Hardbound Photography of Small Town Maine

I am currently working on a long series of “firsts” for me. The most notable is making a book filled with color photography and creative prose. I am not a flowery writer (most of the time) but there was and has been an urge to show the beauty of blending two mediums together in a book. There will never be a better time than working on the sequel to I.Am.Maine and publishing a limited edition hardcover coffee table book of photography from the Penquis region.

Currently I’m writing short, poignant, passionate, and heartfelt pieces for this book. I’m looking at text less as a narrative and thinking of it as a medium for expression. I think the people who liked my the first I.Am.Maine book will find this book even more approachable, universal, and able to tell the many different truths of small town Maine. None of these stories focus on me specifically and instead are more of the universal truth of living in the middle of Maine’s nowhere. The photography inside will be my own work and feature some photography by Susan Flagg as she’s been instrumental in helping me bridge generational gaps in memories.

This book will be available sometime early in December with the expectation of being able to ship by Christmas. It will be hardbound, thick luscious pages filled with color photography and there will be a limited run. Once it’s sold out, it’s gone. I’ll open it for pre-orders in November and see what the response is before I set a number for how many I will purchase.
Below are the three runner-up book covers images. I think most people will recognize them. Brownie points if you can identify the third one.

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Writerly Updates

NEHWA Speaking Panel

Upcoming Author Panel. My biggest upcoming news is that I’m doing a a speaking engagement on Saturday, September 3rd at the Lancaster Public Library with some awesome people. I joined the New England Horror Writers Association about six months ago, and even though I’m not quite on genre with horror, they’ve been a great resource and sounding board for my many questions. I’ll be the rookie on panel and we’ll see if I can remember to speak without frequently saying, “uhmmmm.” Thankfully there will be other authors there to speak up. I’ll also be selling autographed books while I’m there.

Mailing List. I’m working on building my mailing list. I’ll be releasing exclusive content on there. The most notably will be short stories that happen between each of the Suburban Zombie High Series. There are some plot holes I intentionally crafted so I could fill them later. There should be plenty of hilarity. Subscribe on the right hand side. I’ll also be releasing book deals through there. So to stay up to date, submit your email. I should have one going out in a couple of weeks.

Week long Kindle Book Deal. Starting on September 28th, Suburban Zombie High will be available for Kindle for $.99. If you’re interested, download it. I’ve added a sneak peek chapter at the end for Suburban Zombie High: The Reunion for you to check out. I think it should entertain.

Need some Beta Readers! I’m looking for some people to read a novel I’m working on right now. It’s a dystopian future superhero novel. It’s a bit dark, it’s a bit sarcastic, and it’s a lot of action. I need somebody to check it out and get back to me fairly quickly with some notes. If you’re interested shoot me an email.

Suburban Zombie High: The Final Class. It has begun.

I.Am.Maine: Photographs of Small Town Maine. I have begun writing the content that will accompany the photographs. It’s touching doing this project again. I’m excited to see where it goes. It’s a lot of creative writing. It will be available in hardback later in the year and sold through a limited run. I’ll have more information as it gets closer to finishing.

Answers to Questions Behind the Writing

IMG_4670Why did you decide to write about zombies? – Carol
Late one night as a child, the then Scifi network aired, George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead in black and white. This movie would define a genre for me and to this day I think back to the amazing storyline and the complexity in which Romero weaved his conflict. In every story, there is a conflict the characters must overcome. In his movie, the zombies were a threat, but the conflict wasn’t with the undead, it was with the living’s primal urge to survive. The zombies weren’t the conflict, they were the catalyst. In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the vampire is the antagonist. For Romero, zombies are more of a backdrop and the insecurities, fears, and lack of trust in this band of survivors is the real conflict.

I was a monster fan, watching movies far beyond what a child can understand, but I was captivated. However, I always came back to this idea of the villain and their relationship with the protagonist. Dracula is in an intimate battle with Harker, threatening to steal his one true love. As Dracula is defeated Harker wins. There is no winner with zombies. A character is faced with an immediate threat, and while they may win, their victory is only a reminder that they will continue this fight until they die. The story remains, the character’s battle is with their reaction to a world they can not survive within. Because of that, I’ve been fascinated with the psyche of the characters that force me to ask, “If my life’s work was trying to survive, would I survive myself?”

On your new book, what has been the hardest aspect of writing a zombie novel? – Jason
I wish I could say it was finding interesting ways to kill zombies in a suburban mall, but I’ve thought about it so much, I’ve got a mental list. In Suburban Zombie High the most difficult challenge was taking a group of stereotypes; the cheerleader, the jock, the minority, the goth, the crazy, and having them grow while maintaining a connection to an archetype the reader easily identifies with.

In this novel, Cadence takes the helm for a good portion of the story. In the first book, we see her as a goth, angsty, borderline whiny artist. With the joke being played out, I had to develop her a bit further. In the SZH: The Reunion, she’s set aside her paintbrush, channeling her angst and the zombie apocalypse into becoming a zombie writing, best-selling author. Even Olivia, who we are introduced as a vicious, snarky, vapid cheerleader had to grow. Her refusal to grow beyond a cheerleader and join the New England Patriots cheerleader allowed her character to refute growing up.

Unfortunately, I feel if a zombie novel is about the zombie apocalypse, the book is going to be one of the dozen books I’ve already read. I emphasize it being about the character’s reaction to this backdrop. In SZH: The Reunion, we have new characters experiencing zombies for the first time, we have a group of students who have ‘been here and done that’ and then we have veterans who have done this so often they’ve become desensitized. The difficulty is trying to pull out those strands and weaving a story about characters that are relatable without retelling the same story.

How do you come up with your ideas? – Susan
I was discussing an idea that is percolating in my head for a short story, and this question came up. My initial response was, “They’re just there.” For some reason, it has never occurred to me other people may not have this detective agency in their head, on a quest to unravel new stories. There isn’t a day that goes by I don’t have at least a dozen moments of, “Oh, that could make an interesting story?”

I would say nearly all my stories come from my childhood fascinations. There was something about growing up an only child that really emphasized this idea of “playing pretend.” From having to explain how my Transformers were transported into a world with giant Turtles capable of Ninjitsu, to being certain if I worked hard enough, I could develop super powers. These stories were adaptations of things seen on television, novels or comic books. I’m certain the majority bordered on plagiarism, but story-telling had to start somewhere.

Later, I’m looking back at these stories and finding ways to pull out the unique strands into a larger story with an adult perspective. However, Suburban Zombie High is unique in the fact the story itself came to me in my adult life. I held a job requiring me to oversee extremely dysfunctional suburban teens and one day I had the thought, “If the zombie apocalypse happened, you’d all go down.” But I thought about it, I had a student in my class who I was convinced could survive, partially due to the sharp sting of her insults. The story emerged as I realized even in my imagination, the pain in the butt students would emerge victorious.

Developing Novel Cover Art & Arts Collaboration

Suburban Zombie High Concept ArtThe cover art for the first Suburba Zombie High novel has undergone several incarnations before it was available on Amazon. Being an artist, I knew exactly what grand, epic, and memorizing cover I wanted. There were many failed attempts. The saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” applies to everything except actual books, where they live and die based on their cover artwork. I had to recruit an artist and being one, I knew how difficult it can be establishing a working relationship. Thankfully, I knew just the woman for the job.

Suburban Zombie High Final Concept ArtIronically, I met my cover artist during a high school creative writing class. I was a senior and she was in middle school, gifted enough to be auditing our course. Years later, our paths would cross again as I undertook my graduate degree at Savannah College of Art & Design while she attended for her Bachelors. Meeting a Mainer in the south quickly made us friends and the awkwardness of an age gap hardly mattered at this point. Amanda Kahl was the first and only name that came to mind as I contemplated who I wanted to work with on this endeavor.

Having been a fan of her graphic novel, Age of Night, and her unique treatment of various mediums, I knew she’d be the perfect person. We talked. A lot. At first I had no idea who I wanted to feature, just that I wanted the cover to be as outlandish as the writing. She brought me three sketches based on a couple characters I highlighted. She began to react to my vibe and she pitched an idea of doing an old school book cover that had inspiration from pulp horror books. Her idea lent itself to a classic concept of zombies but also delivered on the sassy sarcastic and bombastic idea I was trying to relay. A good deal of her process was reacting to my, often times, unclear suggestions. I asked Amanda to discuss her process:

Husband Pose Concept“The first stage is of course, the concept. Remy had a great and hilarious idea for this cover so that part was easy; I just had to sketch out a few different versions of it and try to find the best composition. Once he signed off on a sketch he liked I moved on to research. You may THINK you know what a segway looks like, but do you really know where every little bolt and knob is off the top of your head? The research stage is also where I and my husband take pictures of each other in funny poses so I can try to get some of the trickier parts of the figures right (like how a hand would be holding a sword at that angle or making an agonized zombie claw.) With all that information organized I can get to drawing. I like to draw the image at the final size I’ll paint it and just transfer the drawing (usually via charcoal transfer) directly onto the canvas. The drawing also got approved by Remy before I moved on to the final step. That final step: going crazy with acrylic paint!” – Amanda Kahl

The professional relationship has been an important one for me as a writer. As a frequent convention vendor for table top gaming, she provided suggestions for public appearances and ways to present myself to fans. It’s a relationship that will continue as we’ve already begun to ask, “How can we do better than this?”

Wild Writing Filled Summer

Cover Sneak Peak by Amanda KahlThe summer for a teacher is filled with relaxing and attempting to forget the horrors of the last 180 days. This summer was more than action packed as I decided at the end of the school year to buy a new house. There were a lot of factors that go into it, but ultimately, I wanted an office (and a garage.) I have a space I can spend time writing now other than my couch (it should be noted, I’m on my couch as I update this.) But along with this, I’ve been pretty busy with a bunch of writing projects.

Suburban Zombie High: The Reunion is set to be released on August 25th. It wasn’t enough to write it. It had to be edited, then reviewed by a beta reader, edited, and then bound and edited once last time. This book shows off the work of Amanda Kahl, author and illustrator of Age of Night, as the cover artist once again. It didn’t feel real until I saw the cover. To think, not only did I manage the first book, but there’s a sequel? Best part is, the third book is well under way as well!

The other big project I have been working on is called Children of Nostradamus. It’s a novel I’ve written and rewritten several times. Ultimately, I put it in the hands of a beta reader and dear friend who gave me some great feedback. It was back to the drawing boards and now there is a novel in place that sets the stage for a long series of novels to occur. I have several books worth of stories already written for this world and how it came to be. Now it’s time to play the publisher game and begin submitting. It’s a wild world, who knows what the future holds for this project?

Thanks to all those who have been following along with the summer escapades on Facebook and Twitter. It’s been good talking writing, zombies and comic books. If you’re interested in Suburban Zombie High: The Reunion, keep your eyes open, it comes out on Amazon on August 25th!

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