Author - Hedgepig

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A Halloween Delight: Mr. Katz is a Zombie
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The Glam and the Gristle
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Just Plain Creepy…

A Halloween Delight: Mr. Katz is a Zombie

Friend of the blog, M.C. Lesh has a new book out!  Mr. Katz is a Zombie, the first in the Goethalsburg Ghost Squad series, starring J.D. & the Horn boys.

This delightful middle-grade romp explores what happens when a boy who can talk to ghosts ends up on the wrong side of an unpredictable spell book and a best friend looking for trouble.

KATZ

Catastrophe looms in North Goethalsburg!

When twelve-year-old J.D. is tricked into taking possession of a book of spells, his best friend turns their teacher into a zombie. The zombification of Mr. Katz creates general chaos and a not-so-terrific time for near-genius J.D.

Teamed with his best friend Rodney, twin troublemakers, and an obnoxious ghost, J.D. must figure out how to change Mr. Katz back from one of the undead before he:

1. Escapes the janitor’s closet;
2. Eats their brains;
and
3. Wears J.D.’s spleen as a hat.

Can four boys armed with a slingshot, two boxes of jelly donuts, and a handy zombie guide battle their mindless teacher and live to tell?

Probably not.

You’ll have to read to find out.

Buy on Amazon UKBuy on Amazon US

Halloween sale — today get the Kindle version for only 99 cents!

 

Welcome to Bad Menagerie, M.C. Lesh!  Come answer ALL OUR QUESTIONS.

How did you originally come up with the idea for this story? Were you inspired to write the book following your own experiences with zombies?

M.C. Lesh: Good question! I wish I could say it’s from personal experience, but I haven’t encountered any zombies in real life. That I know of. I had a math teacher in high school who was like a zombie though.

And the book came about as a family endeavor — can you tell us a little bit about that?

My creative/life partner, The Talented Mr. Bear aka Steve, is an art director who’s been involved in graphic design and publishing since his college days working on the school magazine where his highlight moment was meeting Cesar Chavez. He created the cover as well as the book’s layout and typesetting. Mr. Katz is a Zombie is our second book collaboration.

My son has a history of turning in all of his school papers with cartoons in the margins. In the past, he’s created memorable characters such as Cat Frog, and also Zombie Seeds! (Not a character so much as a concept.) He contributed the illustrations, and a couple of them make me laugh every time I see them. He’s also the one who urged me on with this project. So the three of us put our talents together, and I think it worked! (If it doesn’t work, I blame him. Kids are handy for that.)

What’s your favorite thing about Mr. Katz is a Zombie?

I’m a sucker for baked goods, so maybe the jelly donuts? And/or Rodney and his massive head of hair. Rodney is kind of my spirit animal.

Did you ever have any ‘uh oh’ moments while writing, like maybe not being sure how J.D. was going to get out of a situation?

Only a lot!

Are you a pantser or plotter?

I’m a pantser. I usually know how I’m going to start and how I’m going to end. It’s the middle parts I’m not so sure about.

Favorite thing about being a writer?  Suckiest thing?

Favorite? Creating characters, mostly entertaining myself, and hoping that the things I find funny will work for the reader.

Suckiest? Putting your piece of work out into the world and hearing nothing but crickets chirping in the background.

Self-Publishing a children’s book is more challenging than, say, a romance. Are teachers and librarians a useful resource for spreading the word among your target audience?

Yes! Teachers, librarians, and parents are usually in charge of what kids end up reading. (Except in my house growing up where my parents left me alone to read whatever I wanted.) I’ve had a couple of people tell me they’re donating paperbacks of Mr. Katz to their local school library as well as a children’s hospital library. This makes me bounce in my chair a little. (And now my dog is looking at me with her head tilted.) I’m hoping to eventually do some school/library visits down the road. That would be so cool! I’m getting excited just thinking about it.

You took the step of creating a Twitter account for JD. Are you enjoying interacting as your character?

Tweeting as J.D. helps me to keep myself entertained during this whole process, and J.D. has some amazing Twitter friends. (You know who you are.) I haven’t been as active lately, but I hope to remedy that situation soon.

What is J.D.’s worst fear in the world?  What’s yours?

At this point, I’d say J.D.’s worst fear in the world is getting stuck in a closet with Mary-Alice for an extended period of time.

My worst fear? Oh, gosh. So many. Flying, roller coasters, global pandemic, my son not finishing his college applications.

What was the scariest thing that happened to you at JD’s age?

The time I walked in on my sister and her boyfriend. And I’ll stop right there.

What will J.D. be doing this Halloween?

Trick-or-treating with Rodney, getting ALL of the candy, then going on a stakeout with his ghostbusting parents at an abandoned insane asylum. Kind of a typical weekend, actually.

What’s your favorite Halloween candy? 

Heath bars, Almond Joys, Twix bars, Kit Kat bars, and Mars bars — because I can’t possibly choose just one. (Please don’t make me!)

Best advice if we run into any zombies this Halloween?

Walk away. Just walk away. They’re zombies, and they move at, like, .05 miles per hour.

We understand the next Goethalsburg Squad book is coming soon. Can you tell us about it?

Oh, boy, can I? In Martin Barton Might Be A Werewolf, J.D. is retained — doesn’t that sound fancy? — by ten year old Miguel Vega to investigate after Miguel hears howling outside his window. J.D. is soon plunged into a world of fangs, fur, gold chains, and disco. Book 2 of my Goethalsburg Ghost Squad series will be ready to unleash on the world in the Spring of 2015.

 

Thank you, Bad Menagerie, for hosting me! I hope you get only good things in your trick-or-treat bags and no rolled pennies or those horrible little strawberry candies left over from last Christmas’s Swiss Colony basket.

 

Thank YOU for joining us here today!  You can keep up with JD’s adventures on twitter @JDHornBoys, and find M.C. Lesh online at Storyrhyme.com.

Buy Mr Katz is a Zombie on Amazon UKBuy Mr Katz is a Zombie on Amazon US

Remember, there’s a Halloween sale now — 99 cent ebook!  HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

The Glam and the Gristle

A couple of nights ago, Pencil uttered these words:

You know, I think circus books bug me for the same reason that books set on film sets or at MIT bug me. It feels like the author is in a sense looking in and being like ‘OOO THAT’S SO COOOL SEE HOW COOOOL’.”

It wasn’t long before a feature length discussion ignited in the menagerie, those of us present reflecting on how some settings in books and movies tend to feel inauthentic due to author intrusion and a general reverence for a particular backdrop. In short, we’d noticed a few reads where the ‘ooh shiny’ factor morphed into a laminated stereotype. Glamourous, but lacking depth – and a far cry from reality.

A common piece of writing wisdom is to treat your setting as another character. I agree with that, wholeheartedly; ideally, a setting should be as well-rounded and integral to the story as a leading character. Some of the best books I’ve ever read are so deeply entwined with their setting, it’s difficult to imagine the stories taking place elsewhere. A good setting doesn’t just serve as an interesting backdrop; it influences the character’s actions, thoughts and feelings – it flavours the novel, without overpowering it. Some geographic examples would be Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series (Trenton) and Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter (Miami). Dexter without a vibrant and sunny surface to contrast the darkness within his world would lose a large amount of the humour and charm; similarly, Stephanie’s tight-knit Burg community provides a unique mix of family life and illicit activity – something that highlights and interacts with the different sides to and desires of her character. Relocating either of these series would have a dramatic effect on the storyline, characters and general tone of the novels. Think butterfly wings and hurricanes (only replace the butterfly with a ten-foot-tall prehistoric moth and name it ‘Setting’).

But back to the glamourous. Settings that focus more on professions and industries – the circus, movies, law firms… these seem prone to leaving reality behind at the gate. Maybe we’ve been spoiled by the default razzmatazz on television and the page, which is so often two-dimensional… missing out on the complete picture.

“Things aren’t all beautifully dressed people striding about with files in hand.” – Puppy, on onscreen law firms.

But what’s the reality?

Every person that works in one of these environments is doing just that – working. Things that may strike the writer and reader as exotic will be commonplace for the character. Keep that in mind when writing – what is it the character would notice about the setting? How would they interact? A newbie to a film set will notice very different things and interact in a very different way to a jaded veteran.

A good example of this comes from our own Pencil. Pencil was recently reading a novel that takes place on a film set – an environment Pencil has first-hand experience of. Said author had done their research of the setting, but the character (who was supposed to have worked in the biz for quite some time) was presenting the set to the reader with the eyes of an industry virgin.

“The first few chapters read like a middle schooler’s excited “My Day on a Film Set” essay. Every added slang term and industry description felt like it was lit up by flashing neon lights saying LOOK! I KNOW WHAT THE RIGHT WORD IS. And the writer gets them wrong – not very wrong, mind– right enough that anyone not in film would be impressed. But ever so slightly wrong, the way a really green PA might.”

Pencil, with inside knowledge, is always going to be tougher to please than an average reader when it comes to this setting – but it’s not impossible to impress her. Her example of a film set ‘done right’ in fiction comes from the Dresden Files.

“Jim Butcher does an excellent job at it–partly, I think, because Dresden is a complete newcomer to film, so reacts to the set world like an observer who isn’t used to it. That’s admittedly a bit easier to write. But as far as I can remember, all the small details that are thrown in are correct and enjoyable, and it really does feel to me–someone who works in film regularly–like Harry is on a film set. I think part of the key is that Butcher doesn’t try so hard to throw in every possible description of film production he can; instead he treats it like any other setting Harry encounters, peppering it with the occasional detail but not listing every costume Harry sees on a rack in wardrobe storage.”

Quality not quantity of information. No author intrusion, because Harry’s experience of the setting lined up with his familiarity. And this isn’t to say that if he were familiar with a set, he’d need to spill a stomachful of technical details across the page – the tip of the research iceberg is usually sufficient convey the setting and character’s knowledge of it. In most cases it’s best to learn as much as you can on a subject or setting, but to use just a sprinkle of that information – the minimum to taste.

And then there’s the mundane side of the magic. For all the dazzle, some of the most memorable details in a ‘glamourous’ setting are the ones that bring it back down to earth. The gristle.

“Who wants to watch everybody sit at the catering table checking their phones all day?” – Puppy, on the reality of movie sets.

It doesn’t sound the most thrilling scene[1], but these sorts of details and how they’re presented can help make a setting (and the characters within it) pop. For example, if the people checking their phones on set are doing so while a stuntwoman crashes a burning car – that tells the reader something (as well as providing the opportunity to sprinkle of humour via setting). Consider the mundane elements of the environments you use, and search for the points of interest within them.

Creating a fully-realized setting is a balancing act, and there’s room for both the guts and the glitter of an environment. If I’m reading about a circus, I want acrobatics on the high wire AND the guy in the ticket booth picking popcorn out his teeth. If it’s an outdoor film set, I want the fast cars AND the malfunctioning porta-potty. Recognisable nuggets of realism can help to make a setting feel more rounded and relatable; they can bring the magic home.

They’re the cookie dough in the ice cream. Without them, all you’ve got is vanilla.

 

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Although that could depend on why they’re checking their phones – what they’re expecting.

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