Sunday, February 28, 2010

Living Dead Boy--Progress Report

It is coming along nicely. I really love this tale of a little boy named Josh and his motley crew of friends facing the zombie apocalypse. It has been a little rough at times to put the kids into the situations they are facing. I feel so mean! Except for Robert R Best's Lakewood Memorial, I haven't read a zombie novel with the children as the central focus. I'm not saying they aren't out there, but I just haven't read one, so this is all new territory for me.

For a short period of time, I toyed with the idea of flashing back and forth between the kids and some adult counterparts. The first draft of the first few chapters included adults, but it felt off. I finally ripped the adult sections out, reordered the scenes, and did a new read through. This time it felt right. So Living Dead Boy is just about the kids and their attempt to survive the zombie hordes.

As usual, I created my characters in Sims 2. Here they are:

Josh is the lead of the story. He's just turned 12 when the story begins and is a die hard zombie fan. He's also dealing with his mad crush on Corina, his parents struggling to make ends meet, and a little brother that drives him crazy.

Corina is the older woman that Josh loves. She is his former babysitter and still treats him like he's a kid. But once the zombies rise, the pretty 14 year old finds that Josh is probably her best chance at survival.

Drake is the bane of Josh's existence. The three year old is opinionated, loud, and used to getting his own way, and often wars with his older brother. When things go horribly wrong for the boys, Drake has only his brother to protect him.

Troy and Roger are adopted brothers (Troy from Haiti, Roger from Cambodia)named after their parents favorite Dallas Cowboy players. They are good friends with Josh and are part of his Zombie Hunters Club. Though they are the same age, Troy tends to act older and Roger naturally follows.

Arturo is Josh's best friend and neighbor. He tends to be the more sarcastic of the kids and is often very opinionated on what they need to do. The only child of a single parent, his main concern when the zombies arrive is to rescue his mom, but he soon realizes his own survival is in jeopardy.

I don't have a Sim for Sam yet, but Sam is the school outcast and the son of the county sheriff. He has no social skills and tries too hard to either be a bully or a friend to the Zombie Hunters. When the zombies arrive, Sam tags along, hoping to find his dad and be rescued.

Jamie, Josh's dad, is home from the war, but struggling to move his family out of the Texas Hill Country to Austin. He loves his family deeply and wants to do the best for them. He is in Austin applying to become a police officer when the zombies arrive. Josh tries hard to fulfill his promise to his father to take care of his family while his dad is away.

Lynnette is Josh and Drake's mom. She is trying to recover form the deaths of the grandparents who raised her and get her family back on track when the zombies rise. She is a substitute teacher at the local school and witnesses the zombies arrival. When she and Josh are separated, she rushes to save Drake from his daycare.

In the end, Living Dead Boy is about Josh and how he tries to save his family and friends from the zombies he has been obsessed with most of his life. It is a little rough writing about children facing the shambling dead, but I know some pretty cool kids who would be more than ready to fight the zombie scourge. My nephew immediately comes to mind. He keeps telling me this is HIS book and that I better make Josh cool.

I hope I don't let him or my other fans down.

I'll keep you posted as Living Dead Boy continues its path to publication by the Library of the Living Dead Press.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A New Interview

Just a quick blog post today before I dash out the door to hang out with friends all evening watching The Venture Brothers and munching Austin's Pizza. If you're ever in Austin, you must try their pizza rolls with spinach and mushrooms wrapped in a whole wheat crust. Delicious!

Yesterday, Timothy Long asked me Ten Questions about writing and has posted them on his writer's blog. Tim just started the blog, but it is already chock full of interesting posts. I enjoy reading author blogs immensely, and I have added his to my usual roster.

Also, when out on 6th St. last night with friends, we wandered into a shop and I ended up snagging up a really cool bag. I love it! I somehow managed to stuff it into the bottom of my coffin purse, which amazed my friend Joel.

"A woman could stuff the Eiffel Tower into her handbag," he observed. "They would just rummage around and make room.

Anyway, I love this bag and thought I would share my shopping good luck. I found it online here for a nice price.

Hope you have a great Saturday evening!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Blogs, Blogs, and more Blogs--Words of Wisdom from Around the Blogsphere

Ever since I started on this crazy journey, I have cruised the countless blogs associated with writing gleaning information in order to have a clearer vision of exactly what goes on in the publishing world.

I've decided to share some of my favorite links at least once a week.

Here are a few blogs I found intriguing this last week:

Starting with Lynn Viehl at Paperback Writer, here is a very interesting article on what not to do when you query an agent, editor or publisher.

The Creative Penn has a great blog about Simon & Schuster's push to have their authors blog and build social networks.

Alvina Ling, an editor with Little Brown Books for Young Readers, was a guest blogger at author Justine Larbalestier's blog, and wrote about her daily life as an editor. The post makes for fascinating reading.

Timothy Long has an interesting new article on how he was inspired to write The Zombie-Wilson Diaries at his blog.

Derek Goodman has started posting chapters to the sequel to his novel The Apocalypse Shift on his blog. You can also find short stories placed in the same world. I absolutely love the first chapter he posted this week.

At Genreality, Carrie Vaughn discusses the one ingredient in the publishing equation people do not like to discuss: luck.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

As The World Dies: Fighting to Survive Won the 2009 Dead Letter Award for Best Book (Fiction)

I'm so excited! This is the second year in a row that a book from the As The World Dies series has made it onto the Dead Letter Award ballot and has won!

Thank you to all you zombie lovers who voted for the book!

It was exciting to be nominated alongside people like David Moody, Jonathan Maberry and Robert R. Best.

Also congratulations to all the authors in the Library of the Living Dead Press' Zombology anthology that also won a 2009 Dead Letter Award.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Big News About the As The World Dies Website and Forum!

The As The World Dies website and forum are now up and running. We're still working out the kinks, so bear with us. If you have any suggestions on how to improve the website or the forum, please feel free to drop me a line. Thanks!

You can find the website here. The forum is located here.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Power of THE DUNWOODY Compels You!!!--An Interview With David Dunwoody, Author of Empire

I am so excited about today's interview with David Dunwoody, author of Empire and Dark Entities. He is truly one of the nicest people I have met so far in the business of writing and a remarkable person all around.
Despite being legally blind and living with a form of autism, David has written one of the most popular zombie books released by Permuted Press. His collection of short stories, Dark Entities was recently on the preliminary ballot for the Bram Stoker Awards and Empire will soon be reissued by an imprint of Simon & Schuster.His success and ability to overcome what many would see as insurmountable obstacles is inspiring.

I am a completely fangirl when it comes to THE DUNWOODY (our affectionate nickname for him) and I hope you enjoy his story and advice.

Rhiannon: I had the pleasure of meeting you at Horror Realm in 2009 and like a lot of other attendees, I was very impressed with you. For those readers who don't know this, you are legally blind and suffer a form of autism. You handled yourself so well and were so kind, you ended up with a bit of a fan club. We christened you "The Dunwoody." Was this your first convention?

David: I did a panel at a Salt Lake con in 2008, but this was my first full-blown convention experience as a guest - sitting at a table in the dealer room and talking one-on-one with readers.

Rhiannon: Is attending an event like this difficult for you? (You handled yourself so well!)

David: Thanks! Had it been any other type of gathering, I think I would have had a lot more trouble - but I eat, sleep & breathe horror so it was easy chatting with people on that subject, even if my mind started to cloud up. And, of course, so many friends from Library of the Living Dead Press and Permuted Press were there, including yourself! Not to mention Greg Hall of, who made me "The Dunwoody" and has been a great friend.
I know sometimes the description of AS (Asperger's) in social situations sounds like the common experience of simply feeling awkward, but it's more like some part of my brain disengaging and leaving me behind. Remember that Simpsons where Flanders was yammering about cider town and Homer's brain just checked out? It's sorta like that, only I'm not bored or uncomfortable, it just happens. Suddenly I feel like a shade and then I'm uncomfortable.
Sometimes I feel like I have one foot in the "normal" world and the other in...I don't know where the other one is.

Rhiannon: How does your blindness affect your writing process? Do you have any sort of special computer equipment or programs?

David: My left eye is almost completely shot, and my right has a large blind spot in its center, but, using the peripheral vision in that eye, I'm able to read and write with magnification software. I also make notes on three big whiteboards on the wall behind my desk so I can scribble ideas in big black marker (which makes it no more legible to anyone else, but helps me a bit).

Rhiannon: Has your blindness altered how you write scenes or characters?

David: I became legally blind in mid-2008, so I have a good 27 years of being sighted, and generally write from that perspective. I have written a few characters with limited or no eyesight, though.

I only recently have begun to experience blindness in my dreams. For a long time my mind's eye remained clear. I guess I'm starting to forget what it was like before. I'll have to wait and see how that might change things.

Rhiannon: You have been very open about your diagnosis of Aspergers, which is a form of autism. I have quite a few people in my life with Aspergers and autism. Recent studies indicate that having a mild form of autism is sometimes helpful in certain types of jobs. How does it affect your writing?

David: I don't know how much of might be AS, and how much isn't, but I think my "hyperfocus" and the search for pattern and structure has been to my benefit in terms of writing. When it comes to that, though, it's really hard to put a finger on how AS shapes a story. It's all me, one way or the other.

Rhiannon: You weren't diagnosed until you were an adult after a tragic event in your life where you lost your eyesight. Every time I have ever heard you speak of what occurred, you are just filled with so much optimism, it is inspiring. Do you have any advice to parents or people who are facing the same or similar diagnosis in themselves or someone they love?

David: There's no doubt that AS can be responsible for certain limitations, particularly when it comes to relating to others. But having gone nearly three decades undiagnosed, and now understanding so much about myself, I can tell you that the diagnosis saved my life, as well as my relationships with friends and family. The diagnosis was sobering, sure, and parts were even troubling, but ultimately it was empowering.

Rhiannon: At what age did you start writing?

David: I didn't get serious about it until 2004, when I was 23. But I've been writing since I was in the single digits. I used to tear the paper from a spiral notebook, fold them over, staple the "spine" and then write wildly gory "books"with cover art and the whole thing. I remember that the centerpiece of my first-ever tale was something about a monster jumping out of a guy's chest like ALIEN. His girlfriend "was scared, but she understood."

Rhiannon's Note: Hehehee...that is some girlfriend!

Rhiannon: What is the first genre you wrote in?

David: Everything has always had a strong horror element. My work is certainly growing to explore ideas other than fear (as with the powerful emotional bond between the aforementioned chestburster guy and his gal), but the horror is always there...sometimes only watching, and waiting, but there.

Rhiannon: How was Empire inspired?

David: I love books and films wherein the storyteller takes on the challenge of presenting a realistic, present-day zombie scenario, but what I love to write is post-post-apocalyptic fiction - set in a world transformed, with elements of dark fantasy. So Empire is set in a world that has been besieged by zombies for over 100 years. It was set in the same world as a story that I'd serialized in The Hacker's Source magazine - which was, in fact, set in the present, but had a lot of strange supernatural elements.

Still, Empire was missing something. At the time I was kicking around ideas, I had just written a story called "Brownlee's Blue Flame" (which appears in the third volume of The Undead) in which Death himself deals with the emergence of zombies. That was the "Eureka!" moment, and Empire took off in my imagination.

Rhiannon: Is Empire your first novel length work?

David: It is. I first ran it online as a serial novel in 2006, then submitted the manuscript to Permuted Press, who had been very supportive of Empire along with other "new media" content by aspiring writers.

Rhiannon: Did you try to get an agent or did you just submit to publishing houses?

David: Though I've started thinking about it recently, I didn't think at all about an agent at the time. Back when I was serializing Empire, I was thinking less about seeing that particular story make the leap to print than I was about connecting with other readers and writers.

Rhiannon: How many publishing houses did you submit to before Empire was picked up by Permuted Press?

David: I was lucky in that Permuted took interest during that online serial period. They were the first and only publisher I submitted it to.

Rhiannon: Empire is being released on March 16, 2010 by Gallery Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster). This is a reissue of the novel originally published by Permuted Press. How did your novel end up getting picked up by Gallery Books?

David: Simon & Schuster were interested in acquiring J.L. Bourne's Day by Day Armageddon; Permuted got them to look at some of its other zombie titles and was able to work out a six-book deal.

Rhiannon's Note: Which is an amazing deal and so great for the author's involved!

Rhiannon: Do you have an agent now? If so, how has having an agent affected your career?

David: No agent yet.
Rhiannon: When do we get Empire 2?

David: Not sure on that just yet - the reissue of Empire has pushed back the sequel's release, but that's a good move. Right now I'm working on short stories. I took a long break from zombies last year and am getting back into it with some fresh (but no less decomposed) ideas.

Rhiannon: Tell us about your newest work, Dark Entities.

David : Dark Entities is my first collection. It's from Dark Regions Press and consists of 1/2 new stories and 1/2 reprints (many of which you can no longer find due to defunct webzines or out-of-print mags). There are a few zombie tales but it deals more with monsters of my own making. Demonic cannibals, giant graveyard ogres and living scarecrows. That sort of thing.

Rhiannon: Dr. Pus (of the Library of the Living Dead Podcast & Press) loves Grinning Samuel. Any chance that character will get a novel of his own?

David: I don't know if there's a novel in his future, but he's one of my favorite characters too. Samuel (who is part of the Empire universe) appears in three stories so far: the novella "Lost Souls" (The Undead: Headshot Quartet), "Grinning Samuel" (The Undead), and "Clockwork" (Zombology).

Rhiannon's Note: I was very excited to have my short story "Stop Requested" included in Zombology along side David Dunwoody's tale.

Rhiannon: When can we expect Harvest Cycle to come out?

David: It's being edited as we speak. Can't say when it will be added to the publication schedule, but I'm very excited about this one.

Rhiannon: Can you explain to us what it is about?

David: The Harvest Cycle is a Lovecraftian apocalyptic novel. It's set in a world where humans have been driven underground by the yearly attacks of alien beings called Harvesters, which serve a godlike entity and move at superhuman speed to catch their prey. When not under threat of "harvest," humans live in fear of their own android creations - once servants to Man, the androids have twisted Asimovian logic to conclude that it is better to exterminate humans before the Harvesters get to them - because what the Harvesters do is perhaps worse than death.
(Harvester illustration by Tom Moran from Dark Entities)

Rhiannon: In closing, what is the best advice you can give a fledgling writer?

David: Whenever I'm asked this, I always mention the websites and, which list markets for works of every genre and length and allow you to narrow your search to just what you're looking for. Whether you're trying to find a home for something you've written, or are looking for a theme to inspire you, they're an enormous help. Forums like those at Permuted Press and Library of the Living Dead have allowed me to connect with other writers, editors and publishers, and many such communities have areas where you can workshop your stories.

It's a remarkable time. If you're serious about your writing, you have the chance to get yourself out there and to grow as a storyteller. Which brings me to the most important advice - read. Read as often as you can. Read different genres. It's a writer's best apprenticeship. I stole that line from John Green. There's no better way to say it.

Thanks, Rhia!

Rhiannon: Thanks, David!!

For more information on David and his writing, check out his website at

Freakin' Zombies Shambling in my Dreams...Must Be Writing A Zombie Book Again!

I need Tallahassee to hang out in my dreams and give Jenni a hand smiting them. Damn pesky zombies are haunting my dreams again. Which means that Living Dead Boy, my new zombie novel, is boiling away in the cauldron of my twisted mind. It is going very well and flowing a lot better than I had hoped. I was originally a little worried about writing about a 12 year old boy and his friends facing zombies, but now that I'm in the mix, it is all good. I sent the first few chapters off to Dr. Pus of the Library of the Living Dead Press, the publisher, and he loved them. Friday night, I read him another chapter and he gave me a very encouraging response.

The scene takes place at the school and I had asked some parents what they would do in this certain scenario. Happily, what I had already written meshed with their opinions. Doc loved the realism of the scene and I do think it works well.

Meanwhile, my agent has kept in touch with me via emails and phone calls ever since she pitched As The World Dies: The First Days in late January. Over at the Absolute Write forums, there is a thread called The Next Circle of Hell, which is the home of authors who have secured an agent and are waiting for final word from the big NYC publishers. I was surprised at how anxious I became during the first week after submissions and lurked on that thread, reading it from the very first post. There are some wonderful success stories on there as well as heartbreaking ones. It was encouraging in many ways, but mostly because I realized I am not alone in this process or in my anxiety. As things continue to look positive, (though there is never a sure thing in publishing), I have felt my nerves give way to acceptance of "what will be, will be." I have done my part of this process: I wrote a book. I can't do anything more than I already have and all I can do is wait.

To those of you who have asked how much longer before we know something: hopefully, soon. I promise to keep you updated as events unfurl.

One last thing, Derek Goodman, author of The Apocalypse Shift, is now posting new chapters of the sequel up at his blog. You can also find other original stories set in the same world. If you like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Shaun of the Dead, and Clerks, check out his stories. You'll love them!

Upcoming Blog Posts:
  • An Interview with THE DUNWOODY, David Dunwoody, author of Empire
  • Helpful Author Blogs
  • What The Hell Does My Character Look Like Again?

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Swing of Things

Just a quick little rundown of recent events to keep you all in the loop.

The NYC Thing
First, things are going well in NYC. I hope to have solid news for you in the next few weeks. My agent is doing what she does best and I have the utmost confidence in her. This week the foreign publishers have shown interest, so that was a really neat surprise. They have yet to be pitched to, so they came to us because of buzz about the book.

The ATWD TV Series Thing
I talked to the producer and he's been meeting with people and forming a game plan. I don't understand exactly how the whole TV show pitch works, but he's gung ho and "running amok" as I like to tell him. Beyond that, he's become a very good friend and his support is very much appreciated.

The PWSD Film Thing
The script is coming along nicely. I hope to see the completed work in the near future. I'm so excited to get a look at the "film version" of Pretty When She Dies.

The Tale of the Vampire Bride Thing
Considering my total lack of promotion for this book (which will soon change), the book is selling decently. I got a really great review on All Things Smart And Scary. Check it out here.

The Interview Thing
Dr. Pus will be interviewing me next weekend (probably Friday) for the Library of Horror Podcast. I will post information as soon as I receive it.

The Editing Thing
My first big editing endeavor is out! Please check out The Zombie-Wilson Diaries by Timothy W. Long. It is seriously one of the best zombedy books out there! You can purchase it here.

The Dead Letter Award Thing
You have until February 22nd to cast your vote for As The World Dies: Fighting to Survive for Best Book (Fiction). Just click on the link on the sidebar of the zombified mailman.

The Interview Thing
I plan to restart my interviews with writers very soon. David Dunwoody, author of Empire, will be the next author. He is a Bram Stoker Award nominee and Empire is about to be reissued from Pocket Books this Spring. He is an amazing guy and very inspirational. I can't wait to interview him.

The Thank You Thing
I want to thank everyone who hopped over to Derek Goodman's awesome blog, Tales from the Apocalypse Shift, after his interview on this blog. He had a jump in visits and he said a lot of them were from this blog. Thank you for supporting him. He is an awesome writer.

The Stalker Thing
After a brief hiatus, the stalker has reappeared with a fake Twitter page. RhiannonFratter is the name they used to create the account. For someone to have this much passion to read my blog, create a fake Twitter account, then spam it for hours...well...that is a whole lot of crazy. The person behind the blog went out of their way to Follow my legitimate account on Twitter just so I would know the fake one existed. Frankly, it doesn't bother me personally, but my husband didn't like that the stalker is pretending to be me to disparage me. So, on his advice, I have contacted my lawyer.

In some ways it is funny as hell and other ways it is disturbing as hell. Either way, I'm bored with the whole drama and moving on to...

Living Dead Boy for the Library of the Living Dead Press is coming along so well. I'm so excited and loving the new characters. It won't be nearly as long as my other novels, but it should be a good read for adults and kids who love horror and zombies.


Live is good! And I hope ya'll have a fabulous weekend!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Writing is definitely not for the faint of heart.

Thank God, I'm not faint of heart.

There was a positive rumbling yesterday. We'll see how it pans out. I'm getting better at waiting, though I do have my moments.

Ah, the joy of the long wait...

To alleviate the stress, I'm working on my new zombie novel. It is coming along nicely. I hope to have it done by the end of this month or early March. It is a shorter novel, but one that I hope you all enjoy.

*glances at clock, the email inbox, the phone*

Yep...definitely not for the faint of heart...

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Zombie-Wilson Diaries is Available on!

The amazingly fun and downright hilarious book, The Zombie-Wilson Diaries, is now for sale here on I had so much fun working with Timothy Long on the book and he was an absolute joy to work with. Written like a diary, the book tells the tale of one man, a deserted island, and the female zombie that is his only companion. It's twisted, funny, horrific, gross, and just a great read.

I highly recommend it! And not just because I helped Tim tidy it up for publication. It is really, really good. If you like Christopher Moore books, check this one out!

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Quick Thought

I have been reading over old blog entries on and off for a few days. I realized something. My views on publishing of any kind has definitely evolved since I first started on this journey. I have also recognized that my journey is not the norm for most writers. I have been very blessed.

As I wait to see where the next leg of this journey will lead me, I can only wonder how much more I will learn. I promise to share it with you as I move forward.

I still feel like I'm in that old white truck, careening down zombie-infested streets with Jenni and Katie. And Jenni is definitely driving. How else could have all this amazing, crazy, wonderful things happened to me?


Thursday, February 4, 2010

10 Women Writers and Their Influence on Me

Yes, I'm blogging like a madwoman. I can't help it. I'm trying to distract myself from the fact that my book is resting in the hands of the big NYC publishers and my nerves are twanging like crazy. --Rhiannon
The other day I was asked a question I am often called upon to answer: which writers have influenced me the most. This is a question I struggle to answer because most often the question is being asked by someone steeped in the zombie genre and the writers who have had the biggest impact on me are not even necessarily horror writers. In fact, I did not read my first horror novel until I was in my teens and that was a novel by Ann Rice.

Upon reflection, I realized that my list of influences may be actually quite surprising to some. Though one of my absolute favorite writers right now is Neil Gaimen, a lot of women have had an impact on me and how I write.

So here is my list of female authors and how they helped shaped me as a writer. Most of these books were read long before I hit my 20's, but they remain personal favorites and their influence continues to resonate in my writing.

Laura Ingalls Wilder - Her entire series

The Laura Ingalls Wilder stories are the first I remember reading. I'm sure there were books before this series that I enjoyed, but I only remember my old set of battered books about a little girl growing up on the prairie. These were also some of the first books I ever owned. I ordered every single novel from the school book fair. I loved those books so much and reread them countless times. They eventually fell apart.

What I remember the most from those books was how much I came to love Laura's world as she grew up and eventually married. Though I was still a child when I read the last book about the early days of her marriage, I came to understand that life changes, people evolve, people move on, and sometimes things do not always go as you had hoped. It was also the first series of books I ever read that had an end. I reached the last book and there weren't anymore. So I went back to the first one and started over.

Elizabeth George Speare - The Witch of Blackbird Pond

To this day, this remains one of my favorite books. The book has a rich historical atmosphere that is not about a lush, gorgeous exotic locale, but about the dreariness of the Puritan settlements in the Americas of the 1600's. Even though our protagonist is a bit snooty in the beginning, it became apparent this is only because of her sheltered and wealthy upbringing. Once among the plain and poor folk, she is the exotic foreign bird. How she evolves into a woman that still remains headstrong, but also compassionate, is very well done. Kit remains on of my all time favorite literary heroines and I was so happy that her tale ended on a happier note than I expected.

The dynamics of the relationships and the strength of the female characters is what I love about this book and hope that I bring those qualities to my own tales.

Anne McCaffery- Dragonsinger
Drangonsinger is my absolute favorite book by Anne McCaffery. This book so perfectly captured my own spirit of adventure, my feelings of being misunderstood, and my belief that there had to be something special about me, I read it probably a million times over in my teen years.

That spirit of adventure, the mystery of the unknown, the daunting task of surviving by your wits, and the journey to finding your special niche in the world is what I hope I brought to not only the As The World Dies trilogy, but my other tales as well.

Agatha Christie - Crooked House
When I was in my preteens and teens, I devoured Agatha Christie books. They were my favorite novels to check out of the library, and I read them over and over again. Crooked House was a novel I only found once on the library shelves before it was pulled. I was told later it was pulled because of its controversial content. The controversial content was exactly why I loved the book so much. It was the first novel where evil was not in the guise of a man or a woman, but a child.
It was the first time I read a mystery so completely outside the box and it shook me to the core. This is the first time I remember feeling "unsafe" in a novel and I loved it. Later, when I began to write my own tales, I would remember how I felt when reading this tale of a child murderer and tried to create my own "unsafe" scenarios.

I read later that this novel was one of Agatha Christie's favorites.

Doris Miles Disney-Winifred

Doris Miles Disney's books are out of print and her prose is dated by the era in which they were written, but she was still very good at twisting out tales that made you sit back just a bit in your chair.

Before I ever read The Yellow Wallpaper, I read Winifred. Both tales are about a woman sliding into madness after tragedies. Both drag you down with these women until their madness almost feels like your own. Winifred was truly terrifying because even though I knew the main character was going insane, I wanted her to somehow come out on top. I found myself hoping for her blindly even though she wasn't very likable and feared it would all end badly. And, of course, it did.

I thought of Winifred often when writing Jenni in As The World Dies. Suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the abuse she suffered before the zombie rising and the loss of her family, Jenni was a character that tended to do rash and not always sane actions. I recognized fairly early on that she could end up an immensely unlikable character if I was not careful. Therefore, I tried very hard to draw the reader into her mindset and let them feel what she was feeling as the story unfolded. It must have worked because Jenni remains the most beloved character of the series.

Charlotte Bronte- Jane Eyre
I love Jane Eyre. And not for the romantic relationship between our heroine and her employer. I love it for the crazy wife locked up in the attic that leaps to her death as the house burns to the ground. The mysterious and gothic aspects of the novel have always enraptured me far more than the actual romance. Don't get me wrong, I liked Jane quite a lot, but I always thought she could do better than Mr. Rochester.

The mad woman imprisoned in the attic, struggling to be free from her madness and her tormentor, always made me feel terribly sad for her and very angry at Mr. Rochester.

In the end, what Jane Eyre gave me was the love of the gothic. It took me one step closer to the genres I would come to love.

Victoria Holt - The Night of the Seventh Moon

My mom handed me a Victoria Holt novel soon after I read Jane Eyre for the first time. I was in love with the gothic feel of that tale and yearned for more. Victoria Holt's novels were just what I was hungering for, and I believe I have read every single book she has ever written. They were a staple of my teen years.

But one novel stood out among all the others. The Night of the Seventh Moon is not only steeped in history, gothic atmosphere, and forbidden romance, but has one of this best plots I have ever read in a gothic tale. It drew me in completely and has remained my favorite gothic romance next to my beloved Jane Eyre. This book was just perfection.

How has it influenced me? I hope that whenever I do have a romantic couple in my novels, they have the charisma and spark of the two characters in this novel. I completely loved them and cheered them on throughout all their travails.

Anne Rice - The Vampire Lestat

My first horror novel. My first taste of the macabre and gory in black and white. Up until I read this book, only the short stories of Edgar Allen Poe had given me nightmares. This book pushed it to a whole new level. This is the only book that I have ever read that I almost threw up reading.

This novel gets definite kudos for opening up the world of nightmares and beckoning me to enter. I was never the same writer again after reading it.

Mary Shelley - Frankenstein

It is hard to explain how much I love this novel and how it haunts me. After reading Anne Rice's novel about vampires, I had read Bram Stoker's Dracula. It left me with a hunger for more classical literature of the horror variety, so I snatched up Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. I read it in a one night marathon. I could not put it down.

The next day I talked to my mother about how beautiful it was, so haunting, and how it made me cry for the creature Frankenstein had created and his terrible tormented existence. I recognized Dr. Frankenstein as the true monster and found it difficult to have compassion for his madness.

The depth of emotion I felt when reading this tale and how those emotions lingered like cobwebs is what I aspire to create in the minds of my readers.

Tanith Lee - Dark Dance, The Blood Opera Sequence
Though Tanith Lee is an icon of genre fiction, I never found her books on any bookshelves where I used to live. I did live in a remote, very conservative part of Texas, so this could be why. It would take a very long time for me to pickup one of her novels. Once I started reading, I regretted how long it had taken me to dive into the worlds that Tanith creates.

Dark Dance is out of print, but I found a copy at Half Priced Books. This was another book I could not put down. It was hideously beautiful in every way and I loved it. The grotesque, the sacrilegious, the beautiful, and the insane mixed so delightfully in every chapter, I couldn't stop turning the pages. I won't lie. The book did push me far out of my comfort zone more than once, but I kept reading. It remains one of my favorite tales.

I read the two following novels in the saga, but neither one ever made me feel quite so uncomfortable again. The disquiet that came with the themes of the book still haunts me when I think about the first time I read it.

If I could weave a mood so terrible and beautiful at the same time as to make my reader squirm just a bit, I would be so very happy.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

LOST Returns!!! AKA What I Learned From LOST About Writing

My absolute favorite show has returned to TV and I am ecstatic. I have been a fan since the first season. I missed the first episodes when it first aired and caught up in a marathon that ABC aired. The show was highly recommended by friends and family and I was curious to see if I was really missing something special. I was hooked the very first episode.

LOST has been a show that people in my personal life and online have debated about since its first airing. A few of my family members quit watching the show when they felt not enough mysteries were solved. Their patience ran out. Surprisingly, I have zero patience (I will not think of what is going on in NYC...I will not think of what is going on in NYC), but I am so hooked on LOST it is like I'm a junkie.

Strangely, I have learned a lot about storytelling by watching LOST. Though writing a novel and writing a TV show are two different animals, a writer still has an obligation to his/her audience to tell the best story possible. Whereas the TV writer has to keep the viewer coming back episode after episode, season after season, the novelist has to keep the reader turning the pages from beginning to end. I admit I have quit watching shows and stopped reading books when I found the storytelling to be tedious or just dull. As I have watched the story of LOST unfold like chapters in a long, amazingly complex book, I have learned quite a few lessons.

So in tribute to the last season of the best show on TV, here are a few things I learned from LOST.

WARNING: Spoilers ahead for both LOST and As The World Dies.The First Season Cast of LOST

Characters Are Important
The people behind the show hid that the show was science fiction for the first season as they developed their cast of characters back stories and relationships with each other. The mysteries of the island were compelling, but the characters themselves were mesmerizing. It's a tribute to the casting directors that the actors and actresses so completely embodied their character that you could believe in them as though they were real people. It was the characters that kept me coming back show after show. I became completely and totally emotionally invested in a lot of the characters. I cheered them on, yelled at them, and cried for them. I fell in and out of love and hate with characters.

As the show comes to an end, I am already mourning the loss of these amazing characters in my life.

Over and over again I have been told how important the character of As The World Dies are to the readers and how the readers miss them once they are done with the books.

Be True to Your Characters

LOST has been very good at developing the characters during the last six seasons. All the characters have strengths and faults. A few that started out heroic have faltered along the way. I have fallen in love with characters I originally hated (Juliet and Sawyer) and fallen out of love with characters I originally adored (Kate). Some characters seemed gloriously heroic only to falter and fall (Locke) while others have risen above all expectations to be more than anyone could imagine (Sawyer). Hell, at this point I am not even sure of who the big bads and good guys are anymore. All I know is that I am invested in the story of these characters and I want to see them either find redemption or punishment.

The only time I felt LOST screwed up with a character was in the first season. The catty, bitchy, demanding Shannon suddenly softened into an ingenue as the badass Sayid unexpectedly fell for her. It felt forced, contrived and awkward. I hated every scene with the two characters and was frankly glad when Shannon was offed in the second season. I would have loved to see Shannon continue her bitchy path, but that was not to be.

Highlight Invisible Text To See How This Impacted As The World Dies(MASSIVE SPOILERS): Though I knew Curtis was the vigilante from the first book, I felt bad for him as a character. I could understand his warped sensibilities and why he was doing what he was doing. I also knew why he was wrong and how he was sliding down a slippery slope. For a short while I considered redeeming him, but realized it was too late for him. Even as emails poured in with people telling me how much they liked Curtis, how they wanted to hug him and console him, I knew I had to stick to the reality of the character. So Curtis remained the vigilante, slid down that slippery slope into madness, and died at the hand of Nerit.

Kill Your Characters

I first learned this lesson from Joss Whedon when he killed off Jenny Calendar in the second season of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. I still remember my utter shock at her death. A few years later he would kill Tara, Willow's girlfriend. I remember thinking he was merciless, but he achieved his goal of making me feel as though no one in his story was safe.

Years later, LOST would once more remind me of this lesson. The character of Ana Lucia was not very well received when she appeared in the second season of LOST. As leader of the tail section, she had the tough job of leading her survivors through the jungle as the Others pursued. I felt the character was very complex and difficult to like, but she did intrigue me. Libby, who became Hurley's love interest, was much more likable and I simply adored Bernard, Rose's husband. Out of the tail section, the character I loved the most was Mr. Eko. He completely entranced me.

Toward the end of season two, to my complete shock (I even shouted, "Oh, my GOD!" at the TV), Michale shot and killed not only Ana Lucia just as she found her own personal redemption, but Libby. I was utterly stunned.

Later, in season three, my beloved Mr. Eko also met his end when the nefarious smoke monster killed him.

At this time I was struggling with the upcoming deaths in my own story. Watching LOST, I realized that sometimes the death of a character is a reminder to the viewer/reader that all bets are off. No one is safe. Anyone can die. And when you are writing a horror novel about zombies, well, characters are going to die.

But there was one death that was just killing me...

Highlight Invisible Text To See How This Impacted As The World Dies(MASSIVE SPOILERS): I knew from the very beginning that Jenni would die. Because I knew her fate from the first sentence I ever wrote in the story, I thought I was emotionally prepared for her demise. I was wrong. I struggled for weeks to finally write her death scene. But when I finally did, I felt an immense relief wash over me because it felt so right. It was the perfect arc for her story and Jenni went out in a way that made her proud.

But that wasn't the hardest death scene to write. That scene was Bill. I never DREAMED Bill was going to die. I thought for sure he was going to make it to the end of the book. But as I wrote the scene that would lead to his death, I slowly realized he was not going to make it. Bill was going to die. A reader once said she didn't know how much she loved Bill until he was gone. I couldn't agree more. Bill was just that guy who is everyone's friend and a pillar of the group dynamic, but he didn't have the pizazz of the hero. When I realized he was going to die, I struggled with the scene. Removing Bill from the book felt so utterly awful. To not have him in the mix just left this huge gasping blank spot. Then I realized that was why he had to die. The fort inhabitants and the readers needed to feel that emptiness, that loss. They had to realize that anyone could die. That realization gave me the guts to finally write that scene.

I still miss Bill.

New Characters Must Fit In Or They Gotta Die

In retrospect, it is odd how badly the writers of LOST handled the integration of Nikki and Paulo into the LOST family. They have done an amazing job of bringing Desmond, Juliet, Ben, Richard, and Faraday into the mix. It's hard to imagine a time when those characters were not having some sort of impact on the story.

Nikki and Paulo were dumped into the story abruptly and it was glaringly obvious they had not been there before. I would have rather they were slowly integrated into the storyline, seen in the background for awhile, then slowly move to center stage. The characters potential just got muddled and though I loved their final episode (where they die), I didn't miss the characters at all.

In As The World Dies, I was aware that new characters would be coming be entering the story as the plot expanded over the course of the trilogy. In fact, one character, Kevin Reynolds, appears in the first two books in very small roles in preparation for him taking a much larger role in the third book. I was very careful with the introduction of new characters along the way and I think it paid off. These latecomers into the storyline are fan favorites.

Luckily, I haven't heard anything about having a Nikki and Paulo in the mix.

In Closing...

The best advice any fledgling writer can receive about writing is to do two things: read and write. The more you write, the better your cultivate your skills. The more you read, the more you learn about the intricacies of plot and character development. I never dreamed that watching a TV show would teach me so much about writing.

In the end, to sum it up, LOST taught me to be fearless, to take risks, to not falter, but to push my characters and myself far out of our comfort zones. I learned to make characters that are like real people. They have their strengths, they have their flaws, sometimes they will rise above expectations, and sometimes they will falter and fall.

Last year when the producer first approached me about the TV/Film rights for As The World Dies, one of the things he said to me was that it reminded him of LOST. Not the story itself, but that it was populated by characters you either loved or hated, but always cared about.

As the last season of LOST unfurls, I'm glued to my seat and waiting to see just how far the writers will take us down the rabbit hole. I waiting to see if there are anymore lessons to be learned along the way before the final curtain falls.

I can't wait.

The Last Season Cast of LOST

S.G. Browne, author of Breathers, Interviews Me!!!

S. G. Bronwe, author of Breathers, recently interviewed me for his website. If you have not read S.G.'s hilarious book about zombies, please pick it up soon. It is awesome! Also, watch for the movie version produced by Diablo Cody in the next year or so.

Click here to read the interview!

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Waiting Game--Or How Not to Go Crazy When Your Book is Pitched to the NYC Bigwigs

I love my agent.

Her name is Hannah Brown and she is with the Foundry Literary + Media agency in New York City. It is a young agency, but full of veteran agents and they make some killer deals for their clients. I feel lucky to have representation with them.

I feel VERY lucky to have Hannah as my agent. She's quick to respond when I email her or call her. She tells me straight out what she thinks about my books, my potential career, my writing, my plot, etc...etc... And what I love most about her is that she is enthusiastic about my work and believes in me as a writer. It gives me an immense confidence boost and makes me feel..well..for lack of a better word...legit.

I feel like I have a shiny badge on my chest that reads "Agent Approved." It sits next to my "Fanbase Approved" and "Dr. Pus Approved" badges. All three make me feel like giggling, but the agent one is the one other upcoming writers would instantly point at and say "Wow."

Now I want to add the "Approved by Editor of Big NYC Publishing House" badge. You know, the Holy Grail of the traditional publishing world.

Which brings me to the latest update on the life of the As The World Dies Trilogy. My agent pitched it Thursday and Friday to the big NYC publishing houses. She said it went very well and all the editors she approached wanted to see the first book (the one we are trying to sell). She sent off the package she had prepared with her pitch, the ebook of As The World Dies: The First Days, and the materials I had provided her (awards the book won, blurbs, reviews, the option deal, etc). Hannah explained that it is not only about being a good writer (which she believes me to be), but being marketable. Because of being self-published, I had more to add to the package because the book was so well received by the zombie genre community of fans and authors. Now how this will play out has yet to be seen, but so far, so good.

A year ago, I would have never imagined being in this position. At that point I was determined to put out all three books myself and do the best job I could. I had lost the hope of the traditional route at that point due to several reasons. For one, at that time, the publishing industry was not looking for what I had written...though apparently they are now. Also, with the publishing industry undergoing massive changes due to not only the economy, but the impact of the new media, I wasn't too sure if it was a viable route at that time. With the fans clamoring and the new media available, it just felt like going indie was the right thing to do. If someone had said, "Hey, Rhiannon, in a year you'll have an agent and she'll be pitching your book to the big NYC publishers," I wouldn't have believed them. I had sadly laid that dream aside and birthed a new one.

I was actually quite happy doing my own thing, but around August, after the last book came out, I kept hearing the same advice over and over again.

"You need to take this to the next level."

The TV/Film option was being negotiated at the time, so I felt I had progressed in that respect. But what was the next level?

"Get an agent."

The mere thought made me feel a little weak-kneed. I already had a slew of rejections from the first go around.

Just before Horror Realm, a big name in publishing showed up to discuss an offer with me. It would be a month before my lawyer and I spoke with the editor. As I listened to the pitch, I knew the deal was not for me. Afterward, my lawyer and I spoke. Again, the subject of an agent was brought up. He offered to put feelers out. I agreed.

Within a few weeks, Hannah had read As The World Dies: The First Days and loved it. After talking to her on the phone, I knew I wanted her to represent me and see if she could get my book to the big boys. we are! And I'm amazed at how fast things happened, but terrified at the same time. I know it will take more than one person loving the book at a publishing house to land a deal. Hannah is very excited and confident. When I talk to her, I admit, I feel the same way.

It is later on, when I'm in my own thoughts that I wonder if it will actually happen. Will my tale of two very different women fighting the zombie hordes in rural Texas will actually end up at a big house. Friends, fans and family seem to think it is a done deal. A few have even said, "You KNOW this is going to happen. Stop worrying." Sometimes I believe them, other times, I don't.

I guess that is the nature of being human.

So...I'm trying not to go crazy as I wait for word. I'm trying to keep focused on my current projects and keep positive in my outlook. I remind myself of how far the book as come in such a short time and how much it is beloved by fans. I remind myself that it has been optioned for TV/Film and that my agent loved it, too. I remind myself that even other writers, published in both small and large presses have sent me really nice emails telling me how much they loved the books. I remind myself of all the positives and ignore my own angst.

"What will you have lost if it doesn't happen?" Kody Boye asked me one night. "You'll still have everything you have now."

He's right. What I have now is solid sales, a wonderful fanbase, support from the other authors in the genre, a good clear vision of the next books I want to write, a wonderful husband, and a good life.

But if I can get that one last badge on my chest...that one last one that reads "Approved by an Editor of an NYC Publishing House," it will make life that much sweeter.