Shells Chats with author Jonathan Maberry

What made you want to be an author?

I think I was born with a gene for it. I can’t ever remember a time when I didn’t want to write. Even before I could actually write I’d use toys or drawings to tell stories.

What do you love most about comics and how did you get involved in writing them?

I’ve always loved comics. I learned a lot of my values and ethics from comics like the FANTASTIC FOUR, BLACK PANTHER and SPIDER-MAN. I’ve always wanted to write comics, but it’s a tough nut to crack.
Then it came at me out of the blue. Axel Alonso, who was executive editor at the time and who’s now Marvel’s editor-in-chief and a vice president, read PATIENT ZERO and loved it. He called me out of the blue and asked if I’d be interested in writing for Marvel. Turns out…yeah, I really was. So he had me audition with a couple of projects --a Wolverine 8-page backup story (“Ghosts”, published in WOLVERINE THE ANNIVERSARY) and “Naked Kills”, a one-shot 32-pager for the adults-only Marvel MAX line. Since then, I’ve been writing steadily, focusing on limited series.

Any current projects or upcoming projects in the comic world?

I recently finished writing a five-issue limited series CAPTAIN AMERICA HAIL HYDRA. It’s fun, too, because the story is set in five different eras of Cap’s career, starting with the 1940s and going all the way to modern day. And it retells and expands upon the history of Hydra, the terrorist organization. Each issue is drawn by a different artist, too.
Right now I’m writing a prequel to MARVEL UNIVERSE VS THE PUNISHER, my recent post-apocalyptic series. The prequel features Wolverine, Hulk and a few other key characters.

What made you want to write Horror?

I’ve always had an interest in the occult and paranormal thanks to a grandmother who taught me all about what she called the ‘larger world’. She was teaching me to read tarot cards when I was eight and filled my head with stories of monsters and things that go bump in the night.

For most of my writing career I was a nonfiction writer, doing articles, textbooks, and similar stuff. So the first book on monsters I did was a nonfiction exploration of the folklore of vampires around the world. THE VAMPIRE SLAYERS FIELD GUIDE TO THE UNDEAD. My publisher at the time requested that I write it under a pen name, fearing that the readers of my successful martial arts books would think I’d had a cerebral incident because I was now writing about vampires.

The book was pretty successful, however, and it got me invited to a bunch of events related to horror. I really liked the crowd—fans, industry pros and the other writers.

Then I thought I’d take a swing at a horror novel. I had no idea if I would be any good at it, or if the book would be successful. Took me about a year and a half. It got me an agent very quickly, it sold quickly, and it won the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel. I never looked back.

You co-wrote a book called Wanted Undead or Alive Vampire Hunters with Janice Gable Bashman, can you tell us a bit about it and why you decided to write that?

That was the fifth book in a five-book deal I made with Citadel Press. The series started with VAMPIRE UNIVERSE, which was an update on the FIELD GUIDE, and it was written under my own name. I did two of them with David F. Kramer, and we won a Stoker Award for THE CRYPTOPEDIA, the second in the series. The first four more or less dealt with the monsters of folklore; the last one would spin around and focus on the good guys and their fight against evil.

Because I was pressed with novel deadlines, I brought in another author for WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE. Janice Gable Bashman was a colleague and former student of mine who is a superb researcher and writer. I asked her to collaborate and we had a blast writing it.

The book explores the struggle of good vs evil in history, religion, politics, folklore, myth, pop culture and the real world. We interviewed tons of cool people including Stan Lee, Mike Mignola, Charlaine Harris, John Carpenter, Jack Ketchum and many others.

Patient Zero is still a favorite amongst readers, how do you feel about that compared when you first wrote it?

I recently re-read the book and found myself enjoying it as a reader. I like the book a lot, but I’m always most in love with whatever book I’m writing now. The Joe Ledger series has my favorite cast of characters, though. Mr. Church, Dr. Hu, Bug, Rudy Sanchez. I’m writing the fourth book in the series now, ASSASSIN’S CODE

How did you come up with the character of Joe Ledger?

Weird story. I was sitting by myself at a diner counter, drinking coffee and making some notes about the nonfiction book I was writing at the time, ZOMBIE CSU and a couple of characters started talking in my head. Now, understand, for most people this would be a cry for help but to a writer this is just another day on the job. So…I turned to a fresh page and began jotting down the conversation. I had no idea who these two guys were or where the conversation was going. But I kept drinking coffee and writing and soon I had six or seven pages done, and that was the conversation where Joe Ledger meets Mr. Church for the first time.
By the time I got home I had the story roughed out in my mind and within a week I had enough of the novel written to give to my agent and we were off and running.

Rot & Ruin is your most recent released book. Can you tell us a bit about it?

ROT & RUIN takes place fourteen years after the zombie apocalypse. The only survivors are a few small fenced-in towns in Central California and everything else is the great zombie wasteland called the Rot and Ruin.
Fifteen year old Benny Imura has to get a job, so he winds up apprenticing with his zombie-killer brother, Tom. Benny hates Tom and thinks he’s a coward who let their parents die on ‘First Night’, the eve of the zombie apocalypse. However Tom is a vastly different person than Benny expects, and the world is far stranger, more dangerous, and more heartbreaking.

The book is less about zombie violence than it is about the search for the value of human life.

Where did the idea for the character Benny come from?

He’s based largely on the goofy, brooding and bitter kid I used to be.

What made you want to write a young adult novel?

That story started out as a novella, “Family Business”, that I was writing for an anthology of zombie stories being edited by Christopher Golden for St. Martin’s Griffin. The story was not intended for teens. It was a story, accessible to anyone. However, since the protagonist was fifteen, my agent (upon reading the novella) thought that it read like the opening to a middle-grade novel.

I was surprised. At that time I hadn’t read much of the recent middle grade or YA books apart from J K Rowling’s Harry Potter books and the Vadimir Tod novels by my friend, Heather Brewer. My agent gave me a reading list that included Scott Westerfield, Cassandra Claire, Michael Northrop, Dan Wells, Holly Black, and others. Talk about eye-openers!

In terms of story…during the writing of the novella, “Family Business”, I really fell in love with the characters and the world in which they lived. I had a lot of stories about those characters banging around in my head, and when we landed a two book deal with Simon & Schuster, I opened my head and let it all pour out.

Will there be more from the characters in Rot & Ruin?

I recently completed DUST & DECAY, the second in the series, which will be released in August. And we sold two more, FLESH & BONE and FIRE & ASH.

Any future projects in the works that you can tell us a bit about?

There’s a lot of stuff in the pipeline. Next up is the third Joe Ledger book, THE KING OF PLAGUES (March 29).

In April IDW will release GI JOE TALES OF THE COBRA WARS, which is a collection of novellas. The line-up includes Max Brooks, Duane Swierczynski, Dennis Tafoya, Jon McGoran, John Skipp and me.

In May, Simon & Schuster releases the paperback edition of ROT & RUIN, with a new cover by acclaimed artist Chad Michael Ward; and in August the sequel, DUST & DECAY hits in hardcover.

Then DEAD OF NIGHT, a standalone zombie novel, debuts from St. Martins just in time for Halloween.
Along the way, I’ve got the Captain America series running for a few more months and then it’ll be collected into hardback just in time for the movie.

Any future appearances/book signings in the future?

Tons. I’m putting together my schedule for this year and I’m slated to be a guest of honor, keynote speaker, or workshop presenter at PhilCon, Dragon*Con, KillerCon, Central Coast Writers, BackSpace, ThrillerFest, Liberty States Writers, PennWriters, The Write Stuff, Philly Fantastic, and a bunch of others. The full schedule will be posted on my website later this month.

What would you tell a writer just starting out is the most important thing they need to know?

There are a couple of bits of advice I think are key. First, understand that writing is an art but publishing is a business…so learn the business. Be a businessperson who can write. Study the market, read the trades, learn the etiquette, and deport yourself as a business professional. The story you write is something you want to share with readers; but between you and the reader is the machinery of the publishing world. Used correctly, it serves your career; ignore it and it runs right over you.

Second, learn the craft. Storytelling is a natural gift, but good writing is a combination of that and the mechanics voice, POV, pacing, tension, plotting, figurative and descriptive language, etc. A writer should always work to perfect their craft.

And third, don’t get locked into one kind of writing. Allow for diversity within your creative mind. The publishing industry shifts and changes, which means that genres go in and out of vogue. If you are locked into one kind of writing, the market might not be open to you. Over the years I’ve tried a little of everything, fiction and nonfiction, short and long fiction, plays and greeting cards. And even now, I write in several genres. It allows me to be in the path of paying writing jobs from several directions at once.

Where can people find out more about you?

My website is also my blog, and you can sign up for my free newsletter on that site, too. Each issue will have free stories, contest info, etc. I’m on Twitter at and Facebook at

Shells Chats with author Jay Faulkner

What started you in writing?

Reading or, more accurately I suppose, having stories read to me :) I honestly can't recall a time in my life when stories weren't a fundamental part of each and every day. My parents read to me, they bought me comics (I 'think' that this was my middle-ground between being read to and reading myself), they nurtured my reading ability by getting me my own library card at a very young age – resulting in an interesting mix up, months later, where a phone call from the library, for 'Mr. Faulkner', turned out to be for the six or seven year old me, rather than my father.

I always had a very active imagination, and was constantly making up stories about me and an imaginary friend … yes, I had one of those (when I say imaginary and maintain he was real, of course! ;) ) … and our adventures so while I don't recall when it happened but, somewhere along the line, my all too familiar questions of 'why' to my parents during or after a story – where I would question the plot or characterization – turned into 'what if' instead. My answers started off as different approaches to stories, for example I remember asking 'what if Ratty and Mole got lost?' and, suddenly, Wind in the Willows turned into a pirate adventure :)

Thankfully, many years later, I haven't stopped asking 'what if' but now, rather than back then, it is about my own characters and the situations they find themselves in and (hopefully) I will be able to read my own stories to my kids and have them ask me the very same question.

Do you feel practicing the Martial Arts helps with your writing?

That is a very interesting question and, to be honest, it is not something that I had thought about before now.
An easy way to answer this is to simply say 'yes' because martial-arts underpins probably all aspects of my life. As any practitioner of any martial-art will know there comes a point in your training where you realise that it isn't just a class that you turn up to regularly, and it isn't a coloured belt/sash that you are aspiring to … it is a way of life.

I started martial-art back in 1988 and have progressed from a beginner, to a talented student right up to someone that is considered to be pretty good at what I do as I am now called 'Sifu' (Chinese for teacher) and hold a fourth degree black sash in Imperial Dragon Kung Fu as well as multiple sashes and belts in other martial arts. I teach a class twice a week and despite all of that – or maybe because – I still consider myself as a student. There is always something else that you can learn in the martial-arts … always room to improve.

Writing, for me, is just like that. It doesn't matter how much I study, academically speaking, how many writing classes or courses I take part in, how many stories I get published because – at the end of the day – there is always another story waiting to be written and, I hope, that each time I produce one it is better than the last.

The biggest help that martial-arts gives me, thinking about it, is a sense of discipline and flow. I have learned that practice and repetition improves what I do and I have no problem with setting myself a goal and ensuring that I stick to it – for example locking myself away from everyone and everything for a few hours to ensure that a draft is finished or edits accomplished. In terms of the flow that is something that is hard to describe but, simply put, it is a way of seeing life and people and the way that everything moves; I observe everything and my brain is cluttered with information (tempted to say 'useless' but you never know when an obscure fact will be needed! ;) ) which definitely helps when writing as I can visualize what I want to put down on paper.
… plus, if it comes to it, I can always resort to violence with any bad reviews ;)

How does your family feel about your writing?

They are fully supportive of it.

All of my family, and my friends too, are there with a word of support and praise which can boost the spirits when the words aren't coming as well as hoped. I'm never short of proof or beta readers either.

My wife is always very quick to ensure that, if I need it, I get peace and quiet to write which, having two small children, is not always easy. There are plenty of times when she arranges a quick trip to the park, or to see the grand-parents, if I have a deadline approaching or she knows that I am write in the middle of a creative buzz where stopping would be difficult.

My biggest problem is myself – while I realise the writing, like anything else worthwhile in life, comes at some cost I constantly find it a challenge to take time away from my family and simply write. As I work full-time, and teach two martial-arts classes, I find that my writing time is best suited to the weekend but, of course, that is also the time when I get to just enjoy my kids … so I tend to write in the gaps that I make in my time: later in the night when the kids are asleep; times when the kids are with their grand-parents; lunchtimes at work; and, of course, the times when I simply have to make a hard choice between playing with the kids or finishing 'that story' but, for now, I thankfully don't have to make that choice often.

And I've learned that sleep is over-rated anyway ;)

When writing, do you feel your emotions play a part in the characters, settings etc.?

I think that it is fair to say that everyone knows that a writer puts a lot of himself or herself into their characters and I personally stand firm on the fact that if you DON'T invest your emotions into your writing then readers won't either.
It doesn't matter to me if I am writing a story about a ballet dance in World War II Germany, or a Dwarven warrior in a high fantasy setting, I try to think of what I would do in their situation Рhow I would feel. Obviously it is harder with the antagonists, and the 'villains', but if a bad guy is nothing more than bad stuff (emotions, motivations, etc) then he is nothing more than a clich̩.

So, yes, emotions – and the things that make us all 'real' to each other such as our reactions to situations, our desires, our dreams and hopes – are pretty much the central point to how I write as, without them, stories are just a collection of words.

What do you find is the scariest thing about writing a story?

This is a toss-up between two things:

1 – when a story or character takes a turn that you weren't expecting. Non-writers (and even some writers) may not believe, let alone understand, how a writer sometimes has no idea of how a situation developed (or resolved), or how/why a character reacted as they did, or spoke as they spoke – but it happens and, when it does, it is both exhilarating and terrifying. I mean I sometimes pause and ask myself just who is actually doing the writing: me or the characters (and if it is the characters then why can't they write a bit more and let me sleep a bit more!)?

2 – when I write something so different from myself – a piece of dialogue, a character's actions or reactions, etc – that I wonder if that means that I would be capable of the same thing. Thankfully I am pretty sure that I am not a serial killer nor a zombie so, at the moment, I am pretty sure that I am just someone who is lucky enough to be able to imagine situations pretty well and write them down in some semblance of a story ;)

You have written some short stories, what is your favorite character from them?

Oh my goodness – that is like asking me to choose which is the favourite out of my two children!!!

OK, it really isn't – the answer is: the unnamed husband in 'Always and Forever' (from Rigor Amortis, an anthology of zombie stories, available from Amazon and elsewhere). Without giving too much away, in case people want to purchase the book and find out what happens for themselves, my story focuses on two individuals (husband and wife) who find themselves living in the nightmare of a world over-run by zombies – but, in my story, you don't really see any of that: no gore, no violence, no brain eating, etc. Going back to the question earlier about emotions, and my personal investment, I will admit that this story is as close to auto-biographical as one can get when dealing with the undead: I simply asked myself what it would be like to be in their position and how two very strong emotions – love and fear – would play out in the circumstances.

So, when asked to write about zombies I wrote a love story and – hopefully – one that touches other people as much as it honestly touched me when writing it.

Where can we find some of these short stories?

Well 'Always and Forever' can be found in Rigor Amortis via Amazon and another personal favourite of mine – 'The

Way Not To Wish', which focuses on a young boy and his father dealing with shared grief – is available at Every Day Fiction.

Other places, online, include Apollo's Lyre, Long Story Short, Campfire Tales and Static Movement while print includes Sull Armour, Twisted Tongue and Pill Hill Press.

The best way to find out where to read my work would be at as the 'Writing' section lists everything, with links.

How was it to work with the small presses such as Pill Hill Press?

I have had a lot of fun, and great experiences, working with smaller presses. Pill Hill picked up four of my stories, for example, and I found them – especially Jessy Marie Roberts – to be extremely professional but, more importantly, nice, helpful and willing to go the extra mile to ensure that both sides of the story (writer and publisher) got the best out of things.

Chris Bartholomew – at Static Movement – is another small press publisher that I had a great time working with. So much so that I have been lucky enough to have been published on her ezine, in her print anthologies and taken on as an editor for another anthology (Powers: A Superhero Anthology, available at Amazon ;) ).

With 'Always and Forever' (from Rigor Amortis) I had the pleasure and privilege of working with editors Jaym Gates and Erika Holt, on behalf of the publisher, Hades Publications imprint Absolute XPress. I know that this is biased, but that's ok, as I honestly found those two to be wonderful to work with and think that the end product shows just how committed they were to it, and the writers. A sign of this is that I spend more time talking to them now (email, Twitter, etc) than some of the people that I have known for ten years … so either they are doing something right or my older friends just aren't that good ;)

I hope that I have the pleasure of working with other small presses in the future as my experiences so far have been great.

Where did the idea for 'Wednesday's Child' come from?

Ahhhh – now, obviously, I can't say too much about this currently but the idea came from me asking myself 'what if things got so bad that there was no hope left, no light at the end of the tunnel'. Out of that one question I got the 'hero' of 'Wednesday's Child', the 'bad guy' and the setting/plot all in one fell swoop.

This is a story about childhood fears come to life and how they manifest themselves in adults … and also the new fears that adults – specifically parents – feel for their children.

I can also say that while this may look like, and fall into the category of, a crime/mystery thriller – possible even a mild horror – there is so much more to it than that. I hope that if/when people get to read it they realise that the 'greys' in the story are very deliberate and that the lack of and real delineation between black and white – good guy and bad guy – was deliberate.

You founded and edit 'With Painted Words, can you tell us what it is about, how you came up with the idea and where people can find information about it?

Educationally my background is in art – that is where my first degree came from anyway – and for even longer than I have been writing I have been creating 'stuff' with pen, paper and random colours. Even if I didn't have the paper, as a child, I always had a wall, or some nice coat of my parent's, to doodle on ;)

As I said somewhere above I consider myself a visualize writer – I 'see' the story, the characters, and the scenes paly out in my head. Sometimes these are snapshots and others they are 'movies'. So it is pretty fair to admit that I get a lot of inspiration for my writing from things that I actually see, or have seen, or from my dreams.

During 2009 I stumbled across a very talented person by the name of Christopher Howard who not only manages to write amazing stories but also is one of those artists whose work makes you just stop and stare because they captivate you … and even combines them in the form of graphic novels! On top of that he is a very, very nice guy too … so much so, in fact, that after I had the brainwave of creating a writing magazine/ezine one day (and, on the very same day purchasing the domain and creating the site) I emailed him and asked if I could possibly use one of his images as the very first inspirational piece for With Painted Words.
He said yes and the rest is history! :)

October 2009 saw his painting inspire quite a few people (63, but who's counting? ;) ) to submit their writing to a fledgling 'zine and now, nearly 16 months later, we are still going strong and Chris is someone that I have nothing but respect, admiration and awe for … plus I count him as the co-creator/founder of WPW considering that his artwork inspired it and his has not only allowed me to use two of his paintings but also given his work, free of charge, as prizes during contests.

You can check out his work – and you should! :) – here:
I feel remarkably lucky to have people interested enough in WPW to allow their artwork to be used, to submit their writing to it and take the time out to simply read the stories. Not bad considering that the whole idea really came out of musing upon the phrase 'a picture paints a thousand words'.

You can find out more about it, submit to and, of course, read the stories at:

How do you help to market your work?

As much as I personally don't like the term I have to say it is 99% via social networking; my own blog, Facebook (when I remember to log in), Twitter, LiveJournal, online communities, etc are all places that you will find me shilling my own work (and, to be honest, that of others that people haven't heard of but really should have too!).

Twitter, especially, is something that I came to late but have found that it is EXTREMELY powerful and versatile despite its 'limitations' of 140 characters a post. Without it Rigor Amortis would never have seen the light of day starting, as it did, as a throw-away joke on there … and when you consider that on the day of release Rigor Amortis peaked at #30 in the Horror list and #795 in the overall book list, with the editors and authors all working together to publicise it on Twitter and blogs, it is pretty impressive.

I've also not been shy about contacting other authors for a bit of cross-promotional work, or giving free copies (free to them but I paid for them) to potential reviewers. I managed to get Rigor Amortis reviewed and a give-away competition setup on one of the UKs top horror magazines and (hopefully) have something similar, but on a bigger scale, in the pipeline.

Basically I think that I am happy to do whatever it takes, and whatever I can, to help market my work.

Where can people find out more about you?

My site is probably the best place, as it has everything in one go:

Shells Chats with author Nicholas Grabowsky

You have been interested in films, including shorts. In fact wasn't there a short you started in college?

I fooled around with video cameras almost as long as I’ve been alive and there were video cameras. I’ve been writing scripts since elementary school. I’m moving towards directing an indy feature film—“Cutting Edges.” But yes, there is “Muffin Man.” I think it was the summer of 1985 when my friends and I got together with fellow classmates from a drama class I took while attending junior college in Southern CA and put together a series of goofy skits and commercials we called “Onslaught of the Crawling Potato Chips.” It had segments in it alternately directed by myself and friend Kyle Pamson, from “Taco Hell” to news spoofs, and in the middle of it was this mini feature “Muffin Man,” about a guy who in times of duress turns into a blueberry muffin. A few years ago, I found old grainy footage of it and thought I’d edit it professionally, which I did, and I threw it out online. It’s 17 minutes of offbeat hilarity with a heart, a little stop-motion animation, and a good soundtrack, that anyone would find entertaining for what it’s worth. It’s received great reviews, too. I’m really proud of it.

How do you feel movies hinder or help writing today?

We wouldn’t have movies if nobody wrote them first. The process of writing movies versus penning literature may be different in format, discipline, and structure, and one may be more collaborative where the other’s more personal, but no matter what the outcome it’s all just methods of telling a story. In creative expression, movies and writing complement each other.

What do you find most challenging about being an author?

Making money from it consistently. And as far as the writing itself, taking complexity out of my head and putting it down on paper in such a way that people not only follow it, but “get it” and are entertained by it.

Can you tell us a bit about Red Wet Dirt?

It’s my Hallmark card to the world, the best and most diverse example of whatever storytelling talent I have to show the world, the work that prompted Tales of the Talisman Magazine to pin the term “The Norman Rockwell of White Trash” on me (which, if you read my works, that about sums it up). The stories in “Red Wet Dirt” cover a wide range of subject matter, from apocalyptic vampires to Johnny Cash to ancient zombies, wererats, shaving cream creatures, and an explanation for why traffic stops on freeways for seemingly no reason. Every story in it is being translated into comic books and graphic novels, the first of which was released in 2010 by A Shot in the Dark Comics: “Looks Like a Rat to Me.” This collection really flaunts my abilities and diversities as a writer, and I enjoy giving readers their money’s worth in taking them to places they’ve never been before. And originality is scarce nowadays.

Where did the ideas come from for Red Wet Dirt?

My life. From taking bits of my life and my “Walter Mitty”-like daydreams I have about my life and writing about them. In a lot of ways, my writing is an interpretation and outlet and mirror of the things I’ve put myself through over the years, my imagination is my all-expense-paid unlimited ticket ride to do with it on paper what I will, and I get away with constructing the final product into something people can actually call a damn good read. For instance, the first story, “The Yuletide Thing,” is based on my taking an alcoholic girlfriend to a mountain lakeside retreat to see Toby Keith in concert as the trip’s highlight, and that was a terrible experience. So in the story I had the girlfriend become a creature who tore people’s hearts out and spewed snow out of her nostrils, and it made for a good Christmas fairy tale besides. Once I was initiated into an exclusive brotherhood that included Ronald Reagan and came from out of the California Gold Rush days, and that inspired the vampire initiation in “Red Afterworld.” In “The Freeway Reaper” I actually knew a serial killer-like guy named Ray Man who I used to see in local bars, had a crush on a girl named Lisa Dove in the sixth grade, and I have an autistic son. In some ways I’m like Taylor Swift, who openly writes songs based on real life and characters, but she sings and wears dresses and plays guitar whereas I write and wear jeans and wield chainsaws.

Where can people find Red Wet Dirt?

Anywhere they sell books. It’s orderable through Borders, B & N, Ingram, Baker & Taylor, everywhere online like Amazon. You can also order direct at really cheap, and the first issue of the comic as well.

Rumor has it that Black Bed Sheet Books started with you working in your garage, compared to bigger companies that can be a lot of work. How do you feel that has helped you get deeper into the publishing business?

I’d been dabbling in the whole POD self-publishing thing since I completed my most important work, “The Everborn,” which took me twelve years to write, and with an arrangement with Trancas Films essentially self-published the special limited edition of my Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers without any help from outside sources. With gaining the rights back from my earlier late 1980’s mass market paperbacks, there was a short while where I self-published my older stuff just to get them back out there and therefore add to sensationalize my newer stuff. Then came a day where I put “Red Wet Dirt” together and was drawn towards an online publisher whom I joined forces with, who had, like, 150 authors under his belt including ones I knew personally. He was supposed to put out “Red Wet Dirt.” This publisher was doing well the first couple of years in business, and then his personal life went horribly awry and he slowly began flaking on all his authors, making false promises, and disappeared owing a lot of people money. I took a good long look at how he published books and told myself, “I can do that, only the right way.” So I figured out what it took to legally establish a small business, did all the small business paperwork and pulled together a nice fully functional office with a bunch of screens and laptops and hardware with organized warehouse space, designed my own logos and did all the announcements and marketing and proclaimed to the world that I was the new indy horror publisher on the block. I started this all in a garage because, well, I wasn’t allowed to smoke in the house, and it made it all seem so underground.

The name Black Bed Sheet actually comes from the fact that, in my experience, generic black bed sheets are versatile. I use them in everything, from throwing them on tables at conventions and appearances to backdrops on a photo shoot, to utilizing them in Halloween costumes and spreading them out on grass for picnics, to wiping up spills when one’s right there and the paper towels are all the way in the kitchen.

One of the things that Black Bed Sheet Books does is allow authors to help each other with proof reading and editing. How do you feel that helps authors with their own writing?

Well, it’s not really with proof reading and editing, it’s more marketing. I expect each author to proofread and edit, (the initial submission itself is expected to adhere to conventional industry rule-of-thumb standards), then I proofread and edit, and oftentimes the author assigns an outside source on their behalf to do the job, and I look it over again under a microscope when I format it. Occasionally, despite everything, I’ve still in the past have seen a chapter heading off-center, some typos, some minor flaw in the final published product. I’m a perfectionist for the most part and that pisses me off when I’m made aware of it. But I believe, especially when it pertains to marketing and to an indy publisher such as BBS, that we can only achieve greatness individually by incorporating ourselves as a whole through mutual and combined efforts. In other words, I believe in teamwork. More than in any other aspect, that belief particularly applies to marketing.

Where can we find Black Sheet Books?

Its official website:
And our official online store:
Also on Twitter: blackbedsheet
And Facebook:
Google searches bring up several pages.

You attend many conventions. How do you feel that has helped you as a writer and a publisher?

I’ve said this many times. If I was a plumber, if that’s what I truly wanted to be, then I would learn all the ropes so I can be the best one I could, recruit other awesome plumbers, start a small company, and go to plumber industry conventions to hobnob and learn all the latest tech. I’m a serious career writer and publisher in the overall horror genre, and respected as such. So conventions….aside from book store appearances and such….are essential because you’re placing yourself into the eye of a hurricane full of people who do what you do, hold the same interests. In my case, it’s a way to meet fans, and to meet fellow writers and other celebrities I idolize while promoting what I’m doing to all the right people on a large scale more personable than online. And people are more easily inclined to buy more books on the spot if the author’s there to sign it for them. Conventions present the ultimate networking opportunities, and the ultimate hotel parties.

Based on your experience, can you share the one most important thing regarding marketing one's work?

It’s not as easy as one thing. Be resourceful. Be professional. Be aggressive, yet diplomatic and humble. Don’t offend, intrude or spam. Get a website, then a ton of free profiles on social networks. Set aside money from your paychecks into free copies to reviewers and some ad space in periodicals covering your audience. Streak naked across the capitol steps of your state holding a cardboard sign with the name of your book at a news event and get a million hits on Youtube for it and a remark on Tosh.0.

Any future projects upcoming for you that you can share with us?

Yup, certainly. The next of the RED WET DIRT comics comes out soon, in graphic novel form. It’s the zombie story, THE FATHER KEEPER. I’m also going to soon start work on my next novel/collection THE DOWNWARDENS and jumpstart my directorial efforts with “Cutting Edges,” my shaving cream creature horror popcorn flick.

Where can we find more out about you?

At, Wikipedia, and there are 20+ pages on me in a Google search.

Shells Chats with author and editor Myrrym Davies

When did you start writing?

I’ve been writing since I was a child, but to tell the truth I never actually intended to become a published writer. Up until 2006, I wrote simply for the pleasure of writing. It wasn’t until a few of my blog readers urged me to submit some of my work that I seriously considered writing for publication.

Halloween seems to be a big holiday for Horror authors. How do you feel that holiday inspires your stories?

Halloween is the biggest holiday in our household, but it also marks the start of my writing “downtime.” I love the fall, and do find the seasonal changes inspiring, but with all the holiday gatherings I host, I don’t get much writing accomplished between October and January. I may take on the occasional article or invitation, but for the most part, I use any free time between holidays to edit for Graveside Tales, and then pick up the writing again in February.

What do you find the most disturbing about writing Horror?

Honestly, I find very little about writing horror disturbing. I am a practical sort of person, and do not allow emotions to override my determination to craft a good story, regardless of how disconcerting the material may be. That said, I do occasionally look over some of my work and wonder if my head is screwed on straight. It seems no matter how demented I make my bad guys, I can still empathize with them enough to justify their actions. It’s a little creepy, being able to rationalize such cruelty, but I try not to dwell on that too much.

When writing short stories, do you prepare an outline or just as the characters, settings go along a particular story?

For short stories, a full outline is not usually necessary. I jot down a few notes on where I want the story to go, get the key events and settings cemented in my head, and then let my characters figure out how to get from point A to point B.

If you had to pick a favorite short story what would it be?

It’s a toss up between the zombie talk-radio parody, “’Til Decay Do Us Part,” and a more serious piece called “Painting Grace.” While these two stories are on opposite ends of the horror spectrum, I feel they best represent my particular style of writing. I had a lot of fun creating them, and both have garnered good reviews from those who have read them.

Where can we find some of these short stories?

“’Til Decay Do Us Part” can be found in Best New Zombie Tales, Vol 2 from Books of the Dead Press. “Painting Grace” will be in the April 2011 issue of Necrotic Tissue magazine. More stories can be found in the Ante Mortem anthology from Belfire Press and the Ladies and Gentlemen of Horror anthology from Sonar 4 Publications.

You also have and still do editing. How do you feel that has helped your own writing and what can be some of the challenges in editing you have found or some of the common mistakes you see authors make?

I do feel editing has helped me hone my skills by virtue of showing me what NOT to do. Editors read a ton of submissions every day, and we do see certain errors pop up over and over again. Poor formatting, excessive wordiness, shaky sentence structure, and clichéd subject matter seem to be the most common problems, and seeing them crop up so often in the course of reading makes it easier to spot those same mistakes in my own work. As for what I find most challenging about being an editor, I would have to say time management. I spend at least two days a week doing nothing but correspondence; the rest of my free time is spent going through submissions and editing accepted works. Needless to say, sleep and downtime are two things I don’t get a lot of.

Not so long ago you were diagnosed with Lupus. How does that effect your writing?

So far, the effects on my writing have been pretty minimal. There are days when I tire easily or my joints hurt too badly to sit in front of the computer for extended periods of time, but that usually only occurs during a flareup. The one thing I do find frustrating is the short-term memory loss. I have a very hard time remembering where I was going with a story if I have to step away from it for more than a day or so. I’ve gotten into the habit of writing down any ideas I may have the moment I think of them. Thank goodness for Post-It notes!

Any projects for you in the future you can share with us?

I do have a few projects in the works for 2011 but, unfortunately, I am not at liberty to discuss them just yet. I can say I am excited to be a part of every one of them, though!

Is there any advice you would like to share with writers based on your experience?

If I only had one piece of advice to give, it would be this: research your markets – thoroughly. Let’s be honest, the only way to get a publisher to look favorably upon your work is to send them the kind of material they are looking for; and the only way to know what they are looking for is to be familiar with their publications. That means checking out their websites, looking over their guidelines, and reading their publications. Granted, it’s not the most pleasant part of the writing process, and it can be quite time consuming, but the chances of getting an acceptance letter is greatly increased if you submit to the markets that cater to your particular literary style rather than just blindly submitting to every publisher in your genre.

Where can people find out more about you?

I have a website people can visit for more information, I am also on Facebook. People can find me there by searching Myrrym.

"The Bone Sword" Review on Death Head Grin

Here's another pretty darn good review from the web page "Death Head Grin."  There's nothing better than clicking open a Google Alert with your name on it only to have it go to a positive review of your book.  Bit by bit it appears I'm getting "The Bone Sword" into the hands of the type of people who want to read it.  That's awesome!  There's definitely an audience for this book and I'm psyched to continue meeting each and every one of them!

Thanks Death Head Grin, for the awesome Review.

Here's the link again.

Words with Linda Faulkner, author of "Second Time Around"

Can you tell us a little bit about "Second Time Around?"

What do you do when the dead body you stumble across turns out to belong to your father, the father you thought abandoned you in infancy? That’s what Timmie Campbell asks herself. Turns out her mother has been lying for years: about her father’s abandonment, about him not contacting them, about a lot of things. Unfortunately, Timmie can’t dwell on her mother’s dishonesty because she has to deal with the additional bodies that begin piling up. Sheriff’s deputy Jack Kendall further complicates her life. He’s investigating the murders and is equally intent on resuming their relationship—the one he ended the previous summer. Unfortunately for Jack, Timmie’s not the least bit interested in romance. Her priority is stopping the killer before he wipes out everyone her family.
What's your background with writing?

I began writing short stories in elementary school and completed my first romantic suspense novel thirty years later in 1988. Although the novel was welcomed enthusiastically by two different publishers, one of whom asked for rewrites, the welcomes weren’t enthusiastic enough to purchase it as-is. Such is the life of a writer, he? Life intervened in the form of family and work and although I completed half a dozen more novels between 1988 and 2009, when Second Time Around was published, the bulk of my writing during those years was in the form of numerous magazine articles, a newspaper column that ran for 7 years, and a multitude of educational texts, seminars, and online courses in the insurance industry. I continue to be published more in non-fiction (especially in the form of insurance education materials) and my second book, Taking the Mystery Out of Business: 9 Fundamentals for Professional Success, was released earlier this month
Who are your inspirations/influences?

Any writer who can elicit strong emotions from me: Ed McBain/Evan Hunter did an excellent job of pulling me into his characters’ points of view; Rex Stout taught me all about torturous plot twists; I flat-out love the mystery novels of Dell Shannon/Elizabeth Linington, Sue Grafton, Victoria Holt and Dorothy Eden, and Lawrence Block; Janet Evanovich makes me laugh out loud; John D. MacDonald’s books, especially the Travis McGee series, turns me philosophical; Jayne Ann Krentz and Suzanne Brockmann simply excel at telling a good stories and absorb me. I wanna be like all of them rolled into one when I grow up as a writer.
Who was responsible for the cover design of “Second Time Around?”

The book cover was designed by my friend and business associate, Steph Lambert of luella design, a graphic artist in Missoula, Montana who once worked as the professional photographer of an NFL team. The cover photo was one Steph took from Blue Mountain, which overlooks the city, which you can see in the top right section of the cover. I wanted the cover to reflect the book’s setting and Steph did an excellent job of capturing the feel of the Rocky Mountains of western Montana. My editor, Herb Holeman, came up with the idea of the yellow crime scene tape and I think that adds the perfect touch.
What are you doing in terms of marketing/publicity?

I conduct book signings and events both online and in person. I also talk endlessly, to clients and anyone who’ll listen, about my books and my writing. In fact, the title of my business series (Taking the Mystery Out) coincides with my love of mysteries and helps me promote both my fiction and non-fiction simultaneously. My tagline for the business books is Clueless is a dangerous place to be and that sums up my perspective about writing fiction and non-fiction. I also conduct career development and writing workshops for organizations and businesses, as well as for writers, and because of my extensive business and writing experience, these events help market and promote all of my writing activities and the books and other works I’ve published. My “day” job has always involved sales and marketing, so I don’t have any difficulty arranging or participating in these events. They’re fun!
Do you have any stories from book signings/radio interviews, etc.?

I like to have fun, so I tend to ask one or more attendees of a book signing to perform a reading with me when I do a book signing. Because I’m a ham, the process nearly always winds up in laughter. I don’t have a single event that stands out in my mind—unless it’s the very first book signing I did. I wound up bursting into tears after it was over and I was thanking the bookstore owner for helping me make my dream come true. Not very professional, but she didn’t seem to mind.
What is the name of your blog and what can readers expect to find there?

I host three blogs. My Author Exchange Blog is a place for published authors and other publishing professionals to strut their stuff. I used to post author interviews but have changed the focus to include articles and guest posts, book reviews, and other announcements. I believe very strongly in authors helping each other promote themselves. My personal writing blog is here and it addresses topics of interest to me as a writer of several genres. The blog for the Taking the Mystery Out series is and currently focuses on the topic of educating entrepreneurs, managers, independent contractors, and employees about the business world and making things easier for them.
What projects do you have planned for the future?

In addition to several insurance projects I’m contracted for, I’m currently outlining the second book in the business series and writing a romantic suspense novel. I expect to have both finished by the summer.
Is there anything else about you we should know?

Well… I talk too much and too loudly but, after many years of being either teased or criticized about it, decided it’s simply not going to change and is part of my charm. A guy once told me I’m kind—but he was breaking up with me at the time, so I was pissed off instead of flattered. I’m either too serious or too silly and usually at the most inappropriate of times. I love cats; dogs; baby giggles; trees; running water (as in creeks and rivers, not from the tap); the smells of lavender, baby powder, and wood smoke (but not all three mixed together); the way snow sounds when it’s falling in the forest; and hard-boiled eggs (the flavor, not the aroma). I dislike TV, disrespect, violence, and negativity. Guess that’s about it. Oh, except for the fact that I have three wonderful kids and two granddaughters—all of whom are both smarter and better looking than me. Which is as it should be.

"The Bone Sword" and the Hero's Journey by Tom Barczak

Tom Barczak submitted a pretty exceptional short story to this blog not too long ago, you can go and check that out here.  Since then, he's contacted me a couple times about writerly things and even got a hold of a copy of my book "The Bone Sword" to review.  His review has just appeared on and I find it really satisfying.  I think it's kind of interesting how books start to take on a life of their own in the public perception.  You as the author create them with the intention of provoking a certain kind of result, but you really don't know what the book is going to "be" until readers have had the chance to dig into it and get their hands dirty.

I've received good reviews before, but Tom's is the first good review that's a synthesis of interesting ideas.  He even points out a couple things that I can see are in the book, but which I didn't intentionally put there.  Again, there are always going to be a couple things in anything you write which you're just oblivious too.  I guess all writers just have to hope that they're in a "sane" enough mental state that none of the stuff that slips through will reflect too poorly on them.

Anyway, what I appreciate about Tom's review is that it was just as useful to me as the author, as it would be to somebody who has never even picked up the book before.  Also, I just sort of feel there is a little bit more structure to the niche I'm destined to fill as a fantasy writer.  I think I have a better idea of what works and what doesn't, and I'm excited to apply this knowledge to my next work.

Thanks Tom, and for those of you who have read and enjoyed "The Bone Sword," don't forget to send me your reviews!

Shells Chats with author and publisher Jessy Marie Roberts

Have you always been a writer?

I've always enjoyed writing, though I didn't start writing fiction until I was in high school.

You like to cook, has that helped with your writing at all?

Both cooking and writing are creative outlets... I've had many successes (and many disasters) at both! I collect cookbooks and write the occasional recipe, so I am constantly reading and writing about cooking, so I think it might help a little bit.

You worked with Eric S. Brown as a co-author on a project. How was that to work with him and can you tell us a bit about the book?

Eric is fantastic to work with. He has such dark and exciting ideas, and his action sequences are amazing. The best part of working with Eric is his willingness to collaborate and accept my input. Kinberra Down is a sci-fi gore-fest set on an ice-covered planet crawling with bloodthirsty creatures.

If you had to choose a genre to write in what would be your favorite?
Romantic suspense... my favorite genre.

How has being a writer helped with forming Pill Hill Press Publishing?

Being a writer helped me to create a company that celebrates my favorite thing -- speculative fiction. If I wasn't a writer, I don't think I would have ever been inspired to build a small press.

How has your husband helped out with Pill Hill Press?

My husband has helped out with every aspect of Pill Hill Press... I couldn't have made my company without his support.

Why publish anthologies?

I've always enjoyed reading short stories, so publishing anthologies seemed natural.

Pill Hill Press recently accepted Novels for publishing, how do you feel that is different than anthologies, what are the challenges and what are the fun parts?

Novels are fun for the same reason they are challenging -- they are complete stories, with sub-plots and high word counts, and they are the creation of one author. At times they are challenging to edit (because they are long... some places need more detail, some areas need to be chopped out); also, dealing with one author on their project is satisfying, but it is much more intense than dealing with several authors with small contributions to an anthology.

Where can people find out more about Pill Hill Press?

Please visit us at or join our forum at

Any suggestions you would have to a writer wanting to start their first novel?

Write about something you find interesting... and FINISH IT!

Free Rhemalda Book Giveaway!

Big news from Rhemalda as always. The number one mind-blowing thing is that for the month of March, Rhemalda is allowing people to download J.S. Chancellor's epic fantasy "Son of Ereubus" for FREE! All you have to do is follow this link. This is a special, one time only offer, so take advantage and do yourself the favor of being introduced to one of fantasy's hottest new authors!

You can also enter the Goodreads competition to win free copies of some of Rhemalda's other upcoming releases like:

So sign up for some of these free giveaways and let us know what you think of these books! You can sign up to win all six of them if you want, and if you tell your friends to sign up and they win...maybe they'll let you borrow the book afterward! But I realize you need something to read before that contest finishes up, so here are some spectacular interviews with some very talented writers, enjoy!

That's it for now, see you soon!

Words with Brian L. Porter, author of "Behind Closed Doors"

Can you tell us a little bit about "Behind Closed Doors."

With pleasure. Behind Closed Doors came about when I was approached by Sonar 4 Publications with an offer to write a murder/mystery for them, set in the Victorian era, something along the lines of my Jack the Ripper trilogy (A Study in Red - The Secret Journal of Jack the Ripper, Legacy of the Ripper and Requiem for the Ripper), which they'd seen and read, giving all three books great reviews. I was happy to agree to their request and set about finding a storyline that would 'fit the bill'. I began researching an idea that came to mind, and Behind Closed Doors is the result. I loved writing the book, and enjoyed creating what I hope are some endearing characters that readers will identify with, and the words just seemed to flow. Sonar 4 have also showed their great commitment to charitable causes by agreeing to donate $1 from every paperback copy of the book sold to The Mayflower Animal Sanctuary, in South Yorkshire, UK, an organization close to my heart, a wonderful gesture, I'm sure everyone will agree. As for the story, well, here's the blurb that I hope will give readers a good idea of what to expect:

Behind Closed Doors
Autumn, 1888. The population of London is transfixed and horrified by the atrocious and horrific murder spree being conducted by Jack the Ripper. The newspapers are full of the details of the mutilations perpetrated by the killer and the apparent inability of the police to apprehend the unknown assailant. As Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Charles Warren throws the bulk of his investigative resources into the search for The Ripper, and the tabloid press scream of the crimes in banner headlines on a daily basis; on the new, ultra modern Underground Railway that has revolutionized travel around the great metropolis for the working man, another, less well publicized killer is at large.

Tucked away on the inner pages of the daily press, hardly enough to raise an eyebrow among discerning readers, one may have found a few, short articles which told of the strange and also, so far unsolved murders which are taking place on board the carriages of the new-fangled and much heralded transport system. Each murder takes place the day after one of the ripper killings, as the murderer appears to be taking advantage of the lack of police resources to tackle not one, but two, major investigations simultaneously.

Inspector Albert Norris is charged with bringing the railway killer to justice, but, as with case of Jack the Ripper, clues are few, the killer's motive unclear, and he is forced to carry out his investigations 'quietly and without causing a public panic' as the authorities seek to prevent a loss of confidence in the safety of the underground railway system. The press are being told even less, hence the minimal coverage, and Norris can count on little help from above as he attempts to solve the inexplicable series of murders.

What's your background with writing?

I began writing when illness forced me to give up my previous career. I began by writing poetry, progressed to short stories and eventually, was persuaded by my wife to try my hand at a full length novel. That book was A Study in Red and it's small modicum of success encouraged me to follow it up with the other books that have since followed.

Who are your inspirations/influences?

Much of my work is influenced by my three favorite authors, namely Tess Gerritsen, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Jeffery Deaver, all of whom have created such wonderfully different, but equally enthralling and captivating mysteries and thrillers, with vivid and realistic characterization and story lines that hold a reader sepllbound from first to last page.

What was it like working with Sonar4 Publications?

So far, Sonar 4 have been a dream to work with. they are always on time with any promises they make, and their attitude towards their authors is one of respect and as such, they receive equal respect back from those who write for them.

Who was responsible for the cover/book design?

The wonderful cover design for Behind Closed Doors was created by the super talented Jerrod Brown. The original design was created as a water color painting and he then used that painting as the basis for the cover, adding the text to the finished article. I love his design, which I think really compliments the words contained within the book.

What are you doing in terms of marketing/publicity?

So far, I've been promoting the book in advance on my website, and on the large number of networking sites I belong to and that I use extensively to promote my books. I've also used my connection with the membership of The Whitechapel Society 188, an organization dedicated to the study of the Jack the Ripper murders, and Victorian and Edwardian society in London, to further promote the book.

Do you have any stories from book signings/radio interviews/etc.?

Due to my disabilities, I don't do book signings, which are, to be honest not very much used here in the UK, and the same applies to radio I'm afraid.

What projects do you have planned for the future?

Due to my current health problems I have no further books planned at present, though I am assisting Sonar 4 in the compilation of an anthology of Victorian short stories, under the title Whitechapel 13, which is due for release in late 2011, and my own short story, Toxic Bitch will shortly be appearing in Sonar 4's anthology, Ladies and Gemntlemen of Horror 2010, which I believe will be released in paperback and e-book editions in January 2011.

Is there anything else about you we should know?

Perhaps I could just mention my other books, apart from my ripper trilogy, in case anyone might be interested in trying my work before Behind Closed Doors hits the shelves? All the following titles can be found at and are:
Glastonbury, Pestilence, Purple Death, Kiss of Life, Dracula Doesn't Live Here Anymore, The Voice of Anton Bouchard and Other Stories, and Murder, Mayhem and Mexico.