Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Dave Interviews Dave

Okay, this is not really an interview or an exercise in nepotism. It is, however, a list of the most frequently asked questions I’ve gotten from people since I’ve signed with Quake/Echelon to publish my first novel, Killer Cows.

What is Killer Cows about?

That’s the biggest question a lot of students, friends and family have asked me since I announced its impending publication. What’s surprising to me, even though I knew people would ask, is how difficult it is for me to answer...at least succinctly. I often find myself a bit tongue-tied and fumbling for words.

Is it really about killer cows?

That’s the second biggest question, and a bit easier to answer. Yes, it is. Sort of. I actually have an easier time answering the question when kids ask, which is cool since that’s who it’s aimed at. I don’t really summarize the plot...I just say yeah, there’s cows...and flying saucers, car crashes, Harleys and lots of stuff blowing up. They seem to like that.

At the same time, the novel isn’t simply about cows. It’s also about a fourteen-year-old growing up in a broken home, dealing with stuff most teenagers deal with...bullies, first-crushes, trying to fit in, making smart choices. I’m making it sound like Killer Cows is a novel with a message to teach, which it isn’t. In the end, it’s just a fun read...part fantasy, part modern realism, part sci-fi, lots of humor. And of course, big nasty killer cows from outer space.

Is it a kids’ book?

It’s not a little kids’ book. No pictures or anything. It is aimed at young adults, probably age 12-16, though I think it’s suitable enough for kids as young as 10 if they are good readers. As far as any objectionable content goes, there are a few mild expletives and some violence. If Killer Cows were turned into a movie, it would probably be rated PG.

How long did it take to write?

Nine months, followed by another few months of edits and revisions, then even more edits and revisions after placing it with my publisher.

How many pages is it?

A lot of kids ask me that one, but since I haven’t seen the galley proofs yet, I don’t know. It was just over 300 pages when I finished the final draft on my computer. How that translates to the printed page is up to Echelon Press. I usually just tell kids it’s “longer than a Goosebumps novel, but shorter than Harry Potter.”

When does it come out?

Fall 2010, first as an ebook, then a paperback.

Why so long?

That was a question I had, too. Nearly everyone has been shocked at the length of time between signing a contract and publication. I usually tell them mine isn’t the only book slated for release, and putting together a novel isn’t the same as publishing a short story or article.

How much money are you getting for this? Is it a lot?

Depends on how much it sells. I have no plans to give up my day job. I’m no Stephanie Meyer or Gordon Korman. Nobody even knows who I am. Besides, if I quit teaching, I wouldn’t be able to see Killer Cows on the library shelf.

Do I get an autographed copy?

Sure, buy one and I’ll sign it.

I don’t get a free copy?

I’ll be lucky if I can afford a copy for myself. The only people getting free copies are my children, a former student who was the first to read it, and the Echelon editor who helped shape it into a better book.

Is Killer Cows going to be a series?

One student asked me this question, which goes to show you how young adults perceive books geared to their age. A lot of them expect books to be part of a series. I always hated it when authors, particularly sci-fi & fantasy authors, would pump out multiple books with the same characters. Couldn’t they come up with something new?

I originally intended Cows as one story, and that would be it. But as I finished it, I began to see why other writers continue to revisit the same world they created. It is difficult to let go of characters you spend so much time with. And as I was wrapping up the story, I was already thinking of other adventures I’d like to see these characters in. So, while doing the revisions to the novel, I added a plot element that would leave the door open for a series.

So, I guess the answer is yes. Depending on how well received Cows is, I have two more novels outlined, Apocalypse Cow (a direct sequel) and Killer Cows vs. Bunnies from Hell.

Have you written any other books?

Yes. I’m trying to place my second YA novel, Shaken (an action-disaster tale), while finishing up the first draft of my third, The Dark Ride (a YA horror novel...without vampires!).

Why don’t you just publish your second book with the company that’s publishing your first?

Doesn’t work like that. Just because Echelon bought Killer Cows doesn’t mean they’ll want Shaken. Besides, at the time I signed the Cows contract, I had already submitted Shaken to several other agents or publishers. It’s sort of my policy to submit to several at once, then wait to hear back from them before sending out another wave of submissions.

You still haven’t said what Killer Cows is about.

You are right, but cows are funny, and so is the book. And how can you resist a title like that? Regardless of what anyone thinks of the story, in my humble opinion, Killer Cows is the best-titled YA novel since No More Dead Dogs.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Last Christmas

On the eve of last Christmas I turned out the lights;
I tucked in my daughter and wished her goodnight.
“Tomorrow is Christmas!” she uttered with joy
“When Santa brings presents to good girls and boys!”

“That’s right, little princess,” I replied with a grin
“But you must be asleep for Saint Nick to come in.”
With a smile and a giggle, she closed her eyes tight,
Trying her best to fall asleep for the night.

After closing her door, I walked down the hall
To where my wife snoozed, oblivious to all.
I climbed into bed without making a peep
And stole back some blankets for a warm winter’s sleep.

As I began to drift off, my mind wandered free;
I pictured my little Natalie, circling the tree,
Gasping with joy when she saw her new bike -
A thank you from Santa for leaving cookies he liked.

I heard a sudden noise - it came from downstairs.
Could it possibly be there was someone down there?
I opened my eyes and stifled a scream;
I heard it again - not part of my dream!

I climbed out of bed and ran ‘cross the floor
And gingerly opened my top dresser drawer.
Heart beating madly, and quaking with fear,
I pulled out the gun I got for Christmas last year.

As my wife snoozed away, thinking all was well,
I crept to the hallway and loaded some shells.
Determined prevent being totally robbed,
I was gonna put a cap into this thieving slob.

From atop the stairs, footsteps I could hear
Of a man trying to rob us of our Christmas cheer.
I crept down the steps, cursing my bad luck;
Dammit - that bike costed one hundred bucks!

I saw a black shadow, bent over the tree;
Consumed by his task, he didn’t see me.
Raising my pistol, I drew careful aim;
I squeezed off a shot, screaming, “Here comes the pain!”

With a big burly grunt, he fell to the ground,
And I roared in triumph, having put the perp down.
From upstairs my wife cried, “Hey, are you okay?”
I said, “Never better, ‘cause I saved Christmas day!”

I began to breathe easy, thinking all would be right,
But all of that changed when I turned on the light.
I stared at my victim and became suddenly sick;
Rolling ‘round on the floor was good ol’ Saint Nick.

Through angry clenched jaws, he stared up at me;
Clutching his wound, he screamed “You shattered my knee!”
I rushed to his side and cried, “I didn’t mean to!”
With an agonized breath he roared back, “Screw you!”

A cry from behind - and I turned to see
My horrified wife and a bawling Natalie.
“Daddy shot Santa!” she wailed in surprise;
My wife simply glared with hate in her eyes.

My mind in a panic, I threw down my gun
And ran to the phone to call 9-1-1.
My wife yelled at me, “You yuletide louse!
I knew this would happen with a gun in the house!”

I heard coming sirens, then a knock at the door;
As I answered it my kid cried, “I love you no more!”
“Report of shots fired!” said a cop in dismay;
And then he saw Santa, knee bleeding away.

Drawing his sidearm, he said with a frown,
“You shot Father Christmas and you’re goin’ down!”
I said, “I’ll explain, please listen, for God’s sake!”
He said, “I’ve busted some bastards, but you take the cake.”

They slapped me in handcuffs and hauled me away
For shooting Saint Nick and ruining Christmas day.
My wife sold the bike to pay for court costs,
Then into a filthy cell I was tossed.

I’ll always regret the shot that I fired,
For Santa said, “No more,” and then he retired.
I’m now serving time, doing twenty-to-life
With a cellmate named Bubba, who calls me his wife.

Copyright 2009, D.M. Anderson

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ode to Dio

Ronnie James Dio has been one of my idols for nearly as long as I’ve been into heavy metal, roughly 35 years. I’m sure a lot of you reading this have no idea who he is, even though he’s been the lead singer of three of the most influential hard rock bands of all time (Rainbow, Black Sabbath and his own namesake band, Dio). He isn’t a vocalist who merely screams; he truly sings. He isn’t a lyricist who boasts of parties and drinking and bedding down women on the road, but despite the Dungeons & Dragons words he’s often known for, to me, his words were defiant and encouraging in the face of adversity under the guise of majestical settings. His voice and words have inspired me over the years, not only aspiring me to achieve my personal best, but to hopefully inspire others.

When I heard, just recently, that Mr. Dio had been diagnosed with stomach cancer, I felt a pain in my heart I hadn’t felt since the death of Dale Earnhardt.

No, I’m not signing Dio’s death warrant. He’s only been recently diagnosed with the illness and may fully recover. Yet, at the same time, like Dale Earnhardt, who represents my second greatest love (NASCAR), I tend to look upon my idols (even at my age of 46) as invincible, like nothing in the real world can touch them. I think, as one gets older, seeing one’s idols as being physically fallible is something of a wake-up call. It is like admitting your own mortality.

When Dale Earnhardt died, I was devastated. While he was alive, I was not a fan, even though I knew what he meant to the sport, which meant his untimely death dealt a blow I still feel to this day.

Ronnie James Dio had an even bigger impact on me. He was the first true celebrity I ever met (during a signing party of his first Dio album in Portland, Oregon). Though I only spoke to him for a few brief starstruck moments, I truly felt like he was interested in what I had to say, and took the time to answer my questions about his lyrics. I always told myself, if for some reason I would ever become famous for something, I’d like to do it with the grace and humility of Ronnie.

I discovered him through my teenage infatuation with Ritchie Blackmore, the Deep Purple guitarist who left the group to form his own band, Rainbow, with Dio as his singer. While I’ll always love Ritchie, I was blown away by Dio’s vocals and lyrics. The words themselves may sound a bit trite in the wake of Nirvana, but I think he understood that what makes great lyrics isn’t always the message, but simply how the words sound in conjunction with the music. And never did I doubt his sincerity when he sang...that was the important thing.

I’m making it sound like his lyrics are banal, while just the opposite is true. Ronnie James Dio wrote some incredible lyrics. Just check out “Heaven & Hell”, “Stargazer” and “Bible Black.” He can be as activist as early Dylan, as commentary any rap artist you’d care to name, and as down and dirty fun as any party band, often within the same album.

Above all else, the guy can really sing his butt off, even though he’s now in his 60s. Even if you aren’t a fan of the heavy metal genre, it doesn’t take a genius to know this man can sing.

As I get on in years, it does my heart good to see so many of my childhood heroes still plugging along, doing what they do best. Some don’t do it as well as they once did, but Ronnie James Dio has never let me down. Unlike a lot of other artists, I still pop open the CD booklet to read along as he sings, and I still love the way he turns a phrase and emotes certain lines in a verse for dramatic effect.

Here’s hoping Sir Dio continues doing what he does best, for many years to come. His is a voice that deserves to be heard for as long as there are ears to listen.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


While I’m waiting for Killer Cows to be released, I’m currently shopping around my next young adult novel, Shaken(though I'm thinking of changing the title). It’s about how a 9.7 earthquake (and subsequent tsunami) affects the lives of three troubled teens on one fateful night in a fictional coastal town.

Unlike the relatively upbeat and whimsical Killer Cows, this novel is a dark, violent homage to the disaster movies I loved as a kid (and still do), but this time through the eyes of these teenagers. While I love disaster movies and novels, their depictions of young people have always been pretty shallow. Either the characters are smarmy brats, helpless waifs, comic relief or so sickeningly sweet that they’d kill a diabetic.

Shaken tells its story almost exclusively through the eyes of these three teen characters. They don’t have snappy one-liners, don’t have any insights about their situation beyond their years, and definitely don’t provide funny or “awe, how cute” moments. I tried to make them as realistic as possible, meaning they aren’t always selflessly heroic, and often make the same errors in judgment real kids do (or real adults for that matter). Much of the book is about the personal changes these characters undergo in an extreme crisis.

At the same time, I wanted the novel to be loaded with the same action, destruction and violence as the FX-laden movies I love. Some of you may have noticed I have been comparing Shaken to movies, not other books. There’s a reason for that. Yes, I think there are some important themes of personal discovery present, but mostly, the book is intended to be fast and furious, best appreciated if read in one sitting (which a good reader could probably do in a couple of hours). In my queries to agents and publishers, I’ve called it Die Hard for kids.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Is This One of Those 'Circle of Life' Things?

“You wanted the best, you got the best...”

The first words uttered at the very first concert I went to as a kid, when I paid nine bucks to see Kiss at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland, Oregon. And for me, it WAS the best. Gene Simmons spitting fire and blood; Ace Frehley’s guitar literally smoking during his solo; Peter Criss’ drum kit rising 20 feet over the stage; Paul Stanley demolishing his guitar during the encore.

Kiss was never my favorite band, but I always liked them, even during the late 70s and early 80s, when it was no longer fashionable to admit so. Yeah, there were ‘cooler’ bands, such as Iron Maiden, Rush, Van Halen and Judas Priest (at least in my circle of heavy metal friends). But live? As far as I’m concerned, no one ever touched Kiss.

Bombs. Fire. Explosions. Kiss was, and still is, the only band in which you were blown away by the show even if you didn’t know a single song they played.

Music has always been a big part of my life, especially heavy metal. It’s the first music that pissed off my parents, and is now the music that drives my wife and kids out of the room. I listen to a lot of new stuff - nu metal, death metal, etc - but I also listen to the bands I’ve loved for decades, and try to convince my oldest daughter why that music is still great. She hates a lot of it, except for The Beatles (but who doesn’t love them?) and a select few songs by Iron Maiden and Slayer she’s mastered on Guitar Hero.

But you know what’s cool? A lot of the bands I loved in my youth are still around, still touring and still making records. Not just new records, but records which sound like they always did, regardless of what American Idol jerkweeds determine to be popular. It did my heart a lot of good to see that Kiss’ first album in ten years, Sonic Boom, is just as dumb and juvenile as the Kiss records I bought in the 70s (I don’t think anyone wants to hear a band like Kiss suddenly shift to singing emo crap about how misunderstood they are). It also did my heart good to find out that same record, for one week anyway, was the biggest selling album in the country.

And I think I know why. Kiss is sort of the hard rock equivalent of a James Bond movie or a McDonalds Value Meal: There may not be any surprises, but you know exactly what you’re gonna get.

So when it was announced that Kiss was coming to my hometown for a show, I didn’t need to ponder whether or not the huge ticket price was worth it. I bought tickets for me, my wife (who hates heavy metal) and oldest daughter (her first real concert, not counting Hanna Montana a few years ago).

This is a big deal to me, mainly because it sort of brings me full circle, in a music sense. Despite the fact these tickets were fifty bucks each (as opposed to the nine dollars of allowance money in costed me in the 70s), it’s cool that my oldest daughter’s first real concert is going to be the same as mine, with bombs, explosions and in-your-face metal anthems. In fact, when I actually asked her if she wanted to go, and when she heard the name Kiss, she replied with a hearty and enthusiastic “Yes!” She knew what Kiss was about.

I can’t wait for the show, not just because I like the band, or that one of my daughters will get a taste of my childhood, but also because even though both me and Kiss are getting up there in years, some things are always cool, even if they aren’t always fashionable. I’ll take one Kiss over a thousand U2s or Springsteens any day of the week.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Waiting


Waiting sucks. This must be what it’s like to be a dog. Always waiting for a treat, for walkies, a scratch behind the ears, to go potty.

Of course, we all spend a lot of our lives waiting, too...in line at the grocery store, at the DMV, for tax refunds to show up in the mail, at traffic lights. And for me, being the only male in a house of wives and daughters, sometimes I have to wait to go potty, too.

But none of those compare to waiting for your first book to come out. As a writer, I never thought I’d say this, but its actually worse than waiting to hear back to hear from an agent or publisher to see if they are interested at all.

I’ve already gone through the final edits and revisions of Killer Cows with my publisher, and am now waiting for the galleys (how it’ll look when finally released) as well as the cover art. After that, I’ll have to wait even longer...almost a year.

At work, colleagues and students keep asking me when the book’s coming out, and when I tell them, they get this look on their face like, "Hey, why are you taking so long?" as if it were up to me. Hey, if it were up to me, I’d have already quit my day job so I could write full time (which is what some of my friends think I’m about to do). While I’m flattered they think I’m going to suddenly be rich, I’m not Stephanie Meyer (at least, not yet). I’m not expecting people to line up outside of Barnes & Noble at midnight to be the first to snatch up a copy of a book called Killer Cows.

At this point, all I want is to hold a copy of it in my hands. Maybe autograph one to myself. But I can’t right now. I have to wait...just like my dog.

No, I didn’t think my publisher was going to magically say abracadabra and blink my book into existence, but during my initial contact with her after she offered a contract, when she said Killer Cows was scheduled for release in the latter part of 2010, part of me was shocked. This wasn’t at all like the short stories I’d published, when the time from acceptance to print was just a couple of months. Barring any other obstacles, the time from acceptance to print for my book will be roughly a year and a half.

A lot can happen in that amount of time. The world could end. The local mega bookstore, where I always dreamt of seeing my books on the shelves, could go out of business. I could drop dead of a heart attack.

So I wait, just like my dog. It helps that I still have another completed novel to try and sell. I’d like to think that, with a bonafide publication to crow about to agents or publishers, that job might be easier. But even if not, it’s a nice diversion, and helps me forget how long I still have to wait before Killer Cows is released.

But maybe this is a good kind of wait, like when I was a kid on Christmas Eve, unable to sleep because I knew Santa was coming. Just like Christmas, it is pretty cool that what I’m waiting for is inevitably going to happen.

At any rate, as I write this, my dog is staring up at me right now, eyes huge, ball in mouth. He knows playtime is inevitable. I can relate, so even though my own personal wait is still long, I think I’ll end his.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Toys Gone Wrong

I’m sure many of you are familiar Mattel-owned American Girl series of pricy dolls, each of whom have their own biography which reflects the historical era in which they ‘lived.’ I always thought that was a cool idea, especially since the dolls provided historical insight from a girl’s perspective. A bit heavy-handed of a message for a toy maybe, but better than watching my daughters play with those hookers-in-training known as Bratz.

Then, while watching a news feature covering the release of the latest American Girl doll, all I could do was roll my eyes and say, "You’ve got to be kidding."

Gwen Thompson, the newest edition to the American Girl line, is homeless. Her back story includes being abandoned by her father, forced to live in a car and being picked on by her peers. A spokeswomen for the company came on TV to state the purpose of the doll was to increase awareness of, and sympathy for, homeless children.

That’s all fine and good, but couldn’t you do that with a TV show or school-sponsored program? Have we become so overly sensitive that the very toys we give our children must remind them of how bad other people’s lives are?

I’m not insensitive to the issue of homelessness, but come on...

It’s a toy. Toys are supposed to be fun. You don’t see a line of ‘God-I-hope-it-starts-this-morning’ Hot Wheels. You don’t see Little Tikes kitchen playsets complete with ants crawling on the counters and government-issued cheese in the fridge. To the best of my knowledge, there are no video games in which the object is to pay all your bills and still have enough money left for groceries.

What kid is gonna want this doll? What kid is gonna rip open a package on Christmas day, see her homeless Gwen Thompson doll, wrap her arms around her parents and say "thank you for making me aware of the issue of homelessness in this country"?

In a way, the very idea marginalizes the whole homeless issue, being that there is an American company trying to make a profit by appealing to one’s sensitivity, while ironically charging nearly a hundred bucks for this doll.

Then again, I’m reminded of some of the toys I had when I was a kid, and now lament the time I wasted playing with them. Such as my toy lawnmower which blew bubbles when I pushed it around the yard. Then one day, mowing the lawn became one of my chores, only this time, no bubbles. I wasted all those fleeting childhood moments pretending to mow the lawn when I could have pretended to engage in an activity that wouldn’t be something I’d need to do on a regular basis in real life.

Friday, September 25, 2009


For the first time - I suppose I’ve been lucky - my computer crashed last weekend. It couldn’t have happened at the worst possible time; I’m corresponding back and forth with my publisher, and trying to earn my master’s degree online at the same time.

While writing my final paper for a class, I was treated to a friendly little piece of malware called Windows Police Pro, which informed me my computer was infected with viruses. I was inundated with dozens and dozens of pop-ups, urging me to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT RIGHT NOW by submitting my credit card number and purchasing their so-called anti-virus program.

Turns on that Windows Police Pro IS the virus. Thank god for Google, which allowed me to find out just how malicious this program is, which attaches itself to websites and downloads itself in order to infect your computer.

You know, as a teacher, I work hard for a living, and often bring my work home with me. And it makes me sick that someone with more computer smarts could come up with a program that would make the average person think their computer has been violated in order to bilk fast bucks. I think ‘violated’ is the right term, especially since I’ve always been careful when working online. In fact, I think I was raped. I had to take my computer tower to someone and spend 300 bucks to rid it of this virus. I also had to spend an additional fifty bucks to back up my written documents (i.e. novel projects), simply because some still-living-with-his-parents jerkweed out there doesn’t want to hold down a real job. And just because either me or a member of my family visited a website.

To whomever devised Windows Police Pro (or anyone who conjured something similar), you are no different than a scumbag rapist, with little or no regard for the people you hurt. And if any of you are reading this, yes, I know you are probably laughing. I only hope karma comes back to bite you in the ass.

On the plus side to all of this, the experience showed me just how soulless some people are, and just how dependant I am on my computer. It’s where I do all my writing, where I pay my bills, where I get my news, where I enter my grades. Knowing some jackass can mess with that - strictly because he can - has been an eye-opener. For that, loser hackers, I must grudgingly thank you. Having my computer out of commission of a week allowed me to spend more time playing with my kids, my dog and my wife (nudge-nudge!). You, on the other hand, are likely sitting in your mom’s basement, or wallowing in your apartment by yourself without any chance of female companionship, praying some idiot is willing to give you their credit card number. And what are you going to do with that info? I’ll bet I know...though it’s something I wouldn’t dare share with people who actually care about you.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Bad Animals, Part 2: Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus

Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus. Seriously, how can anyone resist a title like that?

And with this one, you gets whatcha pays for. Hilariously bad CGI, former 80's teen icon Debbie Gibson (oh, excuse me...Deborah Gibson) and a script loaded with enough howlers to keep lovers of direct-to-DVD trash enthralled for hours.

I loved this movie! So will you, if you’re in the right frame of mind.

THRILL as two recently thawed out prehistoric ocean monsters wreak havoc on each other!

GASP as a megalodon shark is able to leap thousands of feet from the water to take down a jumbo jet!

PONDER these creatures’ ability to be terrorizing the Japanese coast one day, then be lurking the waters off Alaska the next!

MARVEL at the glaring inconsistencies of these animals’ size from scene to scene! One minute the shark is a few hundred feet long, the next it’s the size of the Empire State Building.

SCREAM as the megalodon attacks the Golden Gate Bridge for no apparent reason!

SCREAM AGAIN as the giant octopus uses its tentacles to scatter toy submarines like bowling pins!

RECOIL IN HORROR at Gibson’s thespian talents, which range from wide-eyed, slack-jawed horror to looking like she just got a whiff of someone else’s flatulence.

RECOIL IN HORROR AGAIN as Gibson consumates a relationship with a fellow scientist in a janitor's broom closet within a few hours of meeting each other, even though they display zero sexual chemistry in any previous scene.

CHEER at the appearance of Lorenzo Lamas as a woefully stupid antagonist, because any connoisseur of vintage movie cheese knows no direct-to-video trash would be complete without him.

NOTICE how the producers manage to utilize the same sets over and over again, only with different lighting.

TITTER at the inclusion of a blooper reel among the special features, when really, the whole movie is one long blooper.

CHORTLE at the hilariously inept CGI effects, which occasionally look like the computer nerd hired to create them never actually finished the job.

Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus is the kind of wonderfully bad movie that only comes along once in a while...more fun than a barrel of Godzillas. Not easy to find for sale, but it’s been available at local Blockbuster stores for some time. Do yourself a favor...get some friends together, do some popcorn, crank the sound and have a great time at this movie’s expense.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Echelon Press Shorts

Echelon Press Shorts officially opens on September 1, 2009. So what can readers look forward to? This month, they have new releases scheduled for the first AND the fifteenth. There is a wonderful list of authors whose stories they are excited about and who they know you will enjoy reading.

There are also authors waiting to meet you! Readers will enjoy new blog posts Monday through Friday by the most current authors. Read about their latest ventures, their characters, and get to know them.

Both Echelon Press Shorts and the authors would love reader feedback, so feel free to leave comments. During launch week, there will be new releases and posts from the authors of those stories. Readers will hear from Regan Black, Mark Vun Kannon, Mary Welk, and Michelle Sonnier. To celebrate, they are giving away *free* ebook downloads. Want to know how? Visit them on September 1 at http://echelonpressshorts.wordpress.com

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bad Animals, Part 1

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I wrote my first novel, a sleazy piece of junk called Bunnies from Hell. A raunchy satire, I tried to find the most ridiculous animal crawling the globe with which to form a humorous horror tale.

Little did I know that someone beat me to the punch...25 years earlier.

As a fan of animals-gone-bad movies, I’ve sat through a lot of junk about killer ants, bees, frogs, cats, dogs, worms, slugs, rats, etc. For every great movie like Jaws, there are dozens of low-budget knock-offs. But if you can’t appreciate good trash, there’s no point watching movies.

And I thought I’d seen it all until I heard of Night of the Lepus.

Night of the Lepus is one of the all-time great bad movies, the kind of endearingly stupid flick that would have made great MST3K fodder. Thus, unless you think such tripe is beneath you, this is a hard movie not to like.

In case you don’t know, ‘lepus’ is another word for rabbit. That’s right. This movie is about killer rabbits. I’ll pause for a moment while you ponder the concept.

Now I’ll repeat it. The movie is about killer rabbits, the least terrifying animal on Earth. That doesn’t stop director William Claxton from doing whatever he can to try and make them scary. He fails, of course, which is precisely what makes this movie so great! Night of the Lepus, made in 1972, is a low-budget hoot in which rabbits, breeding so fast they are destroying crops in the Arizona desert, are injected with a hormone intended to disrupt their breeding cycle. Instead, it turns them into cow-sized maneaters that kill everything and everyone in their path.

While the story is your basic nature-run-amok plot, what makes the movie worth seeing are the numerous (and oft-repeated) scenes of herds of little bunnies running (in slow motion) through miniature city streets, farmhouses and river beds, accompanied by cattle stampede sound effects. Occasionally, we get close-up of vicious hares, blood dripping from their jowls, chomping on their victims.

What shoves Night of the Lepus into camp classic territory is its deadly-serious tone, as though there’s any possible way rabbits, no matter how large, would ever be considered terrifying. Adding to the hilarity is a cast of once-famous actors earning their paychecks by reacting to the mayhem, including Janet Leigh, which is kind of pathetic. In 12 short years, she’s gone from being the most famous slasher victim of all time in Psycho, to igniting fuzzy puppets with a road flare.

And fans of the original Star Trek will be overjoyed to learn DeForest Kelly (Dr. McCoy), didn’t remain completely unemployed after the show was cancelled. Here, he looks like an aging 70's era swinger, complete with scarf & polyester bell-bottoms.

Aside from the laughable special effects, there is even more laughable dialogue. I don’t think there’s an actor in the world who could utter the line, "A herd of killer rabbits is heading this way!" and have it incite any terror at all. Add a title theme that sounds like discarded James Bond music, and you’ve got a movie so bad that it actually manages to be more entertaining than most modern big-budget epics.

Night of the Lepus is a must-see. And as ridiculous as it is, the movie is fast-paced and quite bloody for a PG-rated film. To quote an often-used cliche, they just don’t make movies like this anymore. Being relatively obscure, it may not be waiting on the shelf of your local Best Buy, so you’ll have to order it. But if you’re a true fan of video cheese, trust me, it’s worth it.

My first novel, Bunnies from Hell, remains tucked safely from the world in my desk drawer, where it will stay. The book was intended to be funny, but for sheer belly laughs, it simply cannot compete with a movie like this, made by folks who want to be taken seriously.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

More Cows on the Web!

I came across a few interesting and stupidly fun websites. The first one, The Cow Dance ( www.cowdance.com ) is similar to the Hamster Dance website that was popular several years ago, in which crudely animated cows dance and rock out to various popular songs, from showtunes to disco numbers to classic rock songs. The songs themselves sound like they are performed with a Casio Keyboard or some kind of music composing software like Garage Band or Cakewalk’s Music Creator. At any rate, the cheesiness of the way these songs are recreated merely add to the fun.

The second one is a song by Dana Lyons called "Cows With Guns." The song itself is hilarious, and can be found on Lyons’ website ( www.cowswithguns.com ). Make sure to watch the music videos. There are two of them, one animated by Bjorn-Magne Stuestol, the other done in claymation. Of the two, the first one is best. The animation is great and features the lyrics along with it.

Finally, there’s a site simply called Cow Games ( www.aurochs.org/cows/games ) which features links to dozens of cow-related online games, including the Killer Cows game I mentioned in my last blog. Puzzles, tic-tac-toe, boxing, memory games, quizzes, coloring...it’s all here. My personal favorite is "Milk Panic", where you must milk the cows before they explode.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Killer Cows Video Game

Just to see if this blog site turned up on Google, I typed in the title of my upcoming book, Killer Cows and all kinds of fun stuff popped up. Lots of articles about real-life incidents involving cow attacks, lots of amusing pix and cartoons.

I also discovered the existence of a UK-based comedy rap group called The Killer Cows. To quote their web page: "Hi, we’re the Killer Cows and we like to sing songs about cows killing stuff." There’s another band, Crazy Killer Cows, who play rockabilly.

And, with a small sigh of relief, I didn’t come across any fiction with that title.

Best of all is an online first-person-shooter game called Killer Cows! I don’t know who created it, but it’s available at several online game sites such as this one:


The premise is simple...you have 30 seconds to blast as many cows as you can using your computer mouse. The premise may be simple, but for me, hardly a video game wizard, it’s actually pretty tough to nail those suckers.

Still, it’s kind of fun, and even a little addicting.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Not as Icky as it Sounds

This recipe isn’t so much creative as it was originally conceived out of desperation.

During my college years, my two roommates and I survived mostly on two things: pizza and nachos. Which we chose on any given day depended mainly on how much cash we could scrape together. On good nights, we ordered pizza. On those days were we mostly counted up our change, off to 7-Eleven for nachos.

I think it was me who came up with the idea to combine our two favorite foods by going to the grocery store, grabbing a bag of tortilla chips, pizza sauce and the cheapest cheese I could find (you know, those generic, waxy, individually wrapped slices known as ‘cheese food’.) All-in-all, aside from beverages, I got it all for less than five bucks.

After a minute in the microwave, BOOM! Pizza Nachos! A huge plate of munchies with no nutritional value whatsoever. And, as we accidently discovered, tortilla chips and pizza sauce go together surprisingly well, though the ‘cheese food’ tasted mostly like the plastic it was wrapped in.

I still make them from time to time, though now I’m able to afford real cheese (or Velveeta, which actually melts better).

Anyway, for a quick snack in two minutes:
1 bag of plain corn tortilla chips
1 jar of Ragu pizza sauce
2 cups grated cheddar or mozzarella cheese

On a microwave-safe plate, layer chips, sauce and cheese into a huge pile, stick it in the microwave for 60-90 seconds (depending on the cheese you pick). That’s it. You’re done. And the best part is most people around you will think you’re crazy, so you don’t have to share.

D.M. Anderson

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Carnivorous Cow!

Author photo time. My publisher wants me to send them a picture of my ugly mug. Granted, being photogenic isn’t a big prerequisite for being a writer, but I’ve never taken a decent picture in my life, even when I was young and thin. I always hated posing, always hated my smile.

It briefly crossed my mind to hire a photographer and throw a bunch of cash their way to make me look as good as possible. But somehow, the idea of getting dressed up and gazing intellectually into a camera just wasn’t me. My mother also suggested I should cut my hair to better fit what her definition of a writer was. Then again, even though I’m in my 40s, she’s been hounding me to cut my hair for years.

Then my wife said, "Since your novel is about cows, you should have your picture taken with a bunch of them."
What a great idea! After a week or two of trying to find someone we know who actually owns cows (I live in Portland, hardly a mecca for livestock), Michelle, a friend of my wife, offered to let us go to her parents’ dairy farm for a photo shoot. So one Saturday, armed with the family digital camera, we ventured about 25 miles to this farm.

In writing the book, I learned a few things about cows (mostly how bad they smell), but had never frolicked among them. I’m a city boy. The closest I’d ever been to one was the meat department at Safeway. So as I headed into the pasture with Michelle, continually side-stepping cow pies, I was nervous. Cows are huge, and smell far worse up close than they do driving by with the window down. Michelle assured me I’d be okay, as long as I approached them with my head down in order to appear submissive. Trust me, looking submissive is no problem when approaching an animal four times your size.

Michelle shot the pictures, guiding like a pro photographer and urging me to really get close to the herd. She suggested offering some grass to one, which I did before turning to pose with them. A few of the more curious cows soon approached. One started licking my arm. Yuck! Cow tongues aren’t slimy like a dog’s, they’re rough and abrasive, like being licked by a thousand pound cat. While I was basted in slobber and snot, Michelle clicked away and my wife laughed her butt off.

Then the cow decided my clothes were worth tasting. It took in a mouthful of my best Hawaiian shirt and started tugging. Oh my God, she’s trying to eat me!

"Okay, we’re done!" I announced, yanking my shirt from its mouth and stepping into a fresh pie as I backed away. The herd scattered at my sudden movement. Michelle laughed, and since she grew up on this farm, probably thought I was a wussy.

I like cows. Everything about them is funny. But from now on, I think the closest I’ll get to one ever again is on my barbecue. Call me a wuss if you will, but for a brief second, I was worried Killer Cows was about to become non-fiction.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Dose of Reality

How quickly reality hits creeps in, especially when you discover how little you know about how things work.

In the first few weeks since Echelon Press (www.echelonpress.com) agreed to publish my first novel, Killer Cows, every morning I’d turn on my computer, re-read the acceptance letter, and do my happy dance (which embarrasses my 14-year-old daughter to no end). I’d published stuff before, mostly short stories, but nothing like this, nothing which involved signing a contract.

My first contract. Time for another happy dance, this time with a little moonwalking thrown in.

Realizing something you spent a year of your life writing is actually going to be published and read (by people you don’t know) is a feeling like no other. I’m no longer just a writer...I’m an author. God, I love the sound of that. Until now, the only person who cared about my work was me.

So far, it’s been great working with Echelon, who’ve been very patient with all my questions, and helping me with stuff I’m required to provide (bios, jacket blurbs, author photo, this blog site, etc). I’ve been corresponding with other Echelon authors and reading their blogs. Some of it’s been hard work (I’ve never done my own bio, and jacket blurbs are harder to write than most people think), but overall I’ve enjoyed the experience.

But the reality of being an author hit me soon after, in the form of Jennifer Turner (www.jennifer-turner.com). An Echelon author herself (known to readers as J.R. Turner), Jennifer is working with me in editing Killer Cows, and our first contact was monumentally humbling, to say the least.

It’s important to note that I don’t personally know any other writers. I’ve never had the opportunity to participate in workshops or forums, and none of my friends or colleagues do this in their spare time. People have read my work and given feedback, but not a writer’s feedback, someone who would really scrutinize my words line-by-line. All I ever heard was whether or not they like the story. That was fine by me; I was always pretty confident in my writing ability, anyway, never needing to be told how to tell a story.

When I got Jenny’s email, listing her suggestions for various changes, I was excited to get down to the business of fine tuning the novel, which I prematurely assumed would consist of a few tweaks here and there, perhaps eliminate some unnecessary passages.

Wrong!!! Thanks for playing, Dave. We have some nice parting gifts for you, but no happy dance today!

The list was huge, almost none of it having to do with the story itself. Stuff like too much passive voice, more telling than showing, overuse of dialogue tags and dozens of misspellings I never caught (even after I’d edited and revised the book a dozen times). Jennifer personally went through the first forty pages and attached the manuscript with her suggestions printed in red, then instructed me to go through the rest of the manuscript to address some of these issues. With mounting dread, I opened the file.

Oh...my...God. There was so much red splattered on those first forty pages I thought Jason Voorhees must have chopped through it with his machete. I initially thought, "you’ve got to be joking. No way does my book need this much reworking! I spent too much time on it already! I’m trying to get my third novel finished and now I gotta do this?"

But I signed a contract, so with a heavy sigh, I began trudging through Killer Cows for the umpteenth time, rereading my work along Jennifer’s suggestions for changes, my ego dropping a notch or two each time I hit her red passages, the entire time thinking, this isn’t an edit...it’s a freaking re-write.

I first hated addressing Jennifer’s numerous suggestions, until I noticed they were all good ones. It soon became very clear I had some bad habits no one else ever pointed out before. I can’t count how many times I read those dreaded red passages, slapped my head and said, "Of course! Why didn’t I notice that before?" It wasn’t long before I started to depend on Jennifer’s tips, because nearly all of them improved the narrative dramatically. So when they stopped after forty pages, I felt like someone flying solo for the first time after lessons were over. Humbled beyond belief, I thought it was a minor miracle Echelon accepted the book at all.

At the same time, I remembered Echelon isn’t some small press magazine with a circulation of 2,000. It’s a business, a business interested enough in the words I did write to take a chance that Killer Cows could be something good, something special. Knowing that made it easier to revisit a novel I was already sick of.

Thank God my day job allows me to have summers off. I would need them. Putting my third novel on hold, I spent a week of eight hour days going through the rest of the book, this time really looking at each passage with Jennifer’s suggestions in-mind, wincing at every redundant sentence, useless dialogue tag and line that made more sense in my head than it did on the printed page. For the first time in my life, writing was an actual job.

By the time I was finished, I’d trimmed Killer Cows down to 66,000 words (the initial draft was over 80,000), and it’s a hell of a lot better. Is it perfect? I doubt it, and it was with newfound humility that I sent the revised version back to Jenny for her feedback.

I don’t know what Jenny is being paid for her editorial services, but I do know it’s not enough. There’s nothing like having a real writer, who doesn’t know me personally, examine my work with the sole purpose of making it a better read. I don’t think my revisions to Killer Cows are finished, but it’s definitely a better book than it was when I signed Echelon’s contract.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Single Sparrow

Sparrow Club (www.sparrowclubs.org) was introduced to our school a few years ago by my Language Arts colleague, Laura Queen.

The orgnization itself started several years ago when a Washington teacher’s son was diagnosed with cancer, and his insurance was unwilling to cover the cost of the treatment to save his life. When one of his students, a misfit boy with health problems of his own, emptied his bank account of fifty dollars to give to his teacher, it started a chain-reaction, and kids throughout the community eventually raised a quarter of a million dollars to pay for the treatment to save the life of their teacher’s son. Tragically, the misfit boy who started the whole thing died shortly after.

In the years since, it has flourished, giving schools the chance to ‘adopt’ a single child (their Sparrow) and do all kinds of things to raise money for him/her. But it isn’t so much a fundraiser as it is an opportunity for kids to think beyond themselves and perform community service to aid a single ailing child in need. When Laura first introduced the club to the staff, I was skeptical, especially since it had been my experience that the kids at my school were largely indifferent to anything beyond themselves.

How wrong I was. When we were first introduced to our Sparrow, a 13-year-old with leukemia, the outpouring was enormous. How the club works is this...kids go out into the community to perform community service (i.e. volunteering, cleaning up parks, etc.), and for every hour they work, sponsers contibute $10 help help the Sparrow’s family with medical costs, travel, etc. In addition, we held several events at the school (staff vs. students basketball, bake sales, car washes), and all the proceeds went to this single child we adopted. All told, we raised over $15,000, nearly all of it through the initiative of the students at our school, who thought beyond themselves and rallied for a welfare of a single child. Best of all...our Sparrow was eventually cured!

D.M. Anderson

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Route I Didn't Expect

Rejections are, of course, part of writing, and I’ve collected a buttload. They don’t bother me much anymore, and I’ve learned a lot from them. What I really hate are the folks who don’t bother to reply at all. It’s not as bad as the old days when you always inquired via snail mail, but still insulting nonetheless.

Of course, they didn’t ask you to send a query. On the other hand, reviewing queries is their job, and shooting back a simple "sorry, not interested" is not a lot to ask. That’s like being in line at the check-out counter with a cartload of groceries and the clerk chooses to help the person behind me.

What I hate even more is when someone requests your manuscript, then you never hear from them. You don’t know if they’ve passed on your work, haven’t gotten around to it yet, or didn’t receive it at all. And how long do you wait before inquiring about it? You don’t want to sound pushy - or worse, desperate - especially since they’ve probably got a pile of other manuscripts they’ve requested. Some agents and publishers let you know how long they’re reply will take, but most don’t.

Not knowing sucks. It’s worse than a form rejection. But, as I later found out, it doesn’t always mean you’ve been rejected. One of the publishers who never responded turned out to be the one who offered me a contract.

I queried Quake, an imprint of Echelon Press in April of 2008. A month later, I got a reply from an acquisitions editor requesting the full manuscript. Obviously excited, I sent it right away.

Four months later, I inquired about its status. No reply. And again a month later that. No reply. All told, I inquired this editor six times and never heard a peep. In fact, a year passed since I sent the thing. I wrote an entire new novel in the meantime, and when it came time to submit it to potential publishers, I wrote Quake/Echelon off my list.

I spend a lot of time on AbsoluteWrite.com. To me, it’s the best forum for info and advice for any writer, and the greatest tool since Writer’s Digest. Anyway, there’s a link where people can inquire about, or offer experience with, various publishers and agents. Whenever anyone inquired about Echelon, I offered my own experience...that they requested my manuscript and never bothered to respond again, despite my numerous inquiries. Basically, I called it like I saw it.

A few months later I got an email forwarded through AbsoluteWrite regarding Echelon. It simply stated (verbatim): "wants to publish your book."


I had some preconceived ideas about that fateful day when (or if) I placed my work with a publisher, but didn’t think it would be like this. I quickly went to AbsoluteWrite, where a lot of folks on the forum knew about Echelon’s interest in my book before I did. Apparently, Echelon had been looking for me for four months. The editor who first requested the manuscript had since quit, been rehired, then quit again, during which time my book was passed from editor to editor, and they didn’t have my contact info. They also got a good look at all the negative things I wrote about them on the forum.

Echelon’s CEO used the forum to shoot few good-natured jibes back at me. And being fairly new to all this, part of it is my fault...I never included my contact info on the manuscript itself. I just assumed my email would be kept. I guess it’s fortunate she has a good sense of humor, because I was offered a contract anyway. We talked on the phone and shared some laughs about the whole thing. I walked away feeling good about Echelon, small but author-friendly, and signed the contract.

After withdrawing the book from consideration by other publishers and agents, I revisited my submission records of the second novel I’m attempting to sell...plenty of rejections, some requests for partial manuscripts, and a lot who haven’t replied in several months. But I won’t write them off this time, no matter how long they take, because you never know...

Monday, June 22, 2009

My First - Annoyingly Autobiographical - Blog

Karen Syed, who runs Echelon Press, just offered to publish my first book, a young adult novel called Killer Cows. Echelon is a smaller company than, say, Scholastic, and I am expected to do my part in promoting the book . She suggested starting my own blog. Thank God our first contact was via a phone call. That way she couldn’t see me wince as though I’d inhaled a whiff of someone else’s fart.

A blog? I don’t write blogs. I write stories. I’ll never stoop that low.

Blogs are for people who assume others care about what you have to say, even if you are totally clueless about it. You don’t need to be an expert. All you need is a computer, a lot of spare time and the assumption folks you don’t know are dying to read your rants. I used to write movie reviews for a DVD website, fancying myself the next Roger Ebert. Blogs killed that. Now there’s hundreds of thousands of Eberts out there. Some of them are good writers. Most aren’t. Some possess a wealth of actual movie smarts. Most don’t.

Too bad. It’s a lot of fun writing about films. Yet, at the same time, a writer writes to be read. It’s a self-congratulatory thing, I guess, craving feedback from those who share your views, or better yet, those whose opinions differ. A writer wants their words to matter to someone.

But when thousands and thousands of people are able to do the same thing, simply because they own a computer, what’s the point? So you’ve got a blog site. Well, so does your neighbor, who displays no knowledge of the difference between there, their and they’re.

So, a few years ago, I returned to my first love...writing stories, something which requires at least a working knowledge of written English.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I fancied myself to be the next Stephen King, cranking out bestsellers, scaring the crap out of readers and basking in celebrity as each of my books were adapted into movies. Of course, that never happened, otherwise you’d have heard of me, and you wouldn’t be reading this, because I’d be sitting high atop a hill in my mansion, counting cash while my wife, Angelina Jolie, pesters me to spend more time with her.

Writing horror is hard bloody work, because it’s all been done before...all you can hope to do is put a new spin on an old idea. I managed to do it a few times in the 90s, placing a few stories in some small press magazines, most of which don’t exist anymore. But with hindsight, it wasn’t a lot of fun. It was mostly work, and what I got for my efforts were a few mixed reviews, lots of sample copies and a check for thirty bucks. Maybe the world didn’t need another Stephen King. Or if it did, it wasn’t going to be me.

In the meantime, I became an English teacher. And yeah, I’ve heard that old saying, "Those who can’t...teach." I always hated that saying. It should be more like, "Hey, you’ve got a wife and kids to support, and writing is what you know best, even though you ain’t sitting atop a hill in a mansion with Angelina Jolie as your wife, suck it up and make the best of it."

And I like teaching. I’d like it even more if I didn’t have to deal with parents who think they know my job better I do, but it’s fun working with kids. I enjoy helping them develop the writing skills I take for granted, and grudgingly leading them through a few young adult novels we read in class.

Someone, I don’t remember who, once even suggested I try my hand at writing a YA story.

Yeah, right...writing for kids. What self-respecting "serious" writer would subject themselves to that?

Young adult novels. They were beneath me...heavy-handed kid’s stories written to teach some sort of moral or lesson. Teaching them was part of the job (that’s why they call it work) and I was given Jerry Spinelli’s Crash to read with them. Yuck...a book about 7th graders, written for 7th graders.

But you know what? Crash was actually pretty good. Really good, in fact, even though I personally had issues with grammatical liberties Spinelli took with his narrative. I sought out some of his other books - Stargirl, Wringer, etc. - to read on my own, which led me to works by Gordon Korman (who, in my opinion, is the best YA author out there). Then there was Give a Boy a Gun, which, though written for teens, remains one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read.

At the same time, J.K. Rawling and others totally blurred the line between adult and young adult fiction (which Stephanie Meyer later erased altogether). Suddenly, there were people, kids and adults alike, lining up at midnight at local bookstores to be the first to get copies of Breaking Dawn or the latest Harry Potter installment. Not even my literary Yoda, Stephen King, could make that claim. Grown ups weren’t lining up for hours (even days) to pick up the newest John Grisham novel, do they?

Young adult fiction isn’t just writing for kids...it is writing about them. A lot of you already know that, but for me at the time, it was a revelation. And contrary to what most believe, a lot of kids are voracious, even obsessive, readers once they find something that piques their interest.

So, after a decade since my last actual published sale, I decided to give a shot at writing for young adults. But it was different then when I was trying to be Stephen King II.. Sure, fame and fortune would be great, but in the end, I think most writers would agree that what you really want is for your work to be read and enjoyed. But you also want to enjoy the process of writing it. As a teacher, I enjoyed entertaining my students, loved seeing them with books in their hands, and thought maybe I could do both...at least as good as Spinelli or Korman. I also had to admit I enjoyed writing for that same audience.

Killer Cows sprang from two different ideas I had when I was younger. The first, which came to me as a kid, was a ‘what-if’ scenario...what if a kid had his own flying saucer? What would he do with it? The second sprang from a raunchy - almost pornographic - story I wrote as a teen to amuse my friends, who gobbled it up simply because, not only was one of their own writing for the sheer joy of writing, but because no one else my age was writing anything that nasty. The story itself was awful, but I loved the title..."Killer Cows." I loved it so much it stayed with me.
And, as I finally set down to write the novel, I constructed the story around that title. Whether or not the book is successful, or even any good, you gotta admit it’s a great title.

Look at me...blogging like this! And I hate blogging! It’s beneath me.

I love movies, especially high-concept movies where the title pretty much gives away what it’s about. Kids love movies, too, and I kept that in-mind when writing Killer Cows. Yes, it is YA fiction, but also an homage to the cheesy sci-fi movies I loved as a kid (and still do!). And my favorite books, both as a kid and adult, read like movies in which the reader is the director, visualizing each character, each scene, each special effect.

It took me roughly nine months to complete the first draft. I high-fived myself, slapping my own back for finally following through on the promise I once made to myself to sit down and write a novel.

Now what?

To me, the natural next step was feedback, to let someone else read it. The feedback part was a quandary. I don’t personally know any writers, and everyone else would likely tell me what I wanted to hear: "Good job, Dave!"... "Way to chase your dream!", etc. Which is exactly what I got from friends and/or colleagues who admired what I accomplished more than what I actually wrote. My own daughter, 13 at the time and in awe of Stephanie Meyer, had little to say but "Hey, when you get it published can I have my own computer?"

I even gave the book to one of my students to read, asking for honest feedback, and a month later, she handed it back to me, simply saying, "It’s great Mr. Anderson." With hindsight, she probably would have said that even if I’d just vomited on paper, simply because I was her teacher.

But those comments were all I needed to start blindly submitting Killer Cows to all kinds of agents and publishers, giddy at the thought of waltzing into my neighborhood Barnes and Noble to happily sign books. Reality soon set in rejection after rejection. Most were the standard form rejections; some stated they didn’t think they were the right person to handle the book, and on rare occasion, a few offered real feedback, the most common critique being that I need to tell less, show more.

Show less, tell more. It’s so clear to me now, but back then, it was like being told everything I thought I knew about writing was wrong. Maybe I wasn’t cut out for this. Maybe I wasn’t the writer I thought I was, because I personally didn’t see anything wrong about how I wrote Killer Cows. All the I's were dotted, the T's crossed, and it was grammitcally correct.

In the meantime, I wrote my second YA novel, Shaken, a disaster story about three teens from different backgrounds surviving the worst earthquake in American history. Shorter, darker and much faster moving than Cows - like an action movie with words - I subconsciously did a lot more showing than telling. The nature of the story forced me to. The result was, in my opinion, a better story written in half the time.

For feedback, I skipped all my relatives and colleagues and went right to a student, one least likely to kiss my butt, and asked for the same honest critique I wanted before. He the book in one night, and offered surprisingly mature insight on what worked and what didn’t. Then I gave it to another student. She also read it all in one night. Neither of them had to. What these two kids did for me was more valuable than any advice an agent or editor could offer, because the book was written for people at least half an agent's age. That didn’t keep the rejections from pouring in for Shaken, but as a teacher, I felt like I had better insight on the kind of stories young adults want to read.

With that in mind, I revisited Killer Cows. Having not looked at it in several months, I was amazed at how right those first editors and agents were. The book wasn’t badly written, but there were lots of passages were I was indeed guilty of verbal diarrhea...telling the reader what was going on rather than simply showing them. I eventually trimmed the book of over 10,000 redundant words without any significant changes to the story.

Still, Shaken was my main priority, and if I was gonna have a YA novel published at all, I was convinced this one would be the first, especially after reading countless testimonials on writers’ forums - by folks much more successful than me - that most first novels almost never see the light of day. By this time, I was thick-skinned enough to lay Killer Cows to rest, content that it would simply be a decent first try.

Then Echelon Press contacted me about Killer Cows. I won’t go into any detail, since that would make an amusing blog entry of its own -

- what this? I’ve gone from having nothing to say on my blog to already planning my next entry? -

They liked the book and offered a contract, and being that I’d already written off Killer Cows as nothing more than a noble first attempt, I signed the contract the next day. Echelon is a small independent publisher. Maybe no Scholastic, arguably the brass ring for any would-be YA author, but a small company who wanted my very first attempt at a YA novel. It went against everything I’d read on all those forums.

Though I still think Shaken is the better book, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Killer Cows and its characters, my very first novel, and if a tiny publisher is willing to take a chance on me, why not take a chance on them? It’s a story I had brewing in the back of my mind for decades. To have it see the light of day, no matter what format, is gratifying indeed. I hope the audience it is intended for feels the same way.