Hey, I wanted to let you know that I had the privilege of doing a guest post at Horror Made, a site run by the amazing and charming artist Jeanette Andromeda. You can read an excerpt below, and when you’re finished be sure to check out some of Jeanette’s art here. In fact, take a look at what she did with my boring old headshot—wow! This girl has a real gift, and I am thrilled to have made her acquaintance! Okay, here we go…
In 2013, I published what I thought would be a single novel about a regular guy fending off zombies in the fictional Northern California town of Tres Marias. Though I’m a pantser by trade, I had the whole thing figured out in my head. I would take the recovering alcoholic Dave Pulaski on a soul-bending journey of sorrow that would cause him to inadvertently put his wife, Holly, at risk while he struggled to stay sober, even as the body count was going up. But when I finished the book, something happened.
“Dave’s not done,” I said.
And so began the long, hard road to the Tell Me When I’m Dead trilogy. In 2014, I published Book Two, Dead Is All You Get. And in 2015, I brought Dave to the end of his trials with Book Three, Even The Dead Will Bleed.
Pantsers and Plotters I mentioned earlier that I’m a pantser—as opposed to a plotter, who carefully outlines their book the way a draftsman creates a blueprint. I tried doing that a few times with other stories. But the same thing always happened. Fifty pages into the outline, I would get fed up and start writing the damn novel. Want to know another thing about outlines? You don’t always end up going where you thought you would, once you actually begin writing. Plotters will tell you they love being surprised. Well, in my defense, I am surprised every moment I write.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got nothing against plotters. In fact, some of my best friends… Okay, never mind. The point is, both types of writers turn out brilliant fiction. How you get there is more a function of how your brain is wired. Moving on…
If you’re a fan of all things strange and horror-ific, you’re going to enjoy this interview with the talented Danielle DeVor. A few days ago, I wrote a review of Sorrow’s Edge (The Marker Chronicles Book 2), which you can find here. So, let’s get started!
First, let me say I’m thrilled you decided to spend a little time over at Glass Highway, Danielle. You know what a huge fan of your work I am. Okay, enough with the gushing. Can you talk about some of the things that drove you to pair up a former Catholic priest with a witch? I mean, seriously, that’s pretty inventive.
I wanted to make Jimmy a well-rounded character and to do that he needed some sort of love interest. It had popped into my head early that he’d been forced to leave the priesthood, but I needed a reason that did not make him out to be a bad guy—so thus, plausible to be able to fight the demonic. (You have to have a certain purity of heart to perform exorcisms.)
So, when the idea of a situation with a girl was misconstrued popped into my head, Tabby started taking shape. She’s based on a friend of mine who happens to be a witch. And, I figured, it would be interesting to have a man of God be open minded because the church and its proclamations aren’t perfect. And, of course, having been forced to leave, he would have a more unique view of Christianity and God as a whole.
Like most Catholics, Jimmy is a pretty tortured soul—not as tortured as the possessed, but… When all is said and done, what would you like him to have learned at the end of the journey?
That sometimes things happen, and there isn’t anything you can do about it, and the only person you can truly blame is yourself.
Tabby is an interesting character. I think she plays off Jimmy very well—mainly because she never lets him get away with anything. Do you find a bit of yourself in her?
There’s a lot of me in Jimmy—mostly the getting frustrated and cussing at the creepy things. I am sure there is some of me in Tabby too, but I also try to get inside her head. I wanted a strong female character that wouldn’t be overpowered by Jimmy.
So, what was it like researching the witchy stuff?
Fun. Though, I didn’t do the research specifically for this book. I am a religion nerd. By that, I mean that I find religions, all religions, fascinating. So, I study whatever perks my interest. Witchcraft and Voodoo have been one of my subjects for a long time.
After that hair-raising first book in the series, I thought it was interesting that you decided to take the show on the road. What was your main motivation for doing that?
It is extremely rare to have a bunch of exorcisms in the same close area. Rome is probably the oddball in that respect. Here in the US, they are spread out a lot more. So, having Jimmy and Tabby have to go somewhere clear across the country was a natural thing.
I noticed that you give the reader a little taste of what’s to come in Book Three. Any other tidbits you’d care to share?
Animated dead bodies. Old Latin books. Candy. ;)
Can’t wait for Book Three! Best of luck, and thanks again for stopping by, Danielle.
Book 2 in the fascinating series The Marker Chronicles!
Sorrow’s Edge (The Marker Chronicles, Book 2)
Uncovering the truth will take an exorcist.
Jimmy Holiday, defrocked priest turned exorcist, is trying to get his life in order. With his on-again off-again witchy girlfriend moving in, the spirit of the little girl from his last exorcism hanging around, and a secret organization of exorcists hounding him, Jimmy equals stressed.
When a stranger calls in the middle of the night asking for help with a possession, Jimmy is about to land in a mess of trouble. Especially since the man on the phone claims to have gotten his number from Jimmy’s old mentor. Too bad his mentor has been dead for years.
After a mysterious silver flask arrives at his doorstep, Jimmy is left with two options: either ignore the newest enigma the universe has tossed him, or listen to Lucy and travel to Arizona to solve the mystery before all hell breaks loose…again.
Named one of the Examiner’s 2014 Women in Horror: 93 Horror Authors you Need to Read Right Now, Danielle DeVor has been spinning the spider webs, or rather, the keyboard for more frights and oddities. She spent her early years fantasizing about vampires and watching “Salem’s Lot” way too many times. When not writing and reading about weird things, you will find her hanging out at the nearest coffee shop, enjoying a mocha frappuccino.
I got the phone call at three. Just as Lucy said I would. I was really starting to hate the true “witching hour.” I needed sleep, dammit.
I let the phone ring a few times, hoping that whoever was on the other end would just hang up. I wasn’t that lucky. I dragged my tired-ass body up, grabbed my phone off the nightstand, and swiped the screen.
“Mr. Holiday?” the man asked when I grunted into the phone.
“You realize it’s 3:00 AM, right?” My head hit the pillow. I did not want to be doing this right now.
The man sighed. “It couldn’t be helped. We need you.”
I twitched. Who the hell was this guy anyway? Kind of presumptuous to call somebody at random this late at night when you’d never met the person on the other end. Apparently, manners weren’t his strong point.
I glanced around the room. The lamp in the corner was on. The light glowed just enough to keep my mind at ease. I’d gotten into the habit of sleeping with a light on ever since Sorrow’s Point. Yeah, it was irrational, but hey, I was trying to keep the beasties at bay. From the dim light, I could see Lucy sitting on the floor in front of the TV. I, just barely, made out the program through her. Her hair was as pale as usual and so blond it seemed almost white. She wore the same white nightgown she always did.
“How did you get my number?” I had to know. I mean, I doubted Will would suggest me to someone else. Things hadn’t exactly ended on a positive note.
“You came highly recommended.”
That was news to me. A very small group of people even knew I did something besides graphic design. “By who?”
“That’s not important right now. You’re needed. That’s what should matter.”
I sat up. Not important to him, maybe, but it sure as shit was important to me. I squeezed the phone so hard my knuckles began to ache. If I broke it, this asshole was going to owe me another phone. “Listen. I’m not about to traipse around and do whatever the hell it is you want me to when you won’t tell me who you are or who told you about me.”
“O’Malley said you’d be difficult.”
I froze. Father O’Malley had been the one who allowed me to see the church as a vocation when I was a kid. But there was one problem. He’d been dead since before I left the church. I didn’t care where he got the information. That was a low blow. I clenched my teeth.
“I’m going to hang up now. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t call here again—”
The desperation in his voice was the only thing that kept me from hanging up the phone. “All right. I’m listening.”
“O’Malley told me about you in a dream. When I woke up, your phone number was scrawled on my hand.”
Yeah, I knew that kind of weird. I had firsthand experience with it. Having a dead person talk to him in a dream wasn’t that different from a disembodied soul speaking to me in a nightmare. Yeah, my life was really interesting. Though I’d never drawn on myself in my sleep. That was a new one. “Who is it who needs an exorcism?”
The guy hung up. I literally heard the phone hitting the cradle. Who used an old phone like that anymore? I almost threw my cell phone against the wall. I mean, what the hell? Wake me up in the middle of the night for what?
I scratched the sleep out of my eyes and glanced over at Lucy. “Don’t you ever sleep?”
She stared at me and grinned. Her blue eyes almost sparkled. “I don’t have to.”
I shook my head. Of course a kid would think it great to not sleep. I, on the other hand needed my rest—strange phone calls or not. And if someone else called, I’d probably be facing a murder charge.
“Do you think Tabby will like me?” Lucy asked. She stayed dressed in this little white frilly nightgown. I wasn’t sure if it was her favorite or if there was something else at work keeping her dressed that way. When I’d done her exorcism, she sure wasn’t in frills.
Now that was the question, wasn’t it? I’d been toying with the idea of not telling Tabby about my ghostly child, but it appeared that was no longer an option. And with my luck, Tabby would eventually see her, freak out, and the whole thing would be blown out of proportion.
“I’m sure she will…” I hoped that was true. “After she gets used to the idea.”
Lucy stared at me for a bit. I could tell she wasn’t buying it. Best I start remembering there was more to her than to a regular six-year-old.
“It will all work out,” I told her. “Eventually.” Part of that was me trying to convince myself. There was only so much oddness a normal person could take, and I figured I was probably getting close to the threshold.
“Uh-huh,” Lucy said, back to watching the TV. How she could just sit in front of the TV for hours on end, I didn’t know. It was almost like she became somehow hypnotized by it.
I laid my head back on the pillow. Hopefully, I could go back to sleep. Hopefully, I could stop worrying about that odd phone call. Hopefully…who was I kidding? I was seriously screwed. Again.
Recently, I had the pleasure of reviewing Moral Infidelity, a complex political thriller by talented author Rebecca Warner. Today, I am pleased to present my interview with her. In the words of Michael Romano, lucky son of a bitch!
Rebecca, welcome. It’s my understanding that you’ve read an extraordinary number of books in your lifetime. Can you talk about some of your favorite genres and how they have influenced you as a writer?
I began reading at a very early age, which allowed me to read so many books over my lifetime. My mother couldn’t punish me by sending me to my room, because I was perfectly happy just to be left alone to read. Throughout elementary school, junior high and high school, I would check out a new book every day from the library. I would do my homework, then read the book and return it the next day for another. My earliest real influence, discovered in junior high, was Victoria Holt, who wrote gothic novels. That led me to the classics authors, like the Bronte sisters, Daphne Du Maurier, Jane Austin and Oscar Wilde, to name a few. Though I didn’t read as much in college because I was a business major and had very little leisure time, I always had a book going. After college, as a young single woman in Miami, I went through the Danielle Steele and Sidney Sheldon and Jackie Collins phase. Then I revisited John Steinbeck, and was sort of reborn in terms of seeking out the classics, but this time more of the 20th century classics. Stephen King got my attention in the 1970s, and has kept it, and then James Patterson made me appreciate suspense/thrillers/mysteries, which became—and still is—my favorite genre. So I was especially pleased that Moral Infidelity, my first book, won the Bronze Medal for the category of Fiction: Thriller in the Readers’ Favorite 2015 International Book Contest.
Have you always written, or did you wake up one day after reading another great book and say, “I can do this too!”?
If I may tell a story about a specific incident in my life that influenced me to be a writer…
In the fourth grade, I was in a class that was classified as “accelerated,” though I never stood out in any way among the many truly smart children in my class. One day the teacher put up a picture of a little boy in red pajamas, sitting in front of a fireplace, holding a golden dog in his arms. We were supposed to write something about it—tell the story. I remember very clearly going to another place in my mind (I didn’t yet understand that “zone”) and writing words that seemed to come from outside of me. The teacher then had us read our papers, and as others got up and read theirs, I realized how different mine was, and I felt I had failed in the assignment. When the teacher pointed to me to get up in front of the class to read mine, I was terribly embarrassed. I tried to get someone else to read it for me, but she shook her head ‘no.’ So I had no choice but to read it, and when I finished, the room was very quiet. I looked over at my teacher, expecting a disapproving look, but instead she was looking at me with admiration and astonishment, and then she said, “We have a genius in our class.” Powerful words that kept me writing short stories and poetry and winning awards for them throughout my school years.
In reading your work, I’ve noticed that you like to dig deep into your characters. After reading Moral Infidelity, I feel I know Michael intimately. Is there a particular author who influenced you in this regard?
I mentioned John Steinbeck earlier. In my opinion, he delved into the human heart and mind like no authors before or since, though I must laud Dostoyevsky in that regard as well. Think Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath. Think Rodya in Crime and Punishment. Stephen King is also brilliant in that regard. The mental and emotional dissection of Andy and Red in TheShawshank Redemption is unparalleled in literature. With all of these authors, I was fascinated with the depth and the complexity they plumbed from their characters. All subconsciously influenced me in my writing in terms of wanting to write more complex and conscience-driven characters.
You know, this is a great question, because before now, I never really analyzed why it was so critical that I so thoroughly develop Michael Romano’s character in Moral Infidelity—his descent into darkness and depravity even as he functioned on a higher plane in a privileged world. Your question has caused me to do so! Thanks, Steven.
Are you interested in movies and television? If so, do they influence your writing?
I love movies and television, and am fascinated that writers can conceive of such great ideas and then execute them so perfectly through dialogue and action. But I can’t honestly say that any movie or TV show has influenced my writing.
I apologize in advance for the obligatory question, but what are you working on now?
The book I am writing now is a thriller based on a true-life event, though it is fiction. For decades, I had a Russian ballet teacher in Miami, Madam Renee, whom I loved and kept in touch with even after I moved to North Carolina. Every time I was in Miami, I would take her to a lovely restaurant, so befitting her appreciation of fine things which she could no longer afford. One day, I was picking her up to take her to the Biltmore Hotel for an elegant pool-side lunch. When I got to her home and she came outside, I was shocked and horrified by her appearance. Normally so stylishly turned out, she was disheveled, wore virtual rags, was emaciated, and had a big gash on her leg.
The patio attached to her home was encased in roof-to-ground iron bars, for security reasons. She had always come and gone through the keyed iron gate set within the bars, but that day she told me she couldn’t find the key. I knew that a man who had married and divorced her niece had moved in with her, which I always thought a bit odd, but she was glad to have the company and added protection. But because she had obviously declined to such a great degree since he moved in, I became suspicious and alarmed. She was literally like a prisoner, and when—at my urging—she called him at work to ask where the key was, he gaslighted her into thinking she was demented and had misplaced it. Something just was not right, and I immediately alerted my former ballet classmates, including one who is a lawyer, to find out more about this man, and Renee’s circumstances. It became evident through our inquiries and also public records that he had taken over her property and her life, and we all felt she was in danger.
And so the idea of the book I am writing now, Ballet Barres, was born, with the objective of Renee’s devoted students of twenty-plus years coming together these many years later to save her from whatever evil intent this man has. And yes, I delve into his darker side!
What if an anti-abortion governor, who is determined to enact stricter abortion laws in his state, had an affair that resulted in an unintended pregnancy?
In this two-time award-winning thriller, Florida Governor Michael Romano becomes embroiled in an ethical dilemma that threatens to shatter his marriage and his political career. His mistress wants him and his baby, and she will publicly destroy him if he doesn’t leave his wife to marry her. He finds himself walking a moral tightrope, where a single misstep can irretrievably ruin his carefully-constructed personal and political life.
Choice takes on a whole new meaning for Romano as he attempts to untangle himself from his sticky web of deceit.
Suspense builds as Romano weighs his limited options while fighting to keep his political career viable as he pursues enactment of anti-abortion laws. Caught in the nightmarish consequences of his treachery and duplicity, Romano must make choices that will test the strength of his moral fiber to its limits…But will his choices lead to his salvation, or his ruin?
About the Author Rebecca Warner’s educational and professional background was in finance and banking in Miami, Florida. After she and her husband moved to the beautiful mountains of North Carolina, Rebecca began writing articles for several local periodicals. Drawing upon her many years of advising the lovelorn and successful matchmaking, she also wrote a romance-and-relationship advice column. In 2014, she published her first book, Moral Infidelity, which won the Bronze Medal in the Readers’ Favorite 2015 International Book Awards’ thriller category, and Top 10 Honorable Mention in the 2015 Great Southeast Book Festival. Her second novel, Doubling Back To Love, was solicited for inclusion in a ten-novel romantic anthology, and her third book, He’s Just A Man, is a non-fiction self-help book for women seeking a mate.
Rebecca is a convivial feminist who blogs on her own sites and for The Huffington Post about topics of interest to women. She enjoys participating in podcasts and forums about women’s social, economic and political issues.
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
In college, I started writing screenplays. I did that for a number of years. If you live in LA, you sort of have to. I managed to sell one that was made into a feature film. At some point, I decided fiction was a better way to go. I’ve published a horror thriller trilogy called TELL ME WHEN I’M DEAD and have written another novel and a novella—both of which I hope to publish soon.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Well, I have a family I am devoted to. I love to read, and I also like to watch movies and television.
Other than horror, what other things have been a major influence on your writing?
Crime fiction has always appealed to me. If you think about it, often characters do horrific things when committing crimes. Usually, it’s out of desperation.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
I love the term Dark Fiction because it covers a lot of ground. When some people talk about Horror, they are imagining serial killers. Others prefer demons and the paranormal. And some think of fantasy. In my trilogy I chose zombies.
Who are some of your favourite authors?
There are many, but I will name a few I very fond of: Jack Finney, Richard Matheson, Shirley Jackson, and Patricia Highsmith.
What is your all-timefavourite horror novel, and film?
For book and film, The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby. For film alone, The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2.
How would you describe your writing style?
Okay, this is where my ego enters the room. I’ve always wanted a reviewer to describe my style as “visceral and immediate.” Let’s go with that.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
Someone recently reviewed Book One of the trilogy and said, “Very nearly as good as Stephen King.” That means a lot to me because King is a master of the craft of writing.
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.
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.
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.
Today, I’m pleased to have as my guest Melodie Ramone, author of the literary novel Lights of Polaris. Enjoy the interview, and don’t forget to enter the Lights of Polaris Giveaway!
Q. Melodie, you started writing at a fairly young age. What kinds of things did you write back when you were a kid?
A. I’ve always written literary fiction, more or less, but when I was a kid I wrote about weird stuff more than I do now. I was a pioneer of fan fiction (laughs). In 1983 or 1984, I wrote a twenty-page novella entitled The Return of ET, where ET came back to visit and got stuck again or something. I don’t remember, but I’m pretty sure it was awful. I do remember being told that it was unpublishable because of the original story. It was my introduction to copyright laws. But, beyond that, I wrote tons of poetry in junior high school and went into magazine articles and local newspaper when I was in high school. I did that for years. I didn’t really start full-length novels until I was in my thirties, but I wish I had.
Q. Wow, that’s way more writing than I did at that age! I was happy to learn that you had worked in the music industry for a number of years. Can you talk a little bit about that period? What are some of your favorite bands?
A. Oh, yeah. That. Well, my very first job was working for a small public relations firm from Baltimore, Maryland, that supported artists from Chrysalis Records. I was sixteen and had friends who were out in LA making a splash on the 80’s music scene. They introduced me to some people, and I got offered a job as an area representative in Chicago. What I did in the beginning was run around passing out flyers and doing inventory in record stores. I set up a street team, and we’d call radio stations and blow up the phones at MTV. We did snail mail blitzes and all kinds of stuff like that. It was a lot of fun, but it didn’t pay really great. Most of my salary consisted of backstage passes and free dinners, and I got to tag along from show to show on various tour buses with rock stars.
I did meet a ton of people, and I made friends with some unlikely souls. The music business isn’t a far cry from the publishing industry, to be honest. It’s colorful, vicious and wonderful. It’s filled with every type of personality you can imagine. I met people who were larger than life, and I met people who were nothing, but who the PR companies had blown up into something unreal. I think that alone was an education—watching human beings who were filled with real charisma and something magical being set shoulder to shoulder with pretenders. It taught me about the line between fact and fiction that transcends reality, and those geniuses at the PR firm showed me how to present that in a way that people can embrace. I use that spin a lot when I write, and spend a lot of time in that grey area with my characters. I learned from rock ‘n’ rollers that the truth is always in the grey, and I learned to spot it really quick.
My favorite bands? I’m really just so eclectic, meaning that I listen to all kinds of stuff. When I was in the biz, I worked with mainly heavy metal and punk rock bands, but I was raised on 70’s classic rock and folk music. My grandma loved big band and jazz. Now, I hop around a lot. Right now, believe it or not, I’m on a My Chemical Romance vs. 40’s and 50’s standards kick. Like for real. I’ll finish with The Black Parade and flip over to a Tony Bennett mix CD, and then I’ll go to Danger Days, and then pop over to Perry Como. I’m weird like that. But my heart is with punk rock. I mean, I’m old enough to say that I was alive when Sid Vicious was still around, but I really like some of the modern stuff. Cellabration is fabulous. This morning I listened to Stomachache and then put on Mel Torme. Like I said … eclectic. In fact, that may be an understatement.
Q. I would ask you to create a playlist for me, but I’m afraid my head would explode. Which reminds me … Your work has been described as “edgy.” Does this reflect your personality, or does the edginess come from a different place when you write?
A. I get that constantly! I ask the people who know me well to tell me why, and they say it’s because I tell the truth about things I’m not supposed to be talking about in the first place. If that’s edgy, then I definitely am, especially in what I write. I’m certainly not obnoxious, but I tend not to pull punches. If there’s a story to tell, it’s probably got some dirt and grit on it, and I don’t shy away from exposing it. Besides, dirt and grit makes things interesting and once you wash it off, then you can see whatever beautiful was beneath it. And I’m always looking for beauty, especially below the surface.
Q. I’m with you there. Sometimes, the most imperfect people make the best characters. What are the one or two things you would like readers to come away after finishing Lights of Polaris?
A. Well, with Lights of Polaris it was my goal to show what happens to a woman after she makes the decision to leave behind what’s making her unhappy, and does it. The truth is that many people walk around this world nearly dead inside, and only a few get to the point where the fight-or-flight reflex kicks in. Daisy Cade, the pivotal character in the book, desperately wants to live a life and not just survive her situation. So she does what society perceives as the “wrong thing to do” and—more or less—she runs like hell. From her job, from her home, from her relationship … from a life that was killing her. She throws herself at the mercy of her family for solace.
And then I wanted to show how even those who love us most and whom we trust can be doubting and judgmental about that kind of decision, and how society ridicules a woman who is being true to herself. I wanted to show how lives intertwine, too, so there are a couple of plots running through the book to reflect the intricacies of how one life affects another. And, lastly, how life itself can come screaming at us from out of nowhere when we least expect it, and aren’t even ready for it, and can offer us the things we most desperately want and need. It often happens at the worst possible times—when we are under the microscope of a society of people who mostly never had the courage to do what we have done.
So, in the end what I want people to walk away with is a sense of hope and the belief that you can go about your life in the oddest, most misunderstood way, and that if you’re true to yourself you can find your way to someplace livable, where you can breathe, relax the muscles in your neck and shoulders, and just be free. Because it is possible, and I have learned that there are more possibilities in this world than limitations if you accept them, have the courage to leap, and reject the notion of failure.
Q. Well put. Can you talk about what you are working on now?
A. I don’t really like to talk about upcoming projects, but I will say that I’m extremely excited about the one I’m working on. And I will tell you that it’s likely to be a book series in a genre that I have never written in before. But it will have guts and soul. And I will tell the truth like I always do, so it’s bound to be “edgy.” I don’t think there will ever be an escape from that for me.
Throughout her life, Daisy Cade was a free spirit who tried to fit in, but her struggle to conform was futile. And it was suffocating her. Desperate for air, she would pack up and run, often leaving chaos in her wake. At the age of thirty, weary of being labeled a “wild child,” she descended into a loveless relationship with a man who targeted her with his insidious mental cruelty – a psychological abuse so overwhelming, it threatened her sanity.
On her thirty-fifth birthday, she fled that life, too.
She returned home to Chicago, safe in the refuge of her famous brother’s house, but reeling from the fallout of her latest breakup. What she didn’t expect was for her life to collide with Stuart Adkins, whose piercing blue eyes could see right through her and understand more than she wanted him to know.
An enigmatic woman on the edge. A devoted, but meddling family. An angry ex, hell-bent on payback, and a handsome Irish singer with a troubled past. Only one thing is certain: Daisy Cade’s future is arriving like a train that’s jumped the tracks.
About the Author
First published in literary magazines at the age of twelve, Melodie Ramone is a lifelong writer from the city of Chicago, Illinois.
“Words, words. Pens. Ink. It’s always been this way with me. Sometimes my fingertips get sore and sometimes I go blind, but I’m never happier than when I’m writing or have my nose shoved in a book. I get cranky when I don’t have something to create or feed to my brain.” A lifelong lover of music, she worked in the public relations sector of the music industry from the age of sixteen to twenty-four.
She is now settled into a four-bedroom house on a shady street in Central Illinois and spends her time as a full-time novelist, Certified Kitchen Witch, mother, public speaker, event organizer, stray cat rescue advocate, and community activist.
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.”
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, 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.
Danielle DeVor is one of my favorite horror authors. As a writer I need to remind myself every day not to be afraid to go where my muse takes me. Well, folks, this girl isn’t afraid, and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t need to be reminded either. I can almost hear her laughing as she gambols in the direction her muse is pointing.
DeVor’s stories take the reader from the curious to the uncomfortable to the fearful. And she doesn’t limit her imagination to vampires. How about some flesh-eating hermit crabs to start your day? After reading that one, you’ll think twice about taking your family to Red Lobster.
If you’ve never read this author’s work, I suggest you pick up Strange Darkness and get introduced to writing that is as original as it is scary. And pay particular attention to the imagery. Something in these pages just might awaken a dark longing deep in your own unconscious. Something that resembles, I don’t know, hermit crabs?
Why does horror lend itself to the short story format so easily? I think it really does because, with horror, you can jump in right at the moment of action. Through setting, smell, visuals, and sound, you can put someone right into a situation where their heart pounds and they are waiting for the monster to strike.
That’s why I decided to put out a collection of stories. While I like drawing a reader into a world and leading them up to the impact, I like the instantaneous shock too. The moment the werewolf’s teeth bite into your leg. The moment when you know you might die. So, welcome to Strange Darkness. I hope you enjoy the ride.
Pull up a spot around the campfire and join us in this collection of 8 spooky short stories.
A deadly, dangerous man is caught between the paranormal and his evil, hungry dreams.
A study on urban legends becomes all too real for one student.
Time waits for no man and a horrible vampiric legacy is in need of an heir.
Puppies are sweet and cute, but this little girl’s Hellhound is loyal.
There’s nothing like an alien war. Frog isn’t what he appears. And Boyd? He’ll be thankful.
Running away will solve all your problems. Or not. One girl will wish she stayed home.
There’s nothing like a few brain eating hermit crabs to turn your world on its axis.
Sometimes the one who saves you from the monsters is one person you’d least expect.
About the Author
Named one of the Examiner’s 2014 Women in Horror: 93 Horror Authors you Need to Read Right Now, Danielle DeVor has been spinning the spider webs, or rather, the keyboard for more frights and oddities. She spent her early years fantasizing about vampires and watching “Salem’s Lot” way too many times. When not writing and reading about weird things, you will find her hanging out at the nearest coffee shop, enjoying a Mocha Frappuccino.