Thursday, June 27, 2013

Too Much Horror Business, by C Dulaney

I (C Dulaney) recently had the awesome opportunity to interview Mr. R. Thomas Riley, co-author of If God Doesn’t Show. Or rather, he was tazered and dragged into the interrogation room. Let’s see what information we could get out of him, shall we?
Since we both write for Permuted Press, I’m going to pretend I know nothing about you or your writing. So, if you want to start out by telling us a little about yourself, here’s your chance. 

I wrote my first story when I was 15 and had no clue what I was doing. I was an avid reader growing up and devoured every book I could get my hands on. Trying my hand at writing myself was a natural progression. I found I had stories I wanted to tell, rather than read them. I wrote stories and even a novel for the next five years. They were all completely and utterly dreck and horrible.
I was raised in a very sheltered environment and my parents were (and very much so) hardcore Independent Baptists. I was only allowed to read the Bible, but at around age 7, I discovered fiction from the likes of Stephen King, Bentley Little, and Dean Koontz and my love of the horror genre was born. I had to hide these types of books from parents and I spent many, many late nights hiding under the covers being scared by these wonderful books.
Around 2000 I started hanging out in writing chat rooms and the rest, as they say, is history. I still didn’t know what I was doing for the next few years. I had no idea how the publishing business worked, but fortunately, in those chat rooms I began to interact with fellow authors, many of which I read previously. They took me under their wings and taught me the ropes and the ins and outs of the business. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the likes of Ray Garton, Douglas Clegg, Tom Piccirilli, Jack Ketchum, Brian Keene, among many others, taking the time to talk to an aspiring writer. I make it a point to pay that forward as best I can with the writers coming up behind me today. 
I’ve always been interested in co-authoring something. What was that experience like and how, exactly, does it work?
Every collaboration project is different. What may work for one collab, doesn’t necessarily work for another. Currently, I write with Roy C. Booth, John Grover, and Jason Brannon. I’ve collaborated with other authors, but those turned out badly.
Collaborating requires an intense amount of trust to work correctly. With Roy and John, we are so in sync and have such similar tastes in fiction that we work very well together, but even these collabs are conducted much differently.
With John, when I brought the idea of writing If God Doesn't Show I had 30,000 words done on the project already. He merely jumped in, read what I had, and continued the story. We worked so well together, even I started to have trouble seeing who wrote what, our styles were so similar. At this point, I can start a sentence, and he’ll be able to finish it.
With Roy, it’s an entirely different process. There is much more discussion before we even begin to write, hours and hours of plotting beforehand, and maneuvering. With his vast experience in comics and movies, he’s more attuned to what has come before and he’s been reading much, much longer than I have (yeah, he’s old, haha) so he knows what’s been done fictionally before. While I grew up cutting my “reading” teeth on 80’s and 90’s horror, he more of a horror classical guy. This really complements our two styles, as well.
Jason is a new addition. We’ve known of each other for about 10 years now, getting published in many of the same mags, anthologies, and with some of the same small presses. We’re working on our first project together and we’re still feeling each other out, but I think it’ll be a good fit. so.
Tell us about If God Doesn’t Show. And I don’t want the back-cover summary here. Really spill some beans without angering the Gods of Spoil.

If God Doesn't Show is a culmination of writing about a character for a decade now. There’s a lot going on in this novel. There are zombies, demons, angels, and ancient gods. You’ve probably heard write what you want to read if it isn’t out there and that’s basically what John Grover and I did. John and I approached our zombies from a completely different angle and from what the readers have said; we seemed to have nailed it. These aren’t your typical zombies and I hope we’ve brought something fresh to the mythos.
I drew heavily on my own military experience and the stories I’ve heard from my buddies in the various branches. Most of the events, especially in regards to the nuclear strikes that occur in the storyline, are as accurate as I could make them without revealing too much “real world” tactics. This novel is the second book in my on going series about Gibson Blount, with The Flesh of Fallen Angels being the first book. John and I are hard at work on book 3, and books 4-6 are plotted and just waiting to be written. Of course, this all depends on the first two books in the series being successful, so go out and buy them, read them, and leave reviews. 

I believe you have other work out there for folks to read. Tell us about that and other plans you might have for future works. 

I currently have two short story collections available. The Monster Within Idea (previously published by Hugo Nominated Apex Publications) and Their Last Dying Acts. I also have a new novel called Husks, a highly experimental novel that is quite different from my usual style and content. As I said in my previous answer, my collaborators and I are deep into writing and planning the Gibson Blount series and I’d like to hope I could concentrate on his stories for at least the next decade!

...and this is what it will look like...

When you read, do you prefer pre-apocalyptic, shit-as-it’s-hitting-the-fan, or post-apocalyptic stories, and why?

I like both, if they’re done right. To write a good pre-or-post apocalyptic novel research is key, if the author neglects this crucial aspect, then they’ve failed before they’ve even written the first sentence. Readers today are an extremely savvy bunch and if you’re writing about guns, military tactics, or whatnot, you, as the author, better know your subject like the back of your hand. Personally, I’m more curious to read about the post-apocalyptic scenarios, as I like to see how authors deal with the aftermath and how society picks up and carries on.
I think we’ve all been asked this one, but I can’t not ask. What are your thoughts on the current zombie craze?
I absolutely LOVE it! There’s just so much out there to consume, pun intended. It’s a great time for the zombie genre, from comedies, to outright horror, and everything in between.
True or False: The Walking Dead is awesome.
I have a love/hate relationship with the TV show. One minute, I’ll be screaming mad at the screen, the next I’m completely in love with the show. Still, it’s among one of the best shows on TV at the moment.
If you could only pick ONE, in which sub-genre would you most prefer to write?Apocalyptic. What can I say, I like destroying the world and being sadistic to my characters.
What’s the very best piece of advice you’ve ever received? This doesn’t have to pertain to writing.
Never stop learning or be complacent with your writing ability. Always strive to be better. The learning never stops, ever. 
Writer’s block: real or imagined?
Imagined. If a project isn’t working for you, there’s plenty of other stuff to write about. 
What’s your process? Take us through a day in the writing life of Mr. Riley.

Research is key in my work. I want to be as realistic as I can and I like to write stories that’ll make the reader think, “This could really happen.” It took me a few years to realize that every great idea I have doesn’t necessarily make a good story. At this point in my career, I don’t write a story or novel until I have a contract or a very real interest from a publisher. It’s simply not an adequate use of my time to spend six months on something I’m going to have a hard time selling. 

Depending on the project, I may or may not outline. Each project is different. I write best under a deadline, so when possible, I make it a point to have one.I have a full time job, so my writing time is limited, but I’m never not writing in my head, so by the time I actually have the time to sit down and put words to paper, I know exactly where I’m headed and what I need to accomplish. 
What’s your favorite ice cream flavor? And don’t lie, everyone has one.
Rocky Road. 
What a missed opportunity to push the new Mythos flavors.

In your opinion, what’s the best way to handle a bad review? Not just bad, but the kind that makes you want to take a fork to someone.
First, see if there’s any merit to the review. You have to realize (and be at peace with) that what you write isn’t going to be liked by every reader. If there’s no merit or anything to learn from the bad review, I just off them in a story.
If you were only able to write one more story, just ONE, for the rest of your life, what would it be?
That’s a tough one, but I’d have to go with apocalyptic scenarios. 
Okay, if you haven’t already talked about it (or even if you have) here’s your one chance to pimp anything and everything you can think of. 

Pick up If God Doesn't Show and The Flesh of Fallen Angels. Read, review, and rate!

Return... in some time for when R. Thomas Riley interviews Craig DiLouie! As for my part (Thom Brannan) I apologize for the huge break in interviews. Blame it on me, take away my birthday, whatever you have to do. Ayuh. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Dueling Banjos, by William Todd Rose

C. Dulaney is an enigma, wrapped in a mystery... and bacon. She lives in the middle of nowhere and spins yarns about the end of things as we know it. William Todd Rose asks her questions here, and by God, she answers!

I’ll start with a pretty standard interview question:  tell us a little bit about your new book.  Where did its inspiration come from and how many more books do you foresee in the series?

Murphy’s Law is the second book in the Roads Less Traveled series. It picks up about six months where the first book, The Plan, left off. It’s only been out for a couple of months so I don’t want to spoil too much, but I will say the pacing is faster and the tone is a little darker than the first book. I’ve been told that it’s even gruesome at some points. We meet new characters, some of them live and some of them are murdered by yours truly. The location changes; Kasey and the group do a good bit of traveling in this one. I think the feel of this book can be summed up by the title. The first book was all about executing The Plan when it hit the fan. In this second one, however, we find out pretty quickly that if something can go wrong, it will. But really, how often does anything go right in a zombie apocalypse?

I think the inspiration for this one came from the first book. I didn’t use an outline for either; just wrote from the hip, so to speak. So each event built on the one before. Most of the time I had no idea what was going to happen next. By the time I started writing the second book, I just continued that. There’s only one more book after Murphy’s Law, and at this time there are no plans for anything more than a trilogy. Roads Less Traveled: Shades of Gray is tentatively scheduled for release in June, 2013.

Is there one character in particular whom you really identify with and, if so, why?

If you ask people who know me, they would immediately say Kasey, the main protagonist. Personally, I can’t see it. In my opinion, I feel like I can really relate to all of them. Each character in the main group has a little piece of me inside them. A little bit here, a little bit there. Kasey’s organization, Jake’s temper, Mia’s loyalty, Nancy’s “mothering,” and Zack’s reasoning. Over time, after the characters finally fleshed themselves out, they obviously took on personalities of their own. By the time you get to the third book, you see less and less of me in them. Which is a good thing. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

When I do interviews on my personal blog, there’s a question I always ask which helps give readers a glimpse of the interviewee’s creative side, so I’m going to borrow that question for this interview as well.  Here it goes: there’s a train rocketing through the night with nearly a hundred people staring out the windows.  The only person actually sitting in a seat is a small child who gazes unwaveringly at the floor.  What is going on with these people?

The first thing I thought of was Blaine the Mono in Stephen King’s third Dark Tower book. I’ll add to that by saying I don’t think that kid is a kid at all. He’s an extension of the train, and the train is insane. Alive and insane. So this crazy train (ha) is rocketing through the dark, holding all these people hostage. Maybe the kid/train wants something, and the people aren’t going to give it. So now they’re staring out, defeated, having accepted their imminent and most likely firey death. And the kid is just sitting there in “sleep mode.”

Or it’s a train full of zombies, and they’re being transported to a zombie farm where we use them like domesticated animals. so. Heel! Good zombie.
What is the most satisfying part of being an author for you?  And, on the flip side, what are the more challenging aspects?

I get paid to lie? No, wait. I think when I meet someone who enjoyed reading a story I’ve written as much as I enjoyed writing it. That’s pretty satisfying. The more challenging aspects I think would be promotion, promotion, and promotion. I don’t think any of us particularly like that part.

In one of your books was made into a movie, who would you want to direct it?  Alternately (or additionally, your choice) who would you like to see star in it?

Joss Whedon. And me, of course! What, it could happen.

Can you remember the first piece of fiction you ever wrote?  If so, what was it about?

Yes, and honestly the only thing I can really remember is it was about a stinky dog. Oh, and we had to stand up in front of the class and read them out loud. I definitely remember that.

If you could travel through time and give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Oh, wow. Good question. If I could give myself only one piece, it would have to be the old “don’t sweat the small stuff” line. Unless you, in fact, sweat over every minute thing that happens on a daily basis, you’ll never understand how that cheesy cliché could be capable of changing someone’s life, if they’d only learned it very early on. Learned it, and put it into practice. So yeah, that’s what I would tell myself. Then I would pound myself over the head with it until it sank in. And then I would force myself to get it tattooed somewhere on my body, so I’d have a constant reminder.

Slightly better advice than this.
Let’s say you’ve been asked to not only take part in an author panel, but you also get to hand pick the authors whom you’d like to share the panel with.  Who would you pick and why?

First, I’d pick all the other Permuted Ladies, so I wouldn’t be the only one sitting up there. Second, I’d pick Peter Clines. I’ve heard he can be quite verbose, so if we could get him talking, we wouldn’t have to. Third, I’d pick Iain McKinnon, the only other Permuted author whose accent is harder to understand than mine (We love you, Iain). Fourth, I’d pick you, because you’re interviewing me and it would be rude of me to leave you out of my pretend panel.

What are you currently working on?

With the RLT trilogy finally out of my hands, I’ve started on another full-length. It takes place in the RLT universe, but it’s a totally different take on it. If I had to “classify” it, I guess it would be an urban fantasy, pre-apocalyptic, thriller, who-done-it type of thing? That’s really all I’m going to say about it right now. I know it’s going to be a different type of story than what I’m used to writing, but I also think it’s going to be a lot of fun too. The working title is From the Ashes.

Lastly, can you let us know where we can find more information about you and your work?

I sure can. You can check out my website,, or you can find information on Facebook.

Thanks for stopping by and giving me the opportunity to pick your brain!

Next time, C Dulaney interviews R. Thomas Riley in a duel of first initials!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Chronic, by Dave Dunwoody

There exists a lot of uncertainty about William Todd Rose. Is he man? Is he machine? Is he a ham sammich? Nobody knows for sure, so we had Dave Dunwoody ask him some questions to see where on the food chain Mr. Rose exists. SEE!

DD: So we start with the question around which most author interviews are built - in this case, I suspect the answer is pretty interesting. How did the premise for your novel, The Seven Habits of Highly Infective People, come about?

WTR: The Seven Habits originally started as an entirely different story.  I’d considered writing a novel that broke the fourth wall with the written word.  The idea was that I myself would be the protagonist and that the things I wrote about in my novels and stories were things I’d actually experienced while traveling through space and time.  This is where the term “dimensionally unstable” originated from.  I wrote a page or so and realized it just wasn’t working, so I shelved it.  About a month or so later, I started getting these little snippets of dialogue that popped into my head throughout the day.  So when I sat down to write, I just let this character start talking and discovered he was actually the one who was dimensionally unstable.  Everything else just kind of fell into place after that.

DD: Where do Bosley, The Seven Habits of Highly Infective People's protagonist, and William Todd Rose intersect?

WTR: That’s a really good question.  In all honesty, Bosley is this alternate reality version of how I may have turned out if I hadn’t changed my paths in my mid-twenties.  I totally lived the Bosley Coughlin lifestyle, man.  Like Bosley, I worked as a data conversion operator for the Post Office.  I was sleeping maybe three or four hours a night and doing just about any drug I could get my hands on.  I spent so much time high that sobriety was my altered state and, at the same time, was really delving into explorations of mysticism and the occult.  I was running from and searching for something simultaneously… something that always seemed maddeningly out of reach.  I was riddled with unfounded guilt and thought if I could re-build my consciousness then maybe I could finally feel complete.  But it really doesn’t work that way, does it?

DD: Seven Habits involves time travel, which I imagine is a challenge to write and a beacon for nitpickers. How did you map out the timeline, and what were the rules governing your version of time travel?

WTR: I’ll start with the rules first, which are pretty simple.  The main rule is lack of control.  Bosley has no say over when or where he travels.  The Eye of Aeons opens spontaneously and pulls him through.  Since his consciousness, and not his physical body, is what travels through time he is basically pulled into a host body on his travels.  He sees through their eyes, hears what they hear, feels what they feel, and is privy to their innermost thoughts and secrets… however, he has no control over that host body whatsoever.  He can be thought of as a metaphysical hitchhiker of sorts.

I think the time travel aspect of the story was a bit easier because of this.  I didn’t really have to worry too much about crossing timelines… I just had to make sure that if Bosley knew something about Ocean that the knowledge matched up with a period of time in which he was sharing her consciousness.  As the series progresses, however, the time travel element will become increasingly more complex, and that is where I’ll really have to mind my Ps and Qs. so.
DD: How important to you is humor in the fiction you write and read?

WTR: With my own writing, it really depends on the work.  Humor can be a great tool to break tension and what a character finds funny can often tell a lot about them.  Sometimes, though, I don’t want to break the tension.  I want it to keep building, to keep turning those screws like an Inquisitor drunk on power.  I get some sort of sick glee out of writing stuff like that.  All of my work is pretty dark and gritty, so I really can’t see myself ever writing a comedic book.  I just don’t think that’s where my strength lies and I’m okay with that.

DD: I'm stealing this question from Thom Brannan because it's just so great. What musical artist would you love to see do a concept album based on your work?

WTR: Wow, that is an awesome question.  Maybe Project Pitchfork or Skinny Puppy.  Perhaps Diary of Dreams.  Music is such an integral part of my writing process that the true answer would depend on which novel was being covered.  For The Seven Habits specifically the answer is Firewater. I hadn’t heard them when I originally wrote the book, but a lot of their songs are so Bosley it’s almost scary.  “6:45”, “Another Perfect Catastrophe”, “Dropping Like Flies”: these songs very well could have been penned by Bosley Coughlin.  If you’ve read The Seven Habits, listen to “A Place Not So Unkind” with Bosley and Ocean in mind as you do.  It’s almost as if the band had traveled forward in time, read the book, and then traveled back in time to write and record the song.  It really is uncanny.

DD: Maybe they’re some of those metaphysical hitchers you hear so much about… so.
What's your preferred writing routine? What does your ideal writing space look like?

WTR: I’ve got to have a cup of strong, black coffee and, preferably, some music playing that synchs up with the atmosphere I’m trying to convey.  At one point, I would have said a pack of smokes as well but we don’t smoke inside anymore and it’s a habit I plan on breaking anyway.  Just give me a desk, my computer, a comfy chair, and my coffee and I’m raring to go.

DD: Any weird totems you like to have around when you're working on stories?

WTR: I have a furry little tribble on my desk that coos when you squeeze it.  Sometimes, I’ll sit there playing with it as I turn things over in my head.  If I get frustrated with hardware issues, I’ll give the computer a blast from my replica sonic screwdriver and I’ve also got a plush Darth Vader wearing bunny ears that I like to look at;  but I really try not to have any “lucky charms” or anything like that.  Part of me fears creating a psychological dependence on totems to the point where if I didn’t have the object, I wouldn’t be able to write.

Artist's representation of what Darth Easter might look like.
DD: I've had the pleasure of meeting your family, and they are nothing if not supportive of what you do. How do they figure into the writing process?

WTR: My son is an awesome beta reader.  He’s not afraid to tell me if something is utter crap and to give his honest opinion.  My wife, though, is more involved in the actual process.  We’ve stayed up all night, bouncing ideas back and forth, exploring characters and universes, hashing things out.  Other than myself, she’s the only person who knows the complete story arc which began with The Seven Habits and she is just as emotionally involved with these characters as I.  Once I finish something, she is the first person who reads it and she does so with a critical eye.  She makes notes in the margins, highlights misspellings, checks for continuity errors, and so on; after she’s had her time with the manuscript, we sit down and discuss her thoughts and findings and then it’s on to the second draft.  She’s my muse, initial editor, alpha reader, manager, and everything in between.

DD: Has a piece of fiction ever moved you to tears?

WTR: Good god, yes.  I tend to get emotionally involved with my characters and it’s not uncommon for me to sit at the keyboard with tears streaming down my face as I write.  This is especially true with Bosley and Ocean.

DD: I know this may be a complicated question (and one I couldn’t answer myself) but why do you think you’re drawn to dark fiction? Is it that cathartic nature?

WTR: I’m not really sure.  I suspect that it’s as much a part of me as my eye color.  For as long as I can remember I’ve been infatuated with things of a darker nature.  Before I could even read, my favorite stories were always ones told around campfires: escaped mental patients with hooks for hands, phantom hitchhikers, and what have you.  As I grew older this interest only deepened.  I discovered Poe, Algernon Blackwood, HP Lovecraft, and Ramsey Campbell.  Later, I started creating my own tales.

DD: Tell us about a short story of which you're particularly proud.

WTR: I really like “Losing Control”, which is in my Box of Darkness collection.  It’s a blend of sci-fi and extreme horror which centers around a man whose job is to free passing souls who become entangled in “crossfades”; a cross fade is basically a bit of dead space between dimensions which a spirit can become entangled in when trying to cross over to the other side.  He does this through astral projection and technology, using a terminally ill man who is in a medically induced coma as an eavesdropping device into the afterlife to help identify where problems lie.  The third member of the team is a woman he only knows as Control, whose job is to help guide and center him when he’s out in the void.  The thing about crossfades, however, is that extremely willful souls can get their hooks into them and start creating their own reality.  At that point, the crossfade becomes a Cut Scene and has the capability of luring passing souls into it like a trap.  And this is exactly what happens when the soul of executed serial killer Albert Lewis passes into the beyond.  He creates a nightmare world brimming with torture and perversion and it’s our narrator’s job to go into that world and bring it to an end.
I like this story so much I’ve been toying with the thought of expanding it into a novel.  I really like the universe it’s set in and the way technology interacts with metaphysics.

DD: Sounds like a world that’s dying to be explored further! Todd thanks for taking the time to let me probe your lobes.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Tall Tales from My Formative Years 1: Gettin' Flash-Bang'd

Disclaimer: TTFMFY are stories from my time growing up in way, deep south Texas, as well as anecdotes from boot camp and Navy schoolsand service. They may or may not be embellished, with portions that are out and out fiction. Read at your own peril!

While I was in junior high and high school, I lived in Falcon Village, a little place where all the Border Patrol, Customs, IWBC people and their families had housing. It wasn't a very big place, and of the six years I lived there, I don't think more than half of the houses ever had people in them.

So, this made for a great opportunity for the CBP's version of SWAT, the Weapons, Entry and Tactics (WET) Team. Every once in a great while, they'd all tool down to the village to practice raids on the empty houses. When they were feeling especially garrulous, they would tell the neighborhood kids watching what they were up to.

One of these times, they recruited some of to be Tony Montana and his crew. The only kids available at the time were Pete and me. Pete was from Colorado, and at one time may or may not have taken some kind of ninjitsu classes. Either way, he was all fired up to be a bad guy. The whole time the WET guys were explaining the rules to us, Pete had a glint in his eye and a smile on his face and Jesus Christ, I knew he was thinking about killing these guys.

...meanwhile, inside Pete's head...

They explained the rules: the taped-up soda cans in black coming through the windows were flash-bangs, which would blind you and steal your equilibrium for some time. If one of the cans came through the window, I think we had three seconds to vacate the room or we were toast. Taped up soda cans in grey were smoke grenades, and we had the same time or be blinded and choked.

The weapons were some kind of Air-Soft things, so we didn't have to worry about range safety. Nobody's head would get blown off their shoulders (yay!) and if we heard a pop! coming our direction, we were shot. So lay down. Pete and I were to hide in the house, together or separate, and do our best to evade the WET Team.

The first order of business was to open all the windows and remove the screens, so nothing would have to be replaced. Then Pete went, giggling, into the house, and I might have been, too. It was so cool.

There was no furniture in there, but that was alright. We lived in houses that were almost identical in their layout, so all the little hidey-holes we could get into were known to us. All the odd corners and blind spots and how much room beind the room doors, et cetera. I don't know what Pete was thinking, exactly, but I was sure we'd be able to evade these old, slow adults, especially on our own turf.

The first couple of runs went the same way: we'd get set, and flash-bangs or smoke grendades would come sailing through the windows, and either we'd scramble out of the way in time or they'd come get us. We got better at moving from room to room in time, but they got better at finding us. was a LOT like this.
And then... Pete decided it was time to stop evading so much.

Okay, so I mentioned possible ninja training, yeah? Pete spidered his way up to the top of a closet, hanging there as if in a web. The WET Team member came into the room I more or less lured him into by batting the flash-bang back out of the window, then showing my face at the door. While he was busy apprehending me, Pete dropped out of the shadows and took this guy out. Kick to the back of the knee, grab the shotgun, smack him in the face with the butt of it, then shoot him. We were both shot dead shortly thereafter, but WOOHOO, the adrenaline was flowing.

The guy with the bloody nose was entirely cool about it, though. Way cooler than I thought he'd be. He just cleaned up, nodding, and said it was a good idea to make the training more realistic. They would, after all, be facing hostiles in the field.

(Yes, I know now... this is the point where we should have run screaming.)

Pete and I went traipsing, la la la, into the house to get ready for our next foray into the world of villainy. They gave us more time to get ready, which might have been them scoping the house more carefully. Which they were, keeping better tabs on us. But we got set up, after we worked out our strategy.

As before, the flash-bang came sailing into the room, and I missed it. It landed with a very heavy thunk, a much different sound than before. I had all three seconds to consider the depth of our folly before the little cylinder went both flash and bang.

I can't speak for Pete, but I found myself on the floor, curled up and screaming and blind and unable to stand. The WET Team came in pretty calmly and zip-tied our wrists and ankles. Like hunters carrying their prey to a fire, the tactical team brought Pete and me out onto the front lawn and unceremoniously dumped us there in the grass.

Sooner or later, we came to our senses. The WET Team commander asked us if we were ready to go again.

We both said no sir, thank you, sir.

Next time, we'll talk about Edgar Allan Poe.

-Thom Brannan

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Jabbertalky, by Thom Brannan

Welcome back! Here follows the second installment of the round robin/round table of interviews, wherein I interview David Dunwoody, madcap author of Empire, Empire's End, The Harvest Cycle, and about eight zillion short stories.

It has long been suspected Dave had replaced a portion of his brain with a portal to the multiverse, where the stories come from. But that's just rampant speculaion on my part. Lete's hear about it from the man himself, shall we?

This feels like it’s been a long time coming, Dave. (Is it alright if I call you Dave? You can call me Hal, if you like.) You have an impressive body of work, and I was wondering, what was the drive to link so many of your short stories to the Empire universe?  

I’ve really enjoyed the zombified world of Empire, and there have been a lot of ideas –the Reaper in different time periods, the origin of the plague—that I didn’t use in the novels themselves because I didn’t want to go off on too many tangents. As is, both Empire books have a lot of side stories and spotlight various undead anomalies. I also thought that getting some related shorts into various anthologies might help draw new readers to Empire (and vice versa, hopefully introducing Empire fans to other authors).

And would you open the pod bay doors already?

Speaking for myself, one of the things I liked so much about Empire and its sequel was that it was set years and years beyond the beginning of the Zombie Apocalypse. So many of the books we see are set at the beginning. Was this something you decided on beforehand, or did it just come about as you started writing?

Setting it 100+ years after the initial outbreak was one of the first decisions I made about Empire. The collapse of society and the horror of a dawning apocalypse is definitely compelling, but I found myself wanting to see what the world looked like long after—a time when humanity’s remnants are all people born into the last days, into a life that seems doomed from the word go. Of course, we see it as such because we’ve had a taste of this posh zombie-free existence.

How did it feel to return to that universe in Empire’s End? Do you plan more for that world, or is that it?

There was definitely more to be told after Empire, and I was excited to do it – at the same time I knew Empire’s End was going to be the conclusion of that arc, so it was a little bittersweet. Knowing it was the finale did offer a certain freedom—I’ll tell you this right now, no one in Empire’s End is safe. No character’s signed for a Book III.

I definitely intend, though, to write more short stories set in this world at some point. I have an idea for a tale that would serve as a fitting epilogue of sorts to the whole saga. Just need to get this Empire movie done first. Which is taking forever because no one’s optioned it.

To veer off the writing path for a moment... tell me about ghost hunting. You have an EMF meter and everything? Do you ever record for EVP? (EMF = electromagnetic fields, EVP = electronic voice phenomena, for the uninitiated.)

It’s funny, I don’t believe at all in ghosts but I have spent a few nights in cemeteries with a recorder. Just to creep myself out, I guess, maybe get a story out of it. I do love cemeteries (I set part of The Harvest Cycle in Utah for that reason – Ogden City Cemetery is gorgeous) and it’s interesting to listen to the anomalous sounds the tape picks up and let your imagination interpret them.

...and that worked out so well for this guy.

I really can’t stress enough, you have a lot of writing credits to your name. What made you decide to write?

Mental illness

Actually, that might not be far from the truth. I spend more time in my own head than I do in the external world – that’s always been the case, and I think I used to make up worlds and stories as a kid because my brain always seems to need to be doing five different things at once. As an adult, this need has manifested itself in the form of OCD, and in dealing with that I have noticed that writing seems to put all my mental trains on the same track, so the speak. It centers me in a real way.

Does it matter what you write, or only that you write?

“What” is definitely important. The creative engine’s got to be in overdrive, and dark fiction seems to do the trick for me. As for what it is about horror and dark fantasy, your guess is as good as mine. But why worry?

If you were able to choose the person making an adaption of your work into a movie, who would it be? And how close would you want it? How may changes would you be alright with?

Dream director, David Cronenberg. The guy’s a genius and I’m not being hyperbolic.

When we publish our work, we give it to readers and they experience it through their own filter. They come to own their experience of your story. Allowing someone to then put their experience on film with your name attached is a leap beyond. Someone, probably Cronenberg, said there’s no such thing as a pure and faithful adaptation from one medium to another. Clive Barker said that if writing’s masturbation, a film’s an orgy. No matter what, the shag carpet’s gonna need replacing the next morning. (I added that last part.) The idea of other artists taking my story and reinterpreting it is intriguing and doesn’t make me (too) queasy. Of course, there’s a difference between a filmmaker’s artistic vision and a studio’s mucking about. Nonetheless, Empire, for example, would probably have to go through some major changes to work as a movie. Easier said than done, I’m sure, but I would have to go into it thinking “This isn’t my Empire anymore.”

Right. The book is the book, and the movie is the movie, and never the twain should meet. Or something like that. How about music? Who’d you like to make a concept album of your work?

That is an awesome question. Goblin would be fantastic. Danny Elfman for The Harvest Cycle. I guess I’m thinking more of scores, aren’t I? Concept albums – Foo Fighters and/or the ghost of Warren Zevon for Unbound.

But you just said you don’t believe in ghosts. Trickster! You mentioned The Harvest Cycle with the ghosts. What is that, and where did it come from?

The Harvest Cycle started with a nightmare about 5 years ago, about being trapped in a hotel with these things that looked like skinned gargoyles running around outside. I started fleshing out the idea for an apocalyptic novel, and during that process was also working on a story for the Permuted anthology Robots Beyond – that’s what made me think of adding robots to this alternate reality and really got the ball rolling. The story concerns an apocalypse in which ghoulish alien beasts are hunting humans – they give us just enough time to catch our breath before launching the next “Harvest,” always at a different point during the year. The Harvesters are engineered by a godlike entity with ties to the Cthulhu Mythos, and this entity, Nightmare, has managed to make contact with the robots who once served us. Manipulating their system of logic, it has convinced them to join the hunt. I put together some videos to break it down in greater detail (and be silly): PLAYLIST LINK!!!

That's this book here.
Is that the first time you’ve dangled your dabbley bits into the Mythos? I can’t say this as a rule, but there seems to be a lot of stand-offishness between the zombie people and the Lovecraft people. The world of the Mythos is certainly bleak enough. Do you have any thoughts on that?

I think a lot of zombie fans want as much realism as possible in their fiction – they want to imagine it happening in our world, to experience the survival-horror aspect vicariously, and although zompoc and Lovecraft do intersect there does seem to be some resistance to too much dark fantasy and/or sci-fi in zombie media. For my part, I certainly implied a Mythos connection in the Empire books. The source of Empire’s plague is an energy cast off by old gods who fled our universe aeons ago – like unruly tenants who, upon notice of eviction, decide to use the entire apartment as a toilet before they bolt. Their cosmic dookie evolved into our apocalypse, and it was purely by chance. Life is fun.

This zombie niche has some serious legs just following the classic formula, but what’s wrong with fresh ideas, with throwing something weird into the mix? Playing with the zombie archetype? Some of these ideas won’t be for everybody, the same way that there’s a traditional vampire blueprint and then a wealth of modern variants, some of which are pretty cool.

The only problem is the fandamentalist, a term I wish I’d coined. The guy who doesn’t think anyone  should be writing anything other than Dawn of the Dead Part Eleventeen. The guy who alone knows what a “true zombie” is. Maybe the fact that it’s such a young monster, the modern zombie, has something to do with it. The upside of that is that you can meet its creator at conventions and ask him what he thinks. I don’t know myself, but I do know G.A.R. wrote the foreword for Skipp & Spector’s Book of the Dead, a brilliant collection that didn’t concern itself with whether or not this or that was sacrilege.

Everyone’s entitled to choose their own path, but there are many roads to the promised land. If you don’t agree, then at least let the rest of us go to Hell in peace.

Empire started as a free online serial, which seems to be something a lot of people are doing now. Do you have any advice or cautions for writers interested in trying their hands at it?

I was really flying by the seat of my pants when I serialized Empire in 2006 (and Harvest in ‘08) but I suppose the thing to keep in mind is that, while you will enjoy the instant gratification of people seeing your work the second you publish it on your site, you also don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, so having another pair of eyes look your stuff over for errors (have beta readers, even) isn’t a bad idea. Even if you’re not trying to parlay the serial into a book deal, take your writing seriously if you take writing seriously. If you get critical comments that are relevant (i.e. something other than “Die in Hell douche” or “Fr3e C!@L1S click here”), leave them up and take them into account.

And if you are hoping the story will catch a publisher’s eye, remember that a lot of publishers will want the story taken down from the Web– many would prefer it have never been there to begin with. And there’s no guarantee once you’ve deleted it that it’s really-really-really gone from the Internet. Still, it can serve as a great writing exercise, a workshop of sorts and a way to start getting your name out.

At what stage in your writing, generally, do you let betas read the work? Is there a circle of people who you trust to hold the secret, or do you hold a raffle...?

It’s pretty much the same few folks, folks who believe in my ability but will tell me if something is completely batshit. They might see a first draft, and then usually after that I’m alone in revisions for a good while.

You’ve made no secret of the situation with your vision. What kind of hurdles does this present for you, and how do you get over them?

The toughest thing is proofreading – using special software and all that has become second nature in the past 4 years, but checking for typos is always a challenge. Just another reason to have extra eyes on hand! I mean in other people’s heads, by the way, not in your desk drawer. Don’t talk about those. The other stuff I just gradually adapted to because I had to. I wasn’t going to stop writing.

What’s Dave reading now?

Over the last year I’ve been reading a lot in the thriller genre. I always encourage writers to read outside their genre of choice, and I’m trying to practice what I preach. I’ve come to enjoy aspects of the thriller and would like to try my hand at it someday.

That’s the ticket. Someone smarter than me (I? Should that be I? Fuck it.) said that a story should be a good story first, a good genre piece second.

There are genres that I live in and will stay rooted to until that artery in my head finally pops. But there are also these perceived genre boundaries, places you’re not supposed to go if you’re staying true to the conventions of said genre. I say nuts.  Tell your story.

On that note, in checking out thrillers I also finally read Maberry’s Patient Zero, which I think most would consider a thriller first. It nonetheless doesn’t seem to be constrained by its sense of realism or its action-thriller core. Now I have to get my butt to Audible so I can catch up with the Ledger series (and while I’m there I will look at the Harvest Cycle audiobook, which is there, doe-eyed, waiting to find a loving home).

Thanks Thom!

No, no. Thank you.


You said it first. I meant it more. So there.

Tune in two weeks from now, when teh_Dunwoody interviews William Todd Rose, author of The Seven Habits.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Light My Fire

Back in the mists of antiquity (uh, November, last year) I left off saying I wanted to talk about the Kindle. And I still totally do, but I've forgotten the world-shaking things I was going to blog, so we'll see how this goes. Har! Har!

I didn't want a Kindle. It wasn't one of those things that really fired me up (snort, giggle) and I had bookshelf space to spare, anyway. To be fair, I wasn't being all technophobic about it. It was just a gadget that held little appeal.

On the Inter-webz, there is always a vast torrent of opinions, swinging from one extreme to another about any given subject. E-readers were in there, just as polarizing as gay marriage and global warming, somehow, and reading all of that just makes me tired. Rhetoric, propoganda, slippery slope arguments, blah blah. Whatever. The reality of my situation was such that I didn't need one, and that was about it.

And then my situation changed.

I travel for work. Typically, I could carry as many books as I needed for the duration of my hitch. My hitch length changed, as did my travel arrangements. Instead of a ten-hour drive where music was my companion, I had a ten-hour flight. And a day at a hotel before heading to work. And hah, a weight limit on my bag.

So my first hitch in new circumstances was a bookless affair. Oh, I'd brought a book, The Three Musketeers. That seemed like a weighty enough tome to keep me occupied, right? That was old-situation thinking. I finished that book before I even got to work, from reading on the plane and in the hotel. It was that hitch that I began to entertain the idea of getting an e-reader.

I mentioned this to my most wonderful Better Half, and she said, "Okay," and kept on with what we had been talking about before I interrupted. I thought no more about it, and I thought she did the same. But when I got home, ta-daa! I had a new Kindle. Because my wife is awesome.

Now that I've had one for going on three years, I can't imagine not having one. A gazillion books at my fingertips, and it fits in my pocket? Yeah, I wear BDU pants a lot, but it fits in my pocket. So awesome.

Since then, I've found other reasons to like it. I'm a writer, if you didn't know, and when something is done I like to stop looking at it on my laptop. Printing out a novel seems pretty wasteful, but putting it on the Kindle... well, that smacks of fabulous. Reading the work on the Kindle somehow changes the way I see the books. It's as if they're more fixed, less work-in-progress, and it helps me find problems I might have glossed over several times in Word.

I also participate in a novel critique group, the same applies to these works. In my opinion (Should I even have to say that? Anything that isn't fact here is my goddamn opinion.) it makes my critiques deeper. YMMV.

And you know, I take it to other places, too. In my thigh pocket. It goes with me to the mechanic's when I need work done. It goes with me to the dentist. It goes with me to anywhere I might have to stand in line for more than five minutes. It definitely goes with me to the bathroom.

I still buy deadwood editions of stuff. That will never stop. But I can be choosy about it now. Only the mostest especial books go on the shelf. (Shelves.) And the classics (my classics: Grendel, House of Leaves, Dune... you know me) get a place of rarified honor, where only the strong survive.

So that's it, I think. Man, look at this wall of text. Can you believe I coulnd't find any natural places to just drop a picture somewhere? What a mess. I can fix this. You guys should know how much I love it when things bleed together, right? Here are some images that do just that. Huzzah!

Next time, I interview Dave Dunwoody!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Lord of Night, by Peter Clines

By Peter Clines
At the very start, it was clear Thom Brannan was destined for greatness.  Born two years after the tragic death of his parents, he entered the world an orphan and was sent to work building knockoff Walkmans in Hong Kong at the age of six weeks.  After rising to middle management at the assembly plant in a record-breaking three years, Thom fled the country and swam to Hawaii, where he was recruited by the U.S. Navy and assigned to their top secret Nautilus project under Captain Nemo.  After years of destroying deep-sea monsters, Atlanteans, and underwater alien bases, Thom retired to enjoy a peaceful life drilling massive holes through the crust of the Earth using giant robots. 

Oh, and he writes books, too.

Okay, there’s a chance I’m stretching the truth slightly.  Thom Brannan writes books, yes, he was actually closer to six years old when he made the swim from Hong Kong to Hawaii.  And the Navy still denies the Atlantis Wars of 1997-2006. 

Past that, this is pretty much all accurate.

In this little series of interviews, the Permuted Press authors are going to interview each other in a round robin/ pub crawl sort of way (the drinking metaphor is deliberate, believe me).  I’m kicking off the thing by interviewing Thom, he interviews someone next time, they interview someone else after that, and so on.

So, here’s Thom Brannan talking about oil rigs, outlines, and the pressure of finishing somebody else’s trilogy.

You’re a big horror fan.  You even have some horror-movie tattoos, yes?  What first got you into horror?

It’s a toss-up between watching Doctor Who and being scared out of my wits by the Zygons, or it was the aftermath of The Exorcist. Maybe it was both?

When I started writing, I just remember the effect they had on me, and that was the kind of visceral reaction I wanted to produce. All of the genres have their own gut-wrench moments, right? When you find out the Maltese Falcon is a phony, or that Sir Percy Blakeney is the Scarlet Pimpernel or that she’s the one who wrote the notebook for him to read. Everything touches you in one way or another. None of those moments compare to the time Kirsty Cotton finds Uncle Frank under her dad’s skin.

I wanted that. (Hellraiser is the movie some of my tattoos come from, yes.)

...they were fresh this day.
You’ve got a pretty unique and interesting job.  A lot of people put in their forty hours a week and try to write where they can, but your schedule’s very different.  Care to explain it to folks?

I work on an offshore drilling rig. Four weeks of seven twelve-hour nights, and then I get four weeks off... even though the travel time comes out of my end, of course. On the rig, I work on electronics and automated systems, as well as cameras, gas detectors, satellite communications, et-freakin’-cetera. I like to say I maintain the drilling robots, and the rig’s eyes, ears, and voice.

How much has this job affected your writing habits?

When I had a desk job, I didn’t have much of a method or schedule. Like you said, I wrote whenever there was time that didn’t take away from the other eight dozen things I wanted to do.

Now I only write when I’m offshore. After I knock off at six a.m., I get some food and soda and sit down to write for two hours, every day without fail, Monday through Friday. I take the weekends for cinema time, so the grey matter can decompress. In this, I was inspired by the late Robert B. Parker, who said he wrote five pages a day no matter what.

The output from that is enough that I don’t have to touch the stuff when I’m home to make deadlines. When I’m at the house, it’s time to put the long sessions at the keyboard away and wear the Daddy Hat. I love the Daddy Hat.

Do you write pretty fast with nothing else there to distract you?  How long does it generally take you to get a first draft done on a book?

It takes a couple of days to get warmed up, but once I'm there, I usually write ten SMF pages a day my first and second week, then up to 15 per day my third and fourth. Then there's all that time off, and it keeps me from burning out, I think.

Pavlov's Dogs had its hitches, because of all the back and forth between us. I wrote from March 26th to May 22nd. We didn't call the first draft complete, with all the changes for the both of us, until maybe early July?

Lords of Night was written the year before from March 3rd to May 6th, and it's about a quarter longer than Pavlov's Dogs. So I guess there's your answer, yeah? Ten to twelve weeks for a first draft, with an inevitable four-week break in the middle.

You’ve worked as an editor on several books.  Did this help you when you sat down to work on your own material?

Hah. I’ve heard people say that such and such a novel was a how-to manual for that genre or whatever, but one of the books I edited was the opposite. I won’t say which, but there was so much wrong with that book and the reviews baffle me.

Being in on the editing of the first two volumes of Cthulhu Unbound allowed some interaction with other authors, and it opened up avenues of conversation about how they do things. I learned a lot doing that.

Jump back a bit.  What was it about the “cautionary tale” book that sat so wrong with you?  The characters?  Dialogue?  Structure?  I know you don’t want to name names or anything, but can you give a better sense of what didn’t work?

The grammar was put together in odd ways sometimes, and the dialog was pretty stiff, but that's what I was there for, right? The narrative followed a very natural course, introducing characters and the incredibly messed-up situation they were in. And there was a lot of action. It was just... derivative. And it was diluted.

If Dawn of the Dead was a packet of Kool-Aid, imagine taking a pitcher of it, copying the flavor using ingredients you bought on the cheap because they've been on the shelf too long, and then fill it to overflowing from your outside water tap. It would be familiar, tasting of the original, but mostly tasting of yuck.

That's probably as clear as I can get.

What’s your usual process as a writer?  Are you a big outliner or do you use notecards?  Or do you just start writing and see where it leads you?

My main output had been short stories, and for those, the main characters take some time to coalesce. After that, I put them in the situation and watch what they do, and most of the time, that’s the story I end up with. Most of the time, the only things I know about the story are where it started and maybe where it ends. I usually have no earthly idea what’s going to happen next until I pick up my pen (or keyboard, lately) and have a go.

This presents hazards. I have, more than once, found myself written into a corner which requires extraordinary gymnastics to get out of, or I have to go back and rewrite things, which I really hate to do. I've let a story lay fallow for months and months because of this.

Now, how did this change when you wrote Pavlov’s Dogs with D.L. Snell?  Was it really different for you, working with a writing partner?

Everything changed. Snell and I are just about polar opposites in our methodology. When we were talking about how it would go, with us tag-teaming the novel, he was talking about pacing and getting the beats just write to keep the poor reader saying, “Alright, just one more chapter.” Plot lines, character development, themes... I was lost, I’m afraid. I'm not as cerebral about it as he is.

The outline for Pavlov’s Dogs was magnificent. It was thorough, in that it told the entire story from beginning to end, but there was enough room in there for me to be inventive and write how I normally do. As a result of that, D.L. was always asking when things would pay off, or who was that and could we kill him? I never had good answers, but the way he kept reminding me kept it in mind for when I needed the threads later.

There’s also the fact that both our names are on the cover. My normal method is to write until I can’t write about it no more. Then I edit. With Snell, it was write, email, email, email, edit edit edit. Then we trade and do it again until the whole manuscript was homogenized. Not Brannan, not Snell, but Brannan & Snell.

Now I make outlines. Very loose, very general outlines, but... there they are. I blame Snell.

How did Pavlov’s Dogs come about, anyway?  Was it an idea one of you brought to the other or something you came up with together?

I was recruited. D.L. had developed the basic idea with Jacob [Kier of Permuted Press] and John Sunseri for a free online serial novel. I don’t know what happened after that, but it went away. And then at a convention, D.L. and Jacob got to talking about it, and I had just finished Z.A. Recht’s Survivors.

Synchronicity struck: D.L. needed somebody who could write quickly, and with a military background so the titular Dogs would be believable. That was me. I was asked, and the idea sounded so goddamn juicy that I couldn’t say no.

The rest of it was D.L. and I going back and forth, swapping ideas, and as the chapters began to pile up, he would read them and make alterations to the back half of the outline to better suit how I’d mangled the first bits.

I meant to ask you about Survivors.  What was it like, picking up Z.A.’s threads and continuing that story?  Was there any pressure or second-guessing?

All of that. The first few days of "writing" were more like me sitting there, my hands hovering over the keyboard, asking myself if I was really going to do this. Then I would go over the notes again, looking for a place to really start. And then I would hover.

There were two things working against me. The first is, I had already tried to write a novel, and I had failed. It was too short, the ending wasn't an ending, and the main plot lines weren't actually tied up where I was finished. It was, in short, a disaster.

The second thing was, I'm a huge fan of the Morningstar Strain. It was my first foray into the more mainstream zombie novel, and it was brilliant. I loved the cinematic quality of it, and globe-spanning size of the story, and the large cast. The books had their warts, but still. They were great. It came as no surprise to find they were among Permuted best-selling novels for years running until the reissue.

So. With all that success peering over my shoulder at all the failure it was sharing hard drive space with, I set out to finish up the trilogy and put a cap on Z.A. Recht's legacy.

No pressure.

I had a lot of material to work from, as well as the vocal support of the fans at the MSS forums. But it was nerve-wracking. Especially after Jacob announced it on his FB page. There were a lot of comments about how it should have been left alone, how the only author that could do it justice was... well, not me.

(Looking at my résumé, I doubt anyone would have pegged me for the guy to get tapped to finish Survivors. It was all short stories in the crime and sci-fi genres, with one werewolf story.)

Once I got started, and the words just came, I stopped second-guessing myself and wrote. By the reviews, there are people who were unhappy with the outcome, but I'm satisfied with it, and so are a lot of other people. I was especially happy with the review from The Guilded Earlobe. He got what I was doing.

Let’s talk about Lords of Night, which came out in October, yes?  What’s it about?

Lords of Night is, at heart, a story about growing up and accepting yourself. It so happens that it's a story about growing up and accepting yourself during the End of Days, where the world has been turned into a dark and desolate place by an ancient evil from the dawn of man's history, and every corpse ever is up and walking around and interested in what you taste like.

The main guy, Jack, is the one doing the growing up, and he's got a quest before him because he's different. He's got something that lets him fight back, and to really use it, he's got to retrieve an artifact that's as old as the Enemy. He's not alone, either. He's backed by what might be the last team of Special Forces operatives on the planet.

Was there a particular idea or event that triggered this story in your mind?

Honestly, I can’t remember. The offer came to write something, and it was a whirlwind after that. I came up with three or four ideas, and my friends helped by mercilessly shooting down all but one of them.

After that, it was so much homage, so little time. Har!

I’m only kind of joking. As the storylines formed in my head, I was well aware of all the outside influences at play, and rather than shy away from that, I embraced the best and made them a part of the novel. I find that's always a concern: Source Amnesia. I guess that's one of the many reasons why it's important to have readers.

You became a dad two years ago, yes?  Has it altered your views on horror to any degree?  Are there all-new awful things mulling in your mind?

There are always awful things in my mind, Pete. It’s why I’m so much fun at parties.

I don’t know how much having my little bundle of terror has changed the way I see horror so much, but I do find myself reacting differently to things, especially stories where children are hurt by their parents or have lost them. I can’t understand child abuse. It’s a despicable thing, and in a world full of real horrors, that stands out.

Everybody asks what are you working on next.  Let me ask you this, instead—where do you want to be ten years from now?  Do you see yourself possibly trying other genres?  Styles?  Is there anything big you feel you might need more clout to tackle?
As for clout, I have another novel that may or may not see the light of day before then, and I would really like to see that adapted into a series of comic books. (Graphic novels, whatever.) The book is my love song to the greats, like Watchmen or Matt Wagner's Grendel, and to have it in the same medium would be something that would keep me warm for a very long time.

Hmm. A decade hence... I've started a series of novels that is my poor-man's answer to both The Dresden Files and the 007 series. (And I've since seen Simon R. Green's Secret Histories series, but I'm going to continue anyway.) In ten years, I hope to have written fifteen of them, and at least the first three adapted to a cartoon series, which will allow me time to work on my great literary dream:

I don't quite have the chops for this yet, but I really want to write a story about Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn in the years directly after the American Civil War. I haven't decided what it's going to be about, or even the tone of the thing, but I know that's what I want to do.

Some days I see them as troubleshooters, working for the U.S. government and investigating crimes and whatnot out in the Wild West, other times as turn-of-the-century Ghostbusters. I can tell you now, it'll be closer to the first one, but the other makes me smile. Either way, it would be something that I would feel comfortable letting my daughter read when she's twelve.

Please tune in next time when Thom gets to wear the funny hat and interviews David Dunwoody, author of Empire, Empire’s End, and The Harvest Cycle.