Martin Made Me Eat Brains (GUEST POST)

Cassandra Pearson is a blogger and horror fanatic. Her website, Monkeycstars, regularly provides articles and videos on all things horror, primarily focussing on films, television, and literature. As a fan of her website, I contacted Cassandra and asked her about her unwavering love of horror. This is what she had to say...

Martin Made Me Eat Brains

By Cassandra Pearson 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been totally obsessed with horror. When I was a little girl, my dad never brought home Disney movies—he brought me a new horror movie every night. I freaking loved it! I like being scared; and horror films and books are a safe way to experience that terror. In recent years, zombies have moved up on my favorites list of monsters.

When it’s dark in the house or there are no streetlights outside, I start wondering if a zombie apocalypse is under way. If there were a zombie apocalypse and the zombies were slow, like in Night of The Living Deadthen I'd probably stand a chance of surviving. But If they were fast, like in 28 Days Laterthen I'd probably just double tap myself and call it a day.

When it comes to books, I love reading paranormal romance, supernatural, thrillers, and horror.  GoodReads is a website where I often discover great books and authors. I first came across Martin's debut novel, Inside the Outside, by searching the Goodreads Giveaways page. Initially, I was drawn to the cover of the book; it looked like an alien with a meat cleaver and that image got me to read the blurb. Turns out it was about a cult of cannibals—yes please!

I went to Martin's website and found that he posted Inside the Outside in serialized form, so I began reading it. I was eating the pages up and when I reached the end and realized there was more to the story that hadn’t yet been posted, I went a little psycho. I immediately bought Inside the Outside, finished it, and became so obsessed with the story that I contacted Martin and asked him if he'd write a guest post on my blog.

I told my friend, Marsha, about Inside the Outside and we had lengthy discussions about it. All the cannibalism put brains on my mind; since I was a kid, I've always been curious about the taste of brains. Marsha suggested I buy brains from the store, so the very next day I went on a search and found brains at a beat up old Food Lion.

I immediately went home, put on my gear, and fried me some brains and eggs. I can’t cook and I probably didn’t have it on the stove long enough, but I figured if some people could eat it raw, a little undercooked brain wasn't gonna kill me. I thought it would taste foul, like bad breath or something—don’t ask why I think these things; it’s kinda like how I imagine water tastes like sick people—but brains actually taste like sausage.

Obviously, if a story pushed me to do all that, it has got to be pretty freaking good. With that in mind, I was so excited when Martin announced he'd soon be publishing his second novel, The Vampire, The Hunter and The Girl. You see, along with zombies (and now cannibals) I love vampires!

Martin published the first two chapters of his forthcoming novel, "Adam & Olivia" and "Jesus the Mexican Vampire Hunter," and, of course, I read them immediately and now I’m dying for him to hurry up and publish the whole book. I’m already expecting to be shocked, crying, screaming, and cringing; all the things that happened to me while reading Inside the Outside.

What can say? Horror is my love. You won’t find any romantic comedies in my stash—they give me the creeps.

10 Questions for… Belinda Frisch

As Halloween quickly approaches, I've got a treat for you in the form of an interview with horror author Belinda Frisch. Belinda’s fiction has appeared in Shroud Magazine, Dabblestone Horror, and Tales of Zombie War. She is the author of the horror novel, Dead Spell, as well as the short story compilation, Crisis Hospital: Dark Tales from the Ward, the World, and the Bedside. She is an honorable mention winner in the Writer's Digest 76th Annual Writing Competition and a proud member of the Horror Writer’s Association and New England Horror Writers. And, while she is hard at work on her follow-up novel, Cure, Belinda was kind enough to take out some time out to chat with me. So, without further ado, here are 10 questions for Belinda Frisch.

1. What would you like readers to know about Dead Spell?

Dead Spell is a first novel and I published it independently because it felt like a niche horror novel, not a mass market one. Fiction comes in part from fact and that was the driving force behind this novel. It was a bloodletting of sorts with a main character that hounded me until I put her out there. People that identify with my main character, Harmony, really identify with her. Author Ben Miller was one such person and his review says that I accomplished everything I set out to.

2. Who are some writers that have affected your storytelling sensibilities?

I’d say my biggest influences are Anne Rice and Joe Schreiber. Early 90’s Anne Rice brought me to horror. Joe Schreiber brought me back.

3. What do you enjoy most about writing in the horror genre?

Anything goes. That’s a great perk and you can vent anger, frustration, sadness, and hopelessness in a way that you couldn’t in other genres. I like the occasional unhappy ending.

4. What methods and strategies have you employed in order to promote both yourself as an author, as well as Dead Spell?

Like most indies, I’ve networked like crazy via Facebook, Twitter, and my blog. I’ve built up a decent following and made some excellent friends. As for marketing, Kindle Lovers site has been the most return on the least amount of time spent so far. They have a 20K+ person following and every writer I’ve sent to their site has seen immediate results. Twitter is great, but I’m careful not to over-promote myself and come off like a broken record. Social networking should all be about “look at me.” It should be about get to know me, too.

5.  Writing a book is such a complex exercise that I imagine no two authors do it exactly the same. Can you summarize your process for me?

Dead Spell being my first was a lot of flying by the seat of my pants and throwing everything at it to see what sticks. It was barely organized chaos, really, and I paid the price with extensive revisions before finally shipping it off to my editor, Glen Krisch. I learned a ton writing it and now, my process is MUCH cleaner and more productive.

I start with index cards and I jot down rough notes on the scenes that come immediately to mind. I make character notes and reorganize until the flow feels right. Then, I start writing. I keep notes in a notebook because details are super important to me and I don’t want to miss a single connection as I get further into my work. I keep writing, adding more cards, reorganizing scenes, and adding layers to my characters and my plot as I go. In the end, I should have a knock-out second book.

I started with short stories. I entered some contests and even received honorable mention in one of Writer’s Digest genre short competitions. I came in the top 100 out of over 19,000 entries. That felt great and my prize-winning story, "The Look-Alike," appears in Crisis Hospital. Another of the shorts in Crisis Hospital was published in the venerable Shroud Magazine. Tim Deal, the editor, has a great eye for talent and I was beyond pleased to be accepted alongside such greats as Bram Stoker Award-Winner Kealan Patrick Burke. Do I like shorts better? No. I tend to want to go very deep with my characters and plots. Shorts just don’t offer the freedom to fully do that. I do, however, have a 6,000 word short releasing in the City of Hell Chronicles, Volume 1, in December 2011.

7. Where do you see your writing career five years from now?

In five years, I hope to be publishing both independently and traditionally. Cure, my upcoming novel, is something that has mass-market potential and I’ve received rave reviews from early beta readers. I’ve gone to working a part-time job instead of a full-time one to focus on realizing my life-long dream of being a paid, full-time author.

8. What drove you to write Dead Spell?

I think I answered this with question one, but it was some old demons and a nagging main character that insisted I write DEAD SPELL. I couldn’t let Harmony down.

Honestly, since I went independent, it was not hard at all. I wrote the novel, revised it a million times, and hired an editor because no writer should be without one. I sent the book to him and after successfully revising the manuscript into a solid final draft, I released it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and CreateSpace.

I do have a traditionally published text book, too, so I know what that route looks like by comparison.

10. What advice would you give to an aspiring author who hopes to see their work published one day?

Oh, where to start. Learn to take criticism. It’s hard when you think you’ve written the perfect short or novel, to hear that it needs work but you’ll never succeed without listening to others’ views on how your work can be better. Success isn’t overnight and, honestly, indie money isn’t great starting out. Write the best story you can, persist, and hone your craft. If you do all of those things and learn from the revision process, you’ll get there. Practice, patience, and persistence. In writing, there are no short cuts to success.

And there you have it. I'd like to thank Belinda Frisch for being so generous with her time. If you want to learn more about her, you can visit Belinda Frisch, Author. You can also connect with Belinda on Facebook and GoodReads and you can follow her on Twitter. She also runs a Facebook page for authors and readers of horror, mysteries, and thrillers, which you can check out HERE.

10 Questions for… David Dunwoody

David Dunwoody is in the midst of a flourishing writing career, with a number of novels and short stories out in the world, including Empire: A Zombie Novel and Unbound and Other Tales.  His most recent novel, Empire's End: A Zombie Novel, was published earlier this year and, in the midst of an otherwise busy schedule, he was kind enough to take some time out for an interview.  So, without any further ado, here are 10 questions for David Dunwoody:

1. What would you like readers to know about Empire’s End: A Zombie Novel?

Empire’s End is the sequel to the novel Empire. It was written in 2008 (shortly after the first edition of Empire saw print) and follows the Grim Reaper in a “post-post-apocalyptic” world in which the dead have been thrashing the crap out of the living for 100+ years. The Reaper finds himself tangling with classic zombies as well as zombies who’ve become more animalistic and developed a sort of pack order – plus one zombie whose driving force is tied to Death himself.

2. Who are some writers that have affected your storytelling sensibilities? 

Certainly Lovecraft and Barker – Lovecraft with his masterful conveyance of indescribable, unknowable horror, and Barker with his rich characters and beautiful prose. I think both of them are also groundbreakers in terms of developing very original mythos replete with iconic monsters. Other favorites include King and Matheson. Though he’s a filmmaker, David Cronenberg’s philosophy of horror as a genre of confrontation rather than escapism rings very true to me.

3. What is it about zombies that inspired you to write your series of books, Empire and Empire’s End?

I’ve always liked zombies, but I didn’t know I loved them until I wrote a submission for Permuted Press’s first publication, The Undead. I say this a lot, but I really do think Romero has given us the last great monster archetype, and it’s one with endless potential. I enjoy thinking of new ways to use the walking dead while trying to preserve their classic roots. To think that, just 13 years before I was born, a monster was created which already stands next to old-world terrors like the vampire and werewolf and will endure down through the ages – it’s very cool to be alive at the dawn of the dead.

4. What methods and strategies have you employed in order to promote both yourself as an author, as well Empire’s End: A Zombie Novel?

There’re the standard social-networking tools, as well as forums and blogs – interviews have certainly been a great help, and there are always good folks with blogs or shows looking for writers to talk with. I try not to spam and to occasionally mention something other than my books on FB and Twitter. That can be hard when I’m pretty shy and spend most of my time either writing or watching frog videos on YouTube, but most people seem to like frogs. At conventions I’ve had Empire stickers and even a 6.5-foot standee where folks could put their head in place of the Reaper’s, but in the end I think just chatting with people and sharing your mutual love of horror and reading goes a long way. Being genuine and being accessible. In this day and age we can make ourselves easily accessible to readers all over the globe, and that’s an awesome thing.

5. Writing a book is such a complex exercise that I imagine no two authors do it exactly the same. Can you summarize your process for me?

As an idea first takes off, it starts with very disjointed note-taking – muttering into a tape recorder at 4 AM, scribbling on notepads and whiteboards and receipts, then finally transferring it all to  the computer and beginning to form a plot outline and character profiles. From there I’ll usually end up going back to the whiteboards to lay out the specifics of whatever chapters I’m doing that week. I like to pretend I’m a mathematician or something with these three whiteboards along the wall, solving complex equations. When I’m working on a novel I write 1 or 2 chapters every day. After the first few chapters I’ll force myself to stop second-guessing and rewriting, telling myself that’ll come later. When I’m done with the first draft I leave it alone for at least a few weeks (sometimes much longer, depending on deadlines or lack thereof) before diving into revisions. I hate going back and picking through spontaneity with a scalpel and magnifying glass, but I know it’ll be worth it in the long run.

6. Your first novel, Empire, was picked up and re-released by Simon and Schuster. How did that deal come about?

It was part of a deal in which S&S acquired J.L. Bourne’s Day by Day Armageddon – as part of the arrangement they agreed to pick up several other books that had done well for Permuted. The whole thing and how it just dropped into my lap one day is still a little unreal for me. I’ll always be grateful to John Bourne and Jacob Kier at Permuted for it.

7. What drove you to write Empire’s End: A Zombie Novel?

When I finished Empire I knew the story wasn’t done, though I didn’t have the entire sequel plotted out. I knew that the Reaper’s arc had really just begun with the changes he’d gone through at the end of the first book. With that and a few other things I’d alluded to, such as Eviscerato and his zombified circus troupe, I started setting the stage for what I hoped would be an epic conclusion to the story begun in Empire.

8. Where do you see your writing career five years from now?

I certainly hope to have a few more novels out there, and I’d really like to be able to do more appearances per year than I’ve been able to do in the past. I don’t have a detailed set of goals, though –I’m having a great time right now and I love being a part of this community on both the professional side and the reader side. I’m not putting much pressure on myself at the moment. Of course, that may change tomorrow. I’m a flip-flopper.

9. What are you currently working on?

Permuted will be releasing a post-apocalyptic novel called The Harvest Cycle in the not-too-distant future. It’s very different from my zombie fare and I’m excited to get it out there. Right now I’m mostly working on short stories for different anthologies. I completed a non-apocalyptic novel this past spring and will be diving back into that sometime soon.

10. What advice would you give to an aspiring author who hopes to see their work published one day?

We’re lucky to have so many resources- and so many markets – at our fingertips today. I can’t imagine what it must have been like before the Web. I use to look for anthology calls, as well as the Permuted Press and Twisted Library Press forums. These communities also offer peer critique groups where you can workshop your stuff. One thing I can’t emphasize enough is not only to welcome criticism but to seek it. Trust me, it never gets easier, whether awaiting a yay or nay from a publisher to whom you’ve submitted, or awaiting line edits on a work you’ve sold. Rejection and criticism are part of the game and it always causes apprehension, but it makes it so much more rewarding when you succeed and it’s the only way to get better. You just have to get used to the idea that butterflies will be living in your stomach for the rest of your life. Eat bugs so they don’t starve. I don’t even know if butterflies feed on bugs but there’s only one way to find out, and that’s by you eating bugs.

And there you have it. I'd like to thank David Dunwoody for being so generous with his time. If you want to learn more about him, you can visit David You can also check out Dunwoody's  Facebook and follow him on Twitter.


Insomnia, by Stephen King, stands as one of the most important books I’ve ever read.

In the summer of 1997, just a few months after I discovered my love of reading, I decided I wanted to use my three months away from school to sufficiently challenge my reading chops.  I wanted to see just how far I could take this literary trip.  I decided I wanted to read one of those fat novels, thick like a brick of cash, that I used to see my mother read when I was a kid.  In her case, they were romance novels, but that didn’t really matter to me.

I just remember sitting in the family car (or minivan or pickup truck) driving to Magic Mountain or Disneyland or Knott’s Berry Farm or wherever and watching my mother read a gigantic book, while she sat in the front seat beside my father who was, at the time, serving his thankless role as family chauffeur.  I was always wowed by the idea that, not only could someone read a book of that size, but they would do so on purpose—and, presumably, enjoy the process.

So, at the age of 19, having discovered my own love for reading, I wanted to know if I was one of those people who could read one of those huge books.  This led me to take my first trip—as an actual reader of books!—to Barnes & Noble.  It was an exciting moment for me, because not only did going to a bookstore make me feel (and, hopefully, appear) smart, but I actually wanted to be there.  I couldn’t wait to choose from the thousands and thousands of books, each of which contained a little movie inside that I could watch in my head.

About five seconds after I stepped into Barnes & Noble, I realized that there were too many books.  I had no idea how to sift through the vast inventory of books, how to filter the good from the bad.  More importantly than that, I had no idea what sort of books I would enjoy.  Up to that point, I’d completed only three books: The Jungle, The Great Gatsby and Star Wars (see if you can guess which of these books wasn’t assigned to me in school).  There were so many aisles and different genres, I didn’t know where to begin.  So, I decided to start with the only writer I had ever heard of.

Stephen King.

Even without being a reader, I knew that Stephen King was one of the most successful writers in the world, so I figured he must also be good at it.  Whether or not I was right didn’t really matter to me at the moment.  I was just happy to have reduced my choices down to a single author.  After some searching around, I found the section of Barnes & Noble that held a seemingly endless line of Stephen King books.  Having found them, I started looking only for the thickest books on the shelves—and the book that stood out to me the most was Insomnia.  I can’t tell you why exactly, but I think it had something to do with the fact that I’d never heard of it before. And possibly the fact that, since I was a kid, I’ve always had trouble sleeping, the story appealed to me. Just to be sure, I read the back cover:

Ralph Roberts used to be an ordinary guy—until insomnia robbed him of sleep.  Now he’s no longer ordinary—he can see horrible things happening to the people of Derry, Maine.  He can see how, one by one, they are turning into monsters straight from hell. He’d like to call them nightmares, but he’s wide-awake.  He can’t call himself crazy, because there is another person who sees these happenings, too.  But even if seeing is believing, it still doesn’t give him a clue of how to stop these deadly, demonic visions from coming true….

Even now, looking back on this book, I find that synopsis appealing, so it’s no wonder that I chose Insomnia for my summer reading challenge.  Aside from its promising synopsis, the book itself was nearly 700 pages long and about as thick as a deli sandwich.  While it was challenging, I got through about 98% of the book that summer.  For whatever reason, the final 2% felt like something of a chore, so Insomnia sat in my room for months, going unfinished.

In retrospect, it might have been the pleasure delayer in me that didn’t want to finish the book.  Even now, I find that I savor the last few pages of any book I read, even ones I don’t especially enjoy.  What eventually got me to finish was my Uncle Phil, who, himself an avid reader, wanted to borrow the book when I was done, so I went ahead and finished it.

That was about 14 years ago and, hopefully you’ll understand, I can hardly remember anything about the story.  I didn’t even remember the main character’s name was Ralph before I picked the book up from my shelf to refresh my memory.  The clearest memory I have of the story is three scary little men, who only Ralph could see.  They were dressed in white overcoats, like doctors, and walked around with scissors, which they could use to cut people’s lifelines—or something like that—instantly killing them.

I’m sure I didn’t get all the details right, but whether or not I can remember what the story is about isn’t really the point anyway.  It was a test of my reading chops, like a runner who decides run a marathon. When a runner finishes their first marathon, the reward isn’t the time they finished in, but rather the knowledge that they could finish it at all. As a new reader, starting and finishing a book of great length—particularly a book that nobody was forcing me to read—was one of the most important accomplishments of my life, because now I knew I could do it.

And this is why Stephen King’s Insomnia stands as one of the most important books I’ve ever read.