If you're a big fan of literary horror and you really enjoyed Wendy Won't Go I'm sure you'll enjoy the new collector's edition coming out very soon from JEA! What makes it so special? While WWG got an ebook release in December of last year it was not released in paperback to the disappointment of some of my readers. Well now it will be out in paperback and it comes with both Mark Woods' enormously successful Time of Tides and a bonus story called Love Like Blood which I've always seen as another side of the coin or sister story to WWG. Time of Tides will also be getting a special Collector's Edition with WWG and a bonus story called Dairy of the Dead to make his edition just as collectible for horror fans! New to paperback for $9.99 and in a special collector's edition for ebook for $2.99 starting tomorrow :) Great literary horror stories from two of JEAs great authors! Keep a look out for the release and links tomorrow!
Bio: Edward P. Cardillo is an author of horror, science fiction, and dark fantasy. His novel I AM AUTOMATON won a Readers' Favorite Award and is the beginning of a series being published by Severed Press. By day Cardillo is a clinical psychologist treating anxiety and fear; by night he concocts tales to terrify his readers...
He enjoys both jobs immensely.
1. What was your inspiration for writing Odd Tales of an Old Man? Do you think it relates in any way to your other work such as the Automaton series?
I’ve been consulting in nursing homes for over a decade, working with the elderly, who I adore. When you work with the elderly, you hear lots of stories—anything from old wives’ tales to urban legends, and even war stories. I’ve worked with veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. The World War II vets have some of the most chilling stories. I’m also a huge fan of H.P. Lovecraft, Tales From The Crypt, and The Twilight Zone.
Since I love the format of short tall tales and I was so captivated by these tales from individuals who’ve basically shaped our history and our present, I figured: Why not write a book where an elderly man enthralls his grandchildren with chilling morality tales? But I wanted the narrator to be more than a simple Master of Ceremonies, like Rod Serling or the Cryptkeeper. I wanted him to have his own complex backstory that would add richness to the tall tales. Sprinkle in some dysfunctional family dynamics with a touch of mystery about how “fictional” these tales really were, and I had The Odd Tales of an Old Man, a collection of horrific tall tales with backbone and heart.
These tall tales are not focused on shock or gore. Laden with completely original monsters, they are haunting tales meant to creep the reader out. I’ve been told that these tales tend to linger in the mind well after the book is finished.
2. I am Automaton has garnered you some very good reviews and fans. Did you know it would be so successful in the beginning?
The Odd Tales of an Old Man was the first novel I’ve ever written. While I was shopping it around to literary agents, I continued to write. When I got the idea for I Am Automaton by watching the War on Terror, the use of drones, and the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, I knew I had a powerful saga on my hands and an idea that had never been done before.
As a still unpublished author, it was difficult to get noticed. However, I was encouraged by my mother-in-law, Charlene that this was going to be the book that would get me on the playing field. I was advised by a literary agent to submit to contests; that a win for an unpublished manuscript would garner attention. So, I submitted the unpublished manuscript for I Am Automaton (then called “Automaton”) to the Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards contest in 2012, a contest that allows unpublished and indie authors to compete with established authors.
When I saw New York Times Best Seller Daniel Silva in one of the categories I entered (Terrorist Thriller), I was a bit intimidated. But, to my surprise, I was named a finalist in that category, eventually winning the Honorable Mention Award as the only unpublished manuscript in the category. Two months later after garnering some interest from a few presses, I happily landed a contract with Severed Press.
I was delighted when I started getting reviews from readers on amazon as well as from critics and bloggers that were very positive and highlighted the originality of the book. Book 2, Kafka Rising, which was entered as an unpublished manuscript before I joined with Severed Press, also won a Readers’ Favorite International Book Award in 2013, this time in the category of Science Fiction. There was a lot of positive buzz on the internet, and I was beginning to pick up fans of the series.
In April 2014 I Am Automaton won Zombie Book of the Month and was inducted into the ZBOTM Club’s Hall of Fame. Sales increased and I was exposed to a whole new group of really cool readers who loved the book and the series.
Charlene, my mother-in-law, was right. I love watching new readers discover the series, and I’m glad that most are entertained by it. I Am Automaton 3: Shadow of the Automaton is in consideration for the finals in 2014’s Readers’ Favorite Contest as a published work.
3. You've said that the villain of I am Automaton 2: Kafka Rising, Kafka, is your favorite in the series. Did he surprise you or was he a character you could predict over the course of writing about him? Was that a good thing or bad thing?
He was a character that kind of evolved of his own volition, if that’s possible. Kafka wasn’t always a villain, and you can kind of see why he became one under the circumstances. He’s a complex character that kind of developed with the saga, events in both the series and the news shaping his motivations. He’s a wily, fiercely intelligent character who has a very vicious streak in him, but there’s a devotion to his family (one member in particular) that muddies the moral waters with him. I wanted Kafka to elicit mixed emotions in readers, to be that villain that readers kind of root for. He elicited those feelings in me as I crafted his character, and from the feedback I’ve been getting from readers, I think I succeeded.
4.What makes the Automaton books stand out from all of the other zomb-poc fiction out there? Did you set out with a zombie apocalypse idea or did the plot just seem to gravitate in that direction as you wrote?
This series was very planned out before I wrote. Because there’s a great deal of mystery, plot twists, and red herrings, I had to plot it out first. This, of course, doesn’t mean that I didn’t modify as I went. I think every writer has to.
This series is different from a great deal of the zombie-poc books out there because: 1.)Society is still intact. 2.)The zombies are used as tools in the War on Terror, infantry drones of sorts. (Of course, things don’t go entirely as planned). 3.)These books are not just about zombies. There is a great deal of character development and social commentary/political satire that uses the zombies to comment on the politics, economics, and foreign policy of our times. 4.)It’s a blending of genres: zombie-poc, horror, sci-fi, intrigue, terrorist thriller, military.
5. You have a reputation for tight action, well-built suspense, and intensely well-drawn characters, would you attribute this more to your own development as a writer or the feedback you've had from readers?
This I attribute to my development as a writer. As a reader, there’s nothing I dislike more than reading overwritten, flowery, over-descriptive prose that has a lumbering pace. So, as a writer I vowed to make my prose lean and to-the-point, using more dialogue to move the plot. When I was starting out, I used to read books and essays on various writing techniques. I came across an essay that described “cinematic pacing,” which was basically pacing that to the reader would feel like “real time.” I wanted to attempt that, and I’ve been using it ever since. In fact, I frequently get feedback saying that my books would make good movies. On top of that, when describing an action sequence, I would shorten the paragraphs and simplify sentence structure to add to the effect. I love building suspense, holding the reader hostage on an unpredictable rollercoaster ride.
Regarding character development, it certainly helps that I’m a clinical psychologist. I try to create real, living, breathing characters that are realistically complex and multi-faceted. Most individuals on this planet are not purely good or evil. It depends on the circumstances, and most people are a mixture of strengths and weaknesses. Sprinkle in some realistic quirks, mannerisms, and idiosyncrasies and you have full characters.
As a psychologist, I also know how people tend to present. Nothing bugs me more than characters in a book who present inconsistently or inappropriately to a given situation. I do my best to keep it real.
6. You also have some short fiction in collections like Midnight Remains. Do you prefer full-length novels or shorts?
I actually enjoy both. I love the efficiency of short stories in quickly establishing character and plot while bringing the story to a satisfying conclusion. However, I love the free range of a novel. This is where you really can construct a true character-driven narrative, because you have the time and space to really walk around in their shoes and get a feel for who they are.
7. You're working on two collaborative books for JEA, Feral Hearts and Lycanthroship, is it tough switching between your editor and author's caps to work on such books? Do you try and keep a tight grip on your base plot idea or enjoy the ride of letting it run and seeing where it goes with other authors?
Both. In Feral Hearts, on which I am the editor as well as contributing author, I was able to come up with the basic skeleton for the story. I left the characters and the “rules” for the vampires up to each individual author and their style. Being editor is both rewarding and stressful. The reward is that you get tremendous control over the direction and feel of the novel. I’m VERY OCD when it comes to quality control. I use beta testers to flag major flaws and inconsistencies. I’m super particular about lean, well-paced prose as well as proper grammar (I blame that on Catholic school).
However, as editor, there’s lots of pressure to get the book as perfect and shiny as possible. There’re little inconsistencies (names, places, wardrobe, positions of things, spellings) and typos that need to be caught through close examination and fixed. No one wants to get nailed on a review because there were too many errors. I also want each author’s contribution to be the best it can be while respecting his/her style and vision; however, I’m not afraid to give honest, constructive feedback either.
8. Feral Hearts is due out very soon. Can you tell us a little about it, the process of completing it with the other authors at JEA and proofing it for release?
The road to getting Feral Hearts complete was a long and sometimes convoluted one. I came up with the idea last October to do a collaborative vampire novel with different, alternative endings. We began with one lineup of authors that didn’t quite pan out, and the project was shelved for a bit. Then I recruited the current lineup, and this has been the magic recipe. I tend to take a psychological approach (surprise, surprise) that focuses on the creepy. Amanda, you took a dark fantasy approach, likening the vampires to succubi. Michael Fisher, besides designing the brilliant cover, took a no-nonsense action-packed approach. Jim Goforth drafted an epic-scale ending. Mark Woods used humor and his inimitably easy-going, easy-to-read flow to add to the fun. Catt Dahman actually combined forces with me (a collaboration within a collaboration) to contribute a speculative ending that is quite unsettling.
As far as the process…basically, I came up with the framework of a singles tour in a fictional town in Italy where the tourists encounter a strip club run by Russian vampire prostitutes. I asked each author to introduce a character with a complex background regarding romantic relationships. Then I tied all of the characters together in the middle, when they meet on the tour and encounter the vampires. The behavior of a couple of characters triggers an undead attack on the tour, and all hell breaks loose as the cruel, vicious vampires manipulate and exploit the characters’ issues with relationships. Then each author, including each character already established, drafts his/her own ending as he/she sees fit.
This is not your tween’s vampire tale. It’s scary, gory, erotic, and haunting—the way vampires should be. There are no tragic villains here. You feel no sympathy for these vampires. They’re pure evil. The head vampire was inspired by a recurrent nightmare I was plagued with for a couple of months. My wife said I was running in my sleep and crying out for help, but when I woke up, I was unable to remember the nightmare. I willed myself repeatedly to remember the dream, and one night…
It’s currently in the final stages of being proofed. There’ll be a July release, but my OCD is unwilling to let me rush it. When rushing, editing turns into skimming, and that’s when errors slip through. This is a particularly long work at 108,000 words or so, so I want to put my best effort into shining it up.
9. Have you had a good experience collaborating with other authors and utilizing beta readers?
I’ve had a blast collaborating with you, Jim, Michael (a.k.a. “Fish”), Mark, and Catt. I loved the brainstorming sessions and bouncing around of ideas in a safe, fun, supportive environment, which is something that happens all the time at J. Ellington Ashton Press.
I always use beta testers. ALWAYS. It’s a crucial part of the quality control process. I need that outsider perspective, and I’ve been blessed with beta testers who are brutally honest and have no regard for my feelings whatsoever. You want to address issues BEFORE they come up in reviews, costing you good publicity.
10. What sort of projects do you have in progress or soon to be completed?
I’m currently finishing up Feral Hearts, I’m about 2/3 of the way through a zombie novel for Severed Press, and we’re knee-deep in the middle of Lycanthroship.
Tabitha Baumander is a novelist screenwriter and playwright with five books published and a lot more to come. She is divorced with adult twins and lives in Toronto Canada which she is currently populating with aliens, monsters and fairies. Well, why not.
1) Warriors is about a group of very special warriors who must protect our world from inter-dimensional beasties, Where did the idea come from?
To begin with Pope John Paul had just died. I wondered, as a fantasy writer might, what the death of someone who is supposed to be a very good person would do and where I could take that. The inter-dimensional aspect comes from a desire to stay away from theology as much as possible and ground the villains in a kind of explainable context.
The origin of the warriors oddly enough actually does come from the bible. I’ve used it before in another work.
"There were Nephilim on the earth in those
days; and also after that, when the sons
of God came into the daughters of men, and
they bare children to them, the same became
mighty men which were of old. Men of renown."
That’s from the King James bible genesis. Some people like to think its proof of alien incursion on earth. I started playing with the Nephilim simply because Hollywood was beating the end of the world 666 Antichrist plotline into the ground with a big stick.
These characters are sometimes called Watchers and were been used in a Hollywood movie a few years ago. It was called The Adjustment Bureau.
2) You clearly know action and humor, Warriors have it in spades. What are your favorite action scenes in the book?
I’m not very good at naming favorites of anything. I suppose the group of battles around the Vatican at the end is good. Then there’s the very big snake, can’t lose with a very big snake.
3) Darius and Angela are our leaders, were they inspired by anyone?
Darius is the leader Angela is a new member and not a leader. She does have a lot of input because that is the stuff she brings to the team. Visually I guess I based Darius on my son. Angela is completely fictional created because that is the sort of person I needed to fill that gap in the story.
4) It's not all about the warriors, there's also a very strong story about a bishop and his assistant facing off with another bishop and his associate. Neither battle is any less important. How did you keep the pace so strong for both aspects of the plot?
Someone once told me I was an “instinctual” writer. I don’t think they were intending to be complementary either but they were accurate. For me pacing is about feel. I move through the story and I tend to think “mmmm about time we checked in with this other bit now”.
On a side note I have a papal conclave in this. It is total fiction in that I have stuff happening that would never happen in a conclave. But I’m hardly the first writer to play games with Vatican protocol.
5) Warriors is an interesting blend of b movie action, humor, romance and a healthy dollop of modern fantasy. How would you describe your books to someone who hasn't given them a look?
Two ways depending on how I feel at the time.
I take fantasy and action and set it on as real a background as possible. A dragon in middle earth isn’t that remarkable. A dragon in the middle of down town Toronto now THAT is interesting.
Someone who had read some of my short stories once described me this way. Reading me is like walking through a park along a path. Sooner or later you step off the path and bam the park disappears and you are somewhere else completely.
6) Many of your ideas start out as screenplays. I think there's a good chance that's part of what makes the action and drama so intense in your books. Is it hard to make a script into a full manuscript?
It depends on the story. Several have not got up to normal novel length which I think of as around 80 thousand words. They have ended up as novellas or perhaps I should think of them as books for a YA audience and as such an acceptable length.
This one did start as a screenplay. I adapted it for two reasons. For one thing I needed a writing project and this was the only one that popped up on my radar. More importantly when I was writing the script a box load of detail wanted to push through onto the page and that simply isn’t permitted in screenplay format.
A script compared to a book is like a skeleton. A director takes it and adds camera stuff. Then the actors take it and “make the words their own” to use actor speak. Then all the other departments that go into making a film add their two cents and you end up with a film. It’s generally not what you were picturing unless you’re really lucky and had input but it’s a film.
A book is the whole deal and you have control. So, when I wrote this particular script I had to use a lot of restraint to keep all the extra bits out of the mix which I eventually put into the book.
Coming Soon from J Ellington Ashton Press
A good man has died a natural death. In that death he leaves a hole in reality and through that hole come monsters. Defending reality are people who if the world knew of their existence might be called monsters themselves. They are far stronger and smarter than any full blood human could be and they exist to fight with monsters. The problem is this time they might not win because the monsters are getting help.
Check out these other great releases from Tabitha Baumander!
Michael Fisher, Fish to his friends and family, has worn many hats in his long life including US Navy Hospital Corpsman, club DJ, security specialist, psychiatric technician, painter, and currently, father, Mason, author and tattooer, not necessarily in that order. He has a love of hats and ugly Hawaian shirts. He also bears a passing resemblance to Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski. His work has been previously published in The Tall Book of Zombie Shorts from S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Anthologies as well as winning Honorable Mention for Short Story of the Year 2013 for The Return of the Devil Fly in the Midnight Remains anthology from J. Ellington Ashton Press. His first novel, DCs Dead will be coming out from JEA Press in 2014. He is also an editor with JEA Press
1) DCs Dead started out as a story you hit a block on, has it become more of a nostalgia trip now that you’ve been able to complete it or a learning tool that helped you get back into writing? Both?
DCs Dead was the beginning to a long road that, I hope, will continue stretching into my old age.
I would definitely say that it qualifies as both. It is very much a nostalgia trip because the people in it are not only friends that I have not seen in over a decade, but also a time and place that I hold very dear. This was before that world change for America as it was pre-9/11, an era when we still had our illusion of safety. A time when people were more trusting and accepting, when soon after, the entire populace became paranoid of strangers while, simultaneously, welcoming of those that were like them.
It was also a learning tool. When I started writing it, I knew very little about writing and story structure outside what we were taught in school. For this reason, the version of DCs Dead that appeared in the Tall Book of Zombie Shorts is quite different from the final version. That ten year block was quite frustrating. I think part of the reason that I gave up for so long was I felt that no one would ever see it and that I really had no reason to continue it. It started as a way to fill time during very slow days when I wasn’t making much money. It turns out that all it took was someone reading it and seeing potential, however rough it was. When I was told that it was good and needed to be finished, it spurred my imagination into action and now, a year or so later, it won’t stop.
2) Do you think the many hats you’ve worn over the years have better prepared you for being an author, artist and editor now than you were when you first started writing?
I think my varied experiences have helped my writing all around. I have seen many different areas of this nation and encountered so many different types of people in all walks of life. These experiences have given me seeds from which my story elements can sprout. Most of those experiences happened in my twenties. Now that I am well into my forties, it can look back on them both fondly as well as giving them a critical appraisal. There are so many things I have done that I look back on them and ask myself, “Were you an idiot or something?” They say that hindsight is 20/20, but it can also be hilarious.
In my almost twenty year career as a tattoo artist, I have seen more than my share of odd people and heard their stories. Add that on top of eight years working as a psychiatric tech, I am never surprised by the colorful eccentricities this world contains.
3) All of your current and upcoming releases have been in the horror genre, do you think you might write in other genres later on or is horror your primary interest as a writer?
I have a deep love of the horror genre that goes all the way back to my earliest memories. I have vague recollections of watching the Bela Lugosi Dracula with my mother when I was four years old, then running around the playground at Montessori the next day, pretending to be Dracula. Needless to say, the nuns that ran the school were not happy about a tiny blond boy chasing the girls, screaming “I vant to suck your blood!” My parents were not restrictive at all when it came to scary movies. I saw Dawn of the Dead in ’78when I was eight years old, only a year after falling in love with Star Wars, and Phantasm and Alien in ’79, which were the last two movies to give me nightmares as a child. So, back to the main question, yes, I do plan to work in other genres. A novel I am currently working on has more in common with shows like CSI and all the other alphabet shows (CSI, SVU, NCIS, XYZ) than they do with Nightmare on Elm Street. While they are genres ones that may have some aspect of fear, I will always return to my old lover, the scary story.
4) Has becoming an editor changed the way you look at your own work and the work of others?
Sadly, I think I was invited to become and editor because I was already spotting issue with other author’s writing. Sometimes, it would be simple things like typos that made it past other editors. Other times, I would find error where the original author did not do thorough enough research. I sincerely hope that when author’s get my recommendations, they do not get offended by them. I try to make suggestions without changing the author’s voice.
I am my worst critic when I am editing my own works. I have had many occasions where I found something that flowed well in a later part of the story, but realized it hadn’t been mentioned or explored earlier in the story so I would have to go back and figure out where it belonged and expound upon it.
There was a case where I found a consistent misspelling of a creature from the Cthulhu Mythos in a story. As an HP Lovecraft nut, I knew the spelling, while not a proper English word, looked wrong. So I went back and consulted the original author’s spelling and saw it was something as simple as an E replacing an O. Most of the readers likely would not have noticed, but I felt that it should be changed, both out of respect to the original writer as well to make the story fit well into the established Mythos, something the die-hard fans would immediately recognize.
5) Feral Hearts was a collaborative effort; do you think you’ll pursue more projects like it in the future?
I had a hell of a lot of fun with Feral Hearts, just letting go and running with the character of Barry the Needle. I think I will wait to see how it is received before diving headfirst into another one though, as I have quite a few other projects I am working on. Of course, that is what I say now but I have a hard time saying, “No.” You can ask my wife.
6) The novel length version of DC’s Dead and Feral Hearts are due to come out later this year, do you have any other works in progress?
I am working on a story that is currently titled It Always Bites You in the End which is the police procedural/murder mystery with a supernatural element. It should easily be my second novel. I have a short story I am writing to submit to the upcoming heavy metal horror anthology Axes of Evil II. I hope it will be accepted as well. I also have another zombie story in the very early stages, this one set on a cargo freighter en route to South America from Miami. As it passes through the Caribbean, it gets more than it could want. I also have a short story that I wrote for a specific anthology, and was passed on, which I am currently reworking in hopes it can get released later this year or early next year. Finally, I have my ongoing editing work for J. Ellington Ashton Press, just trying to help us release the best stories we can.
I don't know how many of you read my blogs and interviews but you may have noticed me mention that I have some other books in progress. Well I've been formatting the two books I'm hoping to complete over the last few days (if I ever hit enter more than once to start another paragraph I will immediately fix that shit! 7 hours wasted on removing extra spaces from two partially completed manuscripts and 3 for ELBF tell me that it's a booboo I can ill afford to repeat.) so that I can get back to working on them and hopefully have them edited up within the next year.
Yeah I'm not fond of that whole year part either but I don't want to push them out there so fast that they come off feeling subpar at best and godawful at worst. If I DO get them done before that Cool Green Waters will be self-pubbed like it's predecessor ELBF while Other Dangers my novel about an author that ends that world and then tries to save it (it's a lot more complicated than that but that's the gist) will hopefully find itself a good publisher. i'll keep you all posted on how the progress is going and will certainly let you know when they get published :).
That being said I was thinking of putting together a short story anthology as a little something to tide you and I (if I could write and publish a book every month I probably would. I love sharing my work!) over until the other two novels are completed. I have a few stories done and quite a few other ideas written down just waiting to get written. I guess this is my round about way of asking if you'd like to see this antho idea of mine and would buy it...So feel free to let me know :)
In the meantime I hope you're enjoying Eyes Like Blue Fire or that you will be soon, thanks for your support and thanks for checking out my book. I hope you'll stick with me as I go further down this crazy rabbit hole
Amanda M Lyons
Ms. Lyons is an author of fantasy, horror, and an avid reader of all genres.