Free Fiction—Lying to the Muse

[Rotting Peach] Photo courtesy of Steven Depolo via Creative Commons

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COLD FEET FEVER—the Story behind the Story

[Maureen Fisher]Guest post by Maureen Fisher

Truth be told, Cold Feet Fever, a spin-off from Fur Ball Fever, was my most difficult book to write so far. This may be partly because my new protagonist’s backstory was already established in the previous book. I had no choice but to define his goal (pull off a kick-ass grand opening for his paranormal nightclub), a great plot providing seemingly insurmountable obstacles (a goofy dog, exploding trucks, an unfortunate synchronized swimming episode, homicidal thugs, a corrupt building inspector, disappearing corpses, a kidnapping, not to mention the threat of live cremation), and the perfect heroine (a bossy mortician-turned-event-planner with criminal ties) to ensure suitable character growth in a serial womanizer with commitment issues, albeit he’s smokin’ hot, funny, and irresistible.

But that’s not the main reason I had difficulty writing Cold Feet Fever. Nope. Although it was never diagnosed, I’m pretty sure I suffered a brain injury that affected me for close to three years. I only put this together after talking to a friend who’d experienced shaken brain injury.

Here’s the thing. Every winter, my husband and I flee Canada to enjoy Puerto Vallarta weather. Sidewalks in the Mexican seaside town are notorious for causing injuries. You wouldn’t believe the tourists limping around the city, balancing on crutches, sporting casts, or renting portable wheelchairs. One day, I decided to take inventory. For half an hour, I sat on the Malecon and counted four arm casts, five walking casts, three knee braces, two pairs of crutches, and one tensor-encased wrist.

At first glance, those sidewalks look innocuous—mostly paved and surprisingly level. Hah! If you take your eyes off those suckers for one split second, an unexpected slant, or a two-inch metal bolt cunningly camouflaged as part of the sidewalk, or, my personal favorite, a rogue crevice roughly the size of the San Andreas Fault takes out the unwary tourist. And don’t get me started on the stairs, which are everywhere given that Puerto Vallarta is built on the side of a coastal mountain range. Seemingly normal-looking stairs invariably have one tricky step that is either higher or shorter than all the rest. Always. I believe it’s written into every construction contract.

It took a while for me to learn that if I wanted to sightsee, I must stop walking before gawking. But by then, it was too little, too late. Over the course of three winters, I not only twisted an ankle and sprained my wrist, but also cracked my head not once, not twice, but three times on Puerto Vallarta concrete. Suffice it to say that when the brain, which has a consistency similar to Jell-O, suddenly collides with the skull, which is as hard as cement (at least I’m told mine is), bad things happen to nice people.

The end result? For three years I was unable to focus on anything requiring brain activity, namely my writing. Whenever I sat down at the computer and tried to resolve a plot twist or write a sexy love scene, my brain fogged up. Immediately, I grew exhausted and crawled away for a nap. This, from someone who never napped a nanosecond in her life.

Slowly, things improved. I started writing again and managed to finish a book that I’m proud to publish. I hope you will enjoy Cold Feet Fever as much as I did while writing it.

Book Blurb

[Cold Feet Fever Cover]

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA
Smashwords

Cold Feet Fever
A Romantic Crime Mystery with Tons of Humor

Secrets and Crime Have Never Been So Much Fun—or So Romantic!

A bad boy gambler with a lazy streak and commitment issues:
Owning Kinki, Atlantic City’s first paranormal nightclub, isn’t as easy—or as much fun—as Sam Jackson anticipated. Someone’s trying to shut him down before he opens, he’s on the verge of bankruptcy, and his matchmaking granddaddy has hired a sexy event planner with a mysterious background, bossy disposition, and criminal ties.

A mortician-turned-event-planner with big secrets:
A job as event planner offers single mom, Katie Deluca, her last chance to escape her past. Turns out party planning is more difficult than organizing funerals. Plus, the nightclub owner, although perfect for awakening her sensuality, couldn’t be more wrong for the stability she craves.

Forced to collaborate, they overcome obstacles and fight crime:
Katie is the one person who can salvage Kinki—and heal Sam’s emotional wounds. Together, they tangle with a goofy dog, exploding trucks, an unfortunate synchronized swimming episode, homicidal thugs, a corrupt building inspector, disappearing corpses, a kidnapping, and the threat of live cremation, all to deliver a kick-ass grand opening.

Excerpt

With growing desperation, Katie managed to pry her purse from Rex’s jaws. He registered his disapproval with another howl ending in an eerie, wolf-like falsetto.

She prayed the couch’s occupants were far enough along in their bliss to ignore the interruption. Purse to chest, she silently backed away. She’d reached the main office when a man’s drawl flooded her entire body with apprehension.

“Much as I hate to break the mood, darlin’, I’d better check up on Rex. I don’t trust him near the pizza.”

Before Katie could flee, or dig a hole for herself, or better still, throw herself out the window, Sam Jackson, playboy and, if she believed the Internet gossip, all-around heartbreaker strolled out of the alcove. Buttoning an amber silk shirt the same color as his eyes and wearing a Stetson, he halted and scrutinized Katie across the gleaming expanse of conference table.

The grainy newspaper photos she’d studied online didn’t come close to doing justice to his masculine glory. Everything about him screamed sexy, from that chiseled jaw and those sculpted lips, to his streaky blond hair framing a face that belonged on the big screen.

Fortunately, pretty packaging didn’t interest her in the slightest. Nope. The man was a degenerate who enjoyed booze, gambling, and women, not necessarily in that order.

As he closed in, his gaze took a long, leisurely tour of her body before settling on her mouth. He exuded a hint of cologne, all woodsy and spicy and delicious, not that she cared. Was it her imagination, or did his expression hint at amusement?

“Howdy, ma’am. I apologize if my dog scared you, but I’m afraid you’ve got the wrong office.” His voice was a little raspy, steeped in moonlight and magnolias.

Katie cleared her throat. “I’m in the right place, thank you.”

One side of his mouth kicked up a notch. “You must be here for our job fair. Try Room 204. That’s our HR department. In that outfit, you’d make a perfect Dracula’s Lair attendant.” A broad grin creased his cheeks, causing the corners of his eyes to crinkle.

“No, but thank you anyway.” Katie studied his face. “It’s obvious you didn’t touch base with your boss this morning.”

“Really? And all this time I believed I was the boss.”

 

About the Author
Transplanted from Scotland to Canada at the tender age of seven, Maureen Fisher now lives with her second husband in Ottawa, Ontario. Besides writing, she is a voracious reader and volunteer for an addiction family counseling program. In addition, she’s a bridge player, yoga practitioner, seeker of personal and spiritual growth, pickle ball enthusiast, and an infrequent but avid gourmet cook.

You can find Maureen on Twitter, on Facebook, at Goodreads, and at booksbymaureen.com.

Ally Shields Interviews Me

Ally Shields, author of the Guardian Witch Book series, interviewed me recently and, let me tell you, it was a lot of fun. I hope you enjoy it …

Happy Wednesday, Booklovers!

This week we’re sharing coffee with horror writer Steven Ramirez and his zombies. And these are the blood-thirsty kind, so keep your wits about you. :)

Welcome, Steven. What would you like to drink?

STEVEN: Iced Caffè Americano year round.

Ally: Perfect. Coming right up. It’ll be ready by the time you’ve shown readers your bio.

BIO:
Steven Ramirez is the author of the horror thriller series Tell Me When I’m Dead. He has also published a number of short stories, as well as a children’s book, and he wrote the screenplay for the horror thriller film ‘Killers.’ To hear about new releases, visit stevenramirez.com/newsletter/. Steven lives in Los Angeles with his wife and daughters.

Tell me something unique that isn’t in your regular bio: “Many years ago in Pasadena, I ran into the renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, who was presumably on his way back to Cal Tech. I babbled something about how great I thought he was. Then his assistant wheeled him away. I’ve always regretted not having been better prepared.”

Author Website: http://www.stevenramirez.com/
Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/byStevenRamirez
Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StevenRamirezWriter
Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/StevenRamirez
Author Google+: https://plus.google.com/+StevenRamirezWriter

Ally: Now we’re settled, let’s start off by talking zombies. How are yours like or different from those in other books and tv shows?

STEVEN: This is the third book in my horror thriller trilogy. When I started out the zombies were of the slow, shambling variety that anyone would recognize from Night of the Living Dead or The Walking Dead. But over the course of the story, the infecting virus evolved, and these creatures became faster and more cunning. By the time we get to the last book, they are blade-wielding sociopaths who like to hunt.

Ally: Needless to say, your zombies aren’t the romantic type. :) Let’s talk about something a little tamer. Tell us about your setting. Is it contemporary, such as in urban fantasy, or have you created an entirely different universe?

STEVEN: The Tell Me When I’m Dead series is contemporary, the first two books taking place in a fictional Northern California town called Tres Marias. For the third book I decided to move the action south to Los Angeles. Although the universe is recognizable to anyone who has lived in LA, there are elements that seem bizarre. For one thing, it rains like crazy throughout the book. Also, the fact that these maniacs are running around carving up people makes the story somewhat apocalyptic. To provide realism I tried using as many actual LA locations as I could. But I did take license with certain scenes for dramatic purposes.

To read the rest of the interview, please visit Ally’s blog.

Coyote Kishpaugh Interviews Me

Coyote Kishpaugh, coauthor (with Lauren Scharhag) of The Order of the Four Sons, interviewed me recently. Earlier this year Lauren wrote a guest post, which you can find here. With each of these interviews I peel away the onion a little more. I’m not sure what I’ll find when I get to the core, but it’s a fun ride. Enjoy …

Coyote: What kind(s) of books do you read? Do you have any favourites?

Steven Ramirez: As a writer, I love to read other peoples’ books. And my tastes vary a lot. On the one hand, I do enjoy horror. But I am also a fan of comedy—especially satire. One of my favorite horror-fantasy authors is Richard Matheson. As for comedy, I am still crazy about Kurt Vonnegut. Considering his rather tragic past, it’s a miracle he was able to produce so much humorous prose. I also love the classics—Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, especially.

Coyote: If you weren’t writing books, what would you be doing with that time and energy instead? Why?

Steven Ramirez: I would probably read a lot more books and watch more movies and television. When I was a kid, there was no Internet, so when I wasn’t outside riding my bike, I liked to read, go to the movies or sit in front of the TV. With the advent of Netflix, though, this tendency is becoming a problem. Writers are famous for procrastinating. Netflix and Amazon Prime are just what I needed!

Coyote: What first first inspired your writing of Tell Me When I’m Dead? How did the project begin?

Steven Ramirez: Well, I’ve been writing since I was a teenager. I’ve always wanted to write a story featuring zombies. But like George Romero’s ‘Night of the Living Dead,’ I didn’t want to do the zombie apocalypse thing. I liked that he treated his story as small and fairly isolated. So with that in mind, I set my story in a fictional Northern California town.

Here’s the funny part, though. That book was supposed to be a one-off. But when I reached the end, I realized there was still more story to tell. So I continued with Book Two. And of course, you cannot have a series without at least three books, so I completed the trilogy, setting the last book in Los Angeles.

To read the rest of the interview, please visit Coyote’s blog.

Book Three Is Off to the Editor!

Photo Courtesy of Alessandro Baffa via Creative Commons
[Wedding Party]Hey, guys, I wanted to let you know that I reached a major milestone this week on the long road to finishing up my horror-thriller series. I’ve just finished Book Three and have sent it off to the editor. Now the real fun begins. Over the next few weeks I will update you on how things are shaping up in terms of a cover. Also, I wanted to let you know that I am in the process of rebranding the series. Stay tuned for some interesting news about that.

This has been quite a journey. When I started out writing Tell Me When I’m Dead, I honestly believed this would be a one-off story about a zombie outbreak in a small town in Northern California. But when I got to the end, it was painfully clear to me that Dave’s story wasn’t over. He had a lot more killing to do. So I started Book Two, Dead Is All You Get.

Now, everyone knows that you can’t have a series with just two books, so after finishing that one, I was compelled to start on Book Three. Don’t worry—there’s no Book Four planned! I think I did a pretty good job of wrapping things up with good ol’ Dave. Of course, the reader will be the ultimate judge. What to expect? Well, for one thing, the action has moved to Los Angeles. So get ready for some gritty, nail-biting thrills—the kind that seem to follow Dave like a rabid dog—in the land of ‘Sharknado’ and collagen-infused lips.

That’s enough for now. Stay tuned for more breaking news as it develops. And remember, monsters are real. Seriously, they’re real.

Interview with Alan M. Clark

[Alan M. Clark]Okay, this is exciting, people! I am privileged to have as my guest this week, Alan M. Clark, author of the new historical thriller, The Door That Faced West. In this extensive interview, Alan discusses his work as both an artist and author, and provides some interesting background on his new novel. As a bonus, Alan shares some of his illustrations with us—two of which have never been seen publicly!

Hi, Alan. Welcome to the show. It’s great having you here.
A pleasure. Thank you for the invitation.

You are blessed to be both an amazing writer and artist. How long have you been writing and drawing, and which came first?
Thank you for the praise! The answer depends on what you mean, I suppose. For the art, painting and drawing—I’ve been aware of a desire to produce art since about age five, so over fifty years now, but I didn’t think about doing it professionally until my teens. I was lucky to have parents who never discouraged me from considering a career in art. Even so, I went to art college largely to put off for another four years what I thought would be a life in some sort of work I’d do to make money but for which I’d have no real feeling or pride.

I didn’t expect to have a reasonably good business sense that would see me into a life of creative pursuits, but that’s what I had and what happened. Again, I’m lucky. Here’s a link to one of several galleries of my artwork on my website: http://bit.ly/1rj7Hiu

Concerning writing, I started creating fiction in high school, mostly for fun, doing it with friends. Sounds like a gateway to some sort of addiction, doesn’t it? Well, perhaps it was. The collaborations were a lot of fun. We laughed a lot, reveled in weird imaginings, but, like the artwork, I didn’t really believe I had a future in it. Still, I kept at it because I loved it. As an adult, I’ve had several groups that met to share creative process. The members of the groups have been a variety of people with different creative pursuits; writers, graphics artists, painters, photographers, song writers, poets, comic book artists, etc. We shared unfinished work primarily, talking about the processes of our individual creative endeavors. We collaborated some. I was getting good responses for the writing I presented to the groups and started submitting short fiction.

In 1995, I made my first professional sale to a paperback anthology, More Phobias, edited by Martin Greenberg, Wendy Webb, Richard Gilliam, and Edward E. Kramer. Since then, I’ve been more deliberate about getting my writing to an audience and it’s grown. Now, I’ve had four collections and seven novels published. Here’s a link to information about most of my fiction: http://bit.ly/1rj8ksa

Being creative, I imagine ideas come to you in all sorts of ways. When something strikes you, do you typically see it first as an image, then a story? Or does it happen the other away around?
As you suggest, ideas come to me several ways, usually not a clear picture as an image or story. In two-dimensional visual art, I get a rough image that isn’t a composition. If the idea is good, if I like what I see in my mind’s eye, I still have to work at presenting it as part of a composition that includes the rectangle of a picture plane.

In storytelling, it’s the emotional environment that comes first. I develop characters that struggle against the circumstances of their lives, the people in their lives, even those they love, and the conflicting emotions that the characters, themselves, experience. I like working with characters that are emotionally conflicted because they are more like real human beings. They make mistakes they have to live with or struggle to amend. The decisions they make often cause them pain, create conflict with others, alter their core values and motivations, take them in surprising new directions, ultimately change who they are emotionally. The rest: the setting, the time period, the genre, is all just window dressing.

It constantly surprises me when people ask where my ideas come from. Over the years I’ve learned there’s no answer to that. So where do your ideas come from?
Experience, life, free association, the subconscious soup, from practicing the use of imagination, exercising that “muscle” by using it frequently. My blog is called the “Imagination Fully Dilated” Blog. The title comes from a series of anthologies I helped edit. The anthologies are of stories based on my artwork by writers from all over: Ramsey Campbell, Poppy Z, Brite, Jack Ketchum, F. Paul Wilson, and many others.

When I had to come up with a title for the series, I tried to give a sense of how I felt about the process of developing ideas. I thought of an eye, the mind’s eye, that can grab what we know, what we have in the way of experience, and recombine it in new ways to project possible futures, scenarios involving action and conversations, great vistas, curious mechanisms, alien worlds—but not just for fantasy, for practical function of necessity as well—hell, the whole of human invention.

So what prevents us from inventing what we want at a moment’s notice, at least within the imagination? Complacency, lack of urgency, laziness, fear of failure, fear of success and having to maintain that success? Okay, so those are some of the things that have gotten in my way. But imagine a mind’s eye that isn’t lazy, afraid, self-conscious and self-absorbed, one that dilates freely to allow in more experience, more ideas, more color, more light! The title appealed to me also because there’s something of birth in the idea of an organ dilating, opening, not just to let in, but to give forth, to allow to come into existence the products of our creativity.

So, I sound a little crazy, but all of this just to say that I think that if you exercise your imagination, just as with the muscles of your frame, it will be there for you when you need it. Perhaps your mind’s eye opens more freely with use. It seems that way to me.

Your new book, The Door That Faced West, is a work of historical fiction and a thriller, with a healthy dose of violence. What drew you to the Harpe Brothers?
I grew up in Tennessee and learned over time about the history of the State. It has a wild and wooly past. Interesting stuff. I’d read about the Harpes long ago and was fascinated by their story. They are some of the earliest American mass murderers. Perhaps they were serial killers. They were at least spree killers. Over the years their story has stuck with me, but particularly one aspect that most seem to overlook. With the three wives they shared between them, these men lived on the trail in the wilderness of very early Tennessee and Kentucky for months at a time.

It’s difficult to imagine today how foreboding that wilderness must have been and the myriad dangers that existed there. The Harpe brothers killed primarily to gain supplies since most of their victims did not have much money. For extended periods of time, that’s how the group of five survived. It must have been extremely rough living. Yet when the wives got separated from the men at one point, they traveled over one hundred miles to the agreed upon rendezvous. That seems extraordinary to me. What must these brutes have been providing the women that they’d be willing to do that, I wondered. One was the teenage daughter of a minister. How had a young woman, who presumably had some sort of spiritual upbringing, ended up with such dangerous men, been party to forty or more murders from which she benefitted materially, and decided they were worth sticking with despite great hardship?

What history tells us is that when finally the wives were separated from the men for good, they were tried and acquitted. One never remarried and lived out her life working on a plantation. The other two remarried, had children, and lived the rest of their lives in ways that were unremarkable. One of the latter two was the minister’s daughter. I wondered how she’d handled all that emotionally. That became the emotional arc of the novel. The story is told from her POV. The Harpes were extremely violent and while that’s fascinating, it’s not something we aren’t familiar with in serial killer drama. But her story set within the context of their deeds and the early American frontier—as I said, that seemed extraordinary to me.

Did you find it difficult to capture the mood and character of the period? I’m thinking specifically of the way people spoke, the idioms they used.
I like history and have a pretty good sense of when things came into existence in human experience, society and technology. I worked in a living history museum after college, a replica of the first settlement of Nashville called Fort Nashboro. I told of the history of Tennessee to tourist for several years and read a lot about the time period in the state. Tennessee had its first permanent settlements of those of European descent in the 1700s.

I have a sense of how people spoke in that time. In creating dialogue for the characters, I’ve made a compromise between giving a feel for the period and making the language accessible to the audience of today. If I’d really stuck with the sorts of language construction the Harpes and their wives might have used, I’d have tried the patience of many readers. My goal was to tell a good tale, not adhere so strictly to history that my readers might not relate to the characters. I think the flavor of the period I’ve provided helps put the audience there.

You grew up in Tennessee, a state with its own rich history. Do you feel a real connection to it’s past? If so, how does that affect your writing?
I do like Tennessee history, but perhaps no more so than that of other parts of the world. I’ve been writing about Victorian London quite a bit for my Jack the Ripper Victim series. My historical fiction novel about the life of Catherine Eddowes, Of Thimble and Threat: The Life of a Ripper Victim is the first novel in the series. The second novel about the life of Elizabeth Stride should come out later this year. Victorian London is endlessly fascinating.

Can you tell me who some of your favorite writers and artists are?
Writers: Kurt Vonnegut, Joe Lansdale, William Faulkner, Simon Clark, Phillip Jose Farmer, Patrick Suskind, Bruno Schultz, James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice B. Sheldon).

Visual artists: Max Ernst, Leonardo da Vinci, Rick Berry, Richard Powers, Johannes Vermeer, Roberto Matta, Robert Williams, Phil Hale, Gerald Brom.

Thank you, Alan. I wish you the greatest success with your book, and I look forward to chatting with you again.
Thanks. I enjoyed it.

Alan’s Illustrations

[Harpe Party]
Interior illustration for the novel, The Door That Faced West.
[The Old Woman's Crooked Hand]
Interior illustration for the upcoming novel, Say Anything But Your Prayers: The Life of A Ripper Victim.
[Still In Its Hiding Place]
Interior illustration for the novel, Of Thimble and Threat: The Life of a Ripper Victim.
About The Door That Faced West
In the beginning of the nineteenth century, the two murderous Harpe brothers, loyal to one another but violently at odds, go on a year-long killing spree in the American frontier, dragging with them the three wives they share between them; women who form a triangle of dependency, loyalty, jealousy, hatred, betrayal, and love.

“It is not hyperbole to say that Alan M. Clark’s The Door That Faced West left me absolutely stunned. A thoughtfully haunting blend of historical fiction and thriller, this is one of Clark’s best works to date, across any medium. Simply amazing, and undoubtedly one of the best books you’ll read this year.”

—Brian Keene, bestselling author of The Rising and Ghoul

 [The Door That Faced West Cover]

Paperback
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA

About the Author
Alan M. Clark obtained his Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the San Francisco Art Institute. He is an artist, author, publisher and founder of The Bovine Smoke Society, Bovine Smoke West and The Creative Process Committee. He currently resides in Eugene, Oregon with wife, Melody.

You can find more information about Alan at www.alanmclark.com and on Facebook.