards, he was posted back to Canada, so I grew up in Edmonton. After university (BA – History), then went overseas to Japan and Taiwan to teach for a while. When I returned, I planned to become a travel writer, but 9/11 happened and all the freelance work dried up, so I got into PR and started writing novels in my spare time instead. I’ve finished my first and have several more planned.

2. Can you tell us a bit more about your book? Where did the idea come from? How long did it take to write?

I wrote this novel simply because a writer I know came up with a great title. Zombie Night in Canada is a word play on Hockey Night in Canada – which for many of us is as important as Monday Night Football. Having read a number of books in the genre, I noticed that most took place in New York City, Texas or London, and could not find something that took place in Canada, so that’s why I wrote it.

All in all, it took about two years to complete – but that includes rewrites, editing, cover art, etc. In contrast, I’m already 25% done the first draft of the sequel.

3. Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?

I’m working on a number of projects – a sequel to Zombie Night in Canada, which will feature lots of military action, that is soldiers going to toe to toe with armies of the undead.

I’m also working on Cooking for Zombies – a Dummies type satire written from the zombie POV on how to properly cook humans.

Finally, I’m working on number of short stories that I can put online for free so that people can get an idea of what my writing is like.

4. Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write. Edit. Repeat over and over.

Malcolm Gladwell said that it takes 10000 hours to become an expert at something, so just keep hammering away at the keyboard and write stuff.

Write screenplays, poems, short stories, novels, whatever you want. Just remember that your first few products are probably going to be garbage – if not, then you have real talent.

5. What’s your favourite genre to read?

One of my favorite books is the Long Run by Daniel Keys Moran. It’s a dystopian cyberpunk novel set in a future run by a corrupt and despotic world government.

Generally, it all depends on what I’m in the mood to read. If it’s fantasy, I’ll go with Raymond Feist or Terry Brooks. For sci-fi, I’d probably go with David Drake, David Weber, or Jerry Pournelle. Alternate history sci-fi would be wither S.M. Stirling or Harry Turtledove. For non-fiction, I really enjoy Malcolm Gladwell and Chris Anderson.

6. Tell us about your cover. Where did the idea come from?

A fan designed it for me and gave it to me for free. I spend some time on J.L. Bourne’s Tactical Underground forum, and had started posting Zombie Night in Canada there, and someone who really liked it offered to design a cover for me.

He came up with an image which I thought was both amazing and horrific. The only change I asked for was for him to use an image of downtown Edmonton instead of the generic cityscape he had.

The only real problem with the image is that when it is sized down to thumbnail size at Amazon/Smashwords, it’s awesomeness is lost.

7. If you could work with any author who would it be?

I’d love to collaborate with Jonathan Maberry – his Rot & Ruin and Joe Ledger series are fantastic!

8. What is the last book you read?

Endless Warfare by Ralph Peters – it was incredibly insightful.

9. If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your 16-year-old self?

Buy stocks of Apple in 1996 and hold onto to them until 2012! Maybe buy some gold too! 😉

Seriously though, I’d tell everything is going to work out and not to change a thing. If I had done things differently, maybe my life would be better right now financially, but I’ve never have met my wife and started a family. That is true wealth if you ask me.

10. What skills do you possess that would help you survive a zombie apocalypse?

I have some military experience (a short stint in the Army Reserves in my college days), survival skills, hunting and camping experience and a wicked folding shovel that would be great for caving in the skulls of those undead bastards!

11. Someone wrongs you. Do you get revenge or allow Karma to do it for you?

I’m a believer in karma, but sometimes I wonder if it works. It’s hard to see people do wrong and prosper (the sub-prime fiasco comes to mind), but hopefully, somewhere down the line, those who do wrong will get their comeuppance.

12. What’s your favourite drink?

Cherry Coke! Unfortunately, they no longer make it here in Canada.

If you know anybody heading to Edmonton in the near future, tell them to bring me a case and I’ll pay them double!  😉

13. The Simpsons or Futurama?

I love both – but I think Futurama is the better show simply because it can deal with adult issues in ways the Simpsons cannot.

If you want to learn more about James and his book you can click on the links below:

My blog

Twitter – @jamiefriesen

ZNIC Facebook page

Zombie Night in Canada on Amazon.com

Zombie Night in Canada on Smashwords.com

It is also available through Barnes & Noble, iBookstore, Diesel and Kobo.  It will also be available in hard copy by August 1st via Createspace and Amazon.