Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Eight Slices with Jeff Strand....Seven Slices with Jeff Strand

At last, and I truly mean that, another blog post.  The original idea for the whole pie thing  was because I wanted the chance to interview writers who pump work out that I enjoy.  Then I'd ask eight questions and I'd call it "Eight Slices with..."  Sometimes my genius is mind-bottling.  (Yes, that was intentional.)

Funny thing is, writers have deadlines and schtuff.  So, doing something steady about that idea has been more of an issue than I'd have imagined.  So at long last, I present my first Eight Slices....


Okay, Seven..."Seven Slices with Jeff Strand."  No pie should ever be cut into seven pieces. I'm too OCD for that.  I'd sent eight questions, and Jeff was kind enough to answer seven.  Let's just leave it at I'm not the brightest bulb in the chandelier.  Hence:  "Seven Slices with Jeff Strand." 

Jeff is the author of a trillion novels, short stories, novellas and whatever the hell else you can write.  Pretty much all of it is awesome.  My daughter's favorite book is The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever, and Pressure is one of mine.  Seriously, it's fantastic. We focused on his novel Wolf Hunt 2.

Without further ado....

1 – Since we’re focusing mostly on Wolf Hunt 2, what about this world and characters motivated you to return to them?  Do you think there are any inherent advantages in the writing process to doing a sequel?  Any disadvantages?

Jeff Strand - About halfway through Wolf Hunt I said, "Wow, I'm really having fun with these characters! I should return to them!" My original plan was to have George and Lou fight different monsters each time (Mummy Hunt, Vampire Hunt, etc.) but I decided to go with a more direct continuation of the first story. The advantages and disadvantages of a sequel are actually the same thing: readers go in with specific expectations. It can be a disadvantage because the reader has already peeked into your bag of tricks, but it can be a huge advantage because you can use those expectations against them! Hahahahaha!

2 – Surprise!  It’s about werewolves.  When you write about a genre trope such as this, how do you keep it fresh?  Is there any comfort with what’s gone before, or, for you, is there a desire to go against the established grain?

JS -With Wolf Hunt, I tried to reinvent the rules about how werewolves work. Ivan can change form whenever he wants, and he can also change part of his body (an arm, for example) if he's so inclined. Things like the full moon, etc. are irrelevant. On the flip side, I'm working on a vampire novel now that plays completely by the traditional monster rules, but in a different kind of story. I think both methods are equally valid.

3 – The ending appears to set up another book in the series.  Is that the intent?  Please tell me it is, or else I’ve wasted a question.  What more in this arena do you want to explore?

JS - Yes, there will definitely be a Wolf Hunt 3. I think that going beyond three books in this series would be pushing it, so it's my duty to make sure that the third and final book is the funniest, most action-packed, and most insane one of the trilogy. Without blabbing any of the plot, I can say that this one is a "siege" book instead of a "chase" book.

4 – The book has some laugh-out-loud moments and lines.  You’ve often written with a humorous tilt to your work.  When writing horror, is it more important for you to go for the scare or the laugh? What would be your ideal balance between humor and horror?

JS - It varies by book. With something like Wolf Hunt, it's more important to go for the scare. With something like, say, A Bad Day For Voodoo, it's more important to go for the laugh. I try to mix things up. There's no "ideal" balance for me except that if I'm under deadline to write a more serious book, I'll be in the mood to write a really goofy comedy, and I'm under deadline to write a really goofy comedy, I'll be in the mood to write a more serious book.

5 – You’ve been anointed lifetime emcee for the Stoker Awards.  I think they have to skip them if you get sick or something.  What has that meant to your career?  How do prepare for such a gig?  Do you ever want to point out that your books are probably better than anything nominated that year?  Who did you want to punch most?

JS - I don't think it's actually meant anything for my career. Feedback is overwhelmingly positive, but in general, people don't care that much about who emcees an awards banquet--they just care who won! Aside from the occasional ad-lib, all of the jokes are written out ahead of time. I don't leave anything open to just winging it. Even in years when I'm emceeing as a nominee, I do not reference my own books, because to do so would be tactless and uncouth. I never wanted to punch anybody, though there was one instance where I did kind of want to tell one presenter to go f**k him or herself. (I didn't, because: tactless and uncouth.)

6 – Writing geek time:  When you’re preparing to write a new novel, what is your process?  Outline or no?  Do you know the ending, the pov or theme, or just wing it?  Is there anything you wish you could do better as a writer?

JS - I only outline if I am contractually obligated to do so. Otherwise, I like to know a few key moments along the way, and have at least a vague sense of the ending. That's in the overall arc; on a day to day basis, I do usually write out a series of bullet points listing what's going to happen over the next few pages. I don't think I'm a master of "place." You know writers where the setting is its own character? Not in my books...

7 – You have a new book that just came out.  Pimp the shit out of it here!  What else is on the horizon for Jeff Strand?

JS - "Just came out" would be more accurate if I had completed these interview questions in a timely manner...but my most recent title is The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever, a wacky comedy from Sourcebooks that you can still find in the Teen Fiction section of your local bookstore. Up next is a more "serious" (though still with plenty of humor) novel called Blister. If you're reading this by June 15th, 2016, the hardcover limited edition is still available for pre-order from Sinister Grin Press. If you're not...well, there's always the second-hand market, and there'll be an e-book and paperback edition, so you can still read it!  

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Dad - Originally written 1/30/09

Dad passed today.  This is from seven years ago, but I don't want to write any more today.

Today, my father turns 67, near as I can figure. Happy birthday, Dad, and thanks.

My father and I are about as different as two people can be. I'm not really sure we're from the same gene pool, and I think the milkman used to leave extra butter, but that's beside the point. He thinks Rush Limbaugh is a flaming liberal, and if I were any more left-wing, I'd be gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Dad pulled himself up from a childhood of poverty and became a financially successful man. I came from a world of relative privledge and now stuggle to make ends meet sometimes.

But I respect no man, like I do my dad. Especially now that I'm a father myself. The "this is how it is, and I know you don't believe me, but I went through the same stuff, too" speeches were true.

Dad left a leg in Vietnam, but never once complained about it. In fact, he called it the best thing that ever happened to him, because it forced the government to pay for his education - vocational school. He bowled, played volleyball and occasionally would play one-on-one with me in the driveway. The one-on-one ended when his prosthesis slipped off and he hit his chin on the wooden leg that remained standing, knocking him out. I so still took it to the hole. I learned that from him, too.

When I was three, I'd steal his leg and make him hop after me. I'd run outside with it, and I believe that's when I became known to the neighborhood as Goddamn Sam.

He used to be a Marine. He became a Marine because when it was time for him to get drafted, the Army, Navy and Air Force sent him recruitment materials. Since the Marines didn't, he joined them.

Stupid jokes are his thing. Puns mostly...elaborate puns. Like half hour stories that end with the punch line of "Pardon me Roy, is that the cat that chewed your new shoes." He apparently has a lot of free time to put these together.

He spent something like eighteen hours in a rice patty, his entire unit dead except for one other survivor. The Viet Cong sat in the jungle, arms aimed the rice patty, but unwilling to move in because of a tank that was behind his vehicle. The tank was disabled, but Dad thinks the enemy didn't know that. He'd been shot in his left arm so it was useless. In his right hand, he spent hours removing the pin from his grenade, determined to take as many out as he could if they came to finish him off. Once he'd removed the pin, he kept his hand on the safety, waiting for hours. If he'd have dozed off, I most likely wouldn't be here.

Enduring all this, he never displayed any signs of PTSD, not that I'd ever seen. He thinks psychology is for pussies. I need therapy if there's pulp in my orange juice.

He's a math genius. He can give square roots off the top of his head. Until I got to college, I thought I'd never be as smart as my dad. I'm not smart like my dad, but I'm as smart as him. And he deserves a lot of credit for that.

I disagree with a lot of things my father did in his life. I think he would, too. But then again, I ain't too happy with a bunch of shit I've pulled. Even with that, he's the finest human being I've ever known. For a Marine to endure the sensitive pansy I could be, and to do with understanding and guidance, it speaks of a far deeper person than one sees on the surface.

I've seen him cry twice: At my brother's funeral, and once after a temper tantrum when I told him I hated him. Sure I was a stupid kid, but to this day, I feel terrible for that.

Happy birthday, Dad. Thanks.