Both Water Like Crimson Sorrow: Shades of Midnight Book 2 and Autumn Burning: Dreadtime Stories for the Wicked Soul will be out in October Thanks to Michael Fish Fisher and Dave McGlumphy for the great covers! Autumn Burning has been coming along quite nicely and I think Sam Gregory , who came up with this great antho, agrees that we're going to have a great book to put out there in October. Keep an eye out for it! Water Like Crimson Sorrow is the gorier, more brutal half of the original ELBF book. I'll be submitting the 3rd book very soon.
Both Water Like Crimson Sorrow: Shades of Midnight Book 2 and Autumn Burning: Dreadtime Stories for the Wicked Soul will be out in October Thanks to Michael Fish Fisher and Dave McGlumphy for the great covers! Autumn Burning has been coming along quite nicely and I think Sam Gregory , who came up with this great antho, agrees that we're going to have a great book to put out there in October. Keep an eye out for it! Water Like Crimson Sorrow is the gorier, more brutal half of the original ELBF book. I'll be submitting the 3rd book very soon.
Tim Waggoner has published over thirty novels and three short story collections, and his articles on writing have appeared in Writer's Digest and Writer's Journal, among others. He teaches creative writing at Sinclair Community College and in Seton Hill University's Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction program.
Visit him on the web at www.timwagonner.com
Please keep reading after the interview to find an early review of A Strange and Savage Garden, out from Samhain Publishing October 7th, 2014!
1. A Strange and Savage Garden is a novella that features Johnny Divine, a rather unique character from the mind of Kealan Patrick Burke. Did you enjoy working with your version of Divine in your own world? Were there any major challenges?
Kealan created Johnny Divine as a character to tie together the various novellas that originally appeared in an anthology called Brimstone Turnpike which came out from CD Publications several years back. Kealan developed a description of the character and the old desert gas station where he would encounter the main character of each novella. The only instruction we were given was that Divine should give the character an object that would feature somehow in our stories. We were given the freedom to interpret Divine however we wished. He could be a force for good, for evil, or somewhere in between. I enjoyed coming up with my take on the character, and the only challenge was trying to make sure that he seemed an integral part of my story instead of something tacked on. Hopefully, I succeeded!
2. Lauren is returning home after the death of her father and finding herself fighting for a sense of stability in the process. The reader ends up joining her in a sense, going back and forth between her sense of reality and the little shifts of consciousness, catching the little elements as we go. Were you happy with the way the book turned out? Did it stick to the original story formula you had in mind?
I was happy with the novella, and I hope readers enjoy it. I like to write with an immersive point of view in order to involve readers as deeply in a story as I can. I also like to make a character’s psychological landscape as much a part of the story as what the character says and does. It helps create an atmosphere of strangeness and skewed reality, which is where true horror comes from.
In terms of writing the story, it turned out the way I outlined it for the most part, but as usual, I made some changes as I wrote it, as improvements to the plot or new ideas occurred to me. An outline is just a guideline for a story – not a blueprint that must be followed exactly.
3. Grandma Madelyn is a strong figure, equal parts firm resolve and manipulation. What inspired her?
Without giving away any of the story details, Madelyn is the kind of character she is because of her unique abilities. Abilities like hers would be an outgrowth of a superhuman will and a pathological need to make things the way she wants – or maybe needs – them to be. So once I knew what her role in the story was, I was able to work backward and create a character with the sort of personality who could fulfill that role.
4. This is no ordinary town, were you surprised to see the story unfold as it did or did you plan it this way all along?
Everything was planned, although some of the specifics I developed as I actually wrote the scenes. That’s how I usually write, and this novella was no different.
5. Your writing is an interesting blend of dark fantasy and horror elements, often it’s very surreal and dreamlike. Did you always know it would have this tone or did you discover you voice over time?
When I was in my twenties, I thought it might be interesting to blend horror and fantasy in my writing. I loved horror, but I thought too much of it wasn’t as imaginative as it could be, and I liked fantasy, but much of it followed the same kind of Tolkienesque story patterns, and it too, ultimately, wasn’t very imaginative. So I started working on blending what I found to be the most effective elements of both genres in my writing, and as the years went by, people began responding positively to my surreal dark fiction, so I figured I must’ve done something right. At this point in my career, I’m known for writing these kind of stories (that is, if I’m known for anything at all!).
6. What other writing projects are due out in the coming year? Are there any particular ones you’re excited to see readers react to?
I have a horror novella called The Last Mile coming out from DarkFuse in October. The basic premise is what would humans do to survive in a world where Lovecraft’s Old Ones returned and reclaimed the planet. Also in October, I have a tie-in novel based on the TV series Grimm coming out from Titan Books called Grimm: The Killing Time. In late November, my YA horror novel Dark Art will come out from Nightscape Press. It’s about a troubled teenager whose drawings come to life with devastating results.
My Review of A Strange and Savage Garden:
Lauren is going back home to bury her father. After 11 years of living on her own in California its a tough trip and its only going to get tougher as she goes along. You see, when she left a piece of this place went with her in the form of awful nightmares, strange memories of something so awful she thought it was buried deep in her thoughts. Only now, with Grandma Madelyn in her life and memories of that past stirring, nothing truly seems as it appears to be.
I first discovered Tim Waggoner with his novel Like Death several years ago and I was very pleased with the dark and dreamlike quality of that novel. I'm happy to have had the pleasure of reading A Strange and Savage Garden and found that same sense of the unusual. Lauren is quite a lot more than she seems to be at first glance and the terrible past she's been running from is far more complex than she realizes. Having essentially run away at the age of 17 she's only come back to make her peace and, with luck, return to the life she created in California. The past is a powerful thing and the weight of her Grandma Madelyn's steady gaze often makes her doubt herself. The strange visions and memories only give that sense on instability more weight and soon she is questioning just what it is that really happened all of those years ago and why.
I enjoyed A Strange and Savage Garden because it's a great example of how Waggoner's voice is very much his own. We experience Lauren's life in little fits and starts, dreamlike interruptions coloring both her view and our own. We discover the world and its truths gradually until it all comes together in a very vivid conclusion that challenges many aspects of what we were told about Lauren's life and the identity of the people that surround her. Here we find some very strong characters with unusual outlooks, questions about the idea of self, some consideration of how our perception of the past affects us, and the dark fantasy and subtle horror elements I enjoy in Waggoner's work. This is a very enjoyable and surreal novella that was well worth the read!
I'm going to be polishing Water Like Crimson Sorrow some more today, which means you'll be seeing it out on the market in another month or two. For fans of ELBF when it was a self-titled book, this will be the 2nd half of that book and will feature it's very own well-deserved cover. Once that's out, I will be submitting book 3 (which will be the first new book for you folks that read the first ELBF before we split it) Cool Green Waters. CGW features quite a bit more about three characters that had less focus in the first book. Mateo, Zero and Michael become far more interesting and detailed here and we also get a bit more about Raven and Katja, of course! Expect a lot of action, suspense, dark happenings and some elements that are a little more on the sexy side of things (Mateo happens to run an S/M club) as well.
I have a wee bit of book four to work with too, but it will be a bit before it's ready. That book, titled Hollow Black Corners of the Soul will hopefully be completed in the next year or two, so don't worry! I also have a few ideas in mind for book five which also features some surprising return characters. By the way we'll be calling this series Shades of Midnight, rather apt considering each title features a color, eh?
I will have a short in the JEA horror collection Rejected for Content and will again be taking part in a collaborative 666 project, this one, called Lycanthroship, will feature werewolves and is set shortly after WWII. Both of these books should be working toward completion and are hoped to be out this Fall.
Apocrypha is still in the works, with Robert Lyons working on his, I might just put together a few more for that too. I also have a couple of other books to work on finishing up like Other Dangers, Jodie, one that's barely developed called The Farm and another which will have dark, posssibly YA fantasy themes and doesn't have a title yet. Long story short there will be a great deal more to expect in the coming years and I do hope you'll enjoy them all as they do. In the meantime, please look into my 3 latest releases below:
Daniel Durrant is a new author writing mainly in the horror and science fiction genres. His short stories have been published in several anthologies in the UK and USA. Daniel lives on the Norfolk coast in England, where he enjoys reading, dog walking, and planning the apocalypse. This is his first novel.The Steampunk novella “Climate Change” has also recently gone into print.
1. Where did the idea for the story come from?
There are so many influences it would be tough to list them here! After some success with short stories and a novella, I knew I wanted to write a novel, but had no idea what the subject should be. Around that time I was reading some great zombie fiction, and realised I’d love to try that. Since the genre looked pretty busy, I wanted to write something that would (hopefully) stand out. With that in mind, I gave myself two rules. First, I would try fresh ideas and settings that would break away from the norm. Second, I would work hard to make the concept as realistic as possible. Every aspect of the novel, from the structure to the plot and the virus itself, stems from those two rules.
2. What made me chose North Korea – was the research hard?
The setting was actually one of the first things I decided on. Since no viruses in nature possess the characteristics I required, the “Preta” virus had to be an engineered creation. So the question became: who would have the means and motive to be conducting such dangerous research? I was pondering that when North Korea hit the news for conducting missile tests. It seemed perfect.
I found the research fascinating, so much so that I got distracted by it. As ever, Wikipedia was an important resource. Beyond that, military and international security websites were invaluable. Some of the best information came from sites detailing human rights atrocities – sadly, some aspects of the story are close to factual. I ended up reading far more than I needed to, but hopefully I have done the setting justice.
3. Why is it called the Preta Pathogen – what makes it different from other viruses?
“Preta” is the most common name for the “hungry ghost” of Asian folklore. Traditionally, Eastern religions assert that after death, the spirit of a greedy or selfish person is condemned to wander the Earth, forever hungry. In some versions, the ghost craves human flesh. It seemed a good fit - superstitious North Koreans might blame zombie-style attacks on the supernatural. So the folklore named both my creatures and the virus – which of course, gives the novel it’s title.
The nature of the “Preta” virus itself lies right at the heart of the novel. Whilst the virus does spread via bites, it is not your classic zombie pathogen. Those infected can survive for some time before succumbing to the effects. Even worse, the virus can spread via other means, meaning asymptomatic carriers are constantly spreading the infection (I won’t spoil the plot by revealing how). In the world of the “Preta Pathogen” checking your fellow survivors for bites is not enough – they might be carriers anyway.
4. Two – sides – why write about Ji Tae and Ben?
Strangely, it wasn’t the original plan – Ji Tae’s point of view was meant to last only until the two main arcs of the story converged. However, once Ji Tae was established, I felt she was too strong a character to side-line. You would expect someone that has lived under a military dictatorship to have a very different view of the world; perhaps even a different sense of right and wrong. I found the contrasting perspectives of Ben and Ji Tae a useful way to explore certain ideas. The setting is an important part of the novel, and I found that was best illustrated from Ji Tae’s point of view. Also, there is room for Ji Tae to be a bit of an anti-hero; she has done some very bad things. That made her particularly enjoyable to write.
5. Was it difficult to match up the intrigue, setting etc?
I’d aimed to make the novel more expansive than is perhaps normal in the genre, so having chosen an interesting setting, it seemed rather wasteful not to make use of it. I felt the paranoid nature of the North Korean state made for a marvellous backdrop. So whilst the novel is certainly horror, it’s told in more of a thriller style, and incorporates a story line that reflects the real tensions on the Korean peninsula. As an extension of that, I wanted to anchor the story in the real world, which is illustrated via the regular BBC World News excerpts. That element also created a contrast I really liked - the main characters know exactly what is happening locally, but remain unaware of the greater effects. Conversely, the outside world is seeing all of the effects, but is completely unaware of the cause.
6. What makes it different?
If I’ve done my job properly, “The Preta Pathogen” should feel different from the genre norm for several reasons, but I would say realism is the most important one. All the way through the research and writing, my mantra was, “is this credible?” Although my virus is (thankfully) fictional, the key elements are grounded in real science. Likewise, I wanted there to be a solid reason for everything that happens – a key aim was that the events of the novel should feel like something you might see unfolding on the news. Before writing “The Preta Pathogen” I read (and loved) many zombie novels, but often wondered why most shied away from really explaining the virus, or detailing precisely how it has spread across the globe. Having now done so, I know why - it is extremely hard to write a believable scenario! But I got immense satisfaction from the process, and I hope readers will really enjoy that aspect.
7. Could it really happen?
Sorry to disappoint any zombie preppers out there, but no, it couldn’t. I did a huge amount of research on the medical / genetic / viral aspects of the novel in order to ma As a result, I’m confident that I’ve pushed a zombie-esque virus closer to plausibility than ever, but no, it still requires a considerable amount of scientific and mathematical “adjustment” in order to work. I would say let’s be happy to suspend disbelief and enjoy it for what I hope it is: a good story. On the other hand, any good zombie story should make you want to keep a blunt instrument handy; it’s part of the appeal. So if a reader feels compelled to stock up on MRE’s and .223 NATO rounds, that’s up to them.
8. What’s in the works?
I am currently writing the sequel, which picks up the story a few months after the events of “The Preta Pathogen” (although the novel can be read on a standalone basis, it was always intended as the first part of a trilogy). In the sequel, “Preta” outbreaks have hit several countries, and governments across the globe are struggling to contain the virus. Even worse, Ben and his fellow survivors find that not everyone wants to stop it.
Bio: A year ago Mark Woods was just a chef who wrote book reviews, but when horror author, Catt Dahman, persuaded him to write his own stories, she unwittingly created a monster. Since then his short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies to critical acclaim, his debut novella, Time Of Tides, has proved phenomenally popular and he is one of the key authors behind the upcoming, groundbreaking novel, Feral Hearts; a unique and original take on the vampire legend like nothing you have ever seen done before!
Mark is currently working on numerous projects including his first full length novel and several other short novella. He also continues to write his short fiction whilst still doing what he calls 'the day job'.
Mark is an occasional Blogger and full time book geek who writes reviews for such sites as Amazon, Goodreads and Dooyoo when not writing his fiction.
His Blog, miss muppet are my hamster, can be found here: http://sparkymarky1973.blogspot.co.uk/
1. Time of Tides is a Lovecraftian tale set during a cataclysmic flood, where did you draw your inspiration from and how did it become such a gripping tale?
When Catt asked for scary fish tales, I decided I wanted to do something different from everyone else. I wanted my work to stand out. Quite simply I started brainstorming, throwing out ideas, but honestly had no idea where it was going. As I started writing, there were numerous times I thought of just giving the whole thing up, but I persevered and what you get now is exactly the way it was supposed to be read.
Someone commented recently on a review that they thought it a shame that the family on the Broads lost communications so quickly; the whole point was I wanted to convey a sense of isolation, and in that sense I think it worked.
2. You have shorts in a few different anthologies and have had some great success with Time of Tides. When do you think we’ll get to see your first novel and will it focus on similar themes?
My first full length novel will again be apocalyptic, but this time will concentrate on a zombie theme instead. All my zombie fiction is set in the same universe and this book sets all that up; so you get to see the fall of society at the beginning of an epidemic, followed by several survivors coming together on the rooftop of a small block of flats.
You're probably thinking you've seen all that before, it's been done - but I have a few twists up my sleeve that set it apart from other zombie novels.
Like Tides, it will be heavily character-orientated with as much focus on the survivors as the apocalypse itself. It's sub-title in fact will be 'tales of the survivors' and I promise, it will be a bit less bleak than other stuff I might have written up until now - without losing the sense if doom I think is needed in a true zpoc novel.
3. What sort of work will we be seeing from you in the next few years? Do you write in any other genres besides horror?
I have a sci-fi short that was previously published that I am working on adapting into a full book, but horror is where my heart is right now.
Catt says she thinks I can write anything, and any challenge she has thrown me I have taken on.
I like to experiment, but the main focus is the story - if I don't have a story that will fit a particular genre, I can't write for it.
For example, I write erotica under a pen name but I don't think I could ever write chick lit, but then again if inspiration hit me...
What can you expect in the future? Well I have another novella planned that is intended to be the first in a series that I can release in an omnibus edition at some stage, a story about giant false widow spiders, and plenty more short stories as and when I write them.
4. You’re one of 6 authors who worked together to write Feral Hearts, how did you feel about the project? Was it refreshing to see what other authors came up with for the same premise?
I loved Feral Hearts. Honestly. At first I didn't know how it was going to work, but with Ed Cardillo's encouragement, I think I came up with one of my most fun pieces yet! Taking one character, inventing him from scratch, and then running with him in someone else's story - well, that was just so much fun!
For those who want to know what to expect...my contribution was heavily influenced by 30 days of night - except it all happens in one night!
5. You’ll be joining some of the same authors to work on Lycanthroship, will post-WWII werewolves be much harder than writing about the unlucky modern singles and their run-in with vamps?
No, writing that will be no different from anything else I write. I have a story, characters and a plot - the only hard part will be doing some research on post WWII history so that it looks and feels authentic.
Actually, it will be interesting to see what my other writers, and any fans I might have yet, think of what I have come up with!
6. Time of Tides has come out in a brand new print edition with Wendy Won’t Go and will also have an additional story from you. Could you tell us a little about Dairy of the Dead and how it relates to your novel?
Dairy of the Dead was written quite simply because someone got the title of Romero's diary of the dead wrong and I was like 'Yessss, zombie cows!'
I'd just read an anthology called zombie zoology, and loved the idea of zombie animals and knew I had to write the story.
It was set after my short story, up on the roof, which is since becoming my first full length novel as I go on to expand it. Basically, the whole world has gone to hell in a hand basket and the zombie virus has spread to animals as well as humans.
More gets explained as to the whys and wherefores in my upcoming novel that is due to be ready for next year.
7. JEA is a small press that’s really starting to build, has it been a good experience being a part of that success? Is it difficult to find time for your writing between editing, promoting, your day job and home life?
Finding time to write, edit others, work a full time job and deal with family is intense, and don't ask me how I manage it. I find that if I concentrate on editing, my writing gets behind and vice versa so I have to kind of concentrate on one or the other and try and split my limited time as best I can.
J.e.a provided me with the chance to start my career as a published writer and have done nothing but encourage me from the start. For that I owe them the world, and to catt especially because without her, I wouldn't be here where I am right now, no hosey way.
I am hoping along with the press, my name too will become a household name that people know and have heard of.
I owe them a huge debt of allegiance because, right now, I have never been more happy than to see my work, stuff I have written, in print.
It is like the best drug, it really is. I still pinch myself every so often in case it is a dream
8. How do you feel about the work you do as an editor and author at JEA? Where do you see yourself with it after a few years time?
I think I can be a little slow as an editor at times, but that is because I like to be concise and give their work the respect and attention it deserves. If I'm tired, I try not to edit because it is someone else's piece of work and I owe them more than that.
Thankfully, all the authors I have worked with so far appreciate that.
As for my writing, I have seen phenomenal success with time of tides, and the hardest thing for me is accepting that people are buying it, and hopefully, enjoying it!
My goal is to try and become the next James Herbert. An unobtainable goal? Maybe, but you have to aim big or you might as well just go home.
I have lots of ideas, intend to be prolific,and have had lots of people with nothing to gain tell me that my writing shows real promise. In a few years? I'm hoping more people will have heard of me and I have a fan base.
I don't care about getting rich from my writing, though that would be nice; what I do want is for people to carry on reading what I produce and enjoy it.
The satisfaction I get from seeing peoples faces when I tell them I am a writer and explain what I have achieved in a year, then seeing them go 'oh wow, that's really exciting' will never ever get boring to me.
I guess I'm just an attention whore at heart. Lol.
Talented authors, Amanda M. Lyons and Mark Woods, team up for an unprecedented collector’s editions of their debut works, with never before seen bonus stories.
Wendy Won’t Go
Billy and Sara are living a life of fear. Every day and every night since Sara was small they have been haunted by a terrible apparition. She is cold and she is cruel, strange and frightening. Her name is Wendy, and no matter where they go and no matter what they do, Wendy Won't Go.
Time of Tides
What if Global Warming wasn't just down to Climate Change? What if it was down to something else?
As the worst storm of all time hits the entire globe and as all across the world rivers burst their banks and the oceans start to rise, one family take to the Norfolk Broads to try and escape the floods. Little do they know their nightmare is just beginning...because as they are about to find out, nowhere is safe!
Love Like Blood
What would you do to save the life of your child? Anything? This short about a woman’s life turned juxtaposed horror explores just what anything means when your child’s fate is held by an insidious creature. Here we learn that love flows like blood.
Dairy of the Dead
Ever wonder what would happen to all the pets and livestock of the world during a zombie apocalypse? Mark Woods did in this short about a dairy farm gone array in the worst possible way.
She remembers blood.
A fine mist which goes deep into her lungs, over her skin and through the air. She remembers a desert at dusk. The sky indigo blue and the fire bright, so bright that she can see everything. Near the fire, in the night, all she knows is chaos wrapped in crimson. All is death and nightmare with a single solitary dancer who smiles cruelly as he moves. He is power and darkness. He is man and beast, silver coin eyes and that face, those claws and the agony of loss.
Time stretches wide; seconds like vast eons swallow up her world. Vince is dead, his mother, his brother and her small son ripped apart and gushing as he/it moves. She is screaming, a howl of agony beyond words, primal and wordless. Still he moves, faster than air, faster than she could ever be. Blood drips from her face as she grunts, running with her lungs on fire and her last remaining hope wrapped in her arms.
Lungs starved for air, heart leaping in her chest and her feet like pinions pushing her across the desert, she moves. It will never be enough. She will always fail. He is the wind, feathers and strange sounds wrap around her as she moves on, terrible laughter mocking her in the full bright light of the moon.
-from 'Love Like Blood' a story in Wendy Won't Go: Collector's Editon new from JEA!
Time of Tides Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LWDMSP4
Wendy Won't Go Kindle http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00LWDMH28
WWG Collector's Print : https://www.createspace.com/4895131
Time of Tides Collector's Print: https://www.createspace.com/4895199
I'm just over halfway into ELBF's edits now and something had occurred to me. If you enjoyed the book when I published it originally you might be wondering if it will be worth picking up a copy of the JEA release. Well, the answer is yes. While the indie print of Eyes Like Blue Fire was a solid one it, like many indie books out there, needed just a bit more polish and refinement to make it the book it always deserved to be. It was also a pretty good sized novel in it's own right and in many ways the events that take place in the first half make up a story worthy of being on it's own, separate from the later half, which stood well on it's own too.
As a result the editors at JEA and I felt it would benefit from being divided into two separate books, ELBF and Water Like Crimson Sorrow. So there will be two books coming out from that one original manuscript and as a result there will be some areas of both chunks that will be getting a well-deserved fleshing out and polishing up before they come out. Why? Well there are some clear points where it needed some refining and others where I could have done more to make the story stronger in that first release. I've enjoyed polishing ELBF these last few months because I was able to see the gems hidden in the rougher bits and make those rougher bits a lot more like the gems. I really think even the fans of that first release are going to enjoy reading this new ELBF and getting a clearer version of the story they love so well. It also means that I'll be able to really focus on that world and get the next book out that much sooner.
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: Catt Dahman has been writing for more than 30 years, has taught in public schools, private schools, home school, and college. Her B.S. and M.S. degrees are from Texas A & M. Her areas of study were: Criminal psychology, art, and English. She is a native of North East Texas, has lived all over the US, (and tries to claim Jamaica as a second home) but is currently back in the Fort Worth, Texas area where she lives with her husband, David (a retired Marine), son Nic, cats, a ferret, and dog. She has also been a public speaker, artist, director for a charity, dabbled as a PI, and more. When not working, she enjoys SCUBA diving (PADI), reading, ruining movies for her family by pointing out mistakes, collecting Tarot card sets , playing Legos with her son, and growing herbs. She now writes full time, has zombie series of nine books, short stories, and several books of horror. She is available by e-reader and paperback.
J Ellington Ashton: http://www.jellingtonashton.com/
1.You’re writing a great serial murderer series about a character named Virgil McLendon, could you tell us a little about the character and what he’s facing in your books?
The Virgil McLendon books have grown. I think they are stand alone books, but Virgil began as a small town deputy (book 1) and was teased a little because of his “weird” ways at looking at crimes. He still solved the crime, because of his quirks and not despite. He thinks of music and logic when he sees a case, and he notices things that don't fit and asks why. And he doesn't know it, because it is way back in the 1970s before law enforcement accepted new techniques, but he uses basic psychology. He listens to people and watches them. He looks for what is out of place and asks why. He never forms a theory but lets the facts stand alone. Because he is so unusual, he goes from deputy, to sheriff, to special agent in the FBI and to then one of the founders of the BAU division, and still doesn't understand why others can't see things just as clearly as he does. My favorite part is when a sheriff asks Virgil if it isn't a little unthinkable to have two serial killers acting in one town at the same time. Virgil is flummoxed. He can't imagine why there wouldn't be! Anyway, he is facing the changes of a country and in crime....
As the series go, we know the characters and sometimes some issues are not resolved. Virgil's entire family is in law enforcement and there are a few family secrets, so besides the legal work, Virgil has a beautiful wife who wants a family and career, friends who are sometimes in danger, and his own fears of failure.
2. These are based on real serial killer cases, was it difficult doing the research? Was it hard reading into some of the more brutal crimes?
It should be, but I guess I have become calloused to the cruelty. That said, one case I can't read about is the Adam Walsh murder, that is the one that gets to me, mainly because there is nothing worse than a killer that brags brutal details- it makes me physically ill. I read a lot, I began in criminal investigation, and even did some work as a private investigator, so I think I've seen a lot and learned to turn off the emotion for most cases. That said, I do have issue with the cases never solved or those that are so confusing that I have to pull court records and sift through before I understand them. One such case occurred close to where I live and for years I was torn on whether the person was guilty. I finally wrote about it and let “Virgil” look at it. I came to a partial conclusion, but not one I feel at peace with. Those cases..the ones where there is doubt...those bother me.
3. Of Blood and Water starts the series and right away you’re tackling some seriously brutal stuff, child murders during the 1970s. Was it difficult to cover that territory or did you feel the subject matter made the book that much more compelling?
That case hurt. After research and writing, I feel the wrong man died for the crime, a guilty man walked free, and I reflected that somewhat in the book. That was supposedly one of the first times that profiling was used, but it was- in my opinion- used without sound experience. It was more that I was using it to fit a scene than allowing the scene to dictate the parameters. It was hard to describe the deaths of the children, and I did try to stay with most facts, but I have done the same for the entire series and it never gets easier. The California Killer was horribly brutal and there was a man who fed victims to alligators...so they are all rough. I read and research the real cases before twisting them and making them a little more difficult to solve . I do feel the reality makes me stay more honest to the real evil that resides in the killers. While some cases are never really resolved (as opposed to solved), in my books, the killers generally meet a bad end. My good guys win. Mostly. There are a few who will be taken care of in later books...it was just not time to let them be punished yet.
4. Criminal profiling was very new during the era McLendon is utilizing it, was it interesting researching how it worked when it was first used? Is it much different than it is today?
People treat Virgil as if he uses magic. People think it's crazy, that he can tell so much from a crime scene and profile a killer because it just wasn't done back then. Virgil uses more of what we use today...he's way ahead of his time. But people are shocked at his logic. I get a kick out of having Virgil smarter than the others. Because of the changes in the 70s, we saw new things. Back then, it never dawned on us that a killer might be a female or a normal person. We still thought it had to be a crazed killer or the drifter or the black man. Virgil is aware that it is never the outside element and that mostly, it is someone very much like the victims as far as race and experiences. I have enjoyed allowing the first female and African American FBI agents to work with Virgil and hope that shows the changes of the country and changes in thinking.
5. Book two Of Lions and Lambs focuses on a male serial killer attacking young men and mutilating them, Of Guilt and Innocence takes place at an institute for the criminally insane, Of Lost and Found takes place at a huge house known for disappearances and book five Of Truth and Lies is about a killer who helps McLendon solve a copycat killer’s case. This is a series that covers a lot of ground! Was it hard coming up with great cases to base McLendon’s cases on?
Unfortunately, there are many brutal crimes available to take from. Of Guilt and Innocence is probably the one that doesn't fit because it is almost fully made up and not based on a crime per se. (The people incarcerated there have committed crimes we may be aware of or have heard in urban myths) but it's really about secrets related to Abraham Lincoln and the research I did is solid, but it's almost over the top as far as believability. Yet, the facts are pretty strong to support my “case”. The stories keep coming because there are so many mysteries out there and I get to combine them with my murder cases. The famed Winchester House appears, but I was able to reinvent it as something far worse. I guess real cases give me a seed, but I take the stories in new ways and tangle them so nothing is ever easy or how it seems. I wouldn't even say the books are about what they look to be. The first is about family traditions (bad ones). I love to tackle that topic and have done so in several books. The second is is more about people being seen as female, black, gay, whatever...as individuals in a changing world. I have dealt with forced religion and it taking ominous meanings, and more. I think I take social situations...injustices or changes...and show this with mysteries. In a new book, I am delving into rape and blaming the victim instead of the offender, but it looks like a simple murder mystery. I don't think I will ever run out of wrongness to write about. (oh...I have a new tag line???)
6. You’re known for taking risks with your writing and enjoying unusual subject matter, tell us a few of your more interesting stories/books and why you like to seek out the unique.
I probably take far too many risks. I don't set out to, and generally have an idea like...”what if some girls took revenge and then”....and from there it gets weird because I find connections and I let the characters control the action and there is always far worse than what we think. To me, there may be a fin at the surface, but I know that down deep, there will be a school of hungry sharks and probably someone who likes the bloodshed and a horrible back story. But isn't that normal? If we see a lady with a black eye, did she really run into a door? Or is there a terrible story there? I think I am all about the secrets and hidden stories because they are truth. I am one of those truth-seekers. No matter how bad it will be, I like to know. And as Virgil would say, why wouldn't there be all kinds of scary things going on behind the normal? We all once were innocents, but we lost that...maybe with Vietnam.
7. You also took part in a collaborative book called Feral Hearts due out from your publishing house J Ellington Ashton very soon, did you enjoy the project? Is it tougher to work with a mixed group of writers than it is to work alone?
I loved the story and the process. I loved working with such a talented crew that challenged me. But, that said, it was hard and I would have failed if not for Edward Cardillo. I tend to write myself into corners and blaze my way out; that wasn't workable for this project. Ed saved my bacon and made my work far more reader friendly. It's a great book and very, very unusual with the writers having to work off a single premise, but the other writers were far better at this than I was. In my defense, I am not a short-story writer ( a handful at most) and I am character heavy, so it killed me to have random characters that might do things I didn't expect! I have tons of respect and admiration for the rest who did so well. On the other hand, I am thrilled that Ed and I could collaborate (a nice word for his work to save my butt). And by far, it was harder to write with others; I don't play well in a group. I think I do better when I am sent to the corner alone so I don't bother others. :)
8. Tell us a little about Feral Hearts and what we can expect from your collaboration. What was your favorite part of working on it? Were there any major elements you really liked about it?
Going into FH, I was the weak link because I don't write short stories, don't delve into vampires, and had never collaborated. Even with that, my fellow authors are so strong that they covered my weaknesses and ran with the character I created. Designing “Jenna” -the OCD saturated nut of the bunch- was more than fun. I had a ball with her, adding little hints and secrets here and there, and giving her a life of her own. I feel like she stands as a strong character and frankly, that's all I do -develop characters and let them run amok. I like how others embraced my little monster, but that shows professionalism in their work. Again, I claim weakness, but the rest and editor Ed Cardillo are what makes FH a strong book. The voices are distinct and the action is solid. I think readers will get a favorite book out of this because of the diversity. They will at least get a shock!
9. Lycanthroship is currently in progress and utilizes some of the same authors as Feral Hearts, could you tell us a little about the premise? What makes the book unique from it’s siblings FH and Fish Tales?
It's (Lycanthroship) a looser type book...as far as the set up....I threw out a set up and said , “RUN!”. That works for me. FH was more controlled. One type isn't the better of the two...we get very different results with these and they can't be compared. I think FH with vampires, has some expected rules and twists, but with werewolves like in Lycanthroship, we get turmoil and confusions. Werewolves are just such messy beasts! What is interesting is that the authors don't replicate characters; they go in very different ways than in FH. Again, it shows that the authors are solid writers and not only think outside the box, but see no box at all! Fish Tales is a collection of frightening stories that are related ONLY by water. Lycanthroship and FH are stories set within a defined universe, a time and place in common and the characters interact.
10. As the CEO of JEA you have to make a lot of tough decisions about which authors to pick up. What are the biggest things you look for in an ideal author?
Sometimes, I can “smell” when a book is right. Sometimes, I don't know, but have a feeling. I know for a fact we have passed on several books that were fantastic and if I were to go back in time, I'd grab them. At the time, maybe a word threw me or we had something similar, or I was distracted by something else. I make mistakes. I never know how we decide something isn't right, except that we get a lot of subs and can only take a few. I have taken a few as favors, I admit that. I have taken some before because the pitch and the credentials were amazing. I'm impressed when a sub meets the exact requirements we ask for!
I took Keith Milstead as an unfinished sub, (that's unheard of) but his voice shocked me. I did ask for a few changes, but the story was rock solid. It's worth waiting for. Andy Bove was an author I asked to sub to us because his pose was virtually perfect. Sometimes I speak to an author and feel a connection and see their wit (Tabitha Baumander).
There is no ideal author. We have missed a few, but the most ideal ones I know are those with us. They are amazing. Those who want to be with us and who are....those are ideal because they believe. Mark Woods may be the most ideal. He was shy and quiet about his writing, took the swift kick in the rear I gave him, and came out selling like a monster! Anyone can say he is a great writer, but I take notice when I see that someone is and yet that person is humble. Still water runs deep...always has. I see authors boast about sales and waving hands and jumping around, and they generally don't impress me. I think the strongest writers are the ones who let their work say it all.
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.
Amanda M Lyons
Ms. Lyons is an author of fantasy, horror, and an avid reader of all genres.