Interview with a Zombie

51aVfDU7BlL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Okay, so he’s not really a zombie, but he did get cast as a zombie for a yet-to-be-released film. He’s also a new writer, whose first book is one all readers of zombie fiction will enjoy. Even those who don’t read zombie fiction might enjoy this story, as it is about more than flesh-eating creatures. Read on to meet P. Mark DeBryan and to learn more about Family Reunion.

First of all, thanks for taking time from your busy schedule to answer my questions.
You are quite welcome, Sara.

Please tell a little about your book, Family Reunion.
Well, the book began its life as a short story. It was created for John O’Brien and published in his book Untold Stories, which was a companion book to his series A NEW WORLD. He then allowed me to extend the story to a full length novel. It begins with our main character, Ryan, stuck on a ferry boat in the Puget Sound when the zombie apocalypse starts. In all honesty, they are not zombies, as they aren’t undead, but they prey on the living as a food source so they get lumped into the zombie genre. The book follows the entire Brant family as they are headed to a long overdue family reunion. Each group is coming from a different location in the USA and their goal is to survive and see if they can’t locate the others in the family. Some are driving, some are flying, and one is even in a luxury motor-coach.

How did you get into writing? Who are your inspirations?
As stated above, it was a contest of sorts; John O’Brien asked his fans to write short story based in his world. As far as inspirations? I would have to say Stephen King introduced me to the post-apocalypse genre, but John O was the one that got me going.

How is Family Reunion different than other zombie stories?
It is about family and the strength the characters get from each other to go on. The hope of reuniting and the different ways the crisis affects each member of the family. They are not trained soldiers, and most are just average people facing a completely devastating situation.

Can you give your readers a little glimpse into what Ryan and his gang of survivors will face in the next book?
Hmm … that would be cheating, but just between you and me, Sara? Ryan sets out with Maddie and Harry and a few others to go look for the ones they left behind at home. They travel in the Marathon Coach, which is a luxury RV with many prepper amenities. The story will follow them and also keep the reader abreast of what is happening back on Whidbey Island and those that stayed on there to begin clearing the place for use as a new freak-free sanctuary. Look for some major twists right off the bat; it should get interesting very quickly.

I know your family has been very supportive of your writing. I also know many of the characters are based on real-life family members. What do they think of being used as zombie-story material?
Some are mad at me for killing them off in the first story, more are mad that I killed their wives, daughters, husbands and such. Minor spoiler coming … my best friend in real life was the first to die. I did it in self- defense. I mean, who in the family can complain when I took out my best friend first, right? When I say they are mad at me, it is an exaggeration. They all are thrilled to be immortalized in the story, or so I tell myself.

Have you ever been a zombie?
As a matter of fact, yes. I just got home from the set of a new movie called My Uncle John is a Zombie. It was written and co-directed by John Russo, who co-wrote the original The Night of the Living Dead. I am a zombie in the movie, and it was a blast to be involved in the film. Several actors from the original movie are also in this one, with many new faces too. Gary Lee Vincent, who plays Oscar in the movie has become a close friend and was instrumental in getting me cast as an extra. My wife, Jonie, is in it also. We had so much fun that we may decide to run off to Hollywood together soon.

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Zombified Zombie Author

The movie is a Zom-Comedy, where John Russo’s character from The Night of the Living Dead escapes alive—or I should say not killed again from the sheriff’s wrath in the original—and is rescued by his niece and hid in her basement. She protects him and teaches him to be more selective in who he eats and the whole movie goes insane when he becomes a modern day celebrity.

I am seen wandering while chewing on an unidentified bit of intestine, and then again when I attack another character and end his career. (I will include a picture of me as the “Dude Zombie” for your pleasure.) If you would like to help the movie get distributed, you can help by donating at http://www.MyUncleJohnisaZombie.com, as it is an independent film just like us independent authors.

In a real-life zombie apocalypse, how long do you think you’d survive? Do you have a plan?
I have a plan, but I need more slow people to join me, as that is my plan. I don’t really think I would last long, as I have been told I am a sweet guy, and what zombie could resist that?

If you could see one non-zombie TV series get thrown into a zompoc scenario, which would you choose and why?
Hmm, let me think. Oh, I know. Survivor! Could you imagine the hilarity that would ensue as the zombies chase the cute blond girl down the beach, or a horde shows up to the immunity challenge. Oh yeah, that would be good TV there. The tribe has spoken/groaned, it’s time for you to go!

List five things about yourself that your readers probably don’t know.
– I went to seminary for two years to become a Baptist Preacher.
– I had a crepe restaurant when I was seventeen called DeBo’s Place.
– My nickname throughout my Coast Guard career was Breezly.
– The Pirate Parrot was a friend of mine.
– I was an honorary member of Jeff Gordon’s pit crew at his last race in NASCAR … Don’t tell Jeff, somebody might get fired!

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Jeff Gordon’s honorary pit crew member.

Visit Mark’s website. He’s got a fun blog going there. Author P. Mark DeBryan

Name Change

So, I changed the name of my blog. I got tired of the old one, so to add a little excitement to my life, I spent the better part of a day thinking of the perfect name.

Good bye “Whims & Wanderings.” You’ve been replaced.

Why “Life Within the Words”?

Words are a big part of my life, especially written words. I am surrounded by them. Mostly I read them; sometimes I write them. I’m paid to evaluate them. I love words.

I also have a life. I’m a mom, a wife, a friend, a daughter, a sister.

The new name represents what this blog is about. I write words about people who write words. I write words of my own. I write about the words I write. But filling the spaces between the words in my world is my world—my life. I use this blog to write about my life.

I began this blog years ago. I think it was originally called “Life in Bits & Pieces.” I liked that one, but it sort of made me think of a life that had been shattered. Mine’s fine. Thank God, my life is not broken. It was about my life and all the parts of it.

Then it was called something else. Must have been boring because I don’t remember what. I don’t think I wrote much during that time. ((yawn))

I changed it to “Whims & Wanderings” because I figured I’d use it to write about whatever I wanted, unbound by a theme. It was a decent name, but like I said above, I got tired of it.

“Life Within the Words” better suits what this blog has evolved into. It’s a stopping ground for all my blog posts. When I write a post on my author blog, it will end up here. My editing blog posts will be copied here as well. Posts about my real life—where my family, my faith, and my musings reside—will continue to be posted here.

Life … within the words.

My husband suggested the name “The Junk Drawer” since everything ends up here. I like that one, but … junk … maybe not.

Anyway, if you’ve read this far, thanks! I hope you visit again.

word
Yep. I made this.

 

 

Author Interview: M.C. Allen

Last we51YS-anwh-L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ek’s interview was with author William Allen. It’s not a coincidence that this week’s author has the same last name. That’s because they are brothers. I’ve had the honor and pleasure of working with both of these men, and all I can say is their parents must have done something right.

They don’t know this, but for a while, I suspected William and M.C. were the same person (sort of like Latoya and Michael). They’re both witness-protection-program private and don’t have profile pictures. Plus, I’ve never seen the two of them in the same place at the same time. But now that I’ve gotten to know them a tiny bit, I do believe they are separate people.

I wanted to feature M.C. this week because he just published his first book. Not a short story, not a novella, but a full-fledged, full-length novel. His book takes place in the Walking in the Rain world. If you haven’t read William Allen’s Walking in the Rain series, you should because his books are great. But it’s not necessary to read them in order to enjoy M.C. Allen’s Firestorm. The characters are different and it reads like its own, unique story.

And now, read on to find out more about M.C. Allen.

Please tell a little about yourself.
I’m a full-time classroom teacher. Firestorm represents my first foray into writing fiction. I have a teaching degree in English and Biology from a small university in East Texas. William Allen is my older brother, and except for my wife, he probably knows me the best.

What is Walking in the Rain: Firestorm about?
Firestorm takes place at the same time as William Allen’s book Dark Sky Thunder. The characters in my story are trying to find a safe haven, and along the way they find some friends. They also run into some people who need a good killing. Firestorm is a little darker that the rest of the series.

What went through your mind when you finished your first book and finally hit that publish button?
Oh crap? What have you done? I panicked. I literally panicked that I had done something wrong. I understand the self-doubt that real artists go through with their work. I feel like a fraud putting my work out there next to all of the other great authors.

What did you learn in the process of writing Firestorm?
To me, the writing of the story was the easy part. Once I completed my first chapter, the rest of the novel wrote itself. My dad once said that parts of his book took on a life of its own.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I’m going to still be in education, but probably not in the junior high level. In the next two years I plan to complete my second Masters, or possibly go for my Doctorate in education. I definitely do not want to be a principal! No amount of money can compensate me for that kind of pain.

Do you like piña coladas?
I like just about anything with alcohol!

Of all your characters, who are most like? Is there a character you’d like to be more like?
I’m a lot like my character David. Slightly insane? Yep. Prone to irrational rage? Check. I would like to be more like Joseph. He has an even disposition and he tries to be rational.

Have you ever eaten grubs? If so, how did you like them? If not, go eat some and get back to me.
We grew up poor on a farm, but not that poor. I have sampled dried dog food and cattle feed at one time.

How do you find time to write? What is the best time of day for you when it comes to writing? What is the worst time of day?
I try to write at night before bed and on the weekends. I can’t write in the morning at all. My brain is too fuzzy before noon, and coffee only makes me jittery. I did write most of Chapter One of Firestorm at one of those meetings that are mandatory for teachers but unpaid.

You obviously have a good relationship with your brother, William. Did you always get along with each other? What is your favorite memory with your brother and/or family?
We used to fight like a pair of junkyard dogs. We are only 18 months apart in age, so I was the annoying little brother throughout grade school. My favorite memory was when my younger brother Chris got back from his tour with the Marines in Iraq. We had a blowout party, but the memory of all of us boys with our dad in a picture reminds me of that happy day.

Qqqqqqqqqwewqwweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqqop[? (That question is from my cat)
Yes, I like catnip too, but it makes my heart race.

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what? If you don’t listen to music when you write, when do you listen to music and what kind do you like?
I don’t listen to music when I write. I try to keep the distractions down when I’m working. I do like classic rock and a little country, but not the new crap. I’m not a prude though. I’ll jam out to pop on my way to work just to get the synapses firing.

How ready are you for a worldwide, apocalyptic SHTF (sh*t hits the fan) scenario? What do you think is most likely to happen to cause TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it)? An EMP; economic collapse; zombies; war, alien invasion, epidemic … or is there something else that maybe you know about that the rest of us don’t?
In a SHTF situation, I’ll be good for about six months. I think we will eventually slide into an economic collapse. This house of cards cannot be supported at the current rate of consumption. Eighteen trillion in debt? What happens when that bill is due? If we write that off, the world economy would go into a tailspin. Look at the austerity movement in Greece. That didn’t fix anything but make people more angry and resentful of their elected leaders. An EMP might actually be a godsend. Zap! All electronic debt could be wiped out in a split second.

Do you think people are inherently good or inherently evil?
People are people. They will jump good or bad based on how they were raised. I see it in my classrooms daily. A child will respond to someone in a positive way if they were raised correctly.

Do you have any scars? How did you get them?
My left thumb has a dime-sized scar from my experience with high voltage and a floor buffer in Germany. That is my most obvious scar. The farm left me with all sorts of interesting stories. Barbed wire fences gave me some good ones.

Of the following 1970s TV shows, which would you prefer to be in when society collapses, and why? A) Welcome Back Kotter; B) The Jeffersons; C) Gilligan’s Island; or D) Starsky and Hutch
I’ll take the island. At least there are coconuts! I’m taking Gilligan out day one though. The Skipper will be held in reserve for when the food runs out.

Let’s say you only have a roll of Duct Tape, a few Sporks, and can of Silly String. What kind of weapon could you create out of them to fight off zombies and/or bad guys during an apocalypse?
Without anything else? I can see using the duct tape to make some sort of fighting gloves with the sporks used for sharp pointy things. The Silly String doesn’t have much use except for the metal can. If I can bend it enough, I can make a sharp edge for creating a makeshift shank.

What’s next for you in terms of writing? Will there be a sequel to Firestorm?
I’m trying my hand at young adult fiction right now. I don’t have a projected completion time for it, but I feel that Christmas time is doable. I want to tell the story of David trying to hold his neighborhood right after the pulse. This is where he starts to lose it and “go hunting.”

What are your superpowers and/or secret talents?
I can’t tie a cherry stem into a knot, but I do know how to write lesson plans like a fiend. Ooh, I just remembered something! I know the secret to making Sonic’s onion rings. I worked as a cook and assistant manager where I discovered the inner workings of a fast food establishment. I do know my way around a reloading bench, so I make my own ammunition.

Where can readers find your book?
Firestorm: Walking in the Rain Book 5 is available from Amazon.com as an ebook. I anticipate having the hard copies ready by December.

Author Interview: William Allen

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One of my favorite things about providing editing services to independent authors is getting to know them better during the process. The indie author community is filled with amazing people, so I thought it would be fun to highlight an author every one or two weeks so we can get to know them better. I’m kicking the series off with William Allen. I was a fan of his before I edited the fourth book in his Walking in the Rain series. I also had the honor of working with him on the Bite-Sized Offerings anthology. He’s a talented writer and a good guy. So, read on and get to know a little about William Allen.

Please tell a little about yourself.
     First, I am nothing like any of the characters in my stories.  I’m a  thoroughly house-broken suburban dweller who is a long way from his country roots.  I readily admit in the event of most SHTF events, I have the life expectancy of a Snickers bar at fat camp.  I don’t live in a cave in the woods, though some days I wish that was an option.  I have some skills when it comes to hunting, fishing and camping. Even though I have no actual mechanical skills, I’ve also always been fascinated by how things work.  

How did you come up with the idea for your Walking in the Rain series? What else can you tell us about it?
     The idea for this story came to me one day when I was sitting at O’Hare Airport in Chicago.  I was waiting for a flight that was eventually cancelled, and I was thinking dark thoughts.  Then I realized, “Hey, at least the lights didn’t go out.  And maybe my flight will show up tomorrow.  I’ve got it so easy in some ways.”
Since home is Texas, I got to thinking about what I would do in the event of an EMP event.  The sad truth is, I figured out I’d probably be dead inside a week.  Then I got to wondering about if the traveler was someone younger, fitter, and more creative, would they be able to make it home?  Still probably not, but it would make for a more entertaining story than chronicling the downfall of my out-of-shape butt.

     This was supposed to be a three and out series, if that, but as I wrote I kept getting more ideas for the characters.  Plus, I really hate a “journey” story where the tale ends on the completion of the journey.  I guess I could have ended the series with the conclusion of Book Three but I still had a lot more left in the tank.  I was especially curious to find out how Luke’s family was going to react to his return, and the changes he underwent on the road.  As I was rereading Dark Sky Thunder I realized I may have given a poor impression of his mother so I’ll need to figure out a way to make it up to her later.  Yes, I realize I am referring to fictional characters as real, live folks but to me that is the best way to deal with complex and evolving characters.  No, I don’t need to see a doctor for my delusions, thank you very much.        

What else have you written? 
     I addition to the four WITR novels, I’ve published a couple of short stories, and the one I am most proud of is “Ware, Goblins.”  This is a very short story I wrote for Bite Sized Offerings and I have loved seeing the feedback on this one.  I also enjoyed writing my first published zombie story, “Hunger Driven” since it allowed me to add a little humor to the genre.  Dark, sad humor, but still funny to me.

Have you always been good at writing? When did you discover that you like to write? 
I only consider myself a so-so writer.  There are plenty of better writers out there, but I like to think I bring a certain break-neck spirit to the table.  I like to move the narrative along at a quick, stripped-down pace and the last thing I ever want to hear is a reader telling me how they had to skim through parts of my book.    

     As for how long I’ve enjoyed writing, I’ve been scribbling stuff in notebooks since I was about eight years old.  Like most people, I never dreamed of actually publishing anything.  My father always enjoyed reading my writing and he was my biggest cheerleader, but sadly he didn’t live to see me publish my first story.

How do you find/make time to write? 
     With a full-time day job that often demands big chunks of my nights and weekends, I have learned to make use of available time whenever I can.  If I have an hour sitting at the airport, then I use that time to write chapters longhand. If I have two hours at night between ten pm and midnight, then I use that time to either write new stuff or transcribe what I have written previously in longhand.  My best writing time is at night on the weekends when I am home.

Do you have any specific/unique writing habits?
     I wish I had a cool story about how I write listening to Mozart or Avenged Sevenfold or something like that but sorry, no go.  Get me in front of a laptop and give me a little quiet and I’m ready to go.  I don’t require silence to concentrate, but I do tend to block everything else out when I am writing.  Plus, coffee is a definite plus.     

Where/when/how do you come up with your best ideas? 
     I get ideas for stories all the time.  I tend to keep a notepad handy to jot things down as they occur to me.  Some ideas get a follow up and others just get filed away.  The best ideas usually come to me like pieces of a puzzle that I have to assemble in my head.

How do you choose names for your characters? Do you pick them randomly, or do they have some sort of meaning to you?
     I usually just make up character names but I have started recently using first or last names of people I know to fill out some supporting character roles.  These are usually beta readers and I use their names with permission, which they get a kick out of it when the stories come to them.     

Do you read your reviews? If so, do you ever respond to them? Advice for new authors regarding how to deal with negative reviews? 
     I do read reviews.  My advice it don’t do it unless you have a thick skin.  Five star reviews are easy and fill you with pride at a job well-done, of course, but those one star hatchet jobs can really irk you if you let it.  I’ve only responded one time to a negative review, commenting on the inaccuracies in his well-laid out but incorrect bashing of me as a person.  As I indicated, I think I have a pretty high tolerance for criticism and I will sometimes find myself agreeing with the complaint.  My writing is not for everyone and I am the first to admit this.  Calling me a racist and a misogynist really isn’t accomplishing anything constructive.
      For a new writer, this kind of vitriolic attack can certainly damage your confidence.  For me, I made note of the complaint and checked to see if anyone else felt the same.  After about three hundred more reviews came in for that book without a repeat, I decided the reviewer was just full of crap.
      Another example was one I just received for Dark Sky Thunder.  I’ve received about fifty four or five star reviews and a single two star review.  The reviewer there complained about how slow the book started (something I readily admit given the events in the previous three books) and then went on to rip the story for being disjointed and lacking in focus.  That part really threw me off, as I had worked hard to “script” this story (or heavily outlined, if you will) before even attempting a final draft.
      After some thought, I decided the reviewer just really enjoyed the travel aspects of the first three books and was disappointed I didn’t immediately send Luke and company off on a wild goose chase.  Sorry, but after all he has been through, Luke will be sticking close to home for the immediate future.  In fact, that thought was the reason I had to remove the “Going for the Horse Doc” chapters from the main story and spin them off into a short story for later.    

What is your best marketing tip? 
     As an independent author and publisher, my best marketing tip is to put yourself out there.  I don’t mean become obnoxious in your self-promotion, but be willing to answer reader questions and respond promptly.  For some of you, it might mean becoming active on Facebook.  For others, it is setting up your own webpage.  I am not that tech savvy and even though several people have offered to set up one for me, I do better with e-mails.  For example, if you e-mail me with questions or comments at walkingintherain6@gmail.com, I will respond.  Every time.  Trust me, people appreciate that level of interaction, and they will tell their friends.  At my level, word of mouth is the best advertising I can do. 

     I also get asked how I manage to get so many reviews written for my books.  The answer there is also simple—I politely ask readers to do leave a review, and then I explain how this helps me write more books.        

What secret talents do you have?
     I have the ability to blend into almost any crowd.  Yes, not easy for me at six feet five inches tall and two hundred fifty-five pounds (give or take), but I can easily adapt to a new environment in just a few minutes.  In the Deep South, my accent comes on heavy, with a distinct Texas drawl, while in the Midwest I’ve often been asked where I come from, since they can’t hear it in my voice.  I don’t do a Northeastern accent, but they often think I am from Chicago or Wisconsin.  I am stealthy in my own way.   

If you had a superpower, what would it be? 
     If I could pick, I would want to be able to control time.  That would be cool.  Plus, it would pretty much make me, and anyone else I chose, essentially immortal. 

Ever been in a bar fight? 
     Yes.  I am waiting for the statute of limitations to expire on that one, so the less said the better.  But I do have job experience along those lines that I can discuss.
      For a while when I was in college, I worked security at a beer store, so I got to fight the drunks almost every night when they were kicked out of the bar next door.  By the way, fighting drunks is like fighting zombies- they are uncoordinated but also don’t seem to feel pain.
      One night I saw a guy come in about 2am, barefoot and shirtless in the middle of winter.  The shirtless part made it obvious someone had stuck a rather large knife in his belly and left it there.  By the time the ambulance showed up with the paramedics, he didn’t want to leave because he was at Level Six on Miss Pacman.  Like I said, after a certain point, drunks don’t feel pain.  Either that, or he was a high functioning zombie. Either way, you can guess who ended up having to squeegee the blood off that game.  

Where is one place you’d like to visit that you’ve never been to before?
     New Zealand/Australia. I lump them together simply because if I get close enough to visit one, I am definitely visiting the other as well.  I’d love to pop in and visit with some of my favorite authors Down Under.       

Worldwide, apocalyptic EMPs… fiction or a reality? 
     Reality. The question is one of timing.  I groan every time I read an article about some billion dollar infrastructure project where the federal government fails to even consider spending a few million dollars of taxpayer money on something actually useful, like hardening the system.  Oh, no, we can’t do that.  The only rationale I can find is that some politicians think it sends the wrong message.
      
Sort of like the reason we did away with Civil Defense in this country.  We did not want to make the Soviet Union worry we were planning a first strike, so we left the country’s civilian population wide open for attack.  The problem here is we could face either an enemy like ISIS or Iran, who could care less about the status of noncombatants, or Mother Nature, who has been at war with mankind since Day One, and she doesn’t take prisoners.    

Who do you think would last the longest in the zombie apocalypse: Bill Cosby, Martha Stewart, or Gene Simmons?
     Gene Simmons.  A year ago I would have said Bill Cosby, but he has managed to tick off a large percentage of the female population in this country.  I doubt he would be welcomed into any survivor community unless it was a group of degenerates looking for his magic drug cocktail secrets.  Martha didn’t do her time the right type of facility to learn much in the way of street smart survival skills.  I don’t watch his reality TV show, but I understand Mr. Simmons stays in pretty good shape for his age.  Heck, for that matter I’d pick Richard Simmons over the Coz or Martha.

What food/beverages would you miss the most if the SHTF?
     Coffee.  I’m the kind of person who would hold up in a Dunkin’ Donuts for the coffee alone.  Forget Starbucks.  Most of their flavors are too bitter for my delicate palate. 

Advice for new and/or aspiring authors? 
     Write.  A lot.  Sit down, put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) and create something.  Do that once, twice, three times.  Then take that third manuscript and show it to someone in the business for a critique.  Up to you but I wouldn’t go to an English teacher or a creative writing professor.  For my first critique, I picked a few authors for whom I was beta reading.  To my eternal gratitude, they offered me some excellent tips on how I could do a better job with my writing.
      
Do not take offense, do not whine, and do thank them for their advice.  Be polite, and remember them when you do get published and thank them for taking the time to help out a fellow writer.  Then be willing to pass it on to other beginning writers who come to you for help.  And that ends the lecture.           

What are you working on now? Any new writing projects in the works? 
     I am currently working on A Feast for Crows, which is a direct sequel to the short story “Hunger Driven” that I wrote earlier this year.  I just enjoy writing books about people with “problems” and Brad McCoy has a lot of them.  He is moody, and cranky, and has a problem with authority, but he also has a really funny relationship with his boss.  This book will let me expand the world view a bit and add some more depth to the story, as well as hopefully entertaining the zombie masses.
After that, I have already started outlining the next Rain book, which will be a revisit of sorts as I go back and catch up with our friends at the Keller farm.  Even as I was writing Book Two, I was trying to figure out why the character of Scott Keller seemed to be so intriguing to me.  He never said much and he wasn’t a leader, but his skills in the woods and his easygoing demeanor seemed to make him a natural mentor for Luke.  Now I intend on figuring out what makes the character tick as well as telling a slam bang story.
      I am also working on several other stories in the developmental stage, including a post-nuclear war mystery involving a scarred faced hermit, a discredited FBI agent, and a whole slew of assassins in the woods.  This one has been on my mind for a long time and I am looking forward to finally being able to sit down and finish the thing.      

Where can we find your books? 
     For the time being, I am publishing online exclusively at Amazon for Kindle.  My first three books are also available on Audible.com and Book Four, Dark Sky Thunder, has been submitted for audio as well.  

Thanks for hanging with us!
William Allen’s Amazon Page

So Happy to be a Part of This!

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Cover Art by André Vazquez

Bite-Sized Offerings: Tales & Legends of the Zombie Apocalypse

I haven’t blogged for a while (surprise, surprise). My excuse? The same excuse most people have for not doing the things they enjoy—work. For me, that means editing and proofreading. That is a good thing…no, that’s a great thing. I enjoy doing what I do and I love the people I get to work with.

If you didn’t already know this, the independent author community is filled with some of the most generous, kind people I’ve met. Ever. Sure, there are a few bad apples in the barrel, just like in any community, but I won’t go there.

Tonight, I’m going to focus on some good ones…specifically, the ones who gave their time, creative talents, money, and support to a project designed to help a friend, whose daughter needs heart valve replacement surgery.

The friend: A supporter, provider of encouragement, friend, and promoter of many independent authors who write dystopian and post-apocalypse fiction. This beautiful woman goes out of her way to help others when needs arise. She has organized auctions, online fundraising, and gives financially when she can. She is a generous soul.

The reason: Emalee.
She is Mysti’s thirteen-year-old daughter. Em has an extra chromosome. That means she was born with Down Syndrome. Em has had several surgeries in her young life and will soon be going through one of the most important surgeries of them all. She needs her heart valve replaced. As we all know, not all medical expenses are covered through insurance. There are many expenses that those with a chronically ill child pay out-of-pocket: second and third opinions, specialists, travel…just to name a few.

Almost everyone needs help at some time in their life. This is one of those times for Mysti and her family.

The project: Bite-Sized Offerings: Tales & Legends of the Zombie Apocalypse

The Background: This all began from a casually tossed out idea on Facebook. I used my author page to start a conversation about zombie fiction for kids. I was lamenting the lack of good, age-appropriate zombie books for my sons and former students who love zombies. A friend and fellow author…we’ll call her Lori (cuz that’s her name) threw out the idea of putting together an anthology of zombie stories for kids.

I must have been in my I-can-conquer-the-world mode, because I thought it sounded like a great idea. But only if the money—assuming the book would sell—went to a kid-related charity. But which one? Who would be the beneficiary of our vast wealth? Who could use a whopping five bucks?

Lori suggested Mysti. It was one of those moments when you say, “Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?” Emalee and her brother, Mason, love zombies. It was meant to be.

Then I put it on the back burner. Exit: I-can-conquer-the-world-and-everyone-in-it mode; Enter: I-want-to-hide-from-the-world-and-live-in-a-dark-cave mode. 

Fortunately, Lori, a dynamo of a woman, wouldn’t let it go. She got the ball rolling and I got excited about it again. I envision it like this: Lori packed a fistful of ice, rolled it over one author, who said, “Heck ya! I want to be a part of this!” She grazed it past another author, who also said yes! Those authors rolled the ball over more authors who wanted to help Mysti. And it grew. It…ready for this?…it snowballed. I’m a So Cal native; humor me while I talk about something I know nothing about.

Before we knew what was happening, more authors stepped up, wanting to be a part. Why? Mysti; that’s why. 

I’ll spare you all the wonderful details…the contracts, the editing, deciding on a title, working with the cover artist, etc. The bottom line is, we ended up with thirty-four awesome zombie stories. Each one is unique. All of them are appropriate for middle school-aged kids. The quality of the stories make the book appealing to all fans of zombie fiction.

All profit goes to Mysti to help with Emalee’s health- and surgery-related expenses.

The contributors:  From three different countries, all different backgrounds, and with different takes on the zombie apocalypse. One common goal: to help a mutual friend in need.

W.J. LundyShawn ChesserArmand RosamiliaTed NultyMichael RobertsonHeath StallcupSaul TanpepperMike EvansBrian ParkerJ. RudolphT.W. PiperbrookVeronica SmithJack WallenA.R. ShawJohn Gregory HancockWilliam AllenMichelle BryanP Mark DeBryanS.G. LeeJames DeanShannon WaltersShaun PhelpsJoseph CautilliMarisha CautilliEdward P CardilloAdrianne LemkeToni L.H BoughtonH.J. HarryJeffrey ClareChris BosticRich BakerCedric NyeGreg P. FerrellAllen GamboaLori FontanezE.S. OakesAndrew KishTorchbearer Editing Services

A is for Authors

A[1]A is for Authors

I love my little world of independent authors. Some are friends and some are clients… and many I consider to be both.

Social media has made it easy to connect with many independent authors, and what I’ve found is most of them are down-to-earth, humble, friendly people.

There are those who don’t think of independent authors as “real” writers because they aren’t published by one of the big-name publishing houses. I admit, I have read some pretty crappy self-published books, but there also is a lot of talent out there.

Many independent authors’ e-books are free, on Kindle Unlimited, or are much less expensive than the traditionally published authors. I had the “what have I got to lose” mentality when I downloaded my first few free books on Amazon. In return, I’ve been introduced to a whole new world of authors and genres.

I encourage you to check out some independent authors… you might be pleasantly surprised.

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Through a Mirror Darkly

My First Independently Published Book & Why I Wrote It

Through a Mirror Darkly is a short story I wrote under my pen name a couple months ago. I self-published it last month through Amazon. I wrote it originally for an anthology that was published this month. It has been categorized as a horror story, but it’s more than that.

When I think of horror stories, I think of crazy, knife-carrying clowns with fangs chasing a group of horny teenagers at a deserted camp. Through a Mirror Darkly has a paranormal element to it, but it’s also very loosely based on my own experiences with familial and personal depression.

When I wrote it, I didn’t think it would end up being therapeutic for me, but it was. I never had a chance to say goodbye to my mom when she died. I hadn’t seen her in over 35 years. After my parents separated, she tried to kill herself. I was barely seven when I heard her crying out from the other room. To this day, the memory of finding my mom on the floor, begging for help wrenches my heart.

After that, my dad got custody of my brother, sisters, and me. She was eventually released from the hospital and given visitation rights every other weekend. Despite her therapies and medications, she was not emotionally healthy and tried a few more times to take her own life.

Eventually, she stopped coming to pick us up for our weekends. The last time I saw her, I was nine years old. I never really missed her… maybe because her withdrawal from our lives was so gradual. Maybe it was because I was such a daddy’s girl. The only thing I was ever angry about was having to find her the first time she attempted suicide. More than anything, I hated the pity people would express when they found out I didn’t have a mom.

Looking back, I realize I spent my life in the shadow of my mom’s suicide attempts and depression. I was adamant that I would not be like her. I would never be weak like I thought she must have been. When I had my first child, I was even more resolved that I would be nothing like her. And I was a great mom: attentive, patient, happy, ambitious. For the first time, I resented her for leaving her children because I could not understand how anyone could do that.

Then, I had my second child. I knew something was wrong in my last trimester. I grew depressed, anxious, and obsessed about irrational things. I told nobody and figured it would go away after I got to hold my baby in my arms, but it only got worse. He seemed to cry all the time, he was a horrible nurser, and nobody but me could hold him. At the same time, my three year old demanded my attention.

I sank into a dark place. I found myself resenting my baby. I started having anxiety attacks when he would cry. I remember wondering if I could place him for adoption. I was sure someone would be a better parent to him. I didn’t want to admit I was “weak” like my mom. I spent my life being everything she wasn’t. I spent my life not being what she was.

Around this time, Brooke Shields wrote a book about her experience with postpartum depression called Down Came the Rain. I do not know where I would be if that book hadn’t ended up in my hands. As I read about her depression, I realized something: this beautiful, intelligent, talented woman was admitting she needed help overcoming her depression.

I decided that was where I would be different from my mom. I would get help before it was too late. I had to be strong enough to admit that I was weak. I was ashamed and embarrassed, but I did seek help because of my love for my boys. With the help of antidepressants, I became more like the “old” me again. I still struggle with depression and anxiety, and I still take medication for it.

When I found out my mom passed away a couple years ago, I felt I needed to do something to “release” her… to let her know I finally understood her. I needed to let her know that she had my forgiveness.

My goodbyes to her were put on the back burner, however. The same day I learned of her passing, my dad was undergoing surgery. Complications arose and he almost died. From that time on, his health deteriorated. He almost died several times in the months that followed. Emotionally, I couldn’t focus on my mom’s death. My dad had priority. He died five months ago and I miss him terribly. I always thought my first book would be dedicated to him, but as the story, Through a Mirror Darkly, wrote itself, I realized it was a book for my mom. It was my way to say goodbye, to let her go with my forgiveness.

I’ve always found comfort in writing, and this story was no different. It also brought healing. I believe in the afterlife. I believe she needed to know that she is forgiven. I feel I needed to tell her this for her sake and mine. I hope she has finally found peace and wholeness.

If you are interested in the fictional account of my story, you can get it on Amazon. It’s less than a buck and if you have Kindle Unlimited, you can read it for free. If you do read it, please leave a review on Amazon. Reviews help independent authors like me. Thank you!51AiuzkwVtL._SX312_BO1,204,203,200_ (1)

Happy Little Horrors: Freakshow

Shameless self promotion:
This awesome, new book is available… just in time for Halloween! 
Description

Happy Little Horrors is an anthology of short stories, produced by author David Reuben and editor Monique Happy. 

Some of the best authors in the horror genre are represented, including Michael Robertson, Craig McDonough, Derrick LaCombe, David Reuben, C.L. Hernandez, Joseph A. Coley, James Michaels, Tania Cooper, Eila Oakes, Brandon Ryals, Michael Clary, Kya Aliana, Allen Gamboa, Dean Wild, John McIlveen, Toni Lesatz, Brandon Cracraft, and Steven G. Bynum.

If you look closely, you might notice my name sharing space with seventeen other amazing authors. It is an honor to be featured in this book!

Don’t miss out. Get your copy today! Available in paperback and Kindle format. 

My Guilty Pleasure

There was a time I would have been embarrassed to admit this, but I don’t care anymore.  I’m just going to come out and say this:  I love Zombie fiction*!

It all started with “The Walking Dead”, the insanely popular TV show.  I heard about how great it is and thought I’d give it a try.  At first, I was horrified.  I mean- yuck!  Then I started to see there was a story line in the middle of all that gore.  I got to know the characters (the living ones, that is) and I was hooked.

The problem is, whenever the show ended for the season, I went through a grieving process.  I don’t like to wait for anything, even television shows.  So what did I do to fill the Zombie void?  I turned to Amazon.  Lo and behold, there are all sorts of Zombie-related books available.  I purchased my first Zombie fiction* book for my Kindle in June of 2013.  I read it secretly, hoping nobody would find out that I had strayed from more mainstream literature.

To my surprise, I enjoyed the book immensely!  The book was Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End by Manel Louriero. This story takes place in Spain and was, in fact, written for a Spanish audience.  Fortunately, it was translated into English before I tried to read it.  I have since read the sequel to this one and enjoyed it just as much.

From there, I read Scott Nicholson’s After: The Shock.  I don’t remember much about this one, other than the “zombies” are the result of a solar flare.  I just purchased his second in this series, After: The Echo, so I’m sure the story-line will come back to me quickly when I start reading it.

After my first two enjoyable ventures into Zombie fiction*, I purchased the first book in a series called The Remaining, by D.J. Molles.  This was my first introduction to Zombie fiction* with a strong militaristic leaning.  I discovered I like having main characters who know how to shoot machine guns, throw grenades effectively, and are able to take on zombie hordes with military precision.  I ended up purchasing and reading the rest of the books in the series that were available at the time.

The next author I discovered was James Cook.  Like the others, his books come in a series.  The first in his series is called No Easy Hope- Surviving the Dead: Book One. Cook’s books combine military with martial arts as a way to deal with the the undead.  I like martial arts, so this was a bonus.  I like the main characters in these books- they are flawed and endearing.  Fortunately, I was able to read the other two books in the series without having to wait, since they had already been published.  I like when books come in a series… the fun can continue until the author decides it’s time to end it.  Hopefully, Cook has a few more books in this series planned.

After the Surviving the Dead series, I floundered around a bit, trying to find a series that would be as good as Molles’ and Cook’s books.  It was hit-and-miss for a while. Some of the Zombie fiction* out there is really not that great.  Since most of the writers of this genre are “indies”, the editing sometimes lacks professionalism.  Some of the story-writing is poor and juvenile.  But, I persevered and came across a series that quickly became my favorite.

John O’Brien is the writer of a series called A New World.  As of this post, he has nine books in his series.  His are my favorite of this genre because he tells a great story and does so with skill and professionalism.  O’Brien’s books are somewhat militaristic, but they include a “human” element, as well. The characters are likable and realistic.  The zombies in this story are different than the zombies in any of the other books I’ve read. I hope to see a lot more from this author, even after he ends this particular series.

If you enjoy some humor with your zombies, Mark Tufo is the author for you.  He is hilarious!  His books maintain the yuck and fright factor, but there are moments when I find myself literally laughing out loud.  Tufo has written quite a few books, but his zombie series is called Zombie Fallout. There are currently seven books in the series and he is working on his eighth.

So, there it is.  I love reading Zombie fiction*.  My guilty pleasure.  And it sure is a fun one!

*Zombie fiction- Isn’t that a bit redundant?  I mean, zombies are the epitome of fiction, right?  If zombies ever stop being fiction, we’re in all kinds of trouble.