Sunday, July 31, 2011

Interview with Zoe Whitten

Thanks for joining, Zoe. Wow, 27 books? Can you tell us, out of all of your novels, which one is your baby and why?

I don't have any one book that's special, no. I have stories that I wish I could spend more time promoting, but no one story stands out as the one I'm most proud of.

Because I have a library this large, I came to a decision that I needed to focus on two titles and try to court readers of fantasy and sci-fi. So for the fantasy group, I'm pimping Peter the Wolf, and for the sci-fi crowd, I'm pushing my "dueling novellas" release from Belfire Press, The Life and Death of a Sex Doll.

Along the same line, which would make the best movie?

Probably one of my sci-fi stories, either Wake Up With the Kimellians or Dead End, the first book in my high tech sci-fi zombie trilogy.

Now, could you tell us a little bit about your current werewolf book? I've read a bit about it and it looks great.

Peter Holmes is a lycanthrope who doesn't know it. There's a lot more to his story than that. He's a survivor of long-term child abuse, which ended only after the death of his twin sister in a snuff film. Peter turned in his parents in a desperate bid for freedom, but the effect of all his abuse have made him unfit for normal people, who shuttle him around to a few foster homes.

Peter arrives with his fourth family after a stay in juvenile detention, so he's got a bleak view on life at first. That changes when he discovers gymnastics and begins training. But even as he's trying to get his life sorted out among the normal people, his animal nature makes every day a struggle. Things get worse when he starts to suffer lunar madness and get visits from spooks. Then Peter's life with his family and friends is threatened when his mother escapes from prison looking for revenge.

Do you ever draw from your real life experiences for your writing?

Yeah, or from experiences borrowed from other people. Back when I was a young'un, I used to run into a lot of people who had suffered some kind of abuse. Some of them suffered so badly that it made my life seem downright pleasant by comparison.

A lot of what I wrote in Peter's book isn't covering me, but the experiences of a close friend who was forced into early sex by her parents, and then her grandmother after her parents abandoned her. I drew a lot on her past for this, and on her problems with flashbacks and random daily triggers. A lot of the time, she was more like a frightened and wounded animal than a complete human. So I think mixing her history with a werewolf metaphor can maybe help to show normal people something of what it's like to keep an inner animal caged.

What did your drill sergeant tell you, just as they were driving you home?

Oh, cheating! But no, I'm going to give a different answer with a short story. When they let me into the Army, there was a rule about checking out tattoos and what they mean. I didn't know this but having tattoos over both knees or both elbows is a signal to some groups, "Hi, I'm a racist." Er, supremacist. In any case, I have a hand made Van Halen tattoo over my left leg, which is up side down, and a another tattoo drawing of Grendel's head (Hunter Rose, I was a Comico fan.)

So my drill sergeant pointed to the upside down tattoo and asks, "What the hell is that?" I said, "It's Van Halen. Uh, they're a band." My senior drill sergeant got a look like he was sucking a lime and went, "I know who they are!"

So, fast forward to the day that he had to drive me off of Fort Sill and over to the bus stop for the ride back to San Antonio, and the sergeant loads up For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. The moment the electric drill started up, I grinned at him, and he grinned back and said, "See? I told you I knew who they were."

Did you like your experience in the military?

I was a slacker, and probably not the best person to go in for the military life. But the vast majority of base life was okay. The food was decent, aside from the coffee, and I like the guys I hung out with among the "broke dicks." (A title that now amuses me even more after "the surgery." Yep, I'm totally a broke dick now.)

If you could change one thing about today's society, what would it be and why?

I would get rid of prejudice. We would be so much better off as a society if people didn't always need a punching bag to blame.

I heard you once got fired for dying your hair blue. Could you elaborate?

Oh, I was doing phone tech support for my very last tech job ever. I was already unliked because I was supposed to be referring problems up to level two techs, and instead I was handling the simpler jobs and writing up a resolution. Apparently doing my job pissed some managers off.

I showed up with blue hair, and the manager took me to the office and said "We're letting you go because unnatural hair color are against company policy." I, being one of the few people to actually read employee manuals, said, "I don't believe there is, actually."

This led to two hours of me watching a manager flip back and forth though our phone book manual before finally going to the front page and pointing to: "A manager can dismiss an employee for any reason." So, I was right, and I won the fight. Still didn't stop me from being fired.

What is your opinion of traditional publishing versus self-publishing? Would you say an author should try to get traditionally published?

I don't really trust publishers at this point. They take a lot of money for their services, and yet for new authors, what do they do? They tell us to go do our own promotions. They have us run our ad campaign ourselves, but they don't give us the marketing department's cut of the royalties. Many fired off their art departments and now do ugly stock photos. And if your book has a minority main character, you have to watch out for a "white-washed" cover. Even established companies are writing in sneaky contract clauses in attempts to grab more rights from writers, and they've collectively decided to piss on the growing emarket with outrageous prices. So they're making pure profit with these higher prices, but, they don't think I should get more than a pittance out of this deal. After all, I'm just the writer. I didn't do so much for the package or the product.

But, having said that, I think every writer needs to come to terms with what they want out of their writing. And for some people, a publisher may be the right decision. It isn't right for me at this time, but there may come a point in the future where I find a publisher that I really want to work with. Before I reach that point, I suspect I'd have to develop a title with a strong enough following to require a large publisher's distribution infrastructure.

You stay at home, being disabled. Have your disabilities ever gotten in the way of your writing? How do you persevere?

Oh yeah, I've often had fatigue attacks or days where mood swings made focusing on the words impossible. Some days, there is no persevering. There is just laying on the couch and waiting for my problems to pass.

But I'm not a quiet quitter, and I never have been. On my bad days, I may be stuck on the couch. But on my good days, I'll edit a few chapters in one WIP, write 1,500 words in another, and then get in a good plyometric workout to try and get my back and stomach muscles back into shape. I also take care of a balcony garden and practice guitar. (I'm a total newbie to both hobbies, though. This is my first year gardening, and I've only owned my Ibanez Gio Sparkle, AKA: Lili Home Wrecker, since April.

I never really stress out about lower writing output when my illness puts me down for a bit. I mean, in four years of dedicated practice, I think I've totally earned the right to call myself prolific, yanno?

Thank you for the interview, Zoe. We really appreciate you stopping by and hope your books do well. You can find out more about Zoe here.

Monday, July 18, 2011

My Youngest Son Interviews Lorna Suzuki

My ten year old son finished reading The Dream Merchant, by Lorna Suzuki. She has been kind enough to offer an interview to my little man. Without further delay, here is David's first interview:

1: Will you possibly be able to make the book turn into a movie?

Sadly, I have no say over whether The Dream Merchant Saga becomes a movie. First, a producer must option the rights to do that, but I’ve made no effort to pitch it to the film industry (yet). Maybe one day it will happen!

2: How many books are in the Dream Merchant Saga?

The Dream Merchant Saga is comprised of 3 novels, but who knows? Right now, I’m so busy with trying to finish writing the third novel, editing the second for release and trying to review my first three novels in my epic fantasy series, I just don’t have time for anything else. If I get more time to write, then maybe I will, but it will mean I have to write at least another two books to add to this YA fantasy series as four is not a zen number in my world.

3: Can I read the Dream Merchant Saga book two?

I’m so glad you’re eager to read the sequel, but you’ll have to sit tight for now! The official release date of the print and ebook of The Silver Sword, Book Two of the Dream Merchant Saga is Oct. 22, 2011!

4: What made Rose so obnoxious?

Rose wasn’t born this way. Her life of privilege and her sense of entitlement worked against her. She is so used to having what she wants, when she wants it that when she gets banished from her palace, she struggles with living as a commoner. Part of her obnoxious behavior is that she discovered many people only wanted to befriend her because they wanted to use her title as a princess to better their position in life, so her royal title becomes just as much a curse as the curse itself. That’s also why she clings to Tag, he’s honest to the point of being rude at times, but she knows he’s her only true friend she ever had!

5: How old were you when you started writing?

I started writing late in life! If I told you how old I was, then you’ll either cry out of pity or start laughing cause I’m old enough to be your grandmother!

6: What inspired you to write for a living?

I never started out writing to make a living. It was more of a very intense hobby I had started as a gift for my daughter. My mother died when I was only 9 years old and I thought if something ever happened to me, I’d like to leave something lasting for my daughter to remember me by. If you noticed, there are many life lessons about loyalty, sacrifice, the strength of friendships, etc. woven into my stories.

7: What is the second book about?[no spoiling]

Without spoilers, The Silver Sword now shifts gears and this story focuses on Tag Yairet and his struggles. He’s way behind on his training to be a knight and as the quest to recover the dreamstone continues, he is tormented by self-doubt as to whether he has the skills and the smarts to meet with success while keeping his friends safe along the way. Where The Magic Crystal set the stage and introduces the three main characters, focusing mainly on Princess Rose, this second book centers on Tag and is more action packed than the first.

8: How many books have you made and what are they called?

I have the Imago Chronicles, a 9-novel epic, adult fantasy series of which the first three books have been optioned for a major motion picture trilogy. As for the YA fantasy, The Dream Merchant is a trilogy, so that’s a total of 12 books.

9: Have you met Stephen King before?

No, I haven’t met Mr. King. I know he’s a very popular, talented writer, but I think he might scare me…

10: Do you think my dad's book will be published?

I had a chance to read the first chapter of your dad’s book and he’s a very talented writer! (You should be proud of him!) I can see his book being published one day, but your dad can tell you it’s a tough, competitive business to enter. Fortunately, there also more options to help an author get his books into the hands of the readers!

11: If you were Rose, then what would be your 3 wishes be?

If I had three wishes, they would not be for myself, as I believe there is good karma in wishing for good things for others. Now, if I was Princess Rose making the wishes, I think she’d wish for proper 5-star accommodations wherever the quest takes her, guaranteed safety along the way, and to find her compassion for others so they wouldn’t drive her so crazy when they are just being themselves (plus, a never ending supply of decadent desserts).

Thank you for these wonderful questions, David! I’m so pleased you enjoyed the first novel of The Dream Merchant Saga. Now, go have a great summer and keep on reading!

Thank you for doing the interview for my little boy. I am sure this will help him keep up a healthy love of reading. If you enjoyed this, look up Lorna Suzuki. She is a wonderful friend to have.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Interview with Michele Shaw

Today, we are going to introduce a good friend and colleague, Michele Shaw. Welcome, Michele. Congratulations on getting an agent. It couldn't have happened to a better person. Can you tell us how this all came about?

Thank you, Draven! I appreciate the chance to be here. I don’t know if there is a “typical” journey, but here is mine: 1. Attended a few conferences and pitched agents. 2. Won a writing fellowship in 2010. 3. Entered some contests, winning one and finishing well in another. 4. Started querying agents who I thought might be a fit. 5. Had some partial and full requests, plus my share of rejections. 6. Went through a rewrite after a revise/resub with one agent. 7. Sent out more queries. 8. Karen requested my full the day after I queried her, and a few emails plus one phone call later, I had an agent! We really meshed personality-wise and I immediately felt comfortable with her, which is important to me.

Sounds like you really hit it off. Reading a bit about your book, it sounds like the type of creepy thrillers I love. What inspired you to write this book?

It came from a combination of things. I’ve always been very interested in true crime. For a time, that was all I read. I drew elements from situations I had read about, added my spin, mixed it with a romance, and came out with my book!

Can you tell everyone just a little about Scatter?

It falls under the umbrella of YA Romantic Suspense and is about a girl’s journey to stay hidden while taking a chance on all she’s missed out on in her life. She’s a teenager trying to find herself when she can’t even tell anyone her real name, and she has to calculate every move she makes.

That sounds like a really good movie. Have you thought about writing a screenplay for this book?

I really hadn’t thought about doing a screenplay, though I do think it could be a great movie. A lot of YA books are being optioned for movies right now, but so few ever make it to the screen.

When you write your books, do you ever try to address issues you want people to discuss? If so, what issues do you want people to talk / think about?

I really don’t set out to write “issue oriented” stories, although some might be considered that. I do pour emotions, thoughts, and feelings into my characters that I want people to feel. But, I want them to be entertained, forgetting their own cares for a few hours as well. My life has been so joyful in the time I’ve spent in someone else’s world, meeting their characters, and being a part of their story. Whether I’ve laughed, cried, or shivered, it’s always exciting. That’s what I’m hoping to give my readers.

What kind of day job does a writer like you have? Has anything in your real life filtered through to your work?

Right now I have two jobs: full-time mom and full-time writer. I used to be a social worker, which put me in daily contact with so many interesting people. They had problems, some of them quite severe, and this has definitely trickled into character traits, reactions, and knowledge about the desperation in some people’s lives. My eyes are open to situations I didn’t experience in my personal life.

Could you tell us about some of these 'situations.'

Well, I couldn’t relay specific situations, but I can say that many people live on the edge of or directly in things that others may not realize when they pass them on the street. Things like homelessness, abuse in all forms, mental and physical disabilities, severe family dysfunction, reorienting after incarceration, deadly drug and alcohol addiction, the list goes on and on. Usually, it’s not one, but a combination of several of these factors they face, and their day to day survival is stressful. I met some amazing adults and children as well.

Going off subject, I like to ask what people would change about today's education system. What would you like to see changed?

Ah, so many things. If I had to pick one, I’d say I’m quite passionate about school libraries. The cuts being made in them is an outrage. I volunteer in an elementary library, and it is vital for so many students. Our librarian was cut, then suddenly reinstated, but year to year we don’t know what will happen. She has no money to purchase new books. There have been cuts in the RIF (Reading Is Fundamental) program, and some children have no personal books other than what they receive from RIF. Many of their parents don’t take them to the public library, so without school libraries, where will we be?

That is a good question. Do you see any future school libraries that deal with ebooks?

It’s a possibility, but the schools have to have funds to afford the technology. I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

What are you writing now, aside from edits?

I’ve been working on two other books, another YA romantic suspense, and a YA paranormal. I have a YA horror idea on the back burner, waiting until I have more time. (Tell me, when does that happen? I’m still waiting for more hours in a day to come around.) I’ve also started on an idea for an MG (middle grade) book with a male mc. I write poetry for fun. It’s what I do when I need a break.

Could you leave us with a short poem?

Here is a poem:


Ashes blow
Catching flimsy waves
Willowed and feathered
Floating into the never

Gone is the glow
No spark saves
Charred and weathered
Waiting now and forever

Echoes carry in the plume
A last fleck of singed giving
Wafting away in lies
Fueled by self and more of the same
Heated promises, soiled in fume
A half beat from living
A failed hand dies
Fire out, end game

Monday, July 4, 2011

Horror News Net

Horror News Net is a great resource for reviews, good or bad. They have a stable of people who review movies, books, comic books, and all things horror. If the book or movie is bad, they'll let you know. Also, they have over 30k followers of Twitter alone.

That's why it was an honor to be reviewed by them, if not a little scary. I'm not sure if I've seen an unpublished book get reviewed before, but they agreed to read my novel. After chewing my nails down to a nub, I'm pleased to show you the review they posted about Bullets 'Til Midnight.

You can find it here.

I hope everyone had a great Independence Day.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Born Again, by Andrew Mocete

A vampire who leaves his clan was a fool and in my case, one who leaves because he’s fallen in love with a human was a fool with a death wish. That was the kind of fool I was, and that’s what I intended to do that summer night.

I sat on a blanket in my favorite spot of my favorite park. My favorite spot because it gave me an excellent view of the Brooklyn Bridge against the Manhattan skyline. My favorite park because the humans who came here relaxed me. This was the root of my “problem”. The only way humans should relax vampires was with their blood. But watching them interact with one another, hearing the gleeful laughter of their children, how could I hate this species? They reminded me of my own.

Her eyes brightened when she saw me and I must admit, the urge to run to her almost overtook me. But tonight’s escape was sponsored by the word inconspicuous. No one, from my parents to closest friends, knew where I was.

As she bent towards my lips, the gentle wind brushed her hair against my cheek. Blood rushed to a good place. She sat next to me and took my hand. “You know in my people’s culture it’s customary to look happy when you see your girlfriend.”

I turned to her and forced a smile.

She caressed my cheek. “We’ve got each other. Isn’t that what you told me?”

“Well, it’s a different story when you reach the actual day.”

“It doesn’t have to be forever. Maybe after some time your family—”

“It’s forever.” It came out direct. Maybe a little too strong. “Sorry. I don’t want to sound like I’m regretting this.”

“Room for one more?”

I froze at the sound of Franco’s voice. Any other time I wouldn’t be scared of my childhood friend.

“Ryan, what the hell are you doing? I originally planned to watch you a bit longer, but I couldn’t wait. It sounds to me like you’re planning to run away,” he looked at our clasped hands, “with a human.” I recognized no part of my friend in his face or tone. He was thoroughly disgusted with me.

“Her name is Angela.” All concentration went to staying calm. If I tried to run, Franco would see my body language before the thought reached my brain. For now, we were trapped. He knew this and leaned back, steadying himself with his hands.

“That’s nice, you named her. But you still haven’t answered my question.”

“How did you find us?”

He rolled his eyes. “Please. I’ve known about your little rendezvous for quite some time. And before you ask, no, I’ve told know one else. My stealthy skills are the opposite of yours.”


“So glad you asked, my friend! A word, please. In private.”

“Wait here,” I said to Angela, never breaking eye contact with Franco.

After we’d gone a few feet he stopped me. “This is good. Wouldn’t want to leave your human unattended. It might run off if you’re not watching.” I had to try. He looked around as if under attack. “Plus this appears to be the most human free area.”

He placed his hands on my shoulders causing me to tense until I saw a more familiar face. He was concerned. “I’m really trying to understand. You’ve been coming here for months, spending time with that human.” The word “human” seemed to leave a bad taste in his mouth. “I’ve watched you laugh with her. Hold hands with her. Embrace and kiss her. I guess I always knew what I was seeing, but I kept telling myself you must be doing some kind of bizarre research on the enemy. Is running away from your kin part of that too?”

No sense sugarcoating it. Not for Franco. “I love her.”

He stepped back, grimacing, like I’d released poison in the air. I let him process and hoped.

“No. You. Don’t,” he finally said.

“I’m not asking you to understand.”

“So just like that. Poof and Ryan is gone. I guess I don’t deserve an explanation.”

“Oh I tried and you made your position on the matter perfectly clear.” His perplexed expression showed me all my clues were missed. “What did you say about the humans when I dared to suggest they might not be as bad as we’ve been told?”

A spark of recognition, but he wouldn’t answer me.

“You called them vermin. No better than the dirt beneath our feet. And anyone who thought otherwise was a fool.”

“Yeah,” and then with more confidence, “I did and was right. But I missed your cry for help and that’s my fault. I should’ve stopped this sooner.” His eyes left mine for half a second. “Better late than never.”

By the time I turned, he’d grabbed Angela off the blanket and stood behind her with an arm around her shoulders. His face, inches from her neck. I was scared, but a new, stronger emotion brewed inside. “You really need to let go of my girl.”

“Because you’ll do what exactly? I’ve had the same training as you and you wouldn’t have passed without me. I’m not surprised I have to bail you out again.”

“Stop thinking whatever you’re thinking right now.”

“I’m going to kill your human. A quick twist of the neck and it’ll be over. Then you’ll come home with me and forget this nonsense. I won’t hold any of it over your head. You’re just . . . confused.”

I didn’t hear much beyond “kill” and the racing thumps of Angela’s heartbeat. My speed equaled Franco’s, but it still wouldn’t be fast enough to save her. I had to talk him into letting her go.

Before I spoke, Angela stomped Franco’s foot with everything she had. He laughed, looking down. “Did you really—”

My fist sent him airborne. He sailed twenty feet and did another ten across the park grounds. He’d have taken Angela with him if I hadn’t held onto her.

People screamed. Parents grabbed their kids and ran. Someone was dialing 911, no doubt.

I pressed my lips into Angela’s and savored the moment as it might be my last with her. She resisted when I pulled away because of what I was about to say.

“Plan B.”

“No. Just come with me.”

Franco was up, brushing dirt and grass off himself. “If I don’t finish this, he’ll find us again. I’ll be there, I promise. Go.”

She looked at the exit, then back at me and clutched my arm.

I ripped it away. “If you stay, I’ll be killed and it’ll be your fault because I was worrying about you. Is that what you want?”

That one cut a little deep. There were tears, but her safety trumped hurt feelings. As long as I lived, I’d spend the rest of our lives making up for it.

“I’ll kill you if you die.” A quick kiss and she joined the rest of the fleeing people.

Franco had disappeared. The imprint and drag marks in the grass were the only signs he’d been there. To assume he fled was wishful thinking. He also wouldn’t go after Angela. She was nothing to him, but me? I just chose her over my best friend. His pride needed to be repaired.

“I’m sorry I hit you.” I figured he was within earshot. “I don’t blame you if you never want to speak to me again. Like I said, I don’t expect you to understand. Just let me go and you’ll never see me again.”

“Not good enough.”

Mist suddenly appeared and materialized into Franco inches in front of me. He was halfway through a punch headed for my gut. I instinctively dropped my arms to block, but was too slow and only got part of my palm there in time. It absorbed some of the blow, but I still went down gasping for air. If I’d gotten it full force I wondered if I’d have been gasping at all.

“You think this is just about me?” Franco paced around me. “Have you thought about anyone but yourself? Obviously not.” He kicked me in the same spot he hit, flipping me on my back.

“Do you know what will happen to your parents when word gets out you’ve run off with a human? Your instructors? Your failure is their failure. And what about me? What will people say about your closet confidant? You’ve forced me to kill you, but not even that will quell what you’ve started.” Then he crouched and spoke soothingly like a doctor at his patient’s death bed. “The human. She will have to be sacrificed. I’m truly sorry it’s come to this my friend.”

And then I saw the Franco Grin. The equivalent of crossing one’s fingers. It was his tell, so slight, no one knew it existed but me. He planned to torture Angela. “If I ever got a human alone . . .” was the beginning of many conversations. Some nights I’d tell him it was too much. I guess I always chalked it up to tough guy talk, but now I knew differently.

Was this how little he thought of his “closet confidant”? The moment I went against him, he’d destroy me and everything I loved? Was I just his lackey and friend by default? The thought of this betrayal would hurt, but right now, I was enraged.

I lunged, fangs bared, surprising Franco with my speed. He shielded his throat in time, but that simply meant I bit into his forearm instead. Lucky for him.

The momentum flipped us, putting me on top of him and I held on to his arm. Blood was everywhere. On my face, his chest and running down his arm. He fought back, throwing wild punches I deflected, but each one was harder to do. Instead of blocking his next punch, I caught his fist and pressed until I felt bones breaking. The approaching police sirens broke through my rage and I released Franco.

He scrambled away from me trying to become mist and failing like a beginner. He wouldn’t take his terrified eyes off me. It was strange to see my friend scared of me. I didn’t know anything about me could be scary.

“I’m not going to kill you Franco. I wanted to, but the moment’s passed.”

With the threat of death gone, his swagger returned. “You’ll be sorry,” He held up his injured hand and arm. “These will heal and I’ll be back with the entire clan.”

“I expect nothing less.”

Franco wasn’t prepared for that response and it showed.

“Maybe as little as a minute ago, the thought of the clan after me would be terrifying. Thanks to you, it’s not. We may share genetic similarities, but I now know I’m not like you. Never was.”

“Of course you’re like me and your human would agree if she saw what you did.”

I charged, watching the fear overtake Franco once again and stopped a few steps in front of him. He froze, unsure of what I’d do next.

“Remember the face you just saw because you’ll see it again if the clan comes after me. Yes, I’m sure to be killed, but I promise you’ll be dead before me. I’d rather die being who I am than live long as a fake. Decide what you’re ready for while you heal.”

Franco said something, but I’d already turned my back on him and my old life.


***You can find more about Andrew Mocete here.