An Early Christmas Gift

Looking for an early Christmas gift?

Just sign up for my mailing list and I’ll send you a short story on Christmas Eve.

It’s that easy – sign up and get a free story. No strings attached…and unlike some people, I don’t send out tons of emails, clogging your inbox. I only send out an email when I have something important to say, which tends to be every couple months.

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A few more things I learned about conventions…

In late September, I went to the Edmonton Comic & Entertainment Expo to try and sell some copies of my novel and I learned a few more things about what to do at conventions.

I know I already discussed this after the Calgary Expo back in May, but here they are;

1) Stand up and smile – I know it sounds silly to have to mention this, but if you stand up and are ready to chat about your book to anyone who passes by, it makes it easier for them to approach you. Not everyone will approach someone to chat to someone with their nose down in a book or focused on a laptop/tablet. Be open and approachable and you’ll talk to way more people. This is a numbers game and the more people you talk to, the more likely you’ll meet someone interested in buying your book.

2) Have items other than your book to sell – things like buttons or swag of some kind. If you have smaller branded items for a buck or two, you can increase your sales AND promote your writing at the same time. Not everyone wants to spend $10 or $15 on a book by an author they have never heard of – but a cool Anti-Zombie Squad wrist band for a buck? Sure, why the hell not?

3) Display your books prominently – everyone has copies of their book(s) on their table, but many people only have a few on the table. I found that sales were much better when I had three tall stacks (each 7 or 8 books high) in the centre of my table than when I just had a few on it. Many people are visually-oriented and by displaying them prominently on your table, it attracts attention and lets people see and touch the product. It also saves you time to complete the sale, as well as shows that you are confident and proud of your work.

4) Booth Babes – In my previous post, I mentioned having chocolate or candies on your table to grab people’s attention. But at the Edmonton show, I saw something that works even better – a booth babe. Sure, it’s sexist as hell, but in a lot of cases, it works. That’s why they have scantily clad women besides the cars at Auto shows. Now this might not work for all conventions, but the ones I go to are Comic and TV/Movie cons (copies of San Diego’s Comic Con) and the crowd is largely male. At the Edmonton show, both tables on either side of me had booth babes (in each case the artist themselves dressed somewhat provocatively) and drew in dozens of people they probably wouldn’t have if they were in sweat pants and t-shirt like some of the other exhibitors.

5) Costumes/Flare – this kind of ties into the point above. If the convention you’re attending and/or your novel(s) lend themselves to dressing up (and you’re comfortable doing so), then go ahead and do it. It makes you stand out from the crowd of other exhibitors wearing jeans and t-shirts.

There you have it, a few more tips on what to do at comic conventions. Hope they help!

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And the weiner is…

The winner of the autographed copy of Zombie Night in Canada: First Period is…

Johanna K. Pitcairn!

I’ll be in contact ASAP to ship it to you!

Congrats and I hope everyone had a great Coffin Hop this year!

Coffin Hop Souvenirs – you know you want ‘em!

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Review of The Games by Ted Kosmatka

Brilliant geneticist Silas Williams oversees U.S. selections for the Olympic Gladiator competition, an internationally sanctioned bloodsport with only one rule: No entrants may possess human DNA. Desperate to maintain America’s edge in the upcoming Games, Silas’s superior engages an experimental supercomputer to design the ultimate, unbeatable combatant. The result is a highly specialized killing machine, its genome never before seen on earth. But even a genius like Silas cannot anticipate the consequences of allowing a computer’s cold logic to play God. Growing swiftly, the mutant gladiator demonstrates preternatural strength, speed, and—most chillingly—intelligence. And before hell breaks loose, Silas and beautiful xenobiologist Vidonia João must race to understand what unbound science has wrought—even as their professional curiosity gives way to a most unexpected emotion: sheer terror.

As with Scott Siglar’s Ancestor, The Games could be compared to Crichton’s Jurassic Park, which it could be argued is basically a modern day telling of Frankenstein.

The world this novel takes place in is somewhat different from our own – one in which genetic engineering and artificial intelligence are if not common, then at least accepted as science fact and not science fiction.

While there isn’t a lot of character development, who cares? If you want character development, you read the classics, not pulp fiction like this. No, people read books like this for action, which this book delivers on. The book starts slow, but once the creature begins growing and developing, it ramps up and Silas begins to doubt the creature he has helped bring into the world. Then the race is on to discover what the creature is and how to stop it, if that’s even possible.

The path Silas and Vidonia undertake to learn about the creature that includes immersion in a virtual environment with an AI is a great whodunit that keeps you on the edge of your seat, as Kosmatka hands out just enough info to maintain interest. While some have said the AI part of the novel was lacking, I felt it as great and interesting to see that a computer can be just as odd as any person can be.

The book was a real page turner and kept me reading even when I wanted to sleep or do other stuff.

Four stars out of five.

P.S. I realize this wasn’t published in October as I had wanted to, but real life issues kept me far to busy to worry about posting this. Hope you enjoy it anyways!

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Review of Ancestor by Scott Siglar

Every five minutes, a transplant candidate dies while waiting for a heart, a liver, a kidney. Imagine a technology that could provide those life-saving transplant organs for a nominal fee … and imagine what a company would do to get a monopoly on that technology.

On a remote island in the Canadian Arctic, PJ Colding leads a group of geneticists who have discovered this holy grail of medicine. By reverse-engineering the genomes of thousands of mammals, Colding’s team has dialed back the evolutionary clock to re-create humankind’s common ancestor. The method? Illegal. The result? A computer-engineered living creature, an animal whose organs can be implanted in any person, and with no chance of transplant rejection.

There’s just one problem: these ancestors are not the docile herd animals that Colding’s team envisioned. Instead, Colding’s work has given birth to something big, something evil.

Okay, that’s a pretty big promise of chills and thrill, right? The obvious comparison is Crichton’s Jurassic Park, as this is about a team of scientists who meddle with Mother Nature using genetic engineering and wind up creating a bunch of monsters that lead to their doom.

On the surface, it kind of reminds me of Deep Blue Sea, but what that film lacks, this novel has in spades (by that I mean character development).

Now, I’m not criticizing Deep Blue Sea for not having lots of character development because it is a monster movie and the main characters are the big, bad sharks. The people they are trying to eat are almost secondary to the story, so it makes sense not to invest too much time in their story, especially when most of them are just going to get eaten anyways.

But Ancestor spends time letting you get to know the characters – some of which are admittedly caricatures (like the insane head of security and the reluctant scientist), but Siglar’s genius is in developing the less important characters, like soldiers-for-hire, the C-5 flight crew and those living on Black Manitou Island.

There were also many great little bits and pieces in this book IMHO. The evil billionaires heading Genada were Canadians, including Magnus, who had spent time in JTF (Canada’s version of Delta Force). They set part of the novel in the Canadian Arctic. If that wasn’t interesting enough, one of the security guards was busy writing vampire novels in his spare time! :lol:

I actually read this BEFORE I read Infection and I was very impressed. Scott Siglar gets one star just for setting part of the book in Canada – far too few authors do that IMHO. While the book has its flaws, it was hard to put down and that’s what I look for in a book – something that will entertain me and keep me hooked.

Four stars out of five.

Coffin Hop Souvenirs – you know you want ‘em!

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The Coffin Hop rises again


It’s back baby!

The Coffin Hop Blog Hop is running from October 24th – 31st and features a wide number of authors from around the world talking all about horror.

For those of you who don’t know how it works – it’s pretty simple. You ‘hop’ from blog to blog and read interviews, blog posts, stories, etc and leave comments. Maybe you pop by the writer’s Facebook page and/or follow them on Twitter too. Then you get entered into a contest for cool prizes and if you’re lucky you win something.

Don’t forget to visit all the other writers in this blog hop, as most of them are running giveaways too.

If you want a chance to win a signed copy of Zombie Night in Canada: First Period, all you need to do is comment between now and October 31 at midnight.

Coffin Hop Souvenirs – you know you want ‘em!

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Review of James Patterson’s Zoo

All over the world, brutal attacks are crippling entire cities. Jackson Oz, a young biologist, watches the escalating events with an increasing sense of dread. When he witnesses a coordinated lion ambush in Africa, the enormity of the impending violence becomes terrifyingly clear.

With the help of ecologist Chloe Tousignant, Oz races to warn world leaders before it’s too late. The attacks are growing in ferocity, cunning, and planning, and soon there will be no place left for humans to hide.

I’d seen this book a ton of times while shopping at Wal-Mart and other stores around town, so I figured I’d see if library had it. They did, so I reserved it and waited a month or two until a copy became available. Having never read a Patterson book, I didn’t know what to expect, but given his long list of bestsellers, I guessed it would entertaining.

The story moves along nicely, although I didn’t understand how the protagonist innately understood that a seismic shift in global ecology was happening when trained biologists in the field didn’t (Jackson Oz never finished his PhD). Still, inquiring minds want to know and he travels the world investigating his theory, slowly piecing it all together.

However, for such a smart guy, he does a fair bit of dumb things – like owning a chimp for a pet. That is a risky proposition at the best of times, but when you’re investigating animal attacks on humans, it’s probably not a good idea. He also travels to the African Savannah and is nearly killed when a pride of lions attack the tour group he is with (an event for which he is ill-prepared).

A problem with the book is that for no reason, it suddenly jumps five years into the future. Sorry, but that seems like lazy writing to me. Why not start it there and use flashbacks to tell Oz’s back story? Or have a prologue to provide some background?

The biggest cliche of this book though are the women. His somewhat frumpy yet trusting girlfriend gets killed off and is almost instantly replaced by a super-sexy French scientist who of course falls in love with him. Really?

SPOILER ALERT: The premise that mankind has altered the biosphere by burning massive amounts of hydrocarbons is not all that exceptional, but it’s manifestation is an interesting one. However, as with Dave Freedman’s Natural Selection, the quantum shift that occurs in all mammalian species worldwide at the same time (in under a decade) is a touch difficult to accept.

This book is lot like a Michael Bay movie – if you don’t ask too many questions and just sit back and enjoy it, it’s okay but not overly memorable and odds are you will forget about it shortly after closing the book.

Two stars out of five.

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Review of Natural Selection

A shocking biological discovery. A previously unknown predatory species. Evolving just like the dinosaurs. Now. Today. Being forced out of its world and into man’s for a violent first encounter. Weaving science and thriller in a way not seen since Jurassic Park, Natural Selection introduces a phenomenally dangerous new species that is rapidly adapting in a way never before seen. A mystery. A chase. A vast expansive puzzle. A team of marine scientists is on the verge of making the most stunning discovery in the history of man.

That sounds pretty interesting right? And the cover, with its giant set of jaws filled with razor-sharp teeth, draws one in too.

The book has a lot of promise – a super-intelligent, carnivorous flying predator and a team of marine biologists out to learn about and later deal with them. Based on that, it sounded a lot like Steve Alten’s Meg series, which while absolutely fictional, were fun books to read. That’s about what I was expecting here – something plausible but fictional and a fair bit of gore and mayhem.

The fictional monster in Natural Selection is the Demon Ray – a massive intelligent ray forced from the depths that learns to fly AND breath air. I found this unlikely. Sure evolution occurs, but two such quantum leaps in the same generation? It was simply too fast.

But that’s not the only problem with the book. Some reviews complain about paper-thin characters, poor dialogue, etc., but honestly, when you are reading a book like this, those are all secondary.

The biggest problem is that the monster doesn’t eat anyone until well into the book. When the big ‘hunt down the monster’ scene occurs, it’s a handful of scientists tracking it in a park? Seriously? If this thing is so dangerous, why aren’t they better armed or calling out the National Guard to assist them?

All in all, if you’re willing to suspend belief, it’s a fairly decent thriller. Personally, Freedman pushed too far and made it unbelievable.

Two stars out of five.

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October is Monster Month!

I’ve read a number of monster horror novels over the past year. Instead of publishing them piecemeal throughout the year, I thought, what better month to publish my thoughts on monster novels than October?

I haven’t finalized the list yet, but here are a few of the titles I’ll be reviewing;

Natural Selection by Dave Freedman
Zoo by James Patterson
Ancestor by Scott Siglar
The Games by Ted Kosmatka

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I’ll be at Edmonton Expo this week

I’m happy to announce that I am scheduled to be at this year’s Edmonton Comic & Entertainment Expo. I’m still not famous enough to be a guest, so I’m going as an exhibitor for now…

It takes place this week (September 26 – 28) at Northlands Expo Centre.

This year, they are bringing in Raj & Howard from the Big Bang Theory!

Who’s the hero and who’s the sidekick?

Edmonton Comic & Expo didn’t stop there – they got tons of other guests from a wide variety of movie and TV franchises.

I'll be signing (and selling paperback copies) of Zombie Night in Canada: First Period and live tweeting from the convention.

So if you happen to be in/near Edmonton this week, drop by and say hi – I might even have a cool gift for anyone who mentions this blog (hint, hint)!

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