Category: writing life

Finally! A Big Announcement!

Habeas Corpses, marketing, publishing, writing life December 7, 2012

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.

Editing fun!

Editing fun!


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!

Tagged again! Questions about Habeas Corpse

publishing, writing life, zombies November 30, 2012

The excellent writer Kristin Dearborn tagged me in another round of blog questions. Kristin’s book Trinity is available right now from DarkFuse. Go get one!

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.

My vision of Theo... just make his complexion a little grayer.

My vision of Theo… just make his complexion a little grayer.

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.

A few updates

angst, publishing, writing life November 19, 2012

Hey there! It’s been a little while since I last posted, so I thought I’d give everyone a quick update.

I’m currently working on the second book in the Corpse series, tentatively titled Edas Corpse. This story will pick up where Habeas Corpse leaves off and give us a glimpse into the zombie underground in Pittsburgh. It’s a lot of fun to torture our poor zombie Theo as he fights an inner battle about the morality of dealing in human flesh.

I received word from the editor of the upcoming Dark Moon Books anthology, Mistresses of the Macabre, that it is projected to be released early next year, perhaps to coincide with Women in Horror Month. So for those of you waiting for Black Bird, it won’t be much longer!



I also want to let you know that sometime very soon I will have a really, really fantastic announcement. I’m nearly ripping my own hair out to share this news, but hair pulling is painful, so I’m trying to resist. This news will be featured very prominently here as soon as I can reveal it. Hold onto your hats, it’s going to be a great ride!


reading with a purpose, SHU WPF, writing life September 10, 2012

A few reminders today about books available or upcoming!

Help fight cancer and contribute to the care of two wonderful women.

Droplets, by Scott A. Johnson is available through Amazon. 100% of the profits from the sale of every book go toward the medical costs for Tabatha Johnson.


Tabby’s a fighter. She’ll beat this, and she deserves all the support she can get.

Tabby and Scott







Also available for a good cause is Hazard Yet Forward, where you can read my short story “One Man’s Garbage.” The proceeds from Hazard Yet Forward also go toward one woman’s fight with cancer. Donna Munro is a friend and fellow Seton Hill University writer. This huge book features over 70 writers and stories in every genre. This book is available in eformat from Amazon. In case you didn’t know, you can download a Kindle app for your iPad or computer for free and read every title available for Kindle! Win!


My short story “Black Bird” is forthcoming in Dark Moon Book’s anthology Mistresses of the Macabre. More information on that as it becomes available. Have a great week!

Guest blog: The importance of choice in creating readers

genre fiction, guest blog, reading, writing life, writing parent August 29, 2012

One of the reasons I love Jonathan Maberry’s Rot and Ruin series so much is that it provides choice for young male readers. In a bookstore filled with female protagonists, Maberry offers a cast of strong male protagonists alongside the strong females. Benny is so identifiable and Tom is a great role model.

Today’s guest blogger is Dr. Sara Kajder. Sara has worked in both university settings and in grade schools, but has loved working with middle school learners. She has a background in English literature and received her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction. Also important to this blog series, she’s the mom of two boys. As an educator and a parent, she understands the unique challenges in fostering interest in reading among the boys. In this guest blog she tackles the gender gap in literacy. As she points out, examining the choices that our kids are making in reading material is key to fostering their interest. Maberry’s books have been a great choice for us.

“I teach eighth grade English in a curriculum that is chock-full of the standard-faire… Grammar.  Vocabulary.  Etymology.  Writing.  And, oh yeah – reading.  Lots and lots of reading.  For some reason, this seems to be the area in which I receive the most “Bless your heart” comments when catching up with old friends or describing my work when meeting new ones.  This is followed by a nod of a head, a sigh, and the lament that “Those boys just don’t read…”

Looking across my summer reading list last night, some bits of that did look to be true.  In a randomly chosen class of 18 (with 12 boys and 6 girls), the female students out-read the boys by 3 books to 1.  According to their initial reflective writing, 3 of my 12 boys were gregarious readers with the other 9 quick to embrace the title of “non-reader.”  Their entries describing their reading were notably brief, as was their list of favorite authors, books re-read, and time, on average, spent reading each day.

Here’s the thing… None of this surprised me.  And, bigger – I, and loads of reading scholars and researchers, believe that a real literacy gap doesn’t exist.  Yes, some boys can take longer to learn how to read.  And, yes, significantly more boys than girls, especially adolescents, will label themselves non-readers.  However, given the opportunity to self-select titles from lists which understand their interests, my male students will rise – and quickly.  ALL readers become better readers by reading more, whether they are girls or boys.  I work hard as an English teacher to build reading communities in my classroom, so boys have the opportunity to recommend books to one another (as we all know that peer to peer connections are infinitely powerful).  My role is to support, to facilitate, to know students (and books) well enough to know what might ignite a particular fire in a reader, and to constantly seek out model readers with whom male students (and female ones, too) can see, question, hear, and emulate.

Readers who are skillful, passionate, habitual and critical grow from powerful interactions with texts that actually act on them.  My boys don’t usually get that from the now abundant female-protagonist, post-apocalyptic YAL that line the shelves of our local bookstore.  Their choices do fall into some of the patterns/myths that you’d expect – nonfiction abounds alongside graphic novels, science fiction, and the growing list of series about sports and adolescent athletes.   Independent (read: not on the school-approved list) choices this summer ranged from Conan-Doyle’s The Hounds of Baskerville to Meyers’ Fallen Angels to Lovecraft’s Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre.  They weren’t drawn to Sarah Dessden’s approach to writing about relationships, but they did connect with Walter Dean Myer’s work that does explore relationships between men across contexts ranging from scenes of combat to competition the soccer field.

We discussed their choices in class today, and the predominant message was one that centered on the power of choice.  Building life-long readers is about helping students to make smart choices about their reading.  Adult readers revel in our idiosyncrasies and expect the freedom of choice.  The boys in my classes need to do the same.  Students talked about making reading easy and inviting, which often means backing off of our expectation that all texts be “literature” and making room for alternative modes and media.  Even bigger, my students talked about time.  We live in a time that is marked by speed and an odd push to make sure that we schedule every second of our children’s time.  Malcolm Gladwell talks in Outliers about expertise as something that can only happen once we spend at least ten thousand hours engaged in a particular practice.  From school, most of my students head to at least two athletic practices (or a game) per evening, not counting the time needed for homework and other commitments like music and rehearsals.  Reading stamina is important. You can only get it by reading regularly and building the “muscle memory” that helps students identify what makes good writing work.   Summer seemed to provide the single space for the majority of my boys to slow, to pick up a book, and to get lost in story.

All readers deserve the opportunity to become better readers.  Choice, time, and stamina… I’ve written all three into a heading for my planning book for the term, and, just as importantly, I  have them saved as a prompt to remind me as a mother of two boys to foster growth in my own sons.  It’s amazing what we can learn from kids when we listen to their practices, their choices, and what they have to say.”

Many thanks to Dr. Kajder for taking the time to talk with us!

Hazard Yet Forward

genre fiction, mixed genre, publishing, reading with a purpose, SHU WPF, Writing About Popular Fiction, writing life August 7, 2012

It’s here! Today’s the release day for Hazard Yet Forward, the anthology written and compiled by fellow Seton Hill alum, students, and friends. The proceeds from this amazing 700+ page tome will benefit my friend Donna Munro in her fight with breast cancer.

This huge volume covers all genres and everything in between. Follow this link to get your copy today! Help us make this book #1 on Amazon’s list!
If you don’t have a Kindle, never fear, there’s an app for that! Get it here.

Friday Fuel: Hair cuts, summer camp, and anxiety

Friday Fuel, writing life August 3, 2012

Happy Friday!

I know I need to get a bit of writing done over the weekend. I’ll struggle to fit it in between martial arts promotions (my husband) and birthdays (my older son), but I need it for reasons more than work.

I feel better when I write. Not only in the sense that I feel productive, which is lovely, but in the sense that it allows me to step outside myself for a little while and forget the things that might be bothering me. If I’m more concerned about my characters’ problems than my own, even for just a few hours, I come away rejuvenated. Writing is essential for me. It is my outlet.

So I hope you get some writing time this weekend as well. Mine will be spent in my office, most likely with a cat or a corgi snoring beside me.

Here’s your Friday Fuel:

1.    Your protagonist is alone in his home, watching TV and eating ice cream on the first floor. Noises on the second floor grab his attention. Does he investigate? What does he find?
2.    Write a short story in which a woman gets a hair cut and hates it. Better yet, it’s a week before she starts a new job.
3.    On this day in 1963, Allan Sherman released the song “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah.” Did you go to summer camp? Write a short story about a fictional child at summer camp. Any genre.
4.    Write a short scene or story using these words for prompt: death, auction room, red, and anxious.
5.    Some say to leave no stone unturned. What would that look like in a short story?

Have a great weekend! And don’t forget to check out Hazard Yet Forward, available at Amazon on August 7. Seven hundred pages of multi-genre goodness!

Special announcement and cancer sucks

reading with a purpose, SHU WPF, writing life August 2, 2012

Hello intrepid readers! I’d like to ask you for another favor.

Seems like cancer has taken a prominent role in my world lately. I’ve decided without a doubt that I loathe and despise cancer. It’s a cruel disease, one that comes silently and takes too many people from me and my loved ones.

I hope you’ve purchased your copy of Scott A. Johnson’s Droplets. Every penny of the profits from Droplets goes directly to taking care of Tabby Johnson’s medical bills. This is so important. If I hadn’t been fortunate enough to work with Scott as my mentor in my graduate program, I wouldn’t be writing the way I am now. He made a difference for me. Help me make a difference for him and his family. If you haven’t made that purchase yet, please consider doing so. Follow this link to Scott’s blog and purchase from there.

Another friend, a fellow SHUer, is also undergoing cancer treatment. Donna Munro is a horror writer, an organizer of excellent writing retreats, and my friend. She’s also in for a tough fight with cancer. I’d like to ask for your help once again.

Seventy-six writers connected to the Seton Hill University Writing Popular Fiction program have created a multi-genre charity anthology entitled Hazard Yet Forward.  All proceeds from this project will benefit Donna Munro, a 2004 graduate of the program.  Munro, a teacher living in St. Louis, Missouri, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.  An active member of the SHU WPF alumni committee, Munro helps organize the school’s annual writing conference, the In Your Write Mind Workshop.

To aid Munro and her family, faculty members, alumni, students and friends of the Writing Popular Fiction program quickly responded to compile this massive anthology.  The book features flash fiction, short stories and even a full-length novella.  In total, there are 75 works from various genres, which makes this anthology one that features something for everyone.

Genres represented in the book range from horror to romance to mystery – and everything in between.  Some of the notable writers in the anthology are World Fantasy Award winner Nalo Hopkinson, Bram Stoker winners Michael A. Arnzen and Michael Knost, Bram Stoker nominee Lawrence C. Connolly, ALA/YALSA Best Book for Young Adults winner Jessica Warman, Rita finalist Dana Marton, Spur winner Meg Mims, Asimov’s Readers’ Award winner Timons Esaias  and WV Arts and Humanities literary fellowships winner Geoffrey Cameron Fuller.

About Hazard Yet Forward, co-compiler Matt Duvall says, “It’s an unprecedented collection of stories from every genre imaginable.”  This large volume is an electronic book for the popular Kindle platform and is available for purchase through Amazon starting August 7.  It’s also reasonably priced.  The book will be on sale for $9.99.

I am a part of this anthology.  I wrote the story, “One Man’s Garbage,” about the unintended consequences of one man’s obsession with yard sales.  I took part in this anthology because I want to help Donna and also because I believe in the unspoken brotherhood of the writing community. We’re in this together.

More information about the anthology can be found at the Hazard Yet Forward blog.  To learn about the unique and exciting Writing Popular Fiction program, please visit the Seton Hill University website.

Join us to make a difference.

Friday Fuel: Life, air conditioning, and the Olympics

Friday Fuel, Uncategorized, writing life, writing parent July 27, 2012

I always have the best of intentions. I really do. I *think* about posting every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

But somehow something gets in the way.

I have decided that my daily fiction word count must come before blogging. After all, if I’m not writing, what’s the point of a writing blog? I refuse to feel bad about missing a blog post because I’m getting my word count in for the day.

So, what’s been going on?

Well, I finished up a couple new short stories and have been submitting them. I submitted my novel to two publishers and received one really nice non-form rejection (seriously, this publisher told me she loved the character, but the book itself didn’t fit into their line… I actually expected it) and am still waiting on the other. I’m still tossing around the idea of what to do with my thesis novel. I’ve had a couple suggestions for some revisions, but it comes down to me deciding how I want to market it and making it fit my vision for the book.

One of my short stories will be available in a charity anthology due out soon, titled Hazard Yet Forward. I will be sure to provide a link to purchase the anthology when it comes out. It will be a major tome– with short stories from many of my SHU colleagues. The proofing copy I saw today comes in over 600 pages. The proceeds from the sale will go to aid a colleague of mine who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. You can see more at the Hazard Yet Forward blog.

My sprogs are home from school for the summer… well, they’ve been attending a summer day camp, but school’s out, and today is the last day of camp. My husband and I are taking motorcycle classes and should have our licenses next week. Oh yeah… now I can add “biker chick” to my tattooed label.

I also recently discovered that someone I greatly admire is a genuinely good person. I will be sharing this experience in greater detail through the month of August and into the first week of September. Keep an eye out here.

So here’s today’s Friday Fuel:

1. Write a letter to your favorite author and tell him or her how much you appreciate his or her work. Send it.

2. Your protagonist is moving into a semi-furnished apartment and finds a handgun in a dresser drawer. What does he do?

3. On this day in 1940, Bugs Bunny made his debut. Write a short story from the POV of someone seeing your favorite cartoon character for the first time.

4. Your character’s air conditioning broke and the weather forecast is for record high temps. Does this make your character happy or irate?

5. The Olympics opening ceremonies are tonight. If you could compete in an Olympic sport, which would it be?

Have a great weekend everyone! The Pittsburgh Symphony is performing the music from the video game Zelda this weekend, so I’m going and getting my geek on.

Reading with a purpose

reading with a purpose, writing life July 11, 2012

We love to read. Chances are if you’re reading this blog, you love to read. I like to help my friends and be a good person.

It’s even better when I can do those things simultaneously.

My mentor, colleague and friend, Scott, is a great writer. I’ve reviewed his work here before. His wife, my friend Tabby, is in the midst of some serious medical issues and Scott is using his writing to help with those costs.

Please check out this link and go purchase a copy of Droplets.