Tuesday, November 27, 2012

New Novelette Coming Soon

I'll be putting up a new novelette, roughly 10,000 words, for sale on Amazon in the next day or two. I'm also doing a print version through Createspace, which I thought might be cool to give away for contests, etc.

It's called One Crazy Night.

It started with a noise in the attic.

Then the strange footprints appeared on the stairs.

Soon, a young couple will find out just what is hiding in their attic, and it will lead to a night of terror they'll be lucky to survive.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Best Writing Advice I've Read In A While

Perhaps truer words were never spoken, at least in the context of writing advice. Courtesy of E.B. White:

"A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper."

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Updated Cover Art

So I decided to play with the cover art for No Escape. This was my first e-book and I felt an update of the cover was due. I like the new cover and think it's appropriate. A clandestine military unit plays a large role in the book. Plus I just liked the image.

From the book's description page:

It started with an experiment gone wrong...

A ship carrying the military's latest weapon in the war on terror ran aground...

Now it's loose...

Jack Hammond is an ex-Special Forces soldier who has returned from the war. He's looking to take a peaceful island vacation with his family and forget about the horrors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Soon after the Hammonds' arrival on the island, a military ship runs aground. It's carrying the military's latest weapon in the war on terror, bloodthirsty creatures trained to kill terrorists. And now they're loose. Soon bodies begin piling up, and a clandestine military unit arrives on the island to deal with the threat. Jack must battle the creatures and hostile soldiers to get his family off the island before it's too late. Before there's no escape.

A novel of terror from the author of CRUEL WINTER, EVIL HARVEST, and THE DARK ONES.

Pick it up for $2.99 at Amazon

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

A Few Updates

I have one more scene to finish in Forgotten, then I'll let it sit for a week or so before editing begins. I'm about ten pages into writing a novella called Above (working title). It's about a serial killer that hides out in a young couple's attic. It was inspired by the Villisca Axe Murders. I've read accounts where it was believed the killer hid in the house and waited for the family to go to sleep. I found that idea pretty creepy, and decided to do my own take on the scenario.

In December, I'll turn my attention to writing the final book of The Dead Land Trilogy.

Tonight's Survivor and Criminal Minds night in our house. The fam is requesting Paninis for dinner. Good food on a cold night. While we watch TV, I'll be typing away on the laptop.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Corrupting The Youth of America

The other day, I spent my morning molding impressionable young minds at one of our local high schools. A good friend of mine is an English teacher, and twice a year I speak to his classes about writing. The kids in his classes are always funny, smart, and observant.

I usually have a favorite question. This year it was: "Do you feel like a psychopath when you write?" My immediate reaction was to laugh. Horror writers have that reputation. As if we have a basement full of corpses. That's not true. They're really in the attic.

I choose topics and stories that get under my skin. Write scenes that disturb me, bother me. Hopefully that creates the same reaction in the reader. And the greater and more disturbing the evil, the greater the triumph when the good guys win in the end (at least with some of my endings).

A few of the kids always want to be writers. They ask for my best advice. I always tell them to write a lot and read a lot. Sitting down and putting words on the page is the only way I know to become a writer. A thousand words per day nets you a first draft in two or three months.

I'm going back next week to talk to another class. We'll see if I get the psychopath question again.  In the meantime, I'll practice my dead-eyed stare and creepy laugh.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Excerpt from Forgotten - Chapter Two

So far I've posted the Prologue and Chapter One from my work-in-progress, Forgotten. As I write this blog post, the family and I are re-watching some of The Walking Dead episodes from Season One. Poor, stupid Merle still gets left on the roof.

Here's the excerpt. It's uncorrected copy. Please don't redistribute. Copyright 2012 Anthony Izzo.

Chapter Two
Jess Armstrong pulled her Dodge Durango into a slanted parking slot at the Forgotten Diner. It was a low-slung white building. The lights inside glowed bright, given the restaurant the qualities of a beacon in the dark night. It was along the town's main drag and she got out of the Durango and walked inside. 
The counters continued with the theme of gleaming white. She'd expected to inhalde the aromas of meatloaf and fresh coffee, but she smelled nothing of the sort. The front counter was empty, and there were a dozen red vinyl stools lined up. She had driven all night to get here and her stomach ached from hunger. There was a piece of pie in a clear glass pie case sitting on the counter. That and a cup of coffee would do it.
She took a seat at the counter. A greasy menu was tucked between two napkin holders on the counter. She took it out and looked over it. If the grill wasn't closed, a burger actually sounded good, something with bacon and blue cheese that wouldn't help her abs one bit.
She'd come here working a case. A private investigator, she'd been hired to track down a missing college student, a kid named Martin Vega. Two weeks ago, she'd gotten a call from a tearful woman asking for a meeting. She'd agreed to meet with Emily Vega and discuss the case.
Her office was in an old feed mill that had been converted into offices. The heavy beams and ductwork had been left after the renovation, giving the building an industrial feel. Emily Vega entered Jess' office, a slim Latino woman in a down vest and jeans. Her eyes were red-rimmed and she carried a crumpled tissue in her hand.
“Are you good at finding missing persons?” Vega asked.
“I've done it before,” Jess said, taking out a yellow legal pad and gel pen. “Who are you looking to find.”
“My son.”
“What's his name?”
“Martin. He's a student at The University of Buffalo. He called and told me he was taking a break from college. He wanted to be a photographer,” she said, wiping her nose with the tissue. “He liked to photograph abandoned places.”
“So he cut class to go take pictures?”
“That's right.”
“When's the last time you heard from Martin?”
“Three days ago. He called from a town called Forgotten. It's in Montana.”
“A long way from home,” Jess said, noting the name of the town. “What did he say?”
“He was going into an abandoned mining town to take pictures.”
“How do you know he's gone missing?”
She shifted in the chair, reached in her pocket, and took out a cell phone. She flipped it open and punched in a code. Then she put it on speaker.
A young man's voice said:
“Mom, there's someone after me. I'm up in the mountains. I'm lost. I called the cops up here and they told me to stop bothering them. Call for help if you get this.”
“Did you call the police up there.”
She folded the phone back up and stuck it in her pocket. “They said there was nothing they could do. The local police said there wasn't enough to make them think he was missing.”
“So you came to me.”
“Mrs. Vega, I'm sorry.”
“Will you do it?”
“I get half my fee up front. The other half when I find him.”
“So you'll find him?” she asked.
“I'll do my best.”
So here she was, halfway across the country in Big Sky Country, hoping to find a college kid who decided to blow off school. Before she looked for Martin Vega, she needed something to eat. “Hello?”
No answer came from the diner, so she went behind the counter and entered the kitchen. The counters were spotless and free of food. It didn't have that lingering greasy smell that seemed to linger in every diner. “Anybody?”
A door slammed shut in another part of the kitchen and a gaunt kid in white cook's clothes appeared. His t-shirt hung on his bony frame. “Customers aren't allowed in the kitchen.”
“I was looking for a waitress.”
“We're closed.”
“The sign said open. Plus your lights are on.”
“Doesn't matter. We're closed. Now leave.”
“I've come a long way. How's about a piece of pie out there?”
“It's no good. I need to throw it out.”
“I'll buy it.”
“Do I need to call the Sheriff? I said we're closed, you dumb bitch.”
Jess felt her temples start to throb. At thirty-one, she didn't have high blood pressure, but she could feel her blood start to cook. It was apparent she wasn't getting a meal. “So much for small-town hospitality.”
She left the kitchen, feeling the kid's gaze on the back of her neck. As she moved through the diner, she was half-tempted to grab the piece of pie, but she didn't. Might need the local law to cooperate. As she climbed into the Durango, the kid was standing in the doorway of the diner, his stare boring into Jess. If looks could've killed, she would be pushing up daisies.

She arrived at the Three Pines lodge. The lodge was constructed of logs, a main building in the center and two wings jutting off to each side. A stuffed grizzly bear on hind legs stood outside the door. After getting her bag from the rear of the Durango and making sure her shoulder rig was concealed, she went inside. Looking around, she saw the walls were lined with the heads mounted animals. Deer. Elk. The head of another bear. Maybe it was the other bear's relative.
A red-haired woman stood at the front desk, which was constructed of a polished piece of rough wood built on top of logs. She was typing something on a keyboard.
“I have a reservation,” Jess said.
Jess told her. The woman checked her in, swiping her credit card. She gave Jess a room key. “Two eighteen. I'm sure you'll find it.”
“Thanks for the hospitality. Is there a restaurant in the lodge?”
“There is. It's closed. If you're hungry, there's vending machines over there.”
“Doritios for dinner. I've had worse,” she said, gathering her bag and key. She stopped at the vending machine and purchased a package of Oreos and a bag of chips. Then she went up to her room, intent on having the gourmet dinner provided by the Lodge.

After stumbling around in the woods, Ray found his way back to their campsite. The fire had died down to a dull orange. The cold bit through his clothes and his body ached from the tumble down the hill. He didn't know what to do, so he could at least gather more wood for a fire.
He threw some more wood on the fire, but it only smouldered, refusing to light. He scanned the woods, looking for any sign of Pete. There was only darkness.
He didn't know what he'd do if he lost the boy. Pete had grown into a good young man. Gone were the days when he idolized Ray, when the simple act of Ray fixing a broken toy truck was deemed heroic. But they still had moments: like going to the occasional Buffalo Bills' game, the two of them grilling steaks in the lot before kickoff. It made his chest ache to think Pete might be gone.
He cursed himself for coming back to the campsite. Should be out looking for Pete. Ann Marie's voice echoed in his head, his wife sometimes exhibiting an almost casual cruelty: Maybe someday you'll find your spine, Ray. He shouldered his pack. If he died out there, at least he would die searching for Pete.
Heading in the direction of the footprints, he managed to find the trail. They certainly were fucking strange. Some type of animal. He continued into the pines, trying to follow the general path of where the footprints might have gone. He was rewarded by finding snapped brush and branches, meaning something large had come through.
After moving through the woods, the moonlight his only companion, he spied a shiny object on the ground and hunkered down: it was Pete's pocket knife.
There was no blood on it, and he found that somewhat comforting.
He continued to follow the footprints as they wound through the broken branches left by Pete's abductor.
After travelling another couple hundred yards, he came to a clearing. In the clearing was a domed structure constructed of sticks and leaves. It stood around ten feet high and gave the impression of a makeshift shelter.
Circling around it, Ray listened to determine if anyone was inside. There was an opening tall enough to admit a man of seven feet tall. He took out Pete's pocket knife and clicked the blade open, thinking some weapon was better than nothing.
The same sour, musky smell that he noticed before Pete's abduction came from the doorway of the thatched structure. Ray crept inside, the ground spongy under his feet.
He squinted to see, the darkness near total. He didn't hear anyone inside. “Pete?”
This place was empty. But who the hell built it?
As he turned to go, he stepped on something squishy and wet. He kicked at the unseen object and it clung to his foot and he stumbled out the door. He managed to unstick the mess from his shoe, and in the moonlight he got a better look at it: pinkish gray and slicked with blood. The rest of it trailed inside the shelter and he realized it was a loop of entrails.
He fell to his knees and fought the urge to vomit. Jesus, please don't let that be Pete.
Stomach churning, he stood. His hands shook and he looked at the viscera on the ground at his feet. What if Pete's clothes were inside? There was only one way to tell.
He ducked back into the shelter and felt around, crawling back and forth on the ground. He found no clothes but did manage to stick his finger in something. He was glad it was dark.
When he climbed out of the shelter, he wiped his hands on some leaves. “Maybe it's from an animal.”
He continued through the woods, following the broken branches until he came to a cliff. From down below came the gurgle of water. Ray looked at the ground and saw the footprints ended at the cliff. He peered over the edge and saw the cliff went down to the riverbed. There were a series of rock shelves on the way down. It was possible someone could climb down, resting on each shelf.
The footprints definitely ended here.
The first shelf was about twenty feet down and he figured it was the only route the abductor could have taken. He lowered himself, belly pressed against the rocks. He found some footing and managed to climb down to the first shelf, sweating and panting.
He searched the rocky shelf for any sign of Pete but found nothing.
After another ten minutes of climbing, he reached the next shelf down. This time he found Pete's brown leather wallet. Still no blood on it, which he took as a good sign.
Climbing to the floor of the ravine, with resting, took him another forty-five minutes, and when he reached the bottom, he was minus half the nail on his right fingernail. He sucked on the wounded nail as if it would help but was rewarded only with the tastes of blood and dirt.
His throat felt as if he'd sucked dirt through a straw and swallowed. The water was long gone.
He knelt at the riverbank, scooped up some water, and swished it in his mouth. Then he spit it out, the water silty and brackish.
After searching the riverbank, he found the footprints. They headed down river and he follwed them for another quarter mile.
As he slogged along the riverbank, the hairs on his neck prickled. He got a tight feeling in his guts, like he might let loose in his drawers. Fear. Someone watching him.
As a shriek echoed through the woods, he took out the pocketknife.  

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Forgotten Chapter One - Excerpt

Here's an excerpt of my work-in-progress, Forgotten. I had previously posted the prologue. This is Chapter One. This is uncorrected copy. Please do not redistribute. Copyright 2012 Anthony Izzo.

Forgotten By Anthony Izzo

Chapter One

The day had started off full of promise, just Ray and his son hiking in the mountains. Seeing the West, the Big Sky country. They had started off at eleven this morning, stopped to eat turkey subs near a clear blue stream, the sun pleasantly warming their faces. They had headed further into the hills and it wasn't until around three o'clock that Ray realized they were lost. He hadn't told Pete, who at fifteen, was up for anything and would've accused his old man of being a worry wart.
Now it was four o'clock and being fall it meant dark would be coming soon. The shadows had started to lengthen and Ray felt a tiny bit of panic start to well up inside him. Being lost in the mountains with very little survival gear didn't appeal to him.
They had been heading downhill, Pete up ahead of Ray. The air had grown chilly. They were on a narrow trail flanked by scrub pines, the smell of the trees thick in the air. “Hold up Pete.”
Pete, tall and lanky and looking nothing like the little boy Ray rembered, turned. He gave Ray a goofy grin. “We're lost, aren't we?”
“How'd you know?”
“We've just sort of been wandering,” he said, and adjusted his back pack.
“I think the stream is back that way. Where we had lunch,” Ray said, unsure.
“I don't think so, Dad.”
Ray took a compass from his pocket, fiddled with it. He couldn't figure the damned thing out and put it away after a moment. He didn't want to admit to himself that he had no damned business going this deep into the wilderness without help. They had spent the first few nights of their trip in a little tourist town called Forgotten. It was named after an abandoned mining town a few miles from the tourist place. They had been staying at a place called the Three Pines Lodge and had set out on a hike. He hadn't told the clerk at Three Pines about their trip, for he'd expected to be back that same day.
Seeing a log, he sat down. His head swam. It wasn't just him up here. He had Pete to worry about. “Hold up.”
“I'm not going anywhere.”
It seemed as if the shadows had crept out of the woods. As they had descended the trail, Ray had heard birds chirping on a regular basis, but now he heard none. “Dammit. Maybe we should backtrack.”
“How about we find a spot to set up camp? We hunker down for tonight and find our way down in the daylight.”
“Hold on. I'm an idiot,” Ray said, reaching into his pocket and taking out his cell phone. He had the phone number for the Lodge in his contacts. They'd planned this vacation for months, and he'd had to make several calls to the Lodge. “Help is on the way.”
He brought up the Lodge on the contacts menu and hit Call. Prayed for a signal up in the mountains. The phone rang three times and a female voice answered. “Three Pines Lodge. Lisa speaking.”
Lisa. Good. That was the clerk they'd seen before leaving. She would remember them. “Lisa. My name is Ray Hansen. I'm staying in room three-fifteen. Look, my son and I are lost up in the mountains and I was hoping you could call for help.”
“Let me look you up in the computer,” she said.
“I don't see why that matters,” Ray said.
“I'll determine that, sir,” she said, voice growing cold.
He could hear her fingers tapping a keyboard. “Sir, I'm afraid I don't show you in our system.”
“How can I not be in our system? You rented me a room. I talked to you this morning.”
“I'm afraid I don't remember.”
Ray felt his face start to flush with anger. “Is this a joke?”
“Sir, I wonder if you're the one joking. You're wasting my time.”
“Look, can you please call the local authorities. It's getting dark up here.”
“You shouldn't have gone up there.”
Lisa repeated, “You shouldn't have gone up there. You belong to the mountain now.”
The connection ended and he tried to dial again but the phone rang for nearly a minute with no answer. He felt like throwing the cell phone against a tree. He didn't let his anger take over and shoved it in his pocket instead.
“What happened?” Pete said.
“She acted like she didn't know me.”
“You dialed the right number?”
“No Pete, I called the damned Dairy Queen in town. What do you think?”
Pete's eyebrows knitted together in a frown. “Don't have to get pissy about it.”
“I'm sorry. Of course I dialed the right number.”
“So now what?” Pete asked.
“We'll find a spot and camp for the night.”

They hiked down the mountain until it had grown almost too dark to see. It had been blind luck that they'd found a small shelf ledge with an overhanging rock. They would be able to use it for shelter. They set their packs underneath and sat down. Ray had a few granola bars and bottled water in his pack and they downed the granola bars and half the water.
They were both wearing long sleeves, but Ray's was thin flannel and he was already shivering. One thing he did have was flint, and they were able to gather enough kindling and wood. After setting up a fire teepee, Ray got the flint to spark and got a fire going. Thank goodness for small favors. “Not exactly the Hilton, but it'll do for the night.”
“We'll survive. It's been a great trip.”
“You mean that?” Ray asked.
“I mean it. It's been cool.”
Ray had suggested the trip after Ann Marie had decided she wanted to start bar-hopping at forty-three. She'd been hanging out with a crew of single people, all of them under thirty. Several of them male. Most nights she wasn't home anymore and he wondered what had become of the woman who used to spend her nights knitting and watching Seinfeld re-runs with him. Pete needed a mom. Ray needed a wife. Right now, Ann Marie was being neither. “I'm glad. I'm having a good time, too. Even if we're lost.”
Pete waved it off. “We'll be fine.”
The fire began to crackle and he felt a pleasant warmth on his face. Maybe things would be okay, after all.

The fire had died down to embers and Ray had curled himself into a ball, a stone digging into his side. He was using his pack as a pillow and a huge crick had formed in his neck. Ray checked his watch. Two ten a.m. He glanced at Jake, who was snoring, and he envied his son's ability to sleep.
“Best build up the fire,” Ray said to himself.
He crawled out from under the rock shelf, stood up, and stretched. His back gave a crack and he rolled his neck, attempting to get out the mess of knots that had formed in the muscle. Sticking to the edges of their campsite, he gathered up wood. He was about to go back and place it on the fire when he heard branches snapping in the darkness.
He shrugged it off as a deer and continued gathering wood. As he approached the dying fire, he heard the rustling noises coming closer. Critch-Crunch. It sounded like someone on two legs. Not an animal. Icicles seemed to form on his spine. He wanted to curl back up under the rock shelf and wait for the unseen thing in the woods to go away.
Instead of curling up, he nudged Pete, who woke up. In a whisper, he said: “There's something in the woods.”
“What is it?”
“I don't know. Sounds like a person.”
“Who the hell would be up here?” Pete said.
“Keep quiet.”
Ray glanced at the fire and wished for the first time that the fire had gone out and had not attracted the unseen person in the woods. Branches snapped and leaves crackled. A sour, pungent smell filled the air, and Ray worried that it was a grizzly bear. They wouldn't stand a chance if a bear wanted to take them.
Ray spied a large stick on the ground near the fire. Ten feet away. Four inches in diameter, it appeared solid, and although it wouldn't be a perfect weapon, it was better than nothing. Still crouched, he moved out of the rock shelf and reached for the stick.
Pete cried out from behind him and he saw something massive and dark tear from the woods and snatch up Pete. It had to be eight fucking feet tall. Moved like a panther. Pete's cries echoed from the darkness. Ray scrambled to his feet and blindly ran after Pete, stumbling into the woods.
He got about twenty yards and realized Pete's abductor had disappeared. But how was that possible? He had given chase right away and didn't think it possible for the kidnapper to disappear that fast. Glancing around, all he saw was the shadows.
He strained to listen and heard branches crunching somewhere in the distance. It was vaguely to his right and he took off in that direction. Had to find Pete, no matter what.
Soon he had traveled a few hundred yards and it didn't take long before he was lost. Turning, he tried to locate the glow of the fire, but saw nothing. He stopped and listened, but heard nothing. Taking a chance, he called Pete's name, but no answer came.
He moved where he thought their campsite would be located and as he slipped between two tall trees, the ground gave out, as did his footing. Pitching forward, he lost his balance and was aware of skidding down a hill. Ray clawed the dirt on the way down, but he couldn't grab hold and his slide down the steep hill continued. He rolled twice before landing at the bottom, a stinking puddle soaking his shirt.
Getting to his feet, he felt like he'd taken a beating. His back ached and he'd scraped his elbows and knees. His shirt had ripped at the elbow, and his jeans had torn at the knees. He looked up at the hill and determined it too steep to climb. He had to get help. Someone to help locate Pete.
What the Hell had taken him? It was big. He saw that much. But it had moved too quickly for him to get a good look. He didn't even know what he'd tell the cops.
He picked a direction and started walking. Part of him wanted to scream. The other part wanted to cry, as he'd utterly failed Pete.
Five minutes after he started walking, a high-pitched wail echoed through the night.

The wailing noise came from the top of the hill, where Ray had tumbled. Pete had to be up there. He began to scramble up the hill, legs aching. He peered upward and was aware of someone standing at the top of the hill, and it had to be seven feet tall. He flattened himself against the ground and crawled behind a medium-sized boulder.
The breeze blew, bringing with it the scent of something rotten and dead. He glanced up again and saw the figure move away. His heart felt as if it might explode in his chest, and then Doctor Matthews would be right, the prick. He'd been telling Ray to lose weight for years.
It took him fifteen minutes, but he climbed to the top of the hill. When he reached the top, his fingers were bleeding from clawing roots and rocks. His legs burned from lactic acid buildup in the muscles, as if he'd just done a thousand squats. He looked around but so no sign of the abductor. The smell still hung in the air, gagging him.
He looked down and saw evidence of the abductor. A three-toed footprint nearly eighteen inches long. It appeared there were claws jutting from the toes.
A series of the strange footprints continued across the ground and then disappeared. He followed them and discovered the just stopped. Gone. Like Pete.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Updates and The Writer's Toolkit

I have about twenty to thirty thousand words left to write on the current novel. It's called Forgotten. It involves some flesh-eating mutants, messed-up townspeople, and a vacation spot you might regret visiting. Look for a late October or early November release.

I've recently gotten hooked on Breaking Bad. Going back and starting the series from Season One on Netflix. Outstanding performances and storytelling so far.

Also been thinking about writing on the go and carrying a writer's "toolkit."

I carry mine in an Army Engineer's bag purchased at the surplus store. Here's what I've got in mine:


Multiple notebooks

Multiple pens (I like the Sharpie-style pens)

Kindle (if you're writing, you need to be reading, as well)

Sketchpad and pencil kit (even if you don't consider yourself artistic, you can always sketch out diagrams of fictional towns, buildings, etc. to keep things straight)

Index cards (for plotting, storyboarding)

As I've posted before, be ready to grab those extra moments in waiting rooms and such.  Words have a habit of piling up over time. Even if you spend a few minutes outlining or making story notes, it's time well spent.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sneak Peak of Forgotten

Getting back on track with writing. My oldest son was in the hospital last week with a bout of gastritis. Hats off to the nurses at Children's Hospital of Buffalo for the great care they gave him.

I'm about halfway done with Forgotten, the latest novel. I'm shooting for a late October/early November release. Once Forgotten is out, I'll write the third Dead Land book and finish up the trilogy.

In the meantime, here's a snipped from Forgotten. It's from my first draft and should be considered uncorrected copy.

Excerpt from Forgotten. Copyright 2012 Anthony Izzo

Griggs had gotten the call from dispatch: report of a possible intruder out on Pine Top Road, please investigate. Apparently someone's dog had started going crazy and the owner had seen someone out by their shed.
He'd been Sheriff in the town of Forgotten for fifteen years and calls like this were far and few between. It was mostly peaceful. They got a lot of tourists who came to get a taste of Big Sky Country and the mountain air.
He pulled the Crown Vic up to the house, a brick ranch with white trim around the windows. It was the beginning of October, and the family had placed a trio of pumpkins and a dried cornstalk on their porch.
Griggs radioed that he was on the scene and got out of the cruiser. Once at the front door, he rang the bell and a middle-aged couple in matching white robes opened the door. The man was balding and his belly strained the belt on the robe. The woman was pretty, even with some crow's feet around her eyes.
“Officer, we're glad you're here.”
“Sheriff. We got the complaint about an intruder?”
“Yes, come in.”
Griggs stepped into the living room, where a girl of about nine slept on the couch.
“You're Mr. Hardin?” Griggs asked.
“Eric. This is my wife Theresa.”
Theresa said, “Shadow, our German Shepherd, started going nuts. I had just let him out. When I went to see what he was barking about, I saw a large man in the woods.”
“What happened after you saw him?”
“He slipped back into the woods.”
“Okay. Stay here and I'll go investigate.”
Shadow came bounding into the room, gave a hearty bark, and sat at Theresa's feet. His ears went back and he began to whine. The Shepherd attempted to bury it's head in Theresa's leg. Some watch dog. Something must have spooked him.
“Is he normally timid?” Griggs asked.
Eric said, “Usually he's fearless. Something got him scared.”
“All right. Where did you see the intruder exactly?”
“Out by the shed. Back of the property,” Eric said.
“Stay here. I'll go around and have a look,” Griggs said, taking a flashlight from his belt.
He rounded the house and started down the driveway. The rotten-sweet smell of garbage came from trash cans left by the side of the house. A girl's bike with tassles on the handlebar grips had been left on its side.
The yard contained a patio near the sliding glass door, and a table and chairs had been wrapped in a blue tarp, stored for the winter. He saw the shed, its white siding illuminated in the moonlight.
He shined his light on the shed and then the woods beyond. The breeze picked up, causing the pines to sway. Something tipped over and banged. He shined the light and saw it was a spade that had been leaning against the shed.
Moving forward, he swept the light back and forth. He kept his other hand on the Glock. The old-timers in town, the men that hung around the diner and drank endless cups of coffee, spoke of strange things happening up in the mountains. Some of them he believed. Some he didn't. No doubt these stories fed the imagination of the homeowners.
He drew closer to the shed and was beginning to think the dog had been barking at shadows.
A pile of pressure-treated lumber lay on the ground behind the shed. He checked the ground and saw no footprints. The shed had two front windows and he peered in both with the windows. After determining there was no intruder in the shed, he was ready to head back to the house.
A branch snapped, sounding like a whipcrack. It had come from the woods.
He crept to the edge of the woods. The beam only went so far before it was devoured by the shadows.
“Police. Come out,” he said, drawing his Glock. He'd only fired it on the range. Firing on a person was completely different.
Another branch snapped, this one sounding like a gunshot.
Something walked between two trees. Its head brushed a branch that had to be seven feet off the ground. His heartbeat began to pick up and he took a deep breath to steady himself. The huge man appeared to be dresed in rags. A huge rock or club hung from one hand. The head was malformed, as if someone had squished a piece of clay into a nightmare form.
“Police,” he said, but the giant paid him no attention and bounded into the woods, branches crackling as it went. The legends spun in diners just might be true.
He backed away from the woods, sweeping the Glock back and forth in case the intruder returned. It wasn't until he got within ten yards of the house that he turned his back on the woods.
He leaned against the side of the house and let out a huge breath. If he told the family what he'd seen, they'd never believe it. Something less-than-human trolling in the woods.
Once his hands had stopped shaking, he holstered the Glock. Then he went back to the front door and rang the bell.
Eric came to the door, his face hopeful. The bathrobe had come open, revealing coarse black chest hair.
“Find anything?” Eric asked.
“Just some broken branches. I think your culprit was probably a deer.”
Eric let out a huge sigh. “Thank you. We were so startled we brought our daughter to sleep downstairs. Shadow never gets upset. I'm sorry we wasted your time.”
“All part of my job,” Griggs said. “Call if there's any other trouble.”

One Week Later
Josh Elliott was aware of the men watching him. He could feel their gazes searing into the back of his neck like a branding iron. He had no beef with them. Hadn't exchanged words or dirty looks, but still he felt them staring.
Seated at the bar in the Forgotten Pub, he was working on a brunette in a low-cut mauve sweater. She had freckles on her cleavage. Hair was a little too big and out of style, but he could live with that. Liked the way she threw her head back and laughed like she didn't give a shit who heard. And she had approached him. Her name was Jamie.
She was a nice surprise. He'd only stopped in Forgotten for a few nights as part of his road trip. He'd graduated with a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Buffalo but was in no hurry to get a job. Figured he'd see the country. Center himself before settling into a desk job for the next forty years. A modern-day Kerouac.
“You want another beer?” Jamie said.
“Why not?” he said. His head spun and he felt a little disconnected from the noise in the bar. But his gaze kept going back to her chest. He had a chance with her. Right?
She ordered him another Stone IPA. There were five empties in front of him. Shit, had he downed those since meeting Jamie?
She raised her hand and the barkeep came over, set down a beer, and popped the top with an opener. Jamie continued working on a vodka and cranberry.
“So how long are you staying in Forgotten?” she asked.
“I told you until this Saturday. Going hiking tomorrow.”
“I have a place around the corner. Wanna go?”
“You keep looking at my chest.”
“That's right.”
“You like what you see?”
“That's a silly question,” Josh said.
“Come on,” she said, and held out her hand.
He took it, her skin smooth and cool on his. She led, her Guess jeans hugging all the curves. From the corner of his eye, he saw the men who'd been watching get up and follow. There were three of them, dressed in denim and sheepskin jackets.
“I think those guys are following us.”
“Don't worry about 'em,” Jamie said, leading him into the cool air.
She stepped onto the sidewalk and led him to a Range Rover parked at the sidewalk.
“Hop in.”
He got in, the interior smelling of cigarettes and heavy perfume. She got in the driver's seat and slid her hand around the back of his head. She pulled him close and kissed him hard, tounge flicking in his mouth. She tasted of vodka and cigarettes, but still his cock grew hard. The cigarette taste didn't matter. It had been a month since he'd banged his buddy's sister in a bar bathroom. He was ready to go.
He kissed her back, slipped a hand up and squeezed her breast. She moaned.
A moment later he felt something hard dig into his belly. She pushed him away and he looked down. A silver revolver. Her finger on the trigger. “What are you doing?”
“That's a nice gold watch you have, Josh,” she said, giving a smile that could charm the devil.
“You're robbing me?”
“No. This is something much worse.”
The car door was ripped open and rough hands pulled him from the car. He banged his ankle on the curb and pain shot up his leg. Josh flailed, looked around. His assailants were the men who'd been watching from the bar and he realized he'd been set up.
He got his arm free and blasted one of them in a face, a big bastard with a full blonde beard. The guy's head snapped back but it didn't really move the guy. He countered with a right hook that caused Josh's vision to dim. Knees buckling, he felt himself slinking to the ground.
As he fell to his knees he saw Jamie coming around the Range Rover. She tucked the revolver into her purse and knelt in front of him. “You didn't really think you had a chance with me, did you?”
A gruff voice said, “Get him up.”
They hauled him to his feet. Jaw aching, Josh looked around for any sign of someone who might help. The streets were bare. He could hear muted country music coming from the juke inside the pub and the low murmur of the bar crowd. But the streets were empty and there was no one to help.
They dragged him to the Range Rover. Jamie opened the passenger door and they shoved him inside. The big blond guy got in the driver's seat. Jamie and the other two men piled in back. He heard something being unzipped and then felt the cold barrel of the revolver against the back of his neck.
“Fucking move and I'll spatter you all over the front seat,” Jamie said.
They pulled away from the curb, drove down the street, and made several turns, winding through side streets. They ended up on a road flanked by pines. “Where are you taking me.”
“Why would we tell you?” Jamie said.
They had to be taking him to the woods. And that would be the last of anyone saw of him. From the back seat he heard one of them talking on a cell phone. The man's voice was low, but Josh made out something about being on route. The man ended the call almost as soon as it had began.
The Range Rover continued along the road until it began to rise into the hils. They made another quick turn and they came to a driveway marked by a sign that said Hospital.
As they pulled up the driveway he saw a monstrous brick building that looked like it could've doubled as a medieval fortress. A series of turrets and pointed spires rose against the sky. The place had to have a thousand windows that gleamed like malevolent eyes.
“Why are you taking me to the hospital?” Josh asked.
“You'll see,” Jamie said.

They stopped the Range Rover in a roundabout near the hospital's front steps. There were twin concrete gargoyles flanking the steps, each with a sneer on their stone faces. Jamie got out behind him, opened his door, and held the revolver at her side. The other men got out and surrounded Josh.
“Up the steps and not a word.”
Jamie slipped behind him, digging the revolver into his kidney. One of the men went up the steps and opened the door. The other two gripped Josh's arm, their fingers digging into his flesh.
Inside, a faded checkerboard floor done in brown and white stretched out ahead of him. A circular desk took up a large portion of the lobby. To the left and right were a series of double doors. He saw a slim but muscular cop standing at the desk and breathed a sigh of relief. All he had to do was signal the cop and this would be over.
The cop approached. The name badge on his uniform read Griggs. He bore a flat expression on his face. He placed his hands on hips and looked Josh up and down.
“Officer, I'm glad to see you.”
“Shut up,” Griggs said.
“But these people...”
Before he could get the rest of the words out, Griggs slammed a fist into Josh's belly. He doubled over, stomach nearly heaving. The men pulled him back to his feet. He saw a set of double doors open and a nurse in pale scrubs and a doctor in a white coat approached with a gurney.
“What the fuck is going on!” Josh said.
Griggs turned to the doctor and said, “You ready for him?”
The doctor drew closer, hands in the pockets of the lab coat. He looked at Josh with a counterfeit smile. Josh started to flail, but the crushing grip on his arms only intensifed. Someone kicked him behind the knee and his leg buckled. They forced him to the ground, pinned his head down. He saw the doctor's polished loafers. Saw him hunker down. His sleeve was forced up and he felt the needle prick his arm.
They held him down for a few more moments until a warm feeling overtook him and soon he felt as if he were floating in liquid. His limbs got heavy and he felt incredibly relaxed.
“Get him on the gurney,” a voice said.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Wildfire Now Available

Thought I'd make it official and announce on the blog that Wildfire, Book Two of The Dead Land Trilogy is now available for Kindle. Nook and Kobo versions will follow in the next few weeks. Wildfire picks up where Infected left off. The survivors of the zombie outbreak in Anderson continue to fight the growing hordes as the military struggles to contain the virus. It's fast-paced zombie mayhem and a lot of fun (I hope).

I'm taking a break from the trilogy and writing another horror novel in between. Book Three will be out December/January. Thanks to everyone who's purchased it so far.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Chapter One of Wildfire

Thought I'd post the first chapter of Wildfire (Book Two of The Dead Land Trilogy). To put it in context, Maria Gilardo, a nurse at St. Mary's Hospital, has lived through the first night of the zombie outbreak that tore through the hospital. She's trying to get home to see Jake, her son.

Wildfire will be available for Kindle and Nook within the next two weeks. Until then, I hope you enjoy this preview chapter.

Chapter One

Maria Gilardo crouched by the hospital's side entrance. Across the street was the six-story parking garage. She would have to steel herself and make a run for the garage. She was beginning to think herself foolish for leaving Emma and the others, but her first priority was Jake. She wanted to hear his voice. That slight crack that entered into it once and a while. Calling Jake right now wasn't possible. Her cell phone was in the Honda and she didn't dare linger in the hospital to use the phone.

He was a smart boy. Maria made him lock the doors when she wasn't home. He kept a Louisville Slugger and a hunting knife that had been his father's stashed in his bedroom. The knife didn't thrill her, but Jake was a good kid and she trusted him not to use it unless someone was busting the door down.

Now, she scanned the strip of road that separated the parking garage from St. Mary's main building. There was no sign of any freaks. With a hitch in her belly, she sprinted for the parking garage. She reached it to find the glass attendant's booth empty. The yellow arm that protected the entrance was raised.

She had parked on the fifth level. Maria went to the elevator, hit the button, and waited for the doors to open. Multiple times she thought she heard footsteps on the concrete. The doors opened and the faint odor of urine wafted out.

She took the elevator to the fifth level and got out. The Honda was parked at the end of the first row. The wind whipped through the garage, blowing a dirty newspaper across her path. There were ten cars left in the row. Maria guessed some of the staff had made it to their cars and taken off.

She reached the Honda and dug into her pocket. Pulling out the keys, her hand shook. She dropped them and they clattered on the ground. She bent down and picked them up. That's when she heard the sound, a soft scraping on the concrete.

She crept to the rear bumper and peered down the row. It was the ramp attendant. His shirt was painted with blood and the knees were torn out of his pants. He stopped, sniffed the air. As she started to back toward the driver's side door, the attendant saw her. He broke into a run, arms pinwheeling. Dammit he was fast.

Scrambling to get the keys in the lock, she saw the attendant closing. There was no time to get the key in the lock, so she flattened out and slipped under the car. A moment later she saw the dark-skinned man with the egg-white eyes peer under the car. The bastard looked like he was grinning. He reached for Maria and she slapped his hand away.

He was flat on the ground, straining to reach. Maria inched away. The undead attendant pressed closer, attempting to squeeze under the Honda.

Maria remembered a tip from a women's self defense course the Sheriff's office had put on at the hospital. She gripped the Honda's key, point out between her knuckles. With it, you could go for an attacker's eye. The zombie wedged itself under the car. Maria jammed the key into its eye. It pulled back and she scooted out from under the Honda.

Kneeling, she unlocked the passenger door and slipped in. She locked the door. Then she climbed over the center console and got behind the wheel. The attendant, his eye dripping goo, pressed against his face against the window.

Maria started up the Honda, got it in reverse, and backed out. The attendant gripped the door and she could hear him being dragged. She turned the corner to head back to the entrance and heard a thump as the Honda's rear wheel rolled over the dead man.

She pulled out of the ramp. Had to put a death grip on the wheel to keep her hands steady. The hot glow of a fire burned in the distance, and oily black smoke rose into the air. It made her think of fire and brimstone. The pits of Hell. She didn't know what could have gone up to cause smoke like that.

She reached her little Cape Cod and pulled in the driveway. The lights were out, but nothing looked out of place. Jake might be upstairs watching television. He usually did so with the lights off.

After putting the car in park, she got out and went inside. The smell of pepperoni and cheese hung in the air. She guessed Jake had made himself a microwave pizza. Advancing through the house, she called his name. When she got to the stairs she stopped and listened, straining to hear the television. It was as quiet as a tomb.

She went upstairs, the stair risers squeaking under her weight. She called his name. At the top of the stairs she turned right. Jake's bedroom door was closed. Maria expected to hear Avenged Sevenfold or Megadeth blasting through the speakers, but it was silent. That gave her a chill. She knocked on the door.

“Who is it? I've got a knife.”

She breathed a sigh of relief. “Jake, it's mom.”

“Hang on,” he said, sounding muffled through the door.

Thumps and bangs came from behind the door. It sounded as if he were moving furniture.

A moment later, he opened the door. She marveled at how much taller he seemed every time she looked at him. Tonight the t-shirt of choice depicted the band Lamb of God. A pair of ripped jeans and black Chuck Taylors rounded out his outfit.

“Preparing for the apocalypse?”

“Did you see those things out there?”

If only you knew, she thought. “Yeah, the world's gone off its psych meds.”

She saw the hunting knife and Louisville Slugger on his desk. Next to the desk was a little Marshall amp and his Jackson flying V.

“So you saw them?”

There was no sense lying to him, or trying to sugarcoat things. “They got loose in the hospital. Overran the place.”

“Shit. That's bad.”

“Watch the English, young man.”

“Are you hurt?” Jake asked.

“I'm in one piece. How did you know what was going on?”

“I heard a bunch of noise. Growls. I looked out the window and there were a bunch of freaks out in the street. So I barricaded myself in,” Jake said.

“Why's it like the inside of a cave in here?”

“The lights? They'd see them. Give me away.”

Smart kid, she thought. “Is the back door locked?”


“I wish your father was here.”

“To protect us?”

“To stay with you. I hate leaving you alone. What if something had happened?” Maria said.

“Any zombies show up, I'll beat them down.”

She didn't want to tell him that he'd last not two minutes against those things. “That's the spirit, zombie slayer.”

“What caused it?”

“Something with that flu bug that's going around.”

Something crashed outside. It sounded like a garbage can being tipped over. Her stomach clenched in a knot. The noise had come from the back yard and she slipped into Jake's room, stepping over a balled up pair of sweatpants. Memo to Jake: clean your room. Jake's window overlooked the back yard.

Maria eased the drape away from the window and looked down upon the yard. Nothing by the two-car garage. She spotted the cause of the noise. A man the size of a small boulder trudged across the yard. Blood streaked the side of his face. Maria replaced the drape and backed away from the window.

“Not a sound. They're outside.”

They huddled in the living room, the drapes drawn. She could hear them stomping and muttering to themselves outside. Their shadows danced against the thin drapes. It was only a matter of time before one of them tried to get in the house.

“We got to boogie, my friend,” Maria said.


“They'll find a way in,” Maria said.

“We can go to the basement, lock up,” Jake said.

“We'd be trapped. Listen up. Very quietly, we need to gather some supplies. Clothes. Food. The whole town's not safe.”

“I don't want to leave.”

“We might be back someday,” Maria said. “But not now.”

She watched him, saw the tears form in his eyes. For all his bravado sometimes, he was still a boy. She put her arm around Jake and gave him a squeeze. “Go upstairs and get some clothes in a backpack.”

“Can I bring my guitar?”

“Jake, not now.”


“All right. But make it quick. Go.”

Jake scampered up the stairs. Maria went to her bedroom and packed a bag of clothes and toiletries. Then she went to the kitchen and boxed up dry goods: cereals and granola bars. She took five cans of pork and beans, the can opener, and a flashlight. Then she grabbed a few afghans off the couch and set everything by the front door. The pile of survival goods seemed woefully inadequate.

Jake returned with a backpack slung over one shoulder. He also had the survival knife and baseball bat. They didn't own any guns.

“Didn't bring the guitar?”

“It'll be here when we get back,” Jake said.

“I like the way you think.”

She peered out the front window. The Honda sat bathed in early morning sunlight. The street was empty. They picked up their supplies and Maria opened the door. The chilly air stung her cheeks. When she was sure things were clear, she said: “Okay. Move like your pants are on fire.”


“You haven't seen these things in action,” Maria said.

They reached the Honda. Got the supplies and packs into the back seat. As Maria turned she caught movement out of the corner of her eye. She turned around and saw one of them coming across the lawn. She got a nasty, greasy feeling in her stomach. The zombie was a kid – nine or ten. Not just any kid. It was Dylan, the boy from two doors down. His thick, black hair was matted with blood.

“Jake, hand me the bat.”

She reached her hand out, not taking her eyes off of the dead Dylan. A series of strangled grunts came from the boy. Jake slipped the bat into her hand. It felt oddly disconnected. Gripping the bat with both hands, she said: “Don't look.”

Dylan saw the bat, narrowed his eyes, and charged. Maria planted her feet and swung. The bat connected, sounding like she'd smacked a hollow log. Dylan staggered sideways and fell. She took a deep breath and swung the bat as if splitting wood. It took four blows to finish him off. Dizziness flooded her head and tears stung her eyes. Had it really come to this?

“Mom, you okay?”

“He was just a boy.”

“But he wasn't Dylan anymore. You could see it.”

“Get in the car before more of them show up,” she said, wiping the Louisville Slugger on the grass. “I feel sick.”

Copyright 2012 Anthony Izzo

Monday, July 02, 2012

Quick Updates

A few quick updates as I prepare to take a week off from work for some R&R.  Plague, the second book in the Dead Land Trilogy, is complete. As soon as I design the cover, I'll be ready to upload it.

I've decided to pull my books from Amazon's KDP Select program. The sales bounce from free books has become next to nothing (at least for me), and I fear that readers are loading up Kindles with free titles and not reading them. I know I have several just sitting on my Kindle. I might put some of my older titles in KDP Select at some time, but the new ones will not be entered in the Select program.

I'm anticipating the third Dead Land book to be available in December. Until then, I'm working on another horror novel and a straight-up action thriller under the Jack Vincent pen name. Other than that it's working the full time job and enjoying the beautiful Buffalo summer. Believe it or not, there's no snow here in July.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Two Ways to Immediately Improve Your Fiction

I've been ruminating on some writing advice and thinking of the best advice I could give a beginning fiction writer. Something besides "Show Don't Tell" or "Write What You Know." In reading through some recent samples on Amazon, I've found plenty of good writing, but even good writing isn't enough to hook a reader. So here's two tips that I think will improve your fiction immediately.

1.  Start your story with the moment of change, threat, or crisis. By this, I mean when the characters' lives will be forever changed by a story event. There is no going back. Here's some examples:

In Jaws, Chrissy is attacked by the shark in the first few minutes of the movie. The shark has shown up and things won't be the same for Amity until the beast is killed.

In Super 8, 14-year-old Joe has just lost his mother in an industrial accident. His world has changed forever.

In The Stand, King opens with a man frantically waking his wife. The superflu bug has been released on the military base where he is stationed. The man implores his wife to grab their daughter so they can escape before they're trapped.

In Mystic River, Dennis Lehane's opening chapter depicts Dave's abduction as a young boy, an event that will have consequences in his adult life.

It might be tempting to drop in a truckload of backstory about the character's childhood, past, etc. The first chapter isn't the place for backstory. Think of backstory like spices in cooking. Sprinkle it in here and there throughout the story. A line of dialogue here. A couple sentences there. Dumping it all in at once will ruin your dish. King shows us his characters getting ready to run. He doesn't delve into a long explanation of the superflu or explore the characters' entire history in the first scene. That can come later.

2. Write in immediate scenes

Immediate scenes show us the story as it is unfolding. I tell my writing students to imagine a movie playing in your mind. It's your job to transcribe what you see (and what the characters see, feel, hear, etc.) If you're writing paragraph after paragraph of internal monologue and the character is basically sitting around thinking about things, you're in trouble. Put them in action. Give them a goal to pursue. Show them interacting with other characters.

Don't explain the story, show it to us. For example, here's telling/explaining:

Frank Capretti needed to see Lou Giambra about a turf dispute. Lou's territory was in Brooklyn and lately he'd been trying to expand his drug business into Jersey. Frank wanted to talk to Lou and maybe beat some sense into him. Frank didn't like Lou being on his turf. Jersey belonged to the Capretti family. He would make sure Lou paid. Frank was the toughest guy in the Capretti family. He'd always like busting heads. Once, when he was a kid....

Here's a better way to do it in an immediate scene:

Frank Capretti walked into Mangia, Lou Giambra's sixty-dollar-a-steak restaurant. Through the gloom he saw Giambra sitting at the bar. He was sipping a cocktail, his fat ass spilling over a bar stool. Frank went up to him, tapped him on the shoulder.  Giambra turned around, his face twisted into a frown.

"Need to talk to you," Frank said.

"That's funny, I never seen walking, talking garbage before," Giambra said.

"You and your boys need to stay out of Jersey."

"You own it?"

"It's our turf. You know that."

"What are you going to do? Bust my skull in my own place?"

Frank looked around, hitched his thumbs in his pockets. "Nice place you got here. Be a shame if someone broke in, let loose a couple dozen rats."

Not award-winning material, but you get the idea. By letting action and dialogue carry the scene, we see the story. We see that these guys are enemies and that one of them is willing to stoop pretty low to get what he wants. If I were writing this scene, I'd expand it, ramping up the tension between the two men.

By using these techniques in your fiction, you'll stand a better chance of hooking the reader and keeping them engaged. If you're not already doing it, give it a try. I think you'll like the results.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Six Writing Prompts to Ignite Your Fiction

From time-to-time, I like to post some writing prompts. Do with them what you will.

As he was mowing the lawn, Jerry came upon an enormous hole. It hadn't been there the last time he'd cut grass.

The odd snow continued to fall, black as coal dust.

She saw him across the hotel lobby and knew he was the man she'd marry.

A character comes home to find a sticky note on his/her fridge. It's from a family member and says: Help us. No Police. Call this number.

As the Detective looked down at the corpse he thought: I've never seen that done to a human being before.

She heard the thud. Once. Twice. With a creeping fear in her belly, she was quite certain someone was in the attic.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Straying From the Map

I'm not a fan of writing detailed plot outlines, but I do like to have a list of scenes ready to go when I write. I like to know the ending and approximately how much material I will need to complete the book. I'm currently working on Plague, the second book in the Dead Land Trilogy. As the action is unfolding, I'm finding one of the main characters separated from the group. I didn't plan for this to happen, but I like the possibilities. Can he survive on his own? Will he be reunited with the group? How will it happen?

Don't ever be afraid to take a detour from your outline. It can take your story in new and exciting directions. And if you're surprised and delighted at the turn of events, it's a good bet the reader will be, too.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Building Your Characters (And plot, too)

Whether you're a plotter or pantster, at some point you have to create story people to do all the cool stuff you have planned in your novel. I've created a list of questions to ask yourself when working up characters. You can either do this before writing, or on the fly. I think you'll find it will also generate plot ideas and send your story galloping off in new directions.




Physical Characteristics

Manner of Dress

Political Beliefs

Hobbies (Can you make these relevant to the story?)

Childhood (How does this affect the present story?)

Skills/Talents that are relevant to the story

Religious beliefs (Could this possibly create conflicts within the story?)

What's the catalyst that changes the character's life? (Good stories start with a change or on the cusp of one. Put the character in some sort of trouble)

What does the character want more than anything?

Who is opposing the character?

What's the worst thing that could happen to the character right now?

What happened in the character's past that could affect the story?

Do they have any enemies? Why?

What are the character's flaws/weaknesses? How could someone exploit them?

What does the character value more than anything? What if it were taken away? Threatened?

What's the character's story goal? What happens if the character fails? Make the stakes big if they lose (loss of life, a loved one, emotional ruin, destruction of career, etc.)

Can you "interview" your character to learn more about them?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Random Stuff

Plague, Book Two of The Dead Land Trilogy, continues to move along. The zombie virus is spreading and things are starting to break down. Destroying the world is sort of fun. In a fictional sense. I've been getting 1000 words a day, which is a respectable pace. For those of you who don't think you have time to write, 1000 words per day (which should take about an hour) equals at least three novels per year, depending on length.

I have a number of books that I'm currently reading. I tend to switch back and forth between books, eventually finishing all of them.

The Frenzy Way by Gregory Lamberson

Under the Dome by Stephen King

Sick by Brett Battles

Throttle by Joe Hill and Stephen King

On a side note, I've been listening to Hold On by Alabama Shakes quite a bit. If you like Southern Rock, you owe it to yourself to check them out:

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The Power of What If

One of the concerns I hear from beginning writers is that they will run out of ideas. When this comes up, I tell them two things:

1. It's pretty much impossible to run out of ideas. Most professional writers have more ideas than they have time to write.

2. Once you get into the daily habit of writing, ideas will start coming at you. In line at the grocery store. In the shower. Your brain will start to make connections and twist things into story ideas. Trust me, it's like opening some weird pipeline to the Muse.

But one tool I like is to ask "What if?" For some reason, going on vacations seems to spur ideas for novels. Perhaps because a new and different setting offers story possibilities. No Escape came about when we were vacationing up in the Thousand Islands. To access the island we stayed on, you had to drive over a dam. I thought: "What if something were keeping us on the island? And we had to fight our way off to survive?" Bam. Story idea. The park we stayed in became the inspiration for the setting. Once I dreamed up a threat to keep the characters on the island, I was off and running.

Let's say you're staying at a hotel. There's nothing good on TV and you don't want to order that type of movie on pay-per-view. The pool water reminds you of a swamp, and the fitness center has nothing more than a Thighmaster and some Richard Simmons exercise videos. Why not write?

Off the top of my head, here are some what ifs:

What if the hotel came under attack by zombies?

What if the hotel owner wouldn't let you leave?

What if one of the rooms was a portal to another world/dimension?

What if a group of escaped convicts used the hotel as a hideout?

What if you discovered a pile of bodies in an abandoned part of the hotel?

What if you woke up and the formerly occupied hotel was now empty?

What if you saw someone dumping a body in the pool?

What if there were a string of murders and the victims were haunting the hotel?

Those are some ideas that come to mind. Because I write horror and thrillers, most of mine have the potential to be that type of story. If you're not inclined toward the gruesome, why not try some others?

What if you fell madly in love with the person in the next room?

What if the owner told you he was leaving you the hotel in his will?

What if you saw a guest who resembled a long-lost family member?

The possibilities are endless. Sometimes it's just a matter of asking questions.

Thought I'd also give a writing update. I'm about twenty-five thousand words into writing Plague, the second book in The Dead Land Trilogy. I'm shooting for a June release. The first book, Infected, is available now for Kindle.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Sketch of The Voodoo Child

I've been playing guitar for around twenty years, and I've recently made an effort to get in more playing time. Between a full-time job, family, and writing, that usually amounts to only 15 minutes a few times a week. I decided to learn Jimi's Voodoo Child. Years ago I learned the wah-soaked intro but never got any farther. So I got the inspiration to sketch the master. When I first started playing, my guitar teacher was trying to show me "Catfish Blues", which Hendrix did on his live Radio One album. My teacher commented "he's such a snake", meaning Hendrix was all over the place and hard to figure out. He meant it as a compliment.

And the master at work:

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Face of Nightmares

I'm posting a sketch I did of Michael Myers. I remember watching the original Halloween as a kid, sneaking peeks at it on HBO as my parents were out in the kitchen. For years after, I had a recurring nightmare where Mr. Myers was chasing me through our town park. At night. I still think it's one of the most frightening images in all of horror. Enjoy. Or flee in terror.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Infected Top 100

Infected has been in the top 100 horror novels on Amazon UK since the weekend. It's the strongest start I've had to a book launch. Just wanted to say thanks to all who have purchased a copy so far. I truly appreciate it.

I'm about 5000 words into writing the next book in the Dead Land Trilogy. Right now our survivors are on the run again. This time from a different foe. Look for it June/July 2012. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Infected Now Available

I've thrown my hat into the zombie ring. Infected is now available. If so inclined, you can purchase it here http://amzn.to/GRawxl. This is the description from the Amazon page:

Part one of the terrifying Dead Land Trilogy begins.

It looked like a flu. Until the first patient woke up. Violent. Hungry for flesh and blood.

People in the small town of Anderson are saying the military let loose a bioweapon.

Soon the hospital and town will be overrun with the undead.

Emma Ross is the sheriff in Anderson. She will lead a band of townspeople in a desperate fight to survive against the horde of newly risen that threaten to overtake the town. And spread the Infection.

An action-packed novel from the author of Evil Harvest and The Hollow.

Look for Book Two of The Dead Land Trilogy Summer 2012.

Infected was intended to be a standalone, telling the story of a zombie infestation in a small town. As I neared the end of the book, I felt there was a bigger story to tell. Hence turning it into a trilogy. I'm at work on Book Two right now. Look for June or July release.  If you've picked up a copy of Infected, thanks for reading. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Thriller For Free

You're camping with friends. In the shadows, a pair of serial killers are watching you. When one of your friends disappears in the woods and you find him cut to pieces, what do you do? If you're Liz Mallory, you fight like hell. The Hollow. How long could you survive?

The Hollow is available for free today and tomorrow in the Amazon Kindle Store.


Thanks to all who've already downloaded it.  Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My Number One Writing Productivity Tool

You want to be a writer. But there never seems like there's enough time. Especially if you have a spouse, family, job, pet monkey, etc.

I've managed to write 5 novels since 2004, hold down a full time job, and help raise two kids, one of them a special needs child. My time - like everyone else's -  is limited. I'm shooting to write at least two novels this year, hopefully three. I've been averaging 1500-1700 words a day.

The main factor in being able to maintain a consistent output is having something portable to write on. Whether it's a laptop, netbook, or spiral notebook, I can be sitting in the living room with the family and writing. Writers as a group tend to feel guilty about what they do. I know I would feel guilty if I holed myself up in our home office to write.

Your portable writing device should be just that. Take it with you whenever you might have to wait somewhere. It might take a little while before you can write in public and not feel self-conscious, but once you realize that people aren't paying attention, you can drop in and write with ease. I've found when writing in public that the world tends to dissolve around me.

I'd also recommend having whatever files you need to write (outlines, notes) handy, whether on paper or electronic file.

You can write a novel in increments, without feeling like you have to disappear into a sacred writing space. If you want to write, grab a laptop and go to it. No one's going to hand you writing time. You have to hunt it down and wrestle it to the ground.

Saw A Quiet Place II This Weekend

Jenn and I went for lunch yesterday, then saw A Quiet Place II at the Aurora Theater. The Aurora is a great little theater. One screen, and...