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.