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Another Audible Teaser

For you audiophiles out there, be aware that Caldera 3 could be released by Audible any day now. I pushed the button and it’s in their hands. I can also tell you that Johnny Mack is constantly honing his skills as a narrator and continues to perfect his craft. I think you’ll be pretty pleased with this one.

Since C3 is soon to be released, I’ll be running a promo for Caldera 2 on AudioBook Boom. Those of you who are interested in swapping a free audio code for a review, you might look for C2 to show up next week on their site.

That is all for now.
Carry on.

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Unfinished Business

I think I’m nuts.

I mean, I know I am. Or maybe just a tad ADHD? Either way, I’ve got all of these stories bouncing around in my head and some of them just SCREAM to be released. Others just repeat on a loop until I either use it somewhere or find a way to burn it out of my grey matter. Like a lot of writers, I have more ideas than I have time to actually write them. I could probably fill a library if I could write them as fast as I think them up.

Some ideas, I start…then lose interest. They’ll sit on my hard drive and wait…sometimes patiently, sometimes not so patiently. Hence the Hunter trilogy. That was an idea that refused to go away until I started it. Then it took on a life of it’s own and went a completely different direction than I intended. The three people who read it really seem to have enjoyed it.

Some of those ideas are just scenes and they sit around and eventually get used in one of my series stories or sometimes I can figure out a neat little ending and make it a short. One of my favorites is Gangsters. That idea bounced around in my noodle for a VERY long time until I penned it.

Others…just sit. Unfinished.
And they sit.
And sit.
And…sit.

So I had this thunk. How about if I share some of them on my blog. It would give me something to write about other than, ‘hey, this new book is coming out’ or ‘hey, this book is now available as an audible’ or worse….’hey, I really need reviews’ (I really hate asking for those).

So, what are your thoughts? Would you be interested in reading the unfinished thoughts and ideas that I’ve had? What if I start you off with a short that I really enjoyed finally getting out of my noodle? It’s one of my favorites and I’ve even placed it in an anthology or two.

Let me introduce you to the world of Gangsters…

GANGSTERS

The torrential downpour had petered out and was now nothing more than a fine drizzle.  Anyplace else and the rain would have brought a cleansing, a freshness – that clean smell that only a good hard rain can bring.  But here, deep in the city, the rain left the sewers near capacity, the trash steeping in a cold stew of filth and rot and alleyways overflowing with the detritus from a thousand unnamed origins that can only be found deep in the heart of a true metropolis.
The door above the small diner dinged as the two men entered and shook off their rain overcoats.  They hung their matching fedoras on the hat rack and carefully hung the lamb’s wool coats under them.  Looking about the near empty diner, the two men turned to their right and took the nearest booth to the door.
“It’s been so long since we’ve been down here.” The slightly taller, blonde man said as he reached for the greasy menu. “Do you think they have pie?”
“They always have pie.  Even at this hour.” The darker haired man waved to the waitress and she slipped out from behind the counter, coffee pot in hand.
“It was pouring cats and dogs just a minute ago.  I bet you boys are chilled to the bone.” She flipped over their coffee cups and placed them back on the saucers, pouring the hot coffee as she spoke. “You boys hungry or just come in to warm yourselves?”
The blonde man looked up, his face childlike.  “I could eat three of everything.  I’m so hungry.”
The darker haired man gave her a wan smile and shook his head.  “I’ll just have coffee.  He probably could eat three of everything.  He’s a bottomless pit.”
The waitress popped her gum as she pulled the pad from her apron.  “So what’ll it be, sweetie?”
The blonde haired man looked to his partner.  “May I?”
The other man glanced at his watch then peered out the window.  “Nothing too heavy. Lou will be here any minute and you know how he gets.”
The blonde man beamed as he pointed to the different pictures on the menu.  “This one, and this one…and this one.  Oh, and pie.  Lots of pie.”
The waitress looked at him as though he might have a screw loose.  She glanced at the darker haired man.  “Is your friend all there?”
He chuckled lightly and nodded.  “Yes, ma’am.  Don’t worry.  He’ll eat it all.  And probably want more.”
She shrugged and wrote the orders down on her pad.  “Your funeral honey. You want your toast buttered?”
“Please!” The blonde man nodded enthusiastically.
“Of course you do.” She made note then turned and slipped the order to the cook.
“Gabe, I know you’re excited to be here, but seriously, you act like it’s your first time.  You know the food’s better at the Penthouse. The boss has it catered in all the time and…”
“Mike, this is real food.  Not that fancy stuff.  This is…home.” Gabe picked up his cup of coffee and inhaled deeply.  “Ahh.  See what I mean?  This is just coffee.  Nothing fancy, nothing else added.  Just coffee.” He took a sip and let the liquid roll around on his tongue.  “And good heavens, it’s nasty.  I love this stuff!”
Mike laughed at his friend as he sucked down another drink and grimaced.  “Just stay on your toes, okay?  The boss doesn’t know we’re here and…well, I want to keep it that way.”
“I know.  I’m not stupid.” Gabe carefully set the cup down and gazed at his partner.  “This is dangerous, Mike.  If Lou rats us out to the boss…”
“Or to Junior.  He may not be completely in charge yet, but the boss is grooming him to take his place.  It won’t be too much longer now.” Mike sat back in the booth and shook his head.  “The kid is good, don’t get me wrong.  Sometimes a little too good.  But he’s not the boss.  He’s got a long way to go before he can run an operation like ours.”
Gabe hooked his chin toward the window.  “We’re about to have company.”
Mike twisted in his seat and saw three men head toward the door of the diner.  “Damn it.  I told him to come alone.  If they were followed…”
The door chimed and the three stepped inside, shaking off their umbrellas.  The two henchmen immediately turned and took a seat at the counter leaving their boss at the door.
Lou considered hanging his coat but truly didn’t think that this meeting would take long. He peered at the two men who were once like brothers to him, but now were nearly mortal enemies. He sighed heavily and heaved the heavy coat from his shoulders.  “In for a penny…” he mumbled.
Gabe brightened considerably when Lou slipped in next to Mike.  “It’s so good to see you again.  I was afraid you wouldn’t show.”
“Believe me, I thought about it.” He cast a knowing glance toward Mike.
“I told you to come alone.” Mike’s voice was low but even.
“Why?  So you two could shank me and drag me to the boss as a prize? Hardly.” Lou snorted and shifted in his seat.  “What the hell do you two want, anyway?”
“We want to…” Gabe began.
“Were you followed?” Mike interrupted.
Lou gave him a dumbfounded stare.  “Do you think I’m new to this game, Michael?  Do you think I just fell off the frickin’ turnip truck?  Nothing happens in this city without my knowing it.  And I don’t get followed without my knowing it.  That’s what those two knuckleheads are for.”
Mike inhaled deeply and calmed himself.  “Very well.” He glanced out the window of the diner once more then turned slightly in the booth so that he could see Lou better.  Slowly a smile crossed his face.  “Gabe’s right.  It is good to see you again.”
Lou softened somewhat and allowed himself a brief warm, fuzzy.  “Yeah, yeah.  So, let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we?  What did you two risk everything for?  You know the old man is going to have a coronary when he finds out that you broke ranks and came knocking.”
Mike nodded knowingly.  “That’s what we wanted to talk to you about.” He glanced at Gabe who nodded him on. “We want you to come back, Lou.  Come back with us.”
“You know I can’t go back.  The old man banned me from the Penthouse.  If I go anywhere near that place, Security would be on me like ugly on an ape.”
“Not if you took your old job back.” Mike looked at him expectantly.  “If you’d just apologize to the boss.  Tell him you were sorry.  That you were wrong…”
“Oh, hell no!” Lou’s voice rose and his body guards turned to see what was wrong.  Gabe raised his hands to them and got them to settle down.  “I’m not apologizing for something I didn’t do.”
“But Lou, you did do it.  You went against the old man.  Nobody goes against the boss.  You know that.” Mike met his eyes and pleaded.  “Please, Lou.  Junior doesn’t have what it takes to run this place and…”
“And that’s another damned thing.  As soon as I’m booted, he promotes Junior to come in and take my job?  That’s bullshit and you know it.  That kid couldn’t run a popsicle stand in the desert and now he’s going to be in charge of the whole operation?  The import/export?  The security?  The defense contracts?  The protection rackets?” Lou huffed and crossed his arms.  “That’s a fuckin’ insult. I’m better off running my own businesses.”
“But the war, Lou.  It has to stop.  Too many of our friends…they were your friends too.  Once.” Gabe looked to the man and was about to say something else when the waitress returned carrying a stack of large plates.
“Okay sweetie.  Here’s enough food to choke a platoon of soldiers.” She started stacking the plates around Gabe.
“Holy smokes, Marge.  Is all this for us?” Lou gave her a wolfish grin.
“Lou, you sly devil.” She gave him a wink and bumped him with her hip.  “No, this is all for that skinny little fella.  Apparently he has a hollow leg.”
Gabe smiled as he poured hot syrup over the stack of flapjacks.  “I’ve waited so long for this.”
“Lou, you hardly come around anymore.  What? Our cooking ain’t good enough for ya anymore?”
“Sorry, babe.  I’ve been busy with some stuff on the docks.  I’ll be back by soon.  I promise.”  He gave her a wink and a squeeze before she slipped away from the booth.
Mike tried to ignore Gabe as he all but inhaled the different foods.  “Look, Lou, now that the war is over overseas, we need to end the war between you and the boss.  The only way to do that is if you two make up.  And you know what that’s going to take.”
Lou shook his head.  “Sorry buddy.  That just ain’t gonna happen.  I happen to like our current setup.” Lou leaned back in the booth and stared at the dark haired man.  “Besides, the old man?  He’d never believe a word I said.  Even if I came back and told him what he wanted to hear, he’d never…”
“You’re right.  You’d have to mean it.  He’d know it if you meant it.” Mike picked up the coffee and took a swig.  “Look, Lou, it’s 1946.  This isn’t the stone age.  Things are changing. The war is over, the boys are still streaming home.  Things are really about to start changing.”
“You’re telling me!” Lou grabbed his coffee and took a large drink.  “Do you really think I’d rather be a little fish in the organization, or the big fish in my own? Pfft. Easy decision, Mike. What’s the old expression?  I’d rather rule in hell then be a streetsweeper in heaven?”
“But that’s just it, Lou, you wouldn’t be the bottom of the barrel.  You’d have your old job back. You’d be his right hand man.  If he’s grooming Junior, then surely he’d groom you to take over.  I mean, come on, everybody knows you’re more capable. You’re a leader for cryin’ out loud.”
“But I ain’t his kid.” Lou’s steady gaze pierced him.
“No, but you’re his favorite.  Always was and always will be.  Damn it, Lou.  You broke his heart when you turned against him.  Against…all of us.  We all looked up to you.”
“That’s your problem Mike, not mine.” Lou sipped his coffee again and watched absently as Gabe continued to eat.  “Where the hell are you putting all of that?  Don’t you ever feed him?”
“Ignore him.” Mike grabbed Lou’s sleeve.  “Listen to me, please.  Lou, bad things are coming your way. I’ve seen it.” He paused and turned away.  “I mean, I’ve seen the plans.”
“I know what you meant.” Lou continued to watch Gabe.  “I’m sure the old man has some big bounty on my head and is about to hire…”
“No.” Mike’s voice was barely a whisper, but it was enough to interrupt him.  “He’s planning to take out you and all of your guys.  Lou…it’s going to be a blood bath.”
Lou smiled at Mike and shook his head.  “A regular apocalypse, eh, Mikey?”
Mike’s eyes grew wide.  “You know?”
“Know?  For crying out loud, Mike.  Any asshole with a Bible knows what the old man has in store for me.  I can read as well as these hairless apes.”
“Then…why won’t you just come back to the Penthouse and…”
“Because my future is already laid out, Michael.  I can’t, remember?  It is written.”
“That’s not…no.  No. I refuse to believe that.  It may be written, but it isn’t etched in stone.  The future has yet to happen.  You can change it.” He turned to Gabe.  “Tell him.”
Gabe looked up and cracked a grin, a sausage link hanging from his mouth.  “He’s right.” He said with muffled words.  “I looked it up.”
“See, Gabe looked it up.  Until the die is cast, you can change your lot.”
Lou shook his head.  “Mike, I could no more apologize to Him for choosing the hairless apes over us than I could unfall from Grace.”
“But you can.  He can forgive all things.  That, too, is written.”
Lou sighed and sucked down the rest of his coffee.  “I’m afraid you boys are barking up the wrong tree.  I just can’t do it.”
Lou slid from the booth and started to stand but Mike reached out and grabbed his arm.  “Wait.  I need to show you something.”
Lou sat back down, but his face registered the resignation he felt.  “You’re not going to change my mind.”
“But what if one of the casualties in this war ends up being you, brother?” Michael’s eyes pleaded with him.
“Then so be it. It’s the price I’ll pay for not bowing to the hairless apes.” Satan calmed himself by blowing out a long breath then leaned in closer. “Besides, I couldn’t get back in the Penthouse to apologize to him even if I wanted to.”
“We can escort you there!” Gabe interjected excitedly.  “That’s why we both came. With an archangel at each side, we can slip you right through the gates.”
Satan stared at him and then Michael, who nodded, verifying Gabe’s story. He pushed back and leaned hard in his seat. “Sorry fellas. I just don’t have it in me to go back and scrabble at the old man’s feet.  Can you imagine me begging?” He snorted a laugh and shook his head. “It just ain’t gonna happen.”
Michael reached inside his coat and pulled out a folder.  “I took this.  I thought you might want to see it.”
Lou took it and broke the seal across the sides.  Top Secret-Angelic Eyes Only was stamped across the front. He browsed through the pages and a smile slowly formed on his face.  Mike shook his head. “What?  Why are you smiling?  Lou…they’re going to give them their own land.  In just a few short months, they’ll have their homeland back.”
Lou leaned his head back and laughed.  A deep, dark, throaty laugh.  Mike looked to Gabe who only shrugged.  Lou wiped at his eyes and closed the folder, sliding it back across the table to his brother.  “You don’t get it do you?”
Mike shook his head. “No.  I thought that this would upset you.  You went to such pains to have them killed during the war.  Trying to annihilate them all.”
“This is a sign, brother.  One of the seals.  The ‘chosen people’ will get their homeland back.” Lucifer laughed again and tapped his coffee cup for a refill.  Marge slipped in and refilled all of their cups, then slipped back out.
“Please explain to me what you mean.” Mike gripped the folder tightly in his hands.
“This is one of the seals.  A sign of the end times.  In less than a hundred years, the old man and I will have it out for good.  The Apocalypse.” He smiled at the two angels sitting across from him.
Mike shook his head again.  “But that’s a bad thing, Lou.  You lose, remember?”
“Bullshit.  That’s all a propaganda campaign.” He waved off his concern as he sipped his coffee.  “The old man knows he can’t win so he ‘wrote the ending’ himself and called it prophecy.”
“Wait…how can you believe in all of the other prophecy but not that one?” Gabe asked, pushing his plate away.
“Because, I have my own prophets.  And they see a different outcome.  Instead of Junior running the show for a thousand years, I get both the rock, the Penthouse and dominion over the hairless apes for a millennia.” Lou gave them a wicked smile.  “Now do you see why I’d never go back?”
“But, Lou…that’s not how it works.” Gabe pleaded, his eyes on the verge of tears.
“That’s what the boss told you.  But I know better.”
“You really think you can win this war?” Mike asked, his hand slipping into his jacket and brushing the hilt of his sword.
Lucifer’s eyes narrowed as he stared at his brother.  “Remember who you’re speaking to.  I trained you, Michael.  Archangel. Warrior messenger of the Most High.  Remember who taught you how to wield that weapon.”
Mike stared at him a moment longer before Gabe’s foot shot out and connected with his shin.  “This isn’t why we’re here, remember?”
Mike blew out the breath he had been holding and released the handle.  “We only wanted to bring you home.”
“Of course you did.” Lou scooted to the edge again and stood.  He pulled a wallet from his jacket and dropped a pile of bills on the table. He paused for a moment then leaned across the table.  “Just for the record boys, this is how things are going to go.  You two are going to return home and keep your mouths shut.  I’m going to go about my business and the boss is going to let the hairless apes give the Jews back their homeland.  Then I’m going to turn everybody in the world against them.  Not just the Nazis, but every stinking body.
Their neighbors will constantly attack them and attempt to drive them into the sea.  The rest of the world will blame them for being attacked.  Even this road-bump-in-the-history-books country will eventually turn her back on them.  The ‘chosen’ ones…will vanish.  And the boss will have no more reason to choose the hairless apes over his most divine creations.” Lou turned and reached for his coat.  “Thanks for the coffee.” He slipped his coat on and snapped his fingers, alerting the two body guards it was time to go back to work.  “And guys? It was good seeing you again, too.”
Gabe continued to sit at the booth, picking at the remains of the food.  Although he had eaten most of the food delivered, he had lost his appetite when Lou revealed to them the future.  When Marge delivered the pies, he sent all of them back.  Well, except the pecan.  He forced himself to enjoy some of that one.
Mike sat across from him and sipped at the bitter liquid that the hairless apes seemed to love so much.  Watching Gabe devour the human food made his own stomach curdle.  “I’m feeling angry.”
“That’s totally understandable.” Gabe shoved another piece of pie into his mouth.  “Considering the circumstances, I think it would be expected.”
“Why wouldn’t he listen?”
“I think he did listen, he just didn’t care.” Gabe hung his fork over the pie and let it drop, sinking the tines halfway into the ooey-gooey center. “Face it, brother.  He’s too far gone.”
Mike’s eyes shot up and stared at him.  “Do not say that.”
“Why not?  It’s obviously true.  Satan no longer cares.  He’s no longer the Lucifer.  He’s not the light bearer any longer and he doesn’t want to be.”
“But he could be.” Michael sighed and slowly turned his coffee cup absently, his mind racing.  “He just needs to remember what it was like.”
Gabriel leaned back in his seat and shook his head. “He’s been away from the grace too long. I fear the glory would kill him.”
“He’s just bitter.” Michael pushed his coffee away and stared out the window. “Father chose Man over us and Satan can’t forgive that.”
“He had a point though.” Gabriel kept his voice low, his eyes averted. “Father should have chosen us first. We were His first creation. We were His long before He ever experimented with these humans.”
“He gave them free will for a reason.” Michael’s voice took on an edge that caused Gabriel to shrink. “That’s something we were never given.”
Gabriel finally sat up and glared at Michael. “Truly? Then why are we here now? Defying Father’s order and speaking to him, trying to get him to come home?”
“That’s for his own good and for the good of all of mankind. Nobody wants what is coming.”
“But you chose to come here Michael. And I chose to come with you. If that isn’t free will, I don’t know what is.”
Michael waved him off. “It’s not the same. They can choose to live their lives however they wish. We do not have that luxury.”
Gabriel crossed his arms and stared at his brother. “Satan chose. Nearly a third of our brothers chose with him. They all chose to go against Father’s order.”
“And look at what that got them!”
“Yes, exactly! But they had the ability to choose! Do you not see? With choice comes consequence. You have to be willing to pay the price for your decisions.”
“And the humans?”
“They pay the price all the time.  Wrong choices ruins lives daily.  Sometimes they cause death. Sometimes they cause tragedy. Sometimes…sometimes even Father turns them over to a reprobate mind. They’ll never know His grace.” Gabriel sighed as he reached out and grasped Michael’s arm. “We all have choices, brother.”
Michael wiped at his cheek and looked at his tear stained hand. “My heart breaks for him.”
“For who? Father?”
“No. For Satan. He’ll never know true love again.” He wiped his hand on his coat then pushed out of the booth. “It is time. We should return. Father will be angry if He discovers we were gone.”
Gabriel laughed as he pulled his overcoat from the hook. “Do you really think that He doesn’t already know?”
Michael paused and stared up into the clouds. “Then I hope He understands why we did it.”
“He’s a Father, Michael. Of course He does.” Gabriel pulled the door open and the two stepped out into the chill breeze. The drizzling rain had stopped and the clouds broke as the two stepped away from the diner. As a ray of light shown down through the breaking weather Michael pulled his collar up. “I think He knows where we are.”
Gabriel looked up and smiled. “Yes. And He knows why.”
Michael smiled as he patted Gabe’s shoulder. “At least He isn’t angry.” He pulled his brother up close and snapped his fingers. Both men effectively disappeared, having traveled at the speed of thought back home.

As Marge returned to the table to clear the dishes, she shoved the wad of bills that Lou had left on the table into her apron and began stacking the plates into the metal tub to take back to the kitchen.  The bell  above the door rang and Lou stepped back into the diner.  He glanced rapidly around the narrow eatery and his eyes fell on Marge. “Where did the other guys go? Are they still here?”
“You just missed them Sweetie. They left just a few minutes ago.” She pointed her finger down the street to the corner in the direction she had seen them walking. “They went that away.”
Lou turned and practically ran down the sidewalk looking for his brothers.  He slowed as he approached the corner and the smell of ozone hit him.  He knew it was too late.  They had returned home.
He stopped and stared up into the sky.  Clouds had shifted and were closing the small hole that had opened just moments before, the last rays of sunlight evaporating as the rain began to fall once more.  Lou stared up into the sky, turning slow circles as he watched the opening seal back up. “I changed my mind!” he screamed. He waited a moment, his hope building that perchance his brothers could hear his cry. He continued to stare upwards, his hope slowly fading. “Do you hear me? I said I changed my mind!”
Lou felt the despair of being trapped in the role he was doomed to play as his reality came crashing back in on him.  He dropped to his knees on the wet sidewalk and crumpled to his elbows. “Please, Michael…Gabriel…I-I’m sorry.” He turned reddened eyes back to the sky and roared with anguish. “I want to go HOME!”
A passing truck sent a spray of water from the roadside up onto the sidewalk and soaked the figure on all fours. He didn’t even lift his head as he fell to his side and curled into the fetal position. “Damn my vanity, I just want to go home…”

If you were able to force yourself to read all the way through that, then you’re tougher than most. That particular scene bounced around in my head for years…Satan and the two archangels sitting down at a diner…and was supposed to be the opening to a second angelic war story. I ended up deleting the next chapter and closing the story as a short with Lou changing his mind.

And like this story, there have been dozens over the years, most of which were deleted when I cleaned out my hard drive. But a few still remain. If you think you’d like to see them offered here from time to time, drop me a line and let me know. Let me just say that most don’t have endings. They were ideas that never really took root.

Anywho…thanks for dropping by again and I hope you enjoyed Gangsters.

Oh, and if you are an audible fan…Hunter should be approved by ACX any day now.
Just saying.

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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Interview: Maxwell Zener

Narrator, voice actor, storyteller, whatever you prefer to call them, there is a certain magic that a human voice brings to telling a story and making you want to hear more. That’s how I know I got the right voice for a story. If I can listen to them tell me my own story and I long to hear more, then I’ve definitely chosen correctly.

Today it is my pleasure to interview Maxwell Zener. He’s the voice for the Monster Squad’s second saga and if I play my cards right, he’ll be voicing the Hunter trilogy as well.

Let’s light this candle!

MZ for ACX

So let’s start simple. Tell us a little about yourself.  Are you married? Do you have any children?

I’m an actor and live in New York City with my wife and my daughter, who as I write this is 10 years old.

 Enjoy those younger years. Believe me, it won’t be long before she’ll be 16 going on 30 and only approaches ‘dad’ with a hand out. At least…that’s my experience. Anyway…what do you do for relaxation?

Dungeons and Dragons. My daughter got into it through an afterschool club, and this re-awakened my enthusiasm. I hadn’t played since college, but I am so happy to be back into it. Storytelling, getting into a character’s head, imagination, it’s all stuff I love.

That or a glass of whiskey. But D&D is healthier.

 I’m more of a scotch guy. Or…apple pie moonshine. But you’re right. D&D probably is healthier. So, are there any recent works (books) that you admire?

Does a dramatic podcast count? I was just turned on to “Welcome to Night Vale,” which is like an H.P. Lovecraft novel told by way of Garrison Keillor. As for books, I’ll admit that most of my reading is manuscripts that I’m preparing to record – outside of that, I recently read On Killing by Dave Grossman, a nonfiction work about the psychological cost of killing, and how that has impacted soldiers throughout history. It made a lot of behavior make sense to me, and I’m always interested in that – in how people behave and why they do what they do.

Along those lines, I admire any author who not only crafts a compelling plot but who understands their characters so well that they come to life as separate individuals as you read. There’s an indie YA author I discovered (through narrating one of his novels) who is really great at that – Greg Wilkey.

 I’m always looking for good YA authors. I’ll check Greg out. Thanks for the tip.
So, who is your favorite author(s) (and is there a reason why)?

Man, that’s hard to choose. I don’t really have one standout favorite – I like authors who are able to get readers inside the experience of a character, to see the world from his or her eyes. Especially if that character is broken or flawed.

 Agreed. I have a long list of favorite authors. I couldn’t choose just one if I had to.
So tell us, why do you do what you do?

I love inhabiting characters, and telling their stories. So often we can feel all alone – but through hearing other people’s experiences brought to life we can hear echoes of our own souls in theirs. We can realize that we aren’t alone, and we can see more clearly the humanity in those around us too.

 Ooh. That’s deeper than I expected. But you make it sound simple. I might have to steal that. 😉
So what is a typical working day like for you?  

I’ll get my daughter on the school bus, drink waaaaay more coffee than is healthy while doing a crossword, and then either get behind the mic or get to work learning a script or screenplay.

 Yes! COFFEE!! Sorry. That slipped.
When and where do you work?

I have a small studio space in my home; I do my recording there. I love it – I climb in, close the door, and the rest of the world just goes away. I’m all alone with the author and the characters. Best way to spend a day.

 Nice and peaceful. What kind of research do you do for your work?

Depends on the project, but I often do a lot of researching pronunciations. I’m currently narrating a survey of monsters across many different cultures, so I’ve been diving deep into sites that catalog Native American languages.

I can only imagine how tough it might be to learn the proper way to pronounce words like that. Especially words in any foreign language. So, now I’m curious, how do you conceive your voice ideas?

Sometimes the author just tells you – if someone is said to have a gravelly voice, well I’d better not voice them like a fop from an Oscar Wilde play. But most important to me is the character’s psychology, rhythm, and attitudes. Once I figure those out, the voice usually takes care if itself.

 What are the major themes that you prefer? How long on average does it take you to narrate a book?

I especially love stories about broken people trying to do good in a complicated world.

As for time, it’ll depend on the book. A story with just two or three characters I can really get a great flow going, but when I have to keep forty-five characters straight there is a lot more pausing to consult my notes.

 Yeah…that sounds familiar. I think at one time I had nearly 60 characters in the Monster Squad series. In my own defense, I wanted to kill off a good portion of them but my missus threatens my life any time I mention it.
What do you think listeners search for in an audio book?

I know what I look for in an audiobook – I want to get carried away into the world of the story.

That makes sense. So, what is your favorite part of a book?

I’m a sucker for the reversals – for those moments when all of a sudden we realize that things have not been what they seem, or when characters reach a turning point in their lives.

 Oh yeah. Reversals or plot twists make or break a good story. They’re a lot harder to pull off than I would have thought.
What is the hardest part of narrating for you?

Sitting down and talking for three, four, five hours at a time, five or six or seven days a week is hard work, vocally and physically. I have to make sure to keep my body limber so I don’t get sore, and to keep my voice healthy. To every vocal coach I’ve ever had: thank you!!

 What is the best thing about being a narrator?

The selfish answer is “living inside all these stories” – that gives me a thrill. But the part I love best is when a listener connects to the story or to the character, and feels it resonate with their own life.

 Agreed. I get little notes from people telling me how they love a story or specific part of a story. But it’s the people who write and tell me how they can identify with a character that seems to touch me the most. Knowing that people were able to connect on a personal level…it’s beyond words.
What are you working on at the moment? What’s it about?

Specters, the eighth installment of the Monster Hunter series, of course!!

I’m also working on a non-fiction book – a survey of monsters across cultures, noting the vast similarities between them and what this means about the human psyche. It’s called Monsters, naturally.

 Sounds like they could go hand in hand. I know there have been times I wish I had a ‘monster’ reference guide to follow. I think it would have made my job a lot easier.
So, tell us, where can we buy or see your work?

You can either go to Audible or you can go to maxwellzener.com

 Excellent! Everybody reading this, go and check out his sites.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Your own approval is the one that matters most.

 Wow. Best advice EVER.
So, what advice would you give to aspiring voice actors?

Study, study, study.

 Last question, what do you consider your best accomplishment?

My next one.

Nice answer. Always striving to better yourself. Well said, sir!

Okay folks, that ends the interview. Thanks for dropping by and getting to know a little about Max. Remember, keep your eyes open for more exciting audio adventures coming your way from Maxwell Zener. A true talent if ever I heard one.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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MS7 Obsessions on Audio

ACX just informed me that Monster Squad 7: Obsessions is now available on Amazon and ACX! Feel free to help spread the word!

 

Obsessions - Audible.jpg

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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MS5 Homecoming on Audible!

It took everything I had to keep my trap shut about this. Usually I’ll announce weeks or even months ahead and ruin the surprise. Not this time.

I got lucky and stumbled across a very talented voice actor. We chatted a bit and he decided that the Monster Squad series was something he was interested in. Since I lost Jack Voorhies as the voice of the squads, I had to find somebody new and I feel like Max was the best person to fill the role.

Let me introduce you to him:

MZ for ACX

Maxwell Zener is a New York based actor, with more than 20 other audiobooks to his credit. He’s especially drawn to stories that combine action and suspense with characters that are a bit broken, hurt, or flawed. So my MONSTER SQUAD series is a particular favorite, and he’s thrilled to narrate HOMECOMING. You may have seen him on screen in BOARDWALK EMPIRE or the indie sic-fi movie JIM. Take a trip to NYC, and you might see him on stage too.
If you like Max’s take on HOMECOMING, you might want to check out his work on Jonathan Brazee’s military sci-fi series THE UNITED FEDERATION MARINE CORPS at http://www.audible.com/pd/Sci-Fi-Fantasy/Captain-Audiobook/B011DDXCCA or the Young Adult coming of age vampire novel GROWING UP DEAD by Greg Wilkey at http://www.audible.com/pd/Teens/Growing-up-Dead-Audiobook/B00W2FD0DU
In the meantime, if you’ve been waiting to sink your teeth into the second saga and want to jump into Homecoming, here are the links:
If you really like to go through your audiobooks quickly, have no fear. Max is the fastest narrator I’ve ever seen…er, heard. He’ll be starting on MS6 pretty soon and I expect it to go just as smoothly as 5 did.
Thanks for all of your support and enjoy!
 
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Posted by on August 19, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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You Can’t Make This Stuff Up

I’m feeling nostalgic today. Remembering times when things ‘seemed’ simpler. I’m positive they weren’t but in retrospect, they certainly seemed that way.

A decade or so ago I worked in an office and one of the few souls there who I honestly felt was a friend used to share his life experiences regularly. It seemed that the funnier or stranger a story was, the more we were pulled into it. He used to toss his hands in the air at the end and say, “You can’t make this stuff up.”

We all understood what he meant. No matter how odd life can be at times, truth (it seemed) was stranger than fiction.

I have no doubt the honesty and veracity of his many stories, but I’ll admit that many might seem far fetched to those who didn’t personally know the storyteller.

And that leads me into the real subject of this post…

As I said, I was feeling nostalgic today. I made the mistake of checking my author rank and to get myself out of the depression, I checked some of the reviews…just to see some of the feedback. I ran across a glowing review for Whispers and in it, the reviewer made the comment, “Stallcup did an excellent job of researching thus making the haunting more real.

Whispers

That statement made me smile. I was instantly returned to the time we lived in our previous house…a house that was most definitely haunted. There was little ‘research’ put into Whispers…no, it was more like using life experiences and putting a twist on them in order to use those experiences in a story.

Now, to those of you who don’t believe in haunted houses…I really don’t care. I didn’t believe they were real until I experienced it myself. Even then, it took me a while to admit that what was happening, was truly happening.

I remember trying to tell my father in law about the haunt and he stopped me. “I don’t believe in that stuff and you’ll never convince me that it’s happening.” I asked why and he stated that it “Went against his beliefs and what the Bible says.”

Okay. I can respect that. I told him as much. Then I told him what was going on and you could see him visibly pale. He finally admitted that the physical things had no logical explanation, but he refused to believe it was a spirit. A demon perhaps. Well, thanks a lot pops for upping the stress levels to maximum. :-/

To those who are chomping at the bit, wanting to know ‘what kind of things’ actually was going on…I’ll give you a taste. Whatever ‘it’ was, it had seemed to focus on my youngest son. Slamming doors. Stomping across the upstairs floor. Throwing things. Pushing him in the shower. Scratching down the middle of his back (and yes, drawing blood) where he couldn’t possibly reach. Yelling at him (and his friend) to ‘get out’ of his room. Scratches along the inside of the wall (and when we accessed the space to put rat poison, there was ZERO sign of vermin). Shadows crossing the loft. Electronic things going off and on on their own.

But the activity that convinced me…the first thing I observed? A Dora the Explorer floatie.

We had shut down the pool and the kids brought their toys in. The kids were scattered to the winds for the night and our best friends came over for dinner. We stayed up late and were playing a board game in the dining room when the Dora floatie (that I had earlier tossed upstairs into the girls’ room…I saw it bounce off the bed and hit the far wall) floated OVER the railing then slowly lowered itself and settled gently into my wife’s recliner.

Meh, big deal, right?

My best friend is a heat and air guy. In fact, he had just installed a new unit in our house. When the floatie was slowly dropping straight down into my wife’s chair, his wife grabbed my wrist and pointed, “DO YOU SEE THAT BLANKETY-BLANK FLOATIE?!”

Her husband and Jess both had their backs to the living room and didn’t see it, but Holly and I had a front row seat. Her husband picked it up. “It’s cold. The air conditioner must have blown it down.”

“Dude, you installed that unit. Do you really think it blows hard enough to blow it out of the girls room and over the rail?”

“No.”

I carried it to the top of the stairs and dropped it. It swished to the side and slid into the couch. We tried again, dropping it on edge (even though that wasn’t how it came down) and again, it swooshed to the side. I tried twice more and never could get it to fall straight down…but when it fell, it was easily two to three times faster than what Holly and I saw.

Time went by, my son was harassed and I eventually called our states version of Ghost Hunters…who drove out and had all of their brand new equipment fail at exactly the same time. Although their things would be moved around and they saw and heard some strange things, they couldn’t get it on tape, so it was ‘unprovable’. A second group came out to simply observe. I explained to them that whatever it was didn’t always participate, but since they had ‘minimum’ activity, they declared the house clear and removed the residence from their list.

I had made a few comments on an internet forum and got the standard questions about burial grounds, murders in the house, etc…none applied. Eventually, we moved and the activity stopped. The family who moved into the house were friends of ours and although the wife was informed and ‘looked forward’ to coexisting with whatever it was…she soon refused to stay in the house alone. Whatever it was, she felt it was evil. Duh. Pretty sure we told you that.

Anyway, long story short…there wasn’t really a whole lot of research put into Whispers.  But I’m glad it seemed accurate to those who have experience in the field.

For those of you who haven’t ‘experienced’ Whispers yet, let me know. I’ve got a few audio codes left that I’ll trade you in exchange for an honest review. Aaron Shook did a helluva job bringing this story to life!

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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This is HUGE For Me

Pardon me if I make little sense in this post, but I’m pretty stoked right about now.

Paul Stokes just posted a review of Whispers at AudioBookReviewer and it is a WIN!

Whispers

To say that I’m a bit giddy right now would be an understatement.

It’s hard enough to write a story that people might like to read, but to find the right narrator to bring that story to life? I think I hit a home run when I stumbled upon Aaron Shook. Judging by the reviews, those who opted to try it truly enjoyed the story. But to read the review posted by Audio Book Reviewer? Wow…just…wow.

“Excellently written and vividly described in great details.  Although the rape scenes were not vividly described, there is no doubt how vicious they were.”

“A long listen but one filled with twists and turns, action packed excitement and realistic characters. At one time in my life I was a paranormal researcher.  Stallcup did an excellent job of researching thus making the haunting more real.

Stallcup is an author that knows how to tell a story!”

“A well deserved 5 Star rating.”

“Aaron Shook did an excellent job of narrating.”

Yeah…somebody scrape me off the ceiling!

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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