Kelli Owen tagged me a week back and guilted me into doing this.  Just kidding!  I had fun. There was no guilt involved.  If you’ve ever met Kelli, you know she’s far too mani to pull off a good guilt trip.  Poor girl…


1) What is the title of your next book?

Red Sky

 2) Where did the idea come from for the book?
Fun story, but I’m only going to tell you part of it.  I wrote the entire book for a single scene, and the idea for that scene came from a music video.  I’ve now given you twice as much information about Red Sky’s origins than I’ve given anybody else.
3) What genre does your book fall under?
It’s certainly a horror book, though a good portion over it is pretty firmly entrenched in the crime genre.
4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Believe it or not, I’ve never considered this.  For Danny Black, the career criminal who serves as the closest thing we have to a hero, I want somebody both handsome and gritty.  I really want to say John Hamm.  Like, a  weathered John Hamm.  Or Josh Halloway.  Or Timothy Olyphant. For his best friend and partner in crime Nelson, I want somebody who can be a little more fun, a little more caring.  I’d say Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  At this point we’re just going through my man crushes.  For psycho lovebirds Gina and Dale, I’d go with Lizzy Caplan and maybe Ryan Hurst.  Twitchy driver Wallace? Either Aaron Paul or Dominic Monaghan.  For hostage Mel (short for Melanie), I’ll say Ellie Kemper, who I want to see in a dramatic role.  I’d also demand a Kelly Clarkson cameo, preferably with her wearing glasses. I’ve said to much…
5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
When a bank robbery goes sour and a string of career criminals hides out in an abandoned factory, they find themselves hunted by both the military and a group of horrific creatures.
6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
The book will be published by Deadite Press.
7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
The first draft took a little over two months to complete.  Another two years passed before the book wasx ready to be published, though.
8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I’d hope it would compare to some of the better siege and action works in the genre, like Jack Ketchum’s Ladies Night and David Wellington’s books.  If you like monsters, shooting, and a good car chase, this is a damn good book for you.
9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Asking me question two again isn’t going to get you a new answer.
10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
I love the idea of horrible things happening under our noses, secret corners to the world and secrets that most people never have to face.  Somewhere between conspiracy theories and the edge of the galaxy, there’s this idea that everything is just a little weirder…a little grimier…than the one we see.  Red Sky is a peek into one of those corners.  And there’s a tie to my vampire novel Lights Out.  Also, Laird Barron said it reminded him of Predator.  That’s got to count for something.

Suicide by Metaphor

(Author’s Note: what follows is a long, honest blog entry about a dark time I’ve been going through and how a friend of mine helped me turn the corner and climb out of it. It is in no way meant to make light of suicide.)

I won’t lie to you, because one thing I promised myself when I started this writing gig was that I’d always be honest with my fans, readers, and friends.  I suppose if I was hip to how the young kids talk today, I’d say I’m being ‘real.’  Like most folks these days, I come from a long line of people with problems.  Growing up, my mother was hospitalized with emotional problems several times.  My alcoholic uncle committed suicide when I was four.  I moved to Austin, Texas when I was 22, partly for school and partly to get away from my past.  I met a girl, fell in love, and left my past behind.

It caught up to me. Continue reading

Mo*Con Recap

May 4th through the 6th, I was in Indianapolis for Mo*Con.  Founded and organised by Maurice Broaddus, Mo*Con is a convention that looks at genre fiction through the lens of spiritual, gender, and race issues.  Instead of panels about vampires or selling your first novel, you get discussions of how your spirituality affects your writing.  For an atheist who’s never considered himself very insightful, it was a little intimidating.

It was also the best convention I’ve ever attended.

Held in a church basement, Mo*Con is a pretty intimate gathering.  I’ll admit I was a little nervous about that, because crowds of people tend to scare the living hell out of me.  At your typical convention, I’ll spend about half the day hiding in my room, psyching myself up to go talk to people again.  Maurice knew this and was sure to tell me where there was a room I could go to hide.  Surprisingly, I never needed it, as I felt perfectly at ease all weekend.  The folks at Mo*Con are that welcoming.

After a brief opening ceremonies, we were treated to a performace by author and puppeteer Mary Robinette Kowal, followed by a presentation regarding puppetry and its ties to writing fiction.  It was fascinating, easily the most informative panel I’ve ever seen.  Her Saturday presentation on public speaking and readings was just as good, and the two presentations really inspired me to up my game both writing and reading-wise.

Maurice was joined by Chesya Burke and John Edward Lawson for a discussion of race and genre that was both informative and (I’ll be honest) eye-opening.  I always strive to make my characters real and true to their roots, and this discussion really highlighted some areas where my knowledge is lacking.  Later that night, Mary Robinette Kowal read the first chapter of her current work in progress to get feedback on it, prompting another discussion of race in genre.  The discussion was so intelligent it had Mary Sangiovanni and I talking about how we just write monster stories and feel a little dumb around such thought-provoking matters.

Saturday afternoon, I served on a panel with Sangiovanni, Gary Braunbeck, and Tim Waggoner on spirituality and how it informs our fiction.  As the only atheist on the panel, I worked hard to be as inoffensive as possible (this is difficult for me, because I uusually just say anything that appears in my head), and I think I was successful.  I might have been a little too honest with the crowd here or there, but it was a great discussion, all around.  I always enjoy hearing others’ perspectives, and this was no different.  By the end of the panel, I was shocked to find that my reasons for being an atheist are the same reasons some others believe.  A little strange, but very thought-provoking.

There’s a lot more I could say–how the food was amazing and the late night disucssions in Maurice’s garage kept us in stitches–but I guess I just did say those things.  A sincere thanks to Maurice for inviting and hosting me, the Indiana Horror Writers for all their help with the convention, and Rodney for driving me around all weekend.  I really hope I can make it out next year.

This year’s goals

It occured to me this morning that it’s been far too long since I thought about goals.  They used to be clear in my head, but around March of last year they all got scribbled over with Put on a great World Horror Convention!  Then, I just never got around to working on them again.

Well, that needs to change.  Part of my desire to constantly improve involves constantly rewriting my goals, making them a little bit more ambitious than they were.

So two weeks into January, here’s what I’m thinking my goals for the year will be…

1. Finish my current novel, The Slab City Event, before deadline.  Make sure it’s a zombie novel I can be proud of and that few see coming.

2. Write Porcelain, a novel I’ve been planning for the last three years.

3. Find an agent.  I’ll admit, this one’s been a goal for about as long as I’ve been planning Porcelain.

4. Find a good home for my crime novel Pale Horses.

So there you have it.  Anybody have some good 2012 goals?

Hi, 2012. How’s it going?

So here we are, another year.  This one feels different for me.  In past years, I’ve been able to look forward with a fair degree of optimism, saying fun things like “Surely no family members will die this year!”  As 2012 gets started though, I feel pretty lost.  I’m single and living in an apartment that still doesn’t feel like a home.  I’m looking at a lot of big bills coming up in order to keep my car running and my cat in good health. 

It’s funny… last week, I tried to write my top ten books of the year, only to realize that I read six books in all of 2011.  That’s down from over 100 in 2010.  My concentration is all over the place, and I really just need to tighten up and focus.

So that’s what I’m doing this year.  I’m trying to focus and concentrate.  I need to get back into the groove of things and hopefully find a way to be happy again.  The last three years have been a study in depression, and I’m pretty fucking sick of it.

So let’s run down the good news…

Later this month, Thunderstorm Books will release my next novel, Lights Out.  It’s brutal fun, and features 100% more vampires and prison sex than anything I’ve written previously.  Maybe that’s a selling point, and maybe it isn’t.  We’ll find out!

This spring, Sinister Grin Press will release Down, a novel that can best be described as “What would happen if a nineties rock band crashlanded in a forest full of really nasty things.”  That’s your bare bones description.  There will be more details in the coming months.

I have another zombie novel due on April 1st (seriously).  Can’t say much about it, but I promise it will be fun.

So that keeps me busy through the first few months of the year.  After that, I’ll be searching for a home for a crime novel of mine, working on another novel I’m currently calling Porcelain, and considering another short story collection.  Here’s hoping it all goes well.

Happy New Year, everybody.  Be good to each other.

Let It All Come Down

The last few years have been tough ones.  When I look back and think about everything that’s happened, I find myself amazed I can still stand up.  I’ve lost both parents to cancer, a brother to the long-lasting effects of drug addiction, and I recently found out my dog has cancer.  In the meantime, I’ve helped run this year’s World Horror Convention, spent over a year in therapy, learned some shocking truths about my family, and found myself single after eleven years.

Some days, the simple act of waking up feels all but insurmountable.  Some days, it feels more like a habit than something I really want to do.  I still do it, though.  Partly because it feels good to stare deression in the face and tell it to fuck off, and partly because I’m out of vacation time, and finding myself unemployed is not going to make my life easier.

But I don’t want to complain too much.  The fact of the matter is, I’m still alive.  Sometimes, being alive kind of sucks, and sometimes being alive means you’ve survived three years of really shitty existence.  You get through how you can, and you take stock of the good things.

So let’s take stock…

My ex-girlfriend is still my best friend.  We care about each other and our pets, and I still feel closer to her parents than I ever did to my own.

I’m busy.  I have one novel due on the 1st of January, and another due four months after that.  It’s possible that I’ll have a third due in August, but that’s just in the talking stages right now.

My writing continues to get better.  For a writer, that’s all you can ask for, even if you suspect you’ll never be as good as you want to be.

I have an amazing network of friends.  This reminds me that I really need to see about getting Coffee with Lee Thomas.  It’s been too damn long.  I need to roll a d20 with my Friday night friends, too.  Or at least play a game of Zombies!!!

Muay Thai.  I started training with Wrath James White back in June, and it’s been a blast.  I can feel how much healthier I am, and there are few things as stress-relieving as knocking the crap out of a heavy bag once a week while Wrath pushes you harder and harder.  I thought I’d broken a sweat before, but nothing’s ever pushed me as hard as this.

So that’s where I am.  A lot of life is hard, but a lot of it is pretty fucking great.  You guys remember that, and I’ll do my best to do the same.

The Origin of Scavengers

As Halloween approaches, I find myself thinking back to when I was a kid.  It occured to me that the origins of my recent zombie novel Scavengers trace back to that time, so I thought it would be pretty cool to look back and see how it came about.

For those who don’t know, Scavengers tells the story of five poor stiffs selected by their community to travel to the zombie-filled town of Rundberg in order to raid the supermarket there and replenish their dwindling supplies.  There’s a lot of horror and a lot of action as they try to make their way through a small Indiana town entirely populated by decaying cannibals.  If you’ve picked up my earlier graphic novel A Trip to Rundberg, you know Scavengers is an expanded (and improved) version of that story.  You also know the story was first inspired by my inability to realize when Saturday morning cartoons have ended.

One Saturday way back when, my brother Matt and I were watching cartoons.  When our Saturday morning entertainment finished, a movie came on the TV.  We didn’t realize it at first, but that flick was Night of the Living Dead.  Why the local affiliate thought it was the right movie to put on immediately after cartoons is anybody’s guess.  What I do know is that we sat there for the next two hours, scared out of our minds, and watched every single minute.  It’s the first time I remember watching a scary movie that wasn’t Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video, even if they did share a similar climax.  From that moment on, I was hooked on the scary stuff.  Sure, I usually couldn’t watch it without hiding my eyes, but I was still hooked.

Years later, I was an adolescent and spending the night at the home of my best friend, George.  We were pulling an all nighter, which typically involved Dungeons and Dragons, comic books, and usually at least one attempt at filming a kung-fu movie.  This night, however we got the great idea at around five in the morning to go play in the street.  Well, to be specific, we would stand in the middle of his suburban street and wait until we saw headlights coming around the corner.  Then, we’d bolt for the house and try to hide in the shadows before the driver saw us.  And yeah, we had no way of knowing if the driver had seen us or not, but we amused ourselves with this quirky little game until well after the sun began to rise.

Over the next few days, Geroge and I talked about that little game a lot.  We wondered if we could get from one end of his subdivision to the other without being spotted.  Then, we wondered if we could get from one end of town to the other.  The idea stuck with me for years, even to the point where I sometimes wonder if I can cross downtown Austin without being seen.  To be fair, I don’t think it’s possible.  At least, it isn’t for a lumbering doof like me.

For some reason, I didn’t slap the two ideas together until a camping trip maybe eight years ago.  I wanted to write an action comic with a high body count, and somehow the idea of trying to get across town without being spotted jumped back in my head.  When the Romero fan in me spoke up and asked for some attention, the two ideas fused and became the script for A Trip to Rundberg. 

Then, maybe two years ago Lee Thomas and Brian keene both suggested novelizing the story.  Lee thought I should submit the novel to Night Shade Books, who were looking for zombie novels at the time.  The only problem was that the deadline was only three weeks away.  So I went overboard.  For ten days, I wrote eight thousand words a day, sending each chunk to Lee for immediate reading and notes.  The second draft took another week, and my girlfriend Shawna proofread that version.  A two-day polish, and it went to Night Shade.

I never heard back.

A little more than a year later, Creeping Hemlock announced that they were looking for zombie books.  How lucky!  I dusted off the first three chapters, did a quick rewrite, and sent them to RJ Cavender, figuring he was swamped and I’d have anther month or so to finish rewriting.  Instead, RJ got back to me in about thirty minutes.

“Looks great! Let me see the rest.”


So I called into work the next day and rewrote the entire thing in about sixteen hours.  It was exahusting work that led to at least one senseless rant and a really good crying jag, but I survived and came out the other side with a novel I enjoy very much.  The rest, as they say, is history.

So there you have it, a quick little look at how a kid watching a movie after cartoons turned into an adult who wrote a book in a ridiculously short timespan.  Next week, I’ll be recommending some of my favorite zombie books and movies for your entertainment pleasure.

What’s happened, what will happen soon…

Hi, everybody.  Sorry for the lack of updates.  To say the summer has been busy and rough is a pretty big understatement.  In truth, this summer has been awful.  After the busy time that was World Horror, I had to jet back north for a family funeral.  In the months that followed, enough personal stuff happened to make me want to close myself off from the world.  I should have been keeping this place updated, but I haven’t had the will, strength, or the feeling that I had anything interesting to say.

So yeah, that’s how that went.  Most of the summer was spent moping and trying not to go crazy.  Lot of therapy and not a lot of writing.  It doesn’t help that the three years leading to this summer have seen me lose both parents, learn a few particularly devestating family secrets, and generally have my life turned upside-down.  Rough times, friends.  Rough times.

But enough about that.  Let’s see where things are and where they’re going.

Last month, I got to attend Killer Con and Armadillocon.  Armadillocon was pretty tough for me, as it came right on the heels of the worst of the summer.  I basically showed up for my assigned panels, reading, and signing and then rushed out of there, desperate to not interact with people. 

Killer Con was better.  Just Like Hell was officially re-released, and there was a release party for This Little Light of Mine.  I had great conversations and fun times with John Skipp, Weston Oches, Gene O’Neill, Jonathan Maberry, Bailey Hunter, RJ Cavender, Ed Kurtz and his lovely wife Megan, Ed Lee, Rose O’Keefe, Jeff Burke, Carlton Mellick, Jack Ketchum, Rena Mason, Laura Hickman, and probably dozens of others.  I got to enjoy a bit of Vegas, taking in dinner at Craftsteak and watching Zumanity, Cirque du Soleil’s “adult” show.  A good time was had, as long as you ignore the early morning sight of me walking around the casino, moping and trying to pretend I was in a good mood.

November 11-13, I’ll be at the Austin Convention Center for Austin Comic Con.  At this point, I’m not sure if I have a booth or a table, but I’m reasonably sure I’ll be spending part of the weekend trying to seduce Mercedes McNab.  It’s good to have goals, I guess!

It was recently announced that I’ll be writing a novel for Sinister Grin Press.  The novel, which is currently untitled and in its third draft, is one of the best things I’ve written to date.  While a lot of writing can drift into that “This is hard work” feeling, this one’s been nothing but sick fun.  I think you’ll dig it.

Once I’m done with that, I’m gonna get cracking on a fun zombie novella for Creeping Hemlock’s Print is Dead line.  RJ and company did an amazing job on Scavengers, and I’m sure they’ll do just as great a job on this one, which features zombies, go-go dancers, hot rods, and a fun little story-telling device I’ve been itching to try.

Finally, my next novel, Lights Out, should see print from Thunderstorm Books early next year.  This is another brutal one, taking place in a maximum security prison and featuring a wonderfully over the top amount of bloodshed.

So that’s about that.  Thank you for your patience and understanding.  I’m getting better every day, and I’m hoping the next year will be better than the last few.  Have a good week, everybody.

Bram Stoker Award Nomination

Well, the Stoker Award final ballot was released today, and I wasn’t quite prepared for the shock of one category.

Superior Achievement in SHORT FICTION
RETURN TO MARIABRONN by Gary Braunbeck (Haunted Legends)
THE FOLDING MAN by Joe R. Lansdale (Haunted Legends)
1925: A FALL RIVER HALLOWEEN by Lisa Mannetti (Shroud Magazine #10)
IN THE MIDDLE OF POPLAR STREET by Nate Southard (Dead Set: A Zombie Anthology)
FINAL DRAFT by Mark W. Worthen (Horror Library IV)

Just… wow.  Can I say, ‘Wow?’  It’s an honor.  I’ve hoped for an official Stoker nomination for years, but never did I dream it would come in the short fiction category.  That’s where the real competition usually sets up camp.  I think about the folks who’ve won that award or have been nominated, and I can’t help but feel a little overwhelmed.

The rest of the nominees are below.  I just want to take a second to say congratulations to everybody.  You all deserve it!

Superior Achievement in a NOVEL
HORNS by Joe Hill (William Morrow)
ROT AND RUIN by Jonathan Maberry (Simon & Schuster)
DEAD LOVE by Linda Watanabe McFerrin (Stone Bridge Press)
APOCALYPSE OF THE DEAD by Joe McKinney (Pinnacle)
DWELLER by Jeff Strand (Leisure/Dark Regions Press)
A DARK MATTER by Peter Straub (DoubleDay)

Superior Achievement in a FIRST NOVEL
BLACK AND ORANGE by Benjamin Kane Ethridge (Bad Moon Books)
A BOOK OF TONGUES by Gemma Files (Chizine Publications)
CASTLE OF LOS ANGELES by Lisa Morton (Gray Friar Press)
SPELLBENT by Lucy Snyder (Del Rey)

Superior Achievement in LONG FICTION
THE PAINTED DARKNESS by Brian James Freeman (Cemetery Dance)
DISSOLUTION by Lisa Mannetti (Deathwatch)
MONSTERS AMONG US by Kirstyn McDermott (Macabre: A Journey through Australia’s Darkest Fears)
THE SAMHANACH by Lisa Morton (Bad Moon Books)
INVISIBLE FENCES by Norman Prentiss (Cemetery Dance)

Superior Achievement in an ANTHOLOGY
DARK FAITH edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon (Apex Publications)
HORROR LIBRARY IV edited by R.J. Cavender and, Boyd E. Harris (Cutting Block Press)
MACABRE: A JOURNEY THROUGH AUSTRALIA’S DARKEST FEARS edited by Angela Challis and Marty Young (Brimstone Press)
HAUNTED LEGENDS edited by Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas (Tor)
THE NEW DEAD edited by Christopher Golden (St. Martin’s Griffin)

Superior Achievement in a COLLECTION
OCCULTATION by Laird Barron (Night Shade Books)
BLOOD AND GRISTLE by Michael Louis Calvillo (Bad Moon Books)
FULL DARK, NO STARS by Stephen King (Simon and Schuster)
THE ONES THAT GOT AWAY by Stephen Graham Jones (Prime Books)
A HOST OF SHADOWS by Harry Shannon (Dark Regions Press)

Superior Achievement in NONFICTION
TO EACH THEIR DARKNESS by Gary A. Braunbeck (Apex Publications)
THE CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE HUMAN RACE by Thomas Ligotti (Hippocampus Press)
WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE by Jonathan Maberry and Janice Gable Bashman (Citadel)
LISTEN TO THE ECHOES: THE RAY BRADBURY INTERVIEWS by Sam Weller (Melville House Publications)

Superior Achievement in a POETRY collection
DARK MATTERS by Bruce Boston (Bad Moon Books)
WILD HUNT OF THE STARS by Ann K. Schwader (Sam’s Dot)
DIARY OF A GENTLEMAN DIABOLIST by Robin Spriggs (Anomalous Books)
VICIOUS ROMANTIC by Wrath James White (Bandersnatch Books)