Night Owl vs. The Early Worm

I’m trying something new. I’m going to bed early, even though I’m sort of interested in seeing who wins the World Series. I am going to try to write in the morning. I like morning. It’s quiet. Problem is, I like nighttime too. I wish I could sleep in the afternoon . 

Anyway, good night!


NaNoWriMo … Already?!

November is just a couple of days away, and that means it will be time to start up with National Novel Writing Month. This will be the third year I’ve participated. The first year, I was working on my zombie apocalypse novel. The second year, I was still working on my zombie apocalypse novel. Guess what I plan to work on this year … if you took an educated guess and said “your zombie apocalypse novel”, you’d be correct.

In my defense, I spent most of last year’s NaNoWriMo rewriting the story since I decided I wanted to take it in a slightly different direction. I’ve since changed it back to the original story line. Mostly.

Sometimes I wonder if I really want to finish this novel.

Part of my dilemma is that I’m tired of zombies. There. I said it. I never thought I’d get tired of zombies, but after a few years of watching The Walking Dead, reading zombie books, editing zombie books, and writing zombie short stories, I think zombies have lost their charm for me.

But I’m more than 50,000 words into my current story. I’m not that far from having a full-length novel. And I like my three main characters; I created them and now I need to give them a chance to live. Right?

Some days, I want to write juvenile fiction. Other times I think it would be good to write romance novels. Or historical fiction. Or historical nonfiction. Or all of the above?

This NaNoWriMo, I’m going to finish The Valley of the Shadow. I have to. Even if it sucks and nobody reads the finished product, I will finish so I can move on.

Here’s to another month of dedicated writing!



I’m trying something new to me. For my A-Z Blog Challenge, I’m challenging myself to write a young adult story. No promises since work and life keep me pretty busy and I’m the slowest writer I know. Keep in mind this is a work in progress, a first draft, subject to many changes. I’m not looking for critiques, nor am I looking for praise. Read it if you want. Comment or don’t. In any case, I hope you enjoy it.

Continued from previous post/chapter “Beginnings”

I nCever liked the notion that I was somehow special, someone more deserving than others to live. The summer of my eleventh year, I expressed this to my mentor as we cataloged artifacts brought to us by a Traveler.

“If the Author is able to control events, why not save all the baby girls? Why was I saved?” I struggled to keep the anger out of my voice, but I failed.

Brother Phinneas didn’t answer right away. Instead, he rubbed away the dirt that had settled on a broken piece of tile. His efforts uncovered a smooth, white surface etched with swirling lines of blue. The old man set it next to a small but growing pile of tiles of the same design.

Not sure that he heard me, I was about to repeat my question. But then he answered me with a question of his own. “What do you see when you look at this pile of broken tile pieces, Alistair?”

I followed his gaze to the rubble between us. “I see broken tiles that are similar to each other. They look like they were once part of something beautiful … maybe from one of the ruined towers in the south.”

“You have learned well. Indeed, these are from the south. The Traveler carried them all the way from the ruins of London.” Brother Phinneas picked up the small piece of tile he had cleaned moments before. “Suppose all he unearthed was this one small piece. Would we know what it was? That it was part of a larger design?”

I shook my head no.

He lay the tile on the table and placed another from the pile next to it. Then another. He continued to place the tiles until most of them were arranged next to the others. Then he said, “Come. Stand next to me and tell me what you see.”

I rose from my place across from him and stood by his side. Although there were gaps and missing parts, I saw that the delicate blue lines against the white had become the petals of a rose in full bloom. “It’s beautiful,” I whispered.

“It is. If we were to evaluate just one small piece of the broken tile, we would miss the big picture. Oftentimes, Alistair, we are allowed to see only a small piece of the Author’s grand design. The piece on its own makes no sense to our limited view. But in the Author’s time, the full picture will be revealed and we will understand.”

I continued to stare at the wispy blue rose until I felt Brother Phinneas’s calloused hand on my own. His voice was softer than it had been and he sounded a bit sad, which was unusual for him. “I am just a man, dear girl. I don’t have all the answers and cannot see the reasons why things happen they way they do. I just know there is a larger plan though we don’t know what it is.”

I understood what Brother Phinneas said, but it didn’t take away the guilt I felt for being allowed to live when so many others had not. The anger within me grew and without saying so to my mentor, who I was sure would not approve, I longed to make the Hadithites pay for what they had done and were continuing to do to my people.


I’m trying something new to me. For my A-Z Blog Challenge, I’m challenging myself to write a young adult story. No promises since work and life keep me pretty busy and I’m the slowest writer I know. Keep in mind this is a work in progress, a first draft, subject to many changes. I’m not looking for critiques, nor am I looking for praise. Read it if you want. Comment or don’t. In any case, I hope you enjoy it.

Continued from previous post/chapter “Allistair”

BI mentioned that the Brothers found me at the edge of an apple orchard. Whoever left me there must have cared about me, for I was wrapped warmly and placed in a location where the Brothers visited daily. There was nobody nearby when the Brothers found me, no indication of who I was or where I came from.

Brother Phinneas said there was never any question that they would take me in and raise me in the Brotherhood. The recently widowed sister of one of the Brothers moved into the caves with her young children to nurse me and take care of me until I was old enough to start my apprenticeship at the age of five.

The fact that I was a girl was known to only a few of the Brothers. With my name and my shaved head, nobody had reason to think I was anything but a boy. I dressed like the boys who had been taken in as apprentices. I learned to read and write like the boys of the Brotherhood. And I played with them as an equal during our free time.

Even I didn’t know I was different until I began my apprenticeship with Brother Phinneas. He and the Council decided it was time I knew how I came to them and why I must keep my gender a secret. Nobody could find out, lest word got to the villages that a girl child had survived the Purge. The king would offer a large sum of money to anyone who led his warriors to a girl born of a slave.

Late at night, when I lay awake looking into the darkness of my tiny room, I wondered who my parents were. Did they know I lived? Were they still alive? Was it my grieving mother who left me to be found by the Brothers?  Or maybe a midwife whose conscience wouldn’t allow her to follow the king’s orders?

Brother Phinneas told me not to wonder about such things too often. He claimed that no matter who wrapped me up and left me in the orchard, it was the will of the Author of the Book of Life that I be spared.







I’m trying something new to me. For my A-Z Blog Challenge, I’m challenging myself to write a young adult story. No promises since work and life keep me pretty busy and I’m the slowest writer I know. Keep in mind this is a work in progress, a first draft, subject to many changes. I’m not looking for critiques, nor am I looking for praise. Read it if you want. Comment or don’t. In any case, I hope you enjoy it.


That is the name the Brothers gave me when they found me wrapped in lambswool and lying in an old woven-grass basket in the ancient apple orchard at the edge of the forest. Brother Phinneas said it was a name of strength and good character. Defender of men, young Alistair. A fine name for a boy.

I’m a girl.

I am one of the few girls left since the purge placed upon my people. The Purge. The cleansing of all females born to slaves during the rule of King Fendrel. According to the Brothers, he wasn’t the first king to order the murder of an entire generation of baby boys or girls based on a prophecy.

With almost two hundred years’ history as slaves, my people had been waiting a long time for their deliverer—a woman, barely out of childhood, who was to come from the North. She was to free her people and rid the land of the Hadithites. I  often wondered if the prophecy was true. Why hadn’t she come yet? How long must my people suffer?

My people. Who are my people? In truth, I didn’t feel like a part of any people. I was raised with the Brothers and they were the only people I felt connected to. We share the same ancestors, though they are descendants of the Cumbrian Tribe.

The Brothers are the keepers of events—both past and yet to come. With lives dedicated to recording history and foretelling the future, they are among the few in the land who can read and write. And these skills had been taught to their young apprentices since the first fall of civilization.

Feared by the Hadithites because of their ability to bring curses and plagues upon the land, the Brotherhood had been left to their own devices. I never saw any of the Brothers cast out curses or plagues, and when I asked Brother Phinneas about it, his answer was almost as baffling as the idea itself.

“Knowledge, my dear Alistair. Knowledge is magic to the ignorant and power over the weak.” He chuckled quietly as he rolled the parchment he had been working on.

I sealed the writing dye and gave that some thought. “If the Brothers have power through their knowledge, why don’t they take care of the Hadithites themselves instead of waiting for a Northland woman to do it?”

Brother Phinneas was used my questions and never grew angry at what some of the other Brothers called impertinence. “Because it’s been written that a girl will lead the way. We cannot force the hand of the Author of Life. That tactic always ends in catastrophe. History is proof of that.”

“But how do you know the prophecies are true, Brother Phinneas?” I had asked this question before and knew what his answer would be, but I asked again, hoping this time the answer would work some magic and convince me.

The old man rubbed his shaved head, as he was in the habit of doing before saying something he was passionate about. “History, child. The prophecies have always come to pass; why would I doubt those that have yet to be fulfilled?”

I wished I had his faith.

Copyright 2016, Sara A. Jones/ES Oakes

Interview with a Zombie

51aVfDU7BlL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Okay, so he’s not really a zombie, but he did get cast as a zombie for a yet-to-be-released film. He’s also a new writer, whose first book is one all readers of zombie fiction will enjoy. Even those who don’t read zombie fiction might enjoy this story, as it is about more than flesh-eating creatures. Read on to meet P. Mark DeBryan and to learn more about Family Reunion.

First of all, thanks for taking time from your busy schedule to answer my questions.
You are quite welcome, Sara.

Please tell a little about your book, Family Reunion.
Well, the book began its life as a short story. It was created for John O’Brien and published in his book Untold Stories, which was a companion book to his series A NEW WORLD. He then allowed me to extend the story to a full length novel. It begins with our main character, Ryan, stuck on a ferry boat in the Puget Sound when the zombie apocalypse starts. In all honesty, they are not zombies, as they aren’t undead, but they prey on the living as a food source so they get lumped into the zombie genre. The book follows the entire Brant family as they are headed to a long overdue family reunion. Each group is coming from a different location in the USA and their goal is to survive and see if they can’t locate the others in the family. Some are driving, some are flying, and one is even in a luxury motor-coach.

How did you get into writing? Who are your inspirations?
As stated above, it was a contest of sorts; John O’Brien asked his fans to write short story based in his world. As far as inspirations? I would have to say Stephen King introduced me to the post-apocalypse genre, but John O was the one that got me going.

How is Family Reunion different than other zombie stories?
It is about family and the strength the characters get from each other to go on. The hope of reuniting and the different ways the crisis affects each member of the family. They are not trained soldiers, and most are just average people facing a completely devastating situation.

Can you give your readers a little glimpse into what Ryan and his gang of survivors will face in the next book?
Hmm … that would be cheating, but just between you and me, Sara? Ryan sets out with Maddie and Harry and a few others to go look for the ones they left behind at home. They travel in the Marathon Coach, which is a luxury RV with many prepper amenities. The story will follow them and also keep the reader abreast of what is happening back on Whidbey Island and those that stayed on there to begin clearing the place for use as a new freak-free sanctuary. Look for some major twists right off the bat; it should get interesting very quickly.

I know your family has been very supportive of your writing. I also know many of the characters are based on real-life family members. What do they think of being used as zombie-story material?
Some are mad at me for killing them off in the first story, more are mad that I killed their wives, daughters, husbands and such. Minor spoiler coming … my best friend in real life was the first to die. I did it in self- defense. I mean, who in the family can complain when I took out my best friend first, right? When I say they are mad at me, it is an exaggeration. They all are thrilled to be immortalized in the story, or so I tell myself.

Have you ever been a zombie?
As a matter of fact, yes. I just got home from the set of a new movie called My Uncle John is a Zombie. It was written and co-directed by John Russo, who co-wrote the original The Night of the Living Dead. I am a zombie in the movie, and it was a blast to be involved in the film. Several actors from the original movie are also in this one, with many new faces too. Gary Lee Vincent, who plays Oscar in the movie has become a close friend and was instrumental in getting me cast as an extra. My wife, Jonie, is in it also. We had so much fun that we may decide to run off to Hollywood together soon.

Zombified Zombie Author

The movie is a Zom-Comedy, where John Russo’s character from The Night of the Living Dead escapes alive—or I should say not killed again from the sheriff’s wrath in the original—and is rescued by his niece and hid in her basement. She protects him and teaches him to be more selective in who he eats and the whole movie goes insane when he becomes a modern day celebrity.

I am seen wandering while chewing on an unidentified bit of intestine, and then again when I attack another character and end his career. (I will include a picture of me as the “Dude Zombie” for your pleasure.) If you would like to help the movie get distributed, you can help by donating at, as it is an independent film just like us independent authors.

In a real-life zombie apocalypse, how long do you think you’d survive? Do you have a plan?
I have a plan, but I need more slow people to join me, as that is my plan. I don’t really think I would last long, as I have been told I am a sweet guy, and what zombie could resist that?

If you could see one non-zombie TV series get thrown into a zompoc scenario, which would you choose and why?
Hmm, let me think. Oh, I know. Survivor! Could you imagine the hilarity that would ensue as the zombies chase the cute blond girl down the beach, or a horde shows up to the immunity challenge. Oh yeah, that would be good TV there. The tribe has spoken/groaned, it’s time for you to go!

List five things about yourself that your readers probably don’t know.
– I went to seminary for two years to become a Baptist Preacher.
– I had a crepe restaurant when I was seventeen called DeBo’s Place.
– My nickname throughout my Coast Guard career was Breezly.
– The Pirate Parrot was a friend of mine.
– I was an honorary member of Jeff Gordon’s pit crew at his last race in NASCAR … Don’t tell Jeff, somebody might get fired!

Jeff Gordon’s honorary pit crew member.

Visit Mark’s website. He’s got a fun blog going there. Author P. Mark DeBryan

National Novel Writing Month & Me, Part 2

NaNo-2015-Participant-BannerI mentioned in a previous post that I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month. I also mentioned that I am using the time to re-work a novel in progress—one I started over a year ago and put aside as editing jobs and homeschooling and life pulled me away.

I’ve been doing as planned, which is pretty much re-writing it. I’ve removed large chunks of unnecessary text. I added a character. Changed the character. Brought back a character I had decided to cut.

Things are going pretty well.

But I’m having trouble with the whole 50K word count thing. I’m spending a lot of my time deconstructing my story, then reconstructing it into what I’m trying to have it become. It’s hard to keep track of actual “words written” when doing this.

The NaNoWriMo’s 50K word count goal is a great motivator for many, and I include myself in this statement. I didn’t hit the 50K word goal last year and I didn’t mind. I wrote 33,000 words and I was proud of it. It would be an amazing feat for me to make it this year. And if I don’t, I’ll be okay with that too.

It’s not a matter of giving up. It’s a matter of being who I am. I can’t toss words onto a blank screen just for the sake of word count. I’ve heard the advice that writers should just write. Write and don’t worry about fixing it until you finish.

Maybe I’m doing it wrong by writing some, evaluating it, fixing what I don’t like, and then moving on. But for now, it’s a method I’m comfortable with.

I mentioned in my last NaNoWriMo update that I have a title for my book—finally! Since you’ve read this long, I’m going to assume you might be a little interested to know what it is. And even if you skipped most of the above and landed on this paragraph, you may take a peek.

Here you go:

unrest (1)

Cover by The artist offered his/her services for free to NaNoWriMo authors. I’m not sure it will be the final cover since I already have another artist in mind, but I like it.

Here’s a synopsis, which is subject to change:

The world watched the aftermath of strategically placed terrorist attacks with a small amount of relief; it could have been worse. At least, that’s how it seemed. A week later, the world would know differently. With the release of the bombs’ biological agent, the death toll rose. And so did the dead.

In an attempt to keep one step ahead of the unrest, Kate and her niece, Finn, flee to the only sanctuary Kate has ever known: a small town in the mountains north of San Diego.

Their relative safety is put in jeopardy when drought-fueled wildfires spread across southern California, driving the hordes into the valley below. It’s only a matter of time before the dead act on instinct and seek their own shelter on the mountain. And when they do, where will Kate and Finn go? Is any place safe in a world of unrest?

Now it’s back to writing and re-writing. Thanks for reading!