Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Carrion Scourge: Plague of Monsters

Hear ye, hear ye, humble readers.

It's my pleasure to announce that the second sequel to Carrion Safari has been officially accepted for publication by the good folks at Severed Press. Carrion Scourge: Plague of Monsters will be the third book in the series, and it will follow Denise DeMarco on another adventure.

Let me lay out some highlights for you:

➤ Survival on the frozen plains of Antarctica!
➤ Monster hunters vs the ravenous undead!
➤ Science run amok!
➤ Some rather cross Frenchmen!
➤ Towering, unnatural beasts in an ecosystem of horror!
➤ Elephant guns, naval bombardments, and explosions!
➤ The secrets to immortality and the true memoirs of Bigfoot!
➤ I may have lied about that last part!

So, when can you get your grubby mitts on this gripping yarn? Sometime relatively soon, probably. Mark your calendars.

It should be out shortly after I receive the cover art, which will likely take a few weeks to a few months. You'll see it here after I give it my blessing. Until then, stay tuned.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Write For Your Lives: How Do Payments Work for Writers?

I know a lot of people who are interested in writing professionally but aren't quite there yet, so I'll do a brief spiel on how the money aspect works. There's a few different payment schemes in the writing world.

1) Exposure: Sometimes places will say that they can't pay you with money, but boy howdy, they can give you exposure. Ain't that grand? As a general rule, it's best to run screaming in the other direction from these people. I'm putting this one first because it underscores the point that you always want to get paid with actual money, even if it's not very much.

2) Flat rate and per word payment: Magazines and anthologies usually pay this way, and it's about what it sounds like. "If we accept your story, regardless of length, we'll give you $50." That's the flat rate. A per word payment means (surprise!) you're paid a certain amount based on the word count of your story. Professional rates for horror are usually considered five cents/word. For sci-fi and fantasy, the professional rate is usually considered six cents/word. Most places pay much lower rates than that.

3) Royalties: You probably understand this concept already. In your contract, it will say that X% of every sale of your book goes to you. Then, you receive a check every X months and an accounting of what sold in that period. This works great with novels and absolutely terribly with anthologies and magazines. Once royalties get split up between a bunch of authors, they disappear fast. Depending on when your book comes out, your royalties can do weird things, too. My novel Carrion Shadows came out the day before the publisher's quarterly accounting period ended, so my first check was for a grand total of $3.02. It had only been available for a few hours when the period ended.

4) Advances: This is where the big money comes from. When you hear that some celebrity signed a book deal for several wheelbarrows full of cash, that's an advance. The name comes from the fact that they're an advance on royalties. Generally, the author can't collect any royalties until the book has earned out its advance. If you receive an advance of $5,000, then you don't get any additional checks until your book surpasses the point where you would have earned $5,000 in royalties. Once you've earned $5,001 in royalties, you get a check for $1.00. A lot of books never earn out their advance, so you never see royalties on it. Generally, only large and established publishers offer advances. Smaller publishers only pay in royalties, but they might offer you a higher percentage of each sale.

There you have it. There's other, more obscure ways to make money off your writing, such as contests, but these are the options you see the most. If you read through this whole post, hopefully you found it useful.

Oh, look. It's a way to demonstrate how royalties work.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

October Updates

It's October, the finest month of the year. If you follow this site, you're probably here for some writing news, so let's do a little inventory of what I've been cooking up lately.

First, what's the forecast on novels?

The second book in the Jasper O'Malley horror-boiled detective series has been picked up by Grinning Skull Press. (Yippee! Hooray! Yay!) There's no release date yet, but you can bet I'll be here to throw a conniption fit of excitement when I receive all that. The second book in the series is called CESSPOOL, and it has what I consider to be my very best plot twist. You don't need to read the first book in the series, Substratum, to enjoy the second one, but it obviously doesn't hurt.

The digital version of Substratum is available right here for $2.99. Just follow the link for a healthy dose of private eye action, blood thirsty monsters, and a mystery set against the backdrop of Jazz Age Detroit.

When CESSPOOL arrives, we'll have new location, even more mayhem, and some ghosts from Jasper's past.

 That's cool and all, but I'm probably best known for my series starting with Carrion Safari and continuing with Carrion Shadows. Is there anything happening on that front? You bet your boots there's stuff happening behind the scenes here. Just how much stuff are we talking here?

How about this? There's two, yes two, new books that have been written and are in the process of being edited. The first is CARRION SCOURGE: PLAGUE OF MONSTERS, and the second is CARRION SEASON: UNNATURAL SELECTION.

I want to have Carrion Scourge in the publisher's inbox by Halloween. I'm pushing it toward something resembling a final draft right now. After the first two books visited a tropical jungle island and the South African veldt, now we're going monster hunting in the Antarctic.

I'll eventually have a nice long post about both books. I won't give you any details about Carrion Season yet beyond the fact that you'll start to see how the overall plot is going to shift toward a longer, more focused series with some recurring elements. The goal is still to ensure that anybody can pick up any of the books and read them in whatever order and enjoy them, but you're going to see a little more overarching plot providing a scaffolding for the series.

The Carrion Series books are all available on Amazon along with all the other projects I'm involved with.

Cool. That's a lot of hot novel action. Is there anything going on with short stories? As a matter of fact there is. I try to write either a short story or a novel every month. This year, I met my yearly quota in August.

From August through September, I wrote six short stories. Two of them have already found homes, and I think two more of them have a good shot at making it into the anthologies they're aimed at. The other two are a little less likely, but we'll see what happens.

Later this month, I plan to have a little more news regarding the short stories that were already accepted. Until then, have yourselves a spooky October.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

For I Am Become...

I recently made the biggest short story sale of my writing career. My story "Siren" was accepted to The Beauty of Death 2 - Death By Water. Why is this such a great sale? Well, check out some of the awesome company I'm sharing space with.

You've got Ramsey Campbell, who is basically Britain's answer to Stephen King. You've got Peter Straub, who a bunch of people remember for co-writing some stuff with Stephen King but also did some influential stuff on his own. You've got literary demi-god Dennis Etchison. You've got prolific novelist of the weird, Edward Lee. You've got the godfather of the splatterpunk movement, David J. Schow. You've got Bram Stoker Award winner and super cool dude Tim Waggoner. You've got the current president of the Horror Writers Association, Lisa Morton. You've got Lucy Snyder, who has won a small pile of Bram Stoker Awards. Plus, there's a bunch of other people I'm less familiar with but who are probably cool.

And then you've got me. Hey. Howdy. What's up? My names at the very bottom, right there. Not too shabby, eh?

My story is the tale of a WWI German U-boat that's been incapacitated and is stuck on the bottom of the Atlantic. As discipline breaks down, things get...weird.

The Beauty of Death 2 should be on sale in October of 2017.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


It's here. Feast your eyes on the cover for CARRION SHADOWS: UNDEAD ONSLAUGHT, clearly a work of great literary subtlety and an understated yet sparkling... Eh, who am I kidding? There's zombies, shambling hordes of ghoulish wildlife, and an undead dinosaur. Elephant guns, explosions, and monsters abound.

Feast your eyes on that cover. When you can bear to tear your eyes away from how cool that looks, let's take a look at the official plot description, shall we?

After years of working as a big game hunter, Denise DeMarco wants to retire to the quiet life of a park ranger. However, a doomed expedition into the caves beneath the game reserve accidentally sends something terrifying bubbling to the veldt’s surface. Something prehistoric. Something hungry. Soon, the dark ecosystem is colonizing the surface world, consuming everything and everyone in its path.

Armed with an elephant gun and years of experience, it’s up to Denise to save the blighted park. Swarms of the oozing undead, relentless poachers, and one very angry dinosaur stand in her way. And even if she survives all that, there’s still something trapped underground that wants out. Primeval horrors and ravenous ghouls lurk around every corner as night falls over the park. Denise must use all her skills if she wants to live through the experience.

She must become the ultimate monster hunter.

 This is an indirect sequel to my previous novel from Severed Press, Carrion Safari. You don't have to read one to enjoy the other.

The ebook is currently live on Amazon, and the paperback version should be available in the next few days.

Because you're here, I'll give you a peek at the logistics that went into it. Carrion Shadows was written over about twenty-five days in October of 2016. Some of it was written in a Portland, Oregon hotel room during a mostly dull attorney convention. With the exception of a few break days, it was written at a rate of about 4,000 words per day, and it's somewhere in the neighborhood of 85,000 words long. Around February, it was edited and eventually shipped off to the publisher for their input.

Friday, May 26, 2017


Greetings Earthlings,

The fine folks at Fossil Lake have released their newest anthology upon an unsuspecting world. Meet the SHARKASAURUS collection. Here's the front and back cover.

It's called Sharka-freakin'-saurus. What more could you possibly want? It's tales of dinosaurs, sharks, and dino-sharks. It's like peanut butter and jelly and dinosaurs. Or supernatural serial killers, rowdy teenagers, and dinosaurs. Perfect combinations, all.

Not only that, but it features my short story "Falling Stars." It's a story about support groups. And were-sharks. And some other stuff. Like dinosaurs.

As I type this, it's available in its physical format. Digital versions should be up and available sometime in the not too distant future. Amazon has it for sale right HERE.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Carrion Shadows

Here's that big news I promised. Severed Press has officially picked up Carrion Shadows: Undead Onslaught for publication. Right now, I'm still waiting for the release date and cover art, but there should be more to show you in the near future.

Let me give you the blurbed synopsis.

After years of working as a big game hunter, Denise DeMarco wants to quietly retire to become a park ranger at a game preserve. However, a doomed expedition into the dark ecosystem that thrives beneath the park’s surface accidentally sends something terrifying bubbling to the veldt’s surface. Something prehistoric. Something hungry. 

Armed with an elephant gun and years of experience, it’s up to Denise to save the blighted park. Swarms of the oozing undead, relentless poachers, and one very angry dinosaur stand in her way. And even if she survives all that, there’s still something trapped underground that wants out. Primeval horrors and ravenous ghouls lurk around every corner as night falls over the park. Denise must use all her skills if she wants to live through the experience. She must become the ultimate monster hunter. 

Carrion Shadows in a standalone sequel to Carrion Safari, my first novel with Severed Press. You can find the first book HERE if you're interested, but you don't need to read it to enjoy Carrion Shadows.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

How to Write an Action-Adventure Novel

In the next few days, I’ll have some exciting news. First, I’d like to bring a new feature to this website, though. Occasionally, I’d like to address some aspect of the writing craft. Let’s start with a broad topic today. 

I generally advertise myself as a horror author because my books are full of monsters, mad science run amok, and abominations from beyond the bounds of time. However, I’m an action and adventure writer, too. My characters visit exotic locations, start bare knuckle brawls with hired thugs, and discover ancient artifacts. If they have to fight unspeakable horrors too, so much the better. 

When I started getting serious about writing around 2011, it wasn’t obvious to me what elements went into making the sort of stories I wanted to write. I could identify some of the ingredients by reading the works of my various idols, but it wasn’t obvious what portions to use. Just to be clear, there is obviously no magic formula to writing a great action-adventure story. No one can create a perfect blueprint or how-to manual on the subject. This is more akin to a partial periodic table of story elements with a few key reactions highlighted. 

Let’s start by breaking a novel idea into three broad acts.

The Beginning: 

There’s a few things that any adventure story should stick right up front. These should be pretty close to the first page of the story.

1)     Make your antagonist’s presence felt

Right away, the reader should know that there is going to be serious trouble afoot. The main villain doesn’t have to walk up to our hero and punch them in the nose, but we should know that some sort of confrontation is brewing. This is your hero’s village being razed, your private eye being hired to investigate a gruesome murder, or your suave archeologist discovering something cursed/worth stealing/ready to unleash ancient evil. This rapidly brings us to…

2)   The call to action

This is closely related to the previous point. Your main character is motivated to do something, quite possibly because the antagonist is being a jerk. It need not be as melodramatic as your hero swearing eternal revenge on the forces of evil after her family is killed by thuggish minions, but that will certainly do. It can start out because your hero is simply curious and they bumble into trouble or because they are hired to deal with a situation. These are probably your spies and detectives and monster hunters. 

3)    A hint of mystery

You’ve got an intrepid hero. You’ve got someone he or she is going to ultimately face off against. Good. However, it’s no good if everything is spelled out from the very beginning. It sets the stakes up if our hero’s village was torn asunder and all the residents killed by some evil overlord, but that sets up the middle. We need to provide something for the middle of the story. We probably shouldn’t know the identity of the ultimate bad guy yet, but that can come soon. We’re not writing a full mystery story where the climax comes from unmasking the villain. No, we want our hero to unsure why their village was attacked or why their client was murdered. We know that something dangerous was stolen, but we don’t know what yet. What do these strange inscriptions mean? How did the villain know where to find the sacred thingamajig? What on earth killed the project’s chief scientist and the entire facility’s security team? These are the things that will help shape the middle of your story.

4)   A plan and some progress

By now, our heroes have probably set out to solve the primary issue motivating them. They’re following leads and punching out terrorist lieutenants in back alleys. They’re piloting their starship through the G’rjoux nebula, tracking a trace neutrino field. They’re traveling to the temple of the black crab to recover the magical, evil-slaying dagger that can put an end to whatever is menacing the land. They’re doing the things action-adventure folks do when they’re looking to save the day. The point is, they have some idea of what the end goal is, even if a lot of the pieces of the puzzle are missing. They’re actively working to fill in those gaps, and maybe they’ve already put two and two together on a couple of things, and things are almost going well.

The middle of your story:

Okay, great. We last left our heroes as they proceeded toward their goals. They’re probably still facing overwhelming odds and risking a fate worse than death, but there’s hope. They’re going to make it. The middle of the story is mostly about…

1)    Cutting your heroes off at the knees

That plan that looked like it was going to work? Nah, bro. Your characters find themselves completely and utterly screwed. Those terrorist lieutenants are back as three headed zombies and they just tore your commanding officer in half. There’s a robot uprising in the G’rjoux nebula, and you’ve been framed for starting the war. Not only will the crab priests not give you that magical dagger, but their ancient order has been corrupted and they’re now fully #teamevil. Your heroes are screwed six ways to Sunday. The plan has been completely upended, dashed against the rocks, and buried.

2)      Revelations

This is tied up with the above point and also those mysteries you set up in the beginning of the novel. Resolving one of those mysteries should pull the rug out from under your heroes. Knock the wind out of their sails. Chose the cliché of your choice. I’m reluctant to call this a plot twist because that term almost implies something gimmicky. Ideally, you don’t want the surprise to be something that develops out of thin air. Hopefully, the base elements have been on the radar, albeit in a peripheral role to the main goals. It’s something that should quickly make sense in retrospect without having to devote page after page of explanation. All the better if the revelation is part of what screws up your protagonist’s plans. The discovery should open up a new avenue of threats while providing at least a few more unanswered questions to be wrapped up later. 

3)    Reorganization

The middle of the story is where you screw your characters over at every opportunity. They’re going to spend the middle of the book getting their butts kicked. They should be on the run, consistently under threat, and scrounging up some newer and more desperate plan. It’s time to reorganize. That nice, clean three step plan to save the world everyone had back in act one is out the window. Now it’s time for desperate measures. Most of the middle of the book will involve the heroes alternating between trying to stay one step ahead of impending doom and enacting hasty back up plans. Your heroes should be thwarted over and over again, barely getting through the encounters by the skin of their teeth.

The finale:

Here’s where everything pays off. When I was younger and developing an interest in writing, I thought you basically strung action sequences together until you had something long enough to be considered a book. I thought the plot should be just one long freight train car exploding through wall after wall. If there wasn’t a raging battle in a particular scene, why even bother writing it? Most of the time, this is not the correct way to write a story, even one in this genre. However, the finale is where that model holds closest. Because of this, it will probably be shorter than either the beginning or middle sequences of the story. 

1)   Wrap up the mysteries
Sometime around when you enter the final sequence, you’ll want the audience to understand just how clever you are, you clever thing, you. This mostly amounts to wrapping up your loose ends. You’ve probably been dangling a few tidbits in front of the audience for a while, perhaps even from the very beginning. While thrills and chills are our story’s bread and butter, a few rock solid final twists are what really cement the plot in the reader’s mind. As always though, such twists must be earned. Some writers think that a non-sequitur is the same thing as a surprise ending. It’s not.  
2)   The final showdown

Everybody knew this was coming. At long last, your heroes face off against the ultimate danger. Swords are crossed. Laser guns fire. Everything goes out with a bang. 

3)    The staggered finale

This category isn’t always necessary, and it’s something of a trope, but it’s a fun one. Often, it’s a lot of fun to add on just-one-more action sequence. The classic example of this is probably the escape sequence. The villain lays broken on the ground, but they manage to pull the incredibly convenient self-destruct lever with their final ounce of strength. Now your heroes must flee through toxic gasses, crumbling walls, and hordes of released monsters to make it to safety. There are other ways to stagger a finale, such as a nigh undefeatable opponent. The original Terminator film is an especially good example of the staggered finale against a villain who refuses to be taken down. While the staggered finale is optional, it is a classic gem of the genre. It’s a dash of spice on top.

That’s it. Those are some of the key ingredients in your recipe. The essential trajectory follows are heroes as they gain some sort of traction against the central problem, only to be knocked back on their heels, followed by a come from behind victory. There’s obviously as many ways to do this as your fertile little imaginations can come up with, but this is more of a simplified anatomy chart than a step-by-step guide. 

What do you think? Did I completely fail to discuss something? Think one of my points is utterly off base? Perhaps it will be the subject of a future discussion. 

You can find my currently available horror-thrillers HERE and HERE.