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“Fresh Flesh” Author, Todd Russell, Gets to the Meat of Fantasy/Horror. (Please Pass the Giblets!)

If ‘Revenge’ is a dish best served up cold, then the recipe for great horror  is to make sure you deliver up your entrees when they are still alive! That’s what Todd Russell does in Fresh Flesh, his novel about a beautiful, shipwrecked woman who washes ashore on a mysterious desert island and is saved by a man who is not what he seems.” It’s with great pleasure that I now welcome today’s author-interview subject: Todd Russell.

Todd Russell, author of the horror, psycho-thriller novel, Fresh Flesh.

Todd Russell, Horror Author

Todd, what got you started writing?
I don’t remember specifically what got me started, but I’ve been writing since a very young age. In the fourth grade when I helped the teacher create story starters. They were like writing prompts on steroids.

How would you define your genre, and what do you find most compelling and challenging about writing in it?
I’m a cross-genre writer. Horror is my base, but I also love stories that would fit in with the old Twilight Zone and Night Gallery shows. I’ve been told by some readers that I write psychological thrillers, so I’ve used that to describe some of my work. I enjoy reading and writing stories with characters readers can connect with, care about, root for and against. I also like a good dose of action, rather than stories that take too long to get to the good stuff.

It can be challenging at times working with a pesky first novel draft because I often have many concurrent story lines that intersect with a central theme. Sometimes the connections aren’t clear even to me until I’ve gone through several drafts. I suppose if I used outlines more often, I’d save myself some rewriting effort, but I love experiencing the organic evolution of a story.

Where does your inspiration come from? And what’s your writing process?
A lot of things in life inspire me. Anything that creates a strong emotion in me—positive or negative—could inspire a current, future or past story.

My workflow these days is I get up and write a short story. After that’s done, I’ll do some general housekeeping and then, if there’s time, move onto my novel work-in-progress until lunch time. If I can get in 1,000 or more words, great, but I don’t have a specific word count goal. After that, I will often shift gears and do rewriting and polishing of future works, write blog posts, hit the various online groups and boards. If I feel like I’m not getting anywhere productive, I will go read. I try to spend almost as much time reading as writing new material every day.

Cover image for Fresh Flesh

Fresh Flesh Cover.

In August 2011 I started writing a short story every day (minimum 250 words). As of this writing I’ve written 101 stories over 100 consecutive days. In November, I wrote over 50,000 words in the first draft of my second Fresh series book. Although I won’t know how much of that first draft is good until after it’s done, settled awhile, and I come back to it, November was a productive month. It would be awesome if I could get into that sort of rhythm at least six months out of each year, but my 2012 goal is to have at least three months like that.

When did you know you were going to be a writer? Was there a specific incident or triggering incident? And if so, what was it?
See #1.

Balzac had a simple method for staying focused and churning out copy: He chained himself to his desk and consumed endless cups of coffee? What’s your technique?
I drink tea. I use the same teabag for each full workday and refill as needed.

How long does it normally take you to write a book? Tell us about your books in print and any current projects. What are they about and where did the inspiration come from?
I log the times and dates for the first drafts of my novels. The first draft of Fresh Flesh took about three months which has been about the average for all my novels to date. Then, throw in a month of settle time and a month or two of rewrites and back and forth with the editor. I’d say the whole process takes around six months of actual time. I could probably squeeze that into four months in a pinch. Someday it would be cool to try and complete a novel in 30 days. Write the first draft in a week, let it settle for a few days and start rewriting, get it to an editor week #3 and back to polish week #4 and have it proofed, formatted and published before the end of the month. It sounds like a crazy, fun challenge.

My first book is Mental Shrillness, a collection of ten short stories. Nine of the ten are flash fiction and the last “The Illusion” is 7,200+ words. The stories all deal with some type of mental condition and come with author’s notes. They were written and posted to writing contests at keyword: novel at AOL in the mid to late 1990s.

My second book is a psychological thriller, horror novel entitled Fresh Flesh about a woman who shipwrecks on a mysterious island with a man who is not what he seems. It is the first book in the Fresh series. I have titles for several more books in the series and have the first draft of Fresh #2 about two thirds done.

Third came Flash O’Lantern: 13+ Stories, a young adult short story ebook-only release, which contains fourteen Halloween-oriented flash fiction stories all written and posted to online writing contests after August 2011 as part of an ongoing story streak. All of the stories in the collection were first-place winners. There is a code in the book that leads to two other stories on my website also written during the same era.

What is the biggest challenge you faced, in writing Fresh Flesh?
I don’t remember any challenge writing the first draft. During rewriting some scenes needed more detailed research, but I enjoy that part of writing.

Do you have a favorite passage from your book? If so, would you share it with us here and tell us what is it about it that has such special significance for you?
I have several favorite passages. Rather than trying to pick a single one, let me encourage readers to follow me on Kindle.Amazon.com. I highlight and make notes on all my books there.

What writers have influenced you the most in your writing career and in developing your writing style? What, specifically was it about them that captured your attention and imagination?
Poe, Lovecraft, King, Robert McCammon, Bradbury, Serling and a bunch of other writers. Serling, who is best known for his Twilight Zone work was a master of the character portrait. He was able to draw poignant character using few words. Ray Bradbury’s description powers are matched by only a small few. King? What can’t King do? Robert McCammon instills hope in even his darkest fiction, which is a delightful ingredient for any writer. Lovecraft? He made you fear the things you couldn’t see. I dig that kind of horror. The kind that lurks around the corner, under the bed, inside the wall, closet and darkness outside. Poe would take you on a guided tour of horrors, often with breathless! dialogue! skills! I will never tire of reading great stories like The Tell-Tale Heart.

Why did you choose to take the Indie route in publishing your books? How satisfying has it been so far? And what lessons have you learned about indie publishing that you’d like to share with others?
I don’t feel like I’ve chosen one path over another. Assuming the deal is right, I’m open to all forms of publishing, including republishing my existing work with a small press or traditional publisher someday. I still have a literary agent and interested in traditional publishing alongside other forms of publishing, so I will continue to pursue that option with some future novels.

I’m still learning about indie publishing. It has been very satisfying learning process. If I could go back and start over in March 2011, I’d spend more time working on new material. I wasted several months figuring out technical publishing stuff when I should have been writing new material. I’m fortunate to have a few already written novels I can put out and I would like to stay a couple novels ahead. This way I’m always working on a new first draft, have another book being rewritten and another that is ready to be released and making the rounds with advanced review copies. Since August I’ve been more focused on writing new material and feel like this will benefit me in 2012 and beyond. The hopper is being filled 🙂

What book-marketing efforts have you found to be most effective?
I agree with those saying the single best marketing you can do is write the next book. With each new book, I’m seeing an overall improvement. So work on getting more good books out there. That’s my #1 marketing plan: write and publish more good books.

One of the best things I’ve done so far has been a local, in-person book signing. I paid $10 for a booth at a bazaar and sold autographed books for two days to complete strangers passing through. I had a screensaver on my laptop setup with my book covers and answered questions about the books. I gave away these cool mini-bookmarks with Fresh Flesh to those who bought books in person. I’m going to do a limited run of those bookmarks with each new novel in paperback. I am looking for other opportunities to get out there and press the flesh, pardon the pun.

I have tried and enjoyed a book tour (lots of work, good exposure), Twitter (better results if you follow people interested in your genre). I’ve had some success with targeted messageboards and related genre communities.

What valuable lessons have you learned about self-publishing that you’d care to share with other writers?
Make sure your books are edited and clean. Use multiple third parties to proofread your work after you’ve formatted because no single person can catch all the errors. Mercilessly weed out errors that will throw readers out of your story. Work hard to have the cleanest book possible. This way readers and reviewers will focus on the story, not on misspellings, grammar, punctuation and irritating formatting. If you find mistakes in the ebook version, by all means fix them ASAP, yes, even after it’s already published. This will prevent future readers from seeing them. Respect readers by giving them the most polished reading experience possible.

What is it that you want most readers to get out of reading your books? What do they tell you about their experience?
I’d like them to get embroiled in the story, feel the emotions of the characters and be surprised by the plot twists. At the end, I want the story to resonate in their minds and for them to look back and think, “That was fun, engaging and creative, let’s do it again.” And then seek out another book by me and recommend the book they just read to everybody they know as an entertaining read.

What’s the next major project you have coming down the pike?”
My next novel will be announced in December. It is a standalone novel. I have some more work to do on it before a publishing date can be determined. I’m curious to see what others think of the cover art and description. In April I’m considering trying my first Script Frenzy. I’ve been thinking about adapting one of my novels as a screenplay.

Thank you very much for the interview, Jon.

Thank you, Todd! Great interview.

Here are links to connect with Todd online and to purchase an ebook version of Fresh Flesh.

Amazon Kindle

Barnes & Noble Nook


Todd’s Website

Todd’s RSS Blog Feed


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Filed under Author Interview, Horror/Fantasy, New Releases

Meet Historical Romance Author Lynn Hubbard

Chase The Moon book cover

Chase The Moon by Lynn Hubbard. Now on sale at Amazon.com

Way back in the 19th century, when buffalo and cowboys still roamed the plains, when bare-chested men and petticoat-bound women looked to each other for love and passion, very few people were taking notes … or keeping score.

Enter author Lynn Hubbard. Lynn brings those bygone days of white-hot passion, snappy dialogue and humorous circumstances back to life in a series of historical romance novels. She released her latest (and fourth) novel,  Chase the Moon, on September 25th. It is now available for sale on Amazon.

(Ladies, you best have a fan handy to shield your blushing cheeks from pryin’ eyes and to keep you from swooning from all the excitement. A little smellin’ salts wouldn’t hurt, either.)

Now, before you click on the book cover above to scarf up your own copy of Lynn’s newest book, I suggest you set a spell as we interview the very gal whose moving words bring the old west back to life with such gusto!   

 Lynn, what got you started writing historical romance novels?

I didn’t really pick romance, it just happened. I Love History and wanted to make it more colorful.

What do you find most compelling about this particular genre, or, in other words, why didn’t you choose to set your books in the present or the future?

My books always start with a character and I build a world around them. I do not always write westerns, my YA is set in Ohio in 1959 and I’m currently working on novel set in 1776. Great year!

What’s your writing process and how long, on average, does it take you to write a book?

I can’t write on a schedule. I have to be inspired, It takes me about a year to write a book. Of course that is while I was working full time, and running my publishing co.

Who are your core readers? Could you tell us a little bit about them and what they find most appealing about your books?

My fans love my books for the escapism. I take them into another time, a nice break from reality. Kind of like a refreshing vacation. In fact, so many of them fell in love with Chase’s bit part in RITW they begged me to write a sequel.

Your latest novel, Chase the Moon, is set in late 1800s Mississippi. How did you research the book and what made you pick that particular setting?

Chase the Moon is a follow up to my book Run into the Wind. Poor Chase had no other choice than to travel to Mississippi, Sabrina would have killed him if he hadn’t. I live in the south, I LOVE the south, it is so RICH in history. Every road, every building tells a tale. I did most of my research online. It is difficult writing about the past. Even if you visit there today, it is not going to be the same visually as it was back then.

What were your biggest challenges in writing Chase the Moon?

It is much, much harder to write a sequel than an original book. You have to make sure everything is the same as in the first book. I work with many characters and develop a background story for each of them. To make them real. Therefore, I was constantly rechecking eye color, horse’s names, attitudes, etc., to make sure they were consistent.

Do you have a special passage from the book? What makes it special for you and would you please share it with us here?

I have a twisted sense of humor and like to instill that on my poor characters. This is one of my favorite scenes.

Chase was somewhere between consciousness and sleep. His eyes drifted shut as he finally relaxed to the swaying sensation of the train. After all the travel and bustling about it was nice to finally unwind.

His peace was interrupted by a droning sound. The resonance could be heard over and over again above the clank of the wheels. Ever alert, he slowly lifted an eyelid. He gazed around the car to see if anyone else had heard the odd noises coming from the doorway. They had not. Aggravated not a soul seemed to notice the eerie sounds he climbed sleepily to his feet and opened up the inner door. Grabbing the swaying wall for support he stepped up to the outer door.

He was startled to find a white, ghastly face peering in through the small square window. An eerie howl arose from its mouth and a chill stole through him. The whipping hair reminded him of a childhood legend his mother used to tell him about: It was a banshee. Had he angered the Gods somehow?

An amazingly human like hand smacked the glass in front of him and he quickly wiped the sleep from his eyes. Taking a brave step forward he unlatched the door and the beast was upon him. He instinctively grabbed it and wrestled it to the ground as his family scrabbled over to see the disturbance.

“Are you insane?” It screeched in an unearthly voice. Chase felt a sudden pain in his ear as his mother quickly summed up the situation and twisted. With a yowl, he was forced off the creature so that his ear would remain intact. He watched in slow motion as Thomas and Jaelyn hurried over to help it up to its feet.

What writers have influenced you the most in your career?

If I had to pick a writer, It would be Kennesaw Taylor. Kennesaw is always running at full speed and encouraging me to get out there and write, write, write. He writes non-fiction as do many of my other writer friends.

What made you decide to go the “indie” route in publishing your work?

LOL! Good question, I never spent much time trying to break into the “Publishing World”. I did some research and sent out 4-5 queries to agents. All of which came back saying, “We are no longer accepting new clients.” So I first self published through one of the free automated services. Then I ran across a book called Aiming for Amazon by Aaron Shepard and it changed my life and my entire view of the publishing world. It had instructions on how to make your own PUBLISHING COMPANY. So I did, and Lemon Press was born.

What book marketing endeavors have you found to be the most successful?

I am totally obsessed with bookmarks. Online it would have to be ads at Night Owl Reviews, they have a large following and are always very supportive to indies. Of course I love my local bookstores who carry my books and encourage me (The Bookworm and The Bookshelter)

What valuable lessons have you learned about book marketing that you could share with other writers?

Free will only get you so far. I read somewhere that writing the book is 10%, editing the book is 30% and marketing the book is 60%. My favorite freebie is free book giveaways at Goodreads I have two of mine currently listed.

What haven’t I asked you about that you’d like to share?

I just wanted to say that this has been an amazing ride so far and I look forward to choosing my own path for the future!

Thank you for visiting and letting us get to know you better!

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Filed under Historical Romance, New Releases

The Pinacle of ‘Shameless Self Promotion’

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...

Cover via Amazon

9 Reasons Why I Think You Should Put My New Novelette at the Top of Your Summer Reading List

I don’t think ‘shameless self-promotions’ could possibly get any worse than this! But, so be it. (Mea culpa!). Some things simply need to be said. And so, lacking a huge PR apparatus to do this for me, I’m going to tell you why I think you should put my ebook novelette, The Last Way Station: Hitler‘s Final Journey, at the top of your summer reading list.

My nine reasons:

  1. My book is, if anything, unusual. It’s subject is nothing less than a speculative look at the final judgment Hitler receives in the hereafter for his vast and horrific crimes.
  2. The book raises many moral questions about the cause, psychology and nature of evil and such evil-doers as Hitler and the recently killed Osama bin Ladin.
  3. It examines the issue of “moral relativism” – the way deeply depraved, ingrained and institutionalized evil, such as Hitler’s, influences what I’ll call the “moral continuum” we live in. (Consider it analogous to the way gravity bends the physical space-time continuum.)
  4. I based the book on historically accurate information about Hitler, so you may learn something new and interesting about him.
  5. It provides a good, quick read. A colleague of mine at authonomy.com characterized the writing as “flawless,” no doubt a bit of hyperbole, but I think it moves quickly and reads smoothly.
  6. The book is short (only 13,000 words) so you can read it at one sitting.
  7. It’s cheap ($0.99) and available at either Amazon.com (in Kindle/mobi format) or at Smashwords.com in all popular ebook formats.  (Even if you don’t own an e-reader, you can download FREE ebook reader software at Amazon that will let you read the book on your PC or MAC (links are available on every book page, on the right-hand side).
  8. The book has a bit of a surprise ending. And, last but not least,
  9. It provides a wealth of material for lively book discussions! And isn’t that a big part of the enjoyment we get from reading interesting books?

You’ll find an extensive preview of the book right here, on my blog. (Just click the moving icon of its cover on your right!)

Thanks for putting up with my shameless behavior. I couldn’t help myself, because I deeply believe I’ve written something worthy of your consideration. (If it turns out I’m wrong, you can lodge your complaints in the comment section below, but please read the book first!)

Thanks for listening. Now, I’m going to purchase a hair shirt and start flogging myself mercilessly! (Ugh!)

© Jonathan S. Reisfeld and Write @ You!, 2011. (See full statement in footer.)


Filed under General, Historical Fiction, Historicl Fiction, Online book promotion, Uncategorized