About Jessica

Author, editor, EMT. All comments/questions/etc should be directed to jessica@jessicameigs.com.

The Becoming: Brothers in Arms FREE Today and Tomorrow!

Yes, you read that right! You can pick up The Becoming: Brothers in Arms for FREE on Amazon.com today and tomorrow only! This novella is an addition to the trilogy being published by Permuted Press and can be read either before or after The Becoming. It doesn’t contain any spoilers for The Becoming or The Becoming: Ground Zero, which releases in July 20120.

You can pick up your copy of The Becoming: Brothers in Arms right here!

The Month of Permuted: Round Five with William Todd Rose!

We’re up into our second week of the Month of Permuted promotion, and today’s guest star is William Todd Rose, author of the very excellent Seven Habits of Highly Infective People. I grabbed this up and read it the day it came out, and I thought it was excellent; definitely a must-read for fans of the zombie genre!

Without further ado, let me introduce you to William Todd Rose!

My readers might not be familiar with you. Can you tell them about yourself? What do you like to do when you’re not telling stories about the cannibalistic undead?

Well, I’m the author of six books and numerous short stories, which have appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Last year, I was fortunate enough to have The Google+ Insider’s Guide name me as one of their top 32 authors to follow and I’m currently living in Parkersburg, West Virginia, with my wife, son, and an orange cat. When I’m not writing, I like pursuing a variety of interests. I create digital music under the moniker Dead Hooker Scenario, I’ve designed 3D art and women’s accessories in Second Life and for a while was the Western Hemisphere PR manager for a virtual club called Re:Noize. I also like playing around with digital art and web design as well as hiking and camping. I have a passion for all things science with a particular interest in astronomy and on a clear night can often be found gazing at the universe through one of my telescopes. I lead a rather quiet life, which is pretty much how I like it.

How did you decide that the horror genre was the ideal genre for you? Have you written in other genres? Which ones? If not, is it something you would consider doing?

To be perfectly honest, I’ve purposefully tried to distance myself from any one particular genre. The closest I’ve actually come is describing myself as either a dark fiction or speculative fiction author. Which isn’t meant as a jab to the horror genre in any way; horror fiction is what initially ignited that spark within me, the one which made me want to sit down and make up my own stories, and it holds a special place in my heart. But there’s a lot of room in my imagination for many different worlds as well. I’ve also written sci-fi, cyberpunk, transgressive fiction, non-genre pieces, and works which try to blend different genres into a single tale.

I first heard of you via your recent release with Permuted Press, The Seven Habits of Highly Infective People, which quite frankly fascinated me with its concept. My blog visitors, however, might not yet be familiar with the book. Can you tell them what it’s about?

The story is about a mystic-minded slacker named Bosley Coughlin who inadvertently opens a portal called The Eye of Aeons through experimentation with drugs and the occult. The Eye is basically an interdimensional portal which spontaneously pulls his consciousness through and allows him to take up temporary residence inside a host. On one of these journeys he shares the mind of a fourteen year old girl named Ocean. Ocean lives in a not-too-distant future where an undead uprising and food wars have driven mankind to the brink of extinction and these wastelands are the only home she’s ever known. Back in the present, Bosley stumbled across a shop girl named Clarice Hudson and realizes she’s displaying the seven symptoms of the contagion which paves the way for Ocean’s harsh world. Having formed an emotional connection with this little girl, he delves into morally gray areas in an attempt to do whatever he can to stop the coming apocalypse and spare Ocean a lifetime of suffering and misery.

To say the zombie apocalypse genre is getting pretty popular is an understatement. That said, what do you feel sets The Seven Habits of Highly Infective People apart from the crowd?

Well, there’s the time travel element. I’m not sure if it’s been combined with the undead before, but it was integral to the story and actually helps shape Bosley’s personality, right down to the way he speaks. I also tried to obtain a subtle balance between mysticism and science. The contagion which creates the living dead is entirely biological, but it’s metaphysics which allows Bosley to travel through time. Another thing which I think is slightly different is that in Ocean’s world the people left alive really can’t be thought of as “survivors”. They’re more like refugees than anything else, doing whatever they can to simply stay alive while their bodies waste away from malnutrition. In fact, when the reader first meets Ocean, she’s trapping flies in her mouth just to get a morsel of food.

I’ve also only recently realized that the book combines two camps familiar to fans of the undead genre. In Bosley’s timeline, we have “the infected”: people riddled with a disease that makes them incapable of controlling their own actions. But that’s just one stage of a tenacious contagion. The second stage occurs when the host organism, in this case people, dies. The evolution of the disease then creates the true living dead, the rotters who stalk Ocean’s timeline.

On that note, I should also put out there that this isn’t a straight up tale of zombie survival. While they definitely play an important role in the story, they’re not the real focus. They’re an element of the future just as trees and buildings are elements of our present. Because of this, a reader will be disappointed if they expect a rotter attack every few chapters. At the same time, I don’t want people to get the wrong idea. There’s still action and suspense in the novel and the zombies/infected play a vital role in the plot. But there’s also a lot of human on human conflict. That being said, the undead will play a stronger role as the series progresses; but for the first book I wanted the reader to really understand the characters and what motivates them to do the things they do.

Is there a particular author or book that you find influential or inspirational? Who are your favorite authors or, barring that, what are your favorite books?

One of my all-time favorite reads is Neuromancer by William Gibson. I can’t even begin to guess how many times I’ve read that novel (or how many copies I’ve burned through). The Coming Plague by Laurie Garrett is another book that really had an impact on me. It’s subtitled Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance and is basically a fifty year history of mankind’s battle against the microbes. Marburg, Ebola, various hemorrhagic fevers… it covers some pretty brutal and scary diseases which are made all that more horrifying because you know it’s real.

I have a lot of writers who follow my blog, so I sometimes ask writing-related questions. What do you feel are the most difficult aspects of writing a novel? What advice would you give to those who want to publish in the genre?

Personally, the most difficult part for me is deciding which story to focus on. I usually have several different projects going on simultaneously, with other ideas tucked into the back of my head as well; there’s simply not enough time to write all the stories I’d like to tell. Once I’ve ended a novel, it’s also hard for me to just leave the characters behind. I’ve got sequel and series ideas for everything I’ve published to date, but I have to be realistic… if I’m doing nothing more than continually revisiting worlds I’ve already created, I’d never get anything new accomplished. So I have to decide which worlds I really want to explore more in depth and push the other ones aside.

For those who want to publish in the genre, the advice I would give is to be true to your own voice. Shadow of the Woodpile, in all honesty, is probably my least favorite thing I’ve written. I like the story idea and I can see aspects of my personal style struggling to emerge, but I was purposefully trying to write in a stream of consciousness, Beat fashion. As a result, I think it turned out a little overwritten. Your work will always be stronger if you stay true to that distinctive voice in your head instead of trying to emulate someone else’s technique.

How do you market your work? What avenues have you found that work best for not only marketing in general but for the horror genre in particular?

I am a firm believer in Free. I try at all times to have at least one novella that can be downloaded at no charge for both new and existing fans. My first two books didn’t really garner much attention when they were published. I got some scattered reviews, but for the most part people simply didn’t know they were out there. Once I released Sex in the Time of Zombies as a freebie, however, things changed. It ended up being downloaded thousands of times from something like 46 countries around the world, and that was just the downloads I was able to track. People who read and liked it then sought me, and my other works out, which is when I saw sales for the older books pick up. By the time Sex was picked up by Living Dead Press, I realized the importance of having a freebie and made sure I had something ready to take its place.

As for the horror genre in particular, conventions are an excellent avenue for networking. There’s a good chance you’ll probably lose money on a con, with travel expenses, vendor fees, and what have you; but I really think it’s a great marketing tool. It puts an author face to face with the public and allows them to talk about their work and any questions a potential reader may have. It gets the book physically in their hands, which is a basic sales technique for any product. However, the contacts you make aren’t limited to just readers. Other authors and publishing houses also attend these things and it’s common to walk around the vendor tables to check out other people’s wares. I actually met Jacob from Permuted Press at a convention in 2010, where I was debuting the self published first edition of The Seven Habits. About a month later, I received an email from him asking if he could see the manuscript. So even though it cost me a lot more to attend the con than what I made back, it was an invaluable experience.

Besides Seven Habits, do you have any other works available for purchase? If so, can you tell us about them?

Well, there’s aforementioned Shadow of the Woodpile. It’s a novella in which I tried to combine the narrative style of 50s Beat writers like Jack Kerouac and William S Burroughs with the horror genre, ending up with what I personally feel were mixed results. That was followed by a short novel called Cry Havoc. This one is set during a worldwide paradigm shift that basically obliterates a person’s moral compass, devolving humanity into creatures who exist purely to satisfy their most base desires. Shut the Fuck Up and Die!, my next book, was my tribute to the shock films I grew up on with my own little twist. That one is my most graphic book to date and I’ve actually had some readers tell me they can’t get past the first chapter because it makes them too squeamish.

In the zombie realm, I’ve got a collection of short stories through Living Dead Press called Sex in the Time of Zombies, which is kind of a study in various aspects of sexuality viewed through the lens of an undead apocalypse. They’re laid out chronologically, taking you from the first day of the uprising to point far in the future. Through Twisted Library Press, I’ve also published another zombie novel entitled The Dead and Dying. This one starts off with the main character slowly bleeding to death in a small shack with no hopes of survival. Called to his deathbed are the spirits of two people who played vital roles in his life after the fall: a woman with whom he’d found love in an uncaring world and a small child who hates the main character so fiercely that not even death can satisfy his thirst for revenge. For those who like their apocalypses zombie-free, I also have Apocalyptic Organ Grinder available. This novella takes place 150 years after the Gabriel Virus was unleashed upon the world by religious fanatics and pits two disparate cultures against one another. There’s the Settlers (derogatorily known as Clear Skins) who live in burgeoning communities and try to rebuild the world they lost; and then there’s The People (derogatorily known as Spewers). The People are genetic carriers of the Gabriel Virus and, as such, cannot be killed by it. They live in forest clans and Lila, one of the main characters, is a tribal huntress. The other main character, Tanner Kline, holds a job within his community known as a Sweeper. The responsibility of a Sweeper is in patrolling the forests and killing any Spewers he finds, thus keeping his settlement safe from infection. This one is a fan freebie and can be picked up over on Smashwords at no cost.

What are you currently working on right now?

Right now I’m working on The Dead Trap, which is book two in the series that began with The Seven Habits. I’m also working on a dark, pyschosexual fairytale for adults called Pennyweight which follows the adventures of a girl born with the flesh of an antique doll and her surgically modified rat.

What can we expect to see next from you?

That’s a good question. There’s a chance it might be my sci-fi/dystopian novel Agent Meat. Or it could be Pennyweight or The Dead Trap. We’ll just have to see which one I finish first.

And lastly, where can readers find you online?

www.williamtoddrose.com is a good place to start. But I’m also on Facebook and occasionally maintain a blog called Six Demon Bag.

Thanks for taking the time out of your busy writing schedule to chat with us, William!

You can check out William’s Amazon author page, where it lists all of his currently available works, right here.

The Month of Permuted: Round Four with David Houchins!

Today, we continue with the Month of Permuted fest here on my site, and as part of that, I present to you David Houchins, one of the two-member writing team (alongside Scot Thomas) to bring you Zombie Apocalypse Preparation: How to Survive in an Undead World and Have Fun Doing It!.

I rather like the whole concept of a guide to the zombie apocalypse, and while I enjoyed Max Brooks’ Zombie Survival Guide, it was missing a certain element that to keep my attention for longer than a few minutes at a time: humor. Any guide that starts off with references to genetically altered pigs and bacon is pretty tops on my list too!

My readers might not be very familiar with you. Can you take a few moments to tell them about yourself? What do you do when you’re not writing?

I’d have to say that my best known quasi-regular work would be on our facebook page Zombie Apocalypse Preparation. I’m known as the Practical admin, while the other writers cover humorous (Non-Practical) and tactical (ZAP-Tac) informational bits. We’re all aimed at being funny and informative at the same time, which is where the whole idea for our book came from. Aside from my contributions there, I work the boring 9-5, throw some discs on the weekends, and yell random nonsense from my windows at anyone passing by. I’m just trying to keep everyone on their toes.

How did you decide that the horror genre was the ideal genre for you? Have you written in other genres? Which ones? If not, is it something you would consider doing?

Well, this is my first book, and it’s more in the humor and/or parody genre, but it won’t be the last guide and I don’t plan on personally stopping with that particular format. I want to do more in the horror fiction area, and I have a few ideas that I think could develop into a truly great story. We’ll just have to see what happens down the road.

I first heard of you via your recent release with Permuted Press, Zombie Apocalypse Preparation: How to Survive in an Undead World and Have Fun Doing It!, but my blog visitors might not yet be familiar with the book. Can you tell them what it’s about?

Well I think the title kind of gives it all away, really. It isn’t for everyone, but it should be. I mean, to my mind, the one thing these books never talk about is the necessity to bolster to human spirit and that is where laughter is the best medicine. Granted, some people may not find humor in the idea of nailing a zombie’s feet to a plank of wood and trying to forcibly remove its head with a baseball bat in the name of competition, but it’s amusing to me. Seriously, the undead aren’t serving any useful significant purpose, so why not use them as a means of entertainment. People are known to find amusement and enjoyment from reality TV; this is just like that, only interactive. Think of the reality television shows of today as Beta testing. You’ve already set the framework, and that’s where our book comes in handy. All the things you should be doing, but never thought of, we can guide you.

There are quite a few zombie survival guides out there. What do you think sets Zombie Apocalypse Preparation apart from all the other books in the subgenre of zombie lit?

We cover all the basics of survival. Gear, bags, personal care, stealth, weapons, protection, all the good and simple basic stuff. What we provide that others don’t or can’t, is laughter and nourishment of the human spirit. Or homicidal tendencies, one or the other. Possibly both. I’d like to think that once you read this book, you’ll know why it was needed and that it has its own place apart from any other.

Is there a particular author or book that you find influential or inspirational? Who are your favorite authors or, barring that, what are your favorite books?

My mother used to read to me when I was young, and it probably continued until well beyond a healthy age, but she would read Stephen King to me, and there were nights when I wouldn’t sleep, but it drew me in. I have read just about everything he’s put out enough times to warrant buying a new copy and some people say he’s too wordy, well yes, he’s an author. Why else do you read? Aside from King, I’m a huge fan of Tim Robbins, I liked Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series a lot, and the Dragonlance series. I’m also a Star Wars geek, and yes, I read those books as well. Most recently, I’ve discovered some new folks, notably Peter Clines, who drew me in with the Ex books, and Craig DiLouie’s works. I keep re-reading Ex-Heroes, Ex-Patriots, Tooth and Nail, and The Infection lately. Of course, now that you’ve asked this, I’m probably going to break out the Dark Tower series again.

I have a lot of writers who follow my blog, so I occasionally ask writing-related questions. That said, what do you feel are the most difficult aspects of writing? And what advice would you give those who want to publish in the genre?

I haven’t encountered much in the way of difficulty when putting together our work. The most difficult part is trying to keep everything at the same tone and pace. It’s easy to allow outside influences dictate your writing style in subtle ways. Trying to describe something simple can turn into a hate-filled rant pretty easily if you don’t keep an eye on yourself.

You co-wrote the book with Scot Thomas. What was it like working with a co-writer? What sort of process did you use? And is it something you would recommend to other writers and would do again?

Well the main problem was distance. I was in Colorado, he was in Texas, and we couldn’t sit down and hash out an idea for a chapter or section, it was pretty much sending emails back and forth saying “This is what I got” and then cobbling it together. It’s a big mishmash of ugly, but it can turn out beautifully. We’ll be working on the second guide together, for certain. I can say though, that I can’t possibly see it working for everyone, but if you each recognize each other’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to painting the literary picture, you can put out some awesome material.

How do you market your work? What avenues have you found that work best for not only marketing in general but for the horror genre in particular?

For the present time, we’re utilizing what’s gained us 64,000 followers on facebook, which is putting out good material, relying on word of mouth, and spamming our link like it’s dirty dirty email. I’m currently considering the mad-scientist route of abducting people and replacing their hands with laminated copies of the book, but I’m a bit busy this weekend, so I’ll have to see when I can make time for that.

Besides Zombie Apocalypse Preparation, do you have any other works available for purchase? If so, can you tell us about them?

Nothing published, but you can find us on facebook.

What are you currently working on right now?

Working title: Zombie Apocalypse Preparation 2: The Indepthitude. Pretty much everything we forgot to put in the first book, or have thought of since. It’s like an expansion pack of evil/awesome.

What can we expect to see next from you?

A “leaked” celebrity sex tape. Also, depending on how our sales go, it’s possible you’ll be able to see me on the news having torn up a hotel room, killed a hooker, and will be engaged in a standoff with local and state police. I’ll be known as “an unidentified white male, heavily armed and only wearing an eyepatch, likely high on drugs.”

And lastly, where can readers find you online?

Probably on the Playstation network playing MW3, but work-wise, we post daily at facebook.com/ZombieApocalypsePreparation and we can be found at www.ZombieApocalypsePreparation.com, which is still being properly constructed.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, David!

You can check out David’s Amazon author page, where all of his currently available works are listed right here.

The Month of Permuted: Round Three with Bryan Hall!

So I’m an absolute ditz who somehow managed to miss that this post hadn’t auto-posted on Friday like I’d scheduled it to. This is unfortunate, but sadly, technology sometimes has a mind of its own. That said, here’s the interview that should have posted on Friday but didn’t.

Today’s interview is with Permuted Press author Bryan Hall, whose novel Containment Room 7 just came out at the beginning of December. I have had the unfortunate displeasure of not having had the time to read the book yet, but considering I once read it being compared (favorably) to Dead Space, it’s definitely high up on my TBR list!

My readers might not be very familiar with you. Can you take a few minutes to tell them a little about yourself? What do you do when you’re not writing?

I’m pretty much always writing, as it turns out. My day job is freelance nonfiction writing, so when that’s over the fiction starts up. Other than that, I keep honeybees, play way too many video games, and hang out with my family.

How did you decide that the horror genre was the ideal genre for you? Have you written other genres? Which ones? If not, is it something you would consider?

They say write what you know, and I like to think I know horror. Thanks to my lenient upbringing, I started watching horror flicks as early as I can remember and was reading Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Clive Barker in around the fifth or sixth grade. I have a few short stories that fall more into the thriller category, and more on the way.

I discovered you through the Permuted Press novel Containment Room 7, but my readers might not be familiar yet with the novel. Can you tell them what it’s about?

Containment Room 7 is a sci-fi horror novel focused on a spacecraft that loads up an organic object they find near a black hole. That sets off a chain of events that ends up with a portion of the crew being driven insane by whispering voices telling them to worship the thing they found, and even killing in its name. The object itself starts to evolve into something terrifying as the dead crew members and various failed genetic experiments return to life.

What do you think sets Containment Room 7 apart from other novels in its genre?

A few things. The obvious one is that it’s got zombies, but not in the usual post-apocalyptic landscape. There’s no virus, either – the dead are rising because of the thing in containment room 7. Add in some pseudo-religious undertones, a murderous cult, and genetic experiments that are as grotesque as any zombie could hope to be, and I think it’s really something unique.

Is there a particular author or book that you find influential or inspirational? Who are your favorite authors or, barring that, what are your favorite books?

My biggest influences are honestly comic writers like Garth Ennis and Alan Moore. Their stories – especially Preacher, Hellblazer, and Swamp Thing, are astounding. For traditional fiction, I love Jack Ketchum, Brian Keene, Joe Mckinney, and older Clive Barker.

I have a lot of writers who follow my blog. What do you feel are the most difficult aspects of writing? And what advice would you give those who want to publish in the genre?

The most difficult aspect of writing is finishing what you start, for me at least. Those doubts about the quality of what you’re working on, that allure of the story that’s slowly hatching in your mind, and all those non-writing related activities can really pull me away from what I’m doing so I have to keep myself focused on the end. As for getting published in the genre, the best advice I could give is to seek out criticism. Don’t stick with just sending your manuscript to friends (online or off) or family that are just going to pat you on the back and tell you how great you are. You need to get honest criticism and learn to use it instead of taking it personally.

How do you market your work? What avenues have you found that work best for not only marketing in general but for the horror genre in particular?

Writing’s the easy part – marketing is tough. I’ve tried lots of stuff – social media, free giveaways, regular posts to the blog – anything I can. I can’t say what works the absolute best, because it seems like it’s something different for everyone. I can say that in my opinion just constantly posting a daily – or even worse, hourly – “BUY MY BOOK!” post on your Facebook or Twitter account doesn’t seem to do much other than drive away followers who feel they’re getting spammed.

Besides Containment Room 7, what other works do you have available right now? Can you tell us a little about them?

The only other thing out right this second is a collection of fourteen of my short stories titled “Whispers From the Dark”. I sold a lot of short stories before the novel, and once I got the rights back to some of my favorites I wrapped them all up and put them out in it. No zombies in that one, or vampires. Lots of other creepy stuff, though, and really cheap, too!

What are you currently working on right now?

I’m working on a novel about schizophrenia, ghosts, and the breakdown of families. I have a family member with severe schizophrenia, and every conversation I’ve ever had with him has influenced where this one’s going. It’s something really different. Along with that, there’s a much larger project I’m getting going.

What can we expect to see next from you?

There are two things in the hands of publishers right now, hopefully starting to move towards release. The first is a novel about an outbreak of demonic possession in a small town. The other is a southern gothic ghost story, and it’s that larger project I just mentioned. This first story is a novella and is the first in a series using a particular character I really like. I’m going to put the poor guy through hell over the course of the series, though.

And lastly, where can readers find you online?

Three places. On my website/blog at www.bryanhallfiction.com for starters, but in addition to that, I’m also lurking around on Facebook right here and Google + right here.

Thanks for taking the time to talk with my readers, Bryan!

You can check out Bryan’s author page over at Amazon, where it lists all of his currently available works, right here.

The Month of Permuted: Round Two with Steven Pajak!

When I was self-publishing my novellas, I came across a book called Mad Swine on Amazon but never purchased it. I’m not sure why–it might have had something to do with the massive size of my TBR list (which is, incidentally, still massive). My loss, but it ended up being your gain: Mad Swine was picked up by Permuted Press for publication, and its author Steven Pajak joined the growing horde of Permuted authors. I was given the chance to read a pre-release copy of Mad Swine: The Beginning and thoroughly enjoyed it. It hit the shelves at the end of February, and I highly recommend everyone go pick it up!

Steven was kind enough to agree to an interview here on my site, so take a little time to get to know him and pick up Mad Swine: The Beginning at an e-Retailer near you!

My readers may not be familiar with you or your work. Could you take a few moments to tell them a little about yourself? What do you do when you’re not writing?

Sure. I was born and raised in Chicago but spent a year in a small town of Wartrace, Tennessee when I was 18 and then spent a couple of years in Dallas, Texas in my early twenties. I am an administrator at one of our state universities. When I’m not writing I do a lot of reading, I watch television, and toy with my watch collection. I love camping, fishing and shooting, as well as spending time with my two kids.

How did you decide that the horror genre was the ideal genre for you to write in? Are you going to be an exclusively horror author, or would you consider branching out to other genres? If so, which ones?

I am definitely not exclusively a horror author. My first two novels were both suspense/thrillers. I have a tendency to write cross-genre stuff, too, that blend suspense, romance, comedy, and horror all into one. One of my future projects is a contemporary romance…but you didn’t hear that from me.

My readers may not be familiar with your work, Mad Swine: The Beginning. Could you tell them a little of what it is about?

The book follows Matt Danzig, an administrator at a university, as he tries to locate his family and make it home in the early stages of the zombie outbreak. Matt gets in and out of some scrapes along the way and finally reaches his home, a small gated community where he organizes the residents as they begin their fight to survive the initial stages of the outbreak. Things happen pretty rapidly and the entire book covers just the first week of the outbreak.

What do you think sets Mad Swine apart from other novels in the post-apocalyptic/zombie horror genre?

I think that Mad Swine is a fairly realistic book–except for the zombie outbreak. The characters aren’t doing any crazy, fantastic, or extraordinary things. I think another thing that sets Mad Swine apart is the fact that the story focuses more on the characters and their survival than the outbreak, the reasons for the outbreak, or a search for a cure. The characters don’t really care about all that. They just want to survive.

Is there a particular author or book that you find influential or inspirational? Who are your favorite authors or, barring that, what are your favorite books?

My favorite authors include Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Richard Matheson, and too many others to name. A few of my favorite books: The Stand by Stephen King; Watchers by Dean Koontz; The Beardless Warriors by Richard Matheson.

I understand that Mad Swine was previously self-published. How did you get your deal with Permuted Press? What made you decide to accept the deal rather than keep the work in the self-published realm?

Yes, Mad Swine: The Beginning actually started its life as a weekly posting in one of the forums I frequented. I had just read Plague of the Dead by the late Z.A. Recht and decided I wanted to write a zombie book of my own. I also wanted to write it in such a way that each chapter would read like a television show and maybe leave you hanging, waiting for next week to see what happened. Posting in the forums seemed a great place for this sort of thing. Well, one thing led to another and I had many followers who kept telling me I could make this into a book. I took their advice and published Mad Swine on my own.

After I wrote Mad Swine I started reading zombie fiction. I hadn’t realized there was such a niche out there. I knew Mad Swine would be at least two, if not three books, so it was then I decided to start looking for a publisher. I honed in on Permuted right away. I waited patiently until they were open to submissions and I sent in the manuscript. It was actually rejected at first. Since the book was actually doing well, breaking in the top 100 Kindle categories in horror and action adventure on a weekly basis, I was happy that folks were reading it and took away some of the sting.

Several months later, I received an email from Jacob at Permuted asking if I would be interested in submitting the manuscript again, so I sent it in. Not only did they accept the manuscript this time, but also offered a contract on the sequel (which I was still writing). It was a tough decision then, as the book was selling well already on its own. But I ended up signing with Permuted because of the additional exposure my work would receive and I knew I would be in good company with some of the best zombie fiction authors out there.

What do you feel are the most difficult aspects of writing?

For me, time–or lack thereof–is one of the most difficult aspects of writing. Things have gotten so busy in my life that I find it difficult to actually schedule time to write. Also, finding a nice comfortable place to write can be difficult with two young kids having the run of the house. Another thing that I find difficult is outlining a project. For a long time I never worked with outlines, but I found that I NEED an outline. Then I spend so much time on the outline that I don’t get any actual writing done. Ugh!

How do you market your work? What avenues have you found that work best for marketing in the horror genre?

This is one area where I struggle. I have a facebook page and a twitter account. I post in forums sometimes. I have a blog. Friends and family help promote my work, as well. Other than that, I haven’t really done much else in the way of marketing. I am researching the subject and I am open to suggestions.

What are you currently working on right now?

Oh, boy. Right now I am actually working on three novels at once. I’m working on the third book in the Mad Swine series titled New Dawn. I’m also working on two suspense thrillers titled Sociopath and Actiev Shooter, respectively.

What can we expect to see next from you?

Mad Swine: Dead Winter will be the next thing you see from me. The manuscript was submitted in January and is with the editor at the moment. At the moment, it is tentatively scheduled for a November/December release, provided there are no major issues with the editing process.

And lastly, where can readers find you online?

Readers can find me at stevenpajak.com, facebook.com/StevenPajakAuthor, or on Twitter at @Steven_Pajak, although I have to admit I don’t tweet enough. Thanks!

Thank you for taking the time to let us get to know you, Steven!

All my readers who are interested in checking out Steven’s book Mad Swine or any of his other works can check out his Amazon author’s page right here.

The Month of Permuted: Round One with Peter Clines!

Yesterday, I announced the kick-off of the Month of Permuted here on my website, and to start the festivities off, I’m bringing you an interview with Peter Clines, the author of Ex-Heroes and Ex-Patriots, two very excellent offerings from Permuted Press that can be recapped in three simple words: superheroes vs. zombies. This isn’t your cringe-worthy “let’s turn beloved superheroes into zombies” kind of tale, though; instead, the Ex-books feature superheroes fighting the undead.

I first came across Clines when I read Ex-Heroes shortly after signing on to Permuted Press, and I instantly fell in love with his writing style and storyline. It’s earned him a place on my Recommended Authors list, and I’m thrilled that he’s taken the time to answer a few questions for you guys.

So let’s get the ball rolling, shall we?

Oh! And before I go on, let me add that if you stick with the interview, at the end, you’ll find the official unveiling of the cover of his next book 14, which is due out with Permuted Press in June!

Onwards with the interview!

So, Peter, can you take a few moments to tell my readers a bit about yourself? What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Eat. Sleep. Breathe. Fight crime and injustice from my subterranean lair. Most of the usual stuff people do when they’re not working. I read a lot. I love seeing well-written movies (and sometimes the horribly-written ones). There are a few television shows my lady and I love to watch, although this seems to be the year that most of our favorites are getting cancelled.

I run on the treadmill. I spend a good chunk of the day at my desk so I try to get in a fair amount of exercise, too. My carrot is that I’ve been watching all my Doctor Who episodes as I run, starting with the William Hartnell stuff back in the ’60s. I’m in the Tom Baker years now and I just started “The Hand of Fear” from 1976, Liz Sladen’s last story as a regular companion (Sarah Jane Smith). I had huge crushes on her and Louise Jameson when I was little.

I also have to admit I’m a miniature wargames geek and build and paint a lot of little toy soldiers, tanks, and scenery. I think it’s a good thing to exercise different creative muscles. If a bodybuilder does nothing but curls they’re going to end up kind of deformed. So I like doing stuff that’s about physical structure and color and aesthetics.

How did you decide that the horror genre was the ideal genre for you to write in? Have you written in other genres? If not, are you going to consider branching out to other genres, and which ones? If so, which genres have you already written in?

Ahhh! So many questions!

It wasn’t really an active decision to end up in the horror genre. To be honest, I was terrified of everything as a kid. I didn’t even like looking at the horror books my mom had on the shelves, because I knew there were awful, scary things in them. When I first started writing as a kid, most of my stuff was straight sci-fi or fantasy. It was what I was reading so it was what I copied. It’s a real loss to American literature that my early Boba Fett fan-fiction was destroyed when our garage flooded in tenth grade…

Over the years, though, things just got darker and had more of an evil twist to them. I think part of it was that, in the ’80s, if you wanted to do sci-fi or fantasy elements in the modern-day, real world, you did it with horror. “Urban fantasy” didn’t really exist yet. Fantasy set in the past or some alternate world was plain old sword and sorcery, but if you moved it to the present you got Evil Dead. Sci-fi in the future was sci-fi, but sci-fi set in the present became things like Deadly Friend or CHUD. A lot of Stephen King’s early stuff is grounded in sci-fi and so are Dean Koontz’s books, but they both became established as horror writers. Look at The Stand. The Stand starts out as a sci-fi, Andromeda Strain type story and then moves into classic good vs evil fantasy. So my idea of “horror” got tinged by a lot of that.

I’ve got two future ideas I’d like to do that each have a strong sci-fi element, although one’s also got an undeniable horror element, too. I think most stories aren’t just one thing or another. There’s always going to be threads of comedy or action or romance, and some full-on genre-crossing, too. It’s just about what you’re emphasizing.

I was introduced to your works through the Permuted Press novel Ex-Heroes. My readers, however, might not yet be familiar with the novel or its follow-up Ex-Patriots, which I personally find regrettable. Could you tell them a little about the series and what it is about?

Ex-Heroes is a pretty standard zombie apocalypse story about a group of survivors who’ve managed to make a decent sized base out of a film studio in the middle of Los Angeles. The twist is that a few of the survivors are superheroes. Or they used to be. Some have given up their identities, one’s lost his powers, one’s more or less become a benevolent dictator to make the harsh decisions that need to be made. Essentially, these are the heroes who failed to save the world and now they’re doing their best to save what’s left.

The second book, Ex-Patriots, was sort of a zombie standard. Our heroes survive on their own for so long and then…the military shows up. I see the military get the short end so often in zombie books and films, though. They’re all deserters at best, power-mad lunatics at worst. I just wanted to do a story where the Army shows up and they honestly want to help. If you’re in the military or got friends or family who serve, you know there’s going to be plenty of conflict just between the military and civilian ways of dealing with things–especially considering that, because of the heroes, the civilians are actually in a position of superior power. I’ve received several emails and notes from fans who are on active duty and they were all really pleased to see how I portrayed the Army and the individual soldiers, which made me feel really good.

What do you think sets Ex-Heroes and its sequel Ex-Patriots apart from other novels in the post-apocalyptic/zombie horror genre?

Mostly the names. I gave all the characters different names than the ones in other books.

Seriously, though, I think the big thing is the superheroes, of course. I know a few people (and big comic companies) have touched on the idea of super-powered beings in a zombie apocalypse, but I don’t think a lot of folks have seen the very straightforward idea of superheroes fighting zombies. Ex-Heroes is two very clear, distinct genres being crossed, and I think the simplicity of that appealed to a lot of people.

And I think part of it might be that I didn’t go too bleak. Things are bad, absolutely, but I like to think I leave the seeds of “we can fix this” in the Ex-books. I think that little bit of hope appeals to people. I love a good, grim ending as much as the next guy, but they do start to wear on you after a while, and they are the most common ending in the zombie-horror genre.

Is there a particular author or book that you find influential or inspirational? Who are your favorite authors or, barring that, what are your favorite books?

It’s always tough to name favorites. I think every writer reads and gets influenced by so many people. A little bit here, a little bit there. When I was a kid I read a lot of Alexander Key and Lloyd Alexander, and a ton of comics, of course. I love some of the classics. Edgar Rice Burroughs, Alexandre Dumas, and Nathaniel Hawthorne all jump to mind. Dan Abnett writes amazing military/siege scenes that get across the scale of the conflict while staying on a small, personal level. Neil Gaiman does an amazing job of taking mythology and folklore and using them to tell stories that strike us as “true” on a very basic, primal level. I love pretty much everything Ray Bradbury’s ever put on paper, and I’ve been lucky enough to meet him in person a few times.

Also, I know he gets a lot of crap from some folks but I think King is just fantastic. Even in his bad books–and there’s no question he’s had a few less-than-stellar ones–his characters are fantastic. He really is the 20th century’s Charles Dickens, and I think that’s how he’s going to be remembered for generations to come. It’s really hard to dip into the horror genre today and not be influenced on some level by him.

For the writers who read my blog, what do you feel are the most difficult aspects of writing? What advice would you give for writers who want to publish in the genre?

If you want to publish in horror, my first piece of advice would be this. Boil your story down to one sentence, just like a film pitch. Don’t wrestle with it or twist it or make it unnaturally long. Dawn of the Dead would be, “People survive the zombie apocalypse by hiding in a shopping mall.” That’s it. Once you’ve got it, how original does it sound? If it just ends up being, “A group of misfit survivors try to reach a safe zone after the zombie apocalypse,” go back and rethink a few things. It’s not necessarily a bad story, but it’s going to be very, very difficult for that story to stand out.

My other thing would be, and this is going to sound contradictory, don’t try to do something bold and new. It’s amazing how many people I’ve seen–in books and I also used to read for a couple of screenplay contests–who focus all their attention on a new kind of zombie, a new take on the undead, a new rationale for the virus, that sort of thing. Those are fun details, but that’s not something that’s going to sustain a whole story. Especially if the rest of the story is just “a group of misfit survivors try to reach a safe zone after the zombie apocalypse.”

This is a common mistake I see from aspiring writers in a lot of genres and formats. They have one cool idea and they try to write a story from it. But most stories are two or three ideas coming together with some characters a reader can identify with and invest in. The characters are what make the story, not those lone ideas. “There’s a haunted carnival,” isn’t a story, it’s just a plot point. If I combine it with “a bunch of kids and their dog who drive around in a van solving mysteries,” well, now I’ve got a story.

Another one for the writer-ly crowd! You’re one of Permuted Press’s bestselling authors. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found that work best for not only marketing in general but for the horror genre in particular?

You’re going to hate me for this but I do very little marketing. I don’t trumpet my books on thirty different websites or mass mail people or come up with lots of cool ads or anything. I see a lot of people doing that and I actually think it can do more harm than good. It’s so easy to take the shotgun approach these days and plaster yourself everywhere. Yeah, more people might hear about me that way, but I also think a lot of people get turned off by that kind of constant deluge of self-publicity. There’s that cutoff point where you suddenly go from being aspiring author to spammer. I think the biggest publicity thing I’ve done was a trio of trailers for Ex-Patriots. I called in a bunch of favors from film friends, spent a few hundred dollars, begged a few other people to wear costumes, and we shot for a whole day. And even then, those didn’t really take off. They look great, but I don’t think they sold a lot of books. I’m cutting a simple trailer together for my new book, but I think it’s more a teaser for fans than something that’s going to pull in a lot of new readers.

The thing about all the marketing ideas and cross-promotion and networking…at the end of the day they don’t matter. They can only work in the short-term. The thing I need to be putting my time into is writing. If creating well-written stories isn’t the majority of my time, I’m doomed to failure in the long run. I might trick someone into buying my book once with some clever promotions, but they’ll never pick up another one if that first one isn’t good. I think Jacob Kier at Permuted Press could back me up on this, but I think Ex-Heroes was out for the better part of a year before it became a regular bestseller. The thing was, it kept getting sales because people read it, liked it, recommended it (well, most folks…there’s always that guy), and then those folks read it, liked it, and recommended it to more people, and so on. It’s a pyramid scheme, really, but it only works if the story at the top is good.

In all fairness, I also think I got helped a lot by the simplicity of my idea, as I mentioned a few minutes ago. Ex-Heroes is about superheroes versus zombies. You open the book and that’s what you get. Classic heroes fighting classic Romero zombies. I think people like radical new ideas, but sometimes they just want the basics. There’s only so many times you can go out and have a mesquite-smoked sirloin patty garnished with goat cheese and pine nuts on a croissant. It’s cool, but eventually you just want to have a cheeseburger.

Besides Ex-Heroes and Ex-Patriots, what other works do you have available right now? Can you tell us a little about them?

Between Ex-Heroes and Ex-Patriots I wrote a mash-up novel called The Eerie Adventures of the Lycanthrope Robinson Crusoe, also available from Permuted Press. It came out of the cross-genre craze Pride & Prejudice & Zombies started. I decided I didn’t want to do something silly or bizarre, though (nothing against those books). I wanted to tell a serious story. Or as serious as possible when I was adding werewolves and Cthulhu into a classic of English literature. So I spent months doing research and studying Defoe’s prose and then I sat down and wrote a perfect, early 18th century horror novel in the language of that time. The downside, unfortunately, was that I wrote a perfect, early 18th century horror novel in the language of that time. Not a huge market these days, as it turns out. One critic included it in a list of mash-ups, and she essentially said “it gets an A+, but even with werewolves and Lovecraft…man, Crusoe is still a slog to read.” I’m proud of it, though, and all nine of the folks who’ve read it have liked it.

There’s also The Junkie Quatrain, which is four interwoven short stories that form a novella (more or less). That started out as some bonus material for Audible.com. They were doing a big ZombieFest promotion last summer with all their new Permuted books and they wanted to add on something extra to a few of the titles. They asked Jacob Kier, Jacob asked me, and I wrote four stories that intersect and overlap. It’s another post-apocalyptic world, but this one’s only just collapsed in the past two months. The monsters in these stories are infected people called “Junkies” because they twitch a lot and just babble nonsense…at least, when they’re not killing people to eat them. It was also fun because I got to take a character who appeared in a lot of my earlier, unpublished stuff, polish him up a bit, and make him the star of his own story.

What are you currently working on right now?

Right now is Ex-Communication, the third book in the Ex-series. I’m about two thirds done with it. It wraps up a lot of the threads that got left hanging in Ex-Patriots, a few of which people probably don’t even realize are hanging threads. It’s been taking forever because I keep getting pulled away onto other projects, and as the third book I want it to be fantastic. Once that’s done, I’m hoping to dive into that sci-fi/horror thing I mentioned a while ago. I’ve also jotted down a couple notes for a potential fourth Ex-book, but I’m not quite sure about it yet.

What can we expect to see next from you?

The next thing people will see is 14, also from Permuted. I think it’s scheduled for early June. It’s kind of a cross-genre survival-horror-mystery novel about a guy who moves into an old apartment building and starts to notice odd things. Little mysteries that all start piling up and leading to bigger and bigger mysteries that stretch back over decades. It’s also about getting to know your neighbors and building a community. The feedback I’ve gotten from the dozen or so folks who’ve read it has been very positive, and all of them were pleased that the book kept them guessing. Craig DiLouie–he of The Infection and The Killing Floor–got to read an advance copy and he called it “LOST in an apartment building,” which I thought was pretty high praise.

I’m trying not to say too much about it, though, because I don’t want to risk spoiling some of the mystery elements before the book’s even out. I’m a big believer in experiencing a story the way it was intended, rather than getting a bunch of random elements out of context and judging it off those. I know it’s an uphill battle and a ton of unavoidable spoilers are going to come out once the book starts getting reviewed, but I’m hoping most of them will be smart enough to avoid stuff from the second half of the book, where things get…interesting.

And lastly, where can readers find you online?

I’ve got a Facebook fan page that I check at least twice a day (even with this crappy Timeline nonsense). I try to keep it very casual, and there’s just as likely to be discussions about Disney’s abysmal John Carter marketing or the latest episode of Fringe as there is about my own stuff. As I mentioned above, I’m not really about the hard sell and that’s worked for me so far.

I’ve also got my cleverly-named blog, Writer on Writing, where I talk about…well, writing. Not getting agents, marketing, networking, or the “indie revolution.” Just about writing. I share some little tricks I’ve learned the hard way (so you don’t have to), and mistakes I see a lot from aspiring writers.

A big thank you to Peter Clines for dropping by for an interview!

And now presenting, for your enjoyment, the grand unveiling of the cover for Clines’ upcoming release 14, coming in June 2012 from Permuted Press!

Is that awesome-looking or what? I personally can’t wait to read it, and I hope everyone else is looking forward to getting their hands on it too!

For those of you unfamiliar with Peter’s work, you can check out his author page on Amazon.com for a list of his currently available works. I personally recommend…well, all of them!

The Winners of the Autographed Book Contest Announced!

The Winners of the Autographed Book Contest Announced!

Yes, you read that correctly. For the last two weeks, I’ve hosted a contest, where you could purchase The Becoming: Brothers in Arms and, after forwarding me the receipt, be entered into a drawing for autographed paperbacks of The Becoming and the upcoming The Becoming: Ground Zero (when it’s released). That said, I have my two winners!

Tony Papaleo and Jonathan Lambert

Congrats to both of you! Please shoot me an email at jessica dot meigs at gmail dot com with your mailing addresses so we can get things set up. 🙂

And if you didn’t win this time, no worries! There will be more contests in the future and more chances to win!