Monday, November 23, 2015

Cover Reveal Part 2 - Undead Ultra

A while back I posted the cover for my forthcoming book, Undead Ultra. After that, my writing buddy Lan Chan released her novel Poison. I immediately fell in love with her cover and asked who her designer was. Lan recommended DDD - Deranged Doctor Design, an online book cover designer that specializes in genre fiction.

I decided to have them create an alternative cover for Undead Ultra, just to see what they could come up. I could not have been more pleased with the results! Not only was DDD professional, fast, and affordable, but I found them to be extremely flexible and accommodating to this picky and perfectionist indie author.

Ultimately I was looking for a cover that would appeal to running fanatics and zombie lovers. I think the cover crafted by DDD completely delivered!

Undead Ultra is currently scheduled to be released in the first half of 2016. 

Book description for Undead Ultra:

Undead: a deceased creature that has been re-animated through science or supernatural force.

Ultramarathon: any footrace longer than a traditional marathon (26.2 miles).

Kate and her best friend, Frederico, are ultrarunners. For them, a typical Saturday morning is spent pounding out a twenty-to-thirty mile “fun run.” 

It’s during one of these Saturday morning runs that the zombie apocalypse strikes. In the midst of the chaos, Kate receives a desperate call from her college son, Carter. She and Frederico flee their hometown and set out to help him. The only problem? Carter is over two hundred miles away and the freeways are clogged with car wrecks, zombies, and government blockades.

When their hatchback is totaled early in their journey, Kate and Frederico are forced to strike out on foot. Though both are conditioned to running long miles, neither has ever run so far before. As pain, injuries, hunger, and fatigue plague them, the zombie threat becomes ever-present. Will they have what it takes to finish their race and save Carter? 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Writer's View: POISON by Lan Chan

It is with great excitement that I share my review of POISON by Lan Chan. Lan and I have been writing buddies for several years. It's really neat to see my friend achieve her dream of becoming a published author, and it's even more exciting to share her kick-ass novel with the blog-o-sphere! Oh, and just check out her cover! Isn't it amazing?!


One of the things I love most about speculative fiction is its ability to extrapolate on current trends and issues we see in the world today. This is by far my most favorite aspect of the genre, and my favorite aspect of Chan's novel. The issue she chose to tackle was GMOs -- genetically modified organisms -- and possible threats they pose to the future of society. With the production of GMOs on the rise and political battles raging on this subject in our own society, this book is a truly compelling read.

In the world of POISON, natural flora and fauna has almost been completely eradicated in favor of GMOs. This has been done purposefully by Seeders, the ruling class. They keep the world's populace in servitude by making them dependent up on them for food. Only the Seeders can have viable seeds, and seeds are only given out to obedient citizens. The seeds doled out to the populace have been genetically manipulated so that they will not produce viable seeds when they grow. Unruly citizens are punished by the withholding of viable seeds. The land surrounding the towns has been infested with predatory animals and poisonous plants, making survival in the wild impossible without the Seeders.

Despite this well-hatched plan for world domination, the Seeders are faced two major consequences for their actions: 1) Ingestion of the GMOs has led to a new strain of cancer known as the rotting sickness. Those stricken with the rotting sickness waste away, descend into mental madness, and eventually die. 2) The Seeders' viable seed source is dwindling. As they have annihilated virtually all naturally growing plants, they have no source or replenishment.

This is the world in which our protagonist, Rory, finds herself. The Seeders think she is the missing link to saving their world from starvation and the rotting sickness. Rory, driven nearly insane by their machinations and violence, has other plans . . .


Which brings me to my second favorite aspect of this novel: the character Rory.

This is not your average YA heroine. She's not soft. She's not needy. She doesn't pine after handsome boys. If anything, the more handsome they are, the less she trusts them. She's tough and walks on the bleeding edge of sanity.

Rory was taken as a young girl and forced to join the Seeder circus, where she was badly abused. A few years later, her mother was murdered before her eyes for being part of a people (the Wanderers) who illegally cultivated viable seeds. Rory herself was brutally and publicly mutilated for being half Wanderer. By the time we meet Rory as a teenager, she is already teetering on the edge of sanity. When she embarks on a quest to save her town from starvation -- a Seeder punishment for an imagined crime -- the very core of her being is threatened.

Rory is betrayed at every turn. She is forced to make hard decisions. She is forced to kill and murder. The people she loves and cares about are killed off one by one. Each blow pushes Rory deeper into inner turmoil. The only way she can escape is by popping handfuls of sleeping pills, usually four at a time. She has panic attacks. She lashes out at everything and everyone. She spends much of the book fantasizing about the various ways she can kill her enemies.

When she’s not fantasizing about mayhem, she’s sowing it. At one point, when forced to attend a Seeder dinner party, she snaps -- and stabs another dinner guest through the hand with a fork.

I could practically feel her prowling through the pages of this book like a caged, feral cat. In light of all she endures in the novel, her rage and fragile grip on stability ring true. Chan has truly crafted an edgy and unique character.


If you like fast-paced novels, you will not be disappointed with POISON. Chan writes at break-neck speed.  And though I do enjoy a fast-paced novel, at times it felt like the plot accelerated too quickly. For lack of a better analogy, I wish the pace had occasionally slowed so readers could stop and smell the roses. (Or poisonous plants, as it were.) As a reader, I never had a chance to become truly grounded in a place or situation before being catapulted into the next harrowing obstacle. In the grand scope of the novel, this is only a small nit and it's more of a personal preference.


Chan succeeded in creating a very detailed past for Rory. So detailed, in fact, that I'd love to read a prequel about her days in the Seeder circus. Hopefully this will be something the author will write in the future!

All in all, POISON is a fast-paced read with a fascinating heroine and a plot that may make readers pause before taking their next bite of GMO corn.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Writer's Toolbox Audio Book

Writer's Toolbox, World Integration, was recently released as an audio book. I partnered with the incredibly talented voice actor Al Kessel on this project. Copies are available now at Amazon, Audible, and iTunes.

About the audiobook: World Integration tackles the tricky task of incorporating world-building details into a science fiction or fantasy novel. This can present an interesting dilemma for genre writers. How can information on a fictional world be delivered to readers in a way that is natural to the storyline? How can important details be shared without bogging down readers in pages and pages of boring exposition? 
This is where World Integration will help. Writers will learn valuable techniques for weaving world building into a genre story, as well as the pros and cons of each technique. All methods are accompanied with examples from published works. This book is for all science-fiction and fantasy writers looking to improve and enhance world building in their novels. 
Writer's Toolbox is a how-to series dedicated to helping speculative fiction writers improve their craft. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Cover Reveal: Undead Ultra

Coming in 2016! Undead Ultra -- a zombie ultrarunning novel.

In the midst of a zombie outbreak, Kate and her running buddy, Frederico, have one goal: to find Kate's son, Carter. The only problem? Carter is over two hundred miles away and the freeways are clogged with car wrecks and zombies. When their hatchback is totaled several miles into their journey, Kate and Frederico set out on foot for the race of their lives.

Cover design by the amazing Joey Manfre. Thanks a heap to my writing buddies Lan Chan, Mario Alves Jr., and Dinesh Pulandram for all their valuable feedback during the cover design phase.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Writer's Report - Zombie Recon Run #2

As a sci-fi/fantasy writer, I conduct most of my research on my lap top. Undead Ultra, my latest project, is giving me a chance to get out of my chair and into my running shoes. I must say that research conducted outdoors in my running shoes is buckets more fun than research conducted on my rear-end in front of the computer.

I wrote about my Zombie Recon mission here, but click on the You Tube link below to see the video documenting of this writing-running adventure.

About Undead Ultra: In the midst of a zombie outbreak, Kate and her running buddy, Frederico, have one goal: to find Kate's son, Carter. The only problem? Carter is over two hundred miles away and the freeways are clogged with car wrecks and zombies. When their hatchback is totaled several miles into their journey, Kate and Frederico set out on foot for the race of their lives.

Thanks to my amazing running sisters, Lura Albee and Lori Barekman, for taking part in this fun run! And thanks to Chris Urasaki for putting together the video.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Writer's Report -- Thistles, Poison Oak, River Crossings, Rotting Rail Road Tracks -- and Zombies?

On Memorial Day at 8am, I met up with two running trail buddies (Lura, a marathoner, and Lori, an ultramarathoner) for the adventure of a lifetime.

The goal: to run from Cloverdale to Hopland on 15 miles of abandoned rail road track once used for logging. Why? To conduct research for Undead Ultra, my forthcoming novel

In the midst of a zombie outbreak, Kate and her running buddy, Frederico, have one goal: to find Kate's son, Carter. The only problem? Carter is over two hundred miles away and the freeways are clogged with car wrecks and zombies. When their hatchback is totaled several miles into their journey, Kate and Frederico set out on foot for the race of their lives.

The course selected for this adventure is part of the course traveled by the characters in my novel. What better way to imbue my novel with realistic details than to experience them myself? I dubbed my adventure gals the Zombie Recon Team (ZRT for short).

The day started off cool and overcast -- perfect running weather. Thirty seconds into the adventure, we knew we were in for a challenge. The rail road tracks were completely overgrown with weeds, many of them taller than me. (At five-foot-three inches, that makes for some pretty short weeds!) In some parts, the tracks were so overgrown that we were forced to find a way around them -- often skirting even larger outcroppings of poison oak.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Writer's Report - Research Can Be An Adventure! Lace Up Your Running Shoes!

I have officially started research for my newest project, a zombie novel entitled Undead Ultra, and I have to say I am having a blast!

The gist: The characters in my novel are running (You got that -- running! Not walking, not hiking. Running!) 200 miles from Geyserville, CA, to Arcata, CA. Since I am not studly enough to run 200 miles non-stop, I am running the route taken by my characters in chunks. All running buddies joining me are officially part of the Zombie Recon Team!

Here's a video showcasing the first 9 miles of the adventure. The film editing was done by the ever talented Chris Urasaki.

Anyone want to join me the Zombie Recon Team? I'm scheming a 200 mile relay for the book release sometime in the not-so-distant future!