News Flash—‘Dark’ Is Not ‘Stranger Things’

Dark Poster
Photo courtesy of IMDb

Recently, I finished watching the new Netflix series, ‘Dark.’ Prior to its availability, though, I was reading headlines like these: Dark Review: Netflix’s German Answer To Stranger Things Is Appropriately Titled, And Far More Grim and Netflix’s Dark: Stranger Things meets The Killing in this supernatural Nordic noir, and to be honest, it kind of pissed me off. To be fair, the articles in question did a pretty good job of distinguishing between the two shows, but why compare them at all? Frankly, they have little to do with each other. Sure, both feature a forbidding forest and missing children. But where ‘Stranger Things’ is a mashup of ‘ET,’ ‘Stand By Me,’ and ‘Super-8,’ ‘Dark’ is a brooding meditation on Chernobyl, fate, and time travel.

So, what happens when you go with these kinds of attention-grabbing headlines? In my opinion, you create wrong expectations in the viewer’s mind. You know about expectations, right? Like when you sit down with your kids to watch the new Pixar movie, ‘Coco,’ at the local cinema and are greeted with a nearly thirty-minute short about some stupid buck-tooth snowman named Olaf. Yeah. Well, the press was bad. I think I heard there were riots in Mexico.

If by now you’re thinking of giving the show a try, let me offer a piece of advice. Switch the dialogue to German and add the English subtitles. I know, I know. Most people hate subtitles. But you will be in for a treat. Hearing the actors’ real voices as they navigate through this hell-on-earth is worth it and adds wonderfully to the tension. Trust me on this. Also, pay attention to the music. It’s spot-on.

I’ve found over the years that European storytelling is different from that of America. Europeans like to take their time letting things unfold. They’re more philosophical. They don’t shout, but rather speak in low, measured tones that convey an intensity that acts as a window into a person’s darkest secrets. And they like to minimalize the backstory, so you end up having to work hard to get to the bottom of a character rather than listening to some rube monologuing about what made them the way they are. Or worse, smarmy narration that attempts to put a bow on it all.

I will admit ‘Dark’ is not for everyone. But if you want to explore something different, give it a try. Why, you may even be tempted to get a taste of Nordic Noir a la ‘The Keeper of Lost Causes.’ And don’t get me wrong. I loved ‘Stranger Things’—well, the first season, anyway. All I’m saying is, ‘Dark’ truly stands on its own. It doesn’t need help from some other successful American series.

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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: https://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.

Authors and the Indie Supply Chain

Photo Courtesy of Ford Motor Company via Creative Commons
[Ford Europe]I’m really hoping that this post isn’t as boring as the title suggests. I wanted to accomplish two things today—tell you where I am with Book Three and talk a little about indie authors who are responsible for controlling their own publishing supply chain. I’ll keep it short, I promise.

If you are a longtime visitor to the site, you’ll know that a couple of years ago I wrote a horror-thriller called Tell Me When I’m Dead. Last year, I followed that up with Book Two, Dead Is All You Get. I’m happy to report that both novels have been getting excellent reviews. This year, I plan to publish the third and final book in the series. Sorry, no title today. I will let you know that when I do the cover reveal in the next month or so.

What Is a Supply Chain, Anyway?
Investopedia defines a supply chain as …

The network created amongst different companies producing, handling and/or distributing a specific product. Specifically, the supply chain encompasses the steps it takes to get a good or service from the supplier to the customer.

In publishing, the supply chain is made up of all of the steps involved in bringing out a book. For print, that includes the actual manufacturing and distribution. For eBooks, it’s mostly focused on editing, formatting and cover design.

Does Self-Publishing Mean Faster?
You bet. I’ve heard other traditionally published authors squawk about the lag between submitting their manuscript to the publisher and actually seeing the thing appear on the book store shelves. We’re talking eighteen months to two years, people. Unacceptable!

Aside from the fact that, potentially, I can make more money selling my own books, shrinking the window from pen to Amazon is a huge plus.

But …
It’s not all chocolate and roses, though. As an indie author, I am essentially in business for myself. And until I can afford to hire an intern, I am pretty much doing everything myself—including marketing. What does that mean? Well, I am a terrible artist. And I don’t know jack about PhotoShop. So I must rely on a cover designer. My choice is Deborah Bradseth over at Tugboat Design.

When it comes to editing, my manuscripts are generally in pretty good shape when I am finished. But editors are a critical and necessary part of the supply chain. They always find things you missed. I’m not talking typos—I mean problems having to do with consistency in character behavior, unresolved storylines, and just plain clunky sentence structure. Currently, I work with a number of editors.

Then there’s the formatting. I tried doing this myself, but there are so many subtleties around eBooks and the devices that display them, it’s not worth it to me to mess with that crap. So I use a professional formatter, JW Manus. She’s smart and efficient, and she delivers a quality product every time.

What’s in It for You?
Back to my new novel. I plan to get Book Three out before the end of the year. In addition, I have asked my artist friend, Kevin Asmus, to create new images for all three books. These will be more cohesive, series-wise, and I really hope you like them. And as if that isn’t enough, I am rebranding the series. Whew!

Sometime in the spring, I plan to finally publish the print versions of these books. Yay! But that is yet another step in the supply chain that requires even more planning. I’ll be doing this through CreateSpace. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I am currently offering Books One and Two for 99 cents. They normally sell for $3.99 each. If you haven’t picked them up yet, now’s your chance to save a little cash. Happy reading!

Tell Me When I’m Dead

[Tell Me When I’m Dead Cover]

Available at Amazon

Thanks to his wife, Holly, recovering alcoholic Dave Pulaski is getting his life back. Then a contagion decimates the town, turning its victims into shrieking flesh-eaters. Now Dave and Holly must find a way to survive. But Dave is this close to drinking again. A woman he cheated with—and no longer human—is after him. The hordes of undead are growing and security forces are outnumbered. Hell has arrived in Tres Marias.

Tell Me When I’m Dead (Book One of THE DEAD SERIES) is about an antihero haunted by all the mistakes of his life. Facing a terrifying future, Dave must decide whether to die drunk or fight for those he cares about most. And strength alone won’t be enough—he’ll need Faith. If you like your thrillers dark and fast-paced, then follow Dave and Holly as they fight against looters, paramilitary crazies and the undead. “A hard-hitting splattergore zombie thriller, told by the ultimate antihero” (Travis Luedke).

Dead Is All You Get

[Dead Is All You Get Cover]

Available at Amazon

After months of fighting the undead ravaging the town of Tres Marias, Dave Pulaski and his wife, Holly, catch a break when Black Dragon Security suddenly shows up to rescue them. But things are about to get worse. The virus is mutating. Now, driven to discover the truth behind the contagion while struggling to protect Holly and those closest to him, Dave is pushed beyond the limits of faith and reason.

Dead Is All You Get (Book Two of THE DEAD SERIES) combines the best elements of horror, dark fantasy and sci-fi, taking the reader on a relentless, tortured journey of survival that tests the strength of one man’s character and delves into the role Faith plays when he is confronted by the worst kind of evil—the evil in humans. If you like your thrillers dark and fast-paced, then read this mind-blowing sequel. And leave the lights on. “A shoot first then shoot again horror thriller of the highest order” (Simon Oneill).

Writing Horror That Appeals to Women

Photo Courtesy of Nathan O’Nions via Creative Commons
[Woman in Forest]So I want to talk about the experience I’ve had writing my horror-thriller series. Books One and Two are available now, and I recently sent the third book in the trilogy off to the editor. When I started writing about Dave Pulaski and the nightmare he awakened to in Tres Marias, a small fictional Northern California town, I didn’t set out to appeal specifically to men or women. I simply had an idea I wanted to try and set out to tell the best story I knew how.

Well, many months have passed, and I’ve noticed from a lot of the Amazon reviews that women seem to like these books. A lot. Now, I’m not trying to piss anyone off here by engaging in lame stereotypes, but frankly I was surprised. Books One and Two deal with an outbreak that’s responsible for creating a town filled with the ravening undead—a solid formula for attracting hardcore male readers. Looking back at what I wrote, I’m going to be so bold as to lay out some principles that made these stories women-friendly. And I would like nothing better than to have female readers respond, telling me that I am full of crap. Here goes …

1. The Writing Has to Be Good
This goes for male and female readers. Thanks to Amazon and others, it’s insanely easy to self-publish. And as a result, there’s a lot of drivel out there. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been sucked in by an interesting cover, only to discover that the author has published what is essentially an amateurish first draft.

I’m not saying, by any stretch of the imagination, that I am a brilliant writer. But I put a lot of work into my writing, and I do everything I can to ensure that what I end up with has been properly edited. So you can rest assure that when you pick up one of these novels, you’re going to get a professionally produced product.

2. It Has to Be about More than Horror
Okay, writing horror is fun. The genre is wide open and allows the author to go places that most literary fiction would blanch at. But stories should be about people. Things will happen, but it’s what the evil does to the characters that matters. Some will become heroes, others will hide, and still others will succumb to the evil.

My books feature all kinds of characters. And for the most part, they are flawed—especially Dave, the protagonist in this series. But that’s what it means to be human. Somehow, we must overcome our shortcomings and do something amazing in the face of Hell.

3. Redemption Is Key
Sure, there are plenty of stories out there that end with everyone dying. Those aren’t for me. I prefer to see a character go through the worst hell imaginable, then somehow survive—a changed person. Sounds like the Hero’s Journey, doesn’t it?

Look, I don’t know whether men like to read about characters who are redeemed. Hell, I don’t even know if women do. I’m going by my gut here, people. And my gut tells me that redemption is essential to any good story.

4. There Needs to Be a Love Story
In the midst of all the blood and the screaming, there is a strong undercurrent of Love in my series—the love between Dave and his wife Holly. I don’t think I would have written these books had there not been a love story. I have no idea if this element made for a grand story that is attractive to women. But I’m pretty sure that most men who read horror don’t give a rat’s tushy.

Comments, anyone?

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.