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