Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Couple of Short Novellas and other Works

I have many works in the pipeline. Currently I am in the process of editing Bitten 2: Land of the Rising Dead and getting it prepped for a February release. At the same time I am working on a religious/spiritual anthology of deconversion stories about people who lost their religious faith and became atheists and agnostics.

On top of all this, I have finished a couple of digital short novellas (one romance and one erotica). Both will be out in the next couple of weeks. Instead of explaining the details, I'll just do the cover reveals and let the mystery linger until intrigue forms and compels you to rush out and buy it once they are available for download. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Daughter of Sol: Book One (News)

I have just begun writing my science fiction space opera series called Daughter of Sol.

It will be a couple years off yet before completion, as this is the most ambitious fiction novel I have ever begun. I want the science to be believable even as it is largely an intergalactic fairy-tale. It's the culmination of my life long love for science fiction and my passion for theoretical physics coming together under one collective umbrella of my imagination.

I have created a mock-up "teaser" cover, which was intended only as a sort of promotional gimmick but has steadily been growing on me. I may try to snag the rights to the background image as I am considering using it for the real novel. 

The background space art comes from the talented folks over at GT Graphic Design and Photography. Check them out if you get a chance!

All this, however, just to explain why I haven't been blogging as much recently. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Bitten After Dark 6 and Bitten 2 Updates!

Just a friendly reminder that Bitten After Dark 6 is now available for download on

As I was editing the After Dark stories and compiling them into a novel format, I realized that the story I told was more or less what I had in mind for BITTEN 2: Land of the Rising dead.

I have always intended the second novel to be less of a sequel and more of a stand alone story set in the same universe. As such, Bitten After Dark will BECOME Bitten 2: Land of the Rising Dead.

Literature, like any art, is constantly evolving--hopeful to the end goal of the artist's vision. As I thought about what I wanted Bitten 2 to be about, it was essentially the story I told in the After Dark series.

That said, the novel version which collects all of the 'After Dark' stories will be broken into 22 chapters, instead of the original 6. I found that the 30 page chapters was just too long--and that breaking them up really increases the flow of the story and makes the reader feel that they are making substantial progress with the book. It moves along more briskly when you can keep track of the pace.

As it is a much different novel, a love story instead of a survival horror, the format is a little different this time around. There are only five main characters in the entire story instead of the 50 or so in the original BITTEN novel.
That's a huge change right there, but the story isn't any less captivating.  In fact, I think the focus on just a few survivors really makes the characters come out more, since we spend so much personal time with them.

As a love story, it has a different tone. But at the same time it fleshes out the Bitten mythos.

What I initially began as Bitten 2, which I am 12 chapters into as of this writing, will become Bitten 3: Kingdom of the Living Dead. 

Bitten 3 effectively combines the surviving members of Bitten 1 and Bitten 2 together into an epic finally. With a few surprises thrown in. Bitten 3 is similar to the first book in that it's got plenty of characters and it jumps between individual stories instead of focusing on just a handful of main characters like Bitten 2. 

The reason I went a different direction with Bitten 2 was to see if I could tell a different type of story. Also, I didn't want it to suffer from second novel syndrome, where the second part of a trilogy is always less well received  It's actually an entirely different story with a different cast of characters within a different genre. It will be book ended by two similar style tales which makes this trilogy truly unique. 

Whether or not this little writing experiment will be successful is a different matter entirely. The fate of the Bitten series lies entirely in the hands of the Bitten fans and zombie/horror aficionados. 

Additionally, Bitten 2: Land of the Rising Dead will have some additional chapters not available in the digital downloads of the After Dark series. I had to play around with the format a bit to make it tie back into the universe yet maintain it's stand alone appeal.

Bitten 2: Land of the Rising Dead will be available sometime in February if all goes to schedule. 

Drunken Zombie Reviews BITTEN!

The fine folks over at Drunken Zombie have written an in-depth review of my debut zombie novel. It's quite detailed and quite good. Check it out!


Friday, October 26, 2012

Bitten: After Dark 5 Now Available!

The fifth installment to the After Dark serial is now available for purchase on (only $0.99)

With only one final chapter left, I have begun compiling the short stories into a novella. Actually, the page count looks like it will be coming in around 210 when all is said and done, including a special book only Epilogue, which means it is turning into more of a novel.

I couldn't be happier with the way this series is turning out. I tried some new things, and the narrative is brisk, and the characters are fleshed out in detail, and there are surprises and twists and turns, and it lays the ground for what will be the main story arc in BITTEN 2: Land of the Rising Dead (coming summer of 2013).

So, if you've been enjoying the series thus far, just wait, you're in store for an epic finale!

Peace and chicken grease! Try not to get any bites.

--Tristan Vick

The cover reveal of After Dark 6.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bitten: After Dark 4 FREE Promo!

Bitten: After Dark 4 is FREE for Kindle for the next 5 days (October 13 to 18!).

If you don't own a Kindle, be sure to download the Kindle app for your phone or PC. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

BITTEN: After Dark updates!

Bitten: After Dark 4, the climax of the short story series, is now available for download!

Don't forget to check out the Bitten 1-3 omnibus. The omnibus is available on both for Kindle and Barnes & Noble for Nook.

Finally, Bitten: After Dark 5 is in the editing stages, and the big finale, part 6, is being plotted today.

Both part 5 and 6 will be available in the last week of October and first week of November, respectively. In the works is a paperback edition for a New Years release!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Video and Quote of the Day: Pamela Meyer on Truth Bias

"Unless we're given a reason to believe otherwise, human beings--Americans in particular--are generally hardwired to assume that what we are told is true and what we see is real." --Pamela Meyer (Liespotting, p.7)

Here's a TED talk by Meyer worth checking out also.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

After Dark 3 and the After Dark Omnibus!

BITTEN: After Dark 3, the third in my zombie short story series which tie into BITTEN and BITTEN 2, is now available on


The Bitten: After Dark Omnibus, collecting the After Dark short stories 1-3, is now available.

Check them out!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What is the Most Recognized Word Ever?

I have read, most recently in Pamela Myers' excellent book Lie Spotting, that the words OK, Coke, and Shakespeare are the most universally recognized worlds in the world.

After Googling this, OK and Coke get the most hits, but I don't know if this is entirely accurate. Maybe in the English speaking world it is.

But in the non-English speaking world Coke is the only one with any worldwide recognition, even if it is known by its full name Coca-cola.

Having traveled to various Asian countries, including China, S. Korea, and Japan, I have noticed that "Bye-bye" is part of their everyday vernacular. OK isn't part of their lexicon.

I asked my Thai and Vietnamese friends, and they both informed me that both "Bye-bye" and Coca-cola are known. 

Meanwhile, in my conversations with my Asian friends, Shakespeare is a known word, but most people don't exactly know much more than the fact that he was the West's most famous writer.

However, my best bet for most globally recognized words, and yes all three are English due to the fact it is the dominant language on this planet, would be: Coca-Cola, Bye-Bye, and Jesus Christ.

These words would most likely be followed closely by the word "Muhammad." Both religious figures make the list simply because there are billions of Christians and Muslims permeating the world, and are found in almost every developed culture. Additionally, Muhammad is the most chosen name to give a child in the world.

I would say the words CD, DVD, and Shakespeare are a close runners up.

If anyone has some actual data on this, feel free to post it in the comments section below. I would like to research this more. Also, I filter all posts with links, so don't freak out if the post doesn't show up immediately. It will take several hours before I can get around to checking the link to see if it isn't malicious and then approve it.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

New Zombie Short Story: BITTEN: After Dark 2

My new zombie short story BITTEN: After Dark 2 is FREE on Kindle for the next five days! (Special Offer ends Sept. 10th, 2012.)

Saeko Sakaguchi is a Japanese high school student and is the All-Japan second place Kendo champion. One evening, after school, she is heading home with her American boyfriend when they run into some Yakuza-wanna-be thugs. Shinji Terajima, the groups ring leader, is still sore at the fact that Saeko, a competitive girl short on patients, gave him a royal beating after he had pushed her too far. Waiting for her, Terajima's gang beats Kevin up and starts to tear away Saeko's clothes--when all of a sudden a moan rings out.

Soon enough, the group of teenagers are struggling for their survival as a zombie outbreak starts to tear Tokyo apart. Find out what happens in this new, exciting, original zombie short story!

Hot off the heals of BITTEN: After Dark, which sold over 240 copies in the first week, comes BITTEN: After Dark 2. Unlike the first short story, which was a supplemental story that tied into the original full-length BITTEN novel, this all new 38 page short acts as an extended introduction and introduces the main characters to the upcoming BITTEN sequel (coming summer 2013).

Contains adult language and themes. Recommended for mature readers.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

BITTEN Second Edition Update!

Just a friendly reminder, the SECOND edition of my book BITTEN is now available on for the new LOW price of $10.99 (paperback)! The ebook is only $2.99!

I promise you, it's worth checking out! You can read the first 3 chapters free using Amazon's free previewer, just click on the picture of the book to "Look Inside."

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Bitten 2: Land of the Rising Dead Cover Reveal!

Coming Soon (Summer 2013)

In related news, I am currently working on a second zombie short story which ties into the first novel, BITTEN: A Resurrection Thriller. The first short, BITTEN: AFTER DARK has already sold over 240 copies!

Here's the cover reveal for BITTEN: AFTER DARK 2!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

New Zombie Short!

My new zombie short story is available on!

I intended this to be a chapter of BITTEN, but it got trimmed due to pacing issues and length. Those who have read BITTEN will be pleasantly surprised to find the events fit right into the events of the first book, while those who want a suspenseful, scary, horror story can still read and enjoy this short story without having previously read BITTEN.

The reason I chose to cut this from the original story was because it's ten pages of the main character roaming the halls of her son's abandoned school. It's great suspense, but it was rather long as happened in-between two intense action sequences in the original story and, feeling it threw off the pacing and flow of the book, I left it out.

Now I have come back and refined it, edited it, and published it so you can read it, either as a companion piece, or as a stand-alone. This special short is only $0.99 on!

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Hiccups of Being a Hybrid Writer

I am looking for places to send my book for a review, but so many places have too narrow of guidelines which restrict you to labels and genres. Are you a horror writer? Is your book a horror novel? If not, then we can't accept your submission.

Other review sites say things like, we accept all genres accept horror.

Well, that's easy enough. But what about a writer, like me, who mixes genres? For example, the excellent Indie Book Review website accepts Horror books for review but not Science Fiction. How does one then classify a mixed genre like my book? Or the movie Alien for that matter. Is it horror or sci-fi? Well, in the case of Alien, it's equal parts of both.

Which makes me wonder, who gets to decide on which genre you are? The reader? The publisher? You?

I mix genres because I can use that as a tool to make the story more compelling. My new zombie novel combines equal parts horror, science fiction, and erotica. People have no idea how to classify it. Lot's simply state they don't read erotica--sex grosses them out. But they absolutely adore psychopaths, killers, and monster gore fests, vampires, etc. Just not sex. I think these people probably have mental issues.

But it's limitations like this that make sending my work to reviewers who have strict guidelines which limit their genres or demographics rather difficult. In my opinion, this is just the traditional publishing world slipping behind the digital era. People are clinging to the old rules, because, well, they worked. For classic books released under publishing houses. But now we're talking books released directly to Kindle. We're talking bypassing all that stuff, and getting straight into the meaty of a good, or not so good, story. But the reviewers are part of the old guard, they haven't made the change over to the new.

With recent technology making it possible for anybody, and I do mean anybody, to write and publish a book themselves (heck, I should know, I'm one of them) there is a lot of pressure on reviewers. Creating strict review guidelines is one way they can weed out the stuff they just don't care for and cut out the never ending submissions from every single person who can hit the 'publish now' button when making their book for sale on Hey, I get it. I do. But at the same time I am thinking there must be some new paradigm out there that we simply haven't discovered yet. Partially because this digital self-publishing has changed the way we perceive books, but also because so many people just have no desire to get with the times. As the old adage goes, if it ain't broke, then don't fix it.

The old model works. It just doesn't work for me. At least not as well as I'd like. Well, who am I to complain? It just seems rather unfair. People who can stick to a genre and write, say, a Young Lit. paranormal romance novel will be the first to get picked up by a review sight (it's the trendy genre at the moment). Whereas writers who are going out on a limp to try something new, and perhaps mix it up a bit, well, we get limited to sending our stories to people who accept anything an everything.

That's not a bad thing, per se. These avid readers love all books, and all titles no matter their genre or content. I think, more power to them! But these voracious readers usually have a full reading schedule and my book, which doesn't fit neatly in any genre and doesn't play nice with people's sensibilities, will get backlogged. What if I need a review to help with promotion and advertising? Truthfully, forget about it.

Even as I am restricted to who will read my book, let alone consider it for review, I am not completely with out options. There are pay for review websites like Kirkus Indie Review. Great if you can afford it. But who am I kidding. I work full time and have a family to support. When it comes to spending that extra money and time, I have a choice: I can spend it on trying to promote my book or spend it on supporting my family. For some reason, people frown on you when your kid wears a paper back to school and socks they got out of the dumpster because dad blew all his money on his bad habit. Needless to say, my family takes precedent over my hobby of writing. My day job takes precedent over my hobby too. But I keep writing anyway. Who knows? Maybe one day I my hobby might become my day job. That's the dream anyway.

So that leaves me playing the slow game. As an Indie writer, I simply have come to terms with the fact that I don't have the advertising muscle of a classic publishing house. Heck, I don't even have an agent. I am just some independent author who enjoys writing books and playing with various genres because, let's face it, I love writing. It's like breathing, if I couldn't do it, I'd slowly suffocate until my brain just turned off one day and that would be the end of it.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bad English

I recently discovered an essayist and blogger, Baldur Bjarnason, who I find I am in continual agreement with when it comes to the subject of English and writing. He wrote a recent piece on bad English and bad writing, and I found myself thinking, wow, this guy gets it. Here's a snippet from his post that hit home for me:

"I’ve made a statement several times to several different people that what we call bad writing isn’t necessarily so. If we evaluate the writing based on its effects – its success at delivering an emotional message – then I find it hard to label a lot of it as bad. Not to my taste, of course, but bad? Hard to argue with it if it works.... cultural elites use the label of bad English and bad writing to exclude the voices of minorities and other classes... A legitimate regional dialect gets demonised as bad language and native speakers get labeled as dumb, their access to education limited, etc..

"Most of you see by now where I’m going with this. What we have defined, traditionally, as good English has almost always been driven more by ideology and politics than by an analytical effort to describe actual effective use of the language. Less ‘what problem is that language solving?’, and more ‘who are those people using that language and do we like them?’.

"Those are two mutually exclusive philosophies. You can’t think of language as an adaptive problem-solving system and as an objective, concrete, thing with built in ideals that shouldn’t be deviated from. It’s one or the other. Never both." --Baldur Bjarnason

I couldn't have put it better myself.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

BITTEN sold on

Bitten is now available from for both Kindle touch and the Kindle FIRE.

The price is an affordable $4.99 USD. Reviews are always welcome!

Check it out by following this link directly:

Additionally, Bitten: A Resurrection Thriller is now registered with Goodreads, so please look for it, rate it, and write a review if you so desire.

Also, if you like the book, please tell a friend!

Bitten Available Through!

Bitten is now available in eBook format through for $4.99 USD.

Check it out by following this link directly:

If you want to search for Bitten or the author, remember to turn OFF the adult filter. Smashwords filters out all adult content which makes it harder to promote and sell.

Also, if you like the book, please tell a friend!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Worth a Thousand Words

This cartoon by Grant Snider is worth a thousand words. 
It is funny because it is so true.

Bitten Gears Up for Release!

Bitten: A Resurrection Thriller will be released on May 27th 2012. The book will be available for all eBook reading devices through Smashwords, Kindle, and the Nook.

For the die hard fans and bibliophiles out there, Bitten will be made available in paper back through Hungry Mouth Publications via Create Space. More details on how to secure your hard copy will be made available upon release. So stay tuned!

Remember, you can check out the Prologue of Bitten, for FREE, by clicking HERE.


Tristan Vick (author of Bitten)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Hunger Games: Will Reading It Ruin Your Kid?

In a recent Newsweek article, called "Save My Kid From the Hunger Games," columnist and correspondent Jamie Reno is beside himself that his 12 year old daughter has developed an obsession with The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. He laments: 

"Do I wish that our youth culture didn’t hold such a fascination with violence, death, vampires, zombies and other dark images and themes? Yes. But what’s a loving father to do?"

I have to roll my eyes. Are The Hunger Games stories more violent than Harry Potter? Yes. But then again, Harry Potter is a children's book. The Hunger Games and its sequels are categorized as Young Adult Lit. This means it is aimed for teenagers, i.e. young adults. Does this mean Katniss won't be shy about kissing boys or killing them? You bet. But vampires, zombies, and other dark images? What could he possibly mean? Cthulhu the Hungers Games are not.

YA is the equivalent of a PG-13 (M-12 for everyone else) and is intended for young adults. Hello, dad! It's right there in the demographic which your daughter is a part of. Even so, it's not like his daughter is obsessed with Battle Royale or Lord of the Flies, even though it tends to borrow heavily from both. Perhaps a little too much at times. But even if it takes the themes from these two, it does something different than its predecessors. It has a powerful message. At its core The Hunger Games is a story about young people overthrowing the corrupt system put in place by or passively supported by their elders. It's about coming into your own and having to make hard choices. It deals with personal growth. Katniss must grapple with moral and social questions which ever teenager has probably asked his/herself at least once, and then some.

Is their murder in The Hunger Games? Yes. Will all teenagers likely need to ever seriously consider the pros and cons of killing someone and the inevitable ramifications? Probably not. But perhaps they should. A teenager who doesn't think is just an unthinking barrel of emotional dynamite. Maybe it's better they think before they act? Could the violence in this story cause them to do that? Maybe. But then that's besides the point. The point of the story isn't the amount of violence it contains, and Reno would realize this if he actually had read the books.

That's why I have a problem with Reno's mischaracterization of The Hunger Games. He compares the content of the books as detestable, on the same level of vampire and zombie books. I laughed out loud. What an audacious claim!  

Vampire novels today are nothing more than Gothic romance novels stemming from an illustrious past. There has been hundreds of years of vampire mythos, literally, Stoker merely infused enough mystery and intrigue into the mythos to reinvent it and make it thrilling for his audience. If that was the comparison, then I'd be okay with it. But I think Reno has in mind something like Twilight or The Vampire Diaries. Less violent than Buffy, perhaps, and yet just as corny. Today's vampires are merely watered down versions of a lot grittier genre and much richer mythology. I just can't roll with the comparison. It makes no sense.

Zombies? Are you kidding me? As an author who has just completed the first zombie novel, I feel obligated to set the record straight. The zombie genre is primarily aimed at adults. Sure there is some tweeny Halloweeny kids' friendly versions for your child's consumption--but much of the genre of the "Living Dead" is not aimed at your teenage daughter. If she was obsessed with zombies, then I'd be a little more worried than the fact that she is into a cool female hero of a YA book written by a talented woman author. Whereas the vampire comparison doesn't make any sense, this one is just creepy. Get with the program, dad!

The Hunger Games may seem like a cheap knock off of the morbidity and violence saturated Battle Royal and Lord of the Flies, but it's not the same kind of beast. Not at all. This isn't senseless violence for violence sake. Katniss must address the issue of what happens when authority, in this case all the adults in her life, force her to do something which she knows to be morally wrong. How does one deal with such a situation? How does one cope? The Hunger Games has more in common with George Orwell's 1984 than with Lord of the Flies. Although, I must say, it plagiarizes Battle Royal a little too much for me to consider it truly original. But I don't think Collin's was aiming for originality. She is utilizing an already established genre to bring her characters to life. And she succeeds. Big time.

If Reno thinks youth culture is obsessed with violence to an unhealthy degree, then he has to do better than shrieking, "Oh my God, my daughter is reading The Hunger Games!"

Being an educator of teenagers for near a decade, I can safely say that I highly doubt violence is the only aspect teens are obsessing over. In fact, it may be minimal. Especially as far as teenage daughters are concerned. Sure, teenagers will often sneak into rated R films just for the thrill of it, but who hasn't (other than kids with no real childhood to speak of)? But teenagers don't typically sneak into rated R movies just for the sex and violence. They do it to see what all the fuss it about. They do it to rebel. They do it to prove to themselves that they are mature enough to handle it. I doubt that's why young teens are flocking to the theater and bookstore to get their fix of The Hunger Games.

I rather think that Reno's daughter, and everyone else for that matter, may be genuinely interested in the book, in the story, and in its characters. Oh, to think such a possibility even exists! Who'd have thunk it?! Young people liking a book? Heaven forbid. There has to be a different reason. Obviously.

Reno quotes a few of his daughter's peer group, trying to make a debate out of what I feel are merely people's reading preferences. He quotes both sides of the argument, those for and against teenagers interested in The Hunger Games. If I were to try and sum up the arguments it would go something like this:

FOR: ‎"Kids aren't reading enough! We need to get them to read more! Let them read it!"

AGAINST: "Ewe, gross! Why are you reading that? Stop it!"  

Still not convinced that The Hunger Games books are a bad influence on your child? Me neither. It really seems there is no argument to be had. Hell, I've read them. They were good. Collins' writing is solid, fast paced, and her characters come to life. 

More importantly though: It's just damn good writing / storytelling.

But that's what pushes The Hunger Games ahead of the rest. After all, what's its main competition? Twilight? Are you kidding me? I couldn't get through half a chapter of a Twilight novel before putting it back on the bookshelf and walking quietly away. I bought the hard cover editions of The Hunger Games trilogy after thinking to myself, hey, this is really darn good. I want to read more! Apart from stingy ole dads, who is to say that teenagers aren't smart enough to recognize good writing when they read it?

But let's not be too hard on old dad, after all, he's glad the book has sparked an interest in reading among a television addicted generation. That's an amazing feat, and at least Reno is smart enough to acknowledge it.
There are undeniably many positives about the national fixation with The Hunger Games. Most notably: the fact that, thanks to entertainments like this trilogy, my daughter and young people across the country still have a passion for books.

What he isn't smart enough to do, sadly enough, is offer his daughter a decent book recommendation. Reno states:

But I’m not-so-secretly hoping my daughter’s passion for reading will soon lead her beyond just what’s new, trendy, and gory, and that she’ll gravitate toward some of the classics her mom and dad loved, such as The Great Gatsby, A Separate Peace, Catcher in the Rye, A Moveable Feast, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

First off, these "classics" are majorly boring reads. I didn't read then until I was in college. I probably wouldn't have appreciated them anyway until I was cultured enough to read such stories. Furthermore, as one of my female writer friends chimes in:
Talk about missing the point. I should point out that most of the classics he wants his daughter to read are written by men or from a male point of view. Also, many adult readers are diverse in their tastes, why do we assume that because someone, particularly kids, read YA that it means they will never read anything else?

Indeed. I have to agree with her. First off, Reno missed the point--big time. Because his daughter likes a YA book doesn't mean it's the only book she'll like or ever read. Maybe she's never shown an interest in books until now, but she's twelve for crying out loud! Which makes me wonder, why on earth would he recommend dense, challenging, books meant for adults and written by old white farts? Is that really what his teenager daughter is itching to read next? Why not keep the momentum going by, oh, I don't know, try recommending something in the genre she is interested in?

It's seems that Mandy, Reno's daughter, is interested in YA and more specifically SciFi. Maybe introduce her to some Madeleine L'Engle, Margaret Atwood, or Kathy Tyers. While growing up I really enjoyed Ray Bradbury myself. That may be more up her alley, and it will keep her hooked, and maybe as she cultivates a sophisticated taste in literature of her own she'll branch off into other genres too. But to expect your teenage daughter to read Catcher in the Rye because you liked it? That's just dad being an idiot.

Is Collins' book series violent. A little more than usual, perhaps. Will it ruin your child? Not likely. I hate to say it, but it's true, the odds just aren't in Jamie Reno's favor. Katniss wins--Game Over.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Zombies! Mock Cover. Bitten.

Great news! The talented Brazillian artist Gabby Carvalho has given me full rights permission for using her apocalyptic city image for my book cover!


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Interview with author Mainak Dhar

Interview with author Mainak Dhar
I recently got in contact with Indian born Indy author Mainak Dhar. Although calling him an Indy author, besides the strange unintentional double entendre behind the term, may not be entirely fair. In his native India Mainak Dhar is a fairly well established author who has been published by Random House. However, I came across his work on as an independently published science fiction writer. What immediately caught my interest was how well written his books were and how clear and visual his language was. Reading one of Dhar's books is like sitting through an action movie. 

Today I had the rare honor of interviewing Mainak Dhar about his breakthrough into American publishing via the strange backdoor route of Indy and self publishing.

Me [Tristan]: I first came into contact with your work during my research for my upcoming resurrection thriller called Bitten. I read through two zombie books you had written, Alice in Deadland (great title by the way), and Zombiestan. After reading them on my kindle I went online and ordered the paperback editions to have on my bookshelf alongside Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry and World War Z by Max Brooks. I definitely rank your zombie books with the best of them. So I really do appreciate you taking the time to do this interview. Thank-you.

Mainak Dhar: Tristan, thanks for having me on your blog. Before saying anything about myself or my work, let me say that your novel Bitten sounds exciting. The little that I've read shows a lot of promise and I wish you huge success with it.

1) My first question is: what compelled you to write a zombie book in the first place?

* I have always enjoyed post apocalyptic fiction, because it really forces us to confront what things would be like if all the usual rules and norms that make for 'civilized' society disappear. I've been a keen student of history and if there's anything history teaches us it is that our civilized veneer is at best a thin layer, which often enough is peeled back to reveal the savagery and cruelty we're capable of. For a writer, that makes for rich territory, to showcase both the cruelty we're capable of, and yet paint a picture of how even in such desperate conditions, we can discover hope. Zombies for me were a way of bringing that message to life, and as you would have seen in both Zombiestan and Alice in Deadland, I try and treat zombies a bit differently than just mindless brain eating monsters- but almost a metaphor for the evil we ourselves are capable of unleashing, and in both cases, created by us as a direct outcome of our hate for fellow men.

2) You write mainly science fiction. What attracts you to the world of science fiction?

* I've always had an active (my parents would say overactive) imagination, including going through a year in school with an imaginary friend. Science Fiction allows me to give full reign to that, and take leaps into sometimes fantastic directions instead of being weighed down by everyday reality.

3) Why did you decide to self publish on What benefits do you get with self publishing this way that you wouldn't typically get with a mainstream publisher?

* I have been widely published in India by the big traditional publishers including Random House and Penguin, but for an unknown author who doesn't even live in the US, getting a break into the US market is very tough. Amazon allowed me to reach American (and other international readers) directly with my work instead of spending months or years pursuing agents and publishers in vain. I was also really inspired by some of the pioneers like Konrath and many of the great folks over at Kindleboards like Bob Mayer, Dave Dalglish, Michael Wallace, Deb Geary and others, as their experiences showed me just what was possible in self publishing. The big advantages are for me flexibility, autonomy and the ability to really create one's own connection with readers without being at the mercy of gatekeepers. The economics also make it a no-brainer given how slow some of the Big 6 have been in really embracing ebooks. Having now spent exactly a year self publishing on Amazon, I am really glad I went down this path.

4) As a follow up to the previous question, do you think there is a downside to self publishing? If so what exactly?

* It's not really a downside, but there is the added responsibility of having to take care of aspects beyond just writing eg. Design, promotion. However, to be candid, even for a traditionally published mid list author (as I was), you are expected to carry a lot of the freight of promotion. I actually enjoy managing the business aspects as it allows me to have end to end control over my work and honestly do more to promote my work than any publisher would perhaps have. Also over time, you realize that you form strong connections with designers (I must give a shout out to Glendon Haddix at Streetlight Graphics who's simply awesome), editors and other who can support you in bringing your work to life, and it becomes much easier.

5) From reading your bio on your author page, I see you have a family too. How many hours do you typically get in a week at the keyboard writing? 

* I have a family and a full time day job, so time is certainly at a premium. What I do is take out 30-45 minutes every evening when I do nothing but write. Also I travel a bit in my job and I am very disciplined about not wasting time on flights watching movies etc. Instead I get huge chunks of writing done on flights, in hotels etc. In fact, am typing this as I sit in an airplane some 30,000 feet above the sea on my way back to India for a short break. Also, my family is a big pillar of support, which always helps. My wife, Puja has been amazing right from the time I amassed 70 rejection slips for my first novel and really taught me the power of positive thinking, which is essential for any writer. Our son, Aaditya, is about to turn four, and he loves seeing my books with my photo on the back. Of course, he keeps complaining that Daddy's books don't have any pictures in them like his storybooks. In my novel Vimana, I named the lead character Aaditya and you should have seen his eyes when I told him Aaditya would be flying a rocket ship in my story.

6) I see that your father is a prolific writer as well. Is his influence what inspired you to become a writer or did you cultivate the love of writing independently of your father's success?

* My father's is a pretty inspiring story in itself. He began life as a journalist and teacher, but then went to work for the Government for 30 years and totally lost touch with that side of himself. He took up writing after retirement; his first novel was published at the age of 58, and he's now a bestselling author in India. I actually was published before my father and encouraged him to write after his retirement, both to rediscover his old love and also to help cope with the loss of my mother, which actually was also a big catalyst for me writing at the pace I do- one of my last promises to her was that no matter what, I would keep writing. So we probably share the same writing bug (or gene, if there is such a thing), and in our own ways, we perhaps inspire each other.

7) What, in your opinion, is the hardest aspect of writing?

* For me, its getting that initial 'spark' or big idea and figuring out what is really a big idea that will connect with readers and what is not. Once I have that, I am usually pretty quick to flesh it out. Inspiration strikes in different forms, and that's what makes the creative process, while hard, so much fun. For Zombiestan, the name suddenly occurred to me one day and it sounded so cool that I began crafting ideas around it. For Alice in Deadland, the inspiration came when I saw a painting someone had done of Alice carrying a gun. One thing led to another, and the idea was born.

8)  From beginning to end, how long does it usually take you to develop a story line, create the characters, write a book, edit it, and then finish it?

* Creating the storyline, characters, broad sketch of the idea usually takes me a couple of weeks at best, and sometimes much longer. The writing process is more predictable. As I said, I am a bit of a maniac when it comes to discipline in terms of writing, and I average at least 750-1000 words a day. At that pace (and with occasional spikes while traveling), the first draft takes around two months. Then I usually give it a break for a few days, think of new ideas, and also read new books in my genre to keep my mind fresh, and then come back to it with fresh eyes for editing, which can take another month or more depending on the rework needed.

9) Do you plan to write more zombie novels in the future or are you going to try different things?

* Up next is the sequel to Alice in Deadland, and then a collection of shorts that serve as the prequel. Once I release them (and an omnibus combining all three), I plan to give zombies a break for a while and work on another idea I have sitting on my iPad.

10) Do you have any advice for aspiring authors out there, or any tricks of the trade, such as getting noticed, which you'd like to share? 

1) Don't obsess with the 'how', focus on the 'what'. I see too many people start obsessing about how to promote, how to use social media, building up fan bases etc...all of that is important, but it all starts with having a strong book. Write the best you can, have a great cover, write a sharp blurb, and then take it from there.

2) When it comes to ebooks, time is on your side. Unlike a bricks and mortar store, you won't be taken off the shelf if you fail at first, so remember it's a long term game and play it accordingly. Keep writing- if you do nothing else, keep writing. If one book fails, cry, mope, drink or whatever you need to do to get over it, and then start on the next book by learning from your experience on what you could have done better. Don't lose hope if you don't see the success you want early on, and don't get complacent if you do.  Always look at those who are doing better than you and have the humility to learn from them. I sold 118 copies in my first month on Amazon which was Feb 2011, earning just over $30. It was a dose of reality, but I kept at it, writing more, learning how to get better, and looking for inspiration to a number of folks I've met at the Kindleboards forums, many of whom have seen amazing success. In Jan 2012, I had more than 35000 paid downloads, and you know what? It doesn't make me feel 'successful' or complacent. I just raise my bar and keep looking at people like Konrath, Crouch, Mayer, Geary, Dalglish, Wallace and many more and remind myself that my journey is still only just beginning.

Me: Although this concludes this session, I am really looking forward to more stuff from you and I wish you continued success! Thanks for taking the time to do the interview, it's certainly been a pleasure chatting with you. 

Mainak: Thanks, Tristan. I am a firm believer in the idea of paying it forward, and I'm very thankful for everything I have and grateful to all those I've learned from. I would love to help any new writer in any way I can, and my own little piece of real estate in cyberspace is If you're beginning your own writing journey and think I could help in any possible way, just get in touch.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Top Cow Artist Thomas Nachlik

Thomas Nachlik is a freelance comic book artist who is most famous for his work at Top Cow comics. His best known books are Theory of Everything and Last Mortal.

I recently commissioned Tom for a pin-up piece of my characters. This is his second time drawing The Scarecrow & Lady Kingston. I have included both pieces (top and bottom) for you to enjoy.

I may or may not have them colored. I am still debating on whether or not I want to use them for publication or just frame them and hang them on my wall. They are both excellent pieces.

Sedat's Latest!

Here is the new cover piece for the next installment drawn by my cover artist Sedat.