Cover Reveal – CRYO; Rise of the Immortals

I feel like I’ve been waiting MONTHS to get this artwork. In fact, it’s only been a few mere weeks. Keith Draws has done an amazing job with this cover, and it’s everything that I wanted and more. This has been a novel which has been in the works for years, so to see everything finally coming together is rather incredible.

The book itself is currently with my editor and I’m hoping to get it back and corrected in the next few weeks so that I can make a December launch! For now…I’ll have to just gaze at the cover….and keep writing the next Inside Evil book too. :)

Get to know the author – Sara Shrieves

Last week we heard from Irish author Ken Magee, and discovered that his Dark Tiding’s hero, Tung, was probably the most inept thief you’d ever come across. This week we hear from Sara Shrieves, a Californian movie addict who pulls her inspiration from Joss Whedon to Anne Rice.

*****

Tell us about yourself? Do you write for a living? If not, what’s your day job?

I am currently living in Orange County, CA with my husband, step daughter and our close friend/roommate James.  We’re all movie freaks and we all get along really well.  I am the only reader in the house, so I have claim over any space that can hold a bookshelf.  Unfortunately I don’t get to write for a living right now.  I do write often, and I sneak in moments at work (usually on my breaks).  I currently work for the County of Orange.  Not too much excitement but it pays the bills!

Favourite food, place, colour and writing zone, please.

My all-time favorite food is Chinese, hands down.  I grew up in northern CA, and we lived in San Francisco right down the street from China Town, so I had access to some of the best you can get in the country, I’d say.  It was also my first solid food!  My favorite color (big shocker for those who know me) is black, and orange when the mood strikes.  I don’t actually have a designated writing zone, sad to say.  I write everything longhand, so I kind of just curl up anywhere and get to it when something pops into my head.

You write in the fantasy/supernatural genre….who’s been your inspiration?Favourite books? Movies? TV Shows?

Well as far as authors, Stephen King is one of my all-time favorites.  I actually have a symbol from the fifth book of his Dark Tower series tattooed on my right wrist.  So yeah, I’m obsessed.  I also love Anne Rice, Peter Straub and Christopher Pike (his vampire series is still one of my favorites).  These are not all of my favorite authors, but just some who help inspire my writing.  I grew up reading Christopher Pike so as far as YA, he was a big influence.

Some of my favorite books are (big surprise) The Dark Tower series by Stephen King, The Talisman, also by Stephen King, the Earth’s Children (Clan of the Cave Bear) series by Jean M. Auel, Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card, as well as his Alvin Maker series, The Martian Chronicles and Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury and also Cate Tiernan’s Sweep series.  I could go on and on with this!

As for movies there are just way too many to list, so I will sum it up with Shawshank Redemption for drama, Mission to Mars and Contact are two of my favorite sci-fi movies, Grandma’s Boy, Kung Pow and Hot Rod are some of my favorite comedies, and for action I love True Lies, all of the Die Hards and the Alien movies (although Alien falls under sci-fi as well).  For TV shows I would say anything Joss Whedon has done.  I absolutely love Firefly and of course Serenity.  Buffy is still one of my favorites as well.  I just love the way he writes/directs his characters.  They are all so different and odd, but they match up as a group perfectly.  That’s what made me so excited for the Avengers movie!

Who’s your favourite all time fictional character?

This is incredibly hard to choose.  I always end up falling for the underdog or the quirky ones, so it probably wouldn’t even be anyone people knew.  One I can say right away is Tom Cullen from The Stand.  Alvin Maker from that series by Orson Scott Card was really awesome too.  I do also love the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris.  She is a great main character.  Oh, also Aurora Teagarden from another one of Charlaine Harris’ series.  For villains I would have to say Randall Flagg from The Stand as well.  And his many other roles in Stephen King’s books.

Who’s your favourite character in your own work?

Definitely Bruce!  He can say anything he wants.  He’s sort of my outlet, I guess.  He is a mixture of a few people I know, so he is very important to me.

Let’s talk superpowers….there’s no denying we’d all love one. What would be your choice, and why?

Oh wow, my husband and I were just discussing this not too long ago.  This has long been a topic of discussion since I was a kid.  I almost always pick flight first, because I just think it would be amazing.  Plus you can get yourself away from any immediate danger at any time.  But then I think about intelligence, and being some sort of super genius.  I just think that would be amazing as well.  Like Beast in the X-Men.  He’s this savage-looking creature but he’s so incredibly smart, or even the Hulk.  He may be a big green monster when he’s angry, but he’s also a gifted physicist.  I just think there would be so much you could do with that.  Learn anything, do any type of work.  Maybe it’s boring, but intelligence stands out to me!

Inspiration’s a funny thing. Where do you find yours? Is there one particular moment that stands out?

I constantly get inspiration from my family.  Especially my husband and step daughter.  Audrey is loosely based on my step daughter, but she insists that personality-wise she’s exactly like me.  Of course she’s coming from my head, so I can’t argue it too much.  But I think I take ideas from everything around me.  From overheard conversations, to complaints from my step daughter about her school friends.  As well as my husband and his co-workers.  There are some pretty insane people at his office, ha ha.  Also past experiences!

Writers have very different approaches to completing our works. Are you a heavy plotter? Jump back and forth between scenes? Sit down, start at the beginning and just write?

I’m definitely one of the “sit down, start at the beginning and just write” types.  I can’t jump back and forth, it throws me off.  I usually write out a loose outline and plot out how I want things to go, but it doesn’t always turn out that way.  The story will take on a mind of its own and I just tend to go with it.

What’s fresh about your books? Quirky and different? Likely to entice readers and keep them coming back for more?

Well with Who is Audrey Wickersham? it takes the zombie genre and does something completely different.  Plus it’s humorous and has a lot of gore, which I loved writing.  The second one in the series (which I’m working on right now) will also be gory, but have a completely different plot line from the first book.  I don’t want each book to be the same type of thing.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on the second book in the Audrey series, and also a non-YA book loosely based on my work environment.  Sort of an office humor book I guess.  I also have one other YA sci-fi/fantasy book that I have written a little of, which I will get to when I’m done with the next Audrey book!

How can readers connect with you?

My Facebook is under my name, Sara Shrieves, and my Twitter account is as well., @sarashrieves.  I can also be found on Goodreads.com, under my name!  I also have two websites:sarashrieves.com and whoisaudrey.net

Promoting your book on Goodreads with listopia

I’ve not had a huge amount of success on Goodreads. I don’t like the interface, I find the forums troublesome and I really don’t read enough to be actively participating in book discussions. Mostly, I find that you have to use passive promotion on Goodreads; that is, instead of going around saying ‘Here’s my book‘, ‘Read my book‘, ‘Look at my book‘, you have to participate in forums about other subjects and let users find your work by themselves. Of course, a few plugs here and there in the appropriate forum threads never hurt, but overall, Goodreads is a place for readers to discover books, not have them thrust upon them.

A new area of passive promotion which I hadn’t even realised was available until last week is the listopia option. This Goodreads area is a place where people can add their favourite books to current lists, or start their own lists to organise great reads into easily found categories. It also offers an ideal place for you to add your book, utilising lists that you book falls into to spread your novel across as many pages as possible and, therefore, in front of as many eyes as possible.

Listopia is easy to find, and easy to add your book to. One word of warning, it’s probably best not to start adding your books to the ‘Best books Ever written‘ or ‘Best Indie Books‘ categories. In fact, it’s probably best to stay clear of any ‘BEST’ lists because this is for the readers to decide upon, not you. However, you can add your book to any other list that is appropriate. For example, I’ve put Inside Evil into ‘British Fantasy Authors‘, ‘Fantasy Books Set in Two Worlds‘, and ‘Science Fiction & Fantasy Titles for 2012!’ I’m not making assumptions by adding my book to these categories, I’m just telling readers what they can expect to find.

Whether or not this process will help Inside Evil get added to many more shelves I have to find out. But, placing it in as many places as possible surely can’t help gain more exposure.

Get to know the author – Ken Magee

Thanks to the lovely Kate Aaron, we got to find out all about the Lost Realm series last week. Now we turn our attention to Ken Magee, a Northern Ireland resident and software developer who loves nothing more than to indulge in time travelling with his humorous hero!

*****

Tell us about yourself? Do you write for a living? If not, what’s your day job?

My name is Ken Magee and I’m an… author. I live in Bangor, Co Down. I worked for many years in the computer industry in a wide variety of roles including programming and sales. In the middle of it all, I served in the Navy Reserve for five years… which was hard work, but fun. In 2010, I decided it was time to finish the book I had started many years ago (writing not reading). I would have finished it sooner, but life got in the way. It’s finished now, but I don’t think any of the original book survived the process!

I’d love to make a living out of writing, but it’s so hard to get noticed. I will keep plugging away at it until I crack it. Software development actually pays the bills at the moment.

Favourite food, place, colour and writing zone, please.

Food – Seafood – particularly crabs claws, scallops and mussels.

Place - New Orleans

Colour(s) – Black and white… howay the lads!

Writing zone – A little room at home, surrounded by the knickknacks that I love.

You write in the fantasy genre….who’s been your inspiration? Favourite books? Movies? TV Shows?

I write humorous fantasy and Terry Pratchett has been my main inspiration. I’ve had a lot of reviews which have compared me with him… it doesn’t get better than that as far as I’m concerned.

Favourite books – Mort By Terry Pratchett, Better Than Life by Grant Naylor

Favourite movies – Pulp Fiction, Terminator, Memento.

Favourite TV Shows – Dexter, True Blood (season 1), The Good Wife, Battlestar Gallactica.

Who’s your favourite all time fictional character?

The Stainless Steel Rat – Harry Harrison’s creation is such a wonderful villain/hero. I was going to say Death in the Pratchett novels, but some might argue he’s not fictional!

Who’s your favourite character in your own work?

Tung. He’s the inept thief who time travelled to the 21st century and he’s struggling every day to come to terms with it. He’s a hoot.

Let’s talk superpowers….there’s no denying we’d all love one. What would be your choice, and why?

Invisibility, so I could find out what some people really think about me.

Inspiration’s a funny thing. Where do you find yours?

I find inspiration from conversations, observations of life, the TV… just about everywhere.

Writers have very different approaches to completing our works. Are you a heavy plotter? Jump back and forth between scenes? Sit down, start at the beginning and just write?

I like to have the skeleton mapped out and I always write the last chapter very early on. It helps keep the story on track. After that it’s just write, write, write.

What’s fresh about your books? Quirky and different? Likely to entice readers and keep them coming back for more?

My first two books Dark Tidings and The Black Conspiracy live under the tagline ‘ancient magic meets the Internet’ and that’s a bit different. There’s also an underlying conspiracy which explains why the rich are getting richer while the ordinary man suffers. If readers want a laugh while the world comes to an end… then they should be back for more (I hope).

What are you working on now?

I’m writing the last book in the ‘ancient magic meets the Internet’ trilogy. It’s called A Darker Shade of Black.

How can readers connect with you?

I have a Facebook page and I’m @KenMageeAuthor on Twitter. I’m also happy to answer questions at ken.magee@gametheworld.com. Finally, my author page on Amazon is a good place to find out more about me and it links to the two books and some of their reviews as well.

Genre blogging and how it helps you sell ebooks

I’ll be honest, I’m a bit of a blogging whore. I can’t help it. I’ve had so many blogs in my lifetime that I can’t even write them all down. In addition to running this author blog, I have a gardening one for my landscape company, I’ve just started a new one about my Second Life bookstore attempts, and I have many old and languishing websites that are long forgotten.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been reading with increasing interest about the reasoning behind genre blogging; that is, writing about your novel’s genres and interests, rather than about the writing process itself. It does seem obvious when you think about it. If I blog about how to write novels, ways in which to promote books and my own self-publishing story, then I can expect to attract other authors who are interested in, or going through, the same process. If I blog about Inside Evil or my other books, I’m likely to attract only my current fans or those who are specifically looking for more information on my books.

However, if I blog about fantasy, science fiction and other subjects that have inspired the books, then I’m more likely to attract new readers who might give my books a go because they have similar interests. 

I’ve increasingly been thinking about blogging in my genre and how to go about it on this blog. Writing about fantasy and science fiction is no hardship for me at all – I’m more than happy to gush about Mass Effect, LOTR or Blood & Chrome for HOURS. But, these subjects are such a dramatic split from this current blog that it just didn’t sit right with me.

Would I offend current readers of this blog by posting material that they really weren’t interested in? Would new readers looking for the latest gaming update or cinema release really be drawn in by other posts about writing?

I don’t think so.

As such, I’m attempting to breathe some life back into my old blog, The Modern Hermit. I’ve had this blog running for several years, and despite not having posted on it for nearly a year, I still get more hits a day on that site than I do here, largely because the back-list of articles and keywords. The blog certainly has a different tone than here, with completely different subject matter and a far more informal, even cursing voice sometimes, but it draws readers. Readers that could become book buyers.

Today I’ve updated both the themes for each blog to tie them together, as well as adding a new page on The Modern Hermit about my writing. It means that if those interested in fantasy and science fiction material are interested, they can easily find my work, but that I can keep the realms of writing and genre blogging separate from one another.

I think my little tip here is that if you feel that two subjects don’t fit alongside each other on a blog and you run the risk of repelling the very viewers that you’re trying to attract, listen to your instincts. Instead, create two blogs with the same themes, the same look, sister sites you could even call them. Then encourage cross reading for viewers, but ensure that should they want to do so, bloggers only need read the items that interest them.

Sample Sunday – November 18th

This week I’m posting the first chapter from the surprise zombie novella that I started to write for NaNoWriMo. It will probably get a release in January, because there’s not enough time for editing and artwork to be completed before Christmas…that’s if I even finish the story. But, I thought it would be interested to share something that I’m currently working on, rather than an excerpt from an existing work.

It still has no title – I have one in mind, but am not completely sure yet. So, here’s Chapter One.

Chapter One

The winter had been the harshest that mankind had ever seen. No one knew the true origins of the infection, where the place was from which darkness descended onto the world and cast the darkest age that had ever befallen the human race. Rumours stirred stories that the first fallen members of society had been created and released by fundamentalist terrorists wanting to cleanse the world of its sins. Wanting to start afresh with a new civilisation. The aberrations appeared in America, unleashed upon unsuspecting revellers partying as the Halloween season filled the streets with ghosts and ghouls. Amongst such faces, such costumes, the initial flesh ripping and bone breaking went unnoticed. But the isolated incidents weren’t contained, and soon America vanished beneath a sea of blood, cut off from the world, ostracized for fear of contamination.

The days, the weeks, were quiet, until the first disappearances began in London. Until gruesome murder scenes caused steel stomached police chiefs to wretch their guts out and run for cover. Until loved ones and friends became swamped with the growing darkness, until they too disappeared beneath a carpet of raw and bloodied flesh.

Carl had been glad when the spring arrived, bringing with it renewed hope that not everything was lost. Soft breezes filled with warm air tickled his skin, and despite all that had happened, life went on. Plant shoots unfurled, creatures stirred, the culled human population found a new way to survive. It was still early March and the clocks had not yet changed, and as Carl’s squinting eyes began to open, morning light filtered through the gap in the curtains. It was the fresh, almost opaque, spring light that hadn’t fully developed into summer sun, and it dusted the room in a light ethereal glow.

“Crap,” Carl groaned as he realised that whilst the sun brought contentment to his waking form, he’d grossly overslept. He glanced across at the bronze wind-up alarm clock that ticked beside his bed. 10.23am. If the creatures didn’t murder him, his mother would. Yet, still he didn’t move, allowing his head to sink back into the pillow for a few more seconds. He scratched his face and felt that the stubble on his chin was now almost as long as his short cropped hair. He need a good shave.

After one long pause, just long enough to feel his body sinking back into sleep, Carl thrust himself out of bed knowing that the only way was to throw back the duvet and leap from his tomb. The cold air shocked his skin even through the old vest and track pants that he’d been curled in, and with the early spring day finally breathing life into his soul, Carl staggered to the door.

“Mum?” Carl called out, rubbing his eyes as he moved through the corridor and down the softly carpeted stairs. “Mum?”

All remained quiet in the house, Carl’s voice the only disturbance to the stillness of his surroundings. Light filtered through the green and yellow glazed glass panel in the front door, spilling colourful patterns onto the light wooden flooring. The vertical glass window that ran up the side of the frame caused a blue sheen to glimmer. Blue for occupied. Green for vacant. Red for dangerous, don’t enter, proceed only if you wanted your guts ripped out and eaten.

Peering into the living room, Carl saw that it too was empty, devoid of any life apart from the small green budgie that sat and chirped in its cage by the window. It was a vicious little thing, and though his mother adored it, it would try and take Carl’s ears off whenever it got a chance to fly from its cage and gnaw with ferocity. Perhaps it too was infected, diseased. Perhaps Carl should simply reach out, break its neck and save his mother’s constant worry that she wouldn’t be able to find enough seed. He pushed the thought away.

Wandering further down the hall, Carl reached the white kitchen door, its numerous bolts intact, indicating that his mother was not inside. Fumbling with the locks, Carl slowly began to undo each one, removing the chain, using the small key that hung on the doorframe to open the padlock. He reached up and turned the latch at the top, before pulling back the large central bolt with a bang, and pushing open the inwards swinging door with a jolt.

The kitchen, too, was empty. The large room had cupboards and worktops on every side but one, large French doors leading to a garden where steps ran up to a small lawn. The original glass was long gone, replaced several times in the past few months, and now thick bars were cast upon the outside of the doors, preventing anything from getting in. Or getting out.

On the central island a large brown bowl stood. Beside it, a lump of dough sat on the countertop, half worked, but left to rise. Carl looked to the wall besides the cooker, to two thick chains which hung loosely from the tiles. They snaked their way down over the expanse of cream like wrought iron vipers, the interlocking chains caught amongst one another so that they didn’t hang straight. On the opposite side of the room Carl heard a rustle, and he looked towards a shattered window and saw the spring breeze carry a small leaf through the air.

“Crap,” Carl said with far more urgency than his awakening expletive had been. Running to the window, he saw that the glass had shattered outwards, sending shards of knife sharp material scattering over the patio table that lay beneath the sill. The bars that were normally in place to prevent such escapes, dangled below, hanging from the bottom ledge by the remaining two screws.

“Mum?” Carl shouted, as he left the kitchen behind him and raced up the stairs. Without thinking he burst into his mother’s bedroom and saw that she lay quietly in her own slumber. “Sheila’s out again.”

Beneath the duvet there was movement, and his mother’s tired and lined face appeared.

“Carl,” she muttered as she licked her lips in a bid to restore some moisture to her dry mouth. “What?”

“Sheila’s out again,” Carl repeated, a hand gripped around the door as a way to settle his flipping stomach.

“She’ll come back when she’s hungry,” Karen said sleepily. “What time is it? I was having the weirdest dream…”

“Mum, she hasn’t had her shot,” Carl interrupted, knowing the urgency of the situation.”

“Oh, for the love of God, Carl,” Karen snapped, her previously sleepy eyes now fully alert as adrenalin shot through her body. She sat bolt upright, before leaping out of bed and pulling on a turquoise dressing gown that hung on the back of a chair. “I can’t lose Sheila. If she hurts anyone this time, then they’ll never give me another one. They’ll take my allocation away.” She stared fiercely in Carl’s direction, and he felt the burn of her eyes on his face. “You were supposed to inject her last night.”

“I know, I know. I was going to do it this morning, but..”

“But you slept in,” Karen finished. “Do I have to do everything myself?”

The pair hurried out of the room, Carl pulling sneakers onto his feet as he reached the bottom of the stairs. Karen stretched down besides the hall cabinet and pulled out a baseball bat.

“You take the street,” she said, passing the bat to Carl. “I’ll go out back and check she hasn’t climbed three gardens down and eaten the Bareham’s dog.”

As his mother turned and scurried off down the hallway, Carl turned the locks on the front door and rolled his eyes. Sheila wouldn’t eat the Bareham’s dog, not yet anyway. Not until the vaccine that coursed through her veins dissipated and she once again became a ravaged lunatic.

The street was quiet outside, and the breeze brought distant sounds of life. The rumble of a generator, the chatter of voices several roads away, the creaks and groans as faster winds higher up in the sky rattled trees and roof tiles. Carl Kingly and his mother lived in a row of small terraced houses, typical for the London suburbs. Most of the residents had moved towards the city centre, where patrolled residential blocks offered more safety, but his mother had wanted to stay put. To stay in the house that she’d lived in for the past two and half decades, to stay where Carl, too, had lived most of his life. There were a few neighbours who had also felt the draw of their own homes and had made a conscious effort to create some form of community. Some people had stayed in the vicinity, but moved to flats above shops, places that provided a little bit of extra security should the infection rise again. Others, like his mother, stayed stubbornly in their homes, local officials painting bright swathes of blue on their doors to indicate where they lived. An important precaution so that if a rampage did occur, innocent civilians weren’t accidently gunned down. And the others who hadn’t moved away? They were all dead, or worse.

Leaping the couple of steps that led up to the black front door with its bronze knob and inlaid glass, Carl was on the pavement in an instant, scouring the street for any sign of Sheila. There was no movement of any kind, other than a small squirrel that looked at him inquisitively through bright black button eyes. It hung on the oak tree outside the house, its body wrapped around the bark as it camouflaged into the gnarled old wood.

“Sheila?” Carl called as he heard his mother shouting their cook’s name from the garden. He could picture his mother, scrambling over dilapidated fences, offensive weapon in hand, all in a bid to try and stop their cook from devouring the first juicy morsel she came across. Of course, this hadn’t been the first time she’d escaped, Sheila regularly traipsed though the streets that she used to know. Carl didn’t like using the chains, and though they’d been a vital requirement of her adjustment phase, both he and his mother allowed Sheila the freedom of the kitchen at all times. It was safe, bars on the doors, bars on the windows. Seemingly, though, Sheila always found some way of getting out, and this time it wasn’t mid-week, this time there was the danger that her pacification would crumble as her true nature forced its way through.

“Sheila?” Carl called again, looking down the side-passage where he’d found her before, her mouth covered in the rot of decaying vegetables from the bin that she’d overturned. The passage was empty, and Carl moved quickly from house to house, checking that front doors were locked, that whatever the colour on the paint mark, there was no way that Sheila could have entered.

Turning out of Broadmead Drive and onto the main road, Carl looked in both directions, scanning the horizon for any indication of which way Sheila might have staggered. To his left, the road rose up a gentle hill, houses, streetlamps and paving intact, no indication that anything out of the ordinary had ever happened in his small suburb. To his right, the real chaos could be seen. Here, burnt out cars and trashcans littered the street. Crumbling homes, their windows blackened by soot, shed masonry, guttering and roofing onto the pavement and road below. The off licence that stood on the corner of the intersection loomed out of the ground, large gaping windows sucking in light, its red and white torn canopy flapping helplessly in the wind.

The door to the shop opened and Carl heard the familiar bell tinkle as the Singh twins ran out, their arms laden with broken bottles and rocks. They laughed at each other, oblivious that Carl was looking on, before racing out of view and into the street that ran parallel to Broadmead.

“Hey, over here you rotting bitch.”

“How’d you like that? Yeah, bet you liked it hard when you were alive, didn’t ya?”

Carl heard the twins whooping with laughter as they tormented the unseen being. There was the unmistakeable sound of bottles being thrown, and the boys howled with laughter. Carl’s grip around the baseball bat tightened as he strode towards where the teenagers had disappeared from sight, and he rounded the corner to find them standing half way down the street, piles of rocks and bottles by their feet. A large bottle was already in flight, and Carl’s eyes followed as it soared through the air and smashed upon they grey skin of Sheila’s forehead. It shattered into a dozen pieces, sharp shards wedging themselves into her skin, as liquid oozed from the new wound and ran down her face.

Sheila roared as the bottle broke, her eyes wide as she looked vacantly around for where the attack had come from. The Singh’s laughed again, and as Sheila turned away from them, one of the boys picked up one of the larger rocks and launched it into the air.

“Take that, you decrepit old Frother”.

The term was widely used for humanity’s fallen kin, for those that woke to the disease instantly frothed at the mouth like a rabid animal as they sought out their first taste of flesh whilst their body decomposed around them.

The brick flew though the air and smacked into the back of Sheila’s leg with a thud that even Carl could feel. Her knee buckled, and within seconds Sheila’s thin and leathery frame collapsed to the floor, another animalistic cry flying from her withdrawn lips. But the twins weren’t done, and as soon as she hit the floor, dozens of smaller stones and rocks began to pelt down upon the grey flesh, battering the tissues and skin, and keeping the victim of the attack pinned to the floor.

“What the hell are you doing?!” Carl shouted, raising the baseball bat into the air and jogging down the street. “Get away from her!”

The twins looked around, dropping the bottles and stones that were between their fingers as they did so. They laughed again, seemingly not the least nerved by Carl’s hostility.

“Oh, look, it’s that Frother lover. Come here to get your girlfriend, have you? Come to have a go?”

“Yeah, I bet she likes it good and proper, bet you can take her all night.” Both boys laughed again, simulating a sex act as they gyrated towards where Sheila lay on the ground.

Carl swept the bat down, only just missing the boys as they leapt backwards at his approach. They continued to laugh, an unhinged snigger that made Carl feel like Sheila wasn’t the only ravaged monster on the street.

“Get outta here,” he shouted.

“Enjoy your Mrs,” one of the twins shouted back, biting his lip provocatively and grinding his hips again.

Carl raised the bat and the boys scattered, shrieking with laughter and running down the street towards their home. They’d almost certainly regale the great tale to their family, after which they’d be patted on the back and rewarded for their heroics. The Singh’s were a large family, and had somehow managed to escape the global disaster unscathed. Carl’s mouth watered slightly as he remembered the curry’s that the twin’s mother had used to make for the local restaurant. She was a great cook, of that there was no doubt. Still, he detested her offspring, especially the twins.

There was a quiet groan in front of him, and Carl stepped forward and crouched at Sheila’s side.

“What are we going to do with you?” he asked. “You can’t keep escaping like this. Gonna have to start chaining you up again, aren’t we?”

She looked up at him with blank eyes. She saw him, but there was no connection, there was nothing behind those eyes to indicate that any soul was intact. A few people believed that those taken by the infection still had glimmers of their former selves hidden amongst their leathery corpses. That they might be capable of conscious thought or emotion, and not only the residual skills that some individuals had managed to retain. Shadows, people called them. Not Frothers, or undead, or simply ‘the help’, but Shadows. A word indicating that behind the pacified monster, behind the mask, there were real people.

Carl looked at Sheila again, at the face that he’d seen throughout his life. At eyes that had been so bright with life, at a mouth which had always smiled when he’d clicked the door into the local patisserie to pick up a cake. His mother had wanted her specifically. Sheila had been processed, injected, chipped, vetted, and all through the process his mother had been badgering the authorities to get the former patisserie owner. She’d got her desire. She’d got her chef, her cook, but there was no Shadow, there was no Sheila left. There were only skills, skills which had got Sheila into local newspapers, and even a national, for her stunning recipes.

A growl formed on Sheila’s lips as putrid looking fluid continued to seep from the wound on her forehead. It trickled down her mottled face, collecting in the folds of desiccating skin before spilling over into the next wrinkle. A whisper came from her mouth, only it wasn’t the snarl that Carl had expected. Her tongue flicked as her lips moved, and Carl went rigid. Was she trying to say something?

“Sheila?”

She pulled an arm from the pavement and reached out to him, her three remaining fingers landing on his knee. They didn’t grip like the attack of a monster appearing from a drug induced coma, but simply lay there, patting gently against his trousers. Her mouth opened again, her lips forming an oval, her eyes looking up at him as another incomprehensible sound, word, was uttered. Was there desperation there? Was there a flicker of emotion?

“Oh my God, Sheila? Are you there? Can you hear me?”

There was no time for Sheila to respond, and to Carl it seemed as if her head exploded at the same time as he heard the gun shot. A large hole erupted on her forehead as bits of flesh, skull and brain splattered onto Carl’s face, the three fingers that had been on his leg previously, dropping to the floor as all life left them.

“Where the hell am I going to get another cook as good as Sheila?” Karen said shrilly as she walked up behind where Carl continued to crouch, covered in bits of the pastry chef from his youth who had showered him in cakes, biscuits and buns. He shook her from his T-shirt as he stood, taking in his mother’s scornful look, before looking back to the corpse. Sheila was dead. Again.

How to sell eBooks in Second Life

I’m always looking for new ways to sell books. I haven’t yet managed to get that snowball effect with my novels, and am far from getting that crucial 1,000 sales on Amazon, so at the moment it’s hand selling all the way. Not that I mind, it’s nice to actually talk directly to most of the people who buy my stuff, but it takes up a lot of time – time that I’d rather be using to write.

I’ve been in Second Life for a number of years now, doing little bits and pieces here and there. I’ve always believed that it would be a great place to sell books, especially ebooks as, like Second Life, they’re virtual. There are some large readers and writers communities online, and if you could just access these groups, you’d have a great audience to reach out to.

But, just what is Second Life?

Second Life is, simply put, a virtual world where you can build anything. Think of a computer game where you take the role of the main character and adventure through levels to complete quests, and in the case of MMO’s (million multi-player onlines) make friends, build guilds and journey through the game together. Now think of a platform where the developers haven’t created the world in which you land, but have left it up to you to create. We won’t go into the extreme complexities of building, but suffice to say users have created some stunning and creative places to visits, from New York and London replica’s, to fantasy lands with waterfalls, mountains and secret forests to explore.

How can Second Life help sell books?

Like all online worlds, Second Life has an economy. Lindens (L$) can be bought for real life dollars so that you have money to buy commodities in-world. Lindens can also be pulled out of the game and into real life accounts, and this has enabled many people to make their entire living through selling items and services in Second Life. So, in theory, you could sell books for Lindens in Second Life and then draw the money out into your account.

BUT, with linking to Real Life items, the process is made even more simple. 

My Second Life bookstore

About four weeks ago I created Best Books (Inside Evil readers will realise the significance), a Second Life book store that would contain Real Life books. The premise is simple; Second Life residents browse Best Books and can find a range of novels, read the samples, learn about the author and then follow a purchase link to buy on Amazon. I met with many people that said it might not work, I learned that Amazon had once been in Second Life in an attempt to do a similar thing and that it wasn’t cost effective. However, over the past few weeks, I’ve sold four books. That’s more than I’ve sold at Kobo, or Smashwords, or Barnes & Noble, or Diesel. In addition, because I’m using my affiliate Amazon account, I made some affiliate money off the sales too! It may only be four, but those are new readers, a new audience, and any one of them could be the individual that blogs, writes, tells 1,000 friends about my book.  Anyone of them could start that all important snowball.

How can I help you sell books in Second Life?

The best thing about my new venture is that YOU, authors, can take advantage, even if you have no interest in getting into Second Life yourself. Best Books currently costs a minimal amount to run, and I hope to be able to fund the SL venture on the money earned from affiliate sales. This means that the cost to advertise your book in-world is a big, fat, ZERO. Yep, I’m charging nothing. It’s FREE.

I already have several authors interested in participating, with my view to building Second Life’s best and biggest eBook store. As I gather more books and attract more readers, I want to hold book readings too. There’s also the opportunity for book signings, with people being able to visit Best Books, talk with the author and request a Authorgraph right then and there.

GET INVOLVED

If you’re an author and are interested in getting involved in the venture, please don’t hesitate to contact me through my email address: geoff_wakeling@hotmail.com. If you want to visit me in-world, then please feel free to hop on this link and head to Best Books. Otherwise, just email me and we’ll talk about how it works and what I need. Generally, all I’ll require is cover images, blurbs, your samples (the same as Amazon’s preview), book genre, author picture and biography…the same media pack that you’d normally supply book reviewers with.

In Summary…..

If your books sales are streaming in, then it’s unlikely that you’ll need to advertise in Second Life. However, no matter what your sales figures may be, I always think it’s important to reach out to new readers and possible audiences.

Can you sell your Real Life books in Second Life? Yes, I’ve proved it, I’m selling copies of Inside Evil and The Tower of Souls already and I’m quite surprised by it.

So, if you want another avenue to get noticed, to showcase your work, and to help drive up your sales, then get in touch and lets build this virtual bookstore!

Create a book hamper as a Christmas gift

We all like getting books, right? When we’re not accidently bankrupting ourselves with Amazon’s ‘One Click’, we’re craving new books for Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries and just about any other special occasion we can think of. But, whenever I’m asked to buy a book for someone, no matter how much they want it, I always feel like it’s a bit boring, a bit of a dull gift. Plus, with eBooks the rising star on the block, although Amazon have that lovely gifting option, having nothing under the Christmas tree is rather depressing!

Give a book hamper as a Christmas giftSo, if you’re giving books as Christmas gifts, why not create a themed hamper? I’ve used my Inside Evil series as an example. It’s a spooky paranormal murder mystery set in the depths of winter in a remote and isolated town. The ideal cozy read when you’re wrapped up warm and well away from the scene that the books are setting out. I could just give my friends copies of the books for Christmas (OK, not all of them, but some have actually asked), but isn’t it nicer to create a themed parcel for everyone? So, what about giving your loved one’s favourite chocolate, a cappuccino or hot chocolate mix and a mug, along with the books?

You don’t only have to give food, of course, and if the books your gifting are really spine-tinglers, what about a throw, shawl or rug to curl up in. Go a little Valentines Day mad two months early if you’re giving romance books, and fill your hamper with heart shaped chocolates, smelly bath salts and a miniature bottle of Prosecco or champagne. Christmas theme it up with brandy snaps, a tree decoration or two and some fingerless mittens so those books can be read even when your loved one’s out and about. What about cheese, a miniature bottle of wine or port and some roasted chestnuts along with a good detective novel?

Gifting books is a really great way to provide a present that will keep on giving. But this year, why not do something different, a little more special? Give a book, but create a personalised and themed hamper for a present to will really be remembered.

Get to know the author – Kate Aaron

The race really is on to Christmas now, and if you’re looking for some great fantasy books, then you’re in the right place. Last week I interview Patty Jansen, an Aussie author with a huge back catalogue of gripping fantasy and science fiction novels to devour. This week we’re bringing back to Britain and meeting Kate Aaron – Liverpudlian, parrot owner and fantasy author.

*****

Tell us about yourself? Do you write for a living? If not, what’s your day job?

It’s about 50-50 at the minute, although I do have a day job: believe it or not, in construction project management. I’m the only woman working at my company, which is great when I write predominantly about men – I’ve got an insider insight into how they interact!

Favourite food, place, colour and writing zone, please.

Oooh, I’m a bit of a foodie, so that’s difficult. I’m horribly addicted to Man vs Food at the minute, which I know is trash TV but I just can’t stop myself. I’m a big fan of sushi, but I’m also pretty awesome at baking (if I say so myself). My pear and almond cake has to be eaten to be believed (slight aside – please can I have some?! Sounds delicious – Geoff). My favourite place is probably a little croft my family owns in the Scottish highlands, it’s the ultimate writer’s retreat and I keep threatening to move up there and become a hermit. My favourite colour is purple and I’ll write anywhere as long as it’s quiet. I’m not one of those pretentious types who takes their laptop to Starbucks!

You write in the fantasy/supernatural genre….who’s been your inspiration? Favourite books? Movies? TV Shows?

I’ve always liked fantasy, from Bram Stoker to Charlaine Harris. Give me vampires and I’m happy! (Just as long as they’re not the glittery kind…).

Who’s your favourite all time fictional character?

Has to be Heathcliff, I just love, love, love him. So dark and brooding and tortured.

Who’s your favourite character in your own work?

That’s a difficult one. I’ve got a soft spot for all of them, but probably in my fantasy my favourite character is Fenton, my tortured asexual vampire who’s desperate to find love on his own terms. He’s such a divisive character, but I adore him. Writing his story breaks my heart.

Let’s talk superpowers….there’s no denying we’d all love one. What would be your choice, and why?

Teleporting would be awesome – no more time wasted travelling! But I think everyone wants the gift of invisibility, it’s the ultimate superpower.

Inspiration’s a funny thing. Where do you find yours? Is there one particular moment that stands out?

Not particularly. I don’t plot or anything, I just sit down and write. It’s like an itch that needs to be scratched, but I’m never sure quite what I’ll produce in advance. I’ve written my whole life, but the first book I published – Blood & Ash – I wrote as a sort of reaction to the books I’d been reading. I love fantasy, and I generally prefer to read books with queer MCs, being gay myself, but I didn’t buy the way m/m romance writers combined the genre with fantasy: the worldbuilding in the books I’d read just fell flat. (I’d like to add that I’ve read some really, really superb m/m fantasy books since then!). Because I couldn’t find the book that I really wanted to read, I wrote it.

Writers have very different approaches to completing our works. Are you a heavy plotter? Jump back and forth between scenes? Sit down, start at the beginning and just write?

I’m definitely a ‘sit down and write’ gal. When I’m on a roll I can barely keep up with myself, but when I’m stuck there’s no getting around it. The entire plot resolves itself somewhere in my subconscious. It’s an interesting process from my perspective; when I wrote Blood & Ash, for instance, I knew it would be the first of a trilogy but I didn’t have a clue how the story arc was going to pan out. I included certain things in that book that I knew were foreshadowing something to come later – but I didn’t know what! When I came to write the second book, Fire & Ice, a lot of things suddenly came together in a way I’d never consciously envisioned, but clearly somewhere deep down I’d already got it all worked out.

What’s fresh about your books? Quirky and different? Likely to entice readers and keep them coming back for more?

I like to think that I write something a bit different to the usual m/m style – in fact, I don’t consider my Lost Realm series to really be m/m anymore, it’s definitely more high fantasy with a strong gay side-story. In my world homosex is punishable by death, which makes a change from the usual m/m trope where it sometimes seems that everyone is gay. I’ve also got a bit of a succession crisis in the fae royal family, and an asexual vampire. So I’d say that my series is pretty unique!

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m working on a number of projects – first the third novel in the Lost Realm series, which is almost finished (eek!); a spin-off to my contemporary romance The Rest of Forever called When Forever Ends, (bit of a weepie, that one); and I’m also working on sweet little tale of forbidden love in Victorian England.

How can readers connect with you? (Facebook/Twitter etc).

I’m usually found haunting facebooktwittergoodreads or my blog. My books are available from AmazonAReB&NiTunesSmashwordsSonyKobo and Diesel.

Awesome World War Z trailer

Talking of writing a zombie novel, it just so happens that I stumbled across this awesome trailer for new movie, World War Z. Starring Brad Pitt, here’s yet another zombie apocalypse, but we can never get enough of those right? It has a very War of the World’s feeling about it, but I kinda liked that movie too so this trailer really had me on the edge of my seat, and both the book and film gave me quite a lot of writing inspiration.

It remains to be seen whether the official trailer contains all of the best bits, as so many pre-movie release advertising campaigns do, but if you’re a zombie and horror fan, then this movie might well be worth checking out!!