Posts Tagged zombies

Ebola, Swine Flu and The Kardashians—Why is a Zombie Apocalypse So Intriguing?

NYCZombie

Braaaaiiiiinssss….with some salsa, please. And a refill on my merlot?

Just made it in from a whirlwind week in NYC at Thrillerfest. I am so tired I want to DIE, yet my stupid biological clock still has me up at dawn despite how exhausted I am. Of all places, though, NYC seems to be the favorite place for moviemakers to destroy or infect. That and LA. Though I will mention the aliens never land in Texas.

Probably because the movie would be 15 minutes long :D.

One of my close friends, Piper Bayard, wrote a fabulous book, Firelands which deals with a post-apocalyptic world where religious fanatics now rule a world in ruin and use food to control the masses. In the spirit of her book, I wanted to discuss the apocalypse. That and I just spent a week in NYC walking through “mystery puddles”…which makes me wonder….

Why is the zombie apocalypse so fascinating to us?

Never Underestimate Zombies

One of the wonderful parts about being a writer is we are really well educated…too well educated. Any writer worth his or her salt reads…a lot. I recall (back in college) reading The Hot Zone, which is an absolutely terrifying book. Terrifying in its premise, sure. But also terrifying because it is based off real events.

For those who don’t know, Ebola actually made it to the United States in a shipment of infected monkeys back in the early 90s.

String-like Ebola virus particles are shedding from an infected cell in this electron micrograph. Credit: NIAID

String-like Ebola virus particles are shedding from an infected cell in this electron micrograph. Credit: NIAID

Ebola happens to be one of the most frightening diseases I’ve ever read about. Ebola Zaire, the most virulent of all the strains, essentially liquifies a victim within less than 12 days. The mass destruction it does to the body is the stuff of nightmares.

The virus does a number of nasty deeds to the body, but namely it attacks all the connective tissue from the inside out causing catastrophic internal hemmorhaging. This means the organs (including the brain) essentially turn to pudding because there is nothing left to hold everything together.

As a response, the body throws out all its clotting agents trying to keep the infected person alive…until it runs out of clotting agent and then the person just begins to bleed…from EVERYWHERE. Blood teeming with active virus begins to pour from the nose and mouth and eyes until the victim is rendered a puddle of infected blood, bone and tissue.

Um, cleanup on Aisle Five?

This is how the virus spreads—via blood contamination. The victim is literally dead before they die, their face sliding off the bones because nothing is left to maintain/support the facial architecture.

*shivers*

What makes Ebola especially horrific is that it’s only a few peptides and mutations from being something airborne. If something like Ebola spread like the flu? We’re toast. This is what The Hot Zone addresses. A version of Ebola (similar to Zaire in burn rate) really made it to the US…and it spread through the air like a cold.

I won’t say any more because this is a really fabulous book, but part of why it was so scary is IT FREAKING HAPPENED.

Ebola happens all the time in Africa and how do they deal with it? I call it the Three B’s—bleach, bury and burn. When a village has an outbreak, the authorities will cut down trees to block any roads leading to the village…and wait for everyone to die. Ebola Zaire has roughly a 99% kill rate. Almost no one ever survives. Authorities wait for everyone to be dead then torch the place.

Happy Monday! :D

The Scary Part About Viruses

Viruses are a lot like politicians and Kardashians. They are parasitic and they will adapt as much as needed to survive. If they burn through a species, they’ll change to be able to burn through another. If contamination via blood isn’t working? A virus is fully capable of changing tactics, like marrying Kanye West and naming it’s kid something seriously stupid like North West.

Sorry, forgot we were discussing Ebola.

As populations get larger in countries like Africa, China and South America (ideal virus petri dishes because of climate and population density) we are invading areas of rain forest no human has ever set foot in. A virus might be inert or less virulent because local wildlife has developed immunity over time, and then? Virus spots the equivalent of a Twinkie on two legs (people). NEW JUNK FOOD!

Viruses have no long-term planning capabilities. They suck at having an IRA or even going to college. They just want to consume no matter the expense to the host, much like deadbeat in-laws.

Yes, this is me.

Yes, this is me.

But Isn’t This Why the Zombie Fascination is So Strong?

I love vampires, wizards, werewolves and the like, but zombies hold a unique fascination. Why? Because I think deep in our collective subconscious, we realize this is something that could happen…which is why you need a plan (but that is totally another blog).

I was one of the fortunate first people to get Swine Flu. Hey, I’m an early adopter. What can I say? I contracted Swine Flu a year before we had a pseudo-pandemic. I had 105 fever for almost 12 days, and not only did I want to die? I wanted to die, be cremated, then have someone shoot my ashes it was so bad.

We live in a scary world. Bird Flu, Swine Flu, Ebola, and the Kardashians.

Come on! The Kardashians already have a reality show and have invaded QVC. If they manage to marry and breed faster? We could be looking at a world filled with mindless people wearing too much lip gloss and trashy shoes and being permitted to name their own children *shivers*. If a Kardashian meets up with Ebola? They could spread through sneezes and unwashed hands. Next thing we know, we are filled with botox, unable to move our foreheads or articulate an intelligent thought.

Sounds like zombies to me.

What are your thoughts? Most of us aren’t afraid of a vampire invasion, but zombies? A lot of us still get that niggling, “What if?” Why do you think we do that? Is it because we think it might happen? Is it because we’ve spent too much time watching The Bachelor or Toddlers and Tiaras?

I know you guys are geeks and have thought this through, so I would LOVE to hear your thoughts!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of July, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

NOTE: My prior two books are no longer for sale, but I am updating them and will re-release. My new book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE.

At the end of July I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

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73 Comments

10 Things No One Told Me About the Publishing Process

Clay Morgan, Author of “Undead”

Happy Friday, and do I have a treat for you guys–CLAY MORGAN, author of Undead–Revived, Resuscitated, Reborn. Some of you might think me inviting Clay to guest post is merely a shameless ploy to garner more zombie Klout…

Okay, busted.

Kidding! Though I do dig zombie Klout.

I met Clay on Twitter ages ago and have been blessed to watch him grow from hopeful noob to professional author. In true WANA style, Clay is here paying it forward which is awesome because it frees up time for me to keep reading his new book (which ROCKS, btw). Give him a warm WANA welcome!

***

I’ve been reading about how to get published for years, even before I wrote a bad novel that will likely never see the light of day. Like most of you, I’ve spent years trying to hop on that bucking beast known as publishing success. Studies have included:

  • Reading traditional mags like Writer’s Digest.
  • Following industry leaders from literary agencies as well as publishing houses.
  • Spending considerable time trying to figure out how the brave new digital world is changing everything.
  • Trying to determine whether self-publishing is a) terrible b) awesome c) inevitable d) it depends or e) *leaps to my death with Kindle in hand because I just can’t take it anymore*
  • Absorbing wisdom from standouts like my gracious host here Kristen.

After all of that, I’m now attempting to gather my thoughts from a unique position—a spot not everyone gets to be in and one where I’ll never be again. I’ve sold my first book through traditional publishing but it hasn’t quite released yet.

In other words, as I write this I am a published author yet not a successful or failed published author. I’m saddled up on top of this bronco, hat in hand, waiting to see if I’ll hold onto the reigns or get dumped on my keyster when that gate swings open.

I’m just a guy in the midst of this process and still asking a lot of questions, but here are 10 lessons I’ve learned from the traditional publishing process.

1. The author-agent relationship is critical.

I went to a conference last year with one particular person in mind as my ideal agent. She liked what I pitched and I thought I found my match. But then I bumped into another agent and we had instant chemistry. I signed with the latter and that other agent has already changed careers.

A thousand articles have been written by pros more experienced than me about what makes a good agent, but I can attest to how important the right one has been for me.

2. Finding the right publisher is critical.

We all know that rejection is a part of this business. It also really sucks. The challenge is to not equate your personal value to the responses your work receives. As my proposal went out and came back from editor after editorial board, I felt that angry horse kicking.

Not landing an agent is frustrating; watching your work get turned down by house after house gets downright terrifying. In the end a really terrific publisher named Abingdon made an offer, and I’m having a wonderful experience with them.

3. Know thy team.

The old maxim to “know thyself” still holds, but a close second in publishing is to know thy team. I was told that it might be helpful to meet with the people responsible for designing, marketing, publicizing, selling, and producing my book, so I flew to Nashville to meet with the team. You gotta figure there’s a pecking order everywhere, and I’d rather be a smiling face instead of just an ISBN number. We have a great working relationship and it all started there.

4. Some compromise is necessary.

If you want full control over your work then you should probably trot your trusty steed down the self-publishing trail. I knew before a deal was even offered that I would have to change my title. And since I write nonfiction the manuscript wasn’t completed yet. The scary thing about that is the potential for the entire direction of your book to change. Of course, input from smart people can be great as well, and I’ve been fortunate to work with smart people.

5. An accelerated timetable is both a blessing and curse.

I’m learning that publishing is the ultimate “hurry up and wait” industry. Nothing happens for weeks and then you may suddenly have two hours to come up with any number of critical items such as catalog copy ideas or alternate subtitle suggestions or whatever.

One experienced editor who’s worked with a big house told me that my timetable was about the fastest he’d ever seen. We went from signing a contract on an unfinished manuscript to having the book out in less than nine months. The process will often take twice that long, sometimes even more. But we made it and now the blessing is that I don’t have to wait another year for the release date.

6. Finishing is HARD.

Finishing this book was the hardest professional thing I’ve ever done. I’ve read On Writing by Stephen King a couple times and used to think it was strange how he said he was sick of his manuscripts by the time they actually came out. After working and reworking my book, I kind of get that now. I finally just read my own book start to finish for the first time.

7. Plan as if you will have to do everything on your own.

We always hear that the days of sitting back while the publisher does everything for us are gone. So I figured I would have to do everything myself. Turns out I’ve had wonderful support in many ways, but my efforts only encourage the team to work hard because they know I won’t waste their effort.

8. Networking still matters.

Connect with people like crazy and pursue any creative opportunity you can come up with. I try to combine my passions and abilities with areas where I have something to offer someone. Then figure out a way to approach that individual, organization, event, or whatever. Every little bit matters. I’m not likely to get a foreword by Stephen King but I can connect with 100 other professional creatives in a positive way.

9. Creating new stuff gets much tougher when promoting your past work.

As I write this in early September I’m thinking about the 50 pages of a new manuscript I told my agent she would have by the end of August. I’ve written four of those pages. Yes, I have a day job like most everyone else but the reason I’m not getting new books written is because I’m trying to do every last possible thing I can to make my first book a success. From what I see around the web, many writers struggle with promotion and publicity at the expense of writing new stuff.

10. You gotta enjoy the little things (big things too).

The farther along I’ve gotten in this process, the less I’ve celebrated milestones. I always thought that the most magical thing ever about getting published would be the day when those first books with my name on them would arrive on my doorstep. I imagined I would hold a copy into the sunlight and weep as Queen music played in my mind or something.

What happened instead though was that I smiled and then felt like I was going to throw up. Because this just got real. No turning back now; this book would be seen by people. What if I fail? That’s the problem with big dreams, the stakes are so dang hi! Success is never free of risk.

In the meantime, what if I spend so much time doing the next thing and the next that I never enjoy this ride? As Columbus had to learn in Zombieland, you gotta enjoy the little things.

So like I say I’m holding onto my hat. My feet are firmly locked in the stirrups now that some great people have boosted me into this saddle of opportunity. The ride isn’t easy but should be exhilarating. Yeehaw.

~*~*~

Clay Morgan is a writer, teacher, and speaker from Pittsburgh, PA who blogs about pop culture, history, and the meaning of life at ClayWrites.com. He is the author of Undead: Revived, Resuscitated, and Reborn about zombies, God, and what it means to be truly alive. Connect with him on Twitter.

I LOVE hearing from you guys! And since we have a guest today, every comment counts DOUBLE in the contest.

To prove it and show my love, for the month of September, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of September I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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84 Comments

Zombies, Rambo’s Daddy & Forrest Gump–Just Another Day in The Big Apple

Author Kristen Lamb, social media writers, social media authors, social media platform authors

I was born for this town.

Got home from Thrillerfest early this morning…as in about 1:00 this morning. Made it to bed slightly before 2:00 a.m. and then The Spawn was up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 6:30. So you might have guessed that I feel like I have been hit by a truck. But, I haven’t blogged since last Monday so I figured I’d pop in and say hello before you started holding candlelight vigils and checking milk cartons to find me.

Oh, and forget the milk cartons. I’ve left instructions that if I ever go missing to put my picture on wine bottles so my friends would actually know I am missing.

I guess the good news is that there was no Zombie Apocalypse while I was away in NYC. I would be lying if I said  wasn’t at least a little disappointed. But I am going to L.A. (Anaheim) next week, so I will still make sure to pack my 5 TSA-Friendly Weapons for the Zombie Apocalypse, because we all know that pandemics that turn living humans into the walking dead never happen when you need them to. Like when you have been screwing off instead of writing and really need more time to make your deadline or when you have to clean out the refrigerator.

Though my refrigerator, from the looks of things, could unleash the zombie pandemic so I think its best I leave that be for now until I can call the CDC and ask about proper liquid lettuce disposal. But the CDC doesn’t believe in zombies, and they don’t return accept my calls…so I’ll let Shawn clean it.

Author Kristen Lamb, Kristen Lamb, writer, social media writers, social media publishing

Run for your lives!

New York was SUPER AMAZING. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE New York City. Some of you may not know this, but my dad was a Texan and my mom is from New York, so I’ve spent much of my life very verklempt, y’all. It took all of an hour before I felt right at home. NYC is an extrovert’s DREAM. Beautiful buildings, lots to see, great energy, fabulous food…but a tad expensive.

Wow, this town IS pricey!

Anyway, Thrillerfest was fabulous. My panel went really well, and is feels like a real victory for WANA. I think the future is bright for writers and it can be for publishing as well. They just need to change their approach and update their business model, but we will talk more about that later in the week when I’m no longer hallucinating from sleep-deprivation.

The pink bunnies aren’t REAL?

I was blessed to meet some of my author heroes:

Sandra Brown, Kristen Lamb

Here I am with Sandra Brown. She is AMAZING!

Here with NYTBSA Joseph Finder

Lambo with the Creator of Rambo (The Legend David Morrell)

Eriq LaSalle, Kristen Lamb

Here I am with Eriq LaSalle best known for his role on ER.

Ted Dekker is SO sweet! And brilliant.

Here with Internationally Best-Selling Author Jaime Fevretti (She is writing the new Bourne novels).

At lunch with mega-agent Donald Maass and Nationally Best-Selling Author James Scott Bell.

Yes, I am a total groupie and got as many pictures with famous people as possible. In fact, my friend James Scott Bell said I reminded him of Forrest Gump because every time he saw me I was standing next to some famous person. I still haven’t decided whether I should be insulted or flattered.

Life is like a box of chocolates…

I was super sad to leave NYC and I really hope I get an opportunity to return there soon. It was so wonderful getting to meet with my WANA peeps and to make new ones. Publishing is going through a lot of growing pains, but it was a real blessing to be able to show them the WANA way, that we are not alone, that the future can be truly wonderful if we all work together. We can’t use tools of yesterday to carve out tomorrow. It’s like Forrest said, Stupid is as stupid does.

Hmmm, maybe Jim was on to something comparing me to Gump :D.

Well, off to try and rest. I am dreading the refrigerator and we have no food in the house that isn’t a possible source of Ebola. Also have a 55 pound suitcase that needs unpacking and somehow I made it to this point in my life and STILL do not have servants. Not like that would matter. I’d be getting the maid a drink while she got off her feet and I “helped.” I am pathetic, and tired, and needing chocolate. I ate pancetta with polenta for breakfast because it was the only thing in the house still edible. The fact that everything started with P and sounded all fancy Italian was just a happy accident.

So what are your thoughts? Have you been to NYC and loved it? What did you see or do? What would you recommend if I return? What are your thoughts on famous people? Have you met any? Were they awesome or snotty? Are you a groupie too? Did you just HAVE to get your picture taken with them? Who is the most famous person you know? When you go on trips, do you hate returning to your fridge? Unpacking? What is the best and worst part of traveling in your opinion?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of July, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

***Changing the contest.

It is a lot of work to pick the winners each week. Not that you guys aren’t totally worth it, but with the launch of WANA International and WANATribe I need to streamline. So I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners will now have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of July I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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58 Comments

The Top 5 TSA-Friendly Zombie-Killing Weapons for the Apocalypse

Fail to plan and plan to fail.

Today I am frantically packing to go to New York City. I will be speaking on a panel at Thrillerfest, and all I can think is, Gee, I hope the Zombie Apocalypse doesn’t start when I’m in NY and away from Hubby, Spawn and all the guns. I know normal people don’t think things like this, but you guys are writers, so you totally understand.

Come on! If it hits NYC, then I need a plan to get out of the city, which likely will involve going by water—only suckers try to get out of town on the highways—or the underground tunnels. Then I have to make it cross country, and who knows if the outbreak is contained to just NYC? And then I have to figure out how to ride a dirt bike and we all know how well that went last time. Then I have to find gluten-free-dairy-free food (I am SO screwed) and stay alive long enough to make it all the way home to TEXAS to rendezvous with Hubby because he is NOT doing this without me!

Hubby & I have waited for this day…

Am I wrong to be a little freaked out about leaving home? In Texas, I HAVE a plan. We have weapons, ammo, a fallback point and lots of GF food. We can also raid the burned out shells of Central Market, Sprouts and Trader Joe’s as we flee to the ranch. But to leave out of town? I can’t bring nail clippers on a plane, so this presents a new challenge.

This is what always happens in the movies. The protagonist leaves for some innocuous business trip, and that is precisely the moment that some corporation trying to create a new kind of permanent Botox screws up. Then the protagonist is in for a cross-country zombie-fest with only the hope of being reunited with loved ones to cling to.

YES, I do have an overactive imagination. It is why it was better I become a writer than an accountant.

I am a really odd duck. Yes, that’s a nice “shocked face.” Thank you for being polite. No, seriously. I think these things through. I am the person who gives SAS Survival Guides as Christmas gifts. But I am in a bit of a conundrum since the terrorists ruined travel FOREVER. What can I pack in case of the Zombie Apocalypse?

The people in the movies are never prepared, which is why I am then required to shout expletives at the screen to make-believe people who can’t even hear me.

Anyway, since my life is not a movie…yet :D…I’ve had to get creative. Here are my Top 5 TSA-Friendly Zombie-Killing Weapons. Make it through airport security and rest assured that you will be prepared should the Zombie Apocalypse strike when you are on vacation or business travel, because you just know that an apocalypse never strikes at a convenient time *rolls eyes*. I think AAA and the airlines should give these kinds of travel tips, stuff we can actually use.

Top Five TSA-Friendly Zombie-Killing Weapons for the Apocalypse 

1. Justin Bieber CDs

Being attacked by a horde of brainless freaks? Play some Justin Bieber and they are guaranteed to start dancing and crying and believing that Justin like seriously like looked right at them! SQUEEEEEEE! This method is guaranteed not only to distract the zombies, but it might even attract some Justin Bieber fans to give the zombies a snack so they aren’t busy chasing you.

The TSA isn’t crazy about Justin Bieber CDs, but they aren’t yet officially listed as weapons of terror.

Yet.

2. Cheap Hairspray

I would go for the industrial size can if you check a bag, but also at least 40 bottles of the travel size. They are under 2.5 ounces, so the TSA can’t exactly stop you, and if you wear big Texas hair they might not even bat an eye.

Hairspray, of course, is easy to make into a flamethrower, and also to do your hair. Duh.

Everyone has camera phones these days so it is a pretty safe bet that people will be taking pictures of the Zombie Apocalypse. And on any footage captured? Naturally, you want to be looking your best.

3. Bubble Wrap

To the TSA, bubble wrap just looks like you are OCD about packing your stuff and making sure it doesn’t get jacked up. What they don’t realize is bubble wrap can serve as a Zombie Early Warning System. Scaling fences and cars running from mindless monsters can be tiring, so you need to get your rest. Just use the bubble wrap to form a perimeter. When they step on it? The noise can wake you up and then, when they are distracted playing with the bubble wrap–because, seriously who can resist freaking BUBBLE WRAP?—you can bust  cap in their @$$. Not exactly a weapon, but the zombies end up dead–er, so who cares? Close enough.

4. Lady Gaga Meat Dress

It’s like a Ghillie Suit for slaying zombies. Just make sure you wrap this in the bubble wrap to keep it from leaking on your other stuff. And I might advise freezing your meat dress.

Not only will freezing your meat dress keep it fresh for the flight, but wearing freezing cold meat can a) help you stay cool while running for your life b) serve as a cold compress for any injuries you might sustain c) makes excellent body armor d) will keep anyone of the opposite sex from remotely hitting on you, thus preventing the sexual distraction that normally comes before a zombie rips your skull open.

The TSA might be iffy on this one. I know we can’t transport produce across state lines, but no one at the airlines would answer my questions about the meat dress. And now my phone is clicking. I think it’s been tapped.

5. A Bag Full of Legos

Need to trip up a pursuer? Toss a bag of Legos on the stairs and listen for the scream. To the TSA agent, you look like a loving family member bringing a child a toy, but little do they know Legos have a dark side and sharp edges.

The Spawn claims he “Zombie-Proofed” his room.

Well, those are the Top Five TSA-Friendly Zombie-Killing Weapons.

For me? Back to packing and finding pantyhose. Haven’t worn those since Christmas! I’m totally bringing my Batman shirt, this way if the Zombie Apocalypse does ensue, when rare footage makes it out of Manhattan, I can be captured slaying zombies dressed in style. Though I am a bit out of shape, so that same footage might at least have me mindlessly searching for brains in style. You guys will know me by my poofy blonde hair and Batman shirt.

Any TSA friendly weapons you would like to add? I have to pack for the potential Zombie Apocalypse Thrillerfest and right now, to be honest, I can’t think much past great shoes for running and hair utensils that can be sharpened to kill. I’d love some additional suggestions to add to the bag.

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of July, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

***Changing the contest.

It is a lot of work to pick the winners each week. Not that you guys aren’t totally worth it, but with the launch of WANA International and WANATribe I need to streamline. So I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners will now have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of July I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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67 Comments

Pay Me In Flesh–Interview with Nationally Best-Selling Author James Scott Bell

Happy Halloween! Today, I have a special treat for you guys. We have been talking about structure for the past few weeks and one of the greatest resources available to writers is James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure. But, we can talk more about structure tomorrow. Few holidays offer such a rare opportunity to rufie & coerce….um, interview successful writers like Jim. Who needs a legitimate appointment for an interview when you have Snickers loaded with Rohypnol?

They fall for it every time!

For those who don’t know, not only is Jim an awesome writing teacher, he is also a very successful fiction author, and, before he was a writer, he was a lawyer. Thus, he brings a unique perspective to the fiction table through the P.O.V. of *drum roll* …a zombie. Now you guys understand why Jim was perfect to kidnap interview for Halloween.

Me: Jim, you awake?

Jim: Ow. My head…

Me: I have Red Bull and some aspirin…if you cooperate.

Jim: Am I in a van? I AM. Wait…this is the same van that abducted Jim Rollins isn’t it?

Me: Hey, I can’t help it you guys keep talking to strangers with candy.

Jim: Fair enough. You could just ASK for interviews, you know.

Me: But then what would I use this van for?

Jim: Good point.

Me: Okay, I want to talk about your new book PAY ME IN FLESH. Aside from having to eat brains and human flesh, what makes Mallory Caine different from herself after zombification?

Jim: Other than those minor matters, she doesn’t have a soul. She doesn’t feel at home in the world. She feels that forces outside her are trying to control her, and if she doesn’t reclaim her soul before some zombie killer gets her, she fears she will spend eternity in hell. The stakes, in other words, are kind of high.

Me: Wow. Great answer. You are very coherent for someone who’s been drugged and duct-taped to a bench seat.

Jim: Law school training *shrugs*

Me: What are your “world rules” for this series and how do they differ from standard zombie rules? For example, what is the explanation for the zombies retaining their mental faculties?

Jim: One nice thing about paranormal “rules” is that you can make them up as long as you’re consistent. I mean, zombies were not flesh eaters until George Romero. Before that they were simply mindless and controlled. I combined all of that, but with the proviso that a zombie with a strong enough will can resist being controlled. Mallory is strong-willed, for sure. She is fierce and intelligent and witty. But there’s something else going on, too. A greater scheme of things she is only slightly aware of….

….Can I get something to drink? I feel like I have a sock in my mouth.

Me: Oh, yes, well you did have a sock in your mouth. Sorry I picked the fuzzy pair. You can have something to drink…after the interview.

Jim: Fine. You see, Lucifer has decided to set up war headquarters in Los Angeles. Which means: stuff happens. She’s caught in the middle, caught between worlds—the world of the living and the dead, and the world of demons and angels and talking owls and ancient gods coming to LA for a confab.

Do you have a thing for kidnapping authors named “Jim?”

Me: Maybe. Back to my questions. How high (or low) is the rate of decay? Will Ms. Caine begin to lose body parts throughout the series?

Jim: Mallory has to take care of her skin, because it is subject to drying and falling off. She has to put special cream all over herself each day, and ingest shark cartilage. Her jaw will sometimes become loose and she has to knock it back in place. When she is knifed or shot, it leaves a mark. Eventually she could look like a dart board if she’s not careful.

Me:  Are zombies able to reproduce? Will Ms. Caine have an affair that results in a zombie baby?

Jim: One of the poignant subtexts is Mallory’s desire to have children and be married, but now, in her present condition, she can’t be either. When she gets close to a man she’s attracted to, she can’t help but think what his brain might taste like. It makes her sad and angry at the same time. Is there a chance she can ever get out of this condition? She keeps hoping, but hope is beginning to run thin unless she can find out who is behind her condition.

Me: Fantasy readers are notoriously picky and clannish. What are you offering to entice them over to your “camp”?

Jim: Something different. It’s good to stretch the genre a little bit. This has never been done before: a zombie legal thriller series with a first-person voice and hard boiled attitude. It really lets me combine a bunch of things I love into one narrative.

Also, these are not throw away stories in the legal department. Real questions about law as it would apply to paranormal beings is a great field for exploration.

For example, in PAY ME IN FLESH Mallory defends a vampire hooker accused of murder. A few questions arise: if they county locks her up, is she entitled to blood as a civil right? If she can’t come out in the daytime, doesn’t that mean the trial has to be held at night?

And so on. And when we get into a courtroom, I bring my trial experience to the pages. How would the questioning of a vampire? What expert witnesses would be brought in? How would a judge rule on points of evidence law?

Me: As a former attorney, how much of this is a reaction to the way people tend to treat lawyers in general?

Jim: I haven’t really thought of it in those terms. I did like the original spark: some people think there’s really no difference between lawyers and zombies! And I just felt a zombie was entitled to be a sympathetic lead character for change.

Me: In a comment on a recent interview, you mentioned J.J. Abrams, the director. Why was his the name that popped into your mind then as opposed to, say, Jerry Bruckheimer or even Joss Whedon?

Jim: That was in response to someone who said, “I think Zombie Lawyer in LA is one of the best high concept premises ever. I can already see the movies: Sandra Bullock as the lawyer, Scarlett Johansson as the vampire hooker and George Cloony as the Deputy DA.”

I said, “From your keyboard to J. J. Abrams’ ears.” Why Abrams? His record speaks for itself. He’s an outside-the-box guy.

Me: All the best fiction, be it written or film, teaches. What lesson do you want to teach with Mallory Caine as the instructor?

Jim: I actually don’t want to state the theme here. It is being developed all through the series. It will be much more satisfying for readers to get to it themselves.

But as for Mallory the character, her dedication to bringing justice to her clients is her passion. That’s what made the early Perry Mason books so popular. Mason was a fighter. So is Mallory Caine.

Me: Shaun of the Dead or Dawn of the Dead, and why?

Jim: Shaun, for sure. I like funny.

Me: For me to let you go, I need you to answer one key question.

Jim: What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Me: No, that was for the “Other Jim.”

Jim: Hmmm, and I’d been studying up on that just in case.

Me: Forget the swallows. If the answer is “42″ then what is the question?

Jim: Life, the universe and everything, of course.

Me: I recommend tucking your body into a ball. The landing is easier.

Jim: Wha–? *door opens*

Me: NICE landing!

All right, I hope everyone enjoyed my interrogation interview with nationally best-selling author and awesome writing teacher James Scott Bell. Just so you know, no actual authors have been harmed during these abductions interviews. Oh, sure maybe there was a tad bit of psychological trauma, but just think of it this way. If they write what they know, their writing can only improve after such an experience. So think of this less as a “hostage situation” and more like…research.

Tomorrow we will resume talking about structure, and, if Jim forgives me for the whole “I drugged you then abducted you in a scary panel van” we might have him back to talk about writing and craft. I feel good about him returning, since everyone knows that writers are total masochists.

I hope all of you will run out and get a copy of PAY ME IN FLESH and EVERY WRITER needs a copy of Plot & Structure, especially those of you who might be new to the craft.

Do you guys have any questions for Jim? I can pass them on at my parole hearing. Any other authors you would like me to abduct interview? No, I will not abduct Bob Mayer. Research demonstrates that Green Berets only fall for the Free Candy thing 50% of the time. Too risky.

I do want to hear from you guys!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of November, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of October I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

I will announce the winners for last week and last month tomorrow.

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left.

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