The Write Stuff – Monday, January 8 – Spotlight on Kevin J. Anderson

Most of you know Kevin J. Anderson’s massive epics. Here is a take you may not yet be familiar with. Larry Correia has this to say about Kevin’s lighter side, “A good detective doesn’t let a little thing like being murdered slow him down, and I got a kick out of Shamble trying to solve a series of oddball cases, including his own. He’s the kind of zombie you want to root for, and his cases are good lighthearted fun.”

For those of my site’s visitors who are unfamiliar with this series’ protagonist, will you tell us something about Dan Shamble?

I’m certainly best known for my big SF and fantasy epics, like the Dune novels with Brian Herbert, my Saga of Seven Suns, my Terra Incognita trilogy, or the big new fantasy, Spine Of The Dragon.

But Dan Shamble is something different entirely: short, funny, even ridiculous comedy mysteries in a world where all the monsters have returned and are just trying to live their everyday lives in the Unnatural Quarter. Dan Chambeaux (everybody mispronounces it “Shamble”) was a human detective working in the quarter, because even vampires, werewolves, and ghosts still have divorces, bankruptcies, business deals that go sour. But he was killed on a case, shot in the back of the head in a dark alley…but in this world, he came back as a zombie. And now he’s back from the dead and back on the case. His first order of business was to solve his own murder (in Death Warmed Over). He has a politically incorrect cop as his Best Human Friend, a beautiful bleeding-heart lawyer as a partner, and a ghost for a girlfriend. They solve crimes with mummies, necromancers, ghouls, vampires, werewolves, and even more unusual suspects.

How did he originally percolate up from the depths of your subconscious mind?

I enjoy zombie movies, and particularly a fan of the Walking Dead…but it’s so grim and horrible. I felt it was time for the zombie equivalent of Spaceballs. Sometimes you just want to be funny, even silly. This is a spoof, filled with all the wonderful clichés of all the monster movies I used to watch. I carved out time in my writing schedule and wrote my first novel in the series, Death Warmed Over, as a complete surprise to my agent, a labor of love. I just published the fifth novel, Tastes Like Chicken, and over a dozen short stories, as well as a crossover comic with Dan Shamble and Kolchak the Night Stalker.

Between 2012 and 2014, you produced four installments. Since then, it’s been just over three years since you turned out the last one. Why the hiatus?

The series was originally published by Kensington Books and they came out without much fanfare, though the fan base steadily built up and I got a lot of fan letters. And besides, they were just so much fun to write. But Kensington decided to discontinue the series after the fourth novel, Slimy Underbelly. In the meantime, I kept writing new Dan Shamble short stories that have appeared in magazines and anthologies, and I got the rights back to the original first novels. I rereleased them in my own editions through WordFire Press, published the first collection of Shamble short stories, Working Stiff… and I kept promising that I would get around to writing the next novel on my own time. But fortunately, or unfortunately (depending on how you look at it), my own writing schedule was so full of contracted books (which I get paid for), I couldn’t scrounge the time to write a new book that I would publish through WordFire. But the fans kept writing me letters, nagging me, and I finally cleared the decks for three weeks this summer and wrote the whole thing, Tastes Like Chicken.

What is this episode’s premise?

Dan Shamble, zombie P.I., faces his most fowl case yet, when a flock of murderous feral chickens terrorizes the Unnatural Quarter. Also in the caseload, Dan deals with the sinister spokesman for Monster Chow Industries, a spreading contamination that drives vampires berserk, a serial-killer demon from the Fifth Pit of Hell, a black-market blood gang led by the nefarious Ma Hemoglobin, a ghost fighting a hostile takeover of his blood bars… and a cute little vampire girl who may, or may not, be his daughter.

With his ghost girlfriend Sheyenne, his bleeding-heart lawyer partner Robin, and his Best Human Friend Officer Toby McGoohan, Dan Shamble is back from the dead and back on the case. The feathers will fly as he goes face-to-beak with the evil peckers.

How long does it take you to get from Page One to The End when you’re turning one out? I ask, because these are no mere forty thousand word, just-under-the-wire novels. With the exception of the half episodes, each one is a three hundred give-or-take-a-few-pages book.

These are still short novels, 60-80,000 words (my big epics are more like 200,000 words!) Well, they seem quick to me at least. I can do one of the short stories in a day or two. Writing Tastes Like Chicken took me two weeks, and then another three weeks to edit it several times.

Now that you’re releasing Tastes Like Chicken, do you believe we can expect to hear more from Dan in the reasonably near future?

Absolutely. I’m finishing up a new short story right now for Pulphouse magazine, and another new one was just published in Jonathan Maberry’s anthology Hardboiled Horror. I just got the rights from Kensington to do an omnibus edition of books #3 and #4, Hair Raising and Slimy Underbelly. So that book will be called, appropriately, The Hairy Slimy Zomnibus. I will be releasing the second collection of Dan Shamble short stories in November, and I already have the idea outlined for the next novel.

Now, I just have to find the TIME!

Might I ask if something else bizarre is lurking, trying to become the premise for another series?

I just sold Spine Of The Dragon and two more epic fantasies to Tor for another giant series. And I’m working on an idea for another series in the Seven Suns universe, and I just sold a new high-tech thriller Doomsday Cascade with my coauthor Doug Beason… so I have a full plate right now.

Something cool for your readers, though: If you sign up for my KJA readers group (it’s free), I’ll send you a free copy of the Dan Shamble Working Stiff collection, some other free stuff, sneak previews, and updates.

For those of you who are yearning for more, here is an excerpt:

Some monsters are friendly. You learn that while working as a private investigator in the Unnatural Quarter, where you never know what size, shape, species, or temperament your clients might come in.

Some monsters want to live their daily lives without undue hassles, just like anybody else.

Some monsters even eat cookies and are adored by children nationwide.

But some monsters eat people. They’re vicious, violent things that deserve to be called monsters.

The demon Obadeus fit into that last category, without question. And McGoo—Officer Toby McGoohan, beat cop in the Quarter and my best human friend—had tracked Obadeus down before he could murder again. I was along for backup, moral support, and, if necessary, a diversion.

Serial killers are bad enough, but a bloodthirsty demon serial killer, now that’s not a good thing at all. Obadeus’s death toll now stood at nineteen, and since demons can be a little OCD about round numbers, we knew he would strike again just to make it an even twenty.

Fortunately for us, although not for his numerous victims, a monster with so much enthusiasm for killing isn’t very good at covering his tracks. Some supernatural psychologist or monster profiler might speculate that Obadeus wanted to be caught, deep down inside. I had a different theory: he was just too lazy to clean up his messes.

We had tracked the demon down to his lair, which Obadeus called his “man cave.” The place reeked. The walls were decorated with dripping blood and flayed skin or pelts from his victims, both human and unnatural. I didn’t envy the crime-scene cleanup team, or the landlord who would have to make the place ready to rent again, after McGoo and I took care of this creep. At least Obadeus wouldn’t get his cleaning deposit back, so there was some justice in the world.

The big demon bolted from his blood-soaked lair just as we arrived—which was a lucky break, because McGoo and I didn’t exactly know how to arrest a serial-killer demon from the Fifth Pit of Hell. I had no idea where the pits of hell fell, on a scale of one to ten, but pit number five must be a nasty place if it had spawned something like this.

Obadeus was ugly, with a capital U-G-L-Y. He had a leathery hide with knobs, warts, scales, and leprous patches, a face full of spikes and tendrils, triangular pointed ears, and a jaw that extended all the way to the back of his head filled with enough fangs to keep an orthodontist in business for life.

“Ick,” McGoo observed. “He makes vampire bats look cute.”

Whether Obadeus was insulted, or enraged, or just shy, he spread his thorny wings and lurched toward the door of his lair, where the two of us happened to be standing. Letting out a roar that sounded like a cow caught in a barbed-wire fence, Obadeus charged past, knocking both of us aside like bowling pins, and smashed out the door. He ran off into the streets.

“We must be scarier than I thought,” I said as the demon fled. “He could have torn us limb from limb and sipped our entrails through a straw.”

“Law enforcement carries great weight.” McGoo drew his Police Special revolver, and I pulled my .38, which I considered to be just as special, even though it didn’t have the word “Special” in its name. We set off after Obadeus in hot pursuit.

It was the dead of night in the Quarter, which meant the streets were busier than at any time of day. Though the monster’s great wings got in the way as he bounded out among the pedestrians, they also generated a tailwind for him as he flapped them, giving him a boost as he ran.

“Make way!” I shouted. “Killer demon on the loose!”

Readers who are interested can purchase Tastes Like Chicken here (click image):

The Write Stuff – Monday, December 21 – Interview With Kevin J. Anderson

Few sci-fi or fantasy authors are as legendary or prolific, or have spent more time paying their success forward to up-and-comers than this week’s guest, Kevin J. Anderson. No other I am aware of owns his own publishing house, and I think you’ll agree, if anyone was ever born to write, it was this man.

KJA photoKevin started writing at age eight. A magazine accepted one of his manuscripts two years after he had entered high school and he received the first monitory payment for his writing in his high school senior year and sold his first novel, Resurrection, Inc., at age 25. In addition to creating his own Saga of Seven Suns series, his Nebula Award nominated Assemblers of Infinity and dozens of others, he has co-authored numerous works that include Star Wars, X-Files and Dune spin-offs. Not content with those accomplishments, he has written several comic books and authored novels delving into the histories of such super heroes as Batman and Superman. It can be said that Kevin has expanded and enriched the fabric of the genre at large. To date, fifty-two of his works have become best-sellers and there are more on the horizon.

Kevin, you are noted for writing complex epic tales told from multiple viewpoints. Do you have any other such books in progress, especially your own original works?

Oh, I always do! Right now I am finishing up my last edit on Navigators Of Dune with Brian Herbert, our grand finale in the Schools of Dune trilogy, and then I will turn immediately into polishing up Eternity’s Mind, the last book in the Saga of Shadows trilogy (which is set in my popular original Seven Suns universe). It is full of characters and storylines and much mayhem—like a Game of Thrones with planets. Obviously, dealing with such a big story and large cast of characters is exhausting. Wrapping up both of these big trilogies at once is making my brain tired!

An intriguing device you employ is the insertion of real world cultural and musical references into some of your tales. The Saga of Seven Suns’ Ross Tamblyn is a tad too similar to cinema’s Russ Tamblyn to be coincidental, as is his Blue Sky Mine to Midnight Oil’s identically titled song—I give a nod and a wink to Chairman Wenceslaus. At first, I thought you were just having fun with your readers. Then, when I found Clockwork Angels rife with Neil Peart’s lyrics and subsequently learned it evolved as a collaboration between the two of you, I wondered if there wasn’t something more that led you to use them. Would you care to expand on this?

Honestly, Ross Tamblyn is just a coincidence. I had developed the whole Tamblyn clan, and didn’t much think of the resonance. The Blue Sky Mine, though—you nailed it, and I didn’t think anyone would remember! Music is quite an influence in my work however, most predominantly the music of Rush, with lyrics by Neil Peart. My very first novel, Resurrection, Inc., is entirely based on my own vision of the Rush album “Grace Under Pressure” and because of that I got to know Neil quite well personally. We have collaborated together and inspired each other in small ways, but we really pulled out all the stops when Neil asked me to novelize their new concept album, Clockwork Angels, a novel that became a New York Times bestseller and a multiple award winner. We liked the universe so much, we adapted that story to a graphic novel and then just branched out to a new companion novel, Clockwork Lives, which I personally think is the best book I’ve ever done.

IMG_3001You do a lot of your writing and plotting while hiking. Is this a useful method for writers?


When I’m out in the big spectacular Colorado IMG_3018landscape, it frees my mind to think up big ideas. If I go far enough out, I can walk for hours without seeing anybody but the characters in my head. I am a storyteller, and I dictate as I walk… and when I can walk in a landscape like that, there’s no better office in the world.


ClockworkAngels_Ebook.pdfI have to congratulate you on Clockwork Angels’ hardback edition, from its striking cover and the beautiful end papers, to the wonderful illustrations and the subtle use of color printing to enhance the appearance of its pages. How pleased are you with the final result and how did it come about?


I couldn’t be more pleased, and Clockwork Lives is just as striking a book with its embossed leatherette cover, marbled endpapers, color printing, line art illustrations by Nick Robles, who did all the artwork for our graphic novel. I had shopped the original Clockwork Angels around to my primary publishers in the US, but even though I’ve had over 50 bestsellers and Rush is one of the biggest-selling music groups in history, they just didn’t get how ClockworkLivesone could do a novel connected to an album. But the Canadian publisher ECW (who had released Neil Peart’s non-fiction books) was very enthusiastic, and they really showed off what they could do. Even though Clockwork Angels became a bestseller, Neil and I never had a second thought about handing them Clockwork Lives, and they certainly outdid themselves. I have also edited an original anthology, with John McFetridge, for ECW titled 2113 and is filled with stories by major authors, all of them inspired by Rush songs. That one comes out in April.

On a more personal note, a mutual friend tells me you’re a big fan of IPA. Care to talk about this particular passion?

Over the past two decades, high-quality microbrew beer has become just as popular as good coffee in the US. I shudder to think of the swill we used to drink (both beer and coffee!) I am a big fan of both. My tastes in the microbrew beer have really focused in on the extra-hoppy India Pale Ales (named because in the British Empire, the kegs of ale being sent around Africa to India had to use a lot of hops as a preservative so the beer would remain good throughout the voyage). The other advantage of drinking an IPA is that it’s so bitter most other people don’t like it, so that way people don’t raid my stash in the fridge!



Hah! I love IPA and I like that strategy enough I may have to adopt it. Our friend also told me you wrote a book telling Mormons how to write about beer.

Not actually a book, just a talk to other writers. I viewed it as an alien contact scenario! While I’m not a Mormon, I have a LOT of LDS writing students, have lectured at BYU and many Utah conferences as well as being a writer-in-residence for a Utah writing retreat, where I was the token non-Mormon. I made the point that writers need to know about various things, to put the information into their creative repertoire. For instance, I told them, how many of you are experts in opera, or classic jazz? Nobody raised their hand (heck, I don’t know anything about opera or jazz), but they all agreed that it might be useful information to write a character who likes opera or jazz. Same thing, I explained some basics about wine and beer to people who had absolutely no experience in social drinking… not to convince them to try it, just so they would have a better understanding. I compared different kinds of beer to bread (Coors Light = Wonder Bread, Guinness stout = dark Russian rye, my hoppy IPAs like sourdough or a tangy caraway rye…) They seemed to find it useful. Like I said, writers should know about other cultures… and I have learned a lot about theirs, too!

 You promote aspiring writers, especially as centered around NaNoWriMo and have compiled several books to help them succeed. Please tell us about your work with

I’ve always believed in paying it forward. I had some very major mentors when I was a new writer (namely, Dean Koontz and Terry Brooks) and I want to do the same. I have given countless workshops at science fiction conventions over the past 20 years, and each year my wife and I run the high-level Superstars Writing Seminars, which focuses on the business of writing.

As an offshoot of my workshops and lectures, I have written several books on writing and published them through my own house, WordFire Press. (Yes, I’m a publisher, too.) Each year for NaNoWriMo, I have worked with to but together a “bundle” of writing books, The Nanowrimo Writing Tools bundle—this year, we have 25 titles on all aspects of writing craft, careers, and business, for a name-your-own-price (minimum bid of $25 for all 25 books). Storybundle is an innovative way of distributing books, mostly by indie authors—a grab bag of eBook titles for all platforms. I have a good working relationship with storybundle and have done many bundles for them. In fact, right now I have a Holiday Fantasy bundle running as well as a really big “bundle of trilogies” so you get as much reading material as your eyeballs can handle, for a very low minimum bid. All of these bundles go down at the end of the year, though, so if anybody’s interested they should check out to see what’s available.

Life as a publisher and life as an author offer differing rewards and place different demands on one’s life. A glance at your published works and accompanying release dates shows a not unexpected decline in frequency of your own books since you launched WordFire Press. How do you strike a balance between the two and keep one from overwhelming the other? For that matter, how are you able to maintain a personal life?

11813523_10153000233128244_5094300587170526367_nWhat’s a personal life? Actually, the key to that question is that my wife and I are both writers and we are the co-publishers of WordFire Press…so our LIVES are wrapped up in what we do. We live and breathe writing and publishing, so that’s pretty much all we do. It’s a little more nuts than you think, though, because the frequency of my book releases hasn’t actually declined—I had five books out in 2015, five books out in 2014, and I should do the same for 2016. At this very moment, I am doing Navigators of Dune and Eternity’s Mind simultaneously, both of them 600+ page manuscripts. I wish I could slow down a little!

WordFire Press began by republishing high-demand out-of-print books, including your own extensive backlist. Over the years it has expanded its directions by featuring new works by bestsellers and award winners such as Alan Dean Foster, Jody Lynn Nye, Todd McCaffrey, Frank Herbert, John A. Pitts, and Mike Resnick. Now, it also boasts a stable of rising new talent. How have you discovered these up-and-comers?

I’ve done a lot of work in the field with many other authors over the years, and I have a pretty good reputation. Even big-time authors are hungry for the experience that they can be involved directly in the process as a partner. Our newer authors often come from the ranks of people I’ve worked with, writing students, award-winners from the Writers of the Future, people who have the spark that makes me think they can hit the big time.

Is WFP looking toward any new publishing directions you’re free to discuss?

Publishing is an old business with a lot of established traditions, but a lot of those have gone out the window with the warp-speed changes in technology. From our inception, WordFire threw out the “it’s always been done this way” model and looked at it from a fresh, objective eye. Maybe we can try this, or this, or this. Sometimes it doesn’t work, other times it blows us away. Distributing our books through Storybundle or Humble Bundle generates a lot of sales for the included authors, but that’s not something traditional publishers even consider. We feature our authors and autograph and sell a lot of physical books directly to fans at pop-culture shows, which is also something most big publishers don’t do. At present, though, we are growing and expanding so quickly that my main objective is to keep all the gears turning smoothly.

WFP maintains an active presence at major cons across the country each year, not only selling its books, but also providing readers with an opportunity to meet many of its authors. Would you care to enumerate some of the venues where readers can connect in 2016?

These big comic and pop-culture shows are huge venues, and they feature media celebrities for fans to meet. We present our authors in the same way: As actual celebrities for fans to meet. And for an average fan and reader, even someone with one or two books published seems like a celebrity. A very abbreviated list of places we’ll be in the coming year includes Miami Supercon, Planet Comic Con (Kansas City), Pensacon (Pensacola), Emerald City Comic Con, Dallas Comic Con, DragonCon, Salt Lake FanEx, IndianaCon, C2E2 (Chicago), Phoenix Comic Con, Denver Comic Con, New York Comic Con, and enough others to make my head spin.

Thank you, Kevin, for agreeing to participate. I shall remain ever grateful. I always conclude my interviews with what I call a Lightning Round, since the responses often yield unexpected insights. In as few words as possible, please complete the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m… The most-fun workaholic he’s ever seen.

The thing I’m most proud of is… My own novels—and the published novels of my writing students, so I must have been teaching them right.

The one thing I cannot do without is… My imagination

The one thing I would do over is… Hmm, that’s the good thing about writing: you can always edit your past drafts as much as you like.

The thing that always makes me laugh, right down to my gut, is… My demanding cats, whose cheerful need for attention trumps any thought of deadlines

Visitors can follow Kevin at the following social links:




Some Book Buy links are as follows:


WordFire Press: