Shells Chats with author Jeremy Shipp

At what precise moment did you say to yourself, 'I'm an author and I'm going to write stories and that's all there is to it'?

I wrote my first novel when I was 13, but I don’t think I truly thought of myself as an author until I was 18. That’s when I started sending out my work to publishers. That’s also when I started wearing a spork necklace, which had nothing to do with my writing career, so I probably shouldn’t have mentioned it.

How has humor played a role in your writing and life in general?

There are times in my life and in my writing when I gaze into the abyss. And when the abyss gazes back, I think it’s important to laugh. Humor helps people to cope with darkness, and to defend themselves against it. The other reason that I like humor is because I like things that are funny, and humor is probably the funniest thing in the world.

Why do you think so many Horror stories involve clowns?

I wish I could say, “The reason I like writing about clowns is because they look funny and they make me laugh.” But the truth is, there are evil clowns living in my attic, and they force me to write about them under threat of rubber chicken-based force.

Garden Gnomes are strange little creatures, how have they influenced your writing?

There’s nothing quite like sitting on a giant toadstool in garden, gazing at the gnomes as sing show tunes and stab pink flamingos with tiny spears. They are an almost constant inspiration.

What is it about Bizarro fiction that you feel attracts so many readers?

I think so many readers like Bizarro fiction, because there are so many weirdos out there. And I mean that in the best possible way. I’m a weirdo, my cats are weirdos, my cats’ pet humans are weirdos. I love weirdos.

What is the strangest short story you have ever written?

My guess is that “Flapjack” is the strangest story I’ve ever written. The plot is strange, the characters are strange, the use of language is strange. Also, there aren’t any pancakes in the story, so why the heck is it called “Flapjack”?

You have taught online writing classes. How has that helped you as an author and how has the experience been for you teaching others?

Teaching is a fun and challenging and satisfying job. I love helping aspiring writers to hone their craft. Teaching others has helped me to become more conscious about what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to writing, and hopefully I’m a better writer because of it. If anyone reading this is interested in learning more about my Fiction Writing Bootcamp, they can write to me at

Can you tell us a bit about Fungus of the Heart?

I wrote Fungus of the Heart because I’m a fun guy. Fungus is my newest book, and probably my strangest. The book contains stories about a zombie polar bear, a boy who lives in a cabinet, a monkey bounty hunter, a yard gnome hero and more. These are the sorts of stories that will cause mushrooms to grow in your heart, and that’s good for your health.

Any upcoming projects you can share with us?

I’m working on a few new projects, including an attic clown book and a young adult fantasy novel. There’s also a dramatic musical in the works called Nightmare Man (, which is inspired by one of my short stories.

Where can people find out more about you?

Here’s my online home:

I can also be found here:

And here’s a photo of me dressed as Pizza Bear:

Shells Chats with author Tammy Branom

What made you want to become an author?

I think I was born to be a writer. I’ve always wanted to write. I was always making up stories to tell people (not lies to tell, but actual tales) since I can remember. The first story I “wrote” was in 2nd grade about a family of rabbits having dinner. Very Peter Cottontail. I made it into a little book of green construction paper, complete with my own drawings. I was very proud of it. Throughout school, I received awards for my writing. However, being from a poor family, I couldn’t pursue writing until much later in life.

What is your biggest fear when it comes to writing?

My first biggest fear was that I never would be writer at all. After that, I feared I would never be published. Now, I’m afraid I’ll never get everything wrote that is in my head and begs to be written. Too many stories; so little time. I work a regular 8 hour-a-day job, so time is limited for me to spend on writing.

Have you ever put any of your own life experience or experiences in your writing?

Almost every story I write has a piece of me in it. Without my own life experiences, I couldn’t express my characters’ feelings, emotions, fears, and wonders. Some of the situations and scenes would be very alien to me. However, one story in particular, “Merry Christmas,” published online at Molotov Cocktail, is based on events described to my family by police of my sister’s death. It was my “retelling.” You can read it through the link to Molotov Cocktail on my website. Another story, “Specimen,” published in the Static Movement e-zine, is loosely built on paranormal occurrences from my childhood.

What do you find the most challenging about writing short stories?

The most challenging for me in anything I write are endings. If I can’t be circular and go back to the beginning for the end, then I tend to simply fade away, which isn’t an ending at all. Sometimes I need to look for quite some time for that special, final moment.

Your story 'Phobia' was published in an anthology dealing with situations that can happen in one-hour. Can you tell us a bit about that story?

“Phobia” is actually another of those stories I put myself into. The story is about a woman’s repeated nightmare that comes true. In her dream, she sees nothing, but hears and feels many things. While she waits for an hour at an airport for her family to come home, her nightmare transpires. I wrote this while waiting for my husband at an airport.

Where can we find some of your other stories?

Every story I’ve had accepted to an anthology or published online or magazine is listed on my website. Under “Writing” there is a list of links to the websites where my online stories are posted. I also post links to purchase anthologies that I am printed in.

You write a column for Unexplained Mysteries. What drew you to that and can you explain a bit about the column you write?

I’ve read Unexplained Mysteries for years. I’m drawn to the paranormal and unexplained both as fodder for stories but as interesting reading. The world is a strange place. Also, at one point in my life, I thought of pursuing journalism and research. So, since I read a lot of scientific and metaphysical articles (I know, opposite ends of the stick), many ideas churn in my mind. I started a blog to put those thoughts out to the world, but that didn’t work so well. When I had the opportunity to write a column of my ideas about the world, from a skeptic/scientific yet metaphysical view, I applied. My column tends to mostly deal with reality/dimension strangeness--how reality may not be exactly as we think it is.

Writing tells stories; do you feel the photos you take do as well?

Some photos do indeed tell a story. However, I am a nature photographer, and the story there is one of this planet’s beauty. With that, I don’t believe any one picture can tell the tale. I’m looking at going into photography essays and series. I’ve taken thousands of pictures over the years, and now is the time to put them and my talent to use.

On a curiosity note, you have something you call your 'Thimble World.' Can you explain what that is?

I am a very avid thimble collector. One might even say obsessive/compulsive. I started collecting thimbles in the 1980’s as small, inexpensive souvenirs from the places I visited. Then I found thimbles that were gorgeous designs, and that was it. My collection grew. Now everyone I know buys them for me. I’ve even made quite a few. But, Thimble World is a story all its own.

When I was little, my grandmother had a village she set up under the Christmas tree. I loved setting it up with her and would spend hours playing with it. When she passed on, I didn’t get any of it. For years, I wanted to recreate that village, but the pieces and sets were too expensive (and still are). While on Ebay one day, I found thimble houses in England . I ordered what I could afford and thus began my Christmas thimble village. Over just a few years, it has grown to include anything and everything you can imagine--all with thimbles. The beauty of it all is that I have a huge village made of thimble buildings (and more) that I only display for the holidays. It takes 3 + days to get it all set up.

Are there any other projects in the works you can share with us and will you be working on any longer works, such as novels or novellas in the future?

I don’t have any specific projects in the works other than continuing to write for Unexplained Mysteries and find homes for my short story darlings. I do plan to chase my photography dream by submitting photos to print and online magazines. I also intend to put forward photo series and essays wherever possible. I’ll keep everyone informed on my blog and website. As far as longer works go, I considered writing paranormal and SF romances, but after checking many romance houses’ guidelines, I think if I write them, I will most likely self-publish. For now though, I’m staying with my shorts and photography.

Where can people find out more about you?

I post updates to my writing (and anything else going on in my life) first on my blog, Later, I revise my website with links and pictures for everyone to get the specifics on my writing at

On both my blog and my website are links to my other website for photography at

The Result of $100 in Advertising on Facebook

Ok, so I decided to experiment with a Facebook ad the other day.  I wanted to see what kind of result I could get from a $100 budget.

The first thing that I discovered was that Facebook actually has a pretty nice interface through which you can design your ad (you can get to their ad interface by clicking on the "Advertising" link which appears at the bottom of your wall have to click on it fast though because once you get to the bottom, Facebook refreshes and gives you a bunch more posts, so you have to keep scrolling down to see "Advertising").  The main thing I wanted was to make it abundantly clear that I wasn't going to be spending more than $100 dollars.  My greatest fear was that I'd throw up the ad, hit "make it live" and then see a bill for $50,000 be attributed to my account.  Facebook allows you to set a budget, however, so you can rest assured that you aren't going to accidentally lose a fortune.

I decided that the best way to get people's attention was to offer something for free, so I dusted off a copy of one of my old manuscripts and threw it up on google documents.  That gave me a URL that I could link to.  In hindsight, I probably would have been better off doing a blog post and then linking to that URL, but I didn't think of that until the ad was already live.

My whole idea with this was not to make any money or sell any books directly, but instead simply expose a bunch of potential readers to my writing style.  I'm kind of hoping that somebody might read the book and produce a review, but I'm not really holding my breath.  I guess this is the main problem with advertising, it's kind of hard to see how the ad is received (again, linking to a blog post instead of to the book URL would have been advantageous).

The best part about Facebook ads is that you're able to target who you want the ads to go to.  So I targeted fans of R.A. Salvatore.  I figured that group would be the most likely to enjoy my writing.

So, after about a month of this promotion, I took a look at the chart that Facebook produced for me.  According to the statistics, the ad was clicked 172 times (again, I have no idea how many of those people actually read the book, and of those that read it how many are going to write reviews...but at least I know 172 people saw it).  But, perhaps more importantly than the clicks, my ad was shown 192,000 times.  What that means is that my logo and my name appeared on Facebook pages of R.A. Salvatore fans 192,000 times.  Again, I have no way of knowing if they registered the image, or read the name, but that kind of presence can't hurt anything.

All in all it's fairly hard to evaluate this campaign, but I have to say that I'm not adverse to giving it another try. Here are the things I will do differently next time:

  • Send viewers to my web page with an article about my books, my fan page, etc.
  • Encourage people who clicked on the ad to contact me personally or add me as a friend
  • Provide links to both the kindle and paperback versions of my books on Amazon instead of a free copy
  • Offer a free copy of something for those who write reviews
All in all, I think this is a potentially interesting way to help readership grow.  I don't know if you're ever going to recuperate your advertising dollars when advertising a book, but if you look at it in terms of gaining loyal readers, fan page followers, etc., it has its plus side.  More and more I'm coming to believe that modern publishing isn't so much about book sales as it is developing your brand in terms of your Facebook page and blog.  If you can get the double whammy of advertising revenue from your blog as well as revenue from your book sales, the ads are definitely worthwhile.

Video Interview With Douglas Brown

Here's a great interview with Rhemalda Publishing author Douglas Brown, check it out and his book, Legends Reborn (The light of Epertase, Book One).

Shells Chats with author Tommy B. Smith

What do you find most appealing about writing in the dark fiction genre?

The intensity of what I’m capturing in time. In creating, that’s really what we’re doing, isn’t it? We’re capturing an emotion, an area of the imagination, or something we see inside or outside ourselves, and displaying it through our chosen form. Dark fiction is the form I gravitate toward. I doubt Chicken Soup for the Soul would have me...

I find dark fiction to be a suitable term because it’s one open to encompass multiple specific genres of fiction(i.e. horror, fantasy, even dark literary fiction). This lends me plenty of room to write what I intend without being overly restricted.

If you could change anything about the dark fiction genre today, what would it be?

I might initially say a greater willingness to probe boundaries, to explore possibilities and experiment in fiction, but then again, it’s out there, for anyone willing to look for it. The bizarro genre, which has blossomed over the years, is an example.

I’m fairly satisfied with the writing that exists in the underground and the small press, because that seems to be where the freshest material is coming from.

What is the one thing that you have not written about yet, but would love to someday?

Usually, anything I want to write about, I do, barring time constraints, but the music scene in the heavy metal underground, both past and present, is one topic I’ve considered. I’ve actually already addressed that in a short story called “Bottled Rituals,” which appeared in the anthology Heavy Metal Horror from Rymfire E-Books, but I still wouldn’t mind writing a longer work in that setting.

What makes you want to write? Some say it is because they dream the story, others have said it was because of an urge, what is your reason or reasons?

The inspiration and reason for the story varies, but writing is something I’ve been interested in since I was very young. There seem to be worlds inside of me, and that’s probably the quickest way to describe it, so rather than squandering that quality, I thought I would make use of it, share it with others in some way. I’ve abandoned my writing a number of times throughout the years only to return to it later, and one day, the time and decision came to push ahead and pursue it, because, just like everyone else, I’m not getting any younger.

You have written some micro short stories. What do you find most challenging about writing those types of stories?

Length. It’s easy to become so involved in a piece that any thought of word length flies out the window until it’s done, and then it becomes unsuitable for any flash-fiction or micro-fiction market without the application of an editorial scalpel.

What is the one thing that is present in each of your stories?

I couldn’t accurately say that all of my stories share a common element. There are several of them that do, however. Much of my horror-flavored material contains a sprinkling of fantasy, and much of my fantasy-flavored material contains a sprinkling of horror. I’ve been told that my more straightforward horror material tends toward a noirish quality.

What do you hope readers will get out of your stories?

I’m not sure I’m looking for anything specific. For a reaction, anything other than apathy will do. If they dislike something I’ve written for whatever reason, that’s a reaction. If a person appreciates it, that’s terrific, and that’s also a reaction. A blank stare is hardly a reaction at all.

Can you tell us a bit about your story called Mr. Philpot?

Every Day Fiction published a story of mine called “The Eric Jones Show” in 2008. “Mr. Philpot” was a follow up to this. Television trends were the primary inspiration. For some time, modern television seemed to be teaching us that if you develop a drug addiction, act like a complete mental case in public, hurt others in the process, and immerse yourself in public drama, you’ll land your five minutes in the spotlight. Scandal sells. Viewers love it.

How has working as an editor helped with your own writing and how was it to work with Morpheus Tales Magazine?

Taking a seat on the other side of the desk adds depth to one’s perception of the writing game, I think. That’s what I expected and hoped for, and I don’t feel the experience disappointed in that. There are qualities that distinguish works of professional caliber from those otherwise, and these became much more apparent during this editorial stint, which involved both the Dark Sorcery Special Issue and the Urban Horror Special Issue.

Any upcoming projects you wish to share with us?

The Urban Horror Special Issue from Morpheus Tales Magazine is forthcoming as we speak. As for my own writing, I’ve completed a dark fantasy novel and am working on another. I also continue to write shorter works, some of which have already been sold, and if all proceeds as it should, those will be out within the year.

Where can people find out more about you?

At On the writing front, that’s where you’ll see the official news first. I also use Facebook from time to time, for those who are able to find me there.

Shells Chats with author Michael Tabman

Can you tell us a bit about Midnight Sin?

Midnight Sin is an inside look at the dark and mysterious world behind the cop’s badge. Rookie cop Gary Hollings quickly learns that wrestling street thugs and arresting drug dealers while trying to track down a serial rapist is nowhere near as tough as watching his back from his fellow cops. He must also fight his inner demons – ones that he never knew he had until he put on that police uniform. Becoming a cop changes everything he thought he knew about life. Midnight Sin is a gritty cop novel that explores the complexities of the cop psyche.

How has being a former police officer and an FBI agent helped in writing Midnight Sin?

My years as a police officer and FBI Agent gave me experience and exposure to interesting people and unusual events that helped me create the characters and story line. The backdrop of Midnight Sin was motivated by a case I worked on as a plain clothes cop.

What did you find most challenging about writing Midnight Sin?

I tend to want to keep my story as true to life as possible. When writing a novel, the author must delve into fantasy and not be strictly tied to reality.

In Walking the Corporate Beat you help CEOs avoid any problems they could come in contact with. What made you decide to write this book?

When I retired from the FBI, I reflected on investigations, operations and other occurrences where the right decision had the wrong results, established processes failed and human foibles, such as ego, managed to bring failure to what should have been successful results. I thought these examples, presented in the context of true cop stories, would be an entertaining way to present some “lessons learned.”

What are you hoping readers will get out of your books?

I hope that readers of my books enjoy the stories and are entertained. Then, I hope they find themselves thinking about not just what happened, but why things happened the way they did.

If there was one thing you could share that helped you in the process of writing to a new author what would it be?

Find your own voice.

Are there any upcoming projects you can share with our readers?

I am working on a novel centered on an FBI agent struggling with a complicated investigation only to find his life become even more complicated as the rules of the game change suddenly and without warning.

Any upcoming book signings or appearances?

Yes, we are having a book signing on June 3, 2011 at 7pm at the Barnes & Noble on the Plaza in Kansas City, MO.

Where can people find out more about you?

I post all my information at

Shells Chats with author Jesse Petersen

When and how did you make the choice that writing was what you wanted to do full-time?

I’ve actually always written full-time. I was lucky that my husband had a great job with a good salary and he wantedme to go ahead and make a go at this career. So I did in 1999. My first book was published in 2005 (under another name) and my first zombie book sold in 2009.

People have different reasons for why they like zombies, what's your reason?

I think it’s that they’re such basic terror. I mean, they aren’t cunning or vindictive like an intelligent enemy, BUT they also don’t stop, no matter what you do to them. So even though it seems like you could easily outsmart them, they will eventually wear you down. That is really scary, the idea that you have a monster that you can’t debate with or conquer through any kind of normal means. There’s only one answer: death – theirs or yours.

Your Living with the Dead series features a married couple as the main characters battling zombies. How did you come up with that idea and are they based on any real life situations or people you may know?

Actually, we had just watched “Zombieland” and I just kept thinking how funny it would be if there was a married couple going to counseling and their therapist turned out to be a zombie and they had to kill her. And then they’d have to use her advice to survive the zombie apocalypse. My husband very nicely reminded me that I WAS a writer and that if I thought that would be funny, I could always write it. So I did. It’s not based on anyone particularly, my husband and I are much nicer to each other than David and Sarah are.

The Living with the Dead series has some sarcasm and humor in it. How do you feel that has helped the story and do you think humor should be mixed in with more horror type situations in books?

Honestly, I didn’t really think it out in those terms. I love movies like Zombieland or Shaun of the Dead, so that’s the kind of book I wrote. I do love horror/comedy when it’s not parody as much as sarcasm, and I wish there were more movies that those that did it well.

Your next book in the Living with the Dead series, Eat, Slay, Love, is coming out soon. Can you tell us a bit about this next installment?

Eat Slay Love is actually the last book in the Living With the Dead series and in it Dave and Sarah must get to the Midwest Wall (if it exists) with the help of a drug-addled rock and roller and a stalkerazzi tabloid reporter. Many zombie battles and hijinks commence.

Are there plans for anymore books in the Living with the Dead series past these three?

I’d love to write more, but right now three is it. There’s certainly an opening for more, though, if the books suddenly take off or there’s a significant demand for more.

Your fans are very supportive and at times zombie obsessive. How has having that type of fan base at moments influenced your writing or your way of thinking about your characters in your books?

I had a course in mind before the first book, MARRIED WITH ZOMBIES, hit shelves, so as far as plot, not really. As a writer, you can’t really ever please the fans as a whole. Someone will tell you they loved this or hated that, but someone else feels exactly opposite. You could chase you tail forever and drive yourself crazy trying to please everyone. I’ve found that I just try to tell a story that appeals to me, that I hope is well done and readers will like it (or hate it). Hopefully they get why I went a certain way or did a certain thing.

I have had many requests for this question: on your website, you show a pair of zombie shoes, how did you acquire those?

They used to be sold via Hot Topic, apparently, but I bought mine off eBay! I can’t remember who sent me the link originally, but I knew they had to be mine.

Where can people find out more about you?

The place where I’m most active is my Facebook/Twitter account(s). You can follow me @jessepet on Twitter. My Facebook page is:!/pages/Jesse-Petersen/246153580904

Shells Chats with author David L. Craddock

When did you decide writing was something you wanted to do?

I've enjoyed writing all my life. I was the guy in school who had to stifle shouts of excitement when the teacher opted to give essay exams instead of multiple choice or some other format. But I didn't seriously consider becoming a writer until college.

Throughout high school and my first two years in college, I was a Computer Science (CS) major. I loved programming and had dabbled in it since I was 10 or 11 years old, coding up my own goofy programs and games (that were so, so awful). Coding was something that, like writing, I would do every day regardless of whether or not I had assignments or tests to write or prepare for. But several bad experiences involving lazy professors who relied on me and other programming-savvy students to run their classes quickly burned me out. I would wake up every day dreading having to program.

During this time, I was taking 18+ credit hours per semester, all of which were CS courses. Along with all those classes, I'd tack on a writing or literature class. Despite my busy schedule, writing papers and reading books were actually relaxing even though they meant extra work on top of my CS workload. One semester I took Young Adult Literature and was assigned to read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I loved the book and decided to write a paper on the series and the outcry it caused in some religious and parent circles. My stance was that the books did not encourage kids to sacrifice goats or any other nonsense, but encouraged them to look forward to reading. (When was the last time you saw hundreds of people queued outside of bookstores?) It was a lot of fun to write and I felt confident when I handed it in.

Several weeks later, the teacher passed back our papers. As she handed each student his or her paper, she said there was one in particular that she absolutely loved, and that she would hand that paper back last and ask the writer to read it aloud. Eventually she'd returned every paper except mine. Realizing what this meant, I accepted my paper with shaky hands and nervously stood to read it. A good writer does not always make for a good speaker, but I fell into a groove and got through it. When I finished, my class applauded and buzzed with positive comments concerning the paper and how it had gotten them thinking as I'd read. I felt so proud--not by the attention I'd received, but because my paper, something I'd had a blast piecing together, had sparked thought and discussion.

After class, I was heading down the hall to my next class when I heard someone call my name behind me. It was my YA Lit professor. She asked me what my major was. I told her it was Computer Science, and she promptly bonked me on the head with the stack of papers she was carrying. "Quit messing around with computers," she said, not unkindly. "You're a writer. You should write."

It was as if someone had turned on a light. Of course I should write, I thought. I loved writing. I should write. Why not? I've written ever since, and hardly a day goes by where I don't look forward to waking up and wrestling with my word processor.

What do you find more interesting about writing short stories?

I decided to write short stories because I'm a "professional" writer (meaning I do it for a paycheck) and often don't have time to take on lengthier projects such as novels because I'm so busy taking on freelance assignments to make sure the bills are paid. It's a great way to make a living, but those assignments require the brunt of my attention out of necessity, leaving me with little time or energy to work on larger projects.

I became aware of a flash fiction challenge the object of which was to write a story adhering to a given theme (in this case, thieves and scoundrels) in 1000 words or less, and decided to enter. Writing my story, "The Master's Lesson," for the challenge was... well, challenging, because I had to develop a plot and characters within three pages, four at most. I couldn't allow myself to get bogged down with only 1000 words to work with. Every word counted and must accomplish something. It took some work, but I chiseled away at the story every day for two weeks until it was just right. I submitted it and was pleased when I learned it would be published.

Besides the publication credit, writing "The Master's Lesson" really helped me hone my writing; the tight word limit forced me to get down to brass tacks. No getting bogged down in florid descriptions, no drawing anything out. I encourage other writers to consider flash fiction (or any form of short story) because working within such a constraining word limit was a great exercise in character building and making sure the story was always moving along.

Where can we find some of these stories?

I provide links to several of my published works--be they short stories, editorials, or books--on my website, Some stories are only available in printed form. "The Master's Lesson" can be found in the Thieves & Scoundrels anthology (ISBN: 1770530045), and "I Lived," another 1000-word story, was published in the Inhuman anthology (ISBN: 177053010X).

In today's world, how important do you feel people need to learn about 'green technology?'

Green technology becomes more important by the day. In many cases the technology is cost prohibitive, but prices are dropping and information is becoming more readily available. Because of this, learning about green technology is easier than ever. There are so many websites and books filled with information. Speaking of which...

Can you tell us about your book Renewable Energy Made Easy?

Renewable Energy Made Easy (REME) is divided into two parts. The first part covers renewable energy such as water, wind, and solar; the second part provides interviews with leaders in renewable energy as well as several hands-on renewable energy projects that readers can complete on their own for little cost.

I decided to include projects because, while books are wonderful, it's usually more difficult to learn something by reading about it than by doing it. Readers can read the first half of REME to understand how photovoltaic arrays and wind turbines and other technologies work. In the second half, they can actually build solar panels and other devices that demonstrate the theories and mechanics learned in the first half of the book, which I feel is more efficient.

You write articles on dealing with the gaming industry and games in particular. With technology the way it is, what do you predict will be the future of gaming consoles?

This is somewhat difficult for me to answer because I haven't covered the gaming scene as closely over the past year or so, so I don't feel entirely qualified to make bold predictions. However, one technology I do see blossoming rapidly (and which I advocate) is digital distribution, the process of downloading software and other content from online sources instead of physical media. Computer games have already largely gone this route with digital services such as Steam and Good Old Games. Being able to download my games from anywhere is much more convenient than carrying around discs.

I also foresee many computer games taking digital distribution one step further by moving to web-based games. id Software's Quake Live, for example, requires no installation, download, or disc to play. Simply visit the website, log in, and play the game directly from your web browser.

Time will tell!

Are there any current projects you are working on you wish to share with us?

Many projects, yes! I'm currently researching and conducting interviews for a nonfiction book that chronicles the rise and fall of Blizzard North, the studio responsible for developing the ultra-successful Diablo and Diablo II games (more information is available on my website); I'm working on roughly four short stories; I've submitted the first entry in a fantasy series to a publisher and am waiting with bated breath to hear their thoughts; and I've always got some freelance project or other on my plate.

It's an exciting time. Busy, but exciting.

Where can people find out more about you?

I invite you and your readers to visit my website, There, you'll find a link to my blog where I detail information on upcoming projects and discuss books, games, and writing.

Shells Chats with author Craig Dilouie

What do you find more challenging, being a technical writer or writing fiction?

Technical writing is the day job for me. One would assume that it's an entirely different animal than fiction writing, and they'd be right. With technical writing, you are simply trying to explain a subject accurately and make it as interesting as possible. But because the topic is fixed and what you are writing is factual, the foundation is already given.

Fiction is more challenging but also more fun. Fiction comes from an exercise in imagination, and there is nothing more cathartic and satisfying. The challenge is in communicating something you have in your head so that somebody else--with a different imagination, experiences, personality--sees either the same thing or something equally compelling, and then considers the experience of reading your work to be pleasurable and memorable. Doing this well is a very hard thing to do and requires extreme talent, which is why the greatest fiction writers are like rock stars to me.

You have written non-fiction books. Do you do as much research for non-fiction stories as fiction?

I spend almost as much time researching my fiction as writing it. For example, THE INFECTION, my new apocalyptic horror novel from Permuted Press, is set in Pittsburgh, so I had to research everything about the city. Part of this entailed "driving" from Pittsburgh into eastern Ohio on the video highway on Google maps. I also found myself researching weapons, how long Molotov cocktails actually burn, how to drive and fire the weapons in a Bradley fighting vehicle, and so on.

TOOTH AND NAIL was even tougher because it was about a military unit, and as I have never served in the military myself, everything had to be researched--military organization, weaponry, radio protocols, formations, small arms tactics and so on. I have been told by former servicemen that the novel is essentially accurate and some of them thought I was former military, which was the most gratifying feedback I've received to date.

This commitment to research is essential to presenting a story that is so realistic it minimizes the reader's suspension of disbelief throughout the story, without testing it. If you do that as a writer you've allowed your reader to immerse themselves in your world, which creates a more memorable and exciting reading experience, while making the monsters that inhabit your world all the more believable and frightening.

What do you find appealing about the apocalyptic horror genre?

I love placing a layer of the extraordinary or unexpected on our everyday world. In my novel THE INFECTION, for example, a competing ecology is thrust upon the earth, one in which humans are the bottom of the food chain, not the top. Drop in some real people facing the fantastic, and you've got the setup for a great story that is exciting and entertaining. Make the fantastic try to do something terrible to those people--the more terrible the better--and you've got horror. Make the fantastic try to do the same terrible thing to everybody at once, and you've got the makings for the end of the world. The result ideally is a story that is believable, in which you can easily imagine yourself, that scares and excites you, and, with the stakes being the survival of the human race, is stirring to the spirit as well as the intellect.

What do you find most challenging about writing a story and the most enjoyable?

The biggest challenge is writing something in such a way that your reader will see the same thing you see in their imagination, with the same feelings that you have about it, or something equally exciting to them. That's how you end up with glowing praise from one person about the fact you included X in your novel and then another reader punishes you with a bad review because you included X in your novel. If as a writer you are getting more glowing praise than punishment, then you are doing well.

With zombie fiction, there are certain elements you have to get right. First, the story should be realistic and believable from the gritty, toxic post-apocalyptic setting to the way people respond psychologically to what is happening to them. Second, it should be about real people in a fantastic situation--a story about people with zombies, not the other way around. Third, there should be some type of innovation that sets the work apart of the rest of the genre.

In TOOTH AND NAIL, for example, the soldiers are not cannon fodder or psycho killers but instead scared kids trying to stay alive as the country they swore to defend collapses around them. Their rifles jam, gun smoke obscures their visibility, they panic, they vomit at seeing so much gore, they communicate by radio, they plan their operations and follow orders with strict rules of engagement, they run out of ammo. In TOOTH AND NAIL, five ordinary people try to survive the end of the world while traveling a ravaged real and psychological landscape. They are the dead living, people who will continue fighting to survive but, having had everything they love taken away from them bloodily, are too damaged to ever be able to return to anything resembling a normal life.

The 'end of the world' scenarios are a popular theme in Horror writing today. If you had to pick one thing to make sure people would know if a situation like that occurred, what would it be?

The basic human survival needs are water, food, shelter and security. They would need to be able to satisfy these needs on a long-term basis. In a zombie apocalypse, the power would go out quickly. Water would then be the biggest problem. A human can't go for more than a few days without water. Sanitation and food preservation would be another problem. If you find a secure place--such as an auto repair garage, where in THE INFECTION the survivors spend a night--and stock it with food and water, you would be able to hold out until your resources began to run out, which would force you out to forage.

In the short term, presumably there would be plenty of resources and a huge security threat, so people would likely cooperate to survive. "I'll share food with you if you stand guard while I sleep." However, in the long term, those resources would gradually become depleted. That means survivors would either have to become nomadic in search of new resources or produce their own, which would be very difficult. Eventually, these survivor groups would begin competing.

Can you tell us about your books Tooth and Nail and The Infection and where to find them?

This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, not with a whimper, but a slaughter. TOOTH AND NAIL (, available in paperback, eBook and audio book at online booksellers everywhere, tells the story of the soldiers who tried to save it. Due to its focus on a military unit, this novel has been described in reviews as BLACKHAWK DOWN meets 28 DAYS LATER. This novel was just very positively reviewed at The Zed Word blog:

The setting of the novel is New York City, where a combat infantry unit, fresh from Iraq, has been redeployed to help maintain order during a pandemic of a deadly flulike virus. A small number of victims of the virus exhibit rabieslike symptoms and become violent but are easily controlled—that is, until their numbers begin to grow exponentially, turning the city into a slaughter house. The soldiers suddenly find themselves surrounded in hostile territory in their own country, fighting hordes of rabid people in a war of extermination. For the boys of Charlie Company, the zombie apocalypse will give new meaning to the proverb WAR IS HELL.

THE INFECTION (, which has just been published by Permuted Press and is now available in paperback and eBook (and soon audio book) at online booksellers everywhere, tells the story of five ordinary people who must pay the price of survival at the end of the world. The novel has been described in early reviews as THE ROAD meets 28 DAYS LATER with a dash of THE MIST. THE INFECTION was recently positively reviewed by The Gore Score:

In THE INFECTION, a mysterious virus suddenly strikes down millions. Three days later, its victims awake with a single purpose: spread the Infection. As the world lurches toward the apocalypse, some of the Infected continue to change, transforming into horrific monsters. In one American city, a small group struggles to survive. Sarge, a tank commander hardened by years of fighting in Afghanistan. Wendy, a cop still fighting for law and order in a lawless land. Ethan, a teacher searching for his lost family. Todd, a high school student who sees second chances in the end of the world. Paul, a minister who wonders why God has forsaken his children. And Anne, their mysterious leader, who holds an almost fanatical hatred for the Infected. Want to get in the mood for the apocalypse? Check out the novel’s video trailer here:

To compare the two in broad strokes, TOOTH AND NAIL has the kind of scope and feel you might find in a war novel, with many characters, less back story and lots of combat scenes, while THE INFECTION concerns itself much more with how a small group of people survive and ultimately cope with their world collapsing around them (plus monsters!). If you like gore, gritty realism, great characters and tons of action, I think you’ll like them both.

Where can people find out more about you?

Fans of apocalyptic horror can find me at, the official website of THE INFECTION, and, the official website of TOOTH AND NAIL. I also welcome people friending up with me at Facebook:!/profile.php?id=100001688886697.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts about apocalyptic horror with your readers!

Words with Jonathan DeCoteau, author of "The Storm World Series"

Can you tell us a little bit about The Storm World Series?

The Storm World Series, comprised of Speaker of the Gods, The Wave Dancer, and Rise of the Stormbearer, is an apocalyptic coming-of-age epic about an ancient Christian order, The Resurrection Men, knights of the end times who’ve plotted for millennia to survive The Maelstrom, a supernatural storm two thousand years in the making that will ultimately transform Earth into Stormworld.

As the novel begins, unsuspecting teen Samuel Johnson holds watch over a mysterious coastal mansion called The House On The Sea, which includes chambers that resemble an ancient ark. When his visionary cousin, John David, arrives for a funeral with mysterious followers, then stays, rebuilding this ark, Samuel fights to solve the mystery of his cousin and rid himself of this apocalyptic gang, only to see the earth dying all around him. Samuel also learns of their ancient prophecy of The Stormbearer, the one who will walk with The Maelstrom and decide who lives and who dies in the final hours. To fulfill the prophecy, Samuel must make a grave choice, one that may shape human history or lead to its destruction.

What's your background with writing?

One small press book, The Naked Earth, which won a few awards, and a published story. I'm still getting started in this game!

Who are your inspirations/influences?

This book had many influences, the greatest of which might've been Dune. It was started so long ago that the whole paranormal craze hadn't even happened yet, so I can't claim any of those authors as great influences, even if admire their work now.

Who was responsible for the cover/book design?

Troy O'Brien, who designed the cover of my last book.

What are you doing in terms of marketing/publicity?

This really is a labor of love. After fifteen years of revising, polishing, and trying for that agent or publisher, I decided to put the book on Kindle for $0.99 for any liked minded reader to enjoy. I'm just trying to put the world out.

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

Only the story of that first big agent I thought I'd landed, who set up the call, only to hang up on me at “Hello.” Funny in a bad way.

What projects do you have planned for the future? 

Hopefully, a vacation.

Is there anything else about you we should know?

The book is only $0.99 and available here!

Shells Chats with author Karen J. Jones

Some authors have stayed away from writing young adult, or even children books at all. You however, have not. How has writing books for the younger generation helped you as a writer and how important do you feel authors need to look at the younger generation of readers out there?

Prior to my role as a science teacher, I had no desire to write or publish books, let alone with children and young adults as the target readership.

One thing that struck me as a teacher and parent was the lack of reading resources available to secondary school children other than those tailored to helping them pass exams; the ‘boring’ text books that they use for lessons and homework. I wanted to provide something that would grab their attention and, hopefully, spark a life-long interest in science, a passion of mine.

I knew I could deliver effective lesson plans as a teacher, but writing a book was an alien notion to me. I was always told scientists lack creativity. I set about proving the cynics wrong, resigned from my job and set about the task of writing a series of forensic-science themed books for a highly critical audience, children. I enrolled and studied Creative Writing and Linguistics courses with the Open University and never looked back. I strongly believe that encouraging children (older children and teens in particular) to read and write outside of the demands of their school exam topics promotes a lifelong habit, hence the majority of my fiction books are suitable for children, young adults and a potentially wider audience.

I undertake school author visits regularly throughout the academic year; something I would encourage all authors to become involved in, if at all possible. The feedback and interaction is usually constructive and highly rewarding in terms – the opportunity to engage with a child’s imagination is priceless, which is why I have also started writing books for very young children.

Can you tell us a bit about your book Deceptive Encounters?

Deceptive Encounters is the first book in a series of forensic science-themed detective stories featuring the character, Alexia Stermont (a crime scene investigator). It supports the National Curriculum for Science at Key stage 3 (age 11-14) and features a glossary of scientific terms so that a wider readership can be accessed.

A little about the background to the book:
The reason for selecting forensic science as a theme stems from an after school club I used to teach at school, aptly named ‘Murder Club’. This was always over-subscribed, to the extent that other after school clubs were cancelled because most of the children (aged 8 – 14 yrs) were keen to learn about the more gory aspects of crime detection instead. I integrated techniques I had learned from my extensive background as an Industrial Research and Development Scientist alongside those that some children had seen on popular TV programmes such as CSI and NCIS and was intrigued by the level of interest shown and appropriate questions they asked. The subject matter had them transfixed, thus the idea for the forensic science themed books was born.

Deceptive Encounters follows the story of two girls, Emma and Lauren, who played truant from school and subsequently found themselves embroiled in a missing person investigation. The reader follows the steps taken by Detective Constable, Steve Turnbull, and Crime Scene Investigator, Alexia Turnbull, following the discovery of a human foot in a lobster pot by the crew of a fishing trawler. Scientific content supporting the National Curriculum is carefully woven into each chapter, along with an anti-drugs and truancy message. This book has proven very popular during school author visits and has been described as “A great read, a young-person’s Patricia Cornwell”.

There are a lot of 'help' type books out there. How do you feel that your 'help' books can reach people and answer some of their questions, and can you tell us a bit about some of the 'help' books you have written?

I have had two ‘help’ books published, both on the theme of how to win competitions. The first of these was ‘Competitive Edge: Prize Winning Secrets’ which I self-published as a limited edition. This received many favourable reviews and quickly sold across the World. I recently secured a contract with a mainstream publisher, Greatest Guides Ltd, to re-write and publish this as a book of help tips. The new book, The Greatest Guide to Winning Competitions’ was launched earlier this year and is selling well.

These books are a collection of the techniques I have developed and used for winning consumer competitions – something I have been a very successful at since childhood. They are suitable for beginners as well as seasoned ‘compers’. Chasing the ‘big prizes’ has always been something that sparks my imagination, so this is my chance to give something back by helping other people to succeed in a hobby that has given me so many years of enjoyment.

You write poetry as well. How do you feel that adds to you as an author?

Poetry comes naturally to me – I use it for relaxation more than anything else. I find it easier to express my sentiments in a concise form. Like many other poets, I go through periods of thinking in rhyme or memorizing events by word association, this actually makes it easier for me to jot my ideas down and expand them at a later date if I wish to.
On other occasions I may reduce a short story that hasn’t worked well into a poem. This requires a significant effort on my part, though I find it useful as an exercise in reducing waffle, since the poetic form can be so unforgiving. I suppose this is one reason why I have been so successful at writing wining slogans for competitions; I can tell a story in less than ten words!

I published my first collection of poems, ‘Chasing Dreams’, last year, mainly to demonstrate that I am capable of holding my own in several genres, which is always useful when I give talks to writers’ groups as well as at schools and colleges. Surprisingly, this has been my best-selling book to date, which is one reason for initiating an annual poetry competition via my imprint, Baskalier publishing.

What do you feel is your best accomplishment as an author?

For me, seeing my very first book, ‘Competitive Edge’, in print, albeit self-published, was probably my proudest moment as an author, especially as I had intended it to be a gift for my father. To then to have it snapped up with the offer of a publishing contract at the London Book Fair with a mainstream publisher within minutes of casually talking to the publisher and presenting a copy of my book (not by appointment) counts as one of my main accomplishments; it proved that my writing was good enough for the marketplace.

Can you tell us a bit about Baskalier Publishing, where we can find it and why you started the company?

Baskalier Publishing is my own imprint, established two years ago. Initially, I intended to use this solely as a traditional self-publishing facility for my own books in order to have a plentiful supply of books to take into schools during my author visits, however, I have now expanded the aim of Baskalier Publishing to encourage other writers from around the globe to write scientific poetry via an annual poetry competition; successful poets will be published in an annual anthology. Submissions from authors are only accepted via the competition or by personal invitation.

Baskalier Publishing focuses primarily on educational fiction for children and young adults, short stories and poetry.
Further details can be found at

In comparing being an author to a publisher, what is the most challenging of the two and what would you suggest to someone just wanting to go into the publishing business?

I find the publishing side of the business far more demanding than being an author, mainly because the responsibility for producing word-perfect text for books that enter the market place lies with me. The financial risk and book promotion tasks are also mine. Thankfully, the majority of my sales are via author visits, so I can be assured of being paid. There is nothing worse than chasing bookshops for payment of ‘sale or return’ invoices. That said, the rewards of being a publisher rather than just self-publishing make the job worthwhile. To publish new work and release it to the world is a humbling experience; once published and sold it is out there forever.
Setting up a publishing business is the easy part; obtaining ISBN numbers, registering each book with Nielsen, editing, proofreading and cover design. The aspects of the business which need more careful thought are distribution, facilities for storing stock, insurance and contracts for other authors. I prefer to limit publishing to my own work and as prizes in the Baskalier Poetry competitions (hence no formal contracts are needed).

Where can people find out more about you?

Please visit my website for further information on me, my books and work in progress: