Sunday, December 15, 2013

Undead of Winter Authors: Meet James C. Simpson

Today, I'm introducing James C. Simpson, the author of "Mit Den Augen Der Toten". It's a story that involves a bad place in a turbulent time, and some very cold weather. Phenomenally cold. If it can make me feel cold in Florida, that's cold!

Q. What gave you the idea for “'Mit Den Augen Der Toten”?
A. The concept for that story was a combination of things. It was based off of some actual firsthand accounts that were told to me by German soldiers who had fought in the east. World War 2 has always held a special fascination for me. It was the most epic time in history and had a very apocalyptic feeling. This real-life horror lends itself to supernatural terror very easily and I took it from there. You can sense an obvious Lovecraftian influence, but the isolation and the cold is based off of my own experiences in the wilderness and being alone. The winter is a great setting for horror because it really is a dead period. It's cold and bleak and it's little surprise that so many horror stories are set in these months.

Q. Your story was one of the best for conveying a true sense of cold. Did you research it, or is Pennsylvania that bad in the winter?
A. Pennsylvania has had some rough winters. No one wants to lose their power, but it is genuinely frightening to lose it in the winter. I've had that happen to me and it can be an arduous experience, especially if you don't have a generator!
The winter always creeps me out the most. All I see is dead trees and hear the whistling wind. No other time of the year does it feel more desperate and lonely.
No small wonder that Frankenstein bookends in the Arctic.
Some of the accounts are based off of my experiences, but others were taken from what I heard. I guess the Russian winter was so extreme that it actually turned the oil into gelatin. That's pretty scary. Not to mention, it was so cold that the abandoned livestock would actually die from exposure and die where they stood...literally, like statues.
I have no love for the winter. I love Christmas, because I'm sentimental like that, but after that, I'm ready for the summer!

Q. How did you pick the genre/setting/era you write in?
A. I have a certain obsession with World War 2 and own several books on the subject. In fact, I have another story being published in a few months that is also set during that war and contains a supernatural element. The war in Europe was of particular interest because of the dimensions of the conflict. Hitler was in effect, the last of the conquerors and it's frightening to think how close he came to taking over the world. I remembered some of the stories I had been told and combined them with the concept of an ancient evil, relative to what the Third Reich was. I have to imagine that the forces of darkness must love something like the Nazis. The Third Reich actually were obsessed with the occult, so that's where that idea came from. I have to figure that is they knew of some supernatural power, they would undoubtedly have wanted to use it, crazy as that sounds.
I feel like this might even be a hint at something future I'll write about, perhaps something mythological. I've had a concept for a long time about Nazis uncovering an ancient evil in an attempt to derive power from it, only to have it consume them and it may return again in future stories, possibly even a novel.

Q. What was your favorite part to write in “Mit Den Augen Der Toten”?
A. The beginning on the Russian front was some of my creepiest stuff. That was certainly interesting to write, but I confess, I never mapped out the story much, I just let it flow. I wanted something strange and unnatural to be found and when it came time to write about the remains of the camp, I just imagined this elemental force that raises the dead and that was pretty strange.  I had a dream about it and it was kind of unsettling, so I jotted it down and if it seems kind of whacked out, blame it on my dreams!
The toughest part when you write something like this is the ending. How do you properly conclude these things and make your readers remember them?
I really hope my last line wasn't too vague.

Q. What's your current project?
A. I have another story coming out in early 2014. That should be out in an anthology called “Luna's Children: Stranger Worlds.” I also have a few more writings on my plate, including another trip back to Nazi Germany, this time involving an ancient vampire, and I am trying to write a western horror, as that's another genre I am very fond of.

We look forward to seeing them!

Undead of Winter is available in print and Kindle format at Amazon. You can enjoy James' story there, along with other fine offerings from authors like Alex Azar, Stephanie Stamm, and D.J. Tyrer.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Paul Wartenberg: Serious Ways To Celebrate Saturnalia

You Might Notice a Trend: Serious Ways To Celebrate Saturnalia

From Paul Wartenberg: author, NaNoWriMo 2013 winner, and author of a well-received story in Strangely Funny. You may find his post strangely funny as well.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Undead of Winter Authors: Meet Tom Wescott

Now available at Amazon.
Tom Wescott is an American criminologist specializing in the Jack the Ripper mystery. He's authored numerous original research pieces for journals such as Ripperologist, Ripper Notes, The Whitechapel Society Journal, Casebook Examiner, and The New Independent Review. In 2014 he will publish two full-length investigative works related to the Ripper case: The Bank Holiday Murders and The Berner Street Mystery.

With the story 'Coffin Dirt', though, he creates a story, not a research article. And what a powerful story it is! I write notes about each anthology submission in my spreadsheet to refer to later. Next to his, I wrote: "F---ing near literary." It's horror, but it's not just horror. Learn more about the story, and Tom, now.

Q: What gave you the idea for 'Coffin Dirt'?

A: Winter itself gave me the idea. It's my least favorite holiday. Very dangerous. And much of the stuff in the story happened to people I know. That was the true inspiration for the story. The rest of it just came as I was writing it. I didn't know where it would go until I got there, but I knew that I didn't want to write an identifiable 'monster', such as a ghost or vampire. I'm not sure what Tyson is at the end, but I know he's not an illusion.

Q: You have an interesting day job: criminologist. Could you tell us more about that?

A: Unfortunately, that's a hobby and not a day job. I have a passion for unsolved crimes and like to try and solve them to my own satisfaction. The Jack the Ripper mystery is my personal favorite.

Q: Tell us about your Ripper research.

A: I've studied the Ripper case since the late 90's and have published around 20 essays on the subject. I have two books coming out in 2014. The first (due in January or February) is called The Bank Holiday Murders: The True Story of the First Whitechapel Murders and will include new evidence that I believe will cause quite a stir in 'Ripperology'. The second book, due later in the year, is called The Berner Street Mystery and focuses on the murder of Elizabeth Stride, one of the victims. Lots of myths and mysteries surround this woman and her murder and the book is intended to provide as many answers as possible. Following these I'll produce a larger, more mainstream book on the Ripper case.

Q: What made you decide to start writing your own stories?

A: Like most writers I don't think I had a choice. I was compelled to write and so write I did and will do.

Q: Who is your favorite fiction author and what really strikes you about their work?

A: At this moment I really like Dan Brown and Steve Berry. Popular novelists with a historical bent. Authors who like to explore historical mysteries intrigue me because I like to do that myself. I also love reading horror short stories and buy anthologies as well as journals. I don't like most short stories I read, but when I find ones I like they're often more powerful than a good novel. A novel is like a good nap, but a good short story is like an energy shot.

Thanks for talking to us today!

If you'd like to learn more about Mr. Wescott's Ripper research, he recently did an interview on the subject for the Jack the Ripper Investigations Blog. Click here to whet your appetite for his upcoming publications.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Goodreads Giveaway: Undead of Winter

You may wonder what I've been doing between posting interviews. Well, I was editing and helping format Undead of Winter, the newest offering from Mystery and Horror, LLC. As part of our launch, we're giving away three copies on Goodreads.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Undead of Winter by Sarah E Glenn

Undead of Winter

by Sarah E Glenn

Giveaway ends December 13, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

This book is darker than our previous offerings. Some of the stories have a little warmth or humor, but the majority of them are best described as... chilling.

I encourage you to enter the giveaway, and to check the lengthier description of the book on Amazon. It might be the blast of cold air you're looking for!


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Hoosier Hoops and Hijinks: Brandt Dodson

Please allow me to introduce you to another author from Hoosier Hoops and Hijinks. The tales in Hoosier Hoops, the newest anthology from the Speed City Indiana chapter of Sisters in Crime, all involve one of Indiana's greatest obsessions: basketball.

Today, we're meeting Brandt Dodson, author of "Requiem in Crimson". Brandt is a man of many talents. Among his previous jobs: working for the Indianapolis office of the FBI, serving as a Naval Officer in the United States Naval Reserve, and even getting a doctorate in Podiatric Medicine. His passion, however, is for his writing.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for "Requiem in Crimson"?

A: Like most things in my life, it was happenstance. I stumbled into it.
I was in the process of beginning a new Colton Parker novel.  I did not have a title, but I knew the story would have to involve Colton doing a personal favor for Mary Christopher, his former FBI colleague and developing love interest.  Like most of the time when I write, I tend to put the piece down so that I can come back to it at a later time and see it with fresh eyes. While I was waiting for this novel to brew a little, I was approached by a member of the Indianapolis chapter of Sisters in Crime about doing a short story for the Hoosier Hoops and Hijinks anthology.  I was honored to be asked, so I dusted off the first chapter of the new Colton Parker novel and developed it into a shorter piece. I've never been a greater outliner when writing, preferring the 'seat-of-the-pants' approach.  I adopted that approach here, too.

Q: On your Web page, you say that your English teacher encouraged you to write. Tell us more about that.

A: I've been fortunate in that I've had a lot of encouragement in life. My parents were the kind that revered education and reading and read to me when I was a child. Their encouragement led me to the world of books. I'm convinced that my love of reading led me to writing.
At several points along my early school career, I had a succession of teachers who saw in me something that I didn't see in myself. Consequently, whenever we wrote short stories or essays in English class, the teacher would invariably pull me aside and encourage me to pursue writing. This happened in grade school, high school, and in college. In the latter case, my writing instructor knew I was looking at medical school but took the time to tell me: "If you don't write, you'll live to regret it." I didn't listen as well as I should have, but it's never too late. I'm writing now and have been blessed with the opportunity to traditionally publish several novels and short stories and to see a play adapted by a dinner theatre. I continue to write because I don't know how I could stop. It's part of my DNA.

Q: What do you know now that you are published that you wish you'd known before?

A: Oh, my. Where do I begin?
I wish I knew that marketing is as important as writing a good book. In my early years I was writing under the delusion that my publisher would produce the book I'd written and get it to the stores and libraries and organize publicity tours and all the rest.  They didn't. If I had known that, I would have started marketing the book while I was writing it. Nevertheless, it still did pretty well and has led to several others.
I wish I'd known that publishing was going to change as radically as it has.
I wish I'd known that editors and agents want to find writers as badly as writers want to find them. It would have saved me a lot of grief.

Q:  If you could ask your readers one question, what would it be?

A: What kind of story would you like to read, but can't seem to find?

Q: Okay, so you're an author. What do you enjoy reading?

Published by Blue River Press.
A: I read a great deal of non-fiction, particularly biographies. I'm reading Doris Kearns Goodwin's biography on Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, No Ordinary Time. But I also read a great deal of fiction. I just finished reading Michael Connelly's The Brass verdict (great book) and I am reading two other novels simultaneously: Black List by Brad Thor and Silent Night by the late Robert B. Parker and his agent, Helen Brann. I've even just started Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. It's outside the genre I normally read, but so what? It's good.

Q: What is your current project and can you share a little of it with us?

A: I am writing Chicago Knights, the second in the Sons of Jude series. The series debuted last year with the first novel, The Sons of Jude, for which the series is titled.  The novels feature a rotating cast of characters in the Chicago Police department. Chicago Knights is a character-driven story that tells a tale of sacrifice and redemption.

Brandt Dodson is the creator of the Indianapolis-based Colton Parker mystery series and is the author of several crime novels and short stories as well as play he developed for the Great Smoky Mountain Murder Mystery Theatre in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The play - The Bradley Bunch - opens on March 23rd and runs through the end of the year.
Brandt comes from a long line of police officers spanning several decades and was previously employed by the Indianapolis office of the FBI.
The Sons of Jude is his most recent novel and was published in September 2012.
You can find Brandt at:

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Hoosier Hoops and Hijinks

Today, we're meeting Diana Catt, author of "The Art of the Game", the opening story in Hoosier Hoops and Hijinks. Hoosier Hoops is the newest anthology to be published by the Speed City Indiana chapter of Sisters in Crime, and focuses on one of Indiana's most popular pastimes: basketball. I asked her about her story, writing, and reading habits.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for "The Art of the Game"?
Published by Blue River Press.
A: When I sat down to write a story with a basketball theme, I knew I was competing with many talented Indiana authors who were also writing to the basketball theme and I wanted a story line that would be unique.  I decided I would try focusing on a basketball fan. But a normal fan wouldn’t do, I needed a creepy, obsessed fan, right?  And I wanted to illustrate how the player was happily going along with her life and had no idea this fan had focused on her.  That’s the creepy part to me - that someone could be out there with a distorted view of reality and no one knows.  Of course, problems come when the two cross paths.
I set the story at Purdue because when I was my daughter’s little league coach I took the girls to a women’s game at Mackey Arena for some exciting and intense basketball.
The art portion of the story?  That just popped into my head.

Q: When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
A: I’ve been an avid mystery and sci-fi reader since 3rd grade when I discovered Nancy Drew and later Isaac Asimov.  But at that time I didn’t want to write mysteries, I wanted to be Nancy Drew.  Ultimately, I discovered I’m not nearly brave enough.  So I became a scientist.  About twenty years ago, I attended a seminar where the speaker described the first successful cloning of mice and I was inspired to write a sci-fi novel.  I had so much fun with it and I’ve been writing in my spare time ever since.

Q: Who is your favorite author (or current fave) and what really strikes you about their work?
A:  I like a wide variety of authors and genres.  There’s no one favorite, but some authors I’m always sure I’ll enjoy include: Tami Hoag’s thriller/suspense, Tony Hillerman’s Navajo mysteries, Dean Koontz’s scary stuff, Zoe Sharp’s mystery/thriller and J.A. Jance’s mystery/horror.  Right now, I have new releases by other favorite authors in a pile waiting to be read: William Kent Krueger, Terence Faherty, Hank Phillippi Ryan, just to name a few.   I want good character development, an interesting setting, and suspense that keeps me turning the page late into the night.

Diana Catt has the following short story publications: “Photo Finish” in Racing Can Be Murder, Blue River Press (2007); “Evil Comes” in Medium of Murder, Red Coyote Press (2008); “Slightly Mummified” in A Whodunit Halloween, Pill Hill Press (2010); “Boneyard Busted” in Bedlam at the Brickyard, Blue River Press (2010); “Au Naturel” in Patented DNA, Pill Hill Press (2010); “And Through the Woods” in Back to the Middle of Nowhere, Pill Hill Press (2010); “Salome’s Gift” in Murder to Mil-Spec, Wolfmont Press (2010); “The Art of the Game” in Hoosier Hoops and Hijinks, Blue River Press (2013). Diana is married with three kids.  She enjoys her laid-back cat and accepts the challenge of her stubborn dog.  Diana is an environmental microbiologist who mainly hunts for mold in homes but she is also an adjunct professor teaching microbiology at a university in Indiana.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Hoosier Hoops and Hijinks by Speed City Indiana Sisters in Crime

Hoosier Hoops and Hijinks is a project Gwen and I have been involved with that is not a MAHLLC production. It's the latest anthology from the Speed City Indiana chapter of Sisters in Crime, and features something dear to the hearts of Hoosiers and Kentuckians alike: basketball.

Our story, "The Odds Are Always Uneven", stars two retired WWI nurses, one elderly inventor, and a clockwork wildcat. These same characters are the detectives in the novel we're writing together, so consider this a taste of fun to come. And hey, it's basketball with gangsters and speakeasies; what could be better?

Check out Hoosier Hoops and Hijinks on Amazon!

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Cover reveal: Ha-Ha! Horror

"I laughed, I groaned, I shook my head in disbelief....Ha-Ha! Horror will bring a grin to the faces of adults and kids alike..."
--Colleen Wanglund, Monster Librarian
Here's your first taste of Ha-Ha! Horror from the masterful Monstermatt Patterson. We first 'met' Monstermatt during our time with Pill Hill Publishing. He's a remarkable person.

Monstermatt is a horror artist and illustrator who does monster portraits and masks, and a nominee for Best Painter in the Artvoice 2013 Best of Buffalo Awards. He narrates 'The Monster Minute' on the 6' Plus podcast, which is either the best or worst minute of the show. He is the wizard of bad monster jokes, and we're helping him share them with you. 
Ha-Ha! Horror is proudly presented by Mystery and Horror, LLC.

Learn more about Monstermatt: (you can see some of his material there)

Be sure to check the Mystery and Horror, LLC website for more information on the book as it becomes available.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

All Hallows' Evil Authors: Meet Daniel Hale!

Today, we're talking to Daniel Hale, author of "Pact of the Lantern". It's a great story, and especially appropriate for a Halloween anthology. That anthology, All Hallows' Evil, is now available in print and Kindle format. We're also doing a giveaway on Goodreads.

Q. Tell us about your inspiration for the story. It is very much a 'reason for the season' tale.
A. I wanted to write a Halloween tale that would illustrate the evolution of the original holiday traditions to the ones we know today. I envisioned Halloween as a parallel realm that once a year becomes connected to our world, allowing its beastly denizens to cross over for a short time and spread their celebratory havoc. From there I needed to show why they would follow the rituals of protection—the Jack o’ lanterns lit as a symbolic OFF LIMITS—and the consequences of dishonoring the Pact.    

Q. How did you pick the genre/setting/era you write in?
A. I had no specific location in mind for the setting: just an anonymous small town with strong community feelings and prejudices towards Halloween traditions. It saddens me personally to see the celebrations die a little more every year, harmless fun sacrificed for narrow definitions of decency. A place like that would be a windfall to a trio as troublesome as Pintley, Founger and Scabus, and their looting and plundering would only serve to feed the cycle of distrust. 

Q. When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
A. When I first started college. I knew I needed to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, and it just occurred to me “Hey, I read so much. Why don’t I try writing?” So I’m still trying my hand at that, seeing where I end up. 

Q. What is your current project?
A. I like to keep an eye on submission calls for contests and upcoming anthologies, and focus on a number of projects. At the moment I’m trying to finish a story for the “Midian Unmade” anthology of Clive Barker-inspired stories. I’ve also got a story appearing in “The Last Diner” anthology by Fringeworks, which will be coming out soon. After that I want to buckle down and write my first Big Debut Novel. Wish me luck! 

Q. Plotter or pantser?
A. All writers are plotters. It’s only in our stories that we have the courage to pants. 

Thanks for talking to us today! And, good luck!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

All Hallows' Evil Authors: Meet DJ Tyrer!

Today, we meet multitalented DJ Tyrer, the person behind UK small press Atlantean Publishing as well as the driving force behind The Yellow Site, the King In Yellow wiki. He also figures prominently in the sold-ouSorcery and Sanctity: A Homage to Arthur Machen, coming out in late October from Hieroglyphic Press.

He is also the author of "An Echo of Samhain", one of the stories in All Hallows' EvilAll Hallows' Evil is now available in print and Kindle format. We're also doing a giveaway on Goodreads.

Q. In "An Echo of Samhain" the crime and its investigation are both supernatural in nature. I'm curious about the magical system. Did you draw from actual practices, magic in popular entertainment, other sources..?

The magic system behind "An Echo of Samhain" is intended to evoke the feel of real-world occult and folkloric beliefs, although I have drawn inspiration from those sorts of fiction that are closest to it, mainly horror and the magic of the Shadowrun setting. Although there is a lot of fun to be had with the sort of fantasy settings where wizards can toss around fireballs, I've always be most drawn to the idea of a wizard as a manipulator and magic as something that is difficult to use and comes with a price, rather than something that can be tossed around casually and on a whim.

Q. Tell us more about The Yellow Site.

I became involved with The Yellow Site, a wiki of anything and everything to do with the Yellow or Carcosa Mythos inspired by the works of Ambrose Bierce and Robert W. Chambers, after editing a small press anthology of "King In Yellow" fiction and poetry. My involvement spiralled from there and I ended up, entirely unplanned, as the major driving force behind the site (although, as a wiki, anyone is free to work on it) due to the feedback nature of the process – the more I added, the more topics I realised needed to be added. Even though there is still a great deal more work to be added and the project, by its nature, is open-ended, I believe that it is currently the most comprehensive collection of information on this sub-genre.

Q. Who is your favorite author (I could take a guess) and what really strikes you about their work?

In terms of the authors who have most impacted my writing and dominated my time, Chambers is, of course, there at the head of the list, along with the other greats of weird fiction such as Lovecraft, Machen and Clark Ashton Smith. There is something about the dream-like ambiguity of Chambers' "The King In Yellow" that bewitches me. I suppose it is the desire of the mind to impose order even on the most nebulous of things. There are an infinite number of stories that could be told from that same basic template, each interpreting the source material quite differently.

Q. What is your current project?

I've just finished writing my second "King In Yellow"-inspired novella (the first, "The Yellow House", was released in a limited edition that received some amazingly positive feedback) and am currently in the midst of submitting short stories to a variety of anthologies, both on spec and by request.

Q. What was the first story you wrote? Did you try to publish it?

What I regard as my first 'proper' completed story was "The Legend of Harley", a horror story that I first wrote in my early teens, then reworked in 1996 (according to my records). I included it in an early issue of Monomyth in 1999 and it has been republished since (and there is even a heavily reworked and expanded version of the legend currently under consideration for an anthology at the moment). The location of the story, Harley's Mount, and its environs have gone on to feature in a number of published and unpublished poems and stories, even an article on conlanging. In fact, around 1995/96, I wrote an as-yet-unpublished novel set on The Mount (recently rewritten), which, by coincidence, was the first appearance in my fiction of Paul Starling, who features in "An Echo of Samhain".

Thanks for talking to us today!

Learn more about DJ Tyrer via his personal blog at , and check out The Yellow Site if you're a Chambers fan.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

All Hallows' Evil Authors: Meet Erin Farwell!

Mystery and Horror's second anthology is out! As of today, All Hallows' Evil is now available in print and Kindle format. We're also doing a giveaway on Goodreads.

Today, I'm introducing you to Erin Farwell, author of Shadowlands and "The Carver". This mystery takes place in a Halloween maze set up in a corn field - illuminated by the Jack o' Lanterns of the soon-to-be-victim. Erin's descriptions brought back memories of one of my favorite Samhain celebrations which had a corn maze with interesting encounters. Fortunately, that one was lethal for no one. So, let's learn more about Erin:

Q. I really enjoyed reading about the pumpkin walk. Were you drawing from personal experience when you wrote it?

A. The general setting is from a local farm with a great corn maze, haunted barn, hayride, bonfire, etc., but no pumpkin walk. I know many places that line paths with pumpkins but not one specifically like this. I’m sure they exist; I’ve just never had the pleasure of experiencing one.

Q. What made you decide to start writing your own stories?

A. I’ve written stories since I was a child but set that love aside when I started college. After law school I worked as a consultant, a job I loved, but my writing consisted of reports and articles. I dabbled with fiction writing until about eight years ago when I buckled down and got to work. My first novel wasn’t very good but I learned I could write a beginning, middle, and end. This may seem obvious but I had several friends who wrote great beginnings, then became bored and moved on to the next story. Even though my first book wasn’t good, I learned from that process and my second novel became my first published one.

Q. You've done a lot of traveling. Is there still a place you haven't been that you'd like to go?

A. LOL. I have an entire pinterest board devoted to places I’d like to visit. I would love to ride the Orient Express, visit the Lake District in England, and tour the pyramids. I need to start setting stories in these places so I can have an excuse to go and a tax write off as well.

Q. What is your current project?

A. I’m writing a sequel to Shadowlands. My protagonist, Cabel Evans, took his first steps back into the world in the first book. Now he must deal with his greatest challenge, his family.

Q. Can you tell us a little about your writing process?

Generally, I start with my setting. Many writers begin with their plot or characters but I need to know where the characters live, work, and since I write mysteries, die. Once I have the where, the rest of the story unfolds. When I start a project I know my beginning and my end as well as specific plot points along the way. I find that if I am too structured my writing becomes stiff and the story predictable. When I let things happen more organically the story flows better and I find that small things I put in for background are just what I need to get myself out of a corner I’ve written myself into. These happy coincidences make my stories richer and my characters more natural.

Thanks for talking to us today!

Read "The Carver" and twelve other great mysteries in All Hallows' Evil, and check out Shadowlands as well.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Guest Post: Leslie Budewitz

And now for something completely different—because sometimes it’s fun to visit another part of the playground. And because sometimes humans are scarier than any zombie or vampire!

My first mystery, Death al Dente, was just published by Berkley Prime Crime. It’s a cozy mystery, and I can hear some of you—readers and writers alike—asking “what’s that?”

You all know the traditional mystery – think Agatha Christie. One of its modern incarnations is the cozy. It’s the comfort food of the mystery world, the mac & cheese. And who doesn’t love that now and again? (Or carbonara if you’re Italian, like my protagonist’s mother.) No graphic sex or violence; lots of graphic food. Okay, so they don’t all involve food. Some involve knitting. Or librarians or booksellers, psychics or museum directors. Or the owners of haunted houses and hotels. But no FBI agents or bomb squads—at least, not as protagonists. The setting is typically a small town, or an identifiable community within a big city, where a murder is a shock that disturbs the natural order. An amateur sleuth— typically female—is drawn in by the personal nature of the crime, and uses her skills and connections to solve it.

But not everyone likes the term. Carolyn Hart, a goddess in the mystery world (and a past president of Sisters in Crime, which designates former leaders as goddesses), asks “How cozy is it to die in agony from poison, knowing your killer is among your intimates, but dying without knowledge of the culprit?” Not cozy at all—downright terrifying—but in my opinion, the term is cheekily ironic for exactly that reason.

There is an official investigation, of course, run by law enforcement. Often, the amateur sleuth hears and sees things the police can’t. She knows the community—she and her shop, cafĂ©, or gallery are often at its center. As a result, she may be convinced that the police are focused on the wrong person—maybe even her, or someone close—and will act too quickly or fail to take seriously the clues she uncovers. They may think she’s helpful—or try to stop her from interfering. But in the cozy, both the professional and the amateur detectives are essential, because they serve different functions. Their job is to restore external order, through the legal system. In the cozy, they need her help. By giving it, she demonstrates the triumph of the individual over evil. Her involvement in righting a wrong restores balance to the community. She restores social order.

And ultimately, that’s what a cozy is about: community. How it’s formed, how it’s damaged, how it’s restored.

And of course, how it eats.


Death al Dente by Leslie Budewitz is the first in the Food Lovers' Village Mysteries (Berkley Prime Crime, August 2013). The town of Jewel Bay, Montana—known as the Food Lover's Village—is obsessed with homegrown and homemade Montana fare. So when Erin Murphy takes over her family's century-old general store, she turns it into a boutique market filled with local delicacies. But Erin's freshly booming business might turn rotten when a former employee turns up dead.

Leslie is also a lawyer. Her first book, Books, Crooks &Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & CourtroomProcedure (Quill Driver Books) won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction, and was nominated for Anthony and Macavity awards.

Leslie lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their Burmese cat, Ruff. See Ruff on the cover of Death al Dente and visit Leslie online at or

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Launch Party: Wrapping Up

Shipping out the authors' copies.
Thanks for joining us during our virtual launch party. We've posted interviews, profiles, excerpts, even one entire story on YouTube. We mailed out the authors' copies of Strangely Funny today. They're traveling from California to Israel.

No rest for the batty, however... we're starting the whole process again with All Hallows' Evil. I've sent out six acceptances so far and will be sending more in the near future.

Changes I'm making:

  • There's a bigger gap in time from ordering the print copies to receiving the books than suggested by our printer. We'll allow for that in our schedule.
  • I've begun making changes to the guidelines. There are three things our guidelines are supposed to accomplish: identify the type of story we want to publish, make the stories easier for me to read, and facilitate formatting for print and e-books. The last is the most difficult.
  • Some booksellers only allow you to submit 20 names max as contributing authors. I was annoyed that we couldn't list all of Strangely Funny's authors, and they weren't pleased about it either. We will probably limit the number of authors we accept per anthology until that changes. Otherwise, I have to ask someone to be selfless or choose whom to leave out. Neither is a particularly satisfactory option.

Gwen and I are already discussing what anthologies we'll be publishing next year. We haven't made many decisions yet, but one of them will be Strangely Funny 2. Reading the stories and interviewing the authors was too much fun to only experience once.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Win a Free Print Copy of Strangely Funny

Okay, so I've yapped about Strangely Funny all week. I've introduced you to several of the authors, and Gwen has even posted samples from the book.

Right now, you can get a copy for free. Ted Wenskus has done a great audio recording of his story, "Down for the Count". We're going to send a free copy of the book to one of the commenters on the YouTube page. If you've already ordered a copy or downloaded one (thank you), why not pass the info on to a friend?

The drawing is this weekend, so hurry!

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Strangely Funny Authors: Meet Ken MacGregor!

Demons yesterday, fairies today. Meet Ken MacGregor, author of "Jake Blossom, Pixie Detective".

Q. What gave you the idea for creating a new genre: fae noir?

I originally wrote this for a sketch comedy show, though it never made it to the stage. I loved the idea of a tough, gritty private eye who was two feet tall (2', 3", dammit!) with wings. It worked much better as a short story. Incidentally, I am floored to be credited with creating a genre. I'd love to see a Fae Noir anthology someday.

Q. What got you interested in writing the genres you normally write in, which are much darker?

I started watching horror movies when I was barely pubescent, for the nudity. My mother wouldn't watch horror, so I never had to worry about getting caught. However, somewhere along the line, I fell in love with horror. I love the visceral response invoked by fear - my own, but yours, too.

Q. What is your current project? Tell us a little about it.

I have a few in the works: a Bizarro story, a zombie clown story, a western horror. An anthology of my work is also forthcoming from Siren's Call Publications. The working title is An Aberrant Mind.

Q. What makes you so sexy?

I can't think of a way to answer this that doesn't make me sound like an egomaniac, so I'm just gonna say "thank you."

Q. We know you're an author. What do you enjoy reading?

I love a good story. I'm a total book whore, and will read anything well-written. If it's really good, I'll read it again. I'm particularly impressed by Neil Gaiman, Gillian Flynn and Joe Hill. There are also many fine storytellers among my peers. Too many to name drop, but I think they already know who they are.

Can I also say, though you didn't ask specifically, that I love doing this? It is so exciting to me, to make a connection to a reader. To make someone laugh, or shudder or go "no way!" is so cool. To get paid for it is even better, but really, that's just gravy.

Thanks for talking with us!

Ken doesn't have a blog right now, but he does have an author page on Facebook. I suggest 'liking' it.

Read Ken's story and many more in Strangely Funny, now available in print, Kindle, and other e-book formats.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Strangely Funny Authors: Meet David Seigler

Today, we're meeting David Seigler, author of "If You Can't Trust a Rhyming Demon, Can You Trust a Demon not to Rhyme?" It's an amusing (and occasionally rhyming) study of human nature. Plus, it has a very engaging demon.

Q. What inspired your notion of a four-foot tall demon who could compose quatrains and haiku on the fly?

The demon was inspired by my Cocker Spaniel, who is not only quite short, but also an evil poet at heart. She spends her time lying in the floor, composing verse and thinking up ways to cause bodily mischief upon anyone foolish enough to come near her. I think she’s already determined the best way to take over the world and she knows it involves the internet. Frankly, we’re all just lucky she keeps getting distracted by pictures of cats.

Q. Tell us about Ground Zero Comics.

Ground Zero Comics is the comic store I opened some twenty years ago at the urging of my therapist. He said I needed something to invest myself in but somehow I misinterpreted his advice to mean that I just wasn't losing enough money in the career that I was in at that time. So I looked around for the most demanding, least financially rewarding occupation I could find and a comic book store seemed to fit the bill. Twenty years later, I can safely say that I haven’t been the least bit disappointed.

Q. What is your current project? Tell us a little about it.

It’s a tender coming of age story about a boy who adopts a deadly snake believing it is the reincarnation of his dead mother. I really hate snakes, so I've been trying to avoid writing it.  I can’t afford therapy anymore so I may have to just finish it and move on.

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?

My writing process is very structured. I form an extensive outline and meticulously plot out every move my characters make with a specific outcome in mind. Then when I start the final draft my characters take over and do what they damn well please, which invariably has absolutely nothing to do with what I intended to write. My characters are all like children and I don’t mean that in a good way. They’re petulant and defiant and generally determined to show me who’s in charge (hint: it’s not me). I've tried holding out and not finishing a story until they did what I wanted them to, but in the end they’re always stronger than I am.

Q. We know you're an author. What do you enjoy reading?

Many years ago I attended a lecture by Kurt Vonnegut. I had read a handful of his novels, but I left the lecture determined to read every one of his books. There is something incredibly audacious about his writing. I find that when I describe one of his stories it comes out sounding awful, but his genius is that he makes it work in a way that seems perfectly obvious. Of course right now my own writing has not even a hint of his audaciousness, but I think the reason I keep plugging away is because I hope that at some point it will force me to lose my own inhibitions.
Ultimately the biggest thing I got from Vonnegut was this basic tenet that runs through his work: If you can’t see the absurdity in life, you’re just not paying attention.

Thanks for talking to us today!

Learn more about David Seigler and his projects at . You might also be interested in learning more about his store, Ground Zero Comics.

And don't forget: Strangely Funny is now on sale in printKindle, and other email formats.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Profile: Norman A. Rubin

Norman A. Rubin
Norman A. Rubin was the first person to send a submission to Strangely Funny. He not only sent one submission, he sent four over the following weeks. From Israel. I was curious, and looked him up online. Mr. Rubin authored several articles that focus on mythology and Near East archaeological subjects, topics I find very interesting. Back during the reign of Kurt Cobain, I was a classical languages student at the University of Kentucky. Didn't finish the degree, but I didn't lose the interest. He'd been published in Archaelogy and Minerva. Now, he was retired, and had turned his hand to fiction.

I sent him an acceptance for "Aunt Bessie and the 'It'", a story I found charming and quite suited to the theme of the anthology. There was another story I particularly liked, but I'd already accepted a story with a similar subject. When I sent the rejection message, I suggested he resubmit it if an appropriate antho opened.

Then I waited. And waited. I wondered if he'd been offended by my last reject. I also held off on my final rejection notices, since I might have an open slot and I didn't want to say 'no' any more times than I had to.

Fortunately, I heard back from his wife. Mr. Rubin was ill, but she would get his permission to print his story for me. I thanked her.

The permission came through, and "Aunt Bessie" appears in the book. I didn't know until recently if I would hear from Mr. Rubin again. I got my answer last week. We're still open for one anthology this year, and I got a submission from him.

Make that two.

Learn more about Norman A. Rubin from his profile at New Myths. You can see some of his nonfiction works at Esra Magazine. He also has an amusing story at Scissors & Spackle.

And don't forget to read his current tale: Strangely Funny is now on sale in print, Kindle, and other email formats.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Strangely Funny Authors: Meet Paul Wartenberg!

Today, I'm interviewing Paul Wartenberg, who wrote "I Must Be Your First". We met at NaNoWriMo and, although he relocated, we've stayed in touch.

Q: When did you know you wanted to become a writer?

When I was younger and was getting into reading, perhaps around First Grade, I was intrigued with the idea of books being what they were, that someone went out of their way to create them, put the words onto paper to tell stories or pass on information. In my family, we kids were encouraged to find outlets for creativity, music or art or writing, and for me it got to be writing (I was okay at art but never got past a certain stage). I worked on the high school's creative arts magazine, took classes on writing fiction, studied journalism as a career.

Paul's Muse
Q: We met at NaNoWriMo, so I gotta ask: plotter or pantser?

A mix of both, but I'd go with plotter. I'll have a basic outline and list of major characters, and then it's just a question of setting the scenes, and starting the story.  But everything else is wide open: half the time I'll create a new character I didn't plan on, or change a dialog or change the characters saying and responding to the dialog. The changing point is where and when I feel like I'm flying by my pants to get the rest of the story told.

Q: Can you tell us a little about your writing process when you're not doing NaNoWriMo?

The Writing Process: Step One, plan a day when I'm not scheduled to work. Step Two, do a lot of laundry that day. Step Three, blog about writers' block. Step Four...
I kid.  I do plan for a day I'm not full-time working and get my laptop or desktop fired up to get the writing done.  If I'm travelling somewhere for a day, and I can plan ahead, I sometimes bring the laptop with me, travel earlier than I need to, find a spot to plug in and write, and use the extra time between here and there to get a few pages done.

Q: I know you're working on something new that's not a short story; tell us a little about it.

It's a novel that's part of a superhero universe I've tinkered with over the years.  The idea of humans with psychic-based "talents" who can enter superheroing as a licensed profession, but it also happens to be very much like our universe where super-hero comics existed (1930s) before the Talents were scientifically proven (during WWII and conclusively during the 1960s), which means that the heroes have to cope with pop culture expectations (not to mention the fact all the good superhero names are taken, meaning they have to work under fake common names).  It plays like superheroing as a professional sport: trading cards, promotional tours, stunt shows, etc. with heroes up for trades between franchise cities: one short story idea I have is one of L.A.'s heroes horrified he's getting traded to Des Moines (sorry Des Moines, but seriously your Mad Scientist quota is shockingly low).
I've published a short story based in this universe: The Hero Cleanup Protocol, through It's ebook only at the moment.
The novel itself is about two of the more unique powersets I'm allowing inside the universe's rules, one of them a young woman hunted for her unique Talent and the other the only person on the planet able to defend her.

Q: Peanut butter: creamy or crunchy?

No. OH NO. You ASKED. I warned you NOT to ask. The flame war is upon us whether we want it or not!
(whisper: actually, I prefer honey roasted flavor)

Q: What makes you so sexy?

...wait, what?

Q: You've worked in libraries, so you've had access to a smorgasbord of books. Who is your favorite author and what really strikes you about their work?

I'm currently a big fan of Neil Gaiman. Just finished reading Ocean At the End of the Lane. He's able to create stories that are at once familiar yet fresh. I tend to read more non-fiction, though: a lot of history, sociology, computer science, general academia. If I read fiction it's more science fiction/fantasy/something with a humorous vein to it, which is where Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett count for a lot. Ray Bradbury, one of the best short story writers I've ever read and I will argue the case to any doubters. Outside of SciFi I'll read Elmore Leonard and Tim Dorsey (vicious but twistedly funny).

Q: Why are there so many librarians in Second Life? I've met a bunch of them there.

I can't speak for all librarians, and to be honest I'm not in Second Life (never got past the avatar formation stage). Librarians do tend to be tech-savvy for one thing (we need to keep up with technology as the information we manage is more digital than ever), and while most librarians might not be into MMO gaming they would be interested in alternate reality/world building. Maybe also they want to build libraries in other worlds...

Thanks for talking to us today!

Paul's books,Welcome to Florida and Last of the Grapefruit Wars, is available at Amazon. Read Paul's blog at Witty Librarian and the Book with the Blue Cover.

And don't forget: Strangely Funny is now on sale in printKindle, and other email formats.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Strangely Funny Authors: Meet Alex Azar!

Today, I'm interviewing Alex Azar, who wrote "The Taste of Copper" for Strangely Funny. It's a good bit funnier than the first story I read from him, "No Lights" in Isolation (Post Mortem Press).

Q. Am I correct that you chose the story idea for your submission by taking a poll on your blog? What were the other contenders?

You are correct. It just so happened that at the time the call for submissions for Strangely Funny came out, my blog was about to hit 100 posts.  I thought a fun way to commemorate that was with my first poll, allowing followers to choose from several different ideas. The other options were, a geriatric monster hunter in a retirement home still hunting his one that got away (imagine a werewolf with a walker being chased by an old man in a wheelchair), and the final option was the a story about the slow build of preparing for a zombie apocalypse, that turns out to only consist of a single zombie.

  • Side note: the werewolf with the walker would have been a good sell, too!

Q. Many writers know what they are from a young age, but your bio suggests you had a grand "Aha!" moment instead during college. Tell us a little more about that. I started in electrical engineering myself, but that was after I was informed I couldn't major in something as impractical as comic book writing.

I had always been a budding author. I still have notebooks from elementary school filled with early attempts at comics of my own. However, it wasn't until after I spent two years at college studying to be an electrical engineer that I realized I hated math. More to the point, I took every English course the college offered. That was my "Aha" moment when I realized maybe writing was a viable profession for me. Telling my engineering father I was going to be a writer wasn't an easy conversation, but he's now my biggest fan.

Q. Are you a plotter or a pantser? ( )

And here I always thought a pantser was someone who dropped other people's pants. I'd like to claim that I'm a plotter, but reality hits every time I begin a new project and realize that the three lines of "cool" dialogue I've jotted on a post-it note don't really amount to much of a plot.

Q. What is your latest writing project? Tell us a little about it.

For the past several years I've been writing the cases of a paranormal detective, James S. Peckman. The stories are told from James' recollection after he's lived through decades worth of misery and adventure. In his older state, the cases aren't told chronologically, painting an interesting tapestry that can't be fully appreciated until he's finished his tales. The hope is to publish his various cases in two collected editions.

Q. Who is your favorite author, and what do you enjoy most about his/her writing?

There's certainly a few contenders for favorite author like H.P. Lovecraft, C.J. Henderson, and Stephen King, but I'd have to say my absolute favorite would be Edgar Alan Poe. Aside from his writing being so visceral and emotionally driven, his style was the most influential to the development to my writing. In fact, the first story of mine to be accepted for publication, was actually written for a 'disciples of Poe' anthology. The company went out of business before I even heard back regarding the submission, but I sent it elsewhere, and it started a trend that continues with "Strangely Funny" containing my tenth publication, "The Taste of Copper".

Thanks for visiting with us!

Learn more about Alex's current projects (and possibly vote on them) at .

Check out Alex's story in Strangely Funny, now available in print, Kindle, and other e-book formats.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Strangely Funny Authors: Meet John Lance

Today, I'm interviewing John Lance, author of "Deadbeat". As I read his story for the first time, I couldn't help but think that there was something... familiar about one of the characters. I wasn't wrong.

Q. What was your inspiration for Deadbeat?

The financial crisis, and the Bernie Madoff fraud in particular, gave me the initial nugget for Deadbeat. That and the idle thought "if one of these greedy bastards the government is chasing dies, who gets the money?" Throw in a morally flexible lawyer and we're off and running.

Q. I see that you also write for younger readers. Which audience did you first write for, and why?

Back when I started, I wrote sweeping, epic, dramatic Fantasy novels. The kind that beg to be trilogies (and/or HBO series, if there's anyone from the network out there).

Sadly, those did not sell (though I'm sure Cinemax could do lovely things with the core concepts - call me).

At that point I took a detour and wrote an amusing short story about a troll that moved into a boy's room and not only refuses to leave, but charges the boy a toll to sleep in his own bed! The combination of humor and fantastical elements proved to be a winner, and I wound up writing a number of short stories for kids that were eventually collected into the volume Bobby's Troll and Other Stories.

Following that success, I started writing humorous stories for adults, of which Deadbeat is the most recent.

"First there's blood. Then there's sweat. And I usually finish with the tears."

Q. Can you tell us a little about your writing process?

First there's blood. Then there's sweat. And I usually finish with the tears. Sometimes I vary the order just to keep life interesting.

All kidding aside, one of the keys to my process is a mini-notebook I always keep in my back pocket. Whenever I get even a whiff of a possible story idea, I jot it down. Then later, when I'm trying to think of something to write, I'll flip through the notebook for ideas. Some are garbage ("Werewolf eats a milkman - discovers he's lactose intolerant?" - I mean, what the heck is that!?!?) but others bear fruit. Deadbeat started as a few lines in that notebook.

Then I whip out the first draft. And then I revise. And revise. And revise And revise .

The other tool in my chest is my story blog, Titles Are Hard at I regularly post flash fiction stories out there just to keep the creative juices flowing.

Q. We know you're an author. What do you enjoy reading?

Fantasy was my first love. Insert the obligatory, and honest, homage to J.R.R. Tolkien here. A close second is Terry Pratchett. I think his Discworld is one of the most fully realized worlds in all fantasy. The fact he leaves me in stitches doesn't hurt.

Recently I read a Den of Thieves which is about the insider trading scandals of the 1980s and just serves as a reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  I'm also working my way through a collection of stories from H.P. Lovecraft, which ensures I get a regular dose of monsters and ghouls.

Thanks for talking to us today!

Bobby's Troll and Other Stories recently became available on Kindle, so click on the pic above or click here to learn more.

And don't forget: Strangely Funny is now on sale in printKindle, and other email formats.

Friday, August 02, 2013

Strangely Funny Authors: Meet Suzanne Robb!

"I started writing when I could hold a crayon."

Today, I'm interviewing Suzanne Robb, author of "No More Blue Pills". She also wrote Were-wolves, Apocalypses, and Genetic Mutation, Oh my! and Contaminated. I also discovered that she belonged to one of the other writing teams in The ePocalypse: emails at the end. Loved the idea for that anthology!

1. You wrote a fun takeoff on the craze for 'ED' pills. Were you inspired by an actual desire to get rid of the pills, or did a piece of spam land in your inbox at a propitious moment?

The idea for the story occurred when I was watching a parody on medications and their side effects, and going through my junk folder. I thought what if a woman (tired of all the ED spam, like myself) decided to do something about it, but it all went sideways.

2. You have a string of stories that sound like great fun. What got you interested in writing?

I started writing when I could hold a crayon. I think it had a lot to do with being an only child and living in the middle of nowhere. As for the fun element in my stories, I like to make people smile or laugh. I embrace the goofiness that is life.

3. What is your current project? Tell us a little about it.

Current project, just one? I have several, but the one I am hoping will get picked up is The Moonlight Killer, a different take on the werewolf mythology. Basically, a man decides to bite back his lupine attacker and chaos ensues on the next full moon.

4. How did you get into LEGOs? Uh, as a presumed grown-up?

LEGOs are an anxiety reducer for me. I tend to get stressed out easily and when that happens I head into a room, toss several LEGO on the floor and see what happens. I find it is a good way to focus and forget about the things bogging me down.

5. We know you're an author. What do you enjoy reading?

I like to read almost everything. Christopher Moore, Jasper Fforde, Jeff Lindsey, early Dean Koontz, Phillip Pullman, and loads of others. If it is in print I will likely read it.

Thanks for talking to us today!

Learn more about Suzanne on her blog:

And don't forget: Strangely Funny is now on sale in printKindle, and other email formats.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Strangely Funny Authors: Meet Leslie Carmichael!

I'd like to introduce you to one of the authors featured in Strangely Funny: Leslie Carmichael. She wrote the story "Something Plucked This Way Comes", which stars a very... odd creature. Let's learn more about it - and her.

Q. How did you come up with the creature in your story? It was an unusual selection, even for an unusual book.
A. It actually started out as a joke: somebody mentioned the word "poultrygheist" to me (I forget what we were chatting about at the time), and I thought, "Hey, I could use that!" But I also thought, "Nah, that's too easy. But what if..." The critter, um, evolved, over time from a chicken that had somehow devolved into a dinosaur, but I changed my mind, and it is proudly what it is today.

Q. You're leading an adventuresome life. What got you interested in writing, an activity usually done sitting on one's butt?
A. I have always wanted to write and be a writer, since about grade three, I think. But it's hard to do that when you don't have a lot of life experience. I love to travel and use what I learn from other places and times. The reason I went to Egypt was for research for one of my children's books. Iceland was for a "roots" trip, to see where some of my ancestors had come from.

Q. What is your current project? Tell us a little about it.
A. I'm currently working on one of my comic interactive murder mystery plays, called "Mummy Dearest." It's for Halloween and (you guessed it) has an Egyptian theme. In my "time off" from playwriting, I work on a young adult novel about a 17-year-old boy who gets involved with stopping shark finners (fishermen who kill sharks only to slice off their fins for sale, and often throw the sharks back in the water, alive, to die of blood loss, shock, or being eaten by other predators). Yes, there is real horror in the world, and we cause it.

Q. What makes you so sexy?
A. Belly dancing. And cats.

Q. We know you're an author. What do you enjoy reading?
A. Science Fiction, fantasy, mysteries, humor, plays, non-fiction for research, books for children and young adults (especially Harry Potter).

Learn more about Leslie at her web site:

And don't forget: Strangely Funny is now on sale in print, Kindle, and other email formats.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

MAHLLC Publishes Its First Antho: What Happens Now?

I apologize for the lengthy absence from posting here, but frankly, I've been very busy. First: I have a temp job that is a) full-time, and b) pays decently. The drive to work is about an hour in the morning and 75 minutes to get home in the evening, so I've been AFK (at least on my own time) a lot. My brain has often been fried as a result, but I still managed to read through 70+ submissions and select stories for Strangely Funny.

In a nutshell: this is a collection of paranormal stories that are also humorous. Despite what the cover implies, I did not write all the stories; I wrote one of them. I am the editor of the collection, which made getting an acceptance for my story much easier. I may decide to keep editing anthologies for that very reason, although it is a bit of extra work.

There are some pretty damned funny stories in here, and I don't just mean mine. In the next couple of weeks, I'll be featuring some author interviews from other contributors to the anthology on this blog, plus the MAHLLC Blog. The first interview will be with Leslie Carmichael, author of "Something Plucked This Way Comes".

The e-version of Strangely Funny is now available on Amazon and Smashwords. The trade paperback version will be available on August 1, and Amazon is taking preorders for the print version now. You can read some sample stories from the collection for free on either site, so look them over and see if this book is for you!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Guest Post: T.W. Brown

T.W. Brown visits us today, courtesy of the Summer of Zombie Blog Tour!

One of the things that I hear from time to time is that “zombies are history” or “The market is oversaturated”.
Five words: What a load of crap. People have been saying that about vampires for over a decade…guess what? Twilight blew away box offices, despite all the people who openly grouse about it.

I have a different take; I think BAD zombie offerings are what are on the endangered species list. With so much out there, the readers can now be more selective. The days of just being glad you could find a zombie book on the market have been replaced by a wide variety and some very creative takes on the classic ideas.

I think most of the people banging the drum on the undead hordes are the people who either A) were never along for the ride to begin with; or B) can’t help but share the sour grapes in the bowl at their desk. One thing there has never been a shortage of is negative spewing, armchair quarterbacks.

As I write this, World War Z is just a few weeks away from opening. Brad Pitt folks. It doesn’t get much more mainstream than that; The Walking Dead is one of the most watched cable programs in history; the Amazon Top 100 Horror Writers list is like a zombie author minefield. And just recently, my friend John O’Brien was entrenched for several days at number three behind King and Koontz. I don’t care who you are, that is a horror writer’s dream to be sitting at that table.

So, I return to my premise that it is not the zombie that is old news, it is the abundance of mediocrity that has suffered a bullet to the brain. Not that they are gone, but I think that cream has risen to the top. That is a good thing. It makes it easier for those seeking to carve their own niche to find some quality examples because, let’s face it, that was a real hit-and-miss exercise just a year ago.

As a writer, I enjoy picking up a good zombie book and seeing where a talented author will take me. This past few months, I have had the pleasure of reading offerings by Armand Rosamilia, Mark Tufo, and the aforementioned O’Brien. As a person who has watched the original Dawn of the Dead over a hundred times (not an exaggeration), I love zombies. A good book blows away a movie any day, and as recently as 2005, that was not easy to do by any stretch of the imagination. David Wellington’s Monster Island was one of the rare gems. Other than that, the offerings were sparse and difficult to find. At one point, I had every single title that Amazon had to offer in the “zombie fiction” search.

It is easy to forget that e-readers were still being resisted and the self-pub scene was comparable to FM radio in the early seventies. For those of you old enough to understand that reference, I think it might still come as a bit of a shock when you take in the landscape that unfurls before us.

So, let people continue to scream about how the sky is falling on the zombie genre. Those acorns that are falling are growing into mighty oaks.

To learn more about T.W. Brown, check out his blog or, better yet, Dead Confrontation - now available!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Review: I Am Murdered by Bruce Chadwick

I Am Murdered is Bruce Chadwick's account of the poisoning of George Wythe, close friend of Thomas Jefferson and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. His great-nephew George Sweeney was the prime suspect, and the subsequent trial is now referred to, at least by the publishers, as America's first 'Trial of the Century'.

Chadwick begins with a recounting of Wythe's poisoning, showing us the normal pattern of Wythe's morning and when and how things went drastically wrong. We learn of the shockwave his death sent through the Richmond of the early nineteenth century, and his close-knit group of friends, also known as 'America's Founding Fathers'. 

We learn who George Wythe is and why he is an important part of America's history, Virginia's in particular. He was America's first law professor, a member of the Continental Congress, the judge for the high Chancery Court of Virginia, and a co-reviser of Virginia's laws. This last will become pertinent later. Wythe was titled 'the American Aristides' and seemed to be universally loved - with one clear exception.

George Sweeney, a teenager, has been living the high life in a Richmond far less stodgy than the one that exists today. Sweeney is up to his eyeballs in gambling debts. As a result, the youth is always broke and begging money from the great-uncle he was named for. When Uncle George refuses, Sweeney forges checks in his name. There's a more permanent solution, of course, and young George doesn't have to be an Agatha Christie reader to come up with it: Uncle George is childless. Half of Uncle George's estate goes to Sweeney when he dies, and the other half goes to a mulatto protege that Uncle George has been teaching.

On May 25th, 1806, Sweeney visits the kitchen in Wythe's elegant home. The cook is convinced that Sweeney dumped something from a paper packet into the coffee. I would have dumped the contents personally; instead, everyone in the house, including the cook, drink the adulterated beverage and fall ill. The mulatto protege dies, opening up that half of the estate for Sweeney, but there's a problem: Wythe has a damned good idea that he's been poisoned, and who did it. He declares "I am murdered" (hence the title of the book), and insists that he be autopsied when he dies. He also lives long enough to change his will, disinheriting George entirely. Impressive for an eighty-year-old man, but this will also be pertinent later. 

Chadwick makes a strong case for Sweeney's guilt. Unfortunately, justice could not be served for a number of reasons, which Chadwick explains in detail in the rest of the book. It is rich in irony.

First: Wythe lived too long after ingesting the poison. The three prominent physicians, including Wythe's personal physician, were not absolutely certain that poison was the cause. They also refused to believe that someone could live two weeks after ingesting a fatal dose of arsenic, despite anecdotal evidence to the contrary. Cholera could have been the cause, or Wythe could have died from an excess of bile in his system. This wavering on the cause of death bolstered the defense. Chadwick makes sure that we know what a piss-poor job these men did with determining Wythe's cause of death, but to citizens of the nineteenth century, they were experts who knew what they were doing.

Second: as a lawgiver, Wythe was too much Solon with serious punishments and too much Draco where blacks and slaves were concerned. The revised laws forbade blacks from giving evidence against whites. This meant that his cook, the only living witness, could not testify against Sweeney. Another person, a man who found some concealed arsenic Sweeney had tried to ditch following his arrest, was barred from testimony for the same reason. This was especially ironic because Wythe was a staunch abolitionist who had accepted the harsher laws regarding slaves to get the whole body of law accepted.

Third: the economy of the nineteenth century had gotten ahead of the law where banking was concerned. Forging checks today is a criminal offense today. When the revised law of Virginia was completed in 1779, however, it did not include forgery against a public institution like a bank. The first bank in Virginia wasn't chartered until 1792. The prosecution couldn't even charge him with stealing from his uncle.

As a result, Sweeney was freed and swiftly left town.

There is a large amount of history and detail in this book, perhaps more than some readers will want to take on. It is a nonfiction work regarding a real crime, but it is in no way a lurid 'true crime' book. If you like in-depth history, though, or are an author, it's good reading. For the historical mystery writer, the book is a gold mine, covering several aspects of both Virginian and medical history. The notes and bibliography section provide plenty of avenues to locate more specific knowledge of events, education, and law. If you're setting a novel, especially a mystery, in the period following the Revolutionary War, this book could be a great help.