Who’s Up for Another Trip to Q Island?

For everyone who enjoyed my post apocalyptic novel Q Island, there’s more where that came from. Return to Q Island is out on Amazon. This is a stand-alone story set in the same world as Q Island.

The manuscript has been on an odyssey. It was originally ready to roll as a follow-up to Q Island, but the publisher went out of business. Other publishers expressed an interest, but only with the rights to Q Island as well. I liked having control of that work and already was preparing for an audio book release. I’d has Scott Carpenter make RTQI a killer cover for an ultimately unsuccessful Kindle Scout run, and the book had been edited. So what better setup for a self-publish experiment? And so now we’re off. We’ll see how it goes.

What’s the story?

Millions long to break out of quarantine. But Patrick needs to break in.

The paleovirus has swept Long Island, turning residents into psychotic killers. A government quarantine traps Patrick in Connecticut, separated from his mother and pregnant sister on what all now call Q Island. When he loses contact with them, he fears the worst. His only chance to get back and help them is to infiltrate the island as a guide for an illegal safari hunting the infected. But he arrives to find he’s more slave than guide, and the infected are fiercer than ever.

His sister Kim gives birth to Charlotte in the midst of post-apocalyptic Long Island, and begins an instant struggle to survive amidst attacks by the infected and betrayal by family and friends. Kim’s love for her daughter gives her the strength to fight on, but if her brother doesn’t arrive soon, she won’t keep beating the odds.

It’s soon clear there’s something special about Charlotte, and others born under the contagion’s dark cloud. But will children like her prove to be the salvation the islanders pray for, or the last pieces in the puzzle of infected domination?

Give it a try in paperback, Kindle, or on Kindle Unlimited at Amazon. Let me know what you think.

Spoiler alert: This one is dark.



Welcome to the Site!

As soon as my novels became available on Kindle Unlimited, there’s been lots more traffic on the website here, which tends to be behind the times. Writing time keeps getting spent on fiction instead.

So if you are visiting for the first time: Hi!  Expect irregular postings when the mood strikes, and some really excellent contributions from other authors. I only post items from the people I love to read, so consider their inclusion here a wholehearted endorsement.

Follow me here on Facebook for new releases and updates to the upcoming convention schedule. Here’s all the other nastiness available on Amazon for your reading pleasure, including some sci-fi benefit anthologies.

Hope to hear from you soon.


-Russell James

Copy Edits With Old Friends

Here’s how writing a novel works, at least for me. I spend about a year creating it. A first draft, a second draft, then a third draft after another round of revisions from Beta readers. Then it goes off to my publisher. With luck my editor buys it for publication sometime in the next year.

So a few months before it gets published, I get the copy edit version back. This has notes and correction from my editor, the amazing Don D’Auria, and a copy editor. If I did well with the first three drafts, these are usually minor continuity errors, typos, and a few review lessons on embarrassing grammar points I’d forgotten. This my last chance to get the whole thing right. Whatever goes back to Samhain from here gets sent out to the rest of the world.


This week I got back Q Island which releases in June. In the story, Long Island, NY becomes a quarantine zone as a plague breaks out. The victims become ultra-strong psychopaths, bent on murder. The island goes to hell. One woman, Melanie, finds out her son is immune, and this is the story of her escape attempt.

I could just check and approve changes and corrections, but instead I decided to re-read the whole thing. What am I finding?

First, the copy editor is apparently a much bigger fan if commas than I am. I swear the whole thing is two pages longer now.

Second, I really like these characters. The heroes, the villains, the ones in between. Honestly, after beating the thing to death for twelve months, I never wanted to see the book again. But it feels good to visit with Melanie once more, feel the strange combination of love and frustration she experiences with her autistic son. I missed old Samuel, the GP doctor who ends up treating Patient Zero+One, and watch the spread of the epidemic through his eyes. But the bad guy, Jimmy Wade, now he’s a trip. A nickel-and-dime crook and perennial loser, he gets infected and instead of going psychotic, he goes telepathic, though a little psychosis still develops. What fun watching him grow into his role as Long Island’s new crime lord.

In a few months, Q Island will hit the stores, and the rest of you will get to meet these friends pulled from my subconscious. I think you’ll like them, or hate them as need be. I’m sure that you’ll enjoy Melanie’s desperate attempt to get herself and her son off Long Island before Jimmy Wade and his thugs or the growing army of the infected can get to them. I mean, I’m enjoying reading it. And I know how it ends.

Back in Black-Horror Resurgent

muscle car trio

1970 was a golden year for what are called “pony cars.” Mustangs, Camaros and Challengers ruled the road with big motors and rumbling exhausts. Insurance costs, emission regs and gas prices did all that in. But while driving today, in the course of under a minute I passed a Mustang, a Camaro and a Challenger, all new. Each had more horsepower than anything from 1970. I realized I am living through a pony car renaissance.

Horror writing is doing the same thing. Stephen King sparked a horror fire that burned bright for decades until market saturation and quality dilution turned readers to other genres. But this January is an example of horror rekindled as Samhain Horror adds four serious logs to the pyre. I had the chance to read all of them early. What a treat.

Hunter Shea’s Island of the Forbidden

Jessica Backman and Eddie Home are back after surviving Shea’s Sinister Entity. These two can connect with ghosts, Jessica as an attractor and power source, and Eddie as a communicator. They end up on Ormsby Island, where multiple spirits haunt a long abandoned house. A non-stop adventure from start to finish with some very creepy mass haunting scenes and a dynamite finish. Shea delivers every time.

Jonathan Janz’ Nightmare Girl

Contractor Joe Crawford steps up and does that “right thing” we all hope we would do in the same situation. He stops a mother abusing her son in public. From that moment on, Joe’s world starts to unravel as he finds out the depths of crazy the abuser and her family possess. Joe uncovers some awful secrets about the area’s past, and they are all tied to his present, threating him, his business, and his family. As always, Janz has uses some masterful language to pen a spellbinding story, populated by engaging characters and punctuated with sheer terror.

Glenn Rolfe’s Abrams’ Bridge

In Glenn Rolfe’s Samhain debut novella, a boy named Ron discovers the spirit of a murdered girl named Kate under a bridge in town. He sets out to discover her past, solve her murder, and set her free. Little does he know that doing so puts him in danger himself and digs up a past he’d rather not know. Glenn packs a tight storyline and great characters into a small space and delivers a dynamic read.

Russell James’ Dreamwalker

Rounding out the Class of January ’15 is my own Dreamwalker, a novel about a young man, Pete, who can dream himself into an alternate reality. Unfortunately, he can die in both. In our world, he runs afoul of Atlantic City drug lord Jean St. Croix, and in the other reality he is hunted by a voodoo god’s zombies through the ruins of a major city. A girl seems to link both worlds, and he must save her as well as himself. Click on the cover below to read the first few pages on Amazon.


Horror is definitely back, and biting as hard as ever. Here are four reasons to get in out of the January cold, curl up under a blanket, and get scared.

How You Know When To Save It


This is my 1968 Camaro convertible. I rescued her from outside Wichita. Her name is Dorothy because she isn’t in Kansas anymore. And yes, this post will eventually be about writing.

Now you may look at Dorothy as a candidate for the junkyard. And yes, she needs some work. Well, she needs almost everything. But she has nice options like a power top and a manual transmission. And most important, she has a good frame, the rails that support the car. I can put new fenders, a new top, and new floorboards on a good frame. Without a strong frame, the car would collapse on itself, no matter how many new parts I added.

Along with resurrecting a car, I’m resurrecting a manuscript. It’s not as old as Dorothy, but it’s from a while ago. I re-read the synopsis, remembered how enthusiastic I was writing it, and thought it had promise.

It became slow going. Apparently, I thought adverbs were wonderful back them. When writing monologues, seems I confused “internal” with “Interminable.” I’ve cut so many redundant passages that the 90,000 word novel is verging on novella. After four tedious hours where the story bored even me, I considered giving up and working on one of the new ideas always sitting in queue.

The time had come for the seat-of-the pants writer to turn outliner. This always happens to me, usually about two-thirds into the manuscript. I need to make sure the threads are all weaving into some coherent pattern. I went through each chapter and summarized the main action and what characters were involved. I like to put it in a table like the example below:

story table 2

This way I can follow multiple, overlapping plotlines, like Chapter 5 where Scott and Oates meet.

After looking over the chart, I decided to stick with it. Like Dorothy, the story has a good frame, but here it’s called plot.

So why am I bored by it? Characters without fire, without connection, are killing it. I can fix that. In this action-driven paranormal thriller, that will be the equivalent of swapping out Dorothy’s fenders and recovering her seats. Plot problems, like a rust-weakened frame, requires so much re-writing, I’d rather just start something else that stirred new passion.

If a story isn’t feeling right, take the time to ensure the plot clicks. It is a lot easier for those of you who outline compared to pantsers like myself. By the way, this is an example of why my advice is don’t be a pantser. Way too time consuming, with lots of writing dead ends. I read an interview with a prolific author who said he used to be a pantser and had to switch methods to keep his volume up.

Back to work. Two projects to finish. Of the two, Dorothy might take a little longer.