Sit back and enjoy this guest blog by horror author, Thom Erb:
Writing any story, whether it be a short story, novella or novel all hold very personal things for me. Sometimes it’s just the process, sometimes it’s the character or maybe it’s the event itself that reach deep inside of me. Speak to me.
I tend to write protagonists that are part the reluctant hero, and part strong, resilient people that overcome whatever demons that block their way to success, their goals, or happiness.
It was no different when I was writing my debut novel, HEAVEN, HELL, or HOUSTON- An Eternal Flame Tale.
On the surface the novel is my homage to four of my favorite authors: Joe Lansdale, Elmore Leonard, Joe McKinney and Jonathan Maberry. Those guys have such iconic writing styles and their voices are so distinct that it was bound to seep into my own writing. I still hope that it not only shows, but that my work shows it respect they deserve.
Texas Ranger Jay McCutcheon wasn’t an easy character to write. Choosing the first person POV helped me get into his frantic mind-set, but it was still a tough row to hoe. I mean, I did have some similarities with the rough around the edges Ranger. I have a smoldering temper that does tend to flair up like Mt. Vesuvious if I’m pushed to my very limit. (which is hard to do.) I have had a similar struggle with trying to please my father as Jay does, but trust me, Jay had it far harder than I ever dreamed of. So, I suppose I drew on my memories and feelings of that and just dumped a boat-load of steroids into his background. I think it worked out pretty well.
While I do enjoy my adult beverage, Jay’s alcoholism has been a constant companion for the weary Ranger for some time. Although when the story begins, it may be the beginning of the end of the crutch working for him. You’ll have to read and be the judge.
The similarities don’t end with the protagonist. No, looking back at the story and all the characters and themes that developed on their own, I can see now a few things of mine that crept into the words of the novel.
Stacy Jo- the tough, street-smart teenager. She too has her issues with her father and her future. She, much like Jay, have the strength I wish I’d had in my youth.
Even the psychotic killer Isandro- He has demons he’s wrestled with since a young man and the battle rages on in the pages of Houston. The struggle never ends.
I truly loved writing HHH. It was a fun, guns-blazing’, zombie tale that mixed all the things I love about weird westerns and zombie apocalypse stories. I tried to make it different than most other zombie stories. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I love zombies but I am worried that the genre is reaching its tipping point. (if it hasn’t already.) That doesn’t mean that zombies will go away. Oh, hell no! After all, they’re zombies. They can’t die. Am I right? Yeah, I am. But, I just wanted to switch things up and have the shambling undead be the backdrop for the heavy, dramatic storyline of the desperate Texas Ranger trying to get home to his family and save what was left of his life with them.
Good stories are based on relationships and I hope that comes across with all the characters in the book. Whether it’s the awkward, yet simpatico relationship between the Ranger and Stacy Jo, or the volatile familial relations of Isandro and his brother. Even the driving force between the Isandro and the Ranger explore the worst of all kinds of relationships. No spoilers here, but you all really need to see what happens between these two old “friends”.
HEAVEN, HELL,or HOUSTON is a story about loss, love, revenge, redemption and survival. I strongly believe we all can identify with those common themes and I hope the book resonates with the reader. Is it brutal? Yes. Is it filled with all kinds of violence and bad people doing very bad things? Hell yes. But, hey, life ain’t pretty y’all. That’s why I write fiction. I write the stories I do in hopes that maybe, just maybe, it’ll keep my own bad ass demons at bay.
You keep on reading… I’ll keep on writing. Demons be damned. -Thom Erb.
Heaven, Hell, or Houston- An Eternal Flame Tale is available today!
It’s early summer 1985, and after a less than successful “easy” stint as the Governor’s security detail, the volatile, alcoholic Texas Ranger Jay McCutcheon wants nothing more than to get home to his wife and baby and save his marriage. He thinks the only thing standing between him and his family is five hundred rain-soaked miles of dark pavement. But he’s dead wrong.
Isandro Dianira has just broken out of prison. He’s been possessed by an evil voice that has spoken to him since childhood. With his gang-banger thugs, he leaves a bloody trail on his way to Mexico. But before leaving the country, he needs to kill McCutcheon, the pig that put him in the pen.
As the two men unknowingly race toward each other, a powerful rainstorm is heading westward, and along with it, a zombie virus that’s causing the dead to rise.
Stacy-Jo, a street-tough teenage girl from New York is about to get in some serious trouble, when she meets McCutcheon, who winds up saving her hide from a nasty situation.
Together, they hit the road and wind up at a roadside diner, where brutal violence will unfold and the undead will feed.
Praise of Heaven, Hell, or Houston:
“Gruesome and gritty action coupled with pulse-pounding horror. I couldn’t put it down.” ~~David Dunwoody, author of EMPIRE and THE HARVEST CYCLE.
“Thom Erb’s HEAVEN, HELL, OR HOUSTON is feverish, hardscrabble Texas noir, with a salty mix of brooding revenge tale and literary grindhouse. Erb lends an authentic voice to a cast of rich but flawed characters, and a plot that promises action at every startling turn. A+++!” –Shroud Quarterly
“Erb delivers a dark and gritty zombie tale filled with wicked characters and gruesome violence and a cool-as-hell noir-like protagonist you can root for.” ~David Bernstein, author of MACHINES OF THE DEAD and TOXIC BEHEMOTH.
“…The book you hold in your hands is something special: it is witness to a writer finding his center….Texas is a state of mind, and Thom Erb is ready to put you there. If you haven’t read him before, you are in for a treat…
“…Please, listen to him carefully.
“Because once you do, you and I will share one of the most honest and sensitive Texas voices I have read outside of a Larry McMurtry novel.” ~Joe McKinney
Thom Erb is a writer/editor, exploring all shades of darkness and light. He crafts tales that blur the lines of horror, noir, dark fantasy, thriller, weird western, noir and science fiction. Thom’s works span the gap from middle-grades, Young Adult to Adult readers and taps into the theme of the reluctant hero in its many forms.
Thom has written several stories in short and long form and is now focused on novella/novel-length work.
Thom also holds a Master’s degree in art education and is an artist/illustrator of murals and comic book/graphic novels. When not writing, Thom enjoys reading, quality films, television shows, role-playing games, playing drums, comic books and rooting for the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees. He lives in upstate New York with his wife Michelle.
Proud member of the Horror Writer’s Association.
Official Website and Blog: www.thomerb.com
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0049D761A