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Monday, May 31, 2010

Living Dead Boy-An Update

Tonight, I wrote another chapter for Living Dead Boy and outlined the rest of the book. Six chapters left (approx. 10, 000 words). I'm so excited.

It has been a little rough writing about children dealing with the zombocalypse. More than once I had to sit back and consider what I had written. Had I shown too much? Too little? Was it too violent? Too disturbing? Each time I have decided that what I have written fits the tone of the book and have continued on. The story feels solid with its emotional punch, yet satisfying with its zombie action.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

As The World Dies: Siege Kindle Version Temporarily Not For Sale

Two fans let me know that the As The World Dies: Siege Kindle version was no longer for sale on Amazon.com. I looked into the situation and I followed the advice Amazon gave to get it back on sale (until it is permanently pulled in about a month or so).

Evidently, with a lot of the new options and upgrades that are going on, some of the books published before the changes require more information to be entered in the listing. I had to enter whether or not I wanted the book to have DRM or not. I chose not to have DRM.

It may take several days before it is back on the Kindle store.

Friday, May 21, 2010

As The World Dies Untold Tales: Lydia's Story

The first As The World Dies Untold Story is now up on my forum. It's the story of Lydia, Katie's wife, on the morning of the zombie rising.

I won't lie. This one was a little hard to write. This story has always been in my mind since I first wrote the series, but it just didn't fit into the narrative of the first book. I decided to add it to my ATWD: Untold Tales when the producer was asking me about Lydia and Katie on the morning of the zombie rising.

So here it is...finally. The story of Lydia and how she came to meet her terrible fate on that lovely fresh spring morning.

Enjoy!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Laughing At Zombies: Humor in the Face of Adversity



So why is their laughter and humor in As The World Dies?

Though we generally regard laughing as a depiction of joy/happiness or a response to something funny, laughter is so much more. Laughter is a stress reliever, a healer, and a way to cope in adverse situations.

I know this from experience. I had an awful childhood. I often felt like the quote from Jim Morrison of The Doors applied to my family: "No one gets out of here alive." Because of the horrors I went through with my father, I feel I can survive anything. In fact, surviving my childhood is one of my greatest accomplishments. Finding healing an even greater one. Finding happiness in adulthood has been the ultimate one.

I found healing in several ways. First was my faith, second was going to therapy and being part of a support group, the third was working for several years helping create a faith-based support group to deal with domestic violence, the fourth was writing (a lot) and the last was laughter.

Yeah, laughter.

I can tell the most horrific, terrifying stories from my childhood and laugh. Of course, it took years to get to this point, but laughter makes the memories easier to handle and takes away their sting. Laughter has been an enormous healer.

When I decided to deal with the full impact of a dying world on my survivors, I knew mourning would be an intricate part of their character development. But I also knew the healing from that grief would also be vital to the characters. Laughter became a part of that equation.

A dark humor fills all three books and I have had readers tell me the books are surprisingly funny. This only seemed natural to the world as I worked on the story. At one point, I worried that many the characters at times were too glib. But then I was talking to some friends who had been in the military and they began to recount how a morose humor takes over when things become difficult to deal with. My father in law and mother in law both were in the military and I have listened to them tell countless stories that are gruesome with a twist of humor. Laughter and humor are ways for the mind to cope with things that are too terrible to bear.

We've all been there.

We laugh at something completely inappropriate and can't stop ourselves.

Funniest Home Videos has had a long run pushing our funny buttons with humor that is often questionable. We know we shouldn't laugh at the baby falling face first into the mud or the dad getting smacked in the balls by his toddler, but we do anyway.

Laughter isn't just about humor. It's about being relieved we're not the ones falling into the mud or getting a bat to the groin.

Or maybe laughter comes from finding the humor in the zombie bashing itself apart on the wall trying to get to you as you watch it from above knowing you're safe.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Gutted By Zombies-- Mourning, the Survivors, and the Zombocalypse

Note: This is the first of a series of posts talking about the emotions and psychology of the survivors in the As The World Dies series.

In the five years since As The World Dies first appeared online, I have learned that one thing that readers absolutely love or absolutely hate is the way the characters emotionally respond to the destruction of their families, friends, way of life and the world. The fact that Jenni and Katie cry and mourn struck a chord with a many readers, while a few others hated it. That all the characters are haunted (sometimes literally) by the ghosts of their past and the lives they once lived, again provoked strong emotions either for or against the notion.

When the first critical comment about the women crying and mourning came in, I read it to my husband and asked, "How else would we respond? If I saw you die, it would destroy me." He shrugged, "Maybe they're not close to anyone or something."

A few fans commended me for showing the grief and mourning of the survivors, something many of them had not seen in other movies or books at that time (2005). It felt odd to me because it only made sense. Death of loved ones is devastating in our regular life, I couldn't help but contemplate how death on a wide scale would affect survivors.

2004 and 2005 were extremely difficult years for my husband and me. We had multiple losses among our families and friends. At one point, neither one of us wanted to pick up the phone anymore. I hadn't attended my first funeral until this point in my life and it was as if the floodgates had opened. I remember attending the funeral of a family member and feeling terrified that someone else would soon die. Death had become so common I felt I couldn't take much more loss. Also, I could not imagine the grief of those even closer to the deceased. I saw wives, husbands, children and grandchildren struggle with the death of their loved ones. The words of comfort I tried to say felt insignificant in the face of their tremendous loss.

It was during this time that I was deep into writing As The World Dies. The amount of death that had surrounded us gave me a very different view on the zombie genre. The death of the world needed to be mourned in my story and grief needed to be felt by the characters so they could evolve as they survived. The enormous impact of the entire world dying needed to be reflected in the story or else the story would feel empty. So Katie and Jenni mourned their loved ones and the survivors grieved the end of the world.

Now, five years later, I still receive emails from people who read the stories and were deeply emotionally involved in the characters. The readers felt sympathetic to the characters and drawn into their world. The characters' responses to the loss of their family and friends struck a chord with the readers. It helped them form a bond with the fort inhabitants.

And, as before, I have received a handful of emails complaining about the characters mourning or crying. I have come to realize it is because to some people the zombocalypse is a wish fulfillment of adventure, fun, heroics and revenge. They like the idea of being lone survivors, outwitting other people, and killing their annoying zombified neighbors. They don't want to think about the deep emotional and psychological fallout of seeing the entire world destroyed. They want to just get some glorious headshots. I totally can understand this mentality. That is why I loved Zombieland and why I like playing videogames.

But...

The tiny fingers under the door at the opening of the As The World Dies saga demanded that I go down into the scary depths of grief and emotional trauma.

But, as the Bible says, mourning will eventually turn to laughter...


Next Post: Laughing at Zombies

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What Is The Color of My Character's Eyes Again???

Writing is a bitch. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. It is so much more than sitting down and putting pen to paper, or fingers to a keyboard. Think about how many people have told you that they are writing a book, but have never finished?

Yeah.

It's that hard.

It's not just the whole process of transferring a story idea from your imagination to the written word, but also making it a compelling read for your future readership. There are a lot of components to a good story, but today's blog is about characters.

You can have a great story, but if your character doesn't come to life in the minds of the readers, the story will most likely fall flat. As coincidence will have it, Rosemary on Genreality tackled the subject of characters just a few weeks ago when I first started composing this post.

To quote the first comment:
Charlene Teglia
I pretty much only keep books for character. If I don’t connect with the characters, who cares what happens to them?


This is exactly my sentiment. If a character doesn't feel alive or sympathetic to the reader, what is the point? This is especially the case in horror. Where suspense and the horror element are vitally important to keeping the reader on the edge, they must invest their emotions in the characters.

People often ask who my characters are based on. I think it's a natural assumption that a writer must be basing their characters on people they know (or themselves), but this isn't the reality at least in my case. A lot of my characters just pop into my head at unexpected moments.

I will give you an example:

Maria Martinez appeared in my mind unexpectedly one day. I was at work, thinking about how hot it was outside and how glad I was Texas doesn't have rolling blackouts when I saw in my mind a woman sit up in bed, her long hair falling over one shoulder as she listened to the power go out in her section of her city.

From the rough draft of her story:

The fan sputtered than died as the rolling blackout hit her section of the city. With a groan, she peeled the covers from her damp body and sat at the edge of the bed. Her silky black hair fell over one shoulder, settling over one bare breast. The heat was already rising in her small flat. The metal walls and high windows made the narrow room claustrophobic and once the power cut out, stifling.

I quickly wrote down what I "saw" in my mind's eye and that is the opening paragraph of my brand new novel. It wasn't until I was able to sit down and keep writing that I found out what her name was, where her city was, who she was in bed with, and the cause of the rolling blackouts.

This sort of character inspiration moment has happened to me multiple times. I see the character in an compelling setting and I dive in wanting to know more.

In the past, I kept loose notes on characters or story scenarios as they came to me, but I lost a lot of them. During our latest move, I found some scraps of scenes, characters, and stories I had forgotten. Thankfully, I started using yWriter a few years ago and it has helped me tremendously with keeping my notes of inspiration in a safe place.

Using the Character database, this is how I built a character file for Maria Martinez.


The first tab up is basic. It's about her name and description. Sometimes I only have a first name when I start a character, so I just fill in the short name. If I have a full name, I plug that in. If there is a nickname, I place it in Alternative. Since this is the start of creating Maria's biography, I don't know if she has a nickname yet. I can come back later and change it if she does.

I write in a general physical description so I can remember her exact appearance without having to go back through the pages already written, desperately trying to find out what color her eyes are.

Also, she is a major character, so I have clicked that option.

Sometimes a character's biography comes swiftly to mind. Other times it comes out it spurts as I write. I try to update the biography as I work so I have a quick reference the further I get into the story.

Maria's biography came to me around 3,000 words into the novel. I find the more fully immersed I am in the writing, the clearer I "see."






Under notes I usually place personality traits or quirks. Also, I might add any notes on the development arc for the character if I have a clear vision of where the character is headed during the course of the story.











Finally, I add a picture to the database so I have a physical representation of the character. In this case, it is Maria created using the Sims 2 games. When I started playing Sims 2, I had a lot of fun with the actual game. Then, one day, I created one of my characters on a whim. Seeing my character on the screen looking eerily close to how I imagined her was a real inspiration. Since then, I have been making most of my characters in the Sims 2 character generator.

Sims 2 version of Maria Martinez

I have read about other authors clipping photos out of magazines or printing them from the internet so they have a frame of reference for their characters. Having a visual is a neat way of keeping connected to your character. Honestly, there are times in the process when you can lose your way and having visual clues back to your story are very helpful.

So how did Maria pop into my head? In some ways it feels like magic, but looking into my past I see the seeds of her inspiration. Growing up one of my favorite people was a friend of my mother's from the Dominican Republic. She was one of the most beautiful, classy, and stylish women I had ever seen in my life. Also, she was one of the kindest, warmest, most considerate people I have ever encountered. Her life was not easy in any regard, but she had a strength about her that was inspiring. Widowed extremely young, she had difficulty letting go of her husband. I remember his picture on her bureau and how lovingly she had arranged mementos around it. I can see how my mother's friend inspired Maria's great love for Dwayne and her strength of will.

Yet, they are not the same person and far removed from each other in personality.

Every day writers absorb their surroundings, storing away information in the depths of their minds, tiny seeds germinating to become worlds, characters and stories. Those little seeds can be anything from the distinctive voice of someone you meet, the gray eyes of someone you see on a plane, the laugh of a woman after a car accident, etc...etc... I'm not always sure where my characters come from, but I am glad when they arrive to tell their story.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Website Temporarily Hacked-All is Well Now

My website was one of several author websites that were hacked today. The administrator has fixed all the sites and they are back to normal. A minor hiccup.

Meanwhile, I am working on the As The World Dies Untold Tale: Ken & Lenore. I hope to have it up sometime next week.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!!!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Patience is a Virtue--Wish I Had It



To recap quickly...

...As The World Dies begins it submission round the last week of January...
...Tor shows interest in early February...
...Tor and my agent come to an agreement on the deal in very early March...

...early May...

..still waiting on the final contract to sign. The good news is that I might have the final version this week or next according to my agent.

So what is the hold up, you may ask?

Well, the answer to that question is that there really isn't much of a hold up at all. This is just how things work in the publishing business. Once Tor and my agent agreed on the deal, it was up to the lawyers on both ends to come in and work out the actual wording. The contract manager at Foundry Literary + Media and the lawyers at Macmillan have to go back and forth over the contract until everyone is happy. Word is that they are almost to our mutual happy place.

Once the contract is signed, I get the first part of my advance. You don't get the advance in one big chunk, but cut into pieces. It's not uncommon for authors to receive a portion at contract signing, another when they turn in their revisions, and the last chunk upon publication of the novel. So even a six figure advance doesn't mean you're suddenly on easy street. That is why most writers have day jobs even if they do get a big advance for their first sale.

The publishing world has long stretches of time where all you are doing is waiting (and working on your next story hopefully). It can be rough on the nerves, but it can also be well worth it. I have zero patience, so I am trying to develop coping skills (other than margaritas and sugar free Dove chocolate). I think the hurry up and wait scenario is even made worse because friends and family keep asking you when such and such is going to happen and your answer is, "I'm waiting on that."

I remember when Hannah told me the deal was made and now we had to wait for the contract.

"How long will that take?" I asked, mentally calculating how much of my first check I wanted to spend on new furniture for our new place.

"A couple of months," she answered.

"Oh," I said.

"This is normal. The deal isn't in jeopardy or anything like that. We just have to make sure you get the best contract possible," she assured me.

A good solid answer, but I felt my heart sink at the thought of being...yep...patient.

So it has been a couple of months and it does look like the end is near. I field questions on a regular basis as to when I will sign my contract, get my revisions, or cash my first check (I think the nephews and nieces have lists ready) and the length of time it takes for any of these things to occur always floors people. I have resigned myself to the fact that there is no instant gratification in publishing. It is all about the waiting game.

I just wish I had patience.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Texas Frightmare...Horror-ific Fun!

Another year of Texas Frightmare fun and mayhem has come and gone. I'm already thinking about next year and making plans. My husband and I missed last years event (opting to head to the coast instead), and we were amazed at how much bigger and better the event is now. Wow! The organizers did a great job and it was a lot of fun.

I used to attend Frightmare with a friend of mine who sells awesome t shirts. Her biggest hit is "I'm a zombie girl in a zombie world" and a onsie for babies that reads "Zombie Bait. Throw As Needed." The hubby and I used to help her and her daughter man her tables for quite a few years. We'd get autographs and see the horror films premiering at the event. We'd hang out and generally have fun. I have always loved attending cons and this is the FIRST Texas Frightmare I have attended as a vendor selling my books. It was a lot of fun sitting next to Dr. Pus and the crew from Pittsburgh (Rich and Michelle, the peeps behind Horror Realm) and hanging out with all the good Librarians from the Library of the Living Dead (Podcast and Press).

One of the things I love about Texas Frightmare is that it is always a great excuse to drag out my fancier goth clothes and shoes to dress up. One year I wore a Victorian vampire bride costume and carried around a vampire baby (with teddy bear and bottle of blood). People were constantly stopping me and my friend (also dressed up) for pictures. This year I decided to avoid the fancier costumes, but still wore some of my new goth clothes I bought recently at secret-oktober.com here in Austin, Texas. My friend Helen had found some great hair accessories for me while we were out shopping, so I had fun wearing those as well. Frankly, its like an alternative fashion show with women of all shapes, sizes and ages coming out in all their finery. I saw some really great outfits this year.

When I arrived Friday to set up, I got an enormous hug and kiss from good ol Dr. Pus that made me feel so good. Traffic in Dallas was horrible and I felt a bit frazzled. I haven't been feeling really well due to a recurring health issue I've had all my life. I felt really out of sorts at certain points during the event Friday and Saturday. Still it was amazing fun talking to friends and hanging out. I took a walk around the venue and saw my friend selling her t shirts and I instantly started to feel better. I set up my table and we went to lunch with my mother. We had terrible luck in traffic and I ended up getting back to the show late. I still had a great time talking to everyone and was thrilled when I got a text message from deadmama aka Michelle McCrary (editor and writer) that she was in line to see George A. Romero. I rushed over to see her and give her a hug, then returned to my table where Doc and I drank over-salted margaritas. By the end of the show, we were all exhausted.

My Mom tagged along for the Saturday show and loved pitching my books to people who dropped by the table. She bought that fabulous zombie that is standing on my table. We call him Ike. The little kids loved him and tons of people took photos of him. I think he was the hit
of the event.




All day Saturday people were snapping photos. I'm terrible at remembering to take pictures, but here is one with me and deadmama (aka Michelle). You can see my super bright red hair in this picture. I love it!



Steve, the producer that optioned As The World Dies arrived with his wife, Shaela. While he visited with the Texas Film Commission peeps, we headed off to shop. Shaela bought a killer hat and I bought a cute red bag with a big spider on it. The woman who handmade the items was wearing a Lilly Munster gown she had made and I'm seriously considering asking her to make me one for Horror Realm. It was AWESOME!!

Shaela and I stood in line to see Elvira and were very excited to see how absolutely gorgeous she still is. She must be drinking the blood of virgins on a regular basis!

(Picture: Elvira and Shaela wearing her hat)



I handed Elvira a copy of my novel The Tale of the Vampire Bride and inscribed it with a "thank you" for all the inspiration she has given me over the years. She took it, held it over her head, and yelled at her assistant, "I got swag!!" Her assistant took it, started looking it over, opened it and saw the inscription and said, "Hey, this is yours!" "Yeah! Vampires!" Elvira answered. I told them the basic story and said something like "It's bloody and sexy. It has some good sex scenes." "We're all about the sex," Elvira grinned. She signed a photo for me and I got to take one with her. She's so beautiful! When I glanced over at her assistant, she was still looking at the book. "We got something to read. Awesome," she told me. I won't lie! It made me feel really good that they appreciated the gift.


I was sitting at my table, when my friend Lori appeared clutching her camera. "We're going to go get Julian Sands autograph," she informed me.

"He's here?" I had totally forgotten he was at the event. "Everyone says he should play The Summoner!" I grabbed a copy of Pretty When She Dies, wrote a dedication, and rushed off with my friend.

When we met him at his table, I handed him the book and said, "I want you to have this. It's my vampire novel and my fandom keeps telling me that you should be The Summoner in the movie. A lot of them imagined you in the role when they read it."

He took the book and said, "Really?" He looked it over then looked up at me, cocked an eyebrow and asked, "Has it been optioned?"

"Yes, it has," I answered. "The script is done and being shopped around."

We briefly discussed the plot and The Summoner and Julian was intrigued. He autographed a photo for me and posed for a picture with me. I love how he inscribed the photo.



Yep! He signed it The Summoner! And he added "You have been summoned." Isn't that awesome?

He asked me to relay to the producer that optioned Pretty When She Dies that he was interested in the role. Julian continued to say that John Carpenter had wanted him to play a vampire in "John Carpenter's Vampires" but it hadn't worked out. Ironically, the producer behind that movie is working on a film adaptation of my movie.

My last big moment of the day was meeting George A. Romero. Sadly, just as I got into line with Shaela, I felt horribly sick. The malady I had been dealing with for over a week came back with a vengeance. I felt so ill, I could barely stand in line. My husband came over to check on me and I told him the second I had Romero's autograph I had to go. He was instantly worried and stayed nearby. I grabbed the Italian version of the Night of the Living Dead poster and as we got nearer, I just prayed I could keep it together long enough to meet Mr. Romero. Well, he was a doll. So very nice, and I remember absolutely nothing about our conversation. I was THAT sick. BAH. Oh, well. There is always next time.



Here is a picture of us snapped on my cellphone by my mom. As you can tell, I was fading fast.

He looks AMAZING, of course. He was so nice! I wish I could remember the details of our conversation, but I do remember his kindness.



Sadly, I had to go home early that evening and did not attend on Sunday. We went by long enough to pick up my stuff and speak briefly with Julian Sands. I got his agent information for the producer and Julian told me he was looking forward to reading my book. He had it up in his room and was planning to read it on the way to LA.

My husband packed up our rental car and we drove home to Austin. By the time we reached our house, I was exhausted, yet happy. I got some really nice items at Frightmare and a slew of good memories.

The rest of this week hasn't been particularly productive as I deal with illness and medical tests. It's an annoyance, but it will all be okay. As usual, my husband is my rock.

I did have one bit of awesome news this week. On Wednesday, I heard back from the producer. He had sent Julian Sands' agent the script and Julian read it. He liked it a lot and if the movie moves forward and he is available, he is very interested in doing the part of The Summoner. That definitely perked me up!

Julian Sands liked MY story.

Woot!!

So all in all, Texas Frightmare was fabulous fun.

I can't wait until next year.