It’s available on Amazon!
Go order your copy of Mistresses of the Macabre with my story “Black Bird!”
Last spring I pitched my book, Habeas Corpses, to the editor of a large(r) house that will remain unnamed. I met with this editor in person at a convention, pitched HC, and Said Editor (SE) expressed interest. A week or so later, I sent the manuscript to SE.
I have yet to hear back from SE. No acceptance or rejection.
To be fair, I should have contacted SE and ascertained that SE received my manuscript, but I didn’t. That’s my fault, and I take responsibility for it.
In the meantime, another large house contacted me about Habeas Corpses after reading an excerpt (I think it was the first chapter) on a website they run. That’s right… contacted me. I may have mentioned this before. This Other Editor (OT) requested the first hundred pages, and naturally I sent them. It didn’t take long for OT to send an email outlining some changes I’d have to make in order for my manuscript to be acceptable. These changes basically consisted of removing all traces of gore and graphic material from my novel because OT felt the gore would turn off readers.
Mind you, this manuscript is a zombie novel. Zombie fans turned off by gore? Has anyone at Large Publishing House bothered watching The Walking Dead? Rant over.
I pitched it again to another small(er) publishing house and was told they liked the characters, but the novel didn’t fit their line. Fair enough, and it was a pleasant pitch and rejection.
Yeah, so anyway, at this point I was completely convinced I was marketing this monster the wrong way. But since I was so close to the story, I wasn’t sure I could objectively call it one thing or another. I tried marketing it as urban fantasy, as horror, as a mystery. I had one really awful critique from a contest (more on contests and why I’ll never enter another one in a different post) that claimed it was utter shit and not worth the paper it was printed on. I entered it as an urban fantasy, and I really think that was part of the problem. I needed some help.
A few of my writing colleagues mentioned talking to a professional editor. I know a few editors from my days at SHU, but no one in the horror genre, so it was clear I was going to have to step outside my inner circle.
I started doing some research and one name popped up in a couple of different places from trusted friends. After some procrastinating on my part (because no one could know my novel as well I do, right?) I contacted The Editorial Department for someone to take a look at it and tell me where Habeas Corpses fit in which genre.
My novel was assigned to RJ Cavender. Fast forward by a couple of months and I’d received RJ’s critique of Habeas Corpses. A few weeks later, my mentor and colleague Scott talked me out from under my bed where I was sobbing and dribbling. He smacked some sense into me and I reread RJ’s critique, after which I signed on to work further with RJ.
RJ’s critique was honest (something which I value very much, but always take some time to digest, hence the sobbing and dribbling) and easily the most helpful assessment of a manuscript I’ve ever had. My first read-through of any critique only allows me to read the negatives, so I missed all the complimentary things he had to say until I came back out from under the bed. He accurately pinpointed my strengths (dialogue) and weaknesses (plot holes), and gave solid advice on how to fix the weaknesses.
He also told me my novel should be marketed as horror. And then he helped me market it.
…to be continued
Happy New Years’ Eve to all my friends!
I finally convinced my webmaster to update my website. He’s still cursing over adding cover art, but he’ll get there. Or I’ll take his cookies.
2012 was a good year for me… books were completed, short stories written, submissions sent, my first professional writing contracts were signed. As I sit here with my trusty laptop and a cup of coffee, I think back on a year that wasn’t bad at all.
On the horizon is 2013. I’m so excited to move forward and see my projects in print and continue these fabulous professional relationships. I see many good things in the future, and I wish the same for all my readers and friends.
I submitted my short story “Black Bird” to Dark Moon Books last year. I found out in August it was accepted for their anthology Mistresses of the Macabre. I’ve been (not so) patiently waiting to get a release time and see some cover art.
Look for Mistresses of the Macabre in March of 2013. It includes my story and the writing talents of Diane Arrelle, Alanna Belak, Chantal Boudreau, Nadia Boulberhane, Mandy DeGeit, Magnolia Erdelac, Erin Eveland, Lindsey Beth Goddard, Hollis Jay, Charlotte Jones, Suzie Lockhart, Dawn Napier, Amanda Nethers, Joanna Parypinski, Suzanne Robb, Kelli A. Wilkins, and Melissa Clare Wright.
Drum roll please… Okay, just imagine one or something. Just lots of fanfare and whatnot and whatever you do, DO NOT imagine me doing an obnoxious happy dance. Because I don’t need to pay the therapy bills for that mental anguish.
On to business!!
I’m thrilled to finally be able to announce that I’ve signed with Blood Bound Books to publish my horror novel, HABEAS CORPSES.
Yes, they chose to keep a variation of my working title. I’m very happy about that, since it took a long time and a genius suggestion from a good friend to end up with that title.
We’re in the editing stages now and I’m lucky to be working with RJ Cavender. I’ll write a blog post about the process in the near future, but for now I’ll just say that this will be a better, stronger story with his guidance. I have a graduate degree in writing, but I’m learning a ton while doing these edits.
I can’t wait for everyone to meet my zombie.
I’ll keep everyone updated on artwork and release dates from here at the blog and also on my website. I’m absolutely thrilled to be working with everyone at Blood Bound Books and can’t wait to share this story with everyone!
Each week an author provides his or her answers to the ten questions below and then tags five additional writers, each of whom answers the questions on the subsequent Wednesday (I’m early, since I have a busy few days ahead of me), again tagging five writers, and so on.
1. What is the working title of your next book?
I’m currently working on the final edits of my novel Habeas Corpse, and I’m writing the first draft of the next book in my Corpse series, Edas Corpse. Since Habeas Corpse is the first in the series and will be published first, we’ll take a look at it in this post.
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
This novel actually started as a short story. I’m a big fan of The Walking Dead and Dexter. I also love Richard Matheson’s “The Funeral,” particularly the humor elements. The original short story featuring my zombie, Theo Walker, also included vampires and ghosts and was a humorous take on what a police force might be like if it included the undead. After a few of my beta readers took a look at the short story, they told me the idea had novel potential, so I revised my idea into what is now Habeas Corpse.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
I’ve struggled with this question for quite awhile now. This novel has elements of horror, humor, and mystery. It just didn’t fit into any one genre. I had no idea how best to market this story, so I actually am working with a professional editor to help me refine the story enough to classify it. Now I can pretty comfortably call it a horror novel. There’s a great deal of dark humor and, yes, zombie gore.
4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Oh, geez. This is fun, because I tend to find pictures of my characters online to help me have a clear picture of what they look like. I find it helps me with consistency– no blue eyes turning brown halfway through the novel. The actor who I chose to help me with Theo is James McAvoy, in his rumpled, geeky glory. Detective Gavahan is played by Goran Visnjic, no doubt. Marjorie Frey would be played by Zhang Ziyi and Kaley Cuoco would play Shelby.
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Zombie Theo Walker is a forensic technician with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police… and the evidence is tempting.
6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
At this point in my career, I’m not an advocate of self-publishing. I have a feeling Habeas Corpse will be published by a small press.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I started the novel version of Habeas Corpse in May, 2011 and had a completed first draft by the end of the year. It was a really rough draft, though, and I went through a lot of revisions. I’d say I had a first decent draft done by March, 2012.
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I hate making comparisons, but I’ve been told Habeas Corpse is kind of a mash-up of The Walking Dead, Dexter, CSI, and True Blood. I can’t get a bigger compliment than that. I think the Dexter comparison, more the books than the show, is probably closest.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Like I mentioned above, Matheson’s “The Funeral” definitely sparked this story for me. I love the combination of different characters in the short story. Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter rolled together with the zombie mythos intrigued me. What if Dexter’s Dark Passenger wasn’t a secret? What if it was something he struggled with everyday and everyone expected him to make a stupid move? What would it be like to live under the pressure of scrutiny just because of what you are? I’m also a science nut, which definitely comes into play here.
10. What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Habeas Corpse is set twelve years post-zombie apocalypse. There’s a bit of social commentary in the story concerning zombie rights, since they’re integrating into society. The world is a different place. It’s also set in the great city of Pittsburgh, so anyone with a soft spot for the Steel City will appreciate the details. My science background was of use in Habeas Corpse, and much of the forensic information is as accurate as I could figure. I actually met Dr. Cyril Wecht while I was working revisions, and he’s the inspiration for Dr. Libitin.
So who’s up next? I’m going to tag Ann Kopchik, Jenn Loring, Patricia Lillie, Carla Anderton, and Natalie Duvall.
Zombies. Shamblers, moaners, walkers, undead, the risen, biters, crawlers, uglies. Mindless masses of once living humans craving human flesh.
Whatever you want to call them, they’re terrifying. Death by zombie isn’t pretty, what with the gnawing and the gnashing of teeth. Having one’s brains scooped from his or her skull and chowed upon doesn’t sound like the most peaceful way to slip into the hereafter.
No one wants to become a zombie, either. The idea of wandering the planet restlessly searching for my next meal isn’t exactly appealing. Depending on the type of zombie and the writer’s preferences, there is a question of whether or not the zombie is aware of their predicament. Is the soul of the person still behind the decaying face, unable to control his or her movements and base desires?
These are the questions we are faced with when the walkers come knocking. Nothing about zombies is pleasant, including their actions and the manner in which they feed. Is it fair to downplay the violence associated with zombies? When we, as readers, are confronted with something as horrifying as the walking dead, is the writer somehow obligated to domesticate the monsters? Or do readers of zombie fiction prefer the full experience, the visceral terror and grotesque details of the legend?
My novel, Habeas Corpse, is the story of a zombie who is trying to reintegrate into a post-apocalyptic society. Theo Walker discovers he can relive the last moments of a dead person’s life when he consumes their gray matter. Eating human flesh is the only way the zombies in my novel can feel emotions or experience chemical sensations, like sexual pleasure or anxiety.
If you look at the classic zombie movie, Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, the violence is understated. The audience was very different then. These were people accustomed to I Love Lucy, Gomer Pyle, and Gunsmoke. Fast forward to today, and we’ve got movies like Zombieland, The Dead, and the upcoming film adaptation of World War Z. Even movies meant to be comedic like Shaun of the Dead, and YA novels like Jonathan Maberry’s Rot and Ruin series incorporate more violence and gore than ever before. The modern zombie connoisseur cuts his teeth on The Walking Dead, and if you’ve been watching that over the last few episodes, you know what gore is all about.
Does the modern zombie reader want to return to the homogenized, nonviolent zombie of Romero’s time? I don’t think so. Today’s zombies fans want realism. They don’t want the story sugarcoated or dumbed down. In fact, most zombie fans expect a healthy dose of gore and complain if they don’t get it. Fans of the TV version of The Walking Dead did just that after a season of what they saw as too little action and too much sitting around the farm. This season reflects the fans desire for more zombie killing, blood, death, and the struggle for survival, not just avoiding the walkers.
In Habeas Corpse, Theo depends on ingesting human flesh in order to feel emotion and experience stimulation. Eating the flesh is more than opening his mouth and inserting the food for Theo; the act of eating heightens his senses and brings him closer to the state of humanity he’s lost since dying. It’s a “whole” experience for him. The sensual nature of savoring the entire experience is essential to understand his motivation. The story would not be as effective without the graphic descriptions of the consumption of human flesh.
Leave me a comment. Do zombie fans expect or even want gore? Or should zombie stories be homogenized to fit a larger audience?