Saturday, August 13, 2011

Zombie Fish and why I love Shun: Shameless Self-Promo ahead

Yes, you DID read that right: zombie fish. The anthology is out, you can find it here at or here on the website.

Furthermore, since you're here and reading the blog I have a special treat. Straight from the fourth short story ("In the Water") in "Small Slice of the Undead: A Zombie Anthology" is a preview...of the famed zombie fish of course:

I know I was cursing and talking to myself, but I can't remember what I was saying. I know I turned towards my tanks and what I saw made me shut up and stare.

My fish were all looking my way. Normally I wouldn't be so freaked out because fish tend to look at you when you come towards them, especially Siamese Fighting Fish. Vibrations through the floor and thus through the water in their tanks give them a good enough guess that you're making your way over with either food or to talk. Usually I get one or two looking over, then the others join in. I never get looks from the non-Siamese fish since they're not as attentive or something.

But every single fish in their tank was looking right at me, in formation no less. People say it's creepy when cats stare at you for a long period of time. Imaging having close to 40 fish hovering in their tanks looking right at you, blowing bubbles in a formation similar to migrating birds.

I approached the tanks wearily and stood in front of them. The banging at my door was still happening but I didn't care since I knew it would hold for a good while. I slid to the left and all the fish followed in unison. I moved quickly to the right and they copied.

"What the hell?" I asked myself.

Before I could second guess my thoughts, I pulled the lid up on the miscellaneous tank. I don't think I could have ever prepared myself for the next few minutes. All 20 fish in the tank leaped out of the water and attacked me with their little mouths puckering up and grabbing at the exposed skin of my arms and neck.

"THE FUCK?" I shouted as I flailed and began whipping and bashing fish off me.

They were like leeches and no matter how hard I squished or how much I floundered about they clung to me. I finally had enough and began ripping them off by their tails. Once every fish was nothing but an oozing mess on the floor I gasped in a few deep breaths and examined the wounds.

Twenty chunks of flesh were missing and blood was trickling down my arms and neck....


There is one other fun character you'll meet twice in the Zombie Anthology: Shun. Actually there are quite a few fun characters. I enjoyed writing "Bomb" because of a Gothic Kid who calls himself Voltaire. "Itch" has Amber who happens to be Victim Zero, meaning the first person to become a zombie. Of course, "In the Water" has aforementioned zombie fish and "Daddy's Home" has Sam.

Anyway, back to Shun. He appears in the final two stories, "Recording" as well as "Video Feed" and I love him. It might have something to do with the fact he's Asian and I have a certain weakness for Asian men. Or it might be the fact that he uses a samurai sword as a weapon and I am morbidly obsessed with swords and other pointy objects. Or it could be that he's the most intelligent of the bunch and really, who doesn't like a smart man?

If you've been following me on Twitter, you will know that Shun is in fact homosexual. I tweeted a conversation between him and Jess on Saturday night where Shun admits to being homosexual with a lot more words then needed:
Shun: "I am a free thinker and my parents did not tolerate free thinking,"
Jess: "Free-thinking?"
Shun: "I prefer men to women...sexually,"
Jess (or Derrick): "Ah..."

There is nothing wrong with being homosexual, I want to make that perfectly clear. I'm open-minded when it comes to things like that. I think the main reason I like Shun is because he's homosexual. For his family, that's a major sin and even after being disowned by everyone he knew back home, he managed to make a few new friends and a good living for himself. He struggled through adversity, moved to a new country, got accepted into a prestigious university, made new friends and bought himself a house.

Then of course zombies happened and it didn't matter what he did or didn't do. He's just one of those characters that really sticks out in my mind. Kind of like La Puce or Anguish from the "Tale of the Twins" trilogy (Book 1 is out now), or Daimin VanHelgrove from another trilogy I'm working on for far in the future. Of course there's the lovely bunch in "Face Snatcher" which will hopefully be out within the next year or so. Yes, I have a lot on my mind. Or my mind has a lot for me to do. Whichever.

Either way, you should check out "Small Slice of the Undead: A Zombie Anthology". Why? Because it has zombies. More specifically, there are zombie fish. There's also a homosexual Asian man. The Government also admits to creating zombies. Oh and there's aliens. Well, mention of "aliens". Also, it would benefit your own survival if zombies ever attacked. I mean you would know what to do if a bomb went off, or you got really itchy, or green goo appeared in your water, or you woke up dead, or you saw people generally eating each other in a really horrible way.

Plus zombies are cool. They have the whole undead-brainless-will-eat-you thing going on. Actually there's brainy zombies in the anthology. Yes, THINKING zombies. Who would have thought? Anyway, do it for the zombie fish. Do it for Amber, Shun, La Puce and Anguish (who you won't meet if I can't get a good editor ;) ). Do it for the love of all characters and the enjoyment of all living-dead things.

Do it for Daimin VanHelgrove because he's an evil manipulative bastard and if you don't, he'll come after you....once he's done fighting the forces of evil. Yes. Evil fighting evil. Trust me, Daimin's evil incarnate. Pure badassery. As in gets pleasure out of torturing people badassery. Destroying entire planets on a whim. Collects an army of dead (more zombies) to do his bidding. Yeah. Oh and he can't be killed easily. So you get to see him maimed and as he heals, he laughs manically about the attempt as he murders the maimer in the slowest most painful way possible. Now do you see why he's my favorite?

So do it because you want to meet more of my characters. Go on, get the anthology. Get Book 1. It'll make me happy. And when I'm happy, I write more. When I write more, you get to read more. See, it's a win/win situation all around.

Now, don't be so disappointed. I warned you about the shameless self-promoting in the title. And if you are disappointed, buy the anthology anyway. It'll make you happy. Plus it's cheap and you're only losing to try a new author. Expand your horizons before I become exceptionally popular (insert your laugh here, go on, I'll understand) and have to jack up my prices.

Thus my self-promotion rant is over. Enjoy:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Why I love Tim Burton and why my Book isn't like Twilight.

So as a few people may or may not know, I went to LA recently (heck check the last blog post ;) ) to pitch Tale of the Twins Book 1 as a movie idea to Hollywood executives. The gathering of literary minds was phenomenal. There was such a variety in work, it left me somewhat stunned.

Here I was going against another 150 authors to get this potential once-in-a-life-time chance to be something other than a half-assed secretary working a mundane 9-5 job. Don't get me wrong, I like some aspects of my day job but being completely serious, I'd rather stay at home and play video games or write all day. Oh and I'd like to get out of bed a lot later in the morning. I like sleep and relaxing, it's the holiness of all things holy.

Anyway, the first part of this exciting event went off well. I met a few authors during the evening on Friday and tried not to sink too far into the lawn in 4-inch stiletto heels. Authors are an interesting bunch. There were authors writing about sex and prostitutes and authors writing about alien races battling against each other. One wrote a children's story about a lost kitten, another a children's story about a mischievous dog. So much diversity, so little time to absorb it all.

Our goal (as any author's goal) was the same: to be noticed. To achieve that life-long dream of being famous because of the written world. To be able to stop living a mundane life and live off the bank account of something that popped out of your imagination.

Whether or not we succeed in this goal depending solely on our own talents of pitching our book idea in three minutes to people looking for ideas. Oh and we only had one night and one day to learn how to make this pitch perfect. Were the odds against us? Oh yes. But from what I hear, 46 people received a "call-back" asking for copies of the book.

Saturday morning brought a bout of nausea and I felt like calling off the whole thing. But I managed to get down to the meeting hall where two semi-famous Hollywood folks taught us how to pitch. It was then that I for one, figured out that everything I had done was probably wrong and re-wrote the entire thing from scratch.

After the lesson, we practiced pitching in front of one of the Hollywood folks. I was told my story was interesting but I had to learn how to breathe. Usually I'm not so nervous when speaking to people about my ideas (God knows I wasn't when describing my story to other authors), but I was in L.A. Alone. Surrounded by people and trying to capture that one moment that would potentially catapult me into fame. Yeah, nerves were required.

Then the pitching itself. I won't bore you with details. I pitched to 9 different Hollywood agents, they asked questions and I answered. It was over too quick for me to actually think. Then there was a short 15 minute author interview, a final wrap-up and we were all free to crawl back to the hovels or under the rocks from which we came.

Not me, I had another author interview the next day. Then it was back on the flying metal tin-can and back home to Canada to wait. Yes, wait. We weren't to receive any results until August 8th. For those of you keeping track, that was yesterday.

Before I get into results, I need to say a few things. I knew that despite what happened, the trip wasn't a waste. I toured LA and went to the tar pits. I got a replica of a freaking Saber tooth cat fang. I got to see the Tim Burton exhibition at the LACMA. I got to meet other authors and discuss their novels.

I love meeting other authors, even if it's online. I love talking about myself (as you can plainly see) and I love talking to people about their work, or my own. I LOVE looking at the bones of dead things (this is where the tar pits come in) and I LOVE Tim Burton - in a totally not-obsessive fan-girl way.

Tim Burton is creepy, funny, and his art/movies makes you take a step back and thing: "What the Hell IS that?" I get chills remembering some of his work. I can't say he's been my biggest motivation for writing or anything, but I like looking to his work for creepy inspiration. And Edward Scissorhands has always been one of my favourite movies.

I think this creepy obsession goes hand in hand with my love of bones (I was going to say dead things here but that might make some people think I'm a necrophiliac or something). I took an online forensics course to learn more about how to tell how a person died by their remains, a la CSI. I've always been absolutely fascinated with the human body and the concept of death.

As for my love of talking to people, well that comes and goes. Sometimes I'm the most anti-social person you could ever meet. Other times, you can't get me to shut the hell up. Especially about story ideas. I love hashing out ideas with other people or talking to people about my ideas. For instance, I love mentioning my zombie anthology. Zombies combine all my loves: creepiness, bones, death and writing. What more can a morbidly obsessed girl want?

Speaking of the anthology: it comes out this coming Monday after I meticulously edit it for another few days. And decide whether or not the cover is really as good as I think it is.
Getting away from my insistent rambling: the results of the Hollywood pitching in LA are in. And no, I won't be getting a six or seven digit figure for someone to horrendously negate the original concepts of Book 1 so they can be transferred to the big screen. No Hollywood moment for me, no one-hit wonder here and certainly no movie deal.

Is it discouraging? Hell yes. Am I depressed? Oh *insert expletive here* yes. Do I care? Oddly, not really. Yeah, I was rejected but who wasn't their first time around? It would be insane of me to think after one try (technically 9 in this case) that I would hit the big one. Am I jealous of the ones that did? Certainly. It doesn't mean I'm going to give up, oh no.

It just means I'll work that little bit harder to get my name out there even if I'm a crazy-cat lady at 40 still spouting the same nonsense about my books and my work. Actually, crazy-cat lady seems like a good goal, I've always loved cats.

The only thing that irked me about the results is one agent said the following:"It feels too much like Twilight." Wait, what? There were no werewolves mentioned in my pitch. There was no human falling in love with a vampire in my pitch. My pitch was about the multiple-personality, insane, lovable spy La Puce and how he both saves and destroys the world in almost the same breath. Where the heck does Twilight fit into that?

Book 1 is about vampires blowing each other up, setting each other on fire, maiming each other, magically transporting themselves through portals, a fight of riddles with a dragon, magical spells, a sword called the Hell-blade that was made in a Satanic ritual, vampires killing humans for sport (and food, let's not forget that), and world domination that includes enslaving the human race. So, I'm sorry: "feels too much like Twilight"?

Bah. Really, if you're not interested in Book 1 now you should be ;). There's a lot of blood and gore in there (near the end mainly, that's when the big war breaks out) and some magic just for fun. Oh and Book 2 has zombies. And the Hell-beast. Oh and the actual blood and gore is almost half the book.

On a serious note (which is very rare for me), the comparison was mote. It seems that the moment someone mentions the word "vampire" people automatically think "Twilight". It used to be that people automatically thought of Lestat or Dracula. Now it's Edward Cullen and Bella Swan. I actually had to change the name of one of my characters from Isabella to something else for just that reason, even though the name Isabella made sense in the context that was being used and I hadn't heard of Twilight yet. Kudos to Stephanie Meyer for creating such a fandom.

Despite the words above, I'm not bitter. Merely impressed and fascinated. Okay, maybe a bit bitter that an agent thought my book was like Twilight but solely for the reason that it's completely different. That's like saying Dr. Seuss is similar to Shakespeare. And don't read too much into that comparison because I don't mean it any kind of insult to Meyer or myself. I admire her tenacity and her ability to create such an empire out of her work.

Either way, my work wasn't the break-out hit some Hollywood agent/company was looking for. Now, you're thinking: but what will you do now Renna? Well that's easy. I'm going to keep writing, editing, staying up until obscene hours of the night trying to be social network savvy and working my 9-5 job until I actually make something of the little ideas I scribble onto paper when I can.

And you're thinking: but why? Well, because I love my characters, I love writing and I love the handful of people that are my fans. I may not have the funds to put out Book 2 (buy Book 1 and you get Book 2 faster ;) ) but I do have enough funds so people don't forget I'm around. And once Book 2 gets edited (because in all reality my grammar/spelling is sometimes atrocious), it will grace the Internet with its presence. Then I'll write Book 3 and people will hate me for the ending, I'm sure.

But to hate me, you must first like me enough to give the first two Books a chance. Law of averages or something. And even when you do hate me, you'll want to read more so you can wonder where I get my literary genius from (you can laugh, I won't know).

To conclude this rant: buy Book 1. Do it for the love of Tim Burton. Do it for the love of morbid things. Do it for the love of authors. Do it for the love of the written word. Or do it just because you liked (or hated) this little rant. I don't need to know your reason, but I will thank you profusely because I love you.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Love life of a Cab Driver

Picture the scene: 5Am and the sun hasn't quite begun to make its ascent yet. A young woman is waiting outsite a building, eyeing the dark sky and trying to figure out how long it has been since she has seen a sunrise. In a cloud of exhaust fumes and a too-loud engine, a cab pulls up and asks if she is the bearer of a certain name. Not fazed by this, she admits to being the owner of the name and gets into the cab.
"So, heading to the Buffalo Airport, eh?" the cab driver asks through a full gray beard that reminds the woman of Santa Claus (or if you're a Harry Potter fan - Dumbledore).
"Yes," she replies simply since her sleep-addled brain could not come up with a wittier retort.
"What for?"
"Personal, mostly vacation,"
"Ah okay,"
Silence which is followed aptly by more silence as the young woman thinks she can nod off and catch another half hours of precious sleep before reaching the border. The cab driver breaks into her half-sleep with the follow proclamnation:
"You know, I kind of know what's up with women. I mean I had four wives..."

If you hadn't guessed it yet, the young woman was me. And yes, I did sit through about an hour of a stranger telling me about his love life that spanned over 30 years while (in mostly shock and sleepiness) I listened and made the appropriate comments. Had I been more awake I think the conversation would have gone a tad bit better.

Oh, and if you haven't been keeping up (or remembering) on the past few tweets (shame on you), then I'll let you know now that the above was the beginning of a 12 hour journey to Los Angeles, CA where I was to pitch my book as a movie idea to Hollywood executives. Yes you read that right. I was headed to Hollywood with my book in one hand, a suitcase in the other and half-remembered dreams of, well, I can't exactly remember what I was dreaming. Surely it had something to do with impressing an executive enough that I'd get a call back.

I digress (as I normally do); the cab ride went over fairly smoothly. The airport was a normalcy for me since I'd been there before. Finding the gate and waiting for the hour was no concern. Once the plane actually came and we made our ascent, I assumed I was settling in for a two hour flight as the ticket had said.

A voice from somewhere in front broke into these thoughts and informed us: "Thanks for joining us on this five hour flight..." Excerpt from brain: Five hours? Huh? Oh right, time change. Oh Hell, I didn't bring enough to amuse myself with in my purse and there's no way in Hell I can get my carry-on down from the luggage compartment. Bloody Hell.

The last was thought in a British accent of course. Anyway, let's fast foward over the exceptionally boring five hour plane righe and get to the more interesting descent, shall we?

As the air-bird began to land, I looked out my window and saw the great black pyramid rising up through a cluster of flat and stale looking buildings. Excitment bubbled in my chest (either that or it was indigestion) as I thought: "Oh my freaking God, it's the Luxor! Criss Angel performs there!" This was quickly followed by: "Noooo, this is only a two hour layover, I can't DO anything!" And thus my fan-girl/morbid obsession with pyramids/perverse obsession with magic moment was destroyed.

Skipping over the escape of the tublar metal flying can, I realized the Las Vegas airport was about the size of a small city. People crowded everywhere and the gate I was looking for was no where near my general proximity. I was happy that I booked a two-hour layover. Finding the gate was akin to a journey through the tourist section of a city made famous for hosting a wonder of the world. I should know since I live 15 minutes from such a city.

A path cleared ahead and I noted with a sense of relief that I found my gate. Unfortunately my stomach reminded me that it hadn't been fed and would soon eat itself if I didn't feed it soon. I followed my nose (literally) and found food. I just travelled 4000 KM/2,800 miles to eat at Burger King.

Skipping forward another hour and a half, I got on the second plane. According to my ticket (I should have known that tickets lie), I would be in LA in two hours. A summary of the flight: the plane went up and we could turn on electronic devices. The plane hovered for 15 or 20 minutes and we had to turn off our electronci devices as we made the final descent. Excerpt from brain: Why exactly was there a layover for that?

Regardless, I made it out of the second air-born tin can relatively safely and found a bright green cab to spend an obscene amount of money in to get to my hotel. That night was spend on taking in my surroundings, exploring the concept of a mall without a roof (we call these "a plaza" in Canada and have indoor malls. The entire outdoor mall concept amuses me), eating and working on detailed character profiles for a crime fiction novel I'm working on.

No, the irony of profiling detective characters was not lost on me. And knowing one such character extremely well, the irony would be exceptionally amusing to one fictional detective known as James Reeves. He might even make a reference to some obscure factoid that people could live without knowing a la Sheldon Cooper from "The Big Bang Theory". Probably not though as James is not Sheldon.

Sleep was imminent by 8PM (11 PM in the Great Not-so-white-right-now North) but I pushed through until 11PM and enjoyed the luxury of having a king-sized bed all to myself. The next day would be spent at an exhibit featuring creepy clowns and meeting my fellow authors. But as I began to drift into unconsciousness, I had no idea of the creepy clowns that would claim my waking hours. Thus ends the first day of the LA trip.

A bit of shameless self-promotion: "A Small Slice of the Undead" (my zombie anthology) will be coming out this month. Once the cover is complete and the final edit done, I will be putting it up for sale as an ebook. Until then, be amused by future blogs and don't answer the door if someone asks if you have an extra brains.