In which Zombie Joe considers neither food, nor writing…

This past weekend we spent the anniversary of the day our dog died of cancer taking the newest member of our family (a rescue that really needed our home) to visit Aladdin’s favorite park in Door County. We were actually staying at the cabin we rented just north of that park. Cave Point County Park in Jacksonport, Wisconsin. Door County. No better place on Earth.

ginger-beachWell, we tried to take her to that park. If you’ve been following me through social media, you’ve likely heard me lament that she is agoraphobic and not friendly towards small children or other animals. I’m good, but those fears/aggression might be beyond my skills. So we sat in the truck with the AC on while Robin went to visit Aladdin’s beach. We could take Ginger to the beach behind the cabin. That one is private.

I bring this up because I was considering the number of Represent tshirt campaigns that have been going on lately. And there are many. More than I can possibly contribute to. Choices must be made. But at the same time, the Amells (Stephen Amell from Arrow and Robbie Amell from Flash) have been hitting them one after another for me.

Last year, after our latest stint of cursing cancer, Stephen Amell did another run of his Sinceriously “Fuck Cancer” shirt. While I spent July last year stating “Today was a good day” and “we’ve all got jobs to do”… I spent the better part of August saying “fuck cancer” pretty much daily. And this past Friday, I was wearing my Captain Amell Fuck Cancer shirt.

I’m going to skip past Stephen Amell’s second charity shirt (even though it struck solid for me too), and talk about the one going on right now. Robbie Amell posted a link through Twitter to his Camp Hometown Heroes charity shirt. I clicked it simply because, as a fan, I wanted to see what he was supporting. The charity is a free summer camp for the kids and younger siblings of fallen soldiers. As if that wasn’t enough it is in Grafton, Wisconsin. I remember seeing a news report about Aaron Rodgers taking a group of kids from the camp out on a boat a while back.

Children’s charities are my thing. Children’s cancer charities… forget about it. I’m there. Much like how I knew Ginger needed a place like ours to heal from her mistreatment the first year of her life, I could see how these kids of service members could really benefit from this camp. So you know I will be picking up a shirt from the Robbie Amell “Camp Hometown Heroes” page when I get home tonight.

You should too. It’s a sharp shirt. And a really great cause.

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, I hear they are giving away a shirt that is signed by both of the Amells.

Short Update on Budgeting

The cookbooks aren’t even at my house yet. I am still at least a week from flipping the switch on this. And yet I am noticing the change in my view of things already.

krispieThis afternoon I decided to go out for a soda and a rice cereal treat. I brought leftovers for lunch and I’ve been having a rough week. Also, I had taken note that my Chobani yogurt I brought with me this morning on sale was 25% of my daily budget (keeping in mind I am not yet on that budget).

You know what else is 25% of my daily budget on sale? That rice cereal treat from the convenience store on the corner. Granted they go on sale every week for a day. You can set your calendar to it. But that is still $1 when my total budget for the day will be $4. So this is a luxury I won’t have for a long time. And look at it, consider that I just called that a luxury.

cherry-pepsiDon’t even get me started on the soda. If we still had Coke machines in the stadium I would still be dropping $1.50 on a bottle – around 37% of the daily budget. But at $1.79 a bottle (plus tax), that is about half the daily amount I have to spend. Even if I find a sale, the lowest price I am likely to get is $.25 per can of soda. Which means I will get one can a day at best. I should be drinking more water anyhow.

Last – and by no means least – is beer. I was listening to the morning show talk craft beer with the owner of Trixie’s Liquor on the morning show. This lead to me making a mental list of the beers I wanted to pick up for our family vacation to Door County this weekend. A bomber of Trixie’s Forbidden Fruit (a grapefruit IPA made by Mob Craft for the store) is around $8.99. You see where I’m going, right?

Mrs. Zombie and I have been working budgets for a number of years now. The idea is to pay off all debts, a goal we should hit in 5 or 6 years. The mortgage being the only debt the last 4 of that. So even though we can afford more than $4 a day, and can afford to pick up that six pack of craft beer for the trip this weekend (much less the trip itself), this is a really strong exercise in seeing what it’s like on the other foot. Without relying on the memory of the “Mac and Cheese Days” long past.

naptime-gingerNot to mention if we’re going to take our budding new rock climbing puppy out to Aladdin’s favorite park on the anniversary of his death, you better damned well believe I will be having a beer that night. Of course, realistically, Ginger will probably look more like the photo here all weekend long. Which is fine. I have work to do.

One More Caveat

I also came across one more caveat that I need to enter into the challenge. Every week I go to my writer’s group on Thursday. We meet at one of two spots where we can get coffee and a bite to eat. Many times I will just get coffee and a cookie or tart because Chocolaterian makes some of the best treats and their coffee is something brewed by Walter White. Seriously, that shit is addictive! And more over, as we use their space every week I feel it would be rude to not “pay the rent” in some fashion. Especially when I am able to. So I will have dinner when I get home (in budget), but at the cafe I will partake of coffee and a cookie.

And in “payment” for this, I won’t get coffee on Thursday mornings on my way into work. So really it isn’t one more caveat to the project, but an addendum to an existing one.

New Project/New Challenge

I became aware this week, that this time last year I was elbows deep in a project to do 30 short stories in 30 days. That worked out to only 23 short stories, but over 50,000 words for the month. During one of my worst months in a really long time. But what am I doing this year?

Sure, I’m still doing book reviews, my bi-weekly game and helping out with the monthly D&D at Pegasus Games here in town. But I was doing most of that last year too. I’m feeling like I need a goal… a specific project… to light a fire under me. So I came up with one.

$4 a Day

good-and-cheapFor a while now I have been considering the challenge that some politicians and other public figures have done to eat on $4 a day – the amount that people on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) live on. Though this year I found the book Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown. Not only is it a cookbook to guide you through this process, but it has a program where if you buy a copy, a copy is given to a program or person in need that cannot afford it. Which appeals to me, because if you’re using SNAP or just living on $4 a day up-assisted, chances are you don’t have the money for a cookbook.

So I ordered the book to work with the mason jar meal cookbook I also picked up. And decided to go on a challenge to hit the $4 a day for a month. I figure this is also a good way to get my kitchen and pantry in order. Plus, I think my wife is secretly getting tired of risotto (my newest go-to dish to make).

The Caveats

I have two caveats that are for the protection of others as well as myself. My $4 a day limit does not include my morning coffee. If I don’t have that, someone will get hurt. That limit will prevent me from grabbing a green tea lemonade on the trip home though.

Additionally, my wife only is bound by the $4 a day meals if I am making them for her. My lunches will be made with this in mind, and I will not be going out for lunch at all. She isn’t bound by that, because I don’t want to get hurt. And if she wants a coffee on the way home, I can get her one. Just not one for myself.

The Reasons

Mostly because I want to. I have lived through hungry times. I called them The Mac and Cheese Days™. And honestly, I have family members living in those days right now. I want to prove to myself that it is possible to eat healthy at that amount. Limit the sugars, starches and salt in the diet. Limit the processed foods too.

The Reality

latteLast night, while going through the bookstore on the way home, I picked up the books I needed, a latte, and desert for after dinner. Partially it was a craving for something I knew I wouldn’t be having for a long time, and partially it was a peace offering for the wife I was about to put on rations. (Sort of… let’s face it, she can get seconds if she wants.)

Consider the triple venti latte I picked up in the cafe last night. It was an after-thought to get a coffee with my books. A little extra to keep me going. And it cost $5 to get it – a full 25% higher than the daily amount of money I would be spending on food soon. It tastes more like a luxury if you consider it a day and a half worth of food.

cheesecakeThen there was the blueberry cheesecake we had for desert. Without even considering the fact that it was a heavily processed food (lending to high sodium and fat content), it was $4.50. Just over the daily amount of money for food. Again, much more decadent factoring in that would soon be all I would eat in a day based on budget.

Grocery shopping is different though. You’re getting steaksfresh food that you’re making yourself (or at least you have the ability to do so). And you can get foods on sale, purchasing items when they’re  in season and such. But the bacon-wrapped sirloins I picked up last night were on sale 5 for $10, or $2 each. So that one small steak is half the budget for a day. Possible, but that does restrict what you can do with the rest of the day.

The Format

I will be posting updates as I go, possibly including some of the recipes as I post. I’m Italian, we don’t do well sticking to the script. Of course, when I have to calculate the cost per meal, I will have to curb that as much as possible. Which leads me to the summary per meal.

thug-kitchenAt the end of each post on meals – including the cost per meal – I will be posting revisions. In the event I have more than $4 to spend on a day (due to budgeting days previous or simply opening the budget back up again), I will list alterations I would do to the recipe as shown. Like upgrading the cut of steak (or size) used. Adding fresh basil into the risotto instead of sprinkling in the dried herbs from my pantry. You get the idea.

Also, in addition to the mason jar cookbook I have, I will be looking into some of the recipes from the Thug Kitchen. While the title is what originally drew me to it, the content held me there. The idea of cooking/eating like you give a damn what you’re stuffing in your hole is one many of us have gone away from. I intend to make the trip back.

The Timing

The cookbook will be at my door Friday. Though we are also taking Ginger on her first Door County trip this weekend. We’re going to see how well she likes Aladdin’s favorite park. She did show signs of wanting to be a rock climbing dog this past week. So the actual budgeting and diet will likely start the last week of this month, or the first week in August. I’m sure you’ll notice when this happens.

Let me tell you a story…

The past month I have been finding myself having problems writing. Something about forwarding a middle grade storyline is just not sticking with me. The last time this happened, I realized there was something in my head plugging up the works. Something I had to get out. This past week I may have identified it.

While watching the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions I was hit at the end of the acceptance speech for Lou Reed, given by his wife, Laurie Anderson. At the end of it, after saying the last of the list of three times you die is after the last time your name is spoken, she called for one more and the gathered crowd called out in unison, “Lou!” This past year was one of the few times since I was a kid that I didn’t stop and process the hurt. My friend and companion for the last 15 plus years was gone. And in the five weeks or so before we found a mistreated dog that needed our help, I hadn’t sat in the silence of an empty Tuesday night and processed it. I ran from it.

Now we are coming up on 11 months since we lost him. I can feel it approaching on me. Clinging at me while trying to pull me down. It has made me wonder how diffcult it would be if – like many of my friends – I suffered from depression. Which snowballs into me worrying about them and pushing off my own shadows again.

I have no idea why, but this reminded me of The Lost Story. I have a folder with most of my first writing from high school. Anything and everything was worth keeping. Who knows? There might be something useful in there now that I have the experience and skill to write it. Maybe not, but I still saved it. All but one.

I have never read this story aloud. I never turned it in to my creative writing class. Nobody has ever read it. This includes my wife of nearly 25 years or any of the people involved in the story. It was written the first time that I was plugged up like this. My first “memory” of the darkness from inside needing to get out. But this story has a prelude to it. An explanation into the evolution of it.

Above I put the word memory in the literary equivalent of air quotes. Since leaving college I have been through a number of changes. One of the major ones was meeting the business end of a dump truck at about 45 miles per hour. I suffered what they had then called a concussion, but what doctors have identified in the post-war era as a TBI or Traumatic Brain Injury. This had three major effects on me – 1 physical and 2 mental. Probably more than 2, but who really wants to deal with that level of introspection?

The physical effect is that the frequency and intensity of my migraines would increase. A rather helpful nurse practitioner informed me this would likely include a near constant low-grade headache. She followed this with the date and street on which she had suffered hers.

Mentally, I had forgotten how to memorize numbers. I used to do so in a relational method, by plucking patterns out in the number strings. That annoying guy that could count pi out to more digits than years you’ve been alive? Yeah, that used to be me. It is so alien to me now, I can’t even accurately describe how I did it. Good thing I became an English major in college.

Additionally, I lost my memory of the week prior to the accident,with my first solid memory being in the hospital watching Highlander reruns late night. Though they tell me I was hallucinating, so who knows what I was watching. This also included just over four years of memory from further back. Middle to late 80’s, or high school.

Now if you’ve heard my stories from high school (the Lost Story being one of them), this is because I remember them. But it was like if I read it out of a book. I remember the words to the story. I even remember how to vocalize it to impart the meaning behind it. I just don’t remember being there. Since that time I have had flashes of memory return. Usually with a stabbing headache or migraine along with it, but a few have popped back. One of which was having a pair of ribs kicked out of my sternum at 16 years old. Another being the incident that spawned the Lost Story. So any potential positive from having substantial memory loss was completely gone. Thanks, karma.

In my creative writing classes I was attempting to write fantasy. Probably because between school, a full time job, martial arts classes 2-3 times a week and a girlfriend, I had no time left for Dungeons and Dragons. I wouldn’t pick it up again until college. So I was trying to write high fantasy and all of this darkness was hanging over me. What I wrote, I wrote for myself.

What I have come to see today, nearly 30 years later, is that what I wrote was similar to many of the stories I was watching. Spoken word poets writing about their pain and torment, storytellers at The Moth reliving the painful tales of the past – the Lost Story was mine. It was cheaper than therapy (of which I was highly allergic to in my teens), and easily done. And to free myself from the shadows of it, once I had decided not to share it, I remember taking the pages and burning them. Giving that story and my emotional attachment to it a viking funeral.

The odd part? Even though I can’t remember walking across the stage to receive my diploma in 1988, I remember this story. I remember the catalyst in vivid detail. And today I am going to put it back down to paper. I may post it here as a serial, or I may take it to The Moth in Milwaukee (depending on the theme that month). For all I know this copy will never be told aloud or read either. I’m just hoping it leads me towards processing the pain that is stopping me today, so that I can finish my fantasy story tomorrow.

OddCon Notes: SuperFight!

It has been a couple years now that I have been either chair or co-chair for Odyssey Con in Madison, Wisconsin. Once the con is over, we breathe a sigh of relief, take a couple weeks and then have our postmortem meeting. What I was considering is other than the people that power through to the “Kill the Cow” panel at the end, little of this information makes it out to the attendees. Hopefully this blog series will not only reverse that, but also give you an idea of what we had going on this year… as well as the suggestions we picked up for next year.

SuperFIght-001One of the key moments that made the convention for me was the Superfight with the Guests of Honor. Sunday morning at 11 a.m. I put Matt Forbeck, Heather Brewer and Jonathan Maberry on the main stage. I sat Thee Bluebeard (our emcee for the convention) down with them and taught them how to play Superfight. About four people came to watch the game. (did I mention it too place Sunday morning?) Even with the lack of people awake for the event it was a blast. If you ever have a chance, sit down with three authors and an improv comic and play that game. It seriously dials it up to 11.

Was it really that awesome?

Jonathan Maberry, while being a geek and one of our people, fully admits he’s not a gamer. In his own words, he is no good at anything involving dice or cards. Even he is getting a set of the cards to bring home (once he is off tour) to play with his friends in California. I imagine it like Richard Castle playing poker with his mystery writer friends. Only with geeky cards instead of poker chips. Heather Brewer also purchased the game to play at home with friends and family. So let that be our convention testimonial.

 How did this event come about?

Tomorrow we may fight, but tonight we DANCE!

Tomorrow we may fight, but tonight we DANCE!

I’d like to tell you the folks that create the game donated a copy and we simply had to film it. But I can’t. I saw videos of celebrities playing this at SDCC and knew we had to do it. Especially after there were resounding cries of battle in Twitter from our Guests of Honor. Though, to be fair, I think Jonathan was thinking I was talking actual battle – like Author Thunderdome. Which he totally would have won. He is a black belt after all.

This led to me purchasing the base deck, base expansion and the orange “geek” deck. You can find it at skybound.com in their online store. I purchased it normally and had it shipped to my house. Sure it cost a bit, but after the event was over I would have a set of the cards to play at home. Also, though it was a side thought, I put blanks from the Guests of Honor in my deck as well. I figured that would make for a trump card if it came up. Which, of course, it never did.

Though I will say the customer service from Skybound (the site that handles distribution for Superfight) was astounding. I had the base deck, the basic expansion, and the geek expansion. When I opened them up, the basic expansion was defective. The cards were stuck along a line at the bottom of the backs of the cards. They had a replacement out to me in the normal processing time for a shipment, so before it would even normally ship from the warehouse it was at my door. The original deck I was told to do what I will with it. I suppose it’s not like they could fix it.

What did I do with the messed up deck?

I took the blank cards and had each of the Guests of Honor fill out a fighter and an ability from their stories and sign them. I put them in the deck box with the rest of it and we gave it out at the event. Which made it really advantageous for whomever did get up at 11 in the morning to watch us play. Of course Paul now has to get a base deck…

Highlight of the Event

scooter-bluePlaying the last round in final elimination, Thee Bluebeard played Zeus (part of the geek deck) on a riding lawnmower. His opponent was Heather’s shark in a flaming tutu, but we’ll get to that part. He proudly exclaims that this is Zeus, he who gave us the Grim Reaper… all suburban like on a riding mower. Drawing her random card, Heather’s shark winds up not only in a flaming tutu, but also a suit of armor. Bluebeard, drawing his random ability gets “was trained by (draw a random character)” and drops the top of the character deck to reveal The Grim Reaper. He literally called down the trump card he was drawing.

Again, play this game with a trio of authors and an improv comedian if at all possible. It’s the only way to play it. And yes, video will follow once my videographer has it edited and complete.

Do Zombies Dream of Brains?

A little background for those not familiar with the schedule at Casa de Zombie. My wife works in Milwaukee, which is about a 90 minute drive one way. As such, on Tuesday nights she will stay with her friend Laura (who we met in college) as she lives about 5-10 minutes from her office. It also gives her a night to go out to dinner with her and the ladies on her team in the office. That makes it Zombie Joe and Ginger time back at the condo.

why-the-treatsGinger is the fox terrier mix we rescued last fall. We went to donate dog food to a shelter a month or so after our dog for the last 15 years had passed, and found this scared little girl that needed a home. More importantly needed someone willing to help her through her various fears brought on from a year of mistreatment. She still isn’t a fan of other dogs and is scared of the outdoors, but she’s acting like a dog now. And is a filthy, filthy beggar. It’s been months since I’ve been able to eat my entire dinner by myself.

This week that meant going through her first thunderstorm since she came home with us, and my usual night of difficulty sleeping. Like most Tuesdays, this meant sleeping on the couch with the puppy and waking up several times through the night. The usual. Right along with waking up to an infomercial as the television has been on most of the night. Did you know some stations stop broadcasting if it is late enough still? I thought all of them were 24 hours now. Some are 23 hour stations.

So I woke up having slept on my arm wrong. Acutally, my right arm (primary arm) has been sore at the elbow for a week or so. Last night I just made it worse and woke up from it. Get up for a glass of water, stretch a bit, and lay back down. Then come the weird dreams. This time it was a dream from back in college when I popped my right elbow out. Having done similar with my knee, I popped it back and went on with life. My dream detailed this event in vivid detail for me. Not that I needed it, not all of my memories were lost in that concussion. (Yet another, different story.)

Waking from the dream, my arm still aching, I considered how much it sucks to get older. Before – pop a joint, just pop it back. Now – be sore and useless for weeks from just sleeping on it wrong or stretching it badly.

Though on the bright side Ginger dealt with her first thunderstorm really well. And she didn’t ask to go out at all in the middle of the night. It was still raining after all.

Still, with the move of her “castle” (the word I trained her for with her kennel) due to visitors coming this weekend, she doesn’t jump right into it now. Her new thing is when I give her the command, she goes to where it used to be, runs back, jumps on the couch and rolls on her back kicking her legs. She does this until I rub her belly, pick her up, and put her in the kennel. Cute? Maybe. But consider the previously mentioned elbow strain. ;)

Books That Made A Zombie

When this came up at Melissa F. Olson’s blog, I searched for a novel that was at the core of who I am. One that made me the way that I am. Basically doing the job of that nebulous person from my future I refer to as “the prosecution.” Only I couldn’t really pick one book. There were many. Additionally, there’s that period of my life that’s a little foggy. I hear TBIs will do that to the best of us – no matter how Sheldon Cooper-like your memory is.

Below are the titles that I can point to as having an early (and not so early) influence on me. There are so many, but these are some of the highlights.

Lord of the Rings

the-lord-of-the-rings-the-fellowshipOkay, really it began with The Hobbit. I remember getting the book for the train ride from Wisconsin to Boston. Even as a kid I never slept well, and I had a very visceral childhood memory of equating train rides with hideous nosebleeds. So, I read. In this instance I believe I finished the book rather quickly. I’m not 100%, but I think I might have picked up Fellowship of the Ring for the ride home. This was most definitely my first experience in high fantasy. Which likely lead to my past in Dungeons and Dragons, which lead (in part) to my love of reading and desire to write. It all branched out from here.

It was also these books that made me rather devoted towards playing a halfling for most of my early D&D career. Something about them made them so identifiable. Which meant I spent a lot of time playing the party burglar.

The Kundalini Equation

kundalini-equationThis was about as identifiable of a story as I could have asked for. Martial arts was my pathway into health as a teen. To be fair, cross country running was, but that dropped me to 145 pounds at 6’2″. You call that healthy until that first spinning back kick pops a couple ribs out of your sternum. Then you begin the weight training and muscle building.

In short, martial arts for me was the near opposite of what it was for the protagonist in this story, but I got him. It was also the first urban fantasy (contemporary fantasy?) that I had a clear connection to. Where I could see myself in the place of the main character. Additionally our hero faced a loss of self in his journey that addressed a very real fear I held from my childhood into my teen years (and even further). I actually mourned the loss of that book (though likely one of my in-laws probably has it in a box or on a shelf). And when I met Steven Barnes decades later, I went in search of a copy (thank you Frugal Muse) so that I could get one signed.

This was the book that made me want to write stories that people could see themselves in.

The Drizzt Do’Urden Novels

3663576-drizzt+cover+2This is one of the staples of the D&D Youth. While Ed Greenwood made the Forgotten Realms, R.A. Salvatore made the drow cool. Actually, he kind of made them dicks. Which made them cool to read about. This was a society unlike any other I’d read about in my books. A matriarchal society at its core. One in which the women were easily as horrible to the men, if not more so. And the best of them (except for our unlikely hero) was still pretty evil.

Here we saw a fighter of great ability rising up against his dark birthright every morning. His actions the only things that could separate him from the rest of the drow and their dark queen Lloth. Something about that spoke to me… even if Drizzt was more of a cat person than a dog person.

In the most recent incarnation (or really reincarnation) of the series, what I am finding particularly interesting is how Regis, the halfling rogue who was part of Drizzt’s original party of adventurers, has become more of a contributing member. Back in the original series, any time fighting broke out, there was almost a need to have someone watching over him. He was somewhat of a handicap to the team. This time around he’s easily as badass as the rest of them. Though he is still the trickiest one.

Of note… these were the first books I ever had signed. They are also some of the rare titles that aren’t signed to Zombie Joe.

Cabal (Nightbreed)

CabalBarkerThis was my introduction to Clive Barker, which lead me to others. Imajica, Thief of Always… It wasn’t Pinhead that brought me to him. It was the innocent who merely believed he was a monster. It was also my first experience of the movie changing things from the book. Not huge portions, but enough for me to consider the implications.

I loved the ideas of the monsters being the heroes. The innocent ones. Sure, they eat you as soon as look at you, but in this case, they were the ones wronged. So much did I associate with the creatures from Midian that when we adopted our first animal together (a black cat, picked up on Friday the 13th – of course), I wanted to name him Peloquin.

cabal-1990-06-gJust recently I was in submission for an anthology of stories from after the fall of Midian. I didn’t make the final cut (there were over 500 submissions from what I heard), but it was one of the most fun projects I’ve worked on to date. Sure, the story is something I can’t use now, but that didn’t make it any less fun. Writing about some of the ancillary characters from the Children of the Moon was like coming home for me. It was full circle.

Happy Hour of the Damned

happyhourThis one is likely off the radar of many of you. Back when I was pimping this series like it owed me money, I was referring to it as “Sex in the City if all four of them fell down dead and got back up again.” Really that was how the author explained it to me. His main character was a zombie. As was her bestie. Their flamboyantly gay friend was the vampire. And they were all monsters. They ate people. And lots of them. All along the way they were bitchy and snarky. It was the dark comedy that I hadn’t found most other places. At least not outside of the movies.

I was introduced to several things by this book. Book review blogs for one. It was also the first series where I won a contest. An ARC of the second in the series. It was also my first ARC. Additionally it introduced me to an entire slew of new authors that wrote the snarky shit I really loved to read. A dark sense of humor was required. Damned near gallows humor. And as midlist authors, they were just as excited about the novels and my reading them as I was. These were the people that were (and are) inspiring me to make that leap to published author.

Well, them and the critique group that held a Publishing Intervention for me last year.

Red-Headed Step Child

jayewellssabinakane01Remember the snark I was talking about? This series had it. Additionally, it had one of the best opening lines I’d read up to that point. It grabbed me in the first paragraph. And I knew that was what I needed to do to make a book work. To ensure I published more than just a single title. It was also the book that opened up the power of the sidekick to me. Sure the Dresden Files had nearly a Scooby Gang at that point, but Giguhl was truly a sidekick. And an animal one at times to boot.

Between that, the settings, and the mythology, I was hooked. Add to it the author being one of the aforementioned inspiring midlisters (really they stalk YOU at the conventions), and I was hooked.

Of note, the first book in the series I had literally used to fend off an attack from a diving bird. I pointed out the beak prints at the first party we attended at RT. It made for a hell of a story.

Mark of the Demon

markofthedemonAs with the last few on the list, this one makes it up here for a couple of reasons. It was another contest I had won (for a travelling book concept that was great on paper). It also featured snark and sass, a strong trait for my favorite books at this point. But it also hand some real world roots to it. The police procedural elements of it were strong and engaging. It made me feel like I was visiting a real crime scene. Which makes sense, as the author had been on the police force for something like 10 years.

My personal copy of this book also had the first signing to it that caught me by surprise. It has a personal message that convinced me that I was doing the right thing focusing this much energy on my reading and writing of stories. And I haven’t turned back since. Stumbled and tripped, sure. Turned back? No way in hell.

Plus, the recent covers for this series and her White Trash Zombie series are insane! I can only ever dream to have covers that awesome.

*****

Now I don’t have any swag to give away, but feel free to comment below with novels that have inspired you over the years. Open dialog is never a bad thing.