Sunday, March 29, 2015

Book Launch Photo Blog: THIS MORTAL FLESH

I've had book launches before, but never one quite like this one for THIS MORTAL FLESH. My good friend (and publicist) Kathie Bennett got the ball rolling by asking James Pigneri at the St. Andrews Coffee Shop and Bistro if he'd be open to hosting an event for me, and he jumped on board without hesitation. He supplied the venue, the workers, free food and coffee. I showed up with books and plans for a reading and a trivia contest that I hoped would keep visitors entertained. There was no need, or time, for my "entertainment" plans, as the place was jumping for two solid hours. A grand success. Here are some pictures:

Me signing for News Herald coworker Kristy.

Posing with the Coffee House staff.

My good friend Brady Calhoun.

More good friends, Andrew and Kendra (and shy Dylan).

Posing with happy readers and zombie fans.

Calling attention to James Pigneri's hospitality at the close of the evening.

Good friend and author Mark Boss.

Good friend and author Craig Bush.

Debra caught this couple reading to each other from my books.

Posing with friend and artist John Russo and his wife Leanne.

Me, Debra and John Russo.

Cupcakes by Sara Sirmons

Friend and author Milinda Jay and husband Hal Stephenson.

Crystal Creamer and daughter Hallie played zombies for the evening.

That's filmmaker Lou Columbus on the left and author Olivia Cooley in line.

Friend and author Michael Lister and wife Dawn.

The Cheshires writing group photo

The delicious spread provided by the coffee house.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Writing Caliban: New ideas come from creative research

(I've decided to do a regular bit here in which I'll give you a look at my writing process. We start with a chapter in the second Caliban Cycle novel, which I'm currently working on. Don't panic: You didn't miss the first Caliban Cycle novel. It hasn't been published yet.)

I had in mind a scene that would take place in a vampire bar in London, as one of my characters seeks a "ground level" informant that might have a lead for him. I thought I might call the bar The London Underground.

So before I started writing the scene, I hit up Google for some info on the actual London "Tube" system, learning about its age and some of the travails of its construction — and it struck me that it would have been almost infinitely easier in the 1860s to build an elevated railway over existing roads and between low-rise buildings than to tunnel underneath those roads and buildings. Workers had to remove tons of earth (without causing sinkholes, cave-ins and the collapse of structures above), shore up walls of clay, pump out ground water, pump in fresh air, electricity and heat, build platforms and so forth — most of which would not be necessary if building an El train.

Conclusion: Subways were invented by vampires for the express purpose of allowing them to travel anywhere in the city without exposing themselves to the sun. Who but a vampire would think underground travel is preferable to open air travel? That led me to the next idea...

If subways are actually for the benefit of vampires living in the cities, then their bars and hangouts would be accessible through these same tunnels. That meant I could place my vampire bar along the Underground route; but now I didn't want to call the bar by the same name.

Ramses 2 and Tekhit
What emblem or name would be appropriate for a vamp nightclub? I wanted to avoid ones I'd seen or heard in movies or books or comics. I didn't want something obvious or cliche. It occurred to me that beer was at least as old as one of the characters in this story — the Egyptians fed it to their slaves to keep them mollified — so I looked for a heiroglyph that represented beer or partying. I found Tekhit.

Tekhit, according to this source, is the Egyptian goddess of beer. Her name translates as both "drunkeness" and "slaughter" — and what creature would equate slaughter with drunkeness more than a blood-drinker?

So bar would be called Tekhit, and her heiroglyph would be its emblem. More so, I decided there's a Tekhit club in every major city; it's a franchise; it's the Hard Rock Cafe of vampire clubs. Thus, my characters would be meeting at Tekhit London, sampling vintage 1972 harvested from a willing donor.

Also, what good is a bar scene without a fight? They'd do that too.
...And so it goes.

From a nightmare, a new book rises

PANAMA CITY — I never dream about zombies, which is surprising given how thoroughly the creatures have saturated our media and culture.

I don’t need to run down the list of movies, TV shows, books, comics and video games that use them as fodder for storytelling. Or remind you that “The Walking Dead” is one of the most popular series on TV. But did you know:

•The Centers for Disease Control used a “zombie outbreak” to explore how people can prepare themselves for longterm survival in the event of a fast-moving contagion. >>Read the PDF<<

•Ace Hardware created a “Zombie Preparedness Guide” to suggest tools and supplies do-it-yourselfers should have on hand for emergencies.

University of Michigan epidemiology students learned how to handle a disaster via a zombie response drill.

And that’s just scratching (and clawing) the surface.

Yet I never dreamed about zombies — except this one time when I did. I awoke from the dream only seconds into it, as I came to realize that I was not only surrounded by the undead, but I was one of them. I looked around at the carnage, realized what my future held ... and woke up, thinking, “This would make a cool story.”

Seeking to understand the dream, I did what anyone in this day and age would do, which is consult Dr. Google. He (or possibly she) said that such dreams indicate a person is feeling disconnected from others and “your own inner landscape,” whatever that means. The proper response to such a dream includes looking at aspects of my life and determining how “to reconnect and feel whole again.”

Thanks a lot, Dr. Google.

My way of reconnecting with myself is to write, because I don’t know what I’m thinking until I write it down and sort it out. I chose to meet the dream head-on, exploring its meaning as fiction. That required figuring out how to relate a tale from the point of view of a zombie — a conscious being with no conscience, who sees living humans as food and other zombies as competition.

I’m a pretty imaginative guy, but that stretched even my brainpan. The effort was disturbing, distressing, and ultimately cathartic in many ways — in that by playing out these various narrative scenarios, I could share how dangerous such a mindset would be, and how it could bend even the most selfless people in its orbit to become frightening beings as well.

The sad truth is that we all know someone like that (well, maybe not as extreme) — out for themselves only, at the expense of everyone else around them — sinister, manipulative, secretive and destructive. And sometimes it feels like the only way to beat them is to become them.

The result, for better or worse, is my new novel, “This Mortal Flesh.”

It has been out in ebook format since Feb. 7, and is now in paperback. We’re celebrating the launch with a gathering at St. AndrewsCoffee House and Bistro 5-7 p.m. Saturday. Host James Pigneri is prepping some finger food and refreshments, and his baristas are concocting a couple of specialty zombie potions for the evening. >>Check out the event page here.<<

We’ll have some “live” zombies on hand to creep you out and take photos with you.
Stop by and say hello. Pick up a book, if that’s your thing. Tell us what you think will happen on Sunday’s season finale of “The Walking Dead” (check out my friend Brad Milner's "Blogging Dead" entries to see what he thinks will happen).

Just don’t be a zombie. And don’t let them ruin your life.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Media coverage, huzzah!

It ain't the cover o'the Rolling Stone, but I'm not complaining.
Panama City Living magazine came out this week with a story titled "Read Local Authors" by my friend, Lou Columbus. Lou took some great photos for the article, which focuses on me (specifically, "This Mortal Flesh") and our mutual friend Michael Lister (and his new novel, "Innocent Blood").

Lou is a talented film maker/videographer and writer; he's a top reviewer at, reads for audiobooks and short stories, writes short fiction, and now can add magazine writer to his resume.

>>Here's a link to the story online<<

This is as good a time as any to remind everyone that we're celebrating the print debut of "This Mortal Flesh" at a book launch event this Saturday, March 28, from 5 to 7 p.m. at St. Andrews Coffee House & Bistro, 1006 Beck Ave., Panama City.

Enjoy food and free refreshments, have your photo taken with "live" zombies, and hear the author reading selections from the novel. Commiserate over the impending zombie apocalypse, and speculate how The Walking Dead will end its fifth season on Sunday.

Here's the book trailer (also by Lou Columbus), in case you've missed it:

Hope to see you there!

If you can't make it, then  >>check out the book at Amazon here<< available in ebook and paperback editions.

Did I mention the book got noticed by the folks over at Lousy Book Covers? Having taken a look at other covers on the site, I'm pleased to say that mine has to be one of the best of the worst. And since there's no such thing as "bad publicity," all that matters is that people notice, talk about it, and get out the word — I hope.

Finally, a request: If you have read the book, then please go to the Amazon page and take just a minute or two to give it some stars and write a short review. Reviews help boost notice to the book, which boosts sales. Which means I'd owe you a solid.


Friday, March 13, 2015

In a rut? Disrupt the paradigm

PANAMA CITY BEACH — You may be in a rut if you can hit the alarm clock’s snooze button with the back of your knuckle without opening your eyes or even rolling all the way over.

(Not that I have any experience at that. But I’ve heard it might be so.)

So anyway, let’s talk about some things that are, to use the lingo, disrupting the paradigm.
The Internet is fast replacing the traditional “broadcast” and “network” television approach. Smart TVs, Apple TVs, smart phones and Chromecast make it easy to watch high-definition web-only shows on your big screen TV.

Netflix, Yahoo, HBO, Amazon, Hulu and other “channels” are taking advantage of this in a big way. You may already be a fan of “House of Cards” or “Orange is the New Black,” for instance.

Tuesday evening, I watched the first episode of “Powers,” which is exclusive to the subscription Playstation network, but which was released to the public for free to promote the series. Based on a comic book by Michael Avon Oeming and Brian Michael Bendis, “Powers” is a lower budget tale of a world where super-powered humans have become a fact of life over the past few decades.

The main character (Sharlto Copley from “District 9”) is a police detective who used to have super powers. Other supporting cast members include Michelle Forbes as “Retro Girl” and comedian Eddie Izzard as the Hannibal-esque “Wolfe.” The first episode does a decent job of setting up the world of the series and teasing the major players and storylines.

Tuesday also saw the release of a trailer for Netflix’s upcoming series, “Daredevil,” based on the Marvel Comics hero and tied into the greater “cinematic universe” that includes this summer’s “Avengers 2.” The entire “season” of 13 episodes will be released at one time on April 10.

First, what’s the deal with using a “K” instead of a zero? It doesn’t save space or effort. Are we just trying to look cool? (That’s probably the reason, and also explains why I can’t seem to grasp it.)

Anyway, we’re neck deep in it now. My part-time neighbors from the frozen north, who are spending this week on the beach escaping single-digit weather back home, decided to take a scenic drive along Front Beach Road “just to see what it was about.”

They won’t be doing that again.

I tried to press them for the details, but the trauma must have been too much. If the police scanner at work is any indication, then I understand: We hear the ambulance calls, reports of fights (and group brawls), public nuisances, wrecks (and roll-overs), swimmers in distress, partiers unconscious and unresponsive — and that’s all during the daylight hours.

The calls for help were so overwhelming that the county ran out of ambulances on Tuesday afternoon. Yes, that’s disruptive, but not in the good way.

Authorities in PCB and Bay County tried to disrupt Spring Break by cutting off alcohol sales at 2 a.m. and requiring anyone drinking on the beach to carry photo ID. It’s still too early in the month-long party to gauge their success, but I’m hoping something quantifiable will emerge when all is said and done. If the scanner is any indication, they might have to change that cut off time to “p.m.” to notice any impact.

Now, that would be disruptive.

When your “rut” gets interrupted by disaster or injury, the rut doesn’t seem so bad any longer.
I’ve been dealing with a torn rotator cuff for the past few weeks (why does that sound like something your mechanic says is wrong with your car’s steering?), my wife fractured her wrist, and my daughter has been suffering whiplash after a speeding car slammed into her vehicle a week ago. All of these occurred separately within days of each other.

Talk about disruptive.

At least the trauma of that last one was cushioned by the fact that no one was seriously injured. Like I’ve heard a dozen times since then, you can always replace the car. Yes, you can, and there are enough used vehicles in the market once again that prices for a decent “pre-owned” car aren’t as ridiculously high as they were immediately post-buy-back (2009’s “cash for clunkers” program).

However, if you see us hobbling around a car lot in the next few days and we don’t return your wave, I apologize. We’ve issued a waver waiver, due to all the tendon disruption.