Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Next Big Thing Rolls On

ast Wednesday, Bram Stoker award-winner and all-around nice guy Weston Ochse tagged me in The Next Big Thing, after horror and dark fantasy writer Tim Tebbon tagged him. This is a running shared-blog thread in which writers discuss their latest projects, and invite more writers to do the same.This is a running shared-blog thread in which writers discuss their latest projects, and invite more writers to do the same. Be sure to see these blogs by fellow writers Ed KurtzJoe McKinney, Shane McKenzie, and Ed Erdelac.

Here are the questions and my answers. Next Wednesday, I’ll hand it off to several more writers, including Scott Bradley, Pete Giglio and Gary Jonas.

1) What is the working title of your next book?


2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

It was the collision of several ideas. I had read about theoretical new cures for sufferers of Alzheimer's and dementia based upon near-future nanotechnology and bio-engineering. I imagined what might happen if this “cure” had unintended side effects or mutated into a self-directed plague that rapidly swept the world. And I imagined it might or might not be reversible. So the uninfected survivors might find themselves sharing the planet with an intelligent but no-longer-human race they had unwittingly created.  I realized it was a zombie novel without the supernatural element, but with all the suspense and horror nonetheless.

While I was still thinking about the book-length story, I incorporated the idea into a long story, “Lifeboat,” that was published by Jason Sizemore and Apex Books in The Zombie Feed Volume One.

The novel is also a love-letter to the late Michael Crichton (left), who invented the plausible techno-thriller with The Andromeda Strain. Many of Crichton’s books dealt with stories of scientists with good intentions who create situations that lead to dangerous, unexpected results.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

It’s a mash-up of science fiction, horror and thrillers, but I think it will appeal primarily to horror readers.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

I originally envisioned a scruffy James MacAvoy as the main protagonist, Dr. Jeremy Hall, a young research epidemiologist from the University of California, Irvine’s School of Biological Sciences. But then I met writer Joe Hill at the World Horror Convention in Austin a year or so ago, and now I think he’s perfect to play the intelligent, somewhat reclusive scientist. I’m not saying that Joe is scruffy. He just has the perfect look in my mind’s eye. That's a pic of him (right) from his Tumblr on the set of HORNS, based on his second novel. His new novel, NOS4A2, is due next May.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

After the greatest medical breakthrough of the 21st century transforms entire populations into a terrifying zombie-like species, a secret team of scientists races to devise a cure.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I successfully pitched the idea and outline to a respected indie publisher. I’ve published a good number of short stories professionally, but don’t as yet have an agent.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The first draft is almost done, and it has taken sixteen months, much longer than I’d hoped! Of course, during that time I also wrote a novella that will appear in a longer novel called Living Death Race 2000 in 2013 with Wes Ochse, John Everson and several other talented writers. And I wrote and sold more short stories.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

The Andromeda Strain and Prey by Michael Crichton, and Spore by John Skipp and Cody Goodfellow

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Michael Crichton and John Skipp. And watching the original film adaptation of The Andromeda Strain.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?

It delves into some interesting tangents, such as how plagues spread, how small bands of scientifically-trained people deal with isolation and apocalyptic threats, and the current wonders and dangers of widespread medical research into nanotechnology, viral and genetic manipulation and engineering.

So watch for more answers from Scott Bradley, Gary Jonas and Pete Giglio next Wednesday!

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Cosmic Inspiration

appily, I can already check off one of my 2012 goals -- namely, to sell more science fiction.  February saw the acceptance of a story from former F&SF editor and anthologist John Joseph Adams for his online SF magazine, Lightspeed. The story in question is a high-tech crime story spanning many alternate Earths, and involving the unwitting help of an iconic 20th century actor. Earlier this month, John also sent a reprint contract for the same story to appear in his upcoming anthology Other Worlds Than These, due this fall.

In another happy coincidence, I’ve been re-watching the late astronomer and author Carl Sagan’s landmark science mini-series, COSMOS.  My family and I watched it when it premiered back in 1980 on PBS, and I’ve got the big hardback somewhere.  I’ve been an avid reader of science fiction since the age of ten, and Sagan’s books and COSMOS made a big impression.  Sagan’s curiosity about the origins of the universe and our place in it, conveyed with a layman’s touch and poetic enthusiasm regarding the vastness of the universe and the wonders of inner space, epitomize the “sense of wonder” that always attracted me to science fiction, particularly the works of Bradbury, Tevis, Simak, Bester and many, many others.  Carl Sagan’s son, Nick, now a screenwriter, mentioned on Twitter that COSMOS is being resurrected on Fox as a new science mini-series -- something to look forward to!

But while I wait impatiently for season two of the BBC’s Sherlock to hit American airwaves I’ve been busy with other stories (and the novel that’s taking too long to complete).

“The Brave Little Cockroach Goes to Mars” will appear in April in ROCKET SCIENCE from UK writer and anthologist Ian Sales.  Check out the other contributors of fiction and nonfiction here:

I recently did a modest expansion of “The Girl and the Guardian,” a story slated for Eugene Johnson’s APPALACHIAN UNDEAD from The Zombie Feed Press.  I haven’t seen the TOC yet but have heard there are going to be some big names appearing, along with talented up-and-coming folks, which is exciting.  And I was tremendously excited to land a story with John Skipp for his next huge anthology project for Black Dog and Leventhal, PSYCHOS: ENCOUNTERS WITH SERIAL KILLERS AND THE CRIMINALLY INSANE.  “Serenity Now” will appear in September, and according to Skipp, the TOC is stellar.

"Jesus When The Sun Goes Down" is available on Amazont in the Kindle version of BEST NEW WEREWOLF TALES (it's an original and not a reprint; bless Carolina Smart for including it in a book already bursting with classic stories).  "The Boys in Company Z" is out in the Kindle edition of ZOMBIE KONG.  Both trade paperbacks coming soon.

Lately I’ve been reading the stories and novels of Weston Ochse (pronounce “oaks,” Arizona writer married to writer Yvonne Navarro), and the short fiction of Joe Hill and David Nickel, whose sophomore novel is coming soon from ChiZine.

Great stuff.

At the end of the month Angie and I are flying to Salt Lake City to attend World Horror Con and a special Bram Stoker banquet.  I cannot wait to see old friends and make new ones.

This moment to blog has been brought to you by “The Bachelor: Season Finale.”  Thanks, Ben.

-- Simon


ZOMBIE KONG Anthology:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Year Looking Back, And 2012 Goals

he clock is winding down on 2011, but it was a good year on the writing front.  A great year, really.  And from what I can tell I certainly wasn’t alone.  Many of my writer and publisher friends and acquaintances also had productive years.  Some sold a boatload of new stories; others got the green light to write novels.  Others built upon previous successes and seem poised to climb the next step on the great pyramid of writing success.

I sold a number of new horror and SF stories, and saw several reach print.  A couple of older stories were reprinted.  I completed my first commissioned novella, which I’m eager to see move toward publication next year.  I was very excited to sell a story to Black Static for their August #24 issue.  Andy Cox and TTA Press publish perhaps the most beautifully designed, full-size print genre magazine in the market, sister to the equally stunning Interzone.

I successfully pitched an idea for a novel to a respected indie book publisher, and I’m working away to complete it before the first of the year.  Canadian editors seem to like me, and two sales were made to UK markets.  I love Canada and Great Britain right back.

I sold a couple of new stories involving the undead (one also featured my interpretation of Mothman), a werewolf tale (coming soon), and a “hard SF” story to an anthology due next April.  I also got to meet and get to know a lot of fellow writers I respect, like Gary McMahon, Peter Straub, John Everson, Weston Osche, Joe Hill, Scott Edelman, RJ Sevin and his wife, Julia, Colleen Anderson and the ChiZine bunch.  I also reconnected with older pals like John Skipp.  World Horror Con in Austin was a blast, and I’ve already made plans to attend again next spring in Salt Lake City.  There’s a long list of friends I’ve made by web and email that I’m hoping to meet in the flesh in ’12, including Jason Sizemore, James Roy Daley, Maggie Slater, Andrew Clark Porter and Eugene Johnson, to name a few.

So the hard work to write more often and push myself seems to be working.  So it’s time to set some goals for 2012:

  1. I want to finish the first draft of WILDFIRE soon, let it rest, and then complete a second draft so I can float it to the interested publisher.

  1. I have two competing ideas for a second novel, one decidedly horror and one a blend of contemporary SF and horror.  I should prepare a solid outline and pitch at WHC 2012.

  1. Sell another story to Black Static.

  1. Sell a story to Shock Totem.

  1. Sell another story to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.  I sold four or five stories to AHMM in the ‘90s and I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for this venerable mystery digest.

  1. Write and sell more science fiction.  The sale to ROCKET SCIENCE has given me a boost in confidence that I can break through with some of the SF markets like Asimov’s, Interzone, Analog or Lightspeed.  So my goal will be to sell at last one or more new SF stories next year.

  1. Continue to network and get my name and work out there so I hopefully get more private invites to submit to anthologies and projects not generally open to all submissions.

  1. Target and attend at least one Midwestern or East Coast con so I can meet some of the folks in person that I mentioned.

Maybe I’m biting off more than I can chew, but I’m a firm believer that you should set your goals a bit high, and forge ahead.  Happy holidays to all!


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Bad TV Saves the Day, or, New Sales and Summer Heat

y only excuse for being so tardy in blogging since May is that I have been busy writing.  I think that is the best excuse, really.  Unless you’re unemployed or you never sleep, there are simply not enough hours in a day to write two-thousand words of new fiction, edit or polish the latest chapter or story, tend to your Facebook peeps and still Twitter away.  And now folks want me to jump on Google +.

Not unless you’d like to land in divorce court.

Fortunately for me, summer television is a savior.  While my wife and kids gorge themselves on the voyeuristic pleasures of “MTV Teen Moms,” “The Bachelorette” and “Wipe Out,” I can slink away in the shadows to tippity-tap-tap away.  If you’ve watched the hapless adventures of the contestants on “Wipe Out” (an Americanized version of popular Japanese shows), you know the title should really be “Nut Busters” or “That’s Going to Leave a Mark.”

OK, I’m not going to lie.  I’ve made the mistake of pausing for a moment with coffee cup in hand, plopping down on the couch, and having thirty minutes stolen from me by the always mesmerizing (snort) Chris Harrison.  That dude is an android, I’m telling you.  They are among us.

Since May I have kept my nose to the grindstone.  I finished a new spec story that didn’t make it into the latest John Skipp anthology, but Skipp was kind enough to provide some very helpful suggestions to make it stronger, and it is out making the rounds.  I had near misses with two SF stories at Redstone SF and at Strange Horizons, and another urban fantasy/SF hybrid is in final consideration at Realms of Fantasy.  Fingers crossed. I received official word from James Roy Daley that “The Boys in Company Z” will appear in the Books of the Dead Press anthology ZOMBIE KONG, and we all saw the way-cool cover painting by Daniele Serra in June.

I sold another story, “Still Life,” to Andy Cox at TTA Press in the UK for Black Static magazine They also publish the award-winning SF magazine Interzone and Crimewave.  They use some amazing artists and their magazines and books are incredibly beautiful showcases for speculative fiction.  Andy sent me a scan of the spread art for my story a week ago (a million thanks to David Gentry, the artist), and it rocks.  The story is slated to appear in the August issue.  If you like the looks of that, be sure to visit TTA Press at and you can see more of David’s terrific visions at
I also sold another short story, “Jesus When The Sun Goes Down,” to Carolina Smart’s BEST NEW WEREWOLF TALES, edited for BOTD Press. That story came very fast and naturally, and was a fun trip down memory lane.  It also had to come very fast and naturally because I waited until nearly the submission deadline to write it.

At this year’s World Horror Convention in Austin, I pitched a novel to a couple of indie publishers and there was interest to see samples.  I completed 11K words of Wildfire -- the prologue and six chapters -- and one of the publishers has asked when I can complete the entire book.  I’m shooting for September.  Wildfire is a love letter of sorts to the late Michael Crichton and a blend of very near-future SF, medical thrillers, horror, and hopefully a new take on how zombie-like creatures (us) might refashion the world.  A million thanks to Rhodi Hawk, the talented novelist who ran the pitch sessions at WHC.

I also completed a nearly 20K novella commissioned by Roy Daley at BOTD.  There are a handful of talented writers involved in this book project, which is going to be so much fun once Roy stitches all the interconnected stories together.  I loved writing each tight little action-packed chapter and cramming as much bizarro fun as possible into each one.  It felt a lot like scripting a graphic novel; maybe someday the book can be adapted into that format.  It is worth mentioning that for a small indie press founded in 2009, Books of the Dead Press is rocking along with a number of collections released and something like eight books in the pipe, including beautiful reissues of Gary Brandner's The Howling series.  Best New Zombie Tales Volume 1 (containing a reprint of my story, “Connections”) has sold thousands of copies to date and is still trucking. Check them out at or on Amazon, Smashwords, etc.  Roy Daley is a novelist and drums in a band (High Heels LoFi

So it’s been a busy but amazingly fun spring and summer.  It’s blazing hot here in Tulsa -- we’ve had triple-digit heat for several weeks -- so not great for the flowerbeds and grass, but good for the fiction growing out of my ears.


Friday, May 20, 2011

World Horror Con and Other News

o a long overdue blog post.  It’s been a busy month on many fronts.  My wife and I drove south from Tulsa to attend this year’s World Horror Con in Austin, Texas, a seven-hour drive.  The Mustang got surprisingly good mileage cruising in sixth gear.  We also broke in a new GPS that proved very handy (as long as you program in the location of the correct hotel).

In Austin we met a number of old friends and new ones, including Gary McMahon and John Everson (two terrific writers involved in a book-length project I’m also contributing to), the legendary Peter Straub, Jack Ketchum, Gord Rollo, our old pal John Skipp, who bought my first short story years ago, Scott Edelman, Ian Rogers, the crew from ChiZine books and online magazine, and R.J. Sevin and his wife, Julia, both writers and publishers of Creeping Hemlock Press and the new zombie imprint, Print Is Dead.
I bought too many books (an oxymoron if I ever heard one), including the latest David Nickle novel and the first volume of Joe Hill’s graphic comic series Locke & Key.  We spoke with Joe for a bit and attended a comic book writing panel.  Joe is a very well-read, intelligent, funny guy and a talented writer.  I’m finishing his second novel, Horns.  I highly recommend it.  Here’s a guy who could have cashed in on his father’s name years ago but wisely decided to go it alone under a sort-of pseudonym.  He wrote several books that were rejected everywhere, learned his craft and developed his own voice, and today is turning out terrific stories.

There was a side-splitting edited video shown at the opening of the Mega Zombie author panel on Sunday morning, with great clips from favorite films and several book covers from anthologies containing my stories, which made me smile.

Plus, Scott Edelman warmed up the crowd by hurling glow-in-the-dark zombie finger puppets like Mardi Gras doubloons.  We now have several adorning our bookshelves.

The late-night parties were fun and the many choices of food in downtown Austin kept our bellies full.  The hotel was also hosting about 500 frat boys and their Barbie girlfriends, and their late-night antics kept Scott Edelman entertained throughout his stay.  Thankfully they were not rooming next to us.

While in Austin I took advantage of a unique opportunity to pitch a novel I had been researching and outlining to two independent publishers (many thanks to A Twisted Ladder author Rhodi Hawk for donating her time and energy to run the WHC Pitch sessions).  Both parties asked to see sample chapters, which are nearing completion.  With luck, that project may find a home.

I came away from WHC with the firm impression that there are several independent book publishers out there attracting top existing and new talent, and turning out astoundingly nice books.

Back at the ranch, I had a new story accepted for an upcoming anthology from Apex Books, “Lifeboat” appeared in its Kindle and softcover edition from Apex’s The Zombie Feed imprint, and I received official word that “The Boys in Company Z” will appear in Zombie Kong from writer/editor James Roy Daley’s Books of the Dead Press.  The reprint of "Night of the Living Dead Bingo Women" is out in the Kindle edition of Best New Zombie Tales 3 on Amazon and Smashwords.  I’m also working to complete my novella contribution to another BoTDP project.

Justified season two ended, so I’ve got the time.

Friday, April 15, 2011

"Lifeboat" Excerpt: THE ZOMBIE FEED VOLUME 1

omething clanged against the hull. A moment later a large ugly four-pronged hook landed on the decking a dozen feet from where Jack stood.
It was drawn swiftly back on its chain until it caught on the railing; the crew of the Destiny was preparing to board them.
 Pops of gunfire erupted but it was impossible to tell from where. Men appeared along the Destiny’s open lounge deck, extending makeshift gangplanks. Jack expected them to scramble across, but the men turned and swiftly climbed the narrow metal access ladders up the sides of the ship’s superstructure. Then the big tinted glass doors in the center slid open, and a wave of infected poured out. Within seconds the huge open space was a sea of jostling bodies and blank pale faces.

They were the boarding party."

-- "LIFEBOAT," The Zombie Feed Volume 1 

If you want to

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Don't Make Me Be a Jerk ; )

o the good news: you get to read a new story, and hopefully you’ll enjoy it.  It’s one of the longest stories I’ve sold to date (7,000 words), longer than the average People Weekly article, so you may or not be able to read it in a single sitting if you get my drift.  But here’s the bad news: you really need to buy an e-book version for your Kindle or other reader, or preorder a softcover physical book. 

How many of you have read “Quitters Incorporated” by Stephen King (Nightshift) or “The Monkey’s Paw”? 

Well, here’s the deal.  It’s a tough, heartless world out there for genre writers and independent publishers like Apex Books and their Zombie Feed imprint.  Quality is high (I’m talking about the people they’ve published to date, not me) but it’s an uphill battle to win new readers and make ends meet.  So drastic measures are sometimes justified.

So come one, man, spit it out – yes, yes I will.  It’s just hard, OK?  Like holding a cocked gun on a basket of kittens.

I need all of my friends, family and readers to really consider buying a copy.  If you like what you read, maybe drop a brief review on Amazon for the book?

For everyone who does, I am going to insert you by name as a character right into a new story, novella or novel (and there are plenty under construction in the factory).  I’m offering a small slice of immortality here, people.  Your name in print.  You’ll recall it made Steve Martin pretty damned excited when the phone books were delivered in “The Jerk.”

So what happens if you don’t buy a copy? (And we have our ways of knowing, bwa-haa-haa.)

Well, I’ll put you in a story or novel anyway.  Sure.  But this time I will be forced to make you an evil, reprehensible character.  Probably someone who molests hamsters or steals elderly people’s Social Security checks or never puts the toilet seat down.  Maybe never flushes.  Your name and physical description, natch.

I know, I know, that’s terrible.  Worse than anything Dr. Doom (or Dr. Horrible) has served up.

Sigh.  Please, people, help me here.

Love, Simon

P.S. – Here’s how to buy the e-book today or preorder the physical book; if you order the softcover you get a signed copy.  Bless you all.

The print version is a couple weeks away, but the digital versions are complete and ready for purchase.